• Published 30th Oct 2017
  • 5,853 Views, 94 Comments

I Don't Want to Grow Up - Orbiting Kettle



Another day, another failed assault on Equestria. Now poor Chitin has to report to Chrysalis and be the bearer of bad news. Such things had the tendency to be unhealthy if one wasn't lucky. Chitin didn't feel lucky at all.

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You Know, Family...

The throne room was vast and clad in shadow. Glowing green moss grew at the base of its pillars, casting a sickly light on the stone floor that left the ceiling hidden in darkness. Pillars reached up like a forest of dead trees, and, at the end of it, stood the Black Throne.

It was an oppressive presence. Jagged edges, sharp enough to cut a limb clean off, convoluted into geometries which reached beyond the usual six dimensions. Around it, the air shimmered and contorted as if in pain. Even time seemed to bleed around that barbed hook which rammed through the flesh of reality.

There were many reasons why Chitin was a general of the swarm, keen perception, for one. It allowed him to notice, among the various disturbing characteristics of the throne, that it had a distinct lack of Changeling Queen sitting on it.

His phenomenal deductive capabilities were another reason for his rank. No Queen sitting on the throne and the fact that She was disconnected from the eternal chatter of the hivemind must have meant She was in her private sanctuary.

Chitin slumped down and sighed. The third reason for his position was that he had pulled the short straw when they had designed the hierarchy. Making his report in the sanctuary was a gamble he wasn't really keen on taking. Considering his luck, he would probably have to wait for a new body, which was a shame as he liked his current one.

Not that he had any choice in that regard.

The sound of his hooves clopping on the hard floor echoed through the empty hall. It reminded him of a minimalist requiem played using only drums, like some of the avant-garde stuff he had suffered through in Fillydelphia. The morbid beat, the inexorable rhythm, the—

FOR THE LOVE OF MOTHER, WOULD YOU SHUT-UP? Chitin faceplanted in shock as the idea-construct ran through the mindscape, screaming its message and dissolving into the background.

He rattled himself up, shook his head, and huffed. It may have been true that he was laying it on a bit thick, and maybe he had let his inner thoughts bleed out to the rest of the hive, but interrupting the march to his doom in such a way was rude. He mentally glared at his brood-siblings, then resumed his sulking. This time with less internal monologue.

When he finally reached the door to the private chambers, he paused for a moment. The heavy stone disk was covered in an intricate pattern of runes, each moving at a snail’s pace along some invisible path. The points where they overlapped glowed with a faint, blue light. All in all, it seemed to communicate the elemental idea of solidity.

A well-deserved impression considering it could probably be thrown in the heart of a star and come out on the other side without a scratch.

Dallying longer wouldn't help him. His horn glowed, and thirteen runes changed position. With a rumble the disk rolled aside, and Chitin stepped forward in the antechamber.

The air was cooler than in the rest of the hive. The moss grew in regular shapes, and crystals embedded in the ceiling five lengths above shone with a soft light. When the disk rolled into place again the sound of the outside world cut out, and the mindscape shut off. In the silence he could now hear the humming of his Queen.

Chitin cleared his throat.

The humming stopped, then a watery eye the size of a dinner plate opened in the wall and stared at him. Her voice echoed through the room. "Yes?"

Bowing down was always a good idea. "My Queen, Brood-leader Skrit returned from the mission. I debriefed him and now bear news about the assault on Appleloosa."

There was silence. He heard a drop fall down somewhere. After a few seconds, She asked, "And?"

This was the moment of truth. "We were beaten back. The Royal Guards were unexpectedly still stationed in town. For some reason, their return to Canterlot after the annual war games had been delayed, so we had to face two battalions instead of simply overrunning the local militia. While we managed a deep penetration, and even some targeted raids, we were unable to push further once they had managed to organize the defenders. After that, they mounted a counter-attack, and we had to retire after grave losses."

Chitin prepared for what would come. Well, at least it meant he wouldn't be general anymore. And even if the wait for a new body was lengthy, maybe he could put in a request for a couple of extra features this time. He only hoped it wouldn't be painful. He hated pain, couldn't stand it. Had to be some kind of allergy, he would have to ask—

"Wonderful!" She said. It was a cheerful tone.

He had been lucky. Chitin raised his head and looked at the eye. It was smiling, somehow.

"Come in, I want the details."

Chitin couldn't believe it. They weren't watching! He had made it through. No potentially painful entropization. No waiting line for a new body. The Queen was happy. Fate, that old, creepy jerk, had smiled upon him. This called for some extra cake later. With frosting, lots of frosting. Enough sugar to kill a pony.

He took a step to the right and to the imposing door which seemed made from a contorting mass of petrified bones and innards.

"Not the meeting room, the other way."

And that explained the cheerful mood.

With a spring in his steps, he cantered to the other door in the antechamber. The far less imposing one made of simple stone.

When he opened it, a cloud of lavender-scented steam invested him. He stepped in and there She was.

Queen Chrysalis, ruler of the Changelings, Tyrant of the Badlands, Scourge of the Sun, five times sand cake baking champion and crocheter extraordinaire. Or at least there was her head, emerging from a mountain of foam in a bathtub large enough to make Changeling-soup. A rubber duck peeked out over the border of the tub too.

Chitin closed the door behind him and sat down on the tiled floor of the pink bathroom. Soft towels hung from rods on the wall and a staggering amount of soaps, perfumes, ointments, and shampoos stood arrayed like an army on the shelf. The smell of lavender and—Chitin sniffed—magnolia hung in the humid air.

"Now, tell me the details. Were the guards heroic?" asked Chrysalis turning to him, then blowing a clump of foam away from her muzzle.

"They were indeed. We made sure they had enough heroic scenes each. Major Stronghold specifically charged a cluster of drones alone to save a filly. I have to say that his experience really showed."

"Good, good. Those guys really needed a morale boost. And maybe the Major will be finally promoted. He could use the extra bits for his growing family." Chrysalis smiled as She leaned back. "We didn't hold back, right? I don't want them to think they didn't deserve the victory."

Chitin shook his head. "No, no, we really gave our best. Blocking the train tracks was a really good idea. Gave them some real-world experience after the war games. They wiped out almost all the drone-clusters, an impressive show of martial valor. Vertex will have a headache for a couple of days considering all the bucks her remote bodies suffered." He scratched his chin. "When we come out to the Equestrians we may need to tell them that they never killed anyling. May save some time from therapy."

"Poor dear, Vertex really needs a vacation. Please, see that she gets that trip to Manehattan she asked for. She deserves it."

"Will do, my Queen."

Chrysalis closed her eyes and nodded. "Thank you. Any news about Sandstone?"

"We managed to capture him. We were about to put him in a cocoon when Honeycrisp broke through our lines and saved him. Infiltrators told us there has been a lot of blushing later, and maybe even a chaste kiss. The bets in the hive about when they'll engage are actually closed. The bookmakers won't take chances."

Chrysalis grinned. "Hah, told them it would work out. There's nothing like a Changeling invasion to pull ponies out of their shyness. Well, that should take care of Appleloosa for a while. How much did we lose?"

Chitin scratched his head, then said, "Six hundred and thirty-seven drones. Considering the other losses we suffered in the last six months, we won't be ready to engage in meaningful operations until fall."

For a moment silence hung heavily in the room. Chrysalis glared at the wall, then huffed. "I hoped we would be out of the game at least until next spring, dammit. Didn't we suffer some catastrophic setback in the Dragon Lands?"

"Not as catastrophic as we thought. The losses were minor and the raids got us enough materials to expand the spawn pools." Chitin twirled his hooves. "Couldn't we... Couldn't we be a bit less competent?"

The glare he received made him shrink back, then Chrysalis' expression softened. "I would love that." She sank in the bathtub till only her eyes and horn peeked out from the foam. "It's a wonder we sold the current situation already, with all the stories about needing spawn pools. It helps that Harmony is a fundamental force in this reality."

Chitin stood up and walked to the tub. "Huh, that bad?"

"That bad. Progenitor even asked me to move to the next universe over, the one with the weird bipeds, but I don't want to. I like it here. It's fun, Love makes my carapace shimmer, I got cute wings and this funny little crown. And I have friends. Did I ever tell you Celestia was my first friend ever?"

"You may have said something like that once or twice." He took a mental note to up the counter in the mess hall. They were close to the next prime, which meant the six thousandth and five hundred thirty-fourth Super Sundae Special 'Stravaganza was almost there. Maybe this time they would find a way to fix the name.

Chrysalis leaned back in the tub. "Well, she was. Found me when I just slipped through the skin of the world and was just a little lump of goo and teeth. She carried me around and put me on a stick to scare poor little Luna and to gross out the colts. We laughed so much. I mean, she laughed, it took a while for me to grasp the concept."

"But you did, and if I may say, you perfected it too."

"Now you are gratuitously adulating." She smiled, then frowned. "But do you think I can get my family to understand that? I just had another call from Progenitor. Same questions as always, you know how it is." Chrysalis cleared her throat. She began to speak in a dissonant voice, like a choir of demented buzzsaws screaming their frustration.

"You can't continue to slack off. When will you finally devour the universe and spawn the gargling hordes of screeching abominations from your bloated corpse? Did you know that your cousin Zµʁʁ!ʞʇʇ is at her second cycle? Her Progenitor sent me the pictures. Do you want me to dissolve into primordial chaos without grandchildren to spoil? And what about those minions of yours? I would have expected you to be finally out of that phase. What were you thinking? Giving them individuality and souls. Think about your poor Progenitor. You don't become any younger if you refuse to eat time."

She blew a raspberry, the air stopped convulsing. "I'm still young, I'm having fun, and have you seen what gorging on thermodynamics did to Zµʁʁ!ʞʇʇ's proportions? I like this universe, I'm having the time of my life. I don't see why I should eat it now when I can wait for the heat-death anyway, right?" She turned to Chitin and gasped.

He was lying shivering on the floor and said, "M...My Qu...Queen, plea...please. M...M...Mind the...the black tongue."

A flash of Chrysalis horn and Chitin was suddenly wrapped in a very soft and offensively pink towel. "I'm so sorry." She blushed. "I forgot myself. Will you be alright?"

Chitin nodded. He was pretty sure his innards were currently waging a civil war for secession and the right to kick his Resin Glands whenever they wanted, but those were unimportant details. Or, better said, they were pretty important to him but that was no reason to bother his Queen with them. "Worry not, give me a couple of minutes and... I'll be fine."

Silence. Chrysalis splashed a bit with her hooves. Chitin tried to get his lungs to finally sign a peace treaty with his three livers.

The queen took a deep breath and said, "Sorry, again. It's... Whenever I have Progenitor on a call I get frustrated and... Sorry."

"No harm done." His spleen disagreed. "I can't really say I get it, but I understand being frustrated. We are all also really grateful for the individuality and the souls. We probably don't say it enough, but thank you. And, well, it's just another twenty years for the alignment to pass and then we can go back frolicking."

"Three years, four tops."

Chitin blinked. "What?"

The Queen smiled, and some of the gloom seemed to leave the room. "We cut that down. Remember that time-travel spell we slipped to GlimGlam? The chronological and causal shell around the universe is now garbled enough that the alignment will end earlier. Progenitor already gets twitchy tentacles when they call, once it's over they'll leave me alone for another aeon or two."

"That's great news! Should we send Starlight a gift basket as thanks?"

"We can't." Chitin had to admit that his Queen was adorable when pouting. "We'll have to wait until it all concludes. Can't risk Progenitor getting wind of it. But you are right, we should do something nice for her, only something less overt. Maybe an adventure with friendship. And some grand monologue! I need one, it makes adventures better. Call the writers from the Wedding, I liked their work, it was good and dramatic and intimidating and regal. Can't be a Queen without sounding regal."

"We'll put a think tank together. Considering all the good news today, and me not being disincarnate, well, let me add just a little icing on the cake. My Queen, you will never guess the news."

"Luna will come for the Gorefest?"

"Maybe, but not that. Guess who'll become parents?"

"Matilda and Cranky? Told them the fertility therapy would work."

Chitin shook his head, then disentangled from the towel. Despite some pockets of rebellious elements in his stomach, he felt better. "Nope. Shining Armor and Cadance."

The sound probably began far under his hearing range. Once it became audible it rapidly grew in volume until it seemed to overwhelm him.

"Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

And then there was an explosion of water, foam, and royalty.

When he finally regained his bearing he discovered Chrysalis was holding him up and looking at him with a manic grin. There was also a rubber duck stuck in one of the holes in his right foreleg.

"When? How? No, wait, the how is pretty clear. Where did you hear it? When will the foal be born? Can I be Godmother?"

"They announced it yesterday in Ponyville. I guess in about eleven months. And, heh..." Chitin looked aside. "I fear Shining Armor and Cadance may still be a bit peeved about that whole wedding fiasco."

Chrysalis let him go and slumped down. "Yeah, right."

That didn't go as well as he hoped. He patted his Queen on the shoulder. "Just another couple of years. And maybe we can find some other identity sooner for you."

Chrysalis nodded. "I guess. I'll ask Celestia, she still owes me for the wedding. She and her taste for drama and her thrice damned obsession with students saving the day." She threw her hooves up. "We had arranged it. Twilight would reveal me, Celestia would beat me into submission, I would flee and swear vengeance, Progenitor would scold me and then we would have been finished for the afternoon tea. But nooo! She couldn't win like we agreed. She had to lose the fight, and then leave me to improvise to fix the mess." She looked up and tapped her chin. "I could be a weird aunt. Do you think I would be a good weird aunt?"

"The best and weirdest. I'm sure of it."

"Right." Chrysalis stood up, straight and determined. "We need to plan our next setback. It'll have to be spectacular, with some grand monologue and a riveting adventure. But before that, what do you think about cake?"

Chitin dislodged the rubber duck. Cake sounded nice.


Chrysalis looked at the hoof Starlight was offering her, at the sincerity and the hope in the mare's eyes. It was unexpected, and that made it all worse.

She could feel the eyes of Progenitor upon her. She could practically taste the disappointment.

It broke her heart, but it had to be done.

She swatted the hoof aside, She spoke her lines, and She jumped back to flee.

Her wings buzzed as she flew over the badlands, and once She was sure She was out of sight, space around her collapsed onto itself allowing her to step through.

Chrysalis landed in the throne room in the new hive, her hooves clacking on the stone floor.

Chitin stepped forward and floated a cup of tea up to her. He smiled and yet she could see he was tense. "Did all go according to the plan?"

The cup floated to her lips and She sipped the brew. It needed more sugar. "More or less, the overall thing worked, the details a bit less so."

"Oh."

She sighed. "Relax, no major problems, and we have been hit enough that we can maybe mount just one last assault before all is over." She patted Chitin on the shoulder. "You know, you could have stayed in the old Hive with Thorax and the others. You deserve retirement, or at least a vacation, even more than others. I know you had some plans for the Feelings Forum, and I think it was a pretty nifty idea."

Chitin traced a small circle in the dirt with his hoof. "I couldn't. We are in the final stretch, it wouldn't be right to leave you doing all the important stuff alone. I can wait a couple of years."

A smile was what Chitin needed right now. He and the others who had decided to keep her company on brink of the triumph of all their grand schemes. Her changelings, her children, her friends, they just needed a bit more encouragement.

For once Chrysalis could put her petulance aside and give them that. She smiled and put all her love for them, for Equestria, for the whole world into it, and Chitin responded in kind.

Another sip. Some honey would be fine too.

"We pulled it off, let's celebrate that." And just a bit of malice. "But first, bring me the 'lings responsible for the new design, we shall have words."

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