• Published 17th Jul 2017
  • 3,976 Views, 829 Comments

An Exercise In Management - Nameless Narrator



A simple drone "accidentally" failed to leave the Badlands hive for the invasion to Canterlot. He was only two weeks old, one of the clutch specifically created to break through the protective shield. Now starving, he's just trying to survive.

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17: Onwards to suspicion...

“How’s it going, Eight?”

She looks up from the newspaper reporting the first public information regarding the attack on Canterlot. We, of course, know the changeling side of the story from Ten, but the pony recount is… sadly correct.

An army of unprovoked and unknown aggressors infiltrated high ranks of pony leadership, then assembled at night around the pony capital city of Canterlot, and attacked while the ponies were getting ready for a festival celebrating the marriage of… what’s a mar-

A meaningless name for a meaningless contract between two ponies deciding to foolishly spend their lives only together.

Thank you for that valuable input, hive pile- I mean hive mind.

-princess Mi Amore Cadenza and captain of the Royal Guard Shining Armor.

Mi Amore Cadenza means I Love Climax. How amusing. Yet, the genocide she caused will not remain unanswered.

Did Chrysalis even try to negotiate or something?

THERE IS NO NEGOTIATION, ONLY THEIR TOTAL SUBMISSION AS OUR-

Food, prey, livestock. I get it, you’re getting repetitive.

Do not presume you’re irreplaceable to us, DRONE!

I don’t, I just want to survive without getting eaten BY MY OWN KIND! In fact, if you could replace me with someone else right now so that I wouldn’t have to listen to your shouting that would be grand. Now if you excuse me, I want to talk to one of the first changelings who isn’t a total ass. I guess her connection to you must have gotten damaged at some point.

“...hmm, King? Is there any trouble?”

”No, surprisingly. Anything on your end?”

She hums quietly to herself, walks over to the doorside window, looks out, then returns to the receptionist’s deck.

“Maybe, maybe not. I can’t really tell.”

”Mind sharing? I’m getting bored here. Maybe my persepctive could… oh who am I kidding? I’ve been a drone my whole short life, and now I’m locked inside a house all the time. Nevermind, Eight. I trust you to figure it-”

“Three’s doing fine. I’ve taken the liberty of giving him some basic reading material so he can practice what little he knows and maybe learn more.”

“A book? Where did you-”

The bell above the entrance rings as the door opens.

Eight looks up from the newspaper to face a nervously smiling brown pegasus mare with green mane. She seems kinda familiar. What’s completely weird is the thin streak of affection flowing from her to Eight.

“Can I help you?”

The mare blushes, comes closer, and I can feel Eight tense up.

“I, well,” she puts her forelegs on the table and looks Eight in the eyes, “Will you go out with me tonight, mister, eeehm, Truncheon?”

WHAT?!

Eight sighs, shaking her head.

“You’re a lovely mare, but as long as there’s increased security status due to the changeling attack, I really should do everything I can to keep this place safe-”

The mare keeps looking Eight in the eyes. The changeling actually breaks the staring contest first.

“-which means extra patrols. I’m sorry.”

The mare looks half about to burst into laughter, and half disappointed. I can’t imagine why, because Eight’s diplomatic answer was perfect, I think.

“Alright, maybe later then,” the mare turns around, and before leaving blows Eight, who actually chokes on her own saliva out of sheer shock, a kiss, “Thank you for saving me at the bar, ‘Truncheon’.”

Oooh, one of the waitresses.

“That’s the third mare today, King,” Eight says after the door closes and she silently counts to five.

”What, really?”

“Yes,” Eight sighs, “I don’t mind the affection and lust they give me just by being close, in fact it’s been a while since I was this… sated, but I doubt me suddenly being this well-known is a good thing. Anyway, I’ve got loads of love to drop off for you tonight.”

“Eight, just do your job well until we’ve recovered, and then we can leave this place. The ponies here like you, and even I’m starting to think you’re not about to stab me in the back for some reason.”

“Oh don’t worry, King, I didn’t forget. I’ve got plans for you as well.”

”Thank you. My body is asleep and I still felt the chill run down my spine.”

“Biiig plans.”

”Uhhh, I gotta go, in case I pooped myself now. Bye.”

My sleeping body, thank you for welcoming me back.

I yawn, look around for any inappropriate mess, and when I find none I collapse yet again. Damn, this body really likes staying dormant when I have next to no love. Unfortunately, keeping myself dry is the only way to prevent the hive mind from taking everything again.

On the other hole, sleep is nice, warm, and totally not terrifying like Eight. Ironic, that she’s my lifeline and my biggest threat right now.

Anyway, back to the darkness.

Strange, I’m asleep and yet awake. I can feel time flow faster, and I can choose where I send my mind. Still, I know I’m building up a world from little fragments of what my changelings see and feel.

Wait, did I say my changelings?

I’m just a drone, and here it is - from little snapshots getting to me somehow, I know enough time has passed. I know that Eight is now on the way back here, that she left Three at the police station when Ten arrived disguised as Slipstream for the night shift, and that darkness has fallen upon Wet Soil.

Fine, I’m not only a drone, I’m now basically just a floating consciousness, so let’s go visit Ten.

“Oh, it’s you… King,” he yawns, reading through Eight’s daily report before grabbing his own from the stack of papers in the back office.

”Anything to report?”

“I woke up, I transformed into this blasted female body, I flew here, I checked Eight’s report, I’m talking to myself and pondering whether staying as a pile of nearly dead chitin would have been better than having to do all the work from past few days.”

”I’ll take that as no. Say, is this really so bad? I mean, Slipstream and Truncheon didn’t seem like the kind to do much, and all you do is go through two patrols around town and then sit here and read. Not counting Eight’s intervention yesterday.”

“Look,” he hisses, “this might be fine to you, but my speciality is infiltration, which means taking out the right target, then assuming control of his close ones, and then living off of them. Use them to gain status and contacts, repeat with somepony better. I am meant to have servants, not to pound pavement for hours on end. Once I help you and myself get out of this… hole, I’m headed to a bigger city where I can start anew.”

”Not going to try and find the hive?”

“If my own fate is any indication, there is no hive anymore. Maybe some mid-tier changelings survived, maybe some core around the Queen. With my real rank, If they find me… then I’m just food like you. No, I’m figuring out the details of my own plan, and I expect you to honor your part of the bargain… no, I’m expecting you to stab me in the back, and that’s why I won’t let you take control over me like you do with Eight. There, happy?”

”Is there any way I can persuade you that I’m not going to do that?”

Something clinks and clangs softly.

“Yeah, don’t kick me in the balls when the time comes. That’ll work,” Ten stops rummaging around the office drawers for various forms, looks at Three sitting in the corner and reading a magazine called Cosmare, and whispers, “...I know he’s here to spy on me and scramble my brain if I disobey. I’m not completely stupid...”

Alright, so he still doesn’t believe Three’s just a damaged drone. Well, there isn’t much I can do about that.

”Just do your best, and you’ll have no problems with me.”

“Heh, right...” Ten puts on the official guard armor, grabs the spear, and-

-finds two ponies waiting for him at the receptionist desk.

“Oh, can I help you?” he takes a step back as the Mayor and his wife look straight at him, well, technically her.

“We’re here to check the locked up changeling.”

Ten salutes.

“Umm, no can do, sir, ma’am. We recieved a memo about those… things and they supposedly can control your mind with just a look, or the tone of their voice, or by spitting at you.”

Which is obviously untrue, because both the Mayor and the mare with him are giving Ten less and less friendly stares.

“Your concern about our safety is encouraging, but we… insist,” says the Mayor, and his wife adds, “Or we might start thinking you aren’t exactly yourself, Slipstream.”

“I certainly am who I am, miss-”

”I’ve got an idea. Just stall them for a minute!”

I rapidly switch from Ten to Three.

”Hey, Three. I’ve got a vital mission for you. Lots of infiltrator points in it.”

“...wohoo...” he sits up on the chair and puts the magazine down.

”Why are you whispering?”

“...infiltrators are supposed to be sneaky, boss...”

”Great start. Ten is busy at the front desk keeping some ponies from discovering us. Distract them for a second, then pretend to go to the toilet, and sneak into the cellar. I’ll try to show you what to do next, but I’ll be inside Ten so the communication might be a bit fuzzy.”

“...I’ll do my best, boss...”

”No, you’ll do it right, Three. I believe in you.”

“...I won’t fail you, boss...”

My next quick transition makes me a little confused. I’m not used to switching between targets this often.

“-and I’ve been trained by the Royal Guards not to fall prey to possible mind altering magic, while you, no offence, are just civilians, and-” Ten is still running his mouth.

“Hello!” Three comes from behind the corner, “Oh, it’s mister Mayor and miss Mayor. Thank you for the hug, miss. It made me feel all better.”

“Ah, it’s...” the mare narrows her eyes, examining Three, “We decided on the name Glowstick last time, didn’t we?”

“Mhm, it’s great!” Three hugs her foreleg. She freezes. For some reason I don’t feel any affection like before. Something is… different, “I gotta go. Nature calls.”

“You’re keeping the colt here during night shift?” asks the Mayor in disbelief.

Ten shakes his head.

“I’ll take him home when I’m on patrol,” he taps his armor, “I was just about to go out when you arrived. Truncheon wanted a little privacy. It’s difficult to keep Glowstick occupied with his busy schedule and he wants a break, even if it’s few hours.”

From the corner of his eyes, I see Three slip into the cellar and close the door quietly behind him. Now, for the second part of my plan. I just hope Three understood the message and images I thought of and tried to send to him.

”Alright, Ten. You can let them into the cellar.”

“Slipstream, I won’t ask again!” the Mayor pokes Ten in his chest.

Ten sighs.

“Fine, just… just be really careful. You, as the Mayor of this town, would be the best changeling target if something bad happened. Follow me.”

He grabs the cell keys from the hook by the desk, and opens the heavy door, followed by the two ponies. I see him blink in surprise when he sees the heavily damaged changeling inside the cell.

Damn, Three’s transformation into broken Ten isn’t the best, but for ponies it might just work. They can’t be used to telling us apart. At least I had that problem with ponies. I could swear some are just recolors of others when I saw some for the first time through Eight’s eyes.

“See, he- it still hasn’t woken up,” Ten watches the duo come closer to the bars while closing the door, grabbing a leg chair and trying a practice slow swing with it.

”Wait for it, Ten. It gets better. This should stop them from coming here again. Let them approach.”

“Hmm,” Mayor’s wife tilts her head, “It looks like it’s still breathing, although slowly. Interesting, I almost believed it escaped, grouped up with another survivor, and took over our beloved peacekeeping duo.”

I can feel Ten’s hoof grip on the piece of wood tighten, and I don’t blame him. I almost crapped myself too. Is that mare some soldier in disguise or something?

“Graaaaawr!” Three suddenly lunges forwards, slamming his forelegs against the bars of the cell door. Both Mayor and the weird mare jump backwards.

That part was planned to show them the changeling, while heavily wounded, is still dangerous and to be kept in the hooves of the police. What part wasn’t planned, was the rusty hinges ripping off, and the whole barred door falling down on the floor.

Ten jumps in front of the duo, swings the chair leg-

*THWACK!*

-and hits Three in the head who immediately collapses on the floor. Then he turns around to the pale ponies.

“I… I think we might need… some budget for repairs… heheh...” he repeatedly turns his head from the ponies to Three and back.

“Yes,” the Mayor pushes the mare who is measuring both Ten and Three with a frown on her face backwards, “Uhh, yes yes yes… just keep that thing locked down here.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Ten looks at cellar exit, “Now, I’ve got to tie it to a pipe or something, so if you please...” he nods towards the door.

“Yes, yes,” the shaken Mayor repeats, “We’ll leave you to your… business.”

The two disappear without even closing the cellar door, and soon we hear the clanking of the doorbell.

”Stars above, Ten! Good reaction, but if he’s more than concussed, Eight and I will be really pissed off.”

“YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME WHAT YOU WERE PLANNING! Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Ten examines Three from all sides.

“Whheahhhmmm… I dun think I like sticks enymore...” the dizzy drone blinks several times, “Arr dey gone…?”

“Yes, the’ve left,” Ten nods.

“Oh gud- good,” Three rubs his head, then shapeshifts back into Glowstick, “Hey, boss, did I do well?”

”You did great, Three. You’ll make an amazing infiltrator one day.”

“Yaaay! Thank you, boss.”

“PLEASE DON’T EAT MY BRAIN!” Ten breaks into tears, kneeling before Three giving him a mildly confused stare, “I STILL HAVE NOBLEMARES TO PLOWWWWWW!”

Heh, and here I thought he hated manual labor.

Eeeeh, they can handle this. I can feel a terrible headache coming from all the switching and talking to more changelings at once.

Phew. Crisis hopefully averted.

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