• Published 22nd May 2014
  • 5,653 Views, 292 Comments

Renegades - TheAndyMac



When the Hive speaks with one voice, what do you do when your voice speaks out of synch? For two changelings, there is only one answer; run.

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Collapse: Final Report

ARC V - COLLAPSE

FINAL REPORT

The Investigator stared down at the piece of paper and felt her scalp crawling under her mane. Her horn felt hollow, the interior stuffed with ants or hooked up to a Van der Graff, and as she read through the note for the third time she would have sworn she could taste hot metal on the air.

When she was done she let her eyes rise to the stallion standing on the far side of her commandeered desk, his gilded armour gleaming, and fumbled with the controls of the dictaphone sitting between them.

"One more time please, Sergeant. For the official record."

The sergeant dipped his head once, took a short breath, and said the same useless words all over again.

"A griffon came to the front desk about an hour ago - oh-seven hundred or close to - and placed a note on the counter. He said he had a tip, but that he wasn't willing to take any questions. Didn't have much choice but to accept, since he was out of the door before I could read it. When I did, I alerted the station lieutenant, she called it in to the Commander, and by then it was all out of my hooves, Ma'am."

It was fascinating, the back of her mind mused, how he treated her as if she were one of them. A military mare. She could see the restrained urge to salute when they came face-to-face. And yet she was, by rote of technicality at least, a civilian. A bureaucrat first and a field agent second. She could fight like Tirek himself when she had to but she'd never stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the sergeant or his type in a spear wall.

Command Stone at least treated her with a little more respect than that. Commander by rank, Captain of the Royal Guard by title, he was a severe stallion with a hard neck and a love for rules and regulations that, even by her exacting standards, bordered on fetishistic. As such he knew exactly who and what she was in relation to him, and rarely if ever did he do her the disservice of treating her like a soldier.

The respect was easy to share; for all that the public face of the Guard was one of well-meaning incompetence, especially in a time of peace, he was in truth a stellar commander of ponies. She knew all too well that there were layers to the Guard that no normal Canterlot resident would see, and that Stone had a close knit corps of qualified soldiers to act as a backbone of steel to hold that public face steady if it ever had to face a real crisis.

She turned to regard him next, standing impassive beside her in enamelled armour that was spotless but kept at a dull matt finish. He said nothing, just lifted an eyebrow by the slightest amount, so she directed her gaze back to the sergeant.

"Did he give you a name, or tell you anything about the note?"

"No'm," the sergeant replied with haste. "Just said that he had a tip to deliver, and that he wouldn't take questions. I can give you a description, though."

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. As you were, sergeant."

He came to attention as if to salute, but at the last moment checked himself and delivered it to the Commander instead, before turning and marching smartly out of the office. The Lieutenant's domain, surrendered to Stone and his guest.

Could this really be it? Her team had been preparing to move for days, nailing down the telltale locator signals, ever aware that their quarry might yet slip out from under their gaze, and this would be how it ended? Her own efforts had brought them this close, months of work, missing them once by the narrowest of margins thanks to the pig-headed Fillydelphians but now so close...

All to see them delivering themselves on a silver platter. Her efforts amounting to nothing when the bastards seemed more than willing to catch themselves.

'The changelings you've been looking for are tired of running. You can find them at the old grain warehouse on Stoker Street. Check for moonstone signals if you distrust this message.

R.S. & E.B.'

She let the note fall back to the desk and blew a ragged breath out through her nose.

"We can't delay any longer," came the rough, crushed-gravel voice of Stone from beside her. "Move now, take them in, and sort things out when we don't have to worry about changelings on the streets of Canterlot. I can have five ponies ready for armed apprehension in half an hour. We can have with finished inside of an hour and half. Maximum."

She said nothing. Her breath rushed in and out, like the swell of a hurricane, with thoughts swirling around her head with the same ferocity. Stone gave her a minute then went on.

"You and your agents can be with me when I go, but I will go without you if I have to. If you really want me to have the arrest."

For another few seconds even she thought she'd frozen. It was the sound of her own teeth grinding across each other that shocked her out of the moment.

"Get your ponies together," she said. "We're moving in twenty minutes. With or without you."


She let the guardsponies take point for the breach itself. A unicorn to blast the door open, not that it needed it, and the other four to come charging through with spears held ready. There was no resistance from within, which despite everything managed to be a surprise. The Investigator, along with her team, was waved through moments later to see all five of the guards formed in a loose semicircle, spears pointed inwards at two figures sat with with their backs against the wall.

Figures of black chitin, with blank blue eyes that she somehow knew were staring right at her.

"We have a warrant for the arrest of two changelings known to be residing in this city, believed to be you. Are you surrendering yourselves to the Equestrian Domestic Security Office?" she asked in a steely tone. It really was them, so close to her that she could see the highlights reflected in their smooth, curved horns. They nodded, so she went on. "Do you have any intent to resist our lawful arrest?" Their heads shook.

She turned to her team and nodded. "Cuff them and cover them. I want this wrapped up quick,and those two at the Castle for interrogation in two hours."

It could be said, she reflected as she watched the prisoners loaded into a wagon, that things had gone perfectly. Both primary targets in custody, no collateral damage. And yet the moment tasted bitter, and sat heavy and uneasy in the pit of her stomach.

SUSPECTS IN CUSTODY

CONDITIONS UNEXPECTED

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS ADVISED

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