It had been a long night, Bruce had spent nearly all of it putting together the information he had gathered on the floor. Sorting together the useful stuff like a hatred of bigotry and having to move constantly, and setting aside what he deemed less important like H.D.'s like of love. As near as he could tell H.D. and his family must be some kind of fugitives or get run out of the places they live. But without any further information Bruce's theory would remain just that.
Before leaving the manor and going to H.D.'s house Bruce stopped by Diamond's room to check on how she was doing. "Hey sis, how's your project going?"
"Urgh don't ask." Diamond too had a collection of likes and dislikes arranged on the floor. "How are you supposed to make a report interesting when everything the pony likes is apple related?"
"Well what did she have to say about dislikes?" asked Bruce.
"Take a wild guess." Diamond said pointing at herself.
"Oh, that must be awkward." said Bruce.
Diamond rolled her eyes, "That's an understatement! Monday morning I have to come in to class and give a presentation about how much 'Apple Bumbkin' loves apples and hates my guts. And to pour salt in the wound I’m going to get an F for it."
Bruce didn't envy her situation, "Um Diamond, can I ask you something?"
"Sure," Diamond said dismissively.
"Why do you hate Apple Bloom? What happened to cause that much bad blood?" Bruce felt like he was treading on eggshells, true he had only been going to the school for a week. But it seemed every interaction his sister had with Apple Bloom or her friends ended in some kind of altercation.
"I don't know, it started out when she ruined my cute-ceanera." Diamond could tell by his expression that Bruce was confused. "It's like a coming of age party, only it's for when you get your cutie mark. It was supposed to be a really special day for me, and she knew it too. After that, she and her club kept on doing stuff to piss me and Silver Spoon off."
"Stuff like what?" asked Bruce.
"Like last year, I got to be in charge of the school newspaper. And I was good, I mean really good. Under my leadership the group was working efficiently, we had enough articles to run a daily paper and once things took off we were even selling papers at newsstands in town!"
Diamond's eyes lit up as she remembered her success.
"Then all of a sudden the Cutie Mark Crusaders decided that they didn't like being the star reporters of my newspaper and they wanted to quit. So I did what daddy said to do with an unruly employee, I persuaded them to stay with sensitive materials." Bruce cringed at the matter of fact way his sister had just admitted to blackmail.
"The next day they trick me into publishing a story that wrecks the whole paper and gets me demoted to the ink press, The Ink Press!" Diamond could still imagine that nasty black sludge, and how long it took to wash it out. "You want to know the worst part Bruce? Have you seen a copy of the Foal Free Press since you started school?"
Bruce had to admit he hadn't, "I didn't even know we had a school paper."
"That's because there is no Foal Free Press anymore. When Ms. Cheerilee demoted me she put Featherweight in charge, he was a good photographer but he knew diddly squat about running a business. They put out two maybe three more issues before the paper closed down, I think the last issue's cover story was about a nest with new baby birds. They took something that I had made great and ran it into the ground." Diamond said with seething anger.
Bruce felt rather stupid for asking but he decided to anyway, "Did you ever talk to Apple Bloom or the others?"
"What's there to talk about, they hate me and Silver Spoon and we hate them back. There's nothing else to it." said Diamond, ending the discussion. "Now if you'll excuse me I need to figure out how I can make this interesting."
"Alright I've got to go, I’m supposed to be at H.D.'s house at noon." said Bruce, before he left the room an idea struck him. "How about we get Silver Spoon to come over this afternoon. We can all work on our projects together."
"Hey that sounds good, but won't Ms. Cheerilee get upset if she finds out were doing each other’s work?" asked Diamond.
Bruce tapped his noggin, "Dear sister, you weren't paying attention in class. She never said we couldn't help our fellow students on their projects. Only that we couldn't pick our groups." Bruce was feeling quite sly, and also happy that he might be able to help Diamond get a decent grade.
"Alright, see you when you get home Bruce." said Diamond.
With that taken care of Bruce left the manor, following the directions crudely written on the scrap of paper he made his way to H.D.'s house. It wasn't anything impressive, a single story building with a patched roof. What caught Bruce's attention was every window with shutters had them closed and those that didn't had heavy blinds.
About the only peek you could get from the outside was from the small crack underneath the door. Just as Bruce knocked he saw a distinctive flash of green light coming from inside, "Coming!" said a male voice. When the door opened Bruce was greeted by a shortish adult Pegasus, he had the same coloration of H.D. "Hello, you must be Hardnose's friend from school. He said you'd be here at noon, it's eleven fifty five."
"Oh is that a problem? I don't have a watch," said Bruce.
"It's... no problem. We just really appreciate punctuality, that's all." The father of H.D. was craning his neck, looking at Bruce from all angles. "Well you should head inside, Hardnose is waiting for you." The inside of their home was barely furnished, there was a dining table with three chairs, all looking like stuff you could find in a thrift store for free.
As they passed by the kitchen Bruce caught sight of a pony he assumed was H.D.'s mother. She too was a Pegasus and she too had the same exact coloration as H.D. and his father. She smiled at Bruce as he walked past, then she returned to scrubbing the linoleum floor. There was a strange green stain she was working hard to get out.
A few steps past the kitchen was H.D.'s door, his dad knocked on it and H.D. answered. "Hey Bruce, glad you could make it!"
"Sure thing, but why'd we meet here? I've got allot more stuff at my place." Bruce said as he looked around the room. There was barely anything inside, just a bed and a shelf with a row of snow globes. There were ones from all over, Manehatten, Fillydalphia, Cloudsdale, Canterlot, and The Crystal Empire. "Are these all the places you've lived?"
"Yeah, but Canterlot's my favorite one." said H.D.
"Why's that?" asked Bruce.
"Because we almost got to stay," said H.D.
Bruce felt a twinge of sadness, he wasn't sure just how to respond. "That must be awful H.D."
"Look you really don't have to keep calling me H.D. Just call me Dimple, it still sounds dumb, but it is my real name." said Dimple.
"Alright then Dimple, what are we going to do first?" Bruce asked.
Dimple put a hoof to his chin, "Well yesterday we just did the lists, how about today we get into making the profiles." He pulled out a sheet of foam board with all of Bruce's likes and dislikes on it. "I've been trying to piece them together to get a picture of what kind of pony you are."
Bruce was interested, Dimple had the same idea as he did. "So what do you think?"
Dimple arranged the facts in his mind, "First of all, from your comments about family and your aggressive statement about criminals. Logic dictates that both were involved in some kind of traumatic incident. I'm not privy to your home life, but I know your sister goes to the same school and I've seen your father. That narrows it down to either your mother or a sibling lost to criminal actions. How close am I?"
Bruce was shocked, had he been that obvious? Dimple's hypothesis also raised a question in Bruce's mind, where is Diamond's mother? "You were really close, I watched both my parents get murdered right in front of me. Mr. Rich and Diamond are my adopted family."
Dimple was stunned, "Sweet Chrys- I mean Celestia! Why didn't you tell me to bugger off? I never would have brought it up if I'd known that."
"I don't talk about it with many ponies, I don't even think my dad- Mr. Rich fully understands. I think you’re the first pony to come close." said Bruce.
The room fell silent, Bruce was remembering his fallen family and Dimple was feeling very uncomfortable for bringing the subject up. Thankfully the silence was broken when Dimple's mom opened the door. "Are either of you colts hungry? I wasn't sure if you'd eaten lunch before coming here Bruce."
"Sure, I'm feeling a little bit hungry." said Bruce.
Dimple's mom smiled, "I just pulled some cookies out of the oven, there snickerdoodles, made with love."
"Really? Thanks mom!" Dimple said as he ran out of his room and into the kitchen, his mother followed him out the door.
Bruce was about to follow when he caught a glimpse of Dimple's list, "Well I'll be." said Bruce when he saw the reminder Dimple set for himself. It seemed he and Bruce were allot alike, and he was doing his own investigation as well. "Wait up Dimple!"
With the information gathering mostly a failure, Bruce returned home to the manor. It wasn't that he didn't have any fun, in fact he quite enjoyed Dimple's company. But he was still no closer to answers then when he had left that morning. As near as Bruce could tell Dimple's family was perfectly normal, they were poor as dirt but that was no reason to move constantly.
When Bruce entered the home Randolph informed him "Mistress Spoon is already in Mistress Tiara's chambers." So he headed up to help them out as he had promised. Upstairs in Diamond's room Silver Spoon and her were sprawled out on the carpet, their loose assortment of likes and dislikes was strewn across the floor. "Hi ya girls, how are things going?"
Silver Spoon was first to answer, "I'm all done actually, turns out Pipsqueak is really easy to write about. The kids like five years old and never shuts up about the things he likes. I had to sit through an entire school day of, 'I think Luna's the best princess, I really like lemonade, I want to be a pirate when I grow up.'" Silver Spoon said mocking Pipsqueak's Trottingham accent.
"Well that's... good to hear," Bruce said as he too laid down, "How about you sis? Made any progress?"
Diamond lay her head down in shame, "No. It's the same problem, as before. I just can't make anything she gave me interesting."
"Well to be fair they are pretty uninteresting ponies." said Silver Spoon.
Bruce had an idea, "Can you tell me about them? Ever since my first day at school, they all refuse to talk to me."
"Why do you want to know about the 'Lamesaders'? All they ever do is prattle on and on about getting their cutie marks." said Silver Spoon.
"She is right, the only fun you can get out of them is from teasing them." said Diamond.
This isn't quite what he wanted but Bruce knew he could use this turn to his advantage. "So what ticks them off?"
"Oh we've worked down to a science! Of course there's the classic blank flank taunt, you can make fun of their sisters. Well Scootaloo doesn't have any sisters so that doesn't work with her." said Silver.
Diamond wagged a hoof at Silver, "Not true, Rainbow Dash is her adopted sister."
"Wait, she's an orphan too?" asked Bruce.
Diamond and Silver shared a confused look, "Yes, well maybe? I don't know it's weird, she has a house and she lives here in Ponyville. But nopony has ever seen her with her parents." said Diamond.
"It's like a taboo subject or something." said Silver.
"But Apple Bloom is totally an orphan." said Diamond.
Silver nodded in agreement, "But we don't make fun of her for that, even by our standards that would be a pretty awful thing to do."
"So sis, you both seem to know allot about the crusaders, and you know what ticks them off. Isn't that what you need for the report, Apple Bloom's dislikes?" Her brother's remark was profound, and it opened up so many possibilities.
"Bruce you’re a genius, who's more equipped to know Apple Bloom's dislikes than me? And I bet I could come up with a list of her likes too!" Diamond was getting really excited. "Silver Spoon! Remember when we took over their stupid clubhouse?"
"As if I could forget, that was a really posh tree house!" raved Silver.
"Exactly! They built that thing themselves, so obviously she must enjoy construction." said Diamond, she immediately started writing down every little detail she could think of. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I might actually have a chance now."
Bruce smiled a broad smile, he had succeeded in his goal. With one worry out of the way he turned his attention back to his own mystery in progress. There was one piece of information that didn't seem to fit in with the others in any way he could tell. An odd little outlier that he just couldn't place, Dimple's hatred of Princess Cadence. From social studies he had learned that Equestria was governed by two princesses Celestia and Luna. But there were several other princesses, Cadence, Erroria and Ponyville's own Twilight Sparkle.
Up until recently these princesses held nothing more than a title, but Cadence broke the mold by becoming the ruler of a newly re-discovered empire. And that's all Bruce knew, there certainly wasn't anything there that would be hate worthy. Somehow he felt if he could figure that part out everything else would fall into place.
When Bruce looked back up from his notes he was surprised to find Silver Spoon was no longer next to Diamond, now she was only a few inches from his body. "Uhhhh, S-silver Sp-poon? Why are you so c-close to me?" Bruce said nervously.
"You seemed to be paying more attention to your notes than either of us, I only wanted to see what was so interesting." Silver Spoon said sweetly.
"Oh, is that all." Bruce subtly started inching away from her. "I'm trying to figure out why anypony would hate Princess Cadence."
"Hate Cadence? But she's an alicorn! And she's a princess!" said Silver.
"Alicorns are super awesome! Plus Cadence has a castle made out of crystals, and like a bazillion servants!" said Diamond, her inner fangirl was starting to show. "Plus she's done so much awesome stuff! Even when she'd been creating a force field the size of an entire city-"
"For several days!" Silver interjected.
"-She managed to swoop in with the Crystal heart and destroyed King Sombra!" Diamond was mimicking the heroic action, her face beaming as she talked. "I even have all the Princess Cadence action figures, let me show you!" Diamond ran over to her play chest and retrieved the glorified dolls. "I've got the Crystal Empire Cadence, the wedding Cadence, I've even got the fantastic flutters Cadence, but I don't really like this one because it looks like she's got the cutie pox."
Bruce couldn't help but giggle, he hadn't expected his sister to be into dolls. But out of the corner of his eye he spotted something very interesting, another one of Diamond's dolls. But this one was different, it was tall, black, and had distinctly insect like wings. "What's this?"
"Ooh he's never seen the Queen Chrysalis figure!" said Silver Spoon, the same amount of enthusiasm was in her voice as well. "She's only the coolest villain ever!"
"Why does she have all these holes in her body? Is it a bootleg figure?" asked Bruce.
"No, that's what she looks like, she's the queen of the changelings. Okay get this, Princess Cadence was getting married to the biggest hunk in Equestria, then she gets kidnapped by the queen and her minions. Meanwhile Chrysalis disguises herself as Cadence, uses her mind control powers on Shining Armour and defeated Princess Celestia. It was only at the last minute that Cadence came in and saved all of Equestria from being taken over by changelings." said Diamond.
"You said she disguised herself, how? I could hardly imagine something like that fooling anypony with a wig and some make up." puzzled Bruce.
"Well that's the scary thing about changelings, they all have the power to shape shift. They could make themselves look like anypony, anywhere." said Silver Spoon.
Finally all the pieces of the puzzle made sense to Bruce, and he didn't like the solution. He got up from where he was laying down and stretched, "Thank you sister, and you too Silver Spoon. You've given me all I need to finish my profile." He didn't want to say it outright, in case he was wrong. But he really couldn't see any alternative, Dimple and his family were changelings. Now all he had to do was prove it.