"I still think that your little scheme is going to get us a week of detention, Rainbow Dash." Sunset said as she and her friends travelled through the corridors of Crystal Prep. "I mean, coming up with the lie that all of us came down with the common cold on the same day?"
"I know, right? It's the best way to get out of school!" Rainbow fist-pumped as she and Indigo led the way through the hallways.
"Technically speaking, the best way to avoid a day of school is if you actually contract a disease," Sugarcoat pointed out. "That way, you can avoid punishment and tell the truth at the same time."
"Aww, lighten up, Sugarcoat. You know that it's just a figure of speech," Indigo shrugged and put her hands behind her head. "I know that honesty is your thing, but you tend to take it a little too seriously sometimes."
"I can't help it, you know. My family does have some strict rules for me to follow." She adjusted her glasses once again.
"Anyway. Welcome to Crystal Prep, Rainbooms," Sunny Flare said. "One of the most prestigious schools in the whole country, if not the world," she smiled for a bit as she watched Sunset and her friends enjoy seeing what there was. "If you happen to be interested in any of our equipment, then we expected as such. Before she got fired, Cinch's reputation earned this school some of the finest stuff that the educational system had to offer."
"Whoa..." Rarity looked into one of the classrooms, where students were being taught about the periodic table of elements; however, she was more interested in what was projecting the table onto the board. "Is that a ZX Infinitum Spectra? Those things are almost impossible to find in schools these days."
"There are a lot of things that Crystal Prep has that most other schools don't," Sour Sweet put her hands to her hips. "I don't mean to brag, but it would take your schools a few years to even afford such amazing stuff like this."
"Focus, girls," said Sunset. "We came here to find out how bad the conflict is between the Defectors and the Changelings, not gawk at some high-tech stuff that belongs to Crystal Prep."
"I know. I know." Rarity pulled herself away from the window. "We do have a job to do here, after all."
"But what if those Defectors know who we are?" Fluttershy brushed some hair out of her face. "There had to have been some of them at the Friendship Games who never forget a face. If they find out, then..." She shivered and dived behind Applejack.
"Don't you worry, Fluttershy." She held her hand. "If those mean old bullies come running, we'll just high-tail it out of there."
"The fighting's been pretty gruesome lately." Sugarcoat pulled out a little piece of paper from her backpack and unfolded it. It eventually showed all of Crystal Prep, as well as the upper level. Most of the rooms had also been covered in purple pen ink, which she then pointed out. "All of these areas that I've marked are places that the Defectors have fought for and won. Everything else is still neutral territory, and can be freely used by the other students."
"But day by day, we're losing more ground to these thugs." Sour Sweet pointed at what used to be the art room on the map. "That place there? The Defectors just snatched it yesterday after that brawl in the cafeteria." She once again turned her smile into a frown. "I swear, if they get their grubby little hands on the archery field, I'm gonna..." she then stuttered and gritted her teeth.
"I think you should start with the Changelings first." Lemon Zest pointed towards one of the disciplinarians guarding the door to another classroom. "Those guys will be willing to listen to anyone—even if you're from Canterlot High."
"Alright then." Sunset walked up to the black-dressed Changeling. "Uh, hi there, sir." she said.
"Hey. Aren't you supposed to be in class?" The Changeling asked as he sternly looked Sunset in the eyes. "No students allowed outside of their classes without a hall pass, and no unauthorized ones trying to learn something that's not in their regime."
"Oh, it's no bother, sir. Me and my friends are just visiting for the day. My name's Sunset Shimmer, and I'm a student of Canterlot High. We're here to see just how bad the fighting is between the Changelings and the Defectors."
"You wouldn't want to hear it, girls." He brushed some dust off of his shoulders and looked back into the class he was guarding. "We have orders from Principal Chrysalis to maintain order in CPA, and eliminate any chance of a rebellion, outrage, riot, or other such insolence that would cause us to lose her and have her replaced with someone worse."
"But we do want to know, sir. You see, we want to try and stop this senseless fighting between you and the Defectors."
"So, you want to sign yourselves up to become Changelings as well?" The guard raised a brow. "We could always use more hands in this fight against those brutes."
"N-no! It's not like that!" Sunset shook her hands frantically.
The guard's brows lowered. "Well, you're either a Changeling or a Defector, Sunset. And my advice, I would advise that you choose us over those beasts, or we will make your lives a living nightmare every time you try and pull something funny..." He cracked his knuckles.
"We're not going to be Changelings or Defectors, sir." Applejack stood in front of Sunset with her friends standing beside her. "In fact, we're going to try and end the fight between ya'll by ourselves."
"You do realize that Defectors usually never listen to the other students here? In this school, they are the electricity to our water. And if you combine the two, the pain will channel and intensify more and more, hurting everyone who so much as gets involved with the combination."
"Basically, if we try and get everyone to come together, you're all just going to fight and the other students are going to get hurt either way?" Twilight stepped forward, but she was wearing some brand new clothes. She was now wearing a purple skirt and socks, with a black jacket and pink shoes. Her hair was now tied up in a ponytail, but she had still kept her glasses.
"Twilight? Is that you?" The guard almost fell to the ground as he noticed her.
"Yes. It's me," she nodded.
"I never thought you'd come back to Crystal Prep after what happened at the Friendship Games." The guard shook her hand. "I'm so sorry you had to see your former school turn into a battleground between bullies and disciplinarians."
"I do admit that it's a shock, but I'm willing to be here as much as I can to help the Shadowbolts and my friends try to fix the damage they caused."
"Anyway. If you're going to try and reason with the Defectors, you're gonna need to blend in with them," the Changeling said. "If you can infiltrate their ranks and learn some more about them, then maybe we can try to find another way to fulfil their demands and stop their hatred towards the other students." He pulled out a map from his right pocket and pointed towards a room at the very top of the building. "That is Principal Chrysalis's office, the cornerstone of our organization. If you can all get up there and tell her that you want to go undercover, then we'll do all that we can to make sure that you all look the part as well."
"I'm all for getting the low-down on those bullies, but why do we have to sneak in to their numbers to do it?" Applejack raised one of her fingers. "Surely, there must be a better way to do this."
"The Defectors have burnt bridges with every other Crystal Prep student not wearing a uniform. They won't even lift a finger towards a student unless it's to punch them in the face or gut, steal their stuff, or make them cry in pain. I know it's hard, but this is the best and only way you'll learn more about them."
"It just doesn't seem right," Sugarcoat sighed. "Not only would we have to don the clothes of our enemies, but we'd also have to lie them as well. And if this mission of ours fails, the Defectors could very well hospitalize you like they did with Twist a while back."
"You're saying that you won't do it, Sugarcoat?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"I'm saying that I can't do it, regardless of whether it'll help or not. Listen, I know it's complicated, but you'll have to trust me on this. I've never told a lie since my birth, and there's a very good reason why."
"Why's that, Sugarcoat?" Indigo asked.
Sugarcoat took another deep breath, then readjusted her glasses. "Ever since my father was cheated on by his first wife, he kicked her out of the house, shouting that liars were the worst people on the planet, and who deserve no sympathy or redemption."
"What happened to him?"
"He remarried. This time to a woman named Make Easy, my mother." she looked to the ceiling "The two of them swore on a golden rule that was never to be broken: A lie is a thousand times worse than the truth, and anyone who sugarcoated, beat around the bush, or fudged the numbers on anything would be severely punished. This applied to him, his wife, our youngest daughter, and me.
"And for years and years, it worked. We had been honest on everything. Our opinions on the news of the world, how we felt about people on television, the scores on our tests, what we ate, everything."
"I've heard of honesty before, but that just seems unfair." Applejack pulled her hat off of her head. "Everyone has to lie on something, even if they know the truth would hurt them more."
"But that's just the way we are, Applejack. Beat Bush, Make Easy, Fudge Numbers, and I have not uttered a single rumour, red herring, or lie in our lives; not even when we were three years old or younger. To us, honesty isn't just the best policy, it's the law..." Sugarcoat looked towards the ground. "But to tell you the truth, I'm sick and tired of having to live under my family's ways."
"What? Why's that?"
"I feel like no matter what I say, I'll constantly have to hurt others by telling them the truth. Whether I try to be kind or not, the one thing that'll destroy or prevent me from friendships is how brutally honest I have to be." She hung her head and cried a single tear. " Sometimes, I wish that I was born with a different set of parents..."
"Hey. Don't feel down about your upbringing, Sugarcoat." Sunset put her hands on the silver-haired girl's shoulder. "Your parents raised you that way because they care about you, not just because they want to give you some harsh rules."
"Are you sure?" she wiped her eyes.
"They're just doing what's right for you. Sure, liars are terrible people and that they've hurt lots of others with their actions and words, but you must understand that your mom and dad are making sure you grow up so that you never become one." Sunset put her arm around Sugarcoat's shoulders. "No matter what is said and done, at the end of the day, Beat Bush and Make Easy love you and your little sister with all of their heart, and that's all you can really ask from parents like that."
"Thanks, Sunset..." Sugarcoat sniffled and slowly began to smile. "Coming from you, that makes me feel better about myself."
"You're welcome. Anything to help out a friend in need," she patted Sugarcoat's back.
"We're friends?" Indigo asked.
"Why wouldn't we be?" Fluttershy asked. "I do agree there was some tension between our schools back at the Friendship Games, but your dream for a better tomorrow, and the fact that you came to us for help is a sign that not every Crystal Prep student is a jerk, and that's something that we can all appreciate."
"Thanks," said Sunny Flare. "I know that there was a lot of things we did in the past to give you a bad first impression of us, but beneath all of that, we're just like you in a way. Harmless teenage girls, brought together by a common cause and who all want everything to be peaceful and friendly."
"You know, I was a bit skeptical about you all at the start of this, but you girls really do seem like you want Crystal Prep to change," Rainbow Dash held out her hand. "I'm sorry if I ever doubted you, Shadowbolts."
"It's alright, Rainbow Dash. We accept your apology." Sour Sweet shook hands with her but then pulled her close. "But if you backstab us, I'll personally show you a world of pain..." she whispered.
As the Rainbooms and Shadowbolts shook hands with each other, the bell rang, and the students of Crystal Prep walked out of their classrooms and flooded the corridors.
"Anyway, you'd better get to Chrysalis's office if you want to learn about the Defectors." The Changeling stepped away from the door to let the students he was guarding out. "And watch yourselves on the way up, girls. They're in a really bad mood today after they lost the pool."
"You have a pool here?" Pinkie Pie leapt towards Lemon Zest.
"Yeah. We should show you around for real once we fix this," she smiled.
"Are you sure that we can't just go up to them and try talking to them?" Fluttershy asked as the group started to walk towards Chrysalis's office.
All of a sudden, they saw another student being cornered by Defectors before she was pulled away from the locker she was backed up against. They opened it up and threw her inside of it, locking it up tight so that she couldn't get out. As the student banged against the steel for help, the thugs laughed and walked away.
"Definitely not while they plan on brutalizing students like that." Rarity waited until the Defectors had all left before unlocking the locker and letting the student out. "It might be the worst way to do it, girls, but we need to speak with Chrysalis and go in as double agents if we want to learn about our enemies."
"This is going to go horribly wrong..." Sunset facepalmed as she and the girls walked towards the office.
"Well, here we are, girls." Twilight and the group arrived at the door to Chrysalis's office. It was tall, and had multiple chairs sitting by it, on the off chance that students were required to wait for their parents to finish talking with the principal, or if they needed to wait their turn in case she had multiple appointments. "I might have spent a month at Canterlot High, but I still know CPA like the back of my hand."
"Wouldn't there be some more Changelings here to defend her?" Sunset had noticed that there was not a single disciplinarian in sight. Not even one behind them at the bottom of the stairs. "If this is where she operates, wouldn't this be the most heavily-guarded room in all of Crystal Prep?"
"The Defectors might have lots of allies, but they're not stupid," Sour Sweet said. "The Changelings lock the door from the inside out, and you can only get in by knocking on the door and proving that you're not with those jerks." She rapped on the door for a second, then stood back. "Only time they're in here is if Chrysalis is giving them a stern punishment."
"Who's there?" A Changeling said from the other side. "Identify yourself."
"Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat, Lemon Zest, Indigo Zap, Sunny Flare, and friends," Sugarcoat said. "We want to talk with Chrysalis."
"Defectors follow you?"
"Are you an agent for them?"
"No! That's ridiculous."
"We'll see about that..." He unlocked the door then opened it to eye up the twelve girls. His hostility quickly evaporated when he saw that they weren't wearing uniforms. "Oh. You're not with those scum after all. My bad, come on—" he then noticed Twilight "—Twilight? Twilight Sparkle?! I thought that you'd transferred to CHS!"
"These five students approached us as we just came out of school yesterday," Twilight stepped forward. "They told us everything, except for why the Defectors are pursuing their goal for conquest of Crystal Prep."
"Well either way, it's good to have you back here, Twilight. Even if this may just be temporary." The Changeling stepped aside and allowed the girls to walk inside Chrysalis's office.
When the group all walked inside Chrysalis's office, the first thing they saw was the solid oak desk with pencil and pen holders on top. There was a single stool in front of the desk, which paled in comparison to the massive revolving chair that Chrysalis was sitting on on the other side. She had her back turned towards the twelve girls at the moment, though, as she was busy commanding Changelings all across the school with a series of computers at the back of the room.
"Principal Chrysalis." The Changeling who had unlocked the door stepped towards her and bowed. "You have guests. Five Crystal Prep students and seven friends of theirs."
"Supply them with additional chairs. Make sure that our talk is comfortable," Chrysalis said, her voice soft and seductive.
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded and then ran off out of the room to fulfill her request.
When Chrysalis heard him leave the room, she moved her chair towards the desk and span it around to face the students. She was now clearly visible in the single light hanging above her head. A black-skinned woman with dark green hair, black lips, and green eyes. She was dressed in a black dress with long green socks poking out of her leather shoes.
"It's been an awful long time since Crystal Prep brought over guests from Canterlot High School," Chrysalis's voice was as cold as the arctic north as she addressed the Shadowbolts and Rainbooms. "Despite what you may think of us, I want you to know that our school has changed for the better since I took over. The only thing that stands in the way of a truly harmonious school now are the Defectors."
"We know that," said Sunset. "In fact, we were hoping that we could help you in trying to turn Crystal Prep into a better school."
"Well, aside from supplying me with more helping hands in fighting these brutes, I don't really see how the twelve of you can make a difference." Chrysalis opened a drawer on her desk and wrote her signature on a form. "Pep rallies, parades, parties, none of it will work against these mindless thugs."
"Which is why we need to know exactly why they're fighting like this, so we can find out if there's a better way to stop this senseless fighting," Sunny Flare spoke up. "Now I know that you want us all to do our best, Principal Chrysalis, but I feel like with these Defectors, the students here are too afraid to live freely, and will have to pick a side in the conflict eventually."
"I've tried talking with their leader, Blueblood, but he and his followers aren't really in a mood where they want to discuss things, or even listen to what we have to say first. If we can't subjugate this brawling, then we'll simply have to take drastic measures."
Applejack shuddered as those words echoed in her head. "Well, let's hope that it doesn't come to that."
"But if you all came in together, students from both schools who have the same goal in mind, it can't just be a coincidence." Chrysalis put her hands together and lowered both of her eyebrows as she slipped the pen back into the holder. "Who are you seven? And what do you have in mind for defeating the Defectors?"
"Our names are Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and me, Sunset Shimmer," she said, pointing each of them out. "We want to know all about the Defectors, preferably in a way that doesn't get us hurt."
"Well, we can't tell you much aside from how it all began." Another Changeling stood beside Principal Chrysalis and took off his helmet, revealing himself to be a strong brown skinned male with black spiky hair and red eyes. "The thought of the Defectors started out in the assembly that happened the day after Abacus Cinch was fired. Blueblood was the first one to call her out, and other students who shared his visions blindly joined him."
"A few days after that, we received reports that students were wearing the old uniforms and attacking other students without pity or remorse," Chrysalis took over. "Of course, the Defectors received detention for their actions, but that only served as an invitation for more and more attacks, to the point where not even I could keep track of it all."
"They sent Chrysalis a few furious messages by graffitiing some of the walls of Crystal Prep, making their mark on the lockers they used, and even having the students they beat up call out their group name in agony. When we had identified the Defectors as a threat to the safety of the students at Crystal Prep, the Changelings were created to counteract any kind of brutish behaviour and restore order to CPA."
"Despite our efforts to maintain peace, however, the Defectors only keep pressing their advantage in trying to defeat us. All of the times we strike them, they hit us back even harder. It's only a matter of time before their influence encourages other students to join them out of fear, fear that they'll be hurt each and every day unless they defect themselves and add to Blueblood's cause."
"Then there's no time to lose, Chrysalis!" Rainbow Dash slammed her hand down on the desk. "We gotta get in, learn about what they're fighting for, then get out before they start asking too many questions about us."
"But in order to do that, we're going to need to pass ourselves off as Defectors," Sunset said, provoking a long five second silence from the entire room. She eventually broke it by saying, "We won't join them entirely—just until we know what they're up to. Then, we'll report back to you with the details."
"And by the time the Defectors know that they were lied to and had their goal exposed, the Rainbooms will be out of CPA faster than you can say checkmate." Indigo smirked as she crossed her arms.
"I appreciate the idea, but that is a dangerous mission, and that we've already put enough students of Crystal Prep through this nightmare," the other Changeling said. "I don't think we need to add to the pain by letting you suffer as well."
"I agree with Black. This will be dealt with in the matter that I see fit." Chrysalis revolved her chair back towards the computers. "But before I let you all go out, I want you to know that I'm denying you this mission for your own safety, girls. If you all got hurt outside of CHS boundaries, then not even Celestia or Luna would be able to help you out. I do hope that you all understand."
"No, wait!" Sunset reached out to try and break through to Chrysalis. "Please. Just hear us out for one minute."
"Listen, ladies. Principal Chrysalis is in no mood to talk now, especially since we've got Defectors moving in on the music room now," Black spoke sternly to the girls. "I know that you mean well, but this is too big of a risk for you to take."
"Black is right, girls." Another Changeling stood next to him. "The second those Defectors find out that you're from Canterlot High School, they'll be all over you like wolves, ripping and tearing away at you until you finally collapse and end up either dead, or near death."
"There's just no reasoning with them." Sunset brought her friends into a huddle. "They seem so stressed with how much fighting's been going on that they're not even considering letting others attempt to fix this."
"Well, whether we're getting through to Chrysalis and her team or not, we are going into Defector territory undercover, and we are getting that intel," Rainbow Dash was determined to proceed, despite being denied by the Changelings.
"Thank you for your time, Chrysalis." Sugarcoat broke out of the huddle first. "We'd better be going now."
"Yes. Good idea, you five." Chrysalis didn't look back, but she did wave them off. "Even within the midst of all of this chaos, you should still be allowed to graduate with heads full of knowledge."
The girls all waved back before they exited the room, hearing the door being locked behind them the second it was closed.
"So, what now?" Fluttershy asked. "We failed to get permission from Chrysalis. So how are we gonna get to talk to the Defectors now?"
"Principal's orders or not, we need to know how to stop this fighting," Sunny Flare had decided on a plan of action. "Sugarcoat, Lemon, Indigo, Sour, Twilight, do you have extra copies of your old CPA uniforms?"
"We have the ones we had before this little feud, but I'm not sure that they'd fit around the Rainbooms." Sour Sweet examined the girls from CHS very closely, mainly checking out their hips and stomachs.
"Either way, we need to get these six dressed up in Defector clothing so that they can infiltrate the ranks and learn what we need to know," said Sugarcoat. "Time's running out, and I'm worried that we could be facing a school-wide war between the Defectors and the Changelings if we can't stop this.
"Sunset Shimmer. I know that these times are hard, but you must understand that this is the only way that we can stop this dispute," her brows lowered. "You and your friends are going to have to put on your absolute best impersonation of Defectors if you want to keep yourselves undercover and learn why they're fighting." She could hear the grunts of a male, followed by the faint sound of a punch to the chest and a female cry of anguish. "If they so much as pick up on any qualms, questions, or disapprovals of what they're planning, then the whole mission will be a bust, and we'll have to get you out of there. It that doesn't work, we'll notify the Changelings," she then turned to face Fluttershy. "This especially applies to all of your friends. If you break character, that's it. Game over."
"I know the stakes, but we don't have a choice," Sunset sighed. "This whole thing is making me sick to my stomach already."
"It's even worse than anything that happened to CHS in the past." Rarity balled her hands into knuckles. "And I simply cannot stand to see such a pristine school like yours fall into the hands of these monstrous ruffians. If I have to act, then I shall, and with dignity and aplomb!"
"I'm less for the idea, but if I have to do it to stop the fights, then I'll do it," Fluttershy whispered as she hung her head.
"So it's settled?" asked Sugarcoat.
"Yes," Sunset nodded with her friends. "We need to end this now before it spirals out of control."
"Alright. Meet us at the boutique in an hour, girls." Indigo and the other Shadowbolts ran off. "We'll give you the whole plan as soon as you get changed!"
As the Rainbooms watched their five new friends vanish from sight, they walked down the stairs and towards the doors of Crystal Prep. Now that they knew the severity of their situation, as well as the risks that came with breaking character, they were thinking about whether or not they would be able to blend in with the bullies. They all walked out of the academy with the same thought. If they messed up, there would be no second chances.