• Published 26th Jun 2016
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Shellstrings - shortskirtsandexplosions

After freakish happenstance turns Lyra Heartstrings and Queen Chrysalis into a symbiotic being, they find themselves putting their superpowers to heroic use in an ever-changing Equestria.

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The Impenetrable Six

Canterlot Library – Front Foyer – Ten Minutes Later

"Rrrrrrrrgh!" A battle-scarred griffon with a metal beak sliced her way through a wave of changelings. She shook the insect juices off her headcrest, yanked a candelabra from a nearby table and flung it like a javelin across the room.

"Hressssssh!" A shrieking changeling found itself bloodily pinned to a book shelf on the opposite end of the chamber.

"Good throw, Sharp Quill!" hollered a leather-winged pony hovering at the other end of the library. With a grunt, he twirled a manarifle loose from his fully-armed backpack and fired down at a mess of scurrying changelings on a lower walkway.

The bug-like ponies hissed and retreated while a few of their brethren were reduced to dribbling shell-parts.

"Your aim is starting to suck, Haze," rattled Sharp Quill through her metallic beak. She punched one changeling and wrestled with another. "And here I thought sarosians fought better in the shade!"

"Grnnnngh..." Secret Agent Haze grumbled, his leafy ears pulling back. "It's their damnable shrieking. The sonic vibrations are throwing my senses off—"

"At your six!" the griffon hollered.

"On 'em!" Haze spun around, aiming down the sight of his rifle. The sarosian was too late—and two changelings pounced on his lithe figure. "Rrrrgh! Friggin' shitmops!" His growl soon turned into a hiss, and he flung his fanged muzzle over the necks of both changelings in turn. "Scrkkkkk!"

"Here!" Sharp Quill flew towards him. "I'll lend you a—" She grimaced, braking in mid-air with ruffled feathers. "Eugh... never mind. You got it."

Th-Thwump! Haze landed on the first floor of the library, still biting onto two limp, twitching bugponies. The sarosian stood up with a breath, wiping his muzzle clean of green juices. As soon as his eyeslits came back into focus, they reflected the orange figure of a patiently-standing unicorn. "Good morning, ma'am. Enjoying the wedding half as much as we are?"

A stern-faced mare snorted. "Quit showing off." Special Agent Horizons calmly trotted past him, firing bursts of bright red mana towards the ceiling of the book-filled chamber, forcing the remaining hatchlings to scatter. "You two should have cleared this place minutes ago."

"Yeah... so?" Sharp Quill smirked, smashed the skulls of two changelings together, and flew down towards the others as the ceiling above them cleared out. "The only crime here is not letting us tear loose outside. That's where the real meat-fest is." She glanced at Haze. "How do they taste, Haze, ol' buddy?"

"Mrmmfff..." Haze frowned, wiping the last of the slime from his fangs. "Like day-old egg drenched in mustard and ostrich piss."

"Quite an improvement over hydra jugulars, huh?"

"Don't you dare remind me."

"Line up!" Special Agent Horizons hollered, frowning at the two agents at attention. "This is serious business! The Princesses have been neutralized. The Element Bearers are unaccounted for. Queen Chrysalis was last seen dominating the Royal Ceremonial Hall—and changelings fill the streets and skyways of Canterlot!"

"Yeah... but..." Sharp Quill cleared her throat, her metal beak clattering. "What about the Bug Bear?"

"Still at large, I'm afraid, Secret Agent Sharp Quill."

The three agents spun to face the entrance.

"Chief!" Sharp Quill hollered, struggling to manage a smile beneath her prosthetic. "Betsy! And—heeeeeeeeey—Sweetie Drops!"

"Our youngest member?" Haze blinked his slitted eyes. "Still alive?"

"Mrmmmff..." Sweetie Drops stood beside Betsy and Sugar Cane, grasping a bruised shoulder. "For what it's worth."

"Tell me about it," Haze muttered. "Your mane has seen better days."

"Yeah, well, at least I can look at myself in a mirror," Sweetie Drops grunted.

"Hah hah!" Betsy's leathery lips curved wide beneath her horn. "You see, it's funny because Haze is a vampire pony!"

"Rrrrgh..." Horizons snarled. "Has everypony but me gone mad?" Her orange nostrils flared. "Eyes forward, everypony. We've got an extreme situation here."

"At ease, Special Agent," Sugar Cane interjected. "The League performs best when it lets loose."

"With all due respect, chief, I beg to differ." Scowling, Horizons pointed up at the stained glass mirrors—fluctuating from the insectoid figures streaking outside. "We can't afford to be anything but serious right now. It's not enough that we failed in our task to guard the barriers surrounding Tartarus, but this invasion by the Treacherous One is confounding our efforts to track down the Ursa Anthropodica—among other beasts."

"It's not like we could do shit-all with the League whittled down to one sixth of its founding ranks!" Haze snarled. "Why couldn't we have three hundred members? Y'know... like in the good ol' days?"

"Yeah, well..." Sharp Quill blew out the side of her metal beak. "...the Bug Bear made quick work of that."

"Wait. Hold the sound stone." Sweetie Drops turned to squint at the others. "When exactly did this breach of Tartarus happen?"

Horizons sighed. "Current guesstimates put it at about seventy-two hours ago... at least judging from the density of purgatorial fumes detected around the cave entrances to the Canterlot Mountains."

Sweetie Drops raised an eyebrow. "Could it have anything to do with the escape of Cerberus?"

"You mean that incident in Ponyville a month ago?" Sharp Quill remarked.

"Well, Ponyville is closer to the front gates to Starswirl's prison," Haze remarked. "Perhaps that was merely a distraction for somepony—or something—to infiltrate Tartarus and free the Changeling Queen."

"For the last damned time!" Horizons growled. "Chrysalis is the least of our troubles!"

"Miss Citrus is right," Betsy said with a bloodthirsty grin. "We can tear through these buggy punks like tinfoil! Give me twenty minutes outside with 'em, and I'll paint the whole damn town green!"

"I'm afraid it's not that easy, Betsy," Sweetie Drops said with a shudder. "This is more than a mere changeling incursion. There's gotta be tens of thousands of them out there!"

"But... they're ch-chumps!" Betsy pointed at the still-twitching limbs collected in the corner of the chamber. "I mean, look at 'em!" She whistled. "Also, I gotta say... it's about the sexiest I've ever seen a library."

"Your enthusiasm is much-appreciated, Secret Agent Betsy," Sugar Cane said. "But Sweetie Drops is right."

"Yeah, but—"

"Princess Celestia and the Element Bearers have been defeated at the hooves of Chrysalis—not any mere Tartarusian monstrosity." Sugar Cane took a deep, weathered breath. "There's no telling whether or not the Treacherous One is in collusion with the Ursa Anthropodica. But until we see a sign of our long-lasting nemesis, then we must follow through with our chief order."

"Which is to eliminate all threats to Equestrian sanctity of life," Special Agent Horizons said, nodding. She glanced at the others. "That puts the changeling swarm into top priority."

"Then let's get back out there and resume crushing shells already!" Betsy growled, dragging her hoof.

"Not so fast," Sweetie Drops waved a forelimb. "Now that we're together, we need a plan."

"Chief?" Horizons glanced at her superior. "If their numbers are indeed so vast, exactly how do we chase them all down?"

"We don't." The old stallion took a deep breath. "We draw them to us."

"How, exactly?" Haze asked.

"Changelings love to leech off of emotion." Sugar Cane's eyes narrowed. "We go out there and we make them very... very angry."

"Hrmmmm..." Sharp Quill folded her talons with a smirk. "I'm already liking this idea."

"My plan is that we march out onto Main Street and face the swarm head-on," Sugar Cane instructed. "We'll stay together. However—we will cluster into two groups, each covering a separate lane of the avenue." He faced his second-in-command. "Chief Agent Horizons. You, Sharp Quill, and Haze shall tackle the west end of Main Street." He gestured at himself. "In the meantime, I shall lead the rest of the League in tackling the east end."

"What's the twist?" Haze asked.

"We will dwindle their numbers on separate fronts. Once we've raised their ire, the changelings will surely redouble their attack—focusing on the downtown area now that we've taken so many of their fellow hatchlings." Sugar Cane clenched his jaw muscles. "That is when we will group up—both halves of the League—and form a perimeter inside the center courtyard, around the fountain. Hopefully Chrysalis' minions and their Hive Mind won't account for how impenetrable our well-trained defense is."

"Then what?" Sharp Quill inquired.

"We fight as long as we can," Sugar Cane explained. "We occupy the swarm's attention and buy the Element Bearers time to drive the minions out of Canterlot's city limits." He swallowed. "Then we'll make a move on the Castle and check on the status of Princess Celestia."

"I like it." Betsy grinned. "Especially the whole 'keep-killing-changelings' part."

"Chief..." Horizons took a deep breath. "...and what should we do in the event that the Bug Bear actually does show up?"

Sweetie Drops gulped nervously.

Sugar Cane took a deep breath. "We all converge on it. And we do not relent in our full-on assault until the dreaded monster is neutralized." He squinted at the rest of the group. "No matter how few of us are left standing in the end."

Silence hung in the war-torn library.

"You heard the Chief!" Horizons ultimately blurted. Her horn picked up a smattering of weapons as she made for the library's exit. "League Members, form up! We have a swarm to distract!"

"Hold up!" Sweetie Drops winced. "I... uh... lost my main weapon while saving a family of apartment-dwellers several blocks back."

Haze glanced over. "Need another zaponator, huh?"

"Who doesn't?"

Haze reached into his backpack, grabbed a manarifle, and tossed it to her. "There. Freshly loaded."

Sweetie Drops caught the weapon, cocked it with a twirl, and sighed. "Thanks, Haze."

The sarosian glanced over at Betsy. "Need a boomstick yourself, girl?"

"Uh-uh." The rhino shook her head. "I prefer to fight with the help of Lil' Betsy here." She tapped her horn. "She hungers like a motherbucker!"

"Suit yourself." Haze turned to smirk at Horizons. "Mini-boss? Ready to go?"

Horizons grumbled. "You know how I hate it when you call me that..."

"Can't help it. As a fruit-bat, I'm a sucker for a sour orange." Haze motioned to Sharp Quill. "Move your tail-feather."

"Ohhhhhhhh..." Sharp Quill shook her head as she followed the other two out—along with Betsy. "You're damned lucky that there are changelings out there for me to punch."

"Betsy! Guys!" Sweetie Drops scampered after them. "Hold up—"

"No, Secret Agent Sweetie Drops," Sugar Cane said, holding her back.

The young mare blinked back at him. "Chief? Is something the matter?"

The elder took a deep breath. "I want you... staying close to me during this upcoming fight."

Sweetie Drops' muzzle dropped. "Really?" She gulped. "Close to you...?"

He frowned. "Are you questioning my orders, Agent?"

"Uhm... n-no, sir!" She stood tall with her manarifle. "It's an honor to fight by your side. I promise that I will protect you with my life."

"Every member of the League is worth protecting," he rasped, hobbling past her with his double-barreled managun. "But the citizens are worth even more. Don't forget that." His eyes glinted with another glare. "And don't forget your training! Now is the most important mission of our careers."

"I-I won't forget, sir..." She tried to keep a straight face. Despite her best efforts, a tiny... warm smile formed. "Besides... we've been through tons before. How bad could it get?"

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