Hercules Beetle looked out over the city from Canterlot Castle. The crown jewel of Equestria. He remembered so long ago...When Queen Cocoon ruled and seeing the sun was alien to most of the hive. He sighed. He didn't enjoy or hate that they occupied the city. But he couldn't deny how impressive the city looked from up here.
"Why? Why are we being made to just WAIT for them? If we'd win, why aren't we going out and fighting the Night Queen? If we're going to lose, why aren't we getting out of here?!" his brother, Goliath asked, coming up in armor that looked too large for him.
"You're in command now, brother, remember?" Hercules said, his eyes not leaving the cityscape.
"Yes...I guess I am."
The Changeling General saw a scuffle between rebels and Changelings out in the distance. A couple Wonderbolts and a few powerful unicorns defending civilians. And succeeding. But the brothers and their army had strict orders to remain at their position no matter what. Their men were on their own.
"...Goliath...What do you see looking at that?"
"Insanity. We planned for everything. Yet this is now happens. Trained soldiers are falling to civvies and stunt ponies, and we're just standing here, letting it happen, it's insane, insane I tell you."
"...A slave dethroned Queen Cocoon. And most of her 'army' came from the civilians watching her own execution, just like Twilight Sparkle's did right now...Ironic isn't it? How history repeats…"
"How can you wax poetic at a time like this?! The year of the changeling was finally going to be reality! But now it's all going to horseapples!"
"...For us, it's horseapples...for the ponies, its survival. It's defending their homeland and herd. I'm not going to say 'I hope we lose,' not at all...I plan to sink with the ship before I give up. But I respect them for fighting back. I'd think less of them if they didn't."
"How can . . . how can . . . Agggh!" his brother held his head. "We have the Sun! Why don't we just hold her hostage against the Moon?! Something! Buy us time to complete the rune! But we're just sitting here doing nothing while our brothers suffer! . . . brother."
"...You haven't called me that in a long time."
"I was supposed to be in charge of a mop up operation! This was supposed to be my reward! I won't turn into you and be a LOSER! I can't lose my first battle! And you sit there like you're on witch weed! . . . "
"...I'm a stone wall. I try to keep threats away, not go after them. And if they come after Her Majesty or to try and wipe us out?" Hercules asked, letting green flames go around his hoof, giving it the strange shine and becoming pitch black. "...I'll stand in their way like the wall I am."
"I can't believe you trusted Master Kabuto to do things to your body. You know what happened to most of his test subjects! You're lucky the psycho didn't kill you!"
"I know. I'm the only one that survived that operation. I think it was about the only experiment he considered too dangerous to perform on himself...but that's just how much I wanted this...What will you be willing to do for Her Majesty? To keep her safe, General? To keep her and our people safe?"
" . . . She's . . she's ordered us to . . . to die if that's what it takes . . . I just don't want it to come to that. . . . Brother . . . we can . . .we can still win this can't we?"
"The ponies looked like they were crushed when Her Majesty launched her attack, now we're the ones worried about dying...If that's possible,I do think we can win this...But I wouldn't worry about dying. If Cadence healed Dustmite, I don't think they'd kill us...At least not if they can help it...but don't assume that means they're weak. I think they've proved they're not...but I wouldn't worry about them killing you if it's their choice...the question is, are you willing to die for Her? I swear to Rosedust I won't tell a soul. I have no interest in sabotaging my brother."
" . . . a warrior who thinks about defeat is only inviting it to happen. . . I invite defeat with each of these thoughts . . ."
"Yes, but he who is reckless can be killed."
"if I fall, I want it to be in a victory, rather than live in a defeat."
Hercules gave a sad look. "...Then that's the fate you've chosen. Simple as that. The one I choose is this: I'll fight until I can't fight any more. Until my wall breaks. If that's not good enough to win the day...then the ponies were just stronger than my wall. That is Queen Chrysalis' belief, isn't it? 'Survival of the fittest.' What nature dictates."
"I am a spider, I will not be weaker than a fly."
Hercules chuckled a little bit. A sad chuckle. "...Remember when we thought Deviants were less than 'cattle,' Goliath? Now our Queen is one," he stated. "...The day that happened. The day a Queen who'd had Kabuto turn her into something that could kill a dragon fell to a little Deviant slave was the day I stopped looking at it so black and white. Deviants were stronger than we gave them credit for...more Changeling than we thought they were. I'm not saying the ponies aren't our prey. I'm saying you're not strong just because you're a lion, or that a gazelle can't break your jaw with a well placed kick. And maybe the ponies are like the Deviants and there's more to them that we thought...or maybe they've become strong. I'm not saying this to guilt you, or call you stupid. I'm saying this because saying a leader can't afford to see things in black and white. Or else the entire group might pay for it."
"We either lose, and everything we've gambled is lost, or we win, and a kingdom with the sun over our heads is ours. Those are the only outcomes."
"...What if we lose and Queen Cocoon was wrong? And instead of taking away everything, the ponies simply want peace? If Queen Chrysalis falls, Pitcher Plant isn't here. And assuming she's not somehow defeated by another Queen, you are in charge. What if you are in that position, brother? Where you're in charge and your options are 'accept a peace that will save the hive' or 'fight until we're all dead,' what would you choose?"
"And what if every house here suddenly demanded to be able to chose who it housed? What if your wings suddenly wanted to fly off and join a cult? What if your tongue wanted to go off and start a singing career? What if the trees suddenly wanted to be in charge of the cattle instead of the other way around? You can't offer such illogical scenes and expect me to simply choose. What does it matter if food wants peace? Death is better than that kind of humiliation!"
Hercules gave a sad sigh. "You miss my point brother."
"And you miss mine!"
"...Brother...For what it's worth...I can handle if I died...but I don't know what I'd do if you did. If our people did…That's why I'm asking all these questions...I'm not scared of losing. I'm not scared of giving my life...but truthfully?...I don't know what I'd do if you did...I just want you to act smart and be smart leader in this fight...that's all...And brother . . . 'death before dishonor' . . is not very 'rules of nature.' Especially when you're a leader and those you are meant to protect may be doing the dying with you."
" . . . I just wish this battle would start already, if it's going to come, then come already!" Goliath shouted, "You hear me cattle?! COME AND GET ME! You're not taking down General Goliath Beetle without a fight!!!"
Hercules listened to his brother's scream echo. The ponies didn't seem to be looking to attack the castle and just continued their preparations. He listened to the echos...thought about them. "...I think in a way, that's the only thing we agree on...I want to see where this path I chose for me will finally take me...and so do you...we just want this day to be over with...regardless of the outcome…We just have different ways of looking at it..."
" . . . You always had your head up in the clouds instead of here on the ground. Even before we ever saw the sky brother . . . please . . . don't throw your life away for the invisible."
"...And you've always ran forwards with your head down, not caring if you hit a wall...the Nymph Master used to joke that's how you hatched...ran your horn through the eggshell trying to run before you learned to crawl...but I'll try to do what you're asking me...but please do the same for me and don't throw anything away on a reckless impulse…deal?"
"If it'll protect you . . . deal brother."
"Thank you. And stop praising the enemy every three seconds!"
"If you stop underestimating them every three seconds."
"Trust me! If there's ANYTHING I haven't been doing, is underestimating those who might very well turn our salvation into extinction!!!"
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hercules...are you sure this is a fight you want?)
I'm loyal to my Queen. I failed Queen Cocoon. I pledged to do my best to never let another one die on my watch. And I pledged I'd never abandon my people or stop protecting them.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Even when you know the ponies don't deserve this?)
...I'm fighting for my people. They're fighting for their people. I'm fighting to protect my Queen. They're fighting to protect their Queens. We're both fighting for our chance to survive.
Me? The rebels? We're both heroes fighting for our people. If one of us is dark and the other is light, then so be it.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Geeze, how poetic.)
Who wins the day will be the one who wants to protect their people more, and who decides who was the hero and who was the villain. Let come what may.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): ...Why did you take this oath, Hercules?)
Why? The answer may surprise you...I made an oath to Queen Cocoon I'd protect the Queen and the hive with my life.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Cocoon? She nearly destroyed the Changelings herself!)
...Yes...she did...in the end, she'd become a monster. She'd become our destroyer...Queen Chrysalis saved us. Those things are true...but they're not the entire story...after all, me and that sick creature Kabuto are the only ones who remember the first half.
When I was young, the oldest of our old told me how they were told when they were young by their oldest of their old that in their youth Queen Cocoon was much different than how she died, from the one their ancestors rememebred. She was a protector. A mother who doted on her children...who was afraid to let them go outside least something hurt them. Afraid to let them play with other kids least they catch a cold. She was a queen who feared for her subjects...but unfortunately, fear can be a mind destroyer.
Fear festered and grew into paranoia. Paranoia grew into extremism. Extremism grew into insanity.
But the monster wasn't the Queen Cocoon I made my oath to. I made my oath to the mother. To the protector. And even if she changed, the spirit of the oath remains. And I did my best to keep the oath...that's why I have a given name...why I'm no longer 'Number XXXG-01SR'...but in the end I failed...
I took a similar oath when Queen Chrysalis saved us from extinction...I know she's not perfection incarnate. I know her personal slaves suffered. But she still told us we could be great: when we thought of ourselves as less than nothing. She still grew us from near extinction to a strong country thriving. Like Queen Cocoon, I believe in what she represents.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It sickens me to say it, but Chrysalis was an improvement.)
...You know one thing? Even around Pitcher Plant I don't remember seeing Her Majesty so honestly happy as she was around that little filly...when her letter arrived, a part of me hoped this would have been over then and there. That she'd by the peace maker in all this...
But it wasn't…
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Did you say anything?)
...No...I don't have the right to question the Queen after...I swore to serve and protect my Queen and my hive...I failed once, I won't fail again. If fighting ponies I know are good is what that takes...it's what I have to do.