With Kabuto kaput, we were planning to keep rescuing civilians...but then there was a major commotion outside and Captain Coke decided to take the opportunity for us to come back and recover from our fights while we figure out what's going on. This gifted pegasus wasn't complaining. I'd spent a ton of mana dealing with lightning being thrown both ways in that fight.
The triplets were doing okay, Weaver could still fight. Garnet said her stab wounds weren't that severe, at least as far as stab wounds go. It'd been the mana drain from the transformation that'd nearly killed her. Garnet said that the drain probably would have killed a unicorn at the rate it must have drained her.
I think some of the Changelings were a bit surprised that we were actually treating them like prisoners of war instead of just killing them. They were expecting to be treated worse than animals. Instead we were treating them as ponies. I don't think they knew what to think.
I thought back to Lone Ranger. The way he wanted to just wipe out another species like they weren't even alive...I won't lie, how he saw the world scared me. It was easy to imagine the Hooviets thinking that way. It's in the history books, even in Roedinia. It was just hard to believe anycreature still thought that way. And Lone Ranger wasn't a member of some foreign empire. He was an Equestrian pony and a Guard. It just felt...wrong...I'm not a specist or overtly nationalist, but it just felt so wrong to see that kind of mentality in a countrystallion! The guard are supposed to be peace keepers and guardians, not cold blooded killers!
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Every species has their monsters and their saints, Thunderchild. Your three new friends are proof of that.)
Yeah, true I think we know that better than a lot of ponies. Even if we hadn't been on that crazy world tour, the Guard's not exactly all ponies either. You name it, it's probably been a Guard.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Humans?)
Let me rephrase that: name a species that's actually exists and it's probably been a guard.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Timber Wolves?)
Actually, there's a stallion that trained one as a police dog once. I don't know how he did it either but he named it Fluffy.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Wonder if he's related to Fluttershy.)
Hehe...yeah...maybe...It actually worked pretty well. Thing's completely tame. And you'd be surprised how fast a robber will give up when there's a Timber Wolf growling at his door. While screaming like a little filly. Only problem was its breath stank. I think they're stationed in Hoofington now.
But back to the point...It made me think about somethings.
"Sarge?" asked Bombardier, looking at me. "Is something wrong?"
The triplets had been keeping their disguises off when they were alone with us guards. It wasn't hard to tell them apart from the enemy, considering they were the only Changelings wearing Equestrian barding. They said it was some sort of personal thing that meant a lot to them. Must be a Changeling thing.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): They can finally serve with their real face, can you blame them for wanting to do so?)
I guess not.
(Interviewer's notes (Pegasus): Hey, what's your opinion of the girls' wingspan?)
Nice, for dragonfly wings anyways. Weaver's are longer though...You know, it's weird. They don't look any different, but I can't help thinking they look a lot less dangerous than the ones we've been fighting. They've still got the fangs and compound eyes, but they just...feel different. Other than the fact they weren't trying to kill us.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Maybe the fact they were smiling?)
Yeah...maybe that was it. That made this next part harder.
"...Bombardier...remember when you called those changelings mooks before?"
"Yes sarge...I know it's weird to call my own species that, but...I'm just so clopped off about these infiltrators...It feels like they're spitting in the face of what we've tried to do all this time. We do our best to live peacefully in Equestria, then they use the same stuff to undermine us."
"I can respect that, and I agree they don't deserve to be called guards...but I don't want to hear you call them that again, do you understand Corporal?"
She blinked. "Okay Sarge..."
"Lone Ranger is what happens when you stop seeing your enemy as people...these aren't just mooks, they're soldiers. You three are proof they have families and Digger Wasp begged us to keep his sister safe. We might have to beat them, they might be the enemy but that doesn't mean we should start deequinizing them...that's why that nutjob thought he should kill off all the Changelings without a second thought. That's what the Hooviets' used to justify trying to crush anything without antlers. What the Changelings are using to justify what they're doing. Soldiers can't afford to see the world that way, that's how you end up following orders you shouldn't."
She looked a little guilty. "...Yes Sarge."
"...And assuming your opponent are just mooks for you to mow down? That's a good way to get yourself, or somecreature else, killed. You need to stay on your hooves every step of the way. Never underestimate the Changelings. Is that clear?"
She gulped. "C-Crystal, Sarge…"
I knew if he were here, Shining's be telling Bombardier from experience how big a mistake letting yourself getting reckless can be. Endangering your squadmates was serious business. Shining...I'm wasn't there, but I'd seen what that night had done to him.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): That was pretty mature for the team Casanova.)
You don't get to be a Staff Sergeant by not being able to be serious or able to set somepony straight. That's part of my job.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You just prefer not to be most of the time?)
Yeah. And I can't wait for this mess to be over so I can go back to playing my guitar and admiring wingspans.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): That reminds me...What do you think of mine?)
Hmm...About an 8. Look a lot like Rainbow Dash's. Only saw hers at a distance though.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): That would make sense…)
"Hey! Bombardier! I need your help!" Ellis called...oh boy…
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): What?)
Ellis is putting that engineering Cutie Mark to good use (like he had been this entire time for the makeshift weapons we had, including helping Garnet make the darts for our tranqs) and needs the other explosive expert. If it weren't for the fact we're in the middle of an alien invasion, I'd be worried...Actually, I'm still worried.
"Alright," Captain Coke explained the next morning. Considering what we'd been through with Kabuto, we needed the rest. Especially Garnet.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Because she's your fiancee?)
No, because she wore herself out figuring how to beat Kabutomushy before he killed us all and patching us up, and had first degree burns on her back.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Oh.)
And is also my beautiful fiancee.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): How is she recovering, Gag?)
She's doing okay, she says her back might scar...but I'm sure she'll be fine if she says so. I mean she's the medic...
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You worried about her?)
Yeah...Just this whole mess with the Captain and the Princess...I...
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Reminds you of Sunset and Ranger?)
Yeah...I just don't want to lose her...or her to lose me. It seems Misfit Actual's luck with weddings is just as rotten as the Captain's luck sometimes.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): The Wedding in Zamunda went well.)
I got attacked by cats.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Doesn't that always happen?)
Yeah, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And I didn't like the looks the Honey Badgers were giving me...Besides, that wasn't one of us, we were guests.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Gag, I'm sure Garnet is having the same worries, but do you think she'd ever let them get between you?)
No way. Never.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Are you going to let a war get between you two?)
Did my grandpa let the telegraph system stop him from calling the House of Lord Senators jerks?
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Uh...)
No, he didn't! And they definitely tried...multiple times. Thanks.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): No prob, it's our job.)
"Alright, we had Diver head out and do recon with his shapeshifting, and we now know what happened yesterday," I announced after Misfit and the triplets had recovered. I normally gave the job to Gag, but Diver had been through less than Gag and could do recon too, so I made the choice to let him do it instead. Plus, we had a teammate capable of shapeshifting, why not exploit it?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Captain Coke, what'd you think of the triplets'...secret?)
I was suspicious. Kinda felt like playing O&O and a heroic demon showing up having been hiding as one of you. But I don't think Weaver or Kabuto would be in the condition they are if those three were spies. Particularly since Kabuto has tried to kill himself...repeatedly. Thankfully he finally ran out of body parts for us to restrain.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): That bad?)
Yeah. Though given what Misfit told me he did, I was honestly tempted to just let the psychopath finish himself off...but that isn't the pony thing to do. The scariest part was some of the prisoners actually wanted me to.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Because it was too cruel to leave him alive?)
No. Well, yes, that happened, even though I'm pretty sure they believed he'd brought it on himself (apparently no one put it past him that he'd experiment on himself). But the ones that scared me were the ones that I couldn't help agreeing with.
"Let the bucker die!" yelled one of the Changelings, who we'd had to further restrain after a very determined attempt on Kabuto's life (on top of the other restraints the triplets had made sure to put on them even before revealing themselves). After that, we'd had to separate him from all the other prisoners as best we could (we'd been trying to isolate them like we were supposed to, but didn't really have much room to put them or many eyes to be on them). I was surprised that she was actually crying.
"He took my brother! He...he...Please just bucking kill him!"
"...Look...the guy wants to die, killing him would be doing him a favor." You can't imagine how hard it was to tell her her sibling's murderer wasn't dying. She just looked so...broken.
Prisoner of war or not, it wasn't fun to see somecreature grieve.
"He's a threat! He needs to be gone!"
"How? He's an earth pony now, his power is gone."
"He's still as smart as ever, and now he has EARTH PONY magic, magic of life to twist and warp life MORE."
I have to admit, that was a good point which we were doing our best to avoid him having a chance to use. "You think we don't know how to restrain our own kind? I promise, we won't let him hurt anypony ever again."
"Threats to the hive need to be disposed of."
"By that logic, we should be killing you to protect our 'hive,' but I'm not."
"You should kill us all on sight. It's called rules of nature."
I sighed slightly. "Rules of nature? The griffins used that too. Guess who we're friends with now."
"You just don't get it. We're your predators, you're our prey. You can't expect a timber wolf to be friends with a rabbit."
I didn't have time to spend chatting with prisoners, so I had to leave. Still...It was just...surreal to feel sorry for one of the invaders that had attacked our country.
I wish we had Mother Deer here, she was a lot better about convincing bad guys to reform. Rumor has it she was good at convincing former Hooviets to reform after escaping her prison.
Back in the present, Diver stepped forward. "From what I found out, the Changeling occupation has been exposed."
That got well deserved cheers.
"That's great!" Gag exclaimed. "So this bug war is over?...Uh...no offense…"
"None taken. Apparently, the Bearers rescued one of Chrysalis' slaves, I'm sorry, it wasn't your captain, and caused her to accidentally reveal herself to Canterlot," Diver explained. "But things aren't over yet."
I nodded as Diver turned things back over to me. "The Changelings are still occupying Canterlot Castle, and while their ability to complete the rune is more or less shot without a foreman, Chrysalis, as the triplets and our prisoners have informed us, isn't one to give up without a fight. A rebellion, mostly Wonderbolts and Gifted Unicorns, is mounting an offensive near the castle, and Princess Cadence's group have apparently linked up with them. Their goal is to stop Chrysalis before Luna arrives to avoid a fight between them in the middle of Canterlot."
"So we're gonna go find the Princess and join them in ending this whole mess?" Corporal Bitter Apple asked.
"That's the end goal, but not our primary one...Corporal, what exactly is that thing?" I asked, pointing to a long, cylinder shaped thing that looked jury-rigged out of pipes and quite a few other things.
He pat it with a look of pride that made me uneasy. "Just a little something me and Bombardier cooked up just incase another Kabuto decides to rear his ugly mug."
"...Is it safe?"
I naturally stepped away from it like it was a bomb...which knowing Ellis, it might have been.
"Oh come on, you don't trust me?"
"You and Captain Sparkle accidentally made a cider still into a mass driver," I pointed out flatly.
He sighed. "You blow up a barn one time…"
"It was two barns."
"And didn't you say you and Heath blew up a barn? A couple times?" Gag asked.
Ellis looked sheepish. "...Point taken. But we've tested this thing and it isn't even loaded."
(Interviewer's Note (Pegasus): That isn't a guarantee. Believe me.)
"I promise, it won't explode," Bombardier reassured. "At least not without warning."
"...Don't load it yet," I ordered. "Got anything else?"
"Some exploding arrows for the crossbows," Ellis explained, holding the arrows. "They're not as strong, but they should be good for armor piercing if they bring anything big. At least better than what we got. I would've made a grenade launcher but ran out of the pipe I managed to swipe from a supply closet."
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): They'll work, trust us.)
"Sir," said Thunderchild. "Why don't we just go up into the castle and blow the doors down from the inside when the rebels' attack starts?" he asked strategically. "That way the rebels can get in no problem and end this thing?"
"Because the rest of the Changelings have barricaded up the castle," I replied, turning things back over to Diver.
"They've blocked most of the entrances to the castle pretty securely," the childish Changeling explained. "Including the ones we've been coming in and out of. There's still the civilian entrance to the catacombs, which is unguarded right now and how I got out, but it doesn't lead into the castle."
"Do we know where the Princess is?" Garnet asked, standing close to Gag.
"The Changelings have narrowed down an area, but we don't know," Diver replied. "But we should be able to meet up with her group when the battle is about to start or find somepony who can get us to her."
"And that's our end directive right now," I stated. "Join the Princess and the rebels in their assault on the castle and hopefully end this. But our first priority is to get our prisoners and the civilians to safety, the place above us is about to become a war zone. Since the Changelings have refocused to fighting the rebellion rather than rounding up civilians, the civilians should be able to get to safety if we get them through the right passages, it will be our POW's that may be an issue. We'll need to deliver our prisoners to a location we know the rebels are keeping the Changelings they've captured during the brief scuffles with the Changelings not hauled up in Canterlot Castle and during the fight in front of it after Chrysalis was revealed (thanks again for the intel Diver). So we don't get mistaken for Changelings at the time, Noteworthy and I will hoof them over personally because the rebels are aware we're ourselves. We will then rendezvous with the attack force and ask Cadence to sense the bonds between Misfit Actual to prove it's us. Then we'll help take back Canterlot Castle from the Changelings. The rebels are currently the only army we've got, so work with them the best you can. Everycreature got the plan?"
"Captain," said Garnet. "May I suggest we get Mrs. Sparkle, Banjo, and Arcane Spell to the rebels directly rather than send them with the other civilians? I've done everything I'm can for them on my own, and even if they can't give them better treatment, they'll be in a safer place than down here. None of them can walk unaided, so sending them with a large group could risk them being dropped and trampled if the group has to run or gets into a fight. More hooves and bodies moving around means it'd be harder to find them if they fell and they're more likely to get hurt."
"Good idea, but we need every hoof we can get to keep our prisoners secure in transit, and from what Diver's said the rebels' medics are in a completely different place than where they're keeping the prisoners of war. Besides, if anyone other than me and Noteworthy went, we'd would probably attract too much attention right now. And we're needed to hoof over our captives."
"Captain," Ellis replied. "My cousins were trustworthy enough to guard our captives, I know it isn't standard operation, but with the Changelings busy with the rebels like you said, they should probably be a good enough escort to get them to the rebels safely if we ask."
"Cherry," said Noteworthy. "We were on leave in Appleloosa during the whole buffalo conflict thing.They may not have ever seen a real war (thank Princess Celestia), and I'd never put them on the front line, but those two can fight if it's absolutely necessary. Out of all the civilians, I think they'd be the best escorts we could find with what we've got to work with."
"And I could probably lead them on a safe route to get there," Prince Blueblood spoke up. "If there's one thing that can be said of me, it's that I know this city's layout like the front of my hoof."
I thought it out. This was highly unorthodox, but this wasn't exactly the best situation for orthodox. We'd need every hoof we had to get to transfer the prisoners, two of which were high profile. It wasn't just that we needed to transfer the prisoners for their safety, it's that the rebels having Digger and Kabuto, along with Changeling troops, could give them the leverage needed to end this peacefully, or at the very least give them bargaining chips to trade for Princess Celestia if she couldn't be freed normally. We needed to hand them over as quickly as possible.
But if we left our injured down here, the battle might start on the surface before we could get back, leaving them stranded down here until it's over and possibly putting their lives in danger. In addition, Lance-Corporal Chambers had a point. Not only had she done everything she could on her own, sending them with a large group when none of them were capable of moving on their own (rather than a small group with multiple unicorns that could keep an eye on them and catch them should they fall) was risking their safety if they got into a fight.
The problem wasn't that one was more important than the other, it was that both were important and we had too few sets of eyes to split between both.
If we sent them with the civilians and the civilians split off, they'd end up with a civilian escort anyway. Apple Fritter and Peachy Sweet, while not soldiers, were decent fighters and trustworthy, as was Blueblood. And Blueblood knew Canterlot better than anypony, so if they were chased, he'd know places they could hide that the Changelings likely didn't even know existed. And if they were forced to fight, they could at least defend themselves. I'd already deputized them to help keep watch on our prisoners, so technically they had that much authority. Given the options we had, it was the one that seemed the most sound.
"Alright, that's probably a good idea. Let's get to work and get ready."
"Look, we need you two to go and take the Sparkles, Banjo, and Blueblood's fillyfriend to the rebels," I explained to my cousins. "Normally we wouldn't, but you're the only ones we have that can do it."
"Ah thought Ah left all this fighting behind in Appleloosa," Peachy Sweet said holding her ponytail (her mane, not her actual tail).
"That makes two of us," Apple Fritter added gripping her pigtails with her hooves. "Cuz', Ah know you're the Guard and all that...but, how in tarnation are we supposed ta carry three grown ponies through Canterlot in the middle of a big no holds bash-up with no clue where we're going? You said after cousin Applejack was rescued that ya had no clue where she was! And if ya did, ya all would have hooked up with 'em already! Ah figured we were just gonna sit tight here till the fightin' was done after ya gave us that lecture -that Peachy Sweet slept through half of by the way-"
"No I didn't!"
"-that how this wasn't like the battle in Appleloosa and it was better for the two of us to just keep our heads down with them city folk unicorns and the prince and his poor mare friend."
"For starters, you'd only be carrying one, Mr. Sparkle says he'll carry his wife and knows where to go and Blueblood will carry Arcane. And I don't know where AJ is, but we know where rebel forces are. And that's why we want to send you, and Prince Blueblood and his fillyfriend, with Mr. Sparkle. This place is right under the castle and a big battle is about to start up there...you'll be safer with the rebels than here."
Apple Fritter crossed her front hooves, "Me and Peachy Sweet face down a herd of rampaging buffalo who wanted to level Appleloosa to the ground and us with it if we were in their way, armed with nothin' but pies and our smarts cause that's all we had. And ya still told us we didn't know what REAL fightin' was, and NOW ya trust us ta get Princey and the rest of the city folk to wherever in Canterlot yer gonna vaguely point us at?"
I admit, I didn't like recommending my cousins for this, but they were the best ponies we had for the job given the situation we're in right now. A guard's job was to protect everypony...Getting the injured to safety was more important than what I wanted.
"Captain Coke and Garnet said that the Changelings are being kept real busy by the rebels. They've got no time to focus on the civilians right now when every unicorn and their mother is busy firing at them from the buildings, and that's the ones out in the open, nearly all of them are hunkered down in the castle. Which in general makes our prisoner transport a lot easier...I'm gonna be on the front lines, not you two. You'll be a lot safer than I'l be or you'd be here. You've got two ponies who know the city like the back of their hooves leading you and, like him or hate him, Blueblood's talent is navigation...Please, we can't take them with us or the civilians, and we're afraid what might happen to them if the fighting upstairs gets too intense. These are two armies, an Alicorn, and a psycho queen as strong as one about to duke it out over our heads."
Peachy Sweet asked politely raising her hoof, "Cousin, Ah gotta ask, if the bugs are really holdin' up in the castle...how the buck are ya, or anypony fer that matter, gonna get anywhere without bein' seen?"
"...The sewers. Blueblood has marked a course for us. The guy's a living compass."
Apple Fritter said, "Takin' real hurt ponies though the place the crude goes after ponies do their business, REAL smart cousin."
"I said we're going through the sewers. We guards. Until we see the Princess, we need to keep hidden or the rebels might start shooting at us thinking we're Changelings. You're civilians, the rebels are protecting civilians. Not to mention Nightlight and Blueblood are pretty high on their 'we need to find them' list if the Princess and Twilight are as worried about them as I think they are."
"And so we're gonna stroll out the front door of the tomb and hope the bugs who are watchin' every which way ain't gonna spot us? With ponies ya just said on big on their 'find' list?"
"We're trained guards, do you think we'd be that dense? The triplets can guard you until you're to the buildings outside the castle walls before meeting back up with us to help transport the prisoners, because unlike the rest of us, they can disguise themselves as civies. If I had the option, I'd dye my fur and do it myself...besides, I stink at lying, they can at least use their true forms to convince any Changelings that stop them. Just act like you're clueless."
I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. The triplets were the only ones who could really hide the fact they were guards and pose as Changelings if needed. If one of us went pretending to be Changelings, not only might that attract more attention, the rebels might mistake us for Changelings before we could find a way to contact Cadence. We needed somepony who could get them a good distance and meet back up with us (which was going to take some good timing to pull off given how quickly we'd need to do it)...I had to trust them.
"I kid you not, he's agreed to take off his fancy suit and mess up his mane and tail to disguise himself and keep his filly friend safe...at least until he's out of sight of the castle. Yeah, I hardly believe it myself, but that girl means the world to him. Same with Arcane Spell, only dirtying up her looks more."
Yes, I admit it is rash...but Arcane is still badly hurt...and the guards are right, this situation is extremely dangerous for her...besides, it will only be for a few moments, then I will need to resume my normal appearance for the rebels to believe it's me once we've lleft the area around the castle and escaped into the town.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Why do you think this will work?)
Simple. It's something that none in their right mind who knows me would ever think I'd do in a thousand years. The Changeling Queen already proved the Changelings still think I'm a pampered waste of space. I believe it's time to use that misconception to my advantage.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That's...actually pretty smart.)
I was a spoiled brat, not a complete idiot.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): And Arcane?)
I always choose a beautiful mare to accompany me. Clearly the high and mighty snob would never allow himself to be seen in this state with a filthy, ugly mare on his back.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You've come a really long way!)
Thank you, small filly.
"As for Nightlight, he and Starlight are disguising themselves as beggars with some curtains we were able to snag from town nearby and pass Starlight off as drunk thanks to her being high as a kite from the pain meds."
I'm the first one to admit this wasn't a perfect plan, but we didn't have a ton to work with. We had a small group. The prisoner transport we needed to do would require every last one of us to get it right and might be key to giving the rebels the leverage to end this. We had to make sure to keep eyes on them all the time, and we'd need every set we had (thus why the triplets couldn't go all the way and had to come back to help us). Unfortunately, time wasn't on our side. Just the battle with that Nightmare Moon cult in Columbia had been a big fire fight, this was two armies! If we wanted to get the injured to safety before that goes down, this was our best bet.
Apple Fritter snorted, "Lavender Fritter and Jonagold are gonna think Ah was a coward stayin' put this whole time! They're gonna say after Appleloosa me and Peachy Sweet lost our guts! Did ya ever think 'bout that cousin?" She gritted her teeth. "We're Apples! We're family! And all ya've done since we got here was treat us like fancy glass dolls!"
"I let you help guard the Changelings we captured. Including two big wigs. I'd say that takes a lot of guts."
"What am Ah gonna tell mah grandkids down the line? When Canterlot was invaded Ah spent mah time hidin'?"
"...You know I'm the guard here. I could order you to stay out of the battle. Since you've been deputized, I could technically order you to do all this...but I don't want to order my own kin…Look...I...I'm not saying you're not tough. But Applejack has that Element of Honesty of hers and saved the world multiple times. I'm a soldier who's been through battles with Nightmare Moon cults and fear monsters."
"I thought it was only one fear monster."
"Not the point. The point is...I took an oath, I knew I might be risking my life for Equestria someday. I don't buy too much into the whole destiny thing, but Applejack's Element of Honesty for a reason."
The thing was, not only did I not want to have to push my weight around my kin, I knew the Apple Family had a stubborn streak the mile long and if I DID, they might just come right back into the battle even if it got them arrested when the smoke cleared. The only way they'd stay away from the fighting is if I convinced them to the old fashion way. I trust them, but you need to convince them the right way.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Even if you hoofcuffed them?)
They'd find a way. Reminds me of this time we tried to keep Applebloom from getting involved in a barn raising when she was too young at one of our reunions (some of the family considers it a blast, I honestly prefer making the boards myself but helping the family is always fun). We tried grounding her in her room when she didn't get the hint, next thing we know she's on a support beam.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Heh, that's Applebloom alright.)
I'm honestly scared to find out how things have been going with her in this whole mess.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): She's...safe. That's all I can say.)
Can't say I was any better at that age. And from the stories my granny told me, it seems AJ's granny was a bit of a wild filly in her youth. Something about trying to break a record for a high dive or something. I guess we Apples have always been one rowdy bunch and always will be.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Yeah, I'm sure a thousand years could pass and you still would be.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): If you're so worried about them doing that, then why suggest them for this job?)
Cause Apples are hard workers too. Once I convince them, they'll do everything they'll work as hard as they possibly can. They were the right ponies for the job and would do it with all their hearts.
Fritter asked coldly, "Can Ah ask just one question cuz? How many of them 'rebels' out there are ya gonna tell me are all guards who took an oath?!"
"...None...but most of those rebels aren't my kin. Me and Applejack? We can't help being involved in this...please...can't two Apples being in the thick of it be enough? If you want to help, which I know you do, please just get the injured to safety. You'll be a ton more help doing that than fighting."
"...Yer sisters ain't gonna think yer yella' Fritter," Peachy Sweet said.
"So says the mare who doesn't see her sister who was born with feathers. She still work for that fancy flying Wonderzolts team?"
"...Wonderbolts." Peachy lowly corrected.
"Fritter! Don't say that to your cousin!" I said. "What's wrong with one of our cousins being a Wonderbolt? Or a Pegasus for that matter?"
Fritter looked at me like I'd gone crazy. "Who the buck said it did? Ah meant a cousin who doesn't ever see her sister ain't got a spot tellin' me what my sisters will think of me."
"She isn't actually a Wonderbolt cousin," Peachy Sweet said, "She's one of their coordinators."
I was surprised. "What? But she always told me...she, said she was on the team..."
"She technically is, she just doesn't fly with them."
"Oh...that makes sense...but look, Fritter...We're Apples, we aren't supposed to fight. We're tight knit. Is now really the time to be arguing? Since when have we ever turned on each other in a crisis? Did you two start arguing and fighting during that whole Appleloosa thing?"
I admit, I was nowhere near Appleloosa at the time (we'd just missed AJ and her friends), so I could only assume Apple Family loyalty was strong.
"No. We were too busy tryin' to save the town and Bloomberg's family," Peachy Sweet said.
I never did get why they named their trees, but I'd be calling the kettle black to bring it up now.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Long story short, they're family to Applejack, not stock.)
Never said they weren't more than stock. I respect how my kin sees things, even if I don't get it. Just my part of the family is the...I guess, the 'undertakers' of the family when it comes to trees. We take the broken trees and bruised apples and make them into new stuff and cider.
"...Please, just get the injured to safety and stay out of this…"
Apple Fritter sighed through her teeth, "Fine cuz'. Just don't expect me to run away if we get caught up in fightin'."
"I DO expect you to run away! Because you're gonna be busy lookin' after some VIP ponies and three wounded, remember?"
"And if we have to fight our way through Changelings to get them to safety?"
"...You're a lot better at fighting than Nightlight. Blueblood can kick flank if he needs to...but don't go looking for a fight, got it? You're escorts, not soldiers or superheroes. You're not supposed to fight unless it's a last resort. If I find out you did...and for what it's worth? I wouldn't trust you to do this if I didn't think you two were tough. If I didn't think you were tough enough to handle this, the triplets would be guarding you the entire time instead of coming back to help us after getting you out of sight of the castle."
Fritter opened her mouth at that, and nothing came out...she looked at me like she didn't know what to say. Peachy Sweet hugged her. "And I'll fight too cousin, if we have to and only if we do."
I did the only thing I could think of. I took my helmet off and hugged my kin as their cousin. "So we can trust you to handle the injured?"
"...Yeah, cuz...you can…"
"Thanks...Good luck, cousins."
"Good luck to you too, cuz."
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Forgive us if we step out of the interviews for the moment...we felt it was only right to be silent passengers for the next part. They had one last thing to do before they left the Royal Catacombs as the last preparations to move were being made.)
Due to its age and minimal space available on a mountain, the catacombs lay underground, but access was public. Especially the part reserved for Equestria's heroes such as this. They were normally well guarded, but with the changeling occupation, the place was abandoned, making it so quiet they could hear a pin drop.
Shining Armor's command squad stood before a tomb. In front of it stood a statue of two pegasi, one a stallion, one a mare, both soaring high in an embrace. A plaque set in front of the tomb along with a bronze relief with the Equestrian flag in it. Several flowers sat at the base the relief that Misfit hadn't put there, looking to be a couple days old.
The trained soldiers looked upon the tomb with somber eyes.
"...Ranger...Sunset…" Thunderchild said slowly. "...There's not much we didn't say when you came here...but now, we're going into a battle for the fate of Equestria...I won't say I wish you were marching with us...I wish we'd been at your wedding months ago. But...we didn't feel it was right to spend all this time down here and not come here...I'm not good with this touchy-feely stuff...But...just know we won't let this monster win...Rest in peace, guys. We're going to keep this place safe...we'll keep everypony safe. Both your families too. Just rest in peace while we keep going. You already paid the price you swore you would gladly, let us handle things here."
The rest of the group nodded slowly in agreement. Thunderchild gave a salute, the others following suit.
The Staff Sergeant turned to the others. "...Come on everypony...we've got a world to save."
"Hey is that Blueblood?" One changeling guard asked another.
"Naw, too messy to be Blueblood, he'd turn himself in before he let his precious mane get a hair out of place. Besides, when's the last time you saw Blueblood naked?"
"Yeah, plus look at that girl with him, she's a MESS. It'd be a cold day in Tartarus before he'd let himself be caught dead with a mare like that."
His fellow nodded. "I wish it was him though: I ever tell you about the time his chair broke cause he sat on it wrong? Plothole blamed the manufacturer, and then ordered me to 'be a chair' for the rest of the evening? The whole reason I was looking forward to the invasion was so I could return the favor!"
"That's nothing compared to when I was assigned to him. His escort couldn't make it to the opera, so he had me dress up as a mare to be his date."
"What's so bad about that?"
"Now I know why noling dates him more than once, and the dress he made me wear made my flank look fat!"
"I'm sorry you have to carry me like this dear."
"Starlight, don't speak, just rest."
"If I was better I could use my supervision to vaporize the invaders and using my super-strength turn the castle upside down and shake out the villains like pepper."
"And I think the pain killers might be doing too good a job."
"You even think of flip-flopping sides Ah'll break yer legs," Apple Fritter said to Weaver. The changeling was currently disguised as the most nondescript Earth Pony she could think of.
"Cuz', don't be rude!"
"We'd NEVER do that," Weaver said.
"See? Then ya got nothin' ta worry about," Fritter replied to Weaver.
"I'm just glad you believed me."
"Helps my cuz trusts you with me."
"You have no idea how much it means to me that he does…"
Gah...I don't think I'll be flying much with this wing...oh well, this changeling general always preferred fighting with my hooves on the ground. I might need to pull out my trump card after all...I hope I can avoid using it until the Moon Queen arrives.
At least they'll have to follow me over here away from my changelings.
...I wasn't lying to my brother Goliath. He thought I was praising the enemy. And I was. But what Goliath doesn't understand is you should always respect your opponent. The moment you disrespect them is the moment you become overconfident. And that means they have an advantage against you before the fight even begins.
I'll admit...I'm glad the ponies fought back. I never understood the Changelings who thought it was better the ponies rolled over to our will. We're a race who believes nature is the ultimate measure. The ultimate law. And yet when our opponents fight back we're surprised? Does a gazelle simply stand still and let a lion kill it? No, it fights for every breath. If the Gazelle couldn't beat the lion sometimes, the Gazelle would go extinct.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Honestly, your words reminds me of me when I was fighting to lose.)
I won't lie, I find that belief hypocritical. Do I believe in our 'survival of the fittest' belief?...I believe that we all fight for what we believe in. My soldiers fight for what they believe in. I fight because I swore loyalty to my Queens. I fight because my promise is iron clad as my body.
I'll protect my people. That's why I'm here on the front lines. But if the Queen orders us to give in peacefully? I'll gladly stop. I wasn't lying when I told Goliath the day Queen Chrysalis came to power was the day my belief in innate superiority died. But so long as I'm ordered to fight, I will fight. I will give my all.
That's the reason I objected to my brother becoming my superior: he refuses to see himself as a leader and not a warrior. Death before dishonor is a lot less honorable when you might get other people, who are relying on you for guidance and protection, killed along with you.
I get back to my hooves and a white unicorn stallion with a blue mane fires on me. I shield up my forelegs and block his beams. He managed to get a beam through my defense and strike me in chest, singing my armor. He's smart.
I plant my back hooves and lower my head before charging forwards full speed. I have to evade several of his shots. He gets smart and begins aiming at my legs, almost tripping me a few times. He doesn't stop. Good! Fight!
I'm forced to tank the last few hits to get close and shoulder tackle him, knocking him across the ground. He manages to roll out of the way as I try to stomp down on him and he gets back to his hooves. I take a moment to check his stance.
"...You've got some skill, don't you?" I ask. "Your stance isn't that of a novice...What's your name?"
"I am Fancypants. And when you have a lot of money in your pocket, it's a wise choice to have some defense training," he replied and fired a beam at my head, forcing me to duck.
I came back up with both front hooves, bashing him in the chest and knocking him up on his hind legs. I bring my hooves back down, aiming at his horn. He gives a cry of pain as he's drive snout first into the ground. Kabuto's experiments have nothing to do with my size.
He tries to lunge up at my throat with his horn, but I raise my forehoof to block, letting his thrust bounce painfully off my armor.
I do a spin and buck him once more in the horn as hard as I can. I hear a crack and he falls to the ground, groaning in pain, horn cracked.
"You might have some training, but there's a difference between having training and having used it," I state, pulling back a leg and aiming a fist at his head to knock him out, quickly and painlessly. "For what it's worth, you did well for your first real fight, but this is over."
Suddenly I feel something wrap around me. I look back to see the lemon mage's monster's limbs around my midsection before the beast throws me straight through a wall. I use my armored forelegs to take the brunt of the impact, but I still felt it.
I tore my way out of the rubble in time to see the second Element of Magic teleport in front of my former opponent. Good, they took the fight even further away from the main gate.
"Get Fancypants to the medics, Trixie will handle things from here."
I look up to see the fruit mage on top of her creature, the beast mouthlessly roaring down at me like a dragon. Hehe...that's one thing I respect about this one: she doesn't hide behind her creations like a coward. She fights by their side.
I take a few steps forwards. "...What's your name fruit mage?"
"Lemon Hearts," she replied, keeping her eyes wisely on me.
"I see…" I reply, looking over to the Element of Magic. "And you're Trixie, right?"
"The One and Only," she replied, with an air of confidence.
I watch as the Earth Pony mare steps forwards. How much damage have I done to her while she keeps on going? "You?"
"...Screwball," she replied. The poor creature looked guilty. I don't have time to wonder why.
I nod. "...Then...Lemon Hearts, Trixie, Screwball. I am General Hercules Beetle. Fight me with everything you've got. You're Equestria's heroes, they expect nothing less from you!"
I plant my hooves and lower my head. "Let's see what you've got!" I yelled, charging forwards as the creature many times my size roared in fury.
"Need a medic over here!" I turned to see several ponies be brought in by the ponies who were doing the fighting. Hearing Lyra still singing out there meant at least I knew she wasn't among them. I'm quite happy Tootsie Flute isn't here.
"Hello...Minuette I believe they called you," the Prince said to Minuette, some poor mare on his back. Wait...Prince Blueblood?!
"Blueblood?! Where did you come from?!" Minuette asked in shock. "Who are the top three Wonderbolts? What's your mother's name? Where does the bread plate with butter knife go on a formal setting?!"
"I don't think I can tell you our hiding place...particularly since it's no longer our hiding place, Spitfire, Soarin', Misty Fly, before or after she changed her name? Do YOU even know her name? And top left of the dinner plate."
"Third is Fleetfoot!"
"I SWEAR IT'S ME!"
"Which means you're Blueblood, Wonderbolts trivia buff you aren't!"
TLC snapped, "Enough with 'guess the changelings!'" The nurse pony began noting the injuries of the ponies brought in, and began trying her best to clean their wounds and patch them up.
I miss Ponyville. I miss it when the worst injury I ever had to see is Tootsie getting a scraped knee.
"Excuse me, have we met? You look a little familiar," Minuette asked the blue male unicorn and the poor mare on his back with four splints. Thank Princess Celestia she at least seemed to out of it to be suffering.
"Well, I think you might know our faces," the stallion said proudly.
"You're new teachers at the Gifted Unicorn School right?"
The stallion face faulted. The mare actually managed to face-hoof with a splinted leg on reaction alone, like when I hit Lyra when she won't shut up about humans.
"Maybe this will jog your memory," the blue unicorn said, clearing his throat after carefully lowering the poor mare to be treated and positioning himself across from Minuette like they were talking. "'Sorry, Minuette, Twilight's too busy studying to come to the party. Yes, I know it's spring break, but she wants to be ahead when classes start up again'."
"You were Twilight Sparkles' family photographer right?"
"Now you're just messing with us."
"Sorry, couldn't resist Mr. Sparkle. I'm sure Twilight will be relieved you got here. She's been worried about all of you."
"And we've been worried about her...thanks for saving her from that witch."
Minuette blinked. "Wait, how do you know about that?"
"For one, we saw the magic beams aimed at Changelings outside. We know our daughter's magic color."
"And some nice ponies that helped us get away told us."
Minuette cocked her head. "Nice ponies?" she asked. then looked to the two Earth Pony mares in the group, one carrying another stallion with a broken leg.
The yellow one with the green mane shook her head. "No, Ah wish. Ah think ya know the ones who did though. They talked about you enough."
Minuette looked perplexed. "What?"
The pony facehoofed. "Do ya city folk have to take a billion hints? Our cousin and his friends."
Minuette looked more confused. "...Applejack? You're Apples right? The ones that were helping her in the kitchen? She thought you'd disappeared."
Minuette looked like she was trying to believe something that couldn't be true...or wanted to anyway.
"Wrong cousin! And don't say Applebloom neither! Ya spent the whole world tour with the guy!"
Minuette gasped in shock. "ELLIS?!"
I blinked, trying to remember from their letters to Lyra. Ellis...who was…
"Oh! Minny, wasn't that somepony on the world tour?"
"Y-Yes...but...but he's a guard!" Minuette stuttered. "How is he even still here?! Not that I'm complaining but I thought all the guards got thrown out!"
"We don't know," said Applejack's cousin. "Just that it did. Banjo here's group are guards too, aren't they?"
I blinked. "...They are?" I inched away from them.
"I'm not a changeling!" called the stallion with a broken leg in the group. "We don't know why we didn't get kicked out either but you saw us at the Wedding! Remember? When you guys came to save our flanks?"
"That would actually explain a good bit," TLC remarked. "Whoever tended to their wounds was a professional."
Minuette suddenly grabbed AJ's cousin by the shoulders. "Where are they?! Are they okay?! What have they been doing?!"
"Wow! Hold yer horses! They're gonna join the fight!" the mare replied. "And as for okay, they've got some scrapes and bruises, but they're alright. They've been kicking Changeling flank this whole time."
I thought for a moment, then gasped. "Did they take out two Changeling big wigs?"
She nodded. "Yeah, we were the ones that helped guard 'em."
I looked to Minuette, who looked like she was about to faint. "Minny, are you alright?"
I didn't know what to think. I'd spent this entire time not knowing if they were alive or dead. If they were okay. Praying that they'd be okay...and then it turns out they were here this entire time, fighting by our side and we didn't know it.
I know, Captive is my coltfriend, but the rest of Misfit Actual are my friends too. It's kind of hard for the Princess' constant companions and her guard detail to not interact a lot. And...I'm one of the few ponies on this planet to actually remember what they did in that time that never was...remembers them and Shining being taken by that thing. I couldn't help being afraid the same thing had happened again.
I was happy...I was just shell shocked! It was so much to take in! And considering who I replaced, that's saying a lot!
Not to mention realizing they'd been doing their best to help us.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Did you expect them to do anything less?)
No, I didn't. Shining Armor lives to protect ponies, why should I have expected his squad not to? It honestly explained a lot. I just…
"Minuette, are you crying?" Bon Bon asked.
"Oh! Sorry...it's just…I...I don't know what to think...I…"
I look...Apple Fritter I think now that I can actually think. She was on the wedding staff, we'd run into her before Chrysalis fired us.
"Was...was there a unicorn stallion with them? A sniper? Kinda stoic and calculating?"
She blinked. "Nah. There was an...um...unicorn. But she's a girl."
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): If a few guards didn't get thrown out, I guess a few others might not have been booted out and Misfit has spent this entire time helping as many ponies as they could.)
Good point...At least that means Audience is away from all this...I hope he's okay.
"Erased all Daleks from the time space continuum in this universe, check. I'd rather NOT have to explain that to Celestia," the Doctor remarked, giving a sigh of relief. "Audience, how did things go with the Empress?"
"She's on her way to calm Dracozilla down," the unicorn replied. "Good thing he's mellowed out over the years."
"Good good, glad this is one of those realities where he's settled down or we could be in trouble. That means we only need to keep him busy for a little bit."
"Uh...Doctor, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this, but if the Daleks got erased, why is Dracozilla still angry?"
"That's a good question."
Misfit Actual's sniper gave a sigh, wondering how he'd gotten tangled up in this mess.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): He's probably not in too much trouble.)
A part of me wanted to run out to help the others...to be there...but I had a different role in all this. I was a doctor, something our group needed more than soldiers. We all had our roles in things.
I just hope they'll get through this okay.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Just believe in all of them, Minuette.)
I think I will.
I fire a series of magic bolts at the Changeling general, but he just blocks them with those weird forelegs of his. How is that even possible? This Changeling is certainly something else. I didn't see him fight when I was Chrysalis' slave. I wonder if a blade made of solid moonlight would cut him. Darn it! I'm still masquerading as Princess Cadence...
Still, I'm thankful my Cadence disguise is still functioning, it gives Lyra cover, but I don't know how much longer I can evade. It helps we seem to have ended up a distance from the main fighting...I hope that doesn't come back to bite us.
Hercules leapt into the air despite his damaged wings and slammed both of his hooves into Lemon Heart's big lemon with enough force to create a shockwave and cause some juice to fly from the impact. I think he's getting airborne by pure physical strength.
I had to catch Lemon Hearts as she fell off and her familiar was stunned by a second blow. Thankfully, Trixie was there to blast him out of the air when he leapt at us, but he got right back up and charged at HER.
He tried the same move he used on poor Fancypants, but luckily Trixie teleported backwards and fired back at him with a beam I'm pretty sure was bigger than she was. He just blocked it again but skidded a little despite not falling over. What are this guy's forelegs made of?!
I put Lemon Hearts down and she threw a few lemons at Hercules. He was expecting them to explode into smoke and held his breath...instead the floor under his hooves became slick and caused him to fall.
"What the Tartarus was that?" I asked.
"Lemon juice is an ingredient in a lot of cleaners, so I know a few spells to make lemon based soap," she stated, then ran to check on her familiar.
Sometimes I expect Lemon Hearts to show up to class dressed in clothes made of lemons…
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Or create a race of lemon ponies…)
That would not surprise me.
Trixie didn't hesitate and was blasting away at Hercules. He flinched but didn't seem to take as much damage as he should have.
The big Changeling drove his hooves into the ground to get back up and leapt out of Lemon Heart's trap. He blocked a beam from me and gave Trixie a kick in the chest, knocking her flat on her back. Thankfully she teleported out of the way before he could continue the attack., resulting in him turning to me and Lemon and opening fire with a surprisingly basic magic beam. I blocked it with a shield but when the smoke cleared, he'd already charged and slammed shoulder first into my barrier with enough force to drive me back and put a few cracks in it!
Screwball leapt on his back and pound away at him with her front legs, but he leapt up, trying to crush her under his weight. Thank Princess Celestia that time she dodged!
She threw a punch at Hercules and he caught it with one hoof and matched her!
Her eyes widened before he punched forwards with his free front hoof, this time her catching it! The two struggled against each other and I swear Screwball was losing!
He reared his head back and headbutted her, knocking her to the ground...just in time for Trixie to strike him with lightning. Repeatedly. He cringed from the strikes, but he just shrugged it off like it was a little burn!
"I thought Changelings weren't as strong as Earth Ponies!" I found myself exclaiming.
"I'm not an average Changeling," Hercules replied before bull rushing Trixie.
Lemon Hearts throws more of her surprisingly well utilized creations at me again. I leap into the air as they create another slick. Crossing my forelegs, I block a series of powerful beams from Trixie, before tackling her to the ground. I quickly try to assault her horn before she can teleport.
I'm sent staggering when she electrifies her horn and gives me a large shock instead.
"...Clever girl…" I mutter. She's also keeping an eye open for ambushes. Smart, but a waste. Any Changeling I could pull away to help me is a changeling that won't be there to guard the castle. And every Equestrian hero focused on me is one they don't have to worry about.
Every hit I take is one my Guards don't have to. Every second they spend fighting me is a second the wall has a better chance of holding.
When the Moon Queen arrived, she'd run into the full force of my wall before she can join the assault too.
"You think you're the only creature to ever aim for Trixie's horn?" she asked with a confident smirk as she got to her hooves.
Their Princess shoots me from behind with a beam, staggering me forwards. I surprised Trixie by using it to propel me forwards and punch the Element of Magic hard in the muzzle that bloodied her nose. I follow up with a blow to the stomach.
Unfortunately, before I can press my advantage on the stunned unicorn, Screwball slams full speed into my side, knocking me off my hooves. She's smart and jumps on me, trying to punch me repeatedly. I counter by hardening my forelegs. To my surprise she doesn't react to punching my ultimate shield full force.
I spit a ball of slime in her face and buck her off. I use what telekinesis I have to grab her leg and pull her back for a second buck (my body is stronger than my magic). I have no choice but to take a beam to the back from the second Element of Magic and charge her. Unfortunately, she teleports again, but this time I rear up and pound the ground, knocking her off her hooves with the shockwave when she reappears. Before she can react, I charge her, tackle her full force. She manages to teleport before hitting the ground, allowing Lemon Hearts to strike me with several of her lemon bombs.
Screwball takes advantage of me being disorientated to deliver a flying kick that I'm forced to block with my forelegs. I throw her off with my strength and look at her.
"You just won't stay down, will you?"
"I could say the same about you," she replied, taking a fighting stance.
"...What are you fighting for?"
"...Atonement. And protecting someponies dear to me."
"Me too. But only one of us will succeed! So come at me!"
These ponies. Sometimes I wish my fellow Changelings were right about them. It'd make everything so much easier...but life isn't easy.
We charge each other and collide, forcing our strength against each other. She falls back and flips me over her with a professional toss, but I turn it around, slamming full force into the ground and creating another shockwave to knock her off the ground.
I charge forwards and leap, planting a hoof in her chest and driving her into the ground hard enough to crack it.
I rear back up and try to bring my body weight down on her but Lemon Hearts surprises me by shooting me with a beam from her horn to interrupt my attack.
While it doesn't hurt me, I hear a sizzling sound and look down to see my metal armor corroding and rusting at the touch of a yellow, foul smelling liquid.
I don't let that detail distract me and charge her full on. She attempts to use more of her bombs, but while my magic is subpar for a warrior, it is enough to blast them out of the air before I reach her and attempt a quick blow to her horn. While she's quick enough to block my strike with her forelegs and protect her horn, she's still a unicorn and the blow knocks her to the ground.
I stomp on her stomach, causing her to gasp for breath. While she's winded, I attempt to slam my weight down on her.
Princess Cadence, however, flew full speed into me and knocked me off her ally. That's strange...I expected more strength out of an Alicorn.
This gave Lemon Hearts the chance to fire a beam right at my face.
My eyes burned and I was temporarily blinded by what I think was lemon juice into my eyes.
Somepony took advantage and shot me from multiple angles as I try to clear my eyes and I believe Screwball slammed into my side.
To Be Continued . . .