• Published 16th Jun 2020
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The Power of Two - Locomotion

A young changeling runs away from home, only to be attacked by timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, Locomotion is on hoof to save her - but little do they know that she has a spy on her tail...

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Chapter 28: The Power of Two

The two guards standing outside the north entrance stared almost vacantly into the distance. They knew the importance of their posts, but were already growing bored and eager for action. As if on cue, the sounds of shouting and pathetic whimpering broke the monotony as two changelings approached, dragging another changeling and a young unicorn with them on a length of rope.

One of the guards stepped forth smartly and addressed the larger of the two captors. “CH001MD38964587233 – report,” he intoned.

“Two prisoners, Corporal,” came the reply. “We found them near the border – the pony was trying to escape, and the filly was trying to help him.”

“Please don't hurt him,” wailed Hornette plaintively. “He was just lost; he didn't mean...”

“BE QUIET, CRAWLER!!” snapped the larger changeling.

“Speak for yourself, you bug-eyed creep!” railed Locomotion.

“And you can shut up too, you filthy horse! You trespassed into our territory; therefore, you are now our slave!” The smaller of their captors turned his attention back to the guards. “We have space for them in the dungeons?”

“Plenty,” affirmed the one to his right. “Go right on in, Captain,” and he stepped deftly to one side, saluting as the two changelings dragged their struggling prey into the hive. Several other changelings hissed hungrily at them as they went by; but the captors paid little attention.

Eventually, they began to descend a flight of steps that led into an underground chamber. As soon as they reached halfway, the larger changeling checked over his shoulder to make sure they weren't being watched. “It's alright, you two,” he whispered to his “captives”, “you can drop the act now.”

Locomotion relaxed a little. “For the time being, at least,” he murmured. “You think we've fooled them?”

“Looks like it,” replied Thorax quietly. “Let's just hope we can keep this up until the exact second – one false move, and we'll really be in trouble.”

Hornette gazed down the steps, frowning anxiously. “I just hope they can forgive us for what we're about to do to them,” she added.

“Yeah, you and me both,” murmured Locomotion grimly. Deep down, he was feeling horribly nervous – all the occupational hazards of working on a steam engine were nothing to him, but he was now stepping a long way out of his comfort zone, surrounded by an entire race of savage succubi, and in constant danger of suffering a fate far worse than death. But there was no turning back now. Once they reached the dungeons, they would have to act swiftly, or all would be lost.

All too soon, they arrived at a labyrinth of dark, gloomy caves, each one sealed off from the main cavern by trellised iron doors. Despite being many in number, only two or three contained prisoners, all of them changelings; while another changeling, more jagged than the rest, stood outside with a bored look on his face. He looked up as Thorax and Pharynx approached, still in their disguises and dragging Hornette and Locomotion towards him. “The prisoners you promised me?” he asked bluntly.

“Correct,” replied Pharynx. “You might want to see to the changeling first – she was putting up more of a struggle than that pathetic little pony.”

The gaoler nodded, and began untying the rope from Hornette's barrel. Hornette sighed in a despairing manner and looked at Locomotion; “Well...I guess this is the end – for both of us,” she lamented. “I'm so sorry, Loco.”

“It was my own fault,” said Locomotion in an unhappy tone. “If I'd stayed on my side of the fence, neither of us would be in this mess.” He looked back at the gaoler, who had finished untying her and was now about to do the same with him. Any second now... “Still,” he added, “it was nice knowing you, Hornette.” He waited until the rope was almost undone, silently counting down as he did so. Three – two – ONE! With a sudden jerk, he raised his hind legs and gave a powerful kick, bucking the unsuspecting changeling squarely in the stomach. The gaoler, taken completely by surprise, doubled over in agony.

NOW!!” yelled Locomotion at the top of his voice. Pharynx responded with a will, slugging the gaoler round the back of his head and flinging him into the one cell currently open. An agitated shout caught their attention as two more gaolers came running down to see what was wrong – only to be caught in Thorax and Pharynx's auras and thrown into the same cell, knocking them out cold just as they had done with the first one. With a resounding clang, Locomotion slammed the door shut behind them, while the two brothers quickly reverted to their natural forms.

Hornette winced as she watched the whole scuffle. “Ouch,” she murmured delicately. “That's sure to leave a bruise.”

“Rather them than us,” observed Locomotion tersely.

“They'll recover,” put in Thorax. “Anyway, no time to bother with them – we've got to get out of here before the guards catch us!” and he galloped back towards the stairway with Locomotion, Pharynx and Hornette hot on his tail. He reached the top to find the hallways still empty, and still running as hard as he could, he turned sharply right while turning his attention back to his comrades. “This way, Loco!” he shouted. “It's the fastest way to the throne room!”

“Right behind you, Thorax!” called Locomotion gamely. But in his haste, he failed to notice a fourth changeling looking on in shock from another hallway...

Chrysalis watched with mounting frustration as the sun slowly dipped behind the mountains. The Covert Retrieval Forces platoon she had sent after the Crawler still hadn't made contact with the hive, and she was rapidly losing patience. At last, she turned around with an angry stomp of her right hoof; “That's it!” she growled. “They've had their chance – now their time is up!” She turned towards the throne room doors; but before she could call out for a messenger, the doors were suddenly flung open, and a guard came running up to her.

“Your Majesty,” he cried frantically, “there's been a jailbreak! Three dissidents and one pony have escaped the dungeons!”

“WHAT?!?” Chrysalis' eyes bulged with fury and alarm. “Well, don't just stand there! Send out every guard we've got! I want that pony captured and the Crawlers eliminated – and I want it done now!!!”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” The guard, still in a frenzy, galloped swiftly away to summon the troops.

Thorax and his raiders had barely made it halfway to the throne room when, further down the hallway, they heard the thumping of hooves and the buzzing of wings rapidly approaching.

“Oh, D-rat,” groaned Locomotion, “sounds like the guards are out to get us!”

But Thorax and Pharynx were more than ready for them. “Evasive action!” they both shouted, and turned towards what appeared to be a blank wall – which promptly morphed itself into an entrance to another thoroughfare! Locomotion was so taken aback that he almost ran straight past it, and it was lucky for him that Hornette had the presence of mind to pull him inside with her magic, sealing the portal behind him. She was only just in time; the next thing they knew, there was a loud rumbling sound from the other side as a whole company of changelings stampeded past.

“What...how the flabberwocky did you do that?!” exclaimed Locomotion, barely managing to keep his voice down.

“Changeling hive, remember?” answered Pharynx plainly. “It's got the same metamorphic qualities as its inhabitants.”

“And just as well,” added Thorax. “One second too late, and they'd be right on our tails whichever route we took. We'd better stick to these alleyways for now.”

“And if they should second-guess us...?” asked Hornette anxiously.

Thorax furrowed his brow. “Then we'll just have to fight for our lives and hope Twilight realises what's going on,” he replied.

With that, the four fifth columnists charged onwards along the narrow hidden passages. Mercifully, they didn't encounter a single enemy until they emerged into the main hallways again; but when they did, they found themselves surrounded by three changeling battalions, each coming at them from a different corridor.

Hornette went grey in the face with alarm. “They've got us cornered!” she cried. “What are we gonna do?!”

“We're out of options!” said Pharynx decisively. “Prepare to fight back!”

“But...what about the spell...?”

“No time!” shouted Locomotion, lighting up his horn at the ready. “It's either shoot or get shot – and I'm not about to let them kill us!”

“Neither am I!” agreed Thorax grimly, and began firing bolt after bolt of magic at their attackers. Pharynx and Locomotion did the same, knocking the front ranks off their hooves like bowling pins; but it wasn't enough to drive the soldiers back in whole units, and eventually they were forced to engage them in close combat. Even Hornette, knowing her cloaking spell would be useless with so many enemy changelings in plain sight, had no choice but to duck and dodge their every strike, magical or physical.

But even as they fought back with all their strength and ability, the raiders knew that, without the Bearers of Harmony to help them, they were fighting a losing battle. No matter how many changelings they took out, more always came, some trying to confuse their victims by impersonating them. Incredibly, this only seemed to work against them; for not only were Thorax and Pharynx ahead of the game, but with so little coordination, the imposters only succeeded in fooling some of their comrades, and barely had time to pounce before being struck down, no matter which side dealt the blow. Even so, they were slowly beginning to overwhelm their prey; and before Locomotion knew it, one of them had grabbed him by the throat and pinned him against the wall. The red-furred stallion thrashed helplessly as the changeling strangled him, his lungs burning like mad and screaming out for oxygen.

Hornette saw what was going on, and lunged desperately at Locomotion's assailant. “STOP IT! YOU'RE HURTING HIM!!” she screamed, and without thinking, she bit down hard on his arm. The changeling jerked back, howling in pain – only to let out another yell as Locomotion knocked him out with a powerful uppercut.

Still gasping for breath, the red unicorn leaned heavily against the wall to regain his strength. “Nice one, Hornette,” he panted.

Hornette only cringed in reply; but her shame was suddenly swept aside by a shriek of blue murder. Both she and Locomotion only just had time to jump aside as Pharynx was knocked back by an enemy blast. His chest was badly scorched, and his right eye was sporting an ugly shiner. “Loco...Hornette...” he groaned, barely conscious, “...I'm sorry...I did try...”

“Pharynx!” cried Locomotion despairingly. He looked up at the other changelings – and then at Thorax, who was slowly being driven back towards them. “Thorax, get us out of here!”

“I can't! We're too far away from the nearest passage!” By now, even Thorax was beginning to lose hope. With Locomotion flanking him, he stood protectively over Hornette and his brother and waited for the end. “We're doomed!” he muttered under his breath...

But just when it looked like it was all over, there was a sudden flash of magic as Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy all materialised in front of them. All bore their respective Elements of Harmony, which Twilight had magically summoned from their tree, and all were aglow with the brilliant colours that made up their Rainbow Power forms. The militant changelings, briefly caught off-guard, were powerless to defend themselves as the six mares fought them back; and in the nick of time, all three battalions were lying scattered along the corridor, bruised and weakened.

Thorax heaved a huge sigh of relief. “Brilliant timing, Twilight,” he remarked. “I thought we were all for the chop then.”

“Don't mention it,” smiled Twilight wryly. “Everyone alright?”

“I'm okay, Twilight...but Pharynx...” Hornette gazed with angst at the badly beaten changeling stallion.

Pharynx groaned and looked up at Twilight. “G-go on without me,” he wheezed. “You're wasting time!”

“He'll be alright,” said Twilight thankfully; but cast a forcefield around him anyway so as to protect him against any further attacks. “Let's get going! We're almost there!” And with the other Bearers of Harmony by her side, and Locomotion, Thorax and Hornette close behind, she swooped through the hallway for the final charge towards the throne room.

As they were doing so, the one guard who had managed to escape unharmed was telling Chrysalis what had just happened. Chrysalis' eyes bulged with horror and outrage. Half her Royal Guard wiped out by a mere seven ponies and two changelings?! This couldn't be happening!

“IMBECILES!!” she thundered at the top of her lungs. “STOP THEM!!!”

But before the soldier could comply, the doors were flung wide open as the Bearers of Harmony burst into the throne room. “Too late, Chrysalis!” shouted Rainbow Dash aggressively.

Chrysalis leered contemptuously at the six mares, giving Twilight a particularly poisonous sneer. “You!!” she spat. “I might have known the despicable Elements of Harmony were behind this!”

“We sure are, Chrysalis,” affirmed Twilight coldly, her own hatred of the deceitful royal changeling rapidly rekindling itself as she stared her down. “You've threatened Equestria for far too long – and we're gonna make sure you never do so again!”

“We'll see about that! Guards, seize them!” Chrysalis went straight for Twilight, engaging her in a violent magical shoot-out while the guards took on the other five mares – but their combat skills were useless against the Powers of Harmony. Every magical laser beam only seemed to dissipate the moment it struck home; and even when they tried casting cocoons around the six ponies, their slime could never form into a hard shell, and broke apart with ease. Within minutes, only Chrysalis was left standing, and yell and curse as she might, none of the other changelings had the strength to fight back anymore.

Twilight glared grimly at her as her fellow Friendship Councillors returned to her side. “Alright, Chrysalis,” she snarled, “it's just you and me...and the Elements of Harmony!”

“You and what army?!” jeered Chrysalis. “I have you at my mercy, Sparkle! There's not a single creature who can save you now!”

“Better check your crystal ball again, Princess Chrysalis!” growled another voice.

Chrysalis looked around, enraged. “Who dares to belittle the Queen of the Changelings?!” she demanded – but froze when she saw a familiar and much-hated figure standing in the doorway.

“I do, Chrysalis!” Thorax snapped back. “After what you did to my father, I'd never respect you even if you were half the queen Nymphia was!”

“I'm TEN times the queen Nymphia was, you traitorous worm! And you – I should've eliminated you the moment you first came back!” Chrysalis' horn glowed ominously, but before she could do anything else...

“I'm afraid you can't do that, Chrysalis,” interrupted another voice, much higher in pitch. “We never had the chance to crown you; therefore – realistically – you have no power over us.” A younger changeling stepped into the room in a manner that seemed brave and tentative both at the same time. She glared disapprovingly at Chrysalis, like a little filly upon her badly behaved older sibling; and behind her, with his left shoulder wrapped in gauze, limped a teenaged red unicorn stallion.

Chrysalis' offended scowl changed to a broad, evil smirk. “So,” she gloated, “our fugitive friend finally returns – and with her precious little pet pony too! What's the case – come to plead for mercy?”

“No, Chrysalis,” replied Hornette with a firmness that almost seemed to flabbergast her. She had expected to be absolutely petrified by meeting her own queen face to face; but now, incredibly, all the fear she felt served only to reinforce her sense of justice and steel her resolve. Perhaps it was because she had so many allies at her side – perhaps it was to do with the revelation that her “queen” never actually was. “We're here to ask you to repent.”

“We know what you've been doing to all those other changelings under your rule,” added Locomotion sharply. “Deceiving them – exploiting them – Brainwashing them into carrying out your bidding! You had us believing that a gentle, peaceful race was actually a bunch of barbarians, yet the only real villain among this lot is their ruler – the very changeling who MURDERED HER SISTER AND WRESTED HER CROWN!!!”

Chrysalis hissed with rage. “LIES!!” she thundered.

“It's the truth, Chrysalis, and you know it!” snarled Thorax. “Don't think I didn't see what you were playing at with that dark magic of yours! You planned Nymphia's assassination; you sent my father out to a battle he couldn't possibly win – and on top of that, you make us steal other creatures' love just so you can hog it all for yourself! You've no right to treat us like this!”

“I don't take moral lectures from a Crawler! These are my subjects, and I decide...”

You're the only crawler around here, Chrysalis!” interrupted Locomotion fiercely. “And those other changelings are not your 'subjects'; they are your slaves! You don't even give them the choice to lead their own lives, you ungrateful savage! All you care about is manipulating them to satisfy your greed, your vanity and your lust for all the power and love on this planet! You're nothing but a menace to us all, even your own people!”

“SILENCE!!!” screamed Chrysalis aggressively.

“JUSTICE!!!” yelled Locomotion defiantly.

Chrysalis' eyes bulged with immeasurable rage. “RIGHT! I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!!! YOU'VE OFFENDED THE CROWN ONCE TOO OFTEN, YOU INSOLENT...”

“YOU'VE NO ROOM TO TALK!!” Thorax shot back with righteous anger. “THAT CROWN BELONGED TO NYMPHIA, NOT YOU!!!”

“NYMPHIA ISN'T HERE ANYMORE!!” hollered Chrysalis. “I AM YOUR QUEEN, AND I WILL DO WITH YOU AS I WISH!!” Her horn began to glow menacingly. “Any last words?!”

Hornette saw her chance. “Actually, Chrysalis – yes, I do have...more than a few things to say,” she said as calmly as she could. “If I could have about...ten minutes or so in which to say them?”

Five – that's all you have, CH001FD...”

“And you can shut up with that stupid ID number too!” snapped Locomotion, trembling with rage and adrenaline. “No-one puts Hornette down on my watch, not even the highest authority!”

“I'll deal with you later, foolish pony!” scowled Chrysalis rudely, and turned back to Hornette. “Speak now, 'Hornette', before I eliminate you myself.”

“As you wish.” Hornette took a deep breath, and setting her horn aglow, she began the speech she had been preparing in her mind. “Our kind have been the victims of many misunderstandings, ever since the dawn of time. Other species have viewed us as...savages – monsters – demons...as creatures to be feared rather than loved. They judged us by our appearances alone, and even attacked us because we were so...well, 'different'...and drove us into a life of isolation and subterfuge.”

As she spoke, her aura began to wrap itself around her and Locomotion, lifting them into the air like angels. The power of his love boosted the spell she was casting, and sent her magic radiating outwards like ripples on the surface of a pond, washing over all the other changelings in the hive and beyond. Chrysalis, suspicious of her motives, tried to block it; but some strange, unknown force seemed to be holding her back. All she could do was look on, mesmerised, as the Elements of Harmony empowered the spell still further.

All over the world, all changelings everywhere were swiftly overtaken by Hornette's magic. Brainwashed or otherwise, they found themselves drifting into a dreamlike state as her words echoed softly in their heads, instilling them with an almost forgotten sense of conscience, self-esteem...and compassion. As with Thorax, Pharynx and Anton before them, their bodies graduated into a huge variety of shapes and colour schemes as the spell took effect. Some lost the holes in their legs and wings; others regained a more reptilian eye pattern and a variety of other insect-like features; and while a few stayed in black, many of them evolved into a vast spectrum of hues.

“We led a harsh and precarious existence, entombed in our own homeland,” continued Hornette, “but that was no reason for us to go to war with the likes of Equestria and other nations. All that did for us was justify their misgivings against us, and solidify our reputation as nothing more than a breed of barbarians. When I first ran away, I didn't expect to be treated any differently, should I be caught...” She let out a soft sigh, her eyes glazing over at the heart-warming memory. “...and then I met Locomotion. Not only did he...unknowingly save my life, but he took pity on me. He looked after me, nursed me back to full health, and went out of his way to show that even we changelings can be kind, gentle, loving, warm-hearted creatures. But more than that – he helped me realise that there is good in every species, no matter what we may have been to each other.”

Time's up, Crawler, thought Chrysalis; but she couldn't say it out loud. Whatever magic Hornette was casting, it was far too strong even for her.

“Ever since I was born, I, like other young changelings, had dreamed of a Promised Land where all creatures could be treated as equals – where even changelings could roam free, and have all the love we need. Now, after spending time with Loco and his friends, and the Bearers of Harmony...I realise there is no one Promised Land. There are many nations out there where we can go to live, but only as long as we share the land instead of taking it over by force. Crown Princess Nymphia had vowed to do just that – to help us make friends rather than enemies; to help them understand us; to help our entire race live in harmony with others, all around the world. By following her philosophy...and mine...I've won myself a great many more friends and allies than I could possibly have dreamed of. We can all do the same, Chrysalis – but to do that, we should learn to coexist with our neighbours instead of dominating them, and share the love between ourselves. We don't have to be monsters like the Equestria of centuries past believe we were,” finished Hornette meaningfully. “As Loco very rightly said, 'we are who we choose to be'; and we can still choose to be good, peaceful and altruistic...just like we used to be.”

As she uttered those final words, her magic slowly began to fade, lowering her and Locomotion back to the floor. The Elements of Harmony, their purpose fulfilled for the time being, also dimmed down, allowing their bearers to revert to their natural colours. Thorax, for his part, was so moved by Hornette's speech that he forgot to be angry with Chrysalis; and as she touched down, he beamed softly upon the younger changeling. Beautifully phrased, Hornette, he thought warmly. I'm proud of you.

“Why, Hornette,” breathed Chrysalis, “that was, quite simply, the most scintillating, most incredible...”

Hornette and Locomotion blinked in disbelief at the cordial tone of her voice. Had Hornette's spell really been powerful enough to change Chrysalis' views as well, they wondered?


Evidently not! Their hearts squeezed with dread at Chrysalis' death-glare, and Locomotion's defensive scowl returned.

“There you go again!” bellowed Thorax, raising his voice for the whole hive to hear. “Trying to pass yourself off as our queen when you clearly CHEATED YOUR WAY INTO POWER!! WHAT KIND OF A QUEEN MURDERS HER ELDER SISTER, BRAINWASHES ALL HER SUBJECTS AND SENDS THEM OUT TO PLUNDER THE ENTIRE WORLD JUST BECAUSE SHE FEELS LIKE IT?!” He leered ominously at Chrysalis, his hatred for her returning with a vengeance. “Face it, Chrysalis,” he finished in a low, threatening tone, “your only choice is to either stop this madness and make peace with Equestria...or lose all the power you snatched from under your sister's nose!”

“HA!!” jeered Chrysalis. “I'll die before any of that happens – and so will you, you maggots! Guards – eliminate these Crawlers and be done with them!”

But although the guards had managed to regain their senses and get back on their hooves, none of them moved.
Chrysalis shot their commanding officer a death-glare. “I SAID, ELIMINATE THEM!!!” she roared.

She was even further infuriated when the guard immediately spoke back – and not in the submissive tone of the other changelings. “Your Highness,” he stated bluntly, “as much as I'd hate to appear anything other than faithful to our royalty, none of us would wish to condone capital punishment, no matter how serious the crime.”

“I don't care about your wishes!” growled Chrysalis. “You will obey my commands or suffer the consequences! IS THAT CLEAR?!”

“I'm sorry, Princess Chrysalis,” replied the guard firmly, “but I will not take an innocent changeling's life just because of her morals.”

“I'LL GIVE YOU MORALS!!! AND DON'T YOU DARE DENOUNCE YOUR QUEEN AS A MERE PRINCESS!!!” Chrysalis' horn glowed intensely as she recast her Brainwashing spell on the insolent guard. “NOW ELIMINATE THOSE CRAWLERS, OR I'LL HAVE YOU KILLED TOO!”

But to her chagrin, the guard didn't seem to have been affected. “Fine words, coming from someone who's just been found guilty of using mind magic!” he countered. “That in itself is an act of high treason!”

“WHAT?!” Chrysalis' eyes popped in utter shock. There was no way this could be happening. “YOU DARE TO TALK BACK TO ME?! WHY WON'T YOU OBEY YOUR QUEEN'S COMMANDS?!”

“It's no good, Chrysalis!” said Twilight triumphantly. “That spell of Hornette's didn't just wipe out your Brainwashing spell; it's preventing you from casting it on any of those changelings ever again!”

“And as long as they know the truth, they'll never obey a single one of your commands either, regardless of your standing in the hive!” Thorax's eyes narrowed. “It's over, Chrysalis – your reign and the fight!”

“Maybe,” snarled Chrysalis, her horn glowing so fiercely it almost looked ready to explode as she pointed it straight towards Hornette, “but if even if I have lost, your precious little Crawler will be the first to die!”

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