• Published 14th Jan 2014
  • 6,347 Views, 345 Comments

Tales Of The Cricket-Verse - Bucking Nonsense



A collection of short stories about Mole Cricket, and other changelings, attempting to fit in with pony society.

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Free Hugs

"Seriously?"

Royal Guard Commander Silver Lance quite honestly could not believe what he was seeing. The grey unicorn (he wasn't that old, but his color scheme of dark gray with a light grey mane and tail made him look significantly older than his forty years) knew trouble when he saw it, and what he was looking at had headache written all over it in big red letters. Bad enough that a few weeks ago, a changeling had been escorted into Canterlot Palace, then granted probationary citizenship. He supposed he didn't have anything against the fellow in question (by all accounts, he was a decent chap), but there had nearly been a panic at the time, given the trauma caused by the failed invasion. But this... This... THIS!!!

This was far, far beyond anything he was prepared for...

There was, right outside the headquarters of the Royal Guard, in Canterlot, a changeling. A surprisingly young one: if she were a pony, she'd probably be in her early teens, maybe even younger if she was just tall for her age, and surprisingly thin. She (and it was very definitely a she, unless boys had started wearing big blue hair ribbons all of a sudden) was sitting just across the street, holding up a cardboard sign. The sign said, "Free Hugs". The writing was neon pink, and surrounded by little hearts. Admittedly, if she'd not been a changeling, the scene would have been impossibly cute. Instead, while a little cute, he supposed, it was... strangely disturbing. A creature that looks like that should not be trying to be adorable...

Silver stared at the changeling with a scowl on his face. The changeling returned the stare, smiling, and even waved cheerfully at the commander. If she felt any sort of fear regarding the fact that she was in the middle of potentially hostile territory, she hid it well. In fact, Silver got the distinct impression that she was having a laugh at his expense.

If the changeling had tried this only a few days ago, the guards would have immediately taken action. However, after Mole Cricket's interview, orders had come down from on high: until and unless a changeling was performing an action that was considered illegal, they were to be observed and reported, nothing more. So, while he didn't like the idea of a changeling offering free hugs to passing civilians, he couldn't do anything about it.

With a snort and a shrug, Silver turned around and walked back into guard headquarters, and got on with his day. It was still early, and there was plenty on his plate. He had inspections to perform, permits to review, and even approve a new armor design. That Cricket fellow had taken one look at the current model, and spotted a worrying number of flaws. During the invasion, those flaws had allowed the changelings to walk all over the guards without breaking a sweat (Do changelings sweat? He didn't know, but if they did, they hadn't needed to back then). The changeling in question had, after the interview, given Sir Shining Armor a rundown on where the problems were, and what could be done to correct them. Decent chap, like he'd mentioned earlier. Silver was certain that changeling would go pretty far...

By the time evening rolled around, Silver was ready for a warm meal and a warm bed. As he exited headquarters, he saw that the changeling was still there, although it seemed that she was... less enthusiastic than before. Changelings ran on love, and from all reports, pedestrian traffic had been very low today. While she had gotten a few hugs, it looked like she hadn't gotten as many as she'd hoped for. Looking at her, a stray thought crossed his mind...

...How desperate do you have to be, that you'd beg for food on the sidewalk, in the middle of hostile territory?

Silver Lance cleared his throat, then asked the changeling, "Miss, what are you still doing here?"

The changeling looked up, then held up the sign, pointing at it. It still had the words "Free Hugs" written on it, although the paint looked slightly faded.

"Yes," Silver said, rolling his eyes, "I can see that. But it's getting dark soon, and I don't think you're going to get many more takers after nightfall. Where are you staying?"

The changeling tilted her head to one side, as if considering the question, then tapped her hoof twice on the ground. Right here, apparently.

Silver raised and eyebrow, then asked, "Don't you have anyplace else to stay?" The changeling shook her head. After a moment, he realized something. "You don't talk much, do you?"

The changeling opened her mouth, pointed down it with one hoof, then made a slicing motion across her throat while shaking her head. Apparently, she couldn't talk at all.

The unicorn took a moment to consider things. The changeling must be pretty desperate, if she was handicapped, and quite literally begging for love on the streets. It was... doubtful that she had anypony (or what was that term that changeling had used... anybuggy?) looking after her if she was planning to sleep on the sidewalk. After a moment, the guard made a decision. He might get into a little bit of trouble for this, but given the circumstances, he doubted that anypony would blame him.

"What's your name, miss?" He realized almost immediately how stupid a question that was to ask a mute girl, but apparently, the changeling had prepared for a moment like this. She flipped her sign over, and there, written in hoofwriting so neat and fanciful it could have been considered calligraphy, was the name "Ling". There were fanciful drawings of flowers, vines, and little hearts all around it. Apparently, she was an artistic sort, and had decided to go a little crazy with her paintbrush.

"Well, Ling," Silver said, smiling slightly, "my wife has a soft spot for hard luck stories, so I'm pretty sure I could sweet talk her into letting you stay in our guest bedroom tonight... if you promise to behave yourself."

Ling, her eyes widening in surprise, nodded enthusiastically, then crossed her heart with one hoof. Well, that worked for him. "Alright then. Follow me, miss." The changeling stood up, gave the guard an enthusiastic hug, and in short order, they were on their way. It wasn't a bad hug, he reflected. A little... solid, since she had a carapace that could be considered battle armor in most cultures, but not bad, really...

Knowing his wife like he did, she'd probably let the changeling stay more than one night. In fact, she'd probably insist on letting the young lady stay indefinitely. Over the course of twenty years of marriage, she'd taken in twelve stray dogs, fifteen stray cats, five rabbits, and even a bear cub. While the two of them had been blessed with many things, children of their own had not been one of them, but she'd always had plenty of love to give to any creature that came into their home. Odds were, this changeling would be almost as high maintenance as that bear cub was, but whatever happened, he figured that it would be worth it.