With Luna's guards off finding out whatever they could about the hive, I found myself at loose ends.
I'd spent some time with the guards in question—a pair of burly bat-winged ponies—showing them how to find the hive and telling them what I could about what they'd find inside. I had to wonder about their ability to sneak into the hive, but they both seemed quite confident. Once they had left, however, there wasn't really much for me to do.
Luna had said that it would be a few days before any further action could be taken, and suggested that we return to Ponyville. I considered going, but given that I would need to return every day or two to make sure my little hive was fed, I decided to stay. Pinkie had arranged for somepony to help the Cakes at the bakery while we were gone. Said assistant was funded from the royal treasury, which I learned had a fund to help support the Element Bearers when they were called away from their lives to aid in some crisis. Apparently this qualified.
Twilight was still here as well, spending most of her time taking advantage of the easy access to the several large libraries in Canterlot.
Shining Armor had arranged to move the little hive from the dungeons to a large suite of rooms in the palace proper, very close to the room I shared with Pinkie. The door was still closely guarded, but that was for their safety as much as for any other reason. I visited them often, but they needed little from me. Were they a working hive, with nymphs to tend, food to grow, and emotional energy to collect, I might have been of some use, but the only reason they needed me at all right now was to keep them supplied with love.
I was getting that in even more generous measure than usual. Pinkie was completely delighted with my newfound ability to feel passion, and our time together was providing more than enough love for me to keep myself and the hive fed. I was pleased too, but I couldn't keep a nagging worry from hovering in the back of my mind. It didn't make sense. It seemed to be an entirely benign gift, but it was hard to trust that gift when I didn't understand it. I was a drone. Simply taking pony form had never given me the ability to make love before. I'd never heard of any such thing save in the wildest of changeling myths, and in those stories the changelings had become trapped as ponies. Outside of the realm of myth, Queens and under-queens mated, as did the rare males, but never the drones.
Still, with nothing else for us to do, Pinkie and I spent quite a lot of time in our room, exploring each other.
I had thus far always taken pony form while doing so. Pinkie had no aversion to my natural form, but she said she found my carapace hard and uncomfortable to snuggle up to, and my fangs made kissing awkward, so no matter what form things began in, eventually I always took my colt's shape for her.
This night was no exception. I had already shifted when Pinkie first snuggled up against me. She lifted her head and nuzzled at my horn, making my eyes go unfocused as a ripple of heat washed over me.
I could tell that her full attention wasn't on what she was doing. She was thinking about something. I brushed my mind against hers a little more closely, curious about what could be distracting her.
Somewhat to my surprise she was thinking about what it would be like to try and make love to me in my changeling form.
Hard, poky, and probably impossible, I told her silently. I don't even have genitals.
Yeah, but we could still do lots of things that way, was her reply. I like trying different stuff. I guess I could have you be different ponies, but you've already been a unicorn and a pegasus for me, and having you be somepony I know would just be weird. So I want to try you just being you.
Well, if you insist. I changed, green fire rippling over me, revealing my black carapace once more. Pinkie chuckled, giving off appreciation and gratitude, along with curiosity and a hint of arousal. She went back to my horn, curved rather than spiraled now, and nuzzled it again. The sensation was actually slightly different than it had been moments ago, though still quite good. I let out a soft moan as she began to lick at it. I felt that strange heat, alien and yet by now also familiar and welcome, rising in me again.
I slid my hooves around Pinkie, pulling her to me. Her hooves went around me in turn as I nuzzled at her neck, and when I could feel her enjoying my nuzzles, I dared to nibble gently, taking care with my long fangs.
She giggled. That tickles! She didn't tell me to stop though. Her hooves ran along my wings, making them twitch when she caressed the sensitive joints at the base. With her hooves caressing me as she nuzzled and licked at my horn, the heat I felt grew even greater. I was breathing faster, and a warmth began to gather between my hindquarters.
Pinkie let out a sudden squeak of surprise. "Eep!" She pulled back from me, feeling startled and confused. I felt confused too. What had just happened?
Pinkie looked down, and I felt her surprise increase. "No way! You're even more poky now. I thought you didn't have genitals?"
"I don't. I..." I looked down too. I did. I felt a shock of panic run through me. What was going on? This was not possible!
I tried to gather my thoughts somehow. I felt the hum of the hive in the back of my mind, soothing me. They were calm. The hive was not in danger. There was no need to panic. Still, my mind kept spinning in confused circles. This made even less sense than my ability to feel arousal did! Pinkie's giggling didn't help me get my thoughts together at all.
"You really are a boy changeling now," she said cheerfully.
"Uh. N-no, I'm pretty sure that's an ovipositor."
"Oh." A little flicker of confusion and worry dampened her giggles, the feelings so close to what I was feeling that I almost couldn't taste them. "I gotta ask if that means you've been laying eggs in me? 'Cause remember what I said about not being sure about actually wanting to lay eggs and have pony-lings?"
Somehow her worry calmed my own. I smiled and put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. "It doesn't work like that. Changeling eggs can't grow inside a pony. They grow inside of pods somewhat like the ones we put replaced ponies in. I, uh, maybe have been laying eggs in you," for some reason this made me feel flushed and embarrassed. "But I cannot possibly be fertile; I haven't mated with a male changeling. They would never grow in you even if they were fertile. Though I guess if one impossible thing can happen, then maybe another can... But no, there has to be a reasonable explanation for this!"
I got to my feet and started walking back and forth, trying to think. Pinkie's head went back and forth, watching me as I paced.
Suddenly it dawned on me. "I am an idiot. Pinkie, what color are my eyes?"
"Uhm. Green? Wait. That's not right. I mean, they are green, but they're supposed to be blue, aren't they?"
"Blue-green, or all green? Do we have a mirror? No, wait, just look at me, please?" I half-closed my eyes and reached out for Pinkie. She cooperated with my sudden idea, letting me look at myself through her eyes.
I had changed, sometime over the last week or so since I'd last looked in a mirror. I'd never paid my reflection much attention; vanity would have been absurd in a drone nearly identical to every other drone in the hive. Now, however, that was no longer the case. My half-closed eyes were pure, jade green. My crest and tail were tinted turquoise. My wings and wing-cases were brighter, more iridescent than a drone's. My horn was a little bit longer. I was fairly certain I was taller than I'd been as well. I was an under-queen.
I'd noticed how Minder seemed to be changing into one, prompted by being separated from Chrysalis and the hive. I'd been separated even longer than she had. No doubt my assuming authority over the little hive here had accelerated the process, and the love I was getting from Pinkie Pie would have provided more than enough energy for such changes over the last few days. Under-queens, unlike drones, could and did reproduce.
I opened my eyes, my mind reeling. Pinkie bounced over to me and stood by my side. She put a hoof on the top of her head, measuring herself against me. "Yep, you are taller too. I dunno how I didn't notice it before!"
"A lot of distracting things have been going on," I said, still feeling more than a little dazed. I sat down on the floor, folding my wings and trying to corral my scattered thoughts. Pinkie came and sat next to me, leaning against me. I nuzzled the top of her head. I had to be a good six inches higher at the withers. I remembered how I'd noticed that she fit beneath my wing, nearly a week ago. I'd been slowly changing all this time, it had just sped up over the last few days.
"So, now what?" asked Pinkie.
"Now..." I shook my head, not certain. I reached out to the hive. As usual, none of them save Minder were paying me any particular attention. She, however, seemed to be curious. She was wondering what had caused my emotions to be so chaotic over the last few minutes. I took a moment to wordlessly explain what had happened to her.
Ah. So. I am becoming an under-queen. That makes sense, though I did not know it was possible for a drone to do so. Yet I find I am glad. I want to care for these other drones, as is an under-queen's duty. You are senior to me, and your magic is stronger. You have more love, so you will become queen.
I shouldn't have been surprised, since it followed from what I already knew, but I was. Me. A queen. Like Chrysalis herself. It was absurd. How could I possibly be a queen? Then I laughed. The queen of a hive of one dozen, including myself. I could probably manage that. Like Minder, I wanted to take care of the others.
What's so funny? Pinkie's query interrupted my thoughts. She couldn't hear Minder. She was connected to me, and so was the hive, but Pinkie's bond didn't tie her to any of the others, only to me.
It appears that I'm turning into a queen, I explained. The queen of a hive of one dozen. I laughed again. A baker's dozen, if I count you.
Pinkie giggled. I'm a baker, so that totally makes sense!
I chuckled and nuzzled her again.
Does that mean you're going to want to have changeling babies now?
What is it with you and babies?
Pinkie shrugged. I dunno. I like babies. I like babysitting. I want to have babies of my own someday. Not right now! But someday. Babies are nice, even if they are also a lot of work. But isn't that what queens do, have lots and lots of babies?
Well, as you say; someday maybe. But not right now! This hive hasn't even got a male yet. I'm not actually certain how we could get one. They don't come from drones, drones are all technically female, even if we're... uh, even if they're all sterile. Even if we did find a male... I put a foreleg over her shoulders and pulled her close. I'm not sure I'd be interested. You're the one I love, Pinkie. But in any case, right now I'm definitely not ready to be responsible for a bigger hive. No way.
That's probably good. She snuggled up in my embrace and nuzzled my cheek. I love you too, she said, and then she kissed me.
I kissed her back, letting my concerns fall away. That spark of heat rose in me again, and I tasted a hint of spice from Pinkie. We were kinda doing something when all this figuring things out happened, said Pinkie. Why don't we go pick up where we left off?
That sounds like a good idea to me, I replied, and I pulled her even closer.
My hooves sounded loudly on the marble floor as I followed the guard through the palace. Pinkie walked beside me, bouncing less than usual. She'd been having another low day, though she hadn't quite slipped down into complete depression. I couldn't blame her. It was frustrating to sit around with nothing to do, when somewhere out there was Chrysalis, still plotting her revenge.
The guard stopped outside the dungeon and nodded for me to go in. I trotted through the door to find Shining Armor there, along with two more guards, flanking yet another captured changeling.
"Ah, you're here. Now we can proceed," said Shining.
I nodded, saying nothing more. Chrysalis was still listening. That was, no doubt, why the new changeling hadn't been brought to the room where the others were. No need to let her know that we had formed a new hive. She probably wouldn't like that at all.
Shining cast his spell, and the changeling collapsed immediately, a thin wail of despair rising from her. I went straight to her side and nuzzled her while the guards removed her hoofcuffs. Her wail cut off as her mind clung to mine with something close to desperation.
It's all right, I soothed. I'm here. We're all here, see? You're not alone. The rest of the hive reached out as well, Minder and the others welcoming her warmly.
Come, I'll take you to them, I said, and rose. She rose too, pressing against my side as if afraid to lose contact with me. I tucked a wing over her protectively.
"Let us know if you find out anything useful from her," said Shining. I nodded. This was the second new changeling they'd caught in the ten days since the council. The previous one hadn't known anything new, but there was always a chance that this one would have some news of Chrysalis' plans. As we walked through the palace halls, guard escort trailing behind us, I gently rifled through the drone's memories.
She had been sent to replace a minor government functionary—it seemed that Chrysalis had finally given up on getting changelings into the guard—but had barely reached the palace before walking through a changeling revealing spell, getting seen, and getting caught.
That was nothing too surprising. What was surprising was that she knew just a little bit about another attempt by Chrysalis to get her revenge on me. When she had left the hive, a team of infiltrators had just been sent to Ponyville. There were six of them, and they were to capture me and take me back to the hive if possible. Apparently Chrysalis had finally decided that sending her forces one at a time wasn't working.
I heaved a sigh.
Find something bad? Pinkie asked.
We're going to have an interesting time when we get back to Ponyville, was my reply. There's a bunch of changelings there, waiting for me to show up. They're supposed to capture me, not kill me, so there's that. But given what Chrysalis said about wanting me dead, I suspect that's so she can have the pleasure herself. I sighed again. I wished she would stop being so obsessively vindictive. Life would be so much easier for her hive—and for everyone else as well—if she would give up her plots and put her effort into taking care of her hive, the way a queen should.
Why don't I go tell Shining about that, while you take her to the others?
Sure. You can meet me at their suite afterward.
Pinkie nodded and turned to trot back the way we'd come. The guard ignored her and stuck with me. He was there to make sure there weren't any incidents with frightened or angry ponies attacking us. The palace halls were seldom crowded, but we did pass a number of ponies. Most of them ignored us, as they were getting used to seeing changelings about, but I caught the occasional taste of fear or hate on the air as I walked by, along with a few glares and one startled, fearful flinch as a pony looked up and noticed us.
The drone pressed more tightly against my side every time we came near a pony. She was terrified of them. I could feel her fighting the urge to change, to hide from them. She knew I didn't want her to, but she wanted to. It seemed like the hive's overall state of fear and paranoia was getting worse; each captured changeling was more fearful than the last. I did my best to soothe her, but it was difficult. Chrysalis' direct influence was easily broken, but the ideas picked up from that influence were harder to dispel.
Thankfully we finally reached the suite where my small hive was located. The guard accompanying us nodded at the two stationed outside the doors, then headed off to some other duty. I opened the doors and went inside.
The sitting room inside was more or less a pile of changelings. Counting myself and the newest arrival, there were fourteen of us now, and they were all present here. With little else to do, the drones spent most of their time sleeping and grooming one another. I smiled, remembering learning about pony grooming behavior and the bonds of friendship it formed. Bonding wasn't quite the same for changelings, but grooming was an important communal activity for us as well. Especially for the queen. As I settled myself in the center of the room, the others crowded around me. The new changeling was still pressed close, refusing to leave my side, but four or five others surrounded me, wanting to groom me. I closed my eyes and let them. They drew a great deal of pleasure from touching their queen. I'd never myself been in a position to get as close to Chrysalis as these drones were to me, but I knew that the drones of her hive felt the same way. Back then I would have been ecstatic to have the chance to touch her.
I knew from the memories of my hive-mates, past and present, that Chrysalis had always simply accepted such attentions as her due and never returned them. I couldn't bring myself to do the same. I might be the queen here, but I was also a member of the hive, and not long removed from being a mere drone myself. So I bent my head and started to gently groom the wings of the new arrival, using the inner curve of my fangs to scrape over the delicate membrane, working wax from a gland at the base of them out along their length. The newcomer finally relaxed as I did so, closing her eyes and letting go of her fear.
The door opened again and Pinkie Pie came in. She picked her way through the scattered changelings to me. She nudged one of them aside and snuggled up against my other side. "Special somepony privileges," she said with a smile. The drone moved without complaint; though none of them could sense Pinkie directly, they all seemed happy enough to accept her among them. There was a flicker of unease from the newcomer, but even that faded away swiftly beneath the combined reassurance of myself and the others.
I bent my head and nuzzled Pinkie. It was odd how far down I had to reach now. When we'd first discovered I was changing I'd been perhaps five or six inches taller than Pinkie. I was now at least that much taller again. I seemed to be growing about an inch a day, which was actually a bit alarming. Taking over the little hive had sped my growth, and the generous amount of love energy I held probably didn't hurt either. I was still far shorter than Chrysalis, but I was taller than all but the tallest of ordinary ponies now.
Interestingly, Minder seemed to have stopped growing. Her eyes were still greenish, but she was only a little taller than the average drone, and her crest hadn't changed color either. She was somewhere halfway between a drone and an under-queen. The others still deferred to her, and she had her own little circle of groomers, but I suspected that was simply because there wasn't enough space for all of them around me.
Pinkie heaved a sigh and rested her head on my shoulder. I put a wing over her. "I wish this was all over," she said. "I want to go back to throwing parties and making ponies happy."
I pulled her close against my side. "I know you do. So do I. Hopefully Luna and her night guard will find a way to bring down Chrysalis soon. I don't know why it's taking them so long. But surely it has to be soon."
"You'll still help me throw parties, and bake cupcakes, and all that, even though you're a queen now?" Pinkie lifted her head and looked up at me, her ears down. I tasted a hint of sadness and worry from her.
"I will. Pinkie promise," I said, sketching the necessary gestures. "Maybe not quite as often—I imagine setting up a proper hive will keep me busy. But as often as I possibly can."
Pinkie smiled faintly and put her head back on my shoulder. "I'm glad."
"I love you," I said softly to her.
"I love you too." Her loved flowed around me, and I once again drew it in, until I was brimming with it. I felt the others drawing on it as well. The hive hummed happily in the back of my mind, Pinkie sighed contentedly by my side, and everything was right with the world.
We were still lying together in a pile of changeling drones a few hours later when Twilight came to find us. "Hey Pinkie. Hi, uh, Sweetcake?"
"Hello," I said. I tasted confusion from her, a faintly floral taste this time.
"You look... different."
I chuckled. Of course. We hadn't really seen much of Twilight during the past week; she'd been up to her eyebrows in books. I knew my crest was getting quite a bit longer than it had been, and was starting to drape a bit like a mane, on top of it having changed from gray to teal blue, and my eyes having changed from blue to bright green. I wondered if they were developing pupils yet. I'd have to check. "As far as we can tell, I'm turning into a queen, since this hive doesn't have one."
"Oh." She blinked at me. "I see! Can you tell me... No, wait, I'm supposed to tell you that Luna's spies finally came back and there is going to be a meeting in about ten minutes. Celestia wants you both to be there, and asked me to escort you there."
I extracted myself from the changeling pile and rose. "Very well." Pinkie got up too, yawning and stretching. She looked and felt much more cheerful now. Some days nothing would shake her from her funk, but other days all it took was a little love and perhaps a nap.
We followed Twilight out into the corridor. She kept looking up at me as we walked. I could taste the curiosity from her. Eventually I said, "You can ask whatever questions you're thinking of. I don't mind."
She coughed. "Uh. I just can't help but wonder... I mean... you're a male, aren't you? How can you be a queen? Are you changing gender, then?"
I shook my head. "Drones are all technically infertile females. Actual male changelings are rare and never leave the hive. So no, I'm not changing anything."
Twilight frowned. "But you said Pinkie should call you Mister. You kind of implied you were male. Why would you lie about that? And you, and Pinkie... I mean, I thought Pinkie was straight!"
Pinkie giggled. "Silly Twilight. Of course I'm straight."
"Huh? But Sweetcake just said he... uh... she? Sweetcake is female. Isn't that a problem?"
"But... what..." Twilight sputtered, and confusion filled the air around her. Pinkie giggled again, and I couldn't help but chuckle too.
"Sweetcake is a boy to me. That's all I care about. He can be a queen to the changelings, and that's fine."
"I... have no idea how to make sense of that," said Twilight, rubbing her head with one hoof.
"Perhaps it would help if I explained the way changelings think of gender?" Twilight nodded, so I continued. "We aren't like ponies. In hive life, gender roles as ponies know them don't really exist. Physical gender only matters when it comes to the fertile members of the hive. Every role in the hive that isn't directly related to breeding is filled by the drones, who are technically female but more or less genderless. The drones who don't leave the hive and take pony form don't have much of a gender at all, the way ponies think of it.
"Infiltrators, though, start picking up pony gender roles. Though we are all effectively neuter, we have to take male and female roles when we take male or female forms. Gendered behavior is so important to being a pony that very few infiltrators can master both males and females. We tend to start favoring one or the other fairly early in our training." I smiled at her. "I have been female a few times, but I found myself tending to take male forms early on. I learned and adjusted to male gender roles throughout my training. So in pony terms I do tend to think of myself as masculine. That doesn't have anything to do with breeding or genitals or anything like that, though."
"See?" said Pinkie. "Like I said, he's a boy to me. He's a boy in his head, and he can have whatever kind of body he likes, so that doesn't matter."
"Interesting. I suppose it makes sense that changelings would treat physical sex and gender identity as differing issues. I could write a paper on this. It's something that's never been studied before!" Twilight grinned, sudden enthusiasm bubbling from her. "Whoops, we're here," she said, coming to a sudden halt. Indeed we were. We stood in front of the same council chamber, the doors already open, and more or less the same group of ponies as before were gathered there. Lady Scroll and the scribe were absent, but Luna was flanked by one of her night guard, presumably the one she'd sent out to scout the hive.
Twilight, Pinkie and I took our places around the table. When we were all seated, Celestia rose and spoke. "This meeting is somewhat less... official than our previous gathering. Equestria is not willing to declare war against Chrysalis and the changelings of her hive, so any action discussed here is and must remain that of individuals acting as private citizens, without the support of the government. That said, I believe that we may find ourselves unable to take any immediate action against Chrysalis at all. Luna, if you would explain?"
Luna stood. "I am certain that all those present are aware of the ten days that have elapsed since our last meeting. I myself did not expect the scouting to take more than three or four days. Unfortunately it proved much more difficult than any of us could have anticipated. Commander?" She nodded at the bat pony.
He nodded and spoke, his deep voice somewhat rueful at his failure. "Turns out the hive has several layers of magic around it. Selective shields, the kind that'll let one thing through but not another. I probably don't have to say what these weren't letting through. Turns out that changeling wards against ponies work on thestrals too. So we had quite a time getting in. The spells had an ancient feel to 'em. Been there a long time. It'd be possible to bull through 'em, but the whole hive would probably notice. Not something one can do subtly. We had to wait two days before we got a chance to slip inside at all. They pulled the outer spell down over one entrance when bringing in some of those pods with captured ponies. But that just got us into the outermost tunnels, and the place where they store the pods. We never found a way to get into the inner chambers. We did all the scouting we could while we waited for a chance to get back out again, but we didn't find anything that this fellow here," he nodded at me, "hadn't already told us."
"I had no idea there were anti-pony spells on the hive," I said, feeling chagrined. I also felt a bit concerned. The commander had mentioned sneaking in with captured ponies. Taking replaced ponies back to the hive was not normal. What was Chrysalis doing?
"Well, you wouldn't, what with not being a pony," said the commander with a toothy grin. "You'd never have felt them."
"One can see how this presents us with a severe setback," said Luna. "With covert action being nigh impossible, I recommend a swift precision strike. The spells could be broken, and the hive invaded. An all-out drive into the heart of the hive to remove the head of this particular serpent could be done with minimal loss of life."
Celestia shook her head. "Yet not without some loss, and it is likely that most of those lost would be innocent drones, who would fight for their queen. It is for their sake as much as ours that Chrysalis needs to be removed from power. Killing innocents to meet our objectives would make us no better than her."
"Casualties happen in war, sister," said Luna, but she said it gently.
"I know. But we are not at war with the changelings."
"Not yet. If Chrysalis refuses to back down, however, the day may come. That changelings walk among us to feed I can tolerate. Yet her constant attempts to place her creatures in positions of power here in Canterlot tell me that she is still bent on conquest, and that I cannot. The presence of captured ponies within the hive cannot be ignored either. We do not know who they are, but whoever they may be, they cannot be left to languish there. One way or another, Chrysalis must be brought down. If it takes a war to do so, so be it."
Celestia nodded. "It may come to that. I hope we can find another way, but if it does come to war, I would consent to your plan. For now though, no, it is not an acceptable solution."
"Surely there has to be some way to get a pony inside the hive?" said Twilight, frowning.
Shining Armor replied, "Shield spells aren't easily subverted, Twily. I should know. That kind of selective-passing shield is my specialty. Breaking one is easy enough, if you have enough power. Slipping through one when you're the thing that it's specifically tuned to exclude is pretty much impossible."
Twilight sighed. "I know. I just wish I didn't."
"What about burrowing under it?" said Pinkie brightly.
"We looked into that," said the bat pony commander. "The outer shell goes right under the ground, it's not just a seal over the entrances. Some of the inner spells only cover doorways, so it might be possible to dig through a wall once inside. But getting a team in, and then hiding the digging while working near the heart of the hive is just not going to happen. Hundreds of changelings pass through those corridors. We needed every bit of our shadow magic simply to remain unseen while walking among them. Excavating would draw far too much attention; we'd never pass unnoticed."
"So that's it then. We can't get a pony inside the hive." Twilight looked deflated as she spoke.
"Nay. Yet not all here are ponies," said Luna, looking at me. "You could pass through the spells. I believe that your skill with magic is sufficient to learn the necessary spell to sever Chrysalis from the hive and remove the serpent's head."
"I could get in, but I couldn't pass unnoticed. I wouldn't be part of their bond. They'd know instantly that I was a member of another hive. I'd be chased out immediately. Doubly so, now that I'm no longer just a drone. They would never tolerate a rival queen within the hive."
"Couldn't you use your disguise ability to look like an ordinary drone?" said Twilight.
I shrugged. "Probably. It still wouldn't fix the problem of the bond though. I'd be recognized as an outsider immediately."
"Could you not ask for an audience with Chrysalis, as some sort of ambassador or envoy?" asked Luna.
I shook my head. "Hives deal with other hives by drones meeting on the borders. The queens can see and speak through their drones, so there's no need to ever risk their personal safety by allowing a foreign drone near them."
"It seems we are at an impasse then," said Luna sourly. "So we do nothing, and in the end war will come and lives will be lost."
There was a long, gloomy silence. In that silence a sudden memory floated to the surface of my mind, and with it came an idea. I turned it over for a moment, trying to think through the consequences. It would be very dangerous, but when measured against the possibility of outright war, the risks might well be worth it. With a knot of fear in my stomach, but with Pinkie instinctively reaching out and helping me to remain calm, I spoke.
"There may be a way."