• Published 28th Jan 2018
  • 3,652 Views, 136 Comments

Stand and Deliver - Gulheru



When plotting revenge, it is good to find yourself a willing and useful accomplice among your enemies. And Queen Chrysalis is... lucky to meet a professional...?

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... and Bureaucrats...

A century went by... or something that certainly felt like it, but the mahogany court and the ivory towers stood tall still! Stoic and unwavering! One would even say that they actually entered their little golden age, as embellishing Legal Basis’ domain of rich desk and paperwork were two, distinguished, steaming cups of golden, chamomile tea...

... and an imprint of a pony head, done in sweat and momentary resignation, like a trophy on the otherwise immaculate, polished surface.

Chrysalis watched her own distinctive, fake reflection with some measure of... sick interest. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so... depleted during a hunt. So drained. So lacking the basic and primal will to live, let alone plot and scheme and exact revenge.

Unbelievable... Her, being too tired to seek vengeance.

Oh, but she knew exactly what had caused that. She realized who was attempting to plague and corrupt her determination. There was one, accursed and terrible power, one calamitous in its orderly fashion force that could bend all to its immovable will...

Bureaucracy.

She shuddered and almost spat behind her to undo the malediction that mentioning that word could bring upon anypony!

No. She had the dignity and splendor to withstand the trial! All of her trials!

Speaking of which... the insidious agent of “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” finally took his place opposite Chrysalis. Precisely as the five-minute break had passed. He took his drink in his hooves and sipped it with veneration.

An offering to his heartless patron!

“The tea has achieved optimal taste and the break is over, ma’am. I am ready to hear you out, regarding the matter of private vendetta you wish to present before me. So, how might I help you, miss Ladybug?”

Chrysalis had to admit one thing. She felt like she could have actually learned something here... Such perfidy, hidden behind such politeness. Remarkable.

She grabbed her own cup and tasted the liquid. It was pungent, it was rancid... It was like all manners of pony sustenance for her, actually.

However, that particular time the tea served one purpose uncommonly well.

Holding it meant not strangling that damnable formalist!

Chrysalis closed her eyes and contained herself. It was time to be on the proper offence, to indulge in some, much more tasty that this slop, intrigue. It was time for the opening bid and it had to be one done exceptionally!

“You see, Mr. Basis,” she began in a slow, clear tone, weighing her words with utmost caution, “I am currently searching for somepony to aid me in a rather specific task, leading to achieving my vindictive goal... More precisely – I seek somepony to take charge of acquiring information about a particular pony, or ponies, for my own use.”

Chrysalis had to go with her gut there. Preparedness and planning did precious little against this stallion. But, if he was so strangely keen on helping her out whilst adhering to his own, strict and mental rule set... perhaps making things abundantly and crudely clear at a steady pace would do wonders.

Her instinct was proving successful at the moment. “Of course, that seems a rather transparent agenda. Any particular information that would interest you, ma’am? Public knowledge, personal secrets, classified facts, sensitive data?” Legal Basis casually asked, not appearing in any way disheartened, worried, critical, or anything about the topic that was being tackled.

It was... creepy. And Chrysalis knew creepy like the back of her carapace... Occasionally rotating one’s head all the way around had its merits.

“Well,” she mused for a moment, “I believe that an... overall outlook on the lives of my targets would be most beneficial. How they are doing, how their close families are, when they are going to sleep... do they have any possible secrets that could be leveraged...”

She could spot her own reflection, betraying great, clandestine intent, right in the stallion’s zaffre, piercing eyes. They were a lot more dead inside than their keenness suggested, she thought.

“I see, ma’am. Standard selection of data regarding the gaining of ‘upper hoof’ and opening possibilities of blackmail, I completely understand.”

Chrysalis was angered before... she was still irritated, yes... but this Legal Basis was proving an interestingly vile and twisted individual.

In his own, pristine and straightforward way...

He took a dignified sip, pondering on the case for a moment. “Well, ma’am, the possible aid in acquiring such information depends largely on the nature of the observed party. Private vendettas tend to focus on key individuals, even when targeting whole racial or societal groups. Are there any specific ponies you would have in mind first, ma’am?”

Well... the list was long. Very long. Too long.

Very detailed too! Containing a selection of rather... macabre fates that were destined to befall any and all who had crossed the Queen of the Changelings.

However, going through the entire register seemed, indeed, excessive. Small steps.

Hah, funny. This did not feel like a “small step”. This was more a gambit, actually. A key point. A “why-would-I-even-be-in-a-situation-to-openly-disclose-anything-like-this-to-anypony” moment.

Chrysalis grasped the cup a little more firmly. “I have in mind, for example... Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.”

The stallion actually tilted his head and blinked.

... and Chrysalis’ spine tingled with worry. What... did that mean? Was... Had she miscalculated...? Would she have to—

Oh, no...

For the first time since she had sat down, this friendly façade... this exemplary example... this mint, model and matchless mask of a mannerly official... twisted and morphed into something else.

The abhorrent, atrocious and appalling appearance... of an amused official.

“Ma’am, whatever caused you to hesitate, you should have openly mentioned that you need an inside pony and an accomplice ready and willing to commit high treason and spy on his liege!”

Chrysalis put down the tea.

The following silence became terrifying.

Not due to the situation’s gravity, or uniqueness, or anything else, no, no, no. Simply in comparison to the...

“... what?!”

... yes, to the ridiculous shout that caused every bird in the Crystal Empire to take flight at once.

Legal Basis, unlike the cowardly creatures, remained seated, continuing to drink his own brew. “Indeed, ma’am. You gave the impression of dancing around a particular subject, sacrificing the transparency of your case. And transparency is the bedrock of not only proper legal systems, but everyday relations between ponies.”

Chrysalis’ left eye developed a tick. The tone and quality of her speech further suggested that her brain must have suffered a tender meltdown.

“You...! Say...! I...! Should...! Have...!”

“Quite right, ma’am. Had I known that was the exact basis of your petition, we could have discussed it during regular working hours as well.”

Chrysalis’ gaze ventured to the oaken club, still vigilantly present on the mahogany desk. Would taking it and socking herself on her own head with it be an actual breach of regulations...?

She felt in need of such an invasive therapy. She must have been going insane at that point, and extreme measures were warranted.

Regardless of her temporary mental crackup, Legal Basis began carefully searching through the contents of his desk.

“Fortunately, ma’am, we can still regain some time already sacrificed for this case. I happen to have in my possession the correct documentation to strike a deal of such particular nature.”

“Ah... ampf... huh?” Chrysalis’ eloquent answer was.

The stallion, notwithstanding her articulate opinion, continued unabated and finally produced a jet black binder from one of the drawers. He opened it, flicking through the contents and mumbling to himself.

“ ‘Barratry’, no... ‘Forgery’, no... ‘Homicide’, no, not until next week... somewhere before... ah, yes, there we have it, ma’am! ‘High Treason’.”

A pretty, white sheet of paper was put in before Chrysalis.

It was pretty... and white... and sheety... and papery...

Grrrah! Snap out of it!

The drooling mess... no! No, no, no, the Queen of the Changelings! Yes, the Queen of the Changelings shook her head rather violently, even giving herself a few slaps on the fake, mantis green muzzle. Her disguise thankfully held through everything that was transpiring, but only due to extensive training and years of field practice.

And talk about being put to the test! Forget a shock wave of concentrated love energy, forget betrayals and meddling mares! It was the Red Tape that was attempting to best her! But no, never! She was going to prevail, no matter what!

It thought it won, thought the battle was over, but she... she... she was just getting stronger!

With a quick exhale and a self-assuring nod, Chrysalis was back! Diving right into the contents of whatever the paper before her contained.

“ ‘High Treason Indenture’,” she read the title out loud... then immediately lowered her tone, hearing her own words. She skimmed through the initial text, rather incredulously. “ ‘Entered into between: Legal Basis, Imperial Tax Collector of the Crystal Empire, Personal Identification Number... hereinafter referred to as: ‘Traitor’...”

She paused. She stared up, having witnessed the impossible... or, at least, the “unlikely”, since the draft before her clearly had the stallion’s name and personal information already provided and seemed to have been, miraculously, treating with tact about treachery.

“Is this what I think it is?”

Legal Basis just nodded. “Indeed, ma’am. It is, as the title suggests, a High Treason Indenture. A deal to be made between two willing parties involving the undertaking of clandestine, fraudulent, illicit, surreptitious and even ‘hush-hush’ and ‘QT’ actions, collectively described by the designation: treason,” Legal Basis explained, back to his most kind expression that Chrysalis had begun to strangely... respect.

There was a lot of wonderful, perverse thought behind that calm demeanor.

Her eyes were now glued to the hive of dotted lines underneath that initial description of the “Traitor”. It was a huge space, reaching the very bottom of the page, just waiting for somepony to put their details there and become the mastermind of the meticulous turncoat.

It was... magnificent. It was everything and more than she could have hoped to achieve today! To not only have an accomplice, but one obliging and compliant, actually providing her with the means of making his servitude lasting and dutiful!

She allowed herself the victorious grin and a small, some-claimed-cute, chuckle.

“And all it takes is this one, single—”

Thump!

The surprise and weight of what was dropped on the mahogany threw Chrysalis squarely off the chair.

“There you go, ma’am.”

She quickly scrambled up from the spotless floor, peeking from below the wooden desktop.

There was a... a fat creature made of papers before her, right next to her tea!

“... what is that thing?!”

“These...” The stallion patted the monstrosity of many pages like it was a precious pet. “... are all the necessary documents to finalize the deal – general terms of contract, health and safety at work agreements, labor insurances, pension and social security contribution arrangements, details and regulations involving hazard pay...”

Legal Basis droned on, but Chrysalis could not hope to pay attention, witnessing the paper... something before her. She tried to count... no, scratch that, she tried to guess how many sheets was this aberration formed out of.

... at least 480, maybe 500, even...

She gulped. She had heard stories about this beast.

It was a ream.

She really could not be surprised at the meager tone that came out of her, despite her best intentions. “So... is this what must be—”

Thud!

A twin heap landed right next to its sibling, again sending Chrysalis into panicked hiding.

She was not going to wait until the two stacks would start asking her to come play with them forever... and ever... and ever...

No, no, no play, all work!

No play, all work!

No play, all work!

She assumed cocoon position, trying to gather enough courage to continue dealing with this mounting madness.

Here’s...!”

She shrieked her lungs out.

Legal Basis, whose muzzle appeared over the edge of the desk, blinked in confusion. “... the ink and quill, ma’am,” he finished, pointing at those somewhere on the desk above. “That second pile was the Indenture’s counterpart prepared for you as the other party entering the agreement. We can slowly begin filling all the blank spots in both equivalents and I will gladly aid you in understanding all the necessary articles and subsections, ma’am...”

She just whimpered back at him.

“I say, you look a bit overwhelmed, ma’am. Would you like a new, fresher cup of tea?”

“Hyyyy!”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ Do you require a five-minute rest on the floor?”

“Hnnnn...”

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”