I Am a Pet Changeling

by Queen Sanguine Dreams

First published

A simple Tunneler drone is catapulted from Equestria during the infamous Wedding onto earth. Confused, injured and alone, the drone must figure out how to survive with the whole world watching. (Changeling on Earth, Xcom, Men in Black and SG:1 Xover)

A simple Tunneler drone is catapulted from Equestria during the infamous Wedding to Planet Earth. Confused, injured and alone, the drone must figure out how to survive in an alien environment with all of humanity watching.

(Crossovers with XCOM, Men In Black and Stargate: SG1)
(Changeling on Earth fic / Available to hire artists for a cover art commission! Current Cover art by Ashinda on FimFiction)

(People have apparently been turned off by the whole 'pet' thing in the title; it's only relevant for a few chapters and has nothing kinky or lewd about it. )

Where Am I?

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A loud boom with a pink flash of light, a speedy trip soaring uncontrollably through the air, and a very hard landing later... and I have no idea where I am. My wings are injured from the fall, my chitin is cracked along my stomach and I'm starving. All in all, I'm doing pretty well.

I was in the middle of a wheat field, further than I could see... but considering that the wheat was taller than I was, It wasn't that impressive of a feat. I couldn't take a step without squashing the plants around me. Not that I even ate plants like ponies would; I didn't need them. I needed love. The sky was an eerie light blue with dark clouds overhead... and for some reason a few of the clouds had become thin lines across the sky, poking through the darker clouds like they didn't exist. Did Pegasai make those kinds of trails? I couldn't imagine how they would. Their magic must have something to do with clouds, yes, but... not in that way.

"Well," my chittery voice sighed, "I might as well find a way back to the hive. If anyling is alive to come back to, that is."

Behind me was a respectably deep crater; the place where I had impacted. Dirt, rocks and disturbed wheat stalks where everywhere and a scorched trail of soil marked my entrance into whichever farmer's... farm I had the unfortunate grace of crashing into. Movement was painful; every step shifting my cracked chitin and forced me to take a moment to catch my breath again. Thankfully I wasn't hurt enough to be bleeding, but it was still ridiculously painful to bear. If I didn't move however, I was going to starve to death very soon. I could try to look like any random pony that would come to mind, but my body wouldn't survive the shift between flesh and carapace. What was a crack in my shell would become a garish line across me.

I winced and ached my way through the pain and the wheat field to its edge, finally breaking free from the golden plants to fall face-first into an irrigation ditch. My wings reflexively buzzed in annoyance along with my pain, but complaining wasn't going to get me anywhere. I needed love, and I needed it now.

I continued away from the kilotrots of wheat and corn, not really remembering where this much farmland would exist in Equestria, but not really caring either. It gave me good cover if anypony were to come along. What had attracted my attention though, was the unending strip of nearly solid smooth stone. It stretched further than anything I had ever seen, and it wasn't even cobblestone! It was darker than my chitin with white dashed lines in the center, and a solid yellow line along the sides of it. I hadn't seen anypony use it, so I couldn't figure out its purpose. I mean, I knew it was a road, obviously, but why place one here if nopony used it?

The sun had already been setting when I woke up, but now the only thing to see by was my natural night vision granted by my glowing blue eyes. They wouldn't help me stay hidden, acting like the lanterns that they were, but I could hopefully spot somepony before they spotted me, hide in a bush, and shut my eyes. They would either figure that they saw something from being tired and carry on, or seek me out.

I had continued on well into the night at this point, not seeing a fur nor mane of anypony. I must have been blasted really far away from Equestria if I haven't found anypony yet. Maybe I was in Minos? That could explain why everything was so... giant. I had seen buildings in the distance, but they were large enough to be castles! They had the appearance of humble homes and barns, a few silos, that sort of thing... but the scale was almost upsetting! There were also some kind of strange metal... things on wheels just sitting there, unused next to the houses themselves.

I was torn from my thoughts when I spotted movement... or more like two large glowing eyes looming over the hill far ahead of me. The problem was with how fast they were headed towards me! I was wounded; I couldn't move fast enough to hide in the wheat nearby before the creature spotted me! I could close my eyes, but then it would just find me later instead of sooner. Should I try to escape? Should I just...

There wouldn't be much point in running, would there? There was nopony around for miles if I was in Minos, and the Minotaur were more likely to squish me than help, even if I were a pony.

Well. I might as well just sit down and stare death in the face, then.

It drew closer with each second, a steady low growl as it approached. Its eyes becoming larger and larger, bright enough to blind me. I had to shield my face from the intensity of the beast's eyes, tensing up as it drew close. A steady growl came from it... and then a click?


"Hey, Ricky! Come get a look at this!" I heard a voice yell. It seemed... nice... soft.

"Maria, get away from that thing!" A gruffer voice shouted back, another click and a slam following after.

"But Ricky, it's so pretty!" the voice pleaded. I pulled my holed hoof from my face and squinted into the light, finding... something? I've never seen a minotaur before, but... something told me that wasn't what I was looking at. It was bipedal, tall, thin... and had no horns. Definitely not a minotaur.

"What's it doing?" the rougher voice called to their companion.

"It's just sittin' there, Ricky! Get your coward self over here and help me with this poor critter! Eh, whatever it is..." the softer, shorter not-minotaur asked of the other.

"What's going on?" I asked, my voice chittering with nervous stress. They both froze, staring at me. They looked at each other but it was difficult to make out the details with the bright lights. "Can you tell the beast to look somewhere else? I can't see!"

"The..." Soft Voice started, "The beast... yeah."

I saw the soft voiced thing move away from me to the side of the beast, and eventually it... closed its eyes? They were still wide open, but... no light came from them. I shook my head and blinked, trying to get the spots of light out of my vision in order to see what I was dealing with better.

"Ricky, no!" Soft shouted, and suddenly I was struck in the side of the face by something flat and metallic. A loud clanging sound rang out as I was flung sideways onto the road.

"Aaaoww!" I complained, rubbing my face. The chitin was unharmed, but it seemed whatever I had been smacked with had my face as a dent in it.

"The heck did'ya do that for!?" Soft Voice yelled.

"That thing's a freakin' alien, Maria! Lookit those fangs!" Rough voice yelled back.

"So you think its a good idea to hit the poor thing with a darn shovel!?"

"It's freaky lookin'!"

"Oh, good excuse. I'll be sure to let the aliens know that you hit one o' their people with a shovel cuz' you were spooked."

My face really hurt. Rubbing it wasn't helping and... now my chest felt different. I think being flung across the road shifted the plates that were cracked.

"H-help?" I pleaded, trying to hold myself together. "I think I'm hurt even worse now..."

"Now you' gone an done it, Ricky!" Soft Voice scolded. I saw their figure rush up to me, and witnessed a creature I had never seen before.

They had a smooth face with an angular chin, or what I'm assuming was their chin. Two small eyes towards the mid upper part of their face with a wide forehead, soft cheeks if it was similar to a pony, and a tiny mouth as well. It had reddish-copper hair tied like a pony's tail coming from the back of its head. Maybe that was their mane? It didn't have a tail, so I had no idea how it was standing upright on its two legs, and it had two arms with... weird looking things on the ends of them. They were like a minotaur's hands but... softer; more agile.

"The heck kinda critter are you?" Soft voice asked... softly. It had probably been studying me in the same way.

"Maria, would you get away from that darned thing!?" Rough voice whisper shouted, tugging at Soft voice's shoulder.

"Get off me, Ricky! You hurt this poor thing, and now we're gonna take care of it!"

"Take care of it? What in the seven he-"

"'EY! Swear jar!" Soft interrupted, pointing towards the sleeping beast on the road.

"But I- you... darnit." Rough voice conceded in defeat, apparently the drone to this... queen of their party. I should probably ask.

"Are you the Queen?"

Their face scrunched up in a strange way, their eyebrows shooting up in disbelief and surprise as well. "The what now?"

I pointed my hoof at her, causing her to move back a bit in fear that I could taste. It was cold, biting and made me shiver. "I-I mean... the other follows your word. That would make you the leader, or queen, yes?"

It looked down at me skeptically before chuckling. "Yeah, sure. I'm the queen all right. Just wait until Mom hears 'bout this."

It then reached its arms towards me, attempting to pick me up and carry me like a newborn nymph. Strangely enough, it succeeded fairly easily.

"Yer a lot lighter'n I thought you'd be, alien thing." she smiled, carefully carrying me towards their beast. Getting a better look at the creature... it didn't seem to be alive. There looked to be chairs inside of it with a strange covering, some dark, smooth and shiny thing that held what seemed to be cups with straws, a brown bag of some kind between the two chairs and a metal stick sitting between the two chairs in the front. She shifted my body, resting my flank on her knee and pulled something underneath the chair, causing it to buckle forward.

"Okay, I'm gonna be careful as I can with you, alright? No laser beams from your eyes, please." Soft said seriously.

"I can't shoot lasers from my eyes. I don't actually know anypony or changeling that can do that..." I explained as I was moved inside of the beast, resting on a soft cushion in the back. My wings were doing well, considering the way this day had been progressing. They folded neatly behind my back and were pressed between myself and the cushions, but otherwise weren't hurting as much as they had been.

Soft Voice was radiating concern, worry and a bit of anger, though that was directed at Rough Voice. The other not-minotaur was radiating fear, intense worry and... more fear. Mostly directed towards me. There was also a hint of annoyance towards Soft Voice.

The two climbed inside of this strange metal beast, which I was beginning to think was actually more like a wagon or a train, soon slamming the doors as they got adjusted and pulled some strange strap across their bodies. Two clicks later, and they both stared past their seats to look at me.

I looked back at them in confusion.

"Maria, if this thing don't kill us before we get home, you're the one explainin' everythin' to Mom." Rough voice mandated.

"I already know that, Ricky. You keep an eye on it, and I'll do the drivin'."

"Drivin'?" I asked, copying Soft's voice to better convey my confusion with the word.

Rough looked to Soft, brows furrowed. "Did you just stutter?"

Soft then looked at Rough, then to me. "Did you say that?"

"Uh... what is Drivin', Soft voice?"

Two large spikes of worry and fear were my response, and Soft voice slammed her leg against something on the floor of the wagon, causing the beast to screech in pain before we lunged forward.

"Ah swear, the second we get home, you're the one gettin' grounded, not me!" Rough yelled over the roar of the beast.

Drivin' Home to Mom; Whomever That Is...

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"You just had to go an stop for some blue glowin' lights, didn't ya?" Rough Voice complained, "Oh, lookit those pretty lights Ricky! Let's go stop and see what it is, Ricky."

"You stop complainin' ! Keep an eye on the alien thing in the back while I drive, an' hopefully we'll get home before any X-Files stuff happens, okay?" Soft voice shot back, focusing their attention on the fast moving white lines to our left. I had eventually sat upright in the 'back seat', as it was called, and viewed the passing countryside. The metal beast had "Drivin" past the place I had crashed into fairly quickly, moving along the road with speeds that would make a wonderbolt jealous. This speed came at the price of the beast's complaining, a very loud roar that would stop for only a moment when the metal stick between the seats was moved by one of the not-minotaurs.

"You keep drivin' like this and we're gonna get Sheriff Jacobs on our a-- erm, tail." Rough warned, interrupting himself mid-word for some reason. Soft Voice was about to speak, but Rough stopped them. "Ah didn't say it." it pointed with its finger.

"Fine, you get off this time." Soft conceded. The beast's speed slowed noticeably, though it was apparently too late. Blue and Red flashing lights were behind us, a loud whining alarm following our movements. I tried to see what was following us, but Rough's hand squashed me down onto the seat.

"Ow!" I complained, "My chitin isn't in place, you know!"

"Ya know what?" Rough asked rhetorically, "You just keep this darn jacket over you, don't move, don't say nothin', and we might not get in any more trouble'n we're used to." He then took off some kind of heavy brown jacket and hucked it on top of me. It was larger than I was, considering this entire beast was meant to carry the not-minotaurs. Their clothing was even larger, so I curled as best I could into a ball and hid underneath the jacket.

Our beast eventually slowed to a stop with a quick squeak and fell silent. I could hear muttering between Rough and Soft about 'what are we gonna do' and 'this is all your fault', but soon something tapped on the side of the beast.

Some strange whirring noise later, and I saw a beam of light shining into the car. "Ricky? Maria? What are you two doing out so late at night, and driving so fast?" his voice was different than the others. It was more precise in its wording, more confident and at the same time... friendly. I liked this voice.

"Oh you know, we're just... testin' out the new engine Ricky put in the Charger!" Soft explained nervously. I could feel the anxiety and dread gripping them. I would've helped soothe that, but were I to put forth that kind of effort, I would soon die. I needed love. It was the only way I was going to heal from my injuries and going with these 'Not-Minotaurs' was either going to save me, or kill me slower. Either way, it was worth doing as they said.

"A new engine you say?" Kind Voice said, impressed. "Well, I can understand the need to test your own limits, but there are also laws for this kind of thing. I know you're well aware of them."

"We're very sorry, Officer Brady. We weren't trying to do any harm." Rough voice explained.

"You wouldn't happen to have any alcohol underneath that jacket in the back seat, would you?" Kind Voice asked, and I was bathed in the white beam of light. I froze, holding my breath. "Hey... are you hiding a bug or something back there? Those are some really large wings." His interest was peaked, accompanied with suspicion.

"Oh! That..." Soft laughed nervously, "It's just a costume piece for Linda, for her school play? She was gonna be a giant moth and we had to run to the store late at night to grab some art supplies. Only problem is they don't like the light much so we covered it all with Ricky's jacket."

"A giant moth? Well, that's an interesting play if I've ever heard one. How old is Linda now, anyway? She must be near... seven, eight?" Kind voice replied, being casually chatty. There was no sense of offense or retribution, so I doubted that Soft or Rough would get into trouble with this... do Not-Minotaur have Royal Guard?

"She's almost eight, Officer Brady." Rough voice pitched in, shifting in his seat towards the Kind voice.

"Eight! Gosh, growing up so fast these days..." Kind mused, trailing off for a moment. "Well, you two know what you did, and I know you're genuinely sorry for it. I won't give you a ticket this time, but if anyone else catches you doing the same thing, they won't be so helpful."

"We appreciate it, Officer Brady!" Soft voice called, the Kind voice apparently leaving with the steady crunching of gravel.

"We'll tell Mom you said hi!" Rough added.

A strange whirring sound was heard again, sliding upwards towards the head of the beast before stopping.

"Whew!" Rough and Soft exclaimed as one, melting into their seats. "That was one he-"

"Swear jar." Soft immediately interjected, a metal can of some kind rattling in their hand.


"Swear. Jar." Soft chuckled, shaking the can back and forth again.

"One of these days, Maria, Imma get you on the swear jar."

A few metal clinks later, and the jacket was lifted from my face enough to see Rough. He recoiled a bit upon seeing me. I smiled, and he grew fearful even more.

"Are we safe?" I asked.

Rough gave me a look of curiosity mixed with uncertainty, dropping the jacket over my face again. "Yeah, we're safe for now, alien thing."

"Hey," Soft complained, smacking Rough in the shoulder with the back of their... hand-thing. "Don't go bein' mean to the nice alien."

"Nice? What makes you think that thing is nice?" Rough asked incredulously. He lifted up the jacket from me again, and pointed to my face. "Just lookit that thing!"

"Maybe the fact it hasn't so much as looked at us funny this entire time, and you went and smacked it with a shovel as your version of sayin' hello." Soft snarked.

The muffled sound of crunching gravel was heard behind us, flashing blue and red lights pulling ahead as Rough and Soft flailed their hands at the opposing monster while it went away.

"Think he made a report?" Soft asked.

"Nah, he was probably in the middle of eatin' a sandwich or somethin' when we sped past." Rough reassured Soft.

Soft then poked a metal key into the side of the beast and turned, causing it to roar back to life. The beast itself had no emotions, so it couldn't be alive, right?

"Let's just get home nice an' slow. Then we can carry this thing up to your room, Maria, cause it ain't sleepin' in mine, and we can explain everythin' to Mom in the morning." Rough decided for the both of them.

"Well I wasn't gonna let you have Mister or Missus alien in your room anyhow." Soft tutted, turning the wheel in front of them and guiding the monster back onto the road.

Rough leaned sideways and looked at me. "Hey, you got a name or somethin' ?"

I blinked a few times, lifting the edge of the jacket from my face to look back at Rough. "Why would I have a name?"

Soft looked to me for a moment before refocusing their attention on the road. Rough just looked at me in confusion. "You mean you don't even got a name? What," Rough asked, looking to Soft, "are humans the only species in the universe with names now?"

"Then that just means we gotta name it, is all." Soft countered, sounding like a condescending teacher of pony foals.

"What is a humans; I've never heard of those creatures before." I asked, repeating the strange word in Rough's voice.

"Would you just stop with the voice copyin' thing? That's really creepin' me out." Rough complained. The spike of... I don't really know what emotion it was. It felt slimy, cold and... eugh. Maybe I should call it that; He felt 'Eugh'.

"Well, I don't know how to say Hu-kkcsrk-mi-kncn without it sounding strange..." I chittered. That was a problem of mine. If I didn't understand a word, like most other changelings, then we couldn't properly translate it out of chitter-speak. Most of what these not-minotaurs were speaking was perfect Equine, albeit with a strange accent.

"Okay, new rule. Don't talk." Rough 'Eugh'ed away from me.

"Ricky, don't be rude! This is probably first contact for all we know, and you're treatin' it like a freak!" Soft voice scolded.

"That's cause it is a freak, Maria. It's a gosh darned alien; it's a freak by definition!" Rough barked back.

"Well you're a bully by definition; beatin' up new forms o' life with a shovel. They should make you an ambassador at this rate! Come one, come all, get a shovel in yer face from good ol' Ricky Monte." Soft exclaimed melodramatically, sounding very much like an auctioneer.

"Ooh no, we ain't starting this thing as no regular occurrence! Any more random streaks of light come down out the sky, and you're going at it alone! I ain't no alien hunter." Rough protested, crossing its arms in front of their chest.

"We aren't huntin' aliens, Ricky!" Soft snapped, flipping a lever of some kind next to the wheel. A small yellow light with an arrow flicked on and off, accompanied with a clicking noise. "We're savin' aliens!"

"Psh, savin' aliens she says." Rough scoffed. "You just pull into the darn driveway and carry that thing to your room. I'll open the door and lock up the car."

Soon our beast rolled to a stop outside of a gargantuan house, painted light red and brown on the roof. There was some kind of strange pattern to it instead of the thatched roofs that I had become accustomed to when I was stationed in Ponyville before the attack on Canterlot. These not-minotaur are very strange, creating giant structures that somehow don't fall over. Maybe they have magic?

I felt a light tap on my horn, causing me to reflexively move my head away and stare at whatever had caused the disturbance. A single slim finger pointed at my horn. "No impalin', no buzzin' them wings, okay? You're difficult enough to not freak out at already." Rough mandated.

I blinked in recognition before nodding. Not buzzing wasn't difficult so long as I wasn't agitated. Impaling was actually not even on my mind either. Horns are very sensitive!

Soft then appeared in front of me, buckling the seat forward again somehow and reaching out to me. "Come here, alien bug-thing; I got ya." it was radiating care and concern; thankfully they were sister emotions to love and enough to dull the pain in my stomach from the shifted and cracked chitin. I still wasn't bleeding either; a major bonus!

I was cradled in Rough's jacket and held upside down in Soft's arms like... Do minotaur keep cats as pets? Something like that. The jacket itself was like a blanket over me, only my head poking out from it as the rest had cocooned me. The front door to the house was three times taller than I was and opened with a creak.

"Careful, Maria! We don't wanna wake Mom up!" Rough hissed quietly, sneaking alongside Soft.

Soft carried me further into the house with Rough following along close behind, closing the door quietly with a worryingly loud click. Then, another click was heard, blinding us in light.

"And just where have you... been?" A more stern, yet caring voice asked. At first they seemed upset, but now they were curious and worried. "Don't tell me you brought in another stray dog, Maria! We can't afford to feed any more pets!"

"I-It's just for the night, Mom! I swear!" Soft quickly explained. Somehow this 'Mom' didn't notice me clearly... perhaps she needed glasses?

"Just for the night, then." Stern sighed. "I don't know what I'm going to do if you keep bringing in more animals, Maria."

"No more animals, I swear! Just this one, and no more, I promise!" Soft pleaded, cradling me away from Stern's gaze.

Stern bit their lower lip in thought for a moment before replying in a soothing tone. "I know you want to be a veterinarian, Maria, but you can't help every animal you come across. Not for now, at least."

"I know, Mom. It's just this one last time, okay?"

"You and Ricky get on up to bed now, you hear? You both got school in the mornin'." Stern conceded, slowly shifting their weight and moving steadily up a large staircase, presumably to their own room. Both Soft and Rough waited with held breath before they heard a door close above, letting out all their air in a rush of relief so powerful that it forced me to squirm.

"Hey-hey, stop movin' alright?" Soft cooed, setting me down on the couch. "You doin' okay? That crack you got looks pretty bad."

"I will be fine, so long as I can... eh..." I tapped my forehooves together nervously, looking between Rough and Soft. "I need love?" I meekly offered, hoping they wouldn't take offense and end me after so much effort on their part. I had no idea what value the not-minotaur placed on love, but if I wasn't direct in my needs, I would starve to death.

Rough immediately held his mouth to stop from bursting with laughter, and Soft just seemed confused. "You want what now?"

I Need Love, But A Bath Is Nice Too

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"I need love?" I restated tentatively. "I need it to live. Without it, I will starve to death."

"Ain't that just precious!" Rough taunted sarcastically, "Alien come from space, all the way to earth, lookin' for looove."

"Quit it, Ricky! What if its bein' serious? It don't have a reason to lie to us." Soft countered.

"Oh I don't know, maybe it wants to lay eggs in us or somethin' alien and weird!" Rough sneered.

"If you ain't gonna help it, then why don't you just go to your room? I'll take care of our 'guest' here."

"Hey," Rough conceded with a shrug, "If you wanna sleep with the bug-alien thing, be my guest Maria. Just don't wake up Mom when those dogs o' yours come runnin' after it when you open that door to your room."


"Oh crud! I totally forgot about them!" Soft whisper blurted.

"Toodles, Maria." Rough taunted, wiggling his fingers as he ascended the staircase. With creaking steps, it slowly dissapeared from sight. Soft voice then looked at me, sighing.

"What am I gonna do with you?" Soft asked rhetorically.

"Uh... love me? Please?"

Soft rolled their eyes in response and asked, "Do you eat food or anything? Milk, eggs, bread, meat; stuff like that?"

"Love?" I restated.

"You eat love," It deadpanned, "Golly, that sounds like a bad romance novel come to life." Soft shifted how they were holding me a bit, hurting me a little with my chitin moving uncomfortably.

Soft then carried me upstairs, walking past a few adjoining rooms connected by an archway between what seemed like a living room from the couches arranged around some flat... shiny thing. There were a few cups on top of coasters, a book near a night stand and some kind of bag with food spilling out of it on top of a wooden table. Everything in this house was gigantic compared to me. A large metal box with two doors on it loomed in the kitchen next to a stove I could walk into and a sink that I would have to fly up to in order to use. A few other doors lead to different areas of the house, but one of them must have been a pantry if it was connected to the kitchen. Going up the stairs, there was a guard rail made of wood again, intricately detailed and polished to a shine. The stairs were covered in carpeting that had been worn down from frequent traffic, probably white at some point but now bearing a dirty grey. Impossibly detailed paintings were hung along the wall of the staircase, detailing events and gatherings of the giant not-minotaur's family adventures to even more impressive places I had yet to see. One of the pictures was placed in a massive city-scape that I doubted could really exist. The buildings stretched into the sky! That should have been a wonder in itself, like Canterlot's position on the edge of a mountain and not falling off.

We reached the top of the stairs soon enough, not giving me enough time to fully witness the other paintings on the wall. The rooms had been labeled. One was Ricky, to the right of that and further along was named Maria, and opposite the both of those was named Mom. A door was sideways and between those, bearing no label. I motioned to the door with my head and asked, "What is that room for?"

Soft looked from the door it was about to open with their free hand towards me, and then to where I was pointing. "Oh, that's the bathroom."

Oh. Well, that was less ominous than I had imagined.

The door to Soft's room opened with a quiet squeak before they paused. "You know what? I just noticed somethin'."

Uh oh. "Um... what would that be?" I asked cautiously.

"You're covered in dirt."

I squirmed around to try and get a better look at myself, though Soft held tight. "Hey-hey, hold it," they insisted, and I stopped moving. "You ain't allergic to water, are you?"

Allergic to water?

"I can tell from that look on yer face that you're not." Soft grumbled, turning in place and heading towards the bathroom. "Do you think that crack you got can hold up to water?"

I could still maneuver my hooves within the jacket wrapped around me and poked the chitin around my stomach carefully. It didn't move much, and I couldn't feel any blood, so that meant it was probably a surface crack. "I think I'll be fine. What are you planning?"

"Well, if it wasn't obvious, I'm gonna give you a bath." Soft stated in quiet cheer. They were giving off a steady supply of concern and affection towards me, assisting greatly with warding off my hunger for love.

A few moments later, I had been carefully placed inside of a giant tub on by back. While Soft was looking away, I quickly rolled over and stood upright, my head coming up over the rim of the tub itself just barely. "Is this something that 'Not-Minotaur' normally do?"

Soft looked from some bottles they had been deciding between to spot me, her face suddenly lighting up with joy. "Oh my gosh you look so cuuute!" I was nearly knocked off of my hooves from the affection knocking into me like a wave, causing me to stagger and fall onto my flank. Blinking the haze away, I looked up at Soft whom was resting their elbows on the edge of the tub, their head on their hands. "Who knew that aliens from outer space that look like bug monsters could be so gosh darned adorable in a bath tub?"

"Uh... thank you?" I don't think I had ever received a genuine compliment before, even if it was a bit strange.

Soft held a bottle of some kind, labelled 'Shampoo' with tape across it in thick black lettering. "I don't think I wanna risk you getting hurt with that crack you got, now that I think about it."

I looked down at my injury, noticing that the cracks had somewhat mended themselves from the burst of overwhelming affection earlier. "Actually... could you do that thing you just did again? You sent out a wave of affection strong enough to heal me."

Soft paused, looking at me strangely. "Do what now?"

"When you called me adorable and cute? You floored me with affection, and that gave my body enough energy to mend itself. Can you do it again?"

Soft just stared at me, their mouth slightly agape. This continued only for a short moment before their mouth snapped shut, shaking their head. "Okay, I know yer an alien an' all, but that's just plain strange. I can't just give affection on command. It just sorta happens. You know, it's an emotional thing." Soft then paused a moment, placing their hands on their hips. "So that's what knocked you over, huh? Affection?"

I didn't understand the confusion. "Yes?"

Soft scrunched their face in thought before kneeling down with a rag. "Well, I don't know 'bout affection on command or nothin', but maybe gettin' you all cleaned up will do the trick?" They then turned a knob on the edge of the bath, a stream of water soon gushing out and very cold.

"Aaah!" I chittered, my wings buzzing painfully in agitation from the temperature. I backed away into the rear of the tub, as far away from the icy water as I could.

"Hey, don't worry! It's just cold for now, but it'll heat up, okay?" Soft cooed, concern washing over me.

I was keeping every part of me as far away from the cold water as possible, trying not to chitter at the filling tub. Strangely, this was earning me more affection from Soft. I looked to the not-minotaur and saw a thin smile on their face.

"You know, I knew I liked somethin' about you the second I saw you, but this just confirms that you ain't no harm to anybody. I've never seen a monster movie where the baddie is scared o' cold water." Soft chuckled, adjusting the turny knob on the tub a bit after sticking their hand in the running water. "Especially cold water in a bath tub, and bein' small as you are I doubt you'd go on some killin' rampage."

What? "Why would I hurt any-- uh... Humans? I need love to survive, not meat or... plaaants." Now I understood what Eugh felt like.

Soft laughed at that, right as the water began to reach my hooves. It was a mild shock of the cold water that still remained in the tub when it touched me, but it was soon followed by the much warmer water. Hopefully not too warm... otherwise I would cook inside of my carapace.

"Please don't make the water too hot? I don't want to be cooked." I pleaded, looking to the heated water that was now halfway up my legs in concern.

"Oh, right!" Soft blurted, adjusting the spinny thing again. "That should be good. About luke-warm is good, right?"

I blinked.

"Nevermind; it's a figure of speech." Soft sighed, still smiling at me as the water reached my quickly mending stomach chitin. I wanted to see how it was progressing, but that would mean submerging either my head, or my whole body underwater. But... the entire point of this bath was to clean myself, right?

With that logic in mind, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and dunked my head under water, rolling over noisily to see my belly. I opened my eyes and saw that my vision was obscured by all the dirt and mud, but since I didn't have the sensitive eyes of a pony I wasn't bothered by the dirt and grime. Perks of not being overly fleshy. I blinked a few times to clear the dirt from my eyes, scraping off some of the more caked-on dirt with my forehooves before Soft's hands reached into the water and pulled me upright by my forehooves, leaving me to drip above the tub in confusion as water ran down me.


"What're you doin' to your eyes! You're gonna hurt yourself!" Soft complained in a whisper shout so they wouldn't wake 'Mom'.

"Cleaning them?" I offered uncertainly. Now I was confused. This was always how I had cleaned my eyes, and noling had said anything about it being wrong...

Soft looked at me for a bit before sighing. "You know what, you're an alien. This is all probably normal for you; scraping at your eye sockets like they're a sticker that needs removin'."

Soft then set me down in the tub again, and I got to work with cleaning myself once more. Unexpectedly, I felt what seemed like a wet blanket drape itself onto my flank. Looking behind me, there was a dirty rag draped over it. I looked to Soft, whom was smiling again for some reason.

"That look on your face," they giggled, "My dogs do the exact same thing."

Dogs... that name again. "What are dogs?" I asked in her voice, in the exact same tone the Not-Minotaur used to avoid confusion.

Soft shivered a bit, feelings of 'Eugh' smacking into me and causing me to fall into the water. They quickly reached in and held my head above water, thankfully. "I'm sorry," I apologized sincerely, "I didn't mean to make you feel 'Eugh'."

"You what?" Soft asked before stopping herself. "You mean you felt that?"

I nodded. "I used your voice to avoid confusion with-- Eh... that word you used, and you felt 'Eugh'."

Soft looked at me suspiciously. "So you mean you literally feel what I'm feelin'?"

"I am a changeling," I nodded, "I am affected strongly by the emotions of others near me, and I live off of Love and their sister emotions as well, like affection, concern, nurturing, gratitude, pride... things like that."

I felt a very sudden shift in Soft's emotions, from interest to curiosity. "Say, I never actually asked you this before, but what are you?"

I was confused. "I am a changeling?"

Soft smacked themself in the face with their palm. "No, I meant like, are you a boy or a girl changeling?"


"A what?"

Soft scrunched her lips together, somehow biting both of them. "Okay, like..." They started blushing, and now I was even more confused. "If you and another changelin' go out on a date or something, who asks who out?"

"Uh..." I blurted, staring in complete bewilderment at Soft.

Soft was getting frustrated now. "I mean, do you got male parts or female parts?"

I blinked.

"You know what, it ain't important." Soft waved her hand like a fly had been buzzing nearby. "Just get yourself all cleaned up so we can go to bed, alright?"

"What about the... uh, things that Rough talked about before going to their room?" I asked, avoiding using dogs in my question so I wouldn't be struck with a wave of 'Eugh' again.

Soft took a deep breath and sighed. "Right, them. They might be excited to see you, but I don't know how they're gonna treat ya."

"Perhaps I could talk with them?" I offered, "If they live in your home, they must be well mannered, yes?"

Soft was about to say something about that, but then caught themself. "Ya know what? You bein' an alien, I don't think I should judge if you can communicate with dogs or not. We speak to each other just fine, so why not?"

After that had been decided, Soft helped to clean my chitin for a few more minutes, finally draining the tub when I had been fully scrubbed clean from the impact crater dirt I had been covered with. This was probably the cleanest I had been in a long while, given that my carapace was a shiny dark grey and my eyes shone brighter. Though that was possibly more due to the concern and affection I had received from Soft. I placed my forehooves on the edge of the tub and hopped atop of it, though I quickly slipped on the smooth surface.

"Aaah!" I yelped, my wings reflexively buzzing to catch me and lifting me into the air, where I hovered. Soft was startled and quickly backed into the wall, injuring themself from hitting the door knob on accident.

"Ow!" They complained, nursing their elbow... or whatever they called the thing in the middle of their arm that bent.

"Sorry!" I whispered loudly, covering my mouth in shock as I had seen so many ponies do. It seemed to work, as their annoyance with me quickly faded when they saw me. In fact, it earned a smile from Soft as I landed on the floor, coming up to their waist with the tip of my horn.

"You're so tiny!" Soft cooed, picking me up again. My back was to their chest and I was held by an arm wrapping across my belly, underneath my forehooves. My hindlegs simply dangled along with my tail as Soft used their free hand to open the door from the bathroom to their own room. With a soft creak, they opened it once again.

And then we were assaulted by two large, four legged furry creatures with large tongues and sharp teeth. Sharp enough to make me want to be anywhere but where these things were. I struggled and fought against Soft's grasp, eventually prying free and flying above everything in the room next to the ceiling. The things below me were quiet, though they circled and jumped around under me. I flew to a large bookshelf and took refuge away from the swarming things, trying not to hiss at them. My wings buzzed in a display of my fear and annoyance, however, completely out of my control.

"Rust, Nelly, get down from there!" Soft whisper shouted, snapping their fingers and pointing to a corner of the room. The things noticed Soft and quickly retreated, their tails between their legs. "I'm real sorry about that, Changelin'." soft warmly offered.

I was breathing in fear from those things, but I was safe where I lay. "I'll... I'll just sit up here for now. Where those things can't get me. I mean, if that's alright with you?"

"Those things are my dogs, Rust and Nelly. They're good dogs, but they get excited easily." Soft explained. "They just gotta get used to you is all!"

I stared down with my glowing eyes at the two panting things with sharp teeth that looked back to me in return. They didn't look like good. They looked hungry...

"Hey, don't go frownin' up a storm now. Things'll be better in the mornin'." Soft cheerfully whispered to me. "And hey, you got bigger teeth'n they do with them fangs of yours. They're bigger than my thumbs!"

I gulped and squished myself further away from the 'dogs'. "Here is fine, Thank you."

Soft waved me off. "Alright, fine. Sit up there like a cat or somethin'. I'll see you in the mornin', Okay?"

A cat?

"Oh nevermind!"

Sweet Dreams?

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I was back in the hive, changelings of every caste swarming around busily. It was dark, the only illumination was provided by the forest of glowing eyes that moved around in an unseen concert of unity that directed their day.

"Hey, get back to work!" A deep chittery voice demanded, punctuated with a shove that made me fall to the slimy ground of the hive.

I buzzed myself upright, looking at whomever had pushed me and noticed their armor. They were a warrior.

"Y-yes! Right away!" I stammered, quickly moving away from the annoyed changeling. It was not my place to question, or to decide. I was a Tunneler.

I returned to the clear memory of my work area; A half-excavated tunnel that was to be expanded into another nursery for Queen Chrysalis. Breaks were a concept I had only learned of from watching ponies in my short time around Ponyville. Here, it was a tunneler's job to tunnel. Everything else was secondary. If you needed love to survive, you would be given just that. Enough to survive. Injuries were common, as well as cave-ins. Nothing wrong with that; it was part of our duty to the hive. The strongest would become warriors. The smartest would become infiltrators. The meek or timid would become tenders and caretakers. The quick would become scouts. The rest?


That is what I was. I was good at being a Tunneler, too. I had come up with the idea of reinforcing my hooves with my magic, allowing me to burn and carve my way through rock and hard dirt far more easily than by fang or 'normal' hoof. The only problem with this, is that it used more than I was given daily for love allowances and left me very weak come the end of each work period. It was discovered very early on that without at least one rest period in a day, changelings would simply fall over. No amount of love would make them get back up.

I had refined my own methods of tunneling so that never waking up again wouldn't be a possibility, at least until the hive itself began to starve. Then the Queen would siphon off love from her changelings to sustain herself until a new source would be found. It is far better for simple tunnelers like myself to sacrifice their lives for the Queen. No Queen, no hive. No hive, no changelings.

I had arrived at my work station, ready to start digging when the ground shook fiercely. Earthquakes weren't a problem where our hive was stationed, a place that the ponies had reportedly named 'The Badlands'. No, this was a different problem.


Gigantic worms that tunneled through solid rock, eating everything in their path and collapsing entire sections of the hive behind them. First the ground would shake, then the walls would tremble, then a deep groaning would come through the rocks and out would burst a colossus of destruction. Our only hope was to evade the creature, or be lucky enough to be caught unaware.

"Everyling get to the exit tunnel! Move it! Fly!" A warrior bellowed, joined by a flight of even more warriors and a few scouts that went further down into the tunnels to retrieve the few that couldn't hear the warning calls. For changelings, this was common place. There was no panic, there were no changelings being trampled underhoof as I saw in Canterlot. No, this was uniform. Side by side, one changeling next to the other. Orderly.

Except for me, of course. I was trying to assist a fellow tunneler after part of the hive had caved in from the Gouger's quakes. Their hind leg had been trapped underneath a fallen rock and I was doing my best to chip away at it. At least I had been, until... until the love drained out of them.

I felt a hoof on my shell. A very large hoof. I looked behind myself and saw Queen Chrysalis.

"There is nothing to be done for this one. Retreat into the hive; this Gouger is mine!"

"Aaah!" I blurted, jolting awake and falling off of the bookshelf that I had called my sleeping area for the night. A wall of books followed my plummet downwards, battering me before the shelf itself landed atop of me. "Aaaooow..."

"What in the flying fun!?" I heard Soft shout when they jolted awake. "What happened!?"

I felt the bookshelf being pulled off of me, and I pushed myself up until the books slid off of me. My wings felt strange, so I shook my body and buzzed them a few times for inspection before looking up at Soft. They were wearing a lot less clothes than I had seen them wearing before. Why were they blushing?

"Ah, heh... So, do changelings wear clothing where you're from?" Soft asked with an embarassed tone.

"No. I've noticed that you and Rough wear a lot of clothing though. Why?" I asked, curious that Soft's demeanor would change so much from a simple lack of clothing.

"Well, normally for people it's a social thing. Some are just more comfy in clothes, others can't stand the things... like me. If it wasn't illegal, then I wouldn't wear a thing but... I'd get thrown in jail for it if I did."


"Oh come on now, don't you tell me that Changelings don't have jails! You gotta have criminals too. Just cause you're some bug thing from space don't mean there's no bad Changelings!" Soft complained.

"If we don't obey the Queen, we are recycled." I stated plainly. "The same would apply for those whom are injured, sick, weakened by age or otherwise no longer useful."

Soft stared at me with their mouth open. "That's..."

"If you are going to be outside, won't you need to wear something?" I asked, observing that Soft wasn't wearing a single piece of fabric.

"Oh." Soft realised, looking down at themself. "I was so tired last night that it's kinda just habit to not wear anything..." Soft looked back to me with worry and concern. "This isn't nothin' you haven't seen before, right? You don't seem too bothered by it."

I blinked. "I have no idea what I'm looking at, or what that is supposed to mean."

Soft waved a hand at me, moving over to a dresser and beginning to dig through it. "Nevermind, it's just a human thing then, I guess." A few moments later and different shelves having been dug through, clothing flew behind Soft and landed onto the bed. At that point I noticed something strange.

"Where are the dogs?"

Soft looked up with alarm and spun around, attempting to spot them. They then looked towards the door and sighed. "I guess Ricky must've taken them out for me while I was asleep. I dunno how long they were cooped up in here before we got back last night, so I'll have to thank him later for it."

I thought back to my experiences in Ponyville, for the few hours that I had been told to wait in the market there with a few other changelings before the attack on Canterlot. I remember seeing something similar to the dogs, but it had been smaller than myself, not larger. They were called a Winona.

"Hey, Changeling." Soft asked, pulling something over their torso and squirming around until it fit correctly. It had the letters 'AC DC' on it, accompanied by the Wonderbolt symbol between them. "You sure you don't have a name? Mine's Maria."

This didn't make sense. There was another not-minotaur that was similar to Soft, that they called Mom. In equestria, ponies would be named based on traits they were good at. Twilight Sparkle for example was very smart, and stood as the midway reference between Celestia and Luna in temperament. Thus, their name made sense. Queen Chrysalis was the Queen, and they were the only changeling that could create chrysalis'. Thus, they are Queen Chrysalis. Maria, Mom, Ricky, Officer Brady; those were not names. Even Winona was a name, as it meant 'companion to Applejack.' Then again, perhaps those words meant something that I was unaware of?

"What does Maria mean?" I asked abruptly, changing the topic unintentionally.

"Well, my mom told me it had a few meanings," Soft began, "Wished-For-Child, Star of the sea... and for your interest, Loved and Beloved."

Their name means love? "But love is the name for love, not Maria."

"Well, english is weird sometimes. We got a whole load of words that all mean the same thing, yet we only say 'em in certain situations."


"Nevermind!" Soft snapped before taking a moment to calm themself. "I know it's not your fault that you don't know a whole lot about humans and everything. Its just so strange that one moment we're able to have a nice conversation and understand everything, and the next moment you don't even know what language we're speakin'!"

"I thought we were speaking Equiss?"

"Eq-what now?" Soft blurted.

A knock on the door interrupted our conversation and caused a spike of fear to lance through Soft, giving me anxiety and causing my wings to buzz nervously.

"Ey Maria, you still in there havin' fun with the alien bug monster? It ain't gonna lay any eggs in you, ya know. You ain't it's type!" I heard Rough taunt through the closed door, laughing to themself.

"Shut up, Ricky! You're gonna wake up Mom!" Soft shot back, opening the door quickly and startling Rough with the abruptness of the action.

Rough raised their hands in surrender. "Hey, hey, calm down Maria! Mom left to go get some groceries! It's just us, and she took the dogs too."

"Did... did she take them from my room?" Soft asked nervously.

"Yup. Saw you butt naked, too. Didn't even flinch. Well, I mean it's possible she didn't see you either, with the cataracts n' all."

"What's she doin' driving? Ain't that normally your job?" Soft asked with a bit of annoyance, jabbing Rough in the chest with a finger.

"She's a big girl! She can take care o' herself!" Rough replied defensively, his tone joking and carefree.

"If she gets into an accident, it's you who's tellin' God why she's up on his doorstep!" Soft complained half-seriously.

"I am guessing from your conversation that Mom going out to Drivin' is a normal thing?" I asked uncertainly, earning the attentions of Rough and Soft.

"Did you two do something when I went do bed? Bug monster here seems a lot shinier." Rough noted, looking at Soft.

"I gave it a bath."

Rough inspected me more closely, squatting down to eye level. "Yeah, and it looks like that crack in its belly is gone too. Give it some good lovin'?"

Soft smacked Rough across the side of their head, knocking them over. "Shut your face, Ricky."

The two of them looked between themselves, sharing a small moment while I stood there awkwardly. Before long, their attentions refocused on me, Soft placing their hands on their hips.

"So. Where are we gonna keep you? I can't have you staring at my butt while I'm asleep all night, now can I?" Soft joked.

I decided it would probably be for the best to avoid asking what a butt was.

A Place to Call Home

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"So where are we gonna keep it?" Rough asked. The three of us had wandered downstairs into the very large kitchen, and Rough was digging around inside of the metal box that dominated the room. Soft was in the living room packing papers and other things into a bag. I assumed it was for the school that was mentioned last night by Mom, but Rough didn't seem to have a bag of their own.

"Well we can't just stick 'em in the shed or some hole. There's gotta be somewhere we can keep the Changeling." Soft called back, stuffing more items into their bag.

"We seriously gonna keep callin' this thing 'changeling'? That'd be like if it just called us 'human' all the time. Sure, its accurate, but it ain't personal." Rough answered, producing an apple from the metal box.

"Oh, you wanna get personal with the alien now, huh?" Soft teased.

"All I'm sayin' is that it gets old quick. I'd even call it Bugs or something, like Loony Toons." Rough then bit into the apple, confirming to me that they could eat fruits at least. Why keep it in a metal box though?

"I don't think we can call it Bugs, Ricky." Soft sighed, lifting their bag onto their back with a grunt. "Darn thing gets heavier every semester."

"What, it's not like they can strike us with a copyright claim over an alien." Rough snorted, taking another bite.

"I just think it should be somethin' more personal, you know?"

"How 'bout Crater? It must'a landed here somehow, and judgin' from that crack that used to be on its chest, I'd say that's personal enough."

Soft paused for a moment, about to shoot down the idea but hesitating. "Well, It doesn't seem that bad, but isn't it a little fatalistic?"

"What, you want me to call it something pretty? How 'bout Fireball?" Rough scoffed.

"We ain't naming it after alchohol, Ricky."

"Hey, fire's pretty!" Rough shot back defensively. They then looked at me. "On second thought, I don't know if you can shoot fire from your eyes or your horn or whatever, so I ain't riskin' that."

"I've never tried a fire spell, but I can shapeshift." I provided helpfully. They then both stared at me.

"You can what?" Soft asked hesitantly.

I decided it was better to simply show them than try and explain it with words. My body was engulfed entirely in green flames from my hooves, crawling up to my horn in a second. My disguise of a grey pegasus mare with a white mane and a singular blue stripe along the side was in place, a cutie mark of clouds. It was generic enough to avoid suspicion in Ponyville, and none of the Infiltrators had complained about it, so I assumed it was good enough. I looked down and noticed a slight scorch mark on the tile flooring. "Oh. That doesn't usually happen." I said apologetically with my new voice; one that didn't chitter and waver with every word. It was also lighter than my regular voice, more soothing in case I was caught by the Royal Guard that sometimes patrol around Equestria.

"Yer a girl!?" Rough shouted, backing away from me and using the door of the metal box as cover between us.

"You can shapeshift!?" Soft also exclaimed, though they instead moved closer to me. "You're even more adorable! How is this possible!?"

"I am a changeling?" I offered. "Well, I mean I'm a changeling disguised as a pegasus mare."

Soft then smacked themself in the forehead. "So wait, let me get this straight. You know what a mare is, but not a girl?"

"Why were you askin' it about girls?" Rough inquired, still hiding behind the door.

"I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl, but it didn't understand what I was saying." Soft then looked at me, "Okay, you know what a mare and a stallion are, right?"

I nodded.

"Okay, so Ricky over there is a stallion, and I'm a mare. Got it?"

Ooooh. That would explain why their voices were so different.

"That is the most adorable 'oh' face I've ever seen. I ain't even ashamed to admit it." Rough replied, chuckling warmly.

"Hey, I just got an idea!" Soft blurted before lightly grabbing onto my sides. "Hey, you can shapeshift, right?"

I blinked. Wasn't that obvious?

"So here's my plan," Soft smiled, looking between Rough and myself. "I know a little girl-- mare... Filly? A little Filly whose birthday is comin' up real soon. You shapeshift out of them wings, and we can prolly let you stay at her place, right?"

"Maria, that's a stupid plan. She ain't even got enough to take care of herself, let alone an alien shape-shifter from space. No way she's gonna take care of no pegasus, pony, unicorn, whatever else the heck this thing can change into." Rough countered skeptically, reaching over the door to take a metal can of some kind from it.

"Okay, so maybe not a pony. How 'bout a dog? Can you copy one of them?" Soft asked me eagerly.

Dogs are scary, but... Winona wasn't that terrifying. I wouldn't have to worry about being spotted by Applejack, or the real Winona either. "I know of a Winona I could turn into?"

"A Winona?" Soft asked, looking at me curiously. "Sure, whatever, let's see it!"

Soft then stood back, and Rough took cover again behind the metal door. A loud pop followed by a fizzing noise and muffled cursing was heard soon after before they poked their head up again.

"I've never done this before, so tell me if you think it looks strange?" I asked, looking between them nervously.

"Okay seriously, do it quick. That pegasus form of yours is gonna give me diabetes at this rate." Rough complained good naturedly. "Let alone the fact that you can become a mythical creature and whatnot."

Mythical? They were everywhere in Equestria! Nevermind, I have a Winona to become. The green flames wicked across my body again, my eyes closing as my view shrank down a few hooves in length. I was now up to their kneecaps in height.

"Oh! You mean a Collie dog!" Soft exclaimed happily. "Those are so cute!" The affection I was receiving from Soft and... surprisingly Rough as well made my tail involuntarily wag. I guess it was similar to how my wings behaved?

"Well, if you go around lookin' like a Collie dog, then I don't think we even need a place to hide you, do we?" Rough smiled.

"What about when Rust and Nellie get back with Mom?" Soft worried, "We don't know how they're gonna react to... erm." Soft paused, looking at me again. "Wow, your eyes are really blue."

"Like... Blue Sun blue." Rough commented in agreement.

Soft looked up hopefully to Rough. "Hey, maybe we could name it that? Blue Sun? Then when they're a dog, we can just call 'em Blue, and it won't even sound strange 'cause of its eyes!"

Rough nodded eagerly in agreement. "That works perfectly!" They both looked down at me again. "Now... we just gotta find out if you're a... mare or stallion, was it?"

"We could just ask." Soft replied, holding my face between their hands. "So, small Collie dog that's really a changeling. What are you? Mare or Stallion?"

Did that really even apply? I could become both, or exist as neither. It all depended on the needs of the hive, or in the case of the Ponyville staging area, necessity.

"Both? Neither?" I replied uncertainly.

"Oh, right. Shapeshifter and everything. We probably should'a guessed that, huh?" Rough commented, taking another sip from the strange metal can with 'Coca-Cola' on the side.

"Well, for the sake of consistency, how 'bout you be female for us? That way there won't be confusion and everything later on when we talk about you, or have to make up stories on the spot." Soft asked.

"Why's it gotta be female? Why not male?" Rough countered.

"You want to answer questions 'bout why Blue has Balls?"

Rough paused for a moment, blinked, and then held a hand over his mouth, brownish fizzy liquid spraying from it as they swiveled towards the sink. "Dangit Maria!" Rough coughed, "That went up my nose!"

I waited patiently while Soft and Rough laughed at their circumstances, looking between the two and basking in the joy they shared. It was a joy that was improved by familial love as well, which made it all the better. I was hungry.

"Well! That settles that, don't it? Little girly Blue can stay here with us, can't she?" Rough chuckled, kneeling down and scratching behind my ears. Surprisingly, It felt pretty nice. I guess it just doesn't feel the same with chitin.

"Wait, does this mean I am named 'Blue' now?" I asked, my ears perking. "I've never had a name before; am I supposed to do something with it?"

"You just be you, Blue." Soft smiled, kneeling down to scratch my other ear. Soft then looked at their watch. "Oh crap! I'm gonna be late for college!"

"Hey! Swear jar!" Rough called after Soft, whom was already half way to the door.

"Crap don't count, Ricky!" Soft called, opening and then shutting the door behind themself.

"Oh sure, Crap don't count when she says it." Rough grumbled. I just looked up at the not-minotaur expectantly, not sure of what to do now that Soft had left. Rough looked down at myself, and my wagging tail. "So. What say you come along with me for a look around town, huh?"

"Is that safe?" I asked.

"Long as you don't talk, we should be fine. I don't know about dogs where you're from, but here, we're the only things that can talk." Rough then looked at me strangely, raising their eyebrow. "Actually, how the heck are you talkin'? Your mouth isn't even moving when you speak.

I shrugged as well as I could in my form. "It's a disguise. It doesn't change my physical form, only my appearance. Well, I mean it does change my form, as far as what I'm made up of, but it won't prevent me from speaking if I were to turn into a rock or anything. I don't become what I shift into, I just take their form."

Rough raised both of their eyebrows now. "You can turn into a rock?" They asked incredulously.

"Yes? I said that aloud, right?"

Rough suddenly chuckled. "I'm gonna skip you across a lake one of these days. Callin' it right now."

"Not if I fly away from you." I countered. "Or dug away from you faster than you could dig towards me."

Rough then clamped my mouth with their hand. "Can you still talk?"

"Yes?" I replied. My mouth was completely shut, but that didn't impede my ability to speak. That wasn't how I spoke in the first place. Rough would have to clamp down on my wings to do that. This was mostly the reason for why new words were so difficult. If I didn't chitter or buzz in the exact right way or frequency, it wouldn't mean anything to whom I was trying to speak.

"You're freaky weird, you know that Blue?"

Going On A Walk

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Rough and I exited the giant house, now made even more enormous from my smaller form as a Winona. Closing the door, Rough chuckled to themself for some reason, causing me to tilt my head in askance.

"You know," Rough explained, ensuring the door was locked by jiggling the handle, "here I am, goin' for a walk on the town with an alien shapeshifter from outer space disguised as a collie dog." Rough then looked to me with a smirk on their face. "You ever have one o' them days, Blue?"

"Uh... to clairify, I should only speak when no other not-minotaur are around, correct?" I asked, sitting down next to Rough and looking up at them.

"Unreal." Rough sighed, moving away from the door and beckoning me to follow. Once we had moved further down the gravel path, Rough changed to a different topic. "So, Miss Collie dog that's really an alien named Blue, what's it like where you're from?"

"Well, that's a very wide topic. Is there anything you wanted to know specifically?" I replied hesitantly. There was a great deal that I didn't know about even my own hive, let alone ponies and Equestria. I was only a tunneler after all, there wasn't a need for me to learn much of anything.

"Um..." Rough hummed, scratching their chin. "Okay, how bout this: You had any special bugs you had your eye out for back in the hive?"

I blinked. "Well... Queen Chrysalis would be the one to look out for, if I understand correctly."

"The Queen huh? Shootin' big!" Rough praised. "What's she like? I mean, for an alien bug queen."

"Commanding, intelligent, protective, vengeful, tricky and resourceful." I summarized. It wasn't anything anypony wouldn't know after our attack on Canterlot, even if it had failed. Actually... maybe the Not-Minotaur wouldn't hear about it?

Rough whistled, "Wow, seems like my kinda gal. You got good taste in... eh... Queens?"

"Taste?" I asked, turning my head again. I was keeping pace easily with Rough as we walked alongside the road towards a cluster of larger buildings in the distance. "We don't eat the Queen," I explained, "If the hive is starving, it's the Queen that feeds off of us."

I felt a tinge of sympathy from Rough. "Dang... that's like a prayin' mantis or somethin'. Didn't know you had it that rough, Blue."

I didn't really know what to say to that, so I remained quiet. It was just a way of life in the hive. Keep the Queen alive, that was all that mattered. She would provide the rest. It had worked out fine for centuries, I had been told. I didn't really know how long centuries were, and I had no idea if I had lived one while being a tunneler. There was no way to keep track of time in the hive anyway, so it never bothered me. I worked when I was told, and I slept when I was told.

"So..." Rough began awkwardly, "What do you think of Earth so far?"

"Is that what you've named this place?" I asked. I had expected something less... pony-like. There were earth ponies after all, but naming a country after them?

"Hey, I ain't the one that called it that; it's just what it's called." Rough replied defensively, though not truly offended.

We had both been walking long enough that the town in the distance had become the buildings close by. It would only be a few more minutes before we reached the town, and I had some questions. "Rough, what am I supposed to do once we're in town?"

"Okay, two things. First, why do you call me an' my sister 'Rough' and 'Soft'?" Rough asked, "I'm Ricky, and she's Maria."

"Well, your voice is rough, and Soft's voice is soft." I explained. It wasn't that difficult a concept, I had thought.

"What's wrong with callin' us by our names?" Rough continued, somewhat upset.

"The names don't mean anything to me, so I can't translate them properly. You also don't like it when I mimic your voices, so I refrain from doing so to not upset you." Apparently it wasn't as simple as I imagined.

"So you mean if you heard any word in any language, you'd be able to tell what it meant?" Rough asked, interest spiking.

"I would have to know what is being implied or what its supposed to be conveyed. For example, were I do go to another hive I would have no idea what they were trying to communicate. Each hive often has different methods of speech, some even going as far as a hive mind."

"What, you mean like the borg?" Rough asked, scratching their head.

"The what?"

"Nevermind, Blue. Let's save it for some other time. I gotta get to the second thing I was gonna tell you: Don't say a word. Dogs don't speak, remember? Well, actually they do speak, but nothin' intelligent. It's mostly just barking and panting." Rough summarized as we reached the first platform of the town. The stone on the sides of the road were lighter in color, like an off white or a light grey. What seemed to be storefronts lined the entire way through the town with a few streets veering off elsewhere. A large building with a pointed roof dominated the center of the town and I pointed it out.

"What building is that?" I asked.

"Okay, we gotta come up with some way of communicatin' where you don't get us caught." Rough huffed. "How 'bout this: You blink if you don't understand somethin', you nod your head if you agree, you shake your head if you don't, and you point at stuff with your paw. Got it?"

I was about to blink at the simplicity of the instruction, but instead nodded my head.

"Good. I know it sucks, but I really don't want us gettin' caught while we're walkin' around. If you absolutely need to talk to me, nip my leg, okay?"

Well, I had some questions that needed answering... So I immediately nibbled on Rough's clothing.

"Ah!" They blurted, shooing me away with their hand. "Really? What?"

"Mom said that both you and Soft were supposed to go to school today. Are you not going?" I asked, my ears showing my concern by drooping downward.

"Mom means well, but I haven't gone to school in a while now. I mostly help out around Jim's Auto-shop to get some money and do something with my spare time, but I'm not technically hired neither." Rough explained a bit sadly. "I just show up whenever I need some quick money and do some work for them."

I nodded, and we continued along with our walk. Other not-minotaur were wandering around, going from shop to shop or climbing into different metal beasts of their own, some roaring to life and others simply gliding away. Not many people paid any attention to either of us, but I noticed some bursts of affection directed my way whenever I looked back up at them. I guess not-minotaur are very fond of Winonas.

"Hey Blue, I know you eat love an' all that, but i'm starvin'. I know a dog-friendly diner we can go to for a bite, if you're up to it." Rough chimed in after a while, looking down to me for an answer. I had no reason to decline, and this would allow me to learn more about where I was, so I nodded. " Hey, good girl!" Rough teased, though they did scratch behind my ears. Somehow, that made everything better for a few moments.

I followed Rough around a street corner and waited patiently next to them as they pressed some kind of button on a metal pole, getting a 'beep' from it in response. I looked curiously at the beeping thing, trying to stand on my hind legs and attempt to press the button as well, but I was too short to reach it.

"Hey Blue, easy. It's just a traffic button." Rough chuckled, "It tells the cars that we need to cross, and they stop so we can walk across to the other side."

My curiosity sated, I pushed myself away from the button and landed on my paws... something that was very strange to walk with when I was used to hooves. For some reason I didn't have difficulty with maneuvering in my new form, but I attributed that to the fact that I had received some tips from the Infiltrator caste before we were sent to Ponyville. 'Just do what your body tells you to do; don't fight it. Keep up the act and the rest will take care of itself.'

Rough pointed to a white light shaped like a walking not-minotaur. "See that, Blue? That means it's safe to walk. Be careful though, sometimes people just drive right through anyway like jackwagons." Rough waved to me, motioning for me to follow. Suddenly, and as if to drive the point home to what Rough had just said, a yellow beast screeched to a halt right next to them, screeching loudly.

"Hey buddy, I'm walkin' here!" Rough shouted, smacking their hand on the beast a few times. I saw a not-minotaur yelling from within, also upset. Rough pointed to the lights behind them. "It's red, dummy!"

I decided that staying around to fight something with a beast wasn't the best idea, and tugged on Rough's leg, urging for us to continue to the other side of the road before it changed color as I had seen the center lights do a few times. Green allowed passage, red denied passage, and yellow... was pretty much ignored. Why even put up a yellow light?

Rough and the yellow beast soon parted ways, the beast itself screeching off into the distance in a cloud of smoke as soon as we moved from its path. This made Rough grumble threats under their breath, but nothing that was actually serious. "People like that, Blue, are the reason I don't make friends. Only lookin' out for themselves."

I sympathized, knowing how the Warrior caste would treat Tunnelers when the Queen was annoyed or upset. For some reason, this made my body involuntarily whine. Rough looked with surprise at me, smiling. "You're really good at being a dog for not knowin' what a dog is, Blue." Now I was feeling affection from them... odd. Not-minotaur are either very strange, or more likely, I have no idea what I'm doing.

"That over there," Rough pointed, "Is Alice's Restaurant. A place where you can get anythin' you want. It's also the only diner in town that happens to be dog-friendly, and they serve a mean pancake n' egg special."

I tugged on Rough's leg, causing them to lean over. "Can I get love at Alice's Restaurant? I'm still hungry..."

Rough raised an eyebrow at me in amusement. "Sure, Blue. I'll bet you can find some love at Alice's."

My tail began wagging. Perhaps this place would soothe my hunger for the first time in the last few days! If everything worked well, I would even be able to create my own living area at 'Home'.

"Let's head on in, Blue. Mind your manners, ya hear?" Rough smiled, a coy look on their face.

Alice's Restaurant

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Rough grabbed a handle, pulling a large glass door open and motioning for me to walk inside first. "Hey, remember: No talkin'." Rough whispered as I moved past. A small bell chimed as the door opened and I was struck with the smell of cooking food and the sounds of casual conversation.

The restaurant was warmly lit by orange lighting, deep red wood accented with strips of metal for flooring. There were a lot of couches with tables between them with lights dangling from the ceiling. There were only a few not-minotaur in the room, some of them large, some overly dressed and minding their own business while being hunched over their drink or some kind of paper. A very flashy metal box with a great many buttons was sitting in the corner, drawing my attention. I quietly maneuvered over to said thing and wondered at it for a moment before I felt two large hands wrap around my middle and lift me into the air.

I tried not to squeak in surprise when a voice said "Ooh baby, Lookit you!" They turned me around to face a darker colored not-minotaur, more heavyset and wearing a uniform that said 'Alice' on it. Their voice was happy, but also slightly deep... soulful? I'll call them Soul. "This your dog, Ricky?" They asked Rough, soon flipping me upside down and cradling me in their arms. Soul was a fountain of joy, affection and nurturing. It was enough to make me want to get closer to them involuntarily, digging my nose into their side and wiggle. "She's just precious!"

"Hey Alice!" Rough replied, "Haven't seen you in a while; thought I'd drop by and have ya meet Blue."

Soul looked back to me, meeting my eyes. "Woo! Those are the prettiest blue eyes I ever saw. Is she one of Maria's new strays?"

Rough looked at me and smirked, "Yeah, I guess you could say that. Picked her up just last night from the side of the road."

"The roadside? Shucks; she's so well mannered for a stray, and no collar neither!" Soul chuckled, scratching my belly. This not-minotaur was growing on me fast, both from the compliments (Even if directed towards myself as a dog) and from the lake of never-ending positivity that seemed to be the core of their being.

"Maria went off to college n' I thought it'd be nice for Blue to get out of the house. You have any specials today?" Rough asked, taking a seat on one of the couches next to the table. Soul moved closer to Rough, giving me a final scratch before setting me down carefully on the opposite couch to Rough.

"Well, we got that Eggs Benedict like always, that pancake special with eggs you like so much, and for today I'll throw in a bowl o' dog food for free, too!" Soul happily replied, taking out a small square of paper and something to write with while waiting patiently on Rough.

Rough looked at me and smirked for a second before facing Soul. "I fed Blue just before we went out; didn't want her to get sick or anythin' while she was walkin' around with me."

"Oh, bless your soul Ricky. But what about you? You're so skinny! You need more'n a big breakfast to help you get big and strong, don't ya?" Soul replied jokingly, a warm smile on their face.

"Alice, you've been tryin' to make me bulk up since we met. Remember that time you gave me three platters of french toast with eggs and syrup, and sausage? I didn't get a single pound from that!"

The two seemed caught up in conversation so I decided I would be able to slip by and examine that metal box with all the buttons again. The moment Soul adjusted their stance to face a tiny bit away from me, I made for my escape and hopped off of the smooth couch towards the box once more. The thing was giant, like so much else in Earth. Some kind of mesh was in the center and scratching it lightly with my paw didn't give me any hint as to what it actually did. Was it just decoration? Maybe it was like a painting, except just... a box. It's nice looking, and the not-minotaur are strange already...

"What'chu doin' with that Jukebox, Blue?" I heard Soul ask in good cheer behind me, like I was an ornery nymph getting caught outside of the nursery. My ears shot up in surprise as I looked up to the looming figure of Soul, smiling down at me. "Think she wants some music, Ricky?" Soul asked, turning their body to speak with Rough.

"I dunno, you could always try somethin'. Maybe let Blue choose?" Rough shrugged.

Soul gently picked me up once more, bringing us closer to the 'Jukebox' and revealing even more shiny buttons, a row of black discs and some kind of needle on a lever. They then reached into their pocket with a free hand and pulled out what looked like a smaller, flattened silver bit and slid it into the box, causing it to come alive with the buttons flashing and beeping.

"Please select a song." A cold voice stated from within the box. I couldn't feel anything from it, and it gave me the 'Eugh'.

"What you wanna listen to, Blue?" Soul asked, holding me by the chest as my hindlegs dangled beneath me. My forelegs were free to choose any button, but from the lack of emotion in the metal box despite it speaking, I was hesitant to touch it. Since the two were waiting on me, I decided to press a button at random. With a click, what looked like lettering quickly scrolled across a shining blue face.

"Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata in Full: Selected. Please Enjoy your auditory experience."

"Dang, Blue! I haven't heard that song in forever!" Soul coyly praised me, not really expecting that I had any idea what I was doing. I really didn't.

After a short pause, A song began to play. Mostly instrumental and reminding me of Canterlot just before the attack. I had seen a grey mare playing a very large device that sounded like this and it brought me into a memory.

A very large hall, marble tile and white walls. A large golden chandelier hanging above with magically lit candles. Noble-ponies everywhere, conversing idly about nothing important. Mostly gossip about whom was dating whom, theories about what Princess Celestia did with her free time, scandals about affairs, that sort of thing. The music playing wasn't exactly the same, but the mood was similar. It was calm; relaxed.

It wouldn't be for long.

It was the moment right before the main hive was to break down the barrier between Canterlot and the outside world. My role was to provide distraction for the Royal Guard and lead them into an ambush for the stronger Warriors. All I would have to do is shout around a corner when I had spotted guards, and the warriors would subdue them. There was no reason to kill anypony; We can't harvest love from the dead. That's what the chrysalis' are for. They allow the queen to siphon love from a pony's memory, eventually draining them entirely.

I was nudged by a fellow disguised changeling. "It is time."

Blinking, I woke from my trance. I was still in Souls' arms. "There she is!" Soul coo'ed, "You must really like Beethoven, huh?"

"What do you got Beethoven in a Jukebox for, anyway? You don't got any swing or rock?" Rough commented, walking over to the both of us and examining the Jukebox. "You got Beethoven, Twenty-One Pilots, Bob Marley and Metallica?" Rough asked, surprised. "Didn't know you liked all that, Alice."

"Hey, a girl can have taste in music too! Ain't like I gonna listen to Beyonce' all day." Soul sassed playfully. "Here, I gotta get your order in." They said, handing me over to Rough.

"See ya soon, Alice." Rough called after Soul, whom waved behind themself and dissapeared around a door to the back. Walking back to our couches with table, Rough placed me on one of them and sat opposite to me. "So, how do you like Alice? Get some love?"

I was about to speak, but remembering the amount of not-minotaur around, I nodded instead. The music from the jukebox was still playing, now increasing in tempo as it switched to a different portion of the song.

The bell to the door chimed again, a familiar voice announcing themself. "Hello, everyone!" Kind said, taking off their hat and resting it on a stand. "How's everyone doing today?"

Rough turned around, resting their arm on the back of the couch. "Officer Brady! Nice to see you here." Rough was casual in his tone, but his emotions spiked with intense worry and nervous energy.

"Ricky? Haven't seen you here in a while." Kind commented before looking to me. "Wow, those eyes are really blue! Just gorgeous." They smiled, walking closer to me. With a hand waiting above me, Kind paused and looked to Rough. "Do you mind if I scratch their ears?"

Rough pointed to me. "That's Blue, n' it's up to her." they smiled, though I saw sweat beginning to form on their forehead.

"Blue, huh?" Kind asked rhetorically. They looked down at me. "So, Blue. Mind if I scratch?"

I looked between Rough and Kind, but despite Rough's nerves, Kind didn't seem to be malicious. I sensed affection and... sorrow coming from Kind. That was very odd. In any case, I looked up at Kind and nodded.

Kind seemed impressed by this. "Well, smart dog you got here, Ricky!" Scratching behind my ears, they continued to speak with Rough. "Where'd you find her?"

Rough shrugged. "It was last night, after you stopped us. Maria spotted her walking along the road and just had to help. You know how she is with animals n' all."

"Where is Maria, anyway?" Kind asked, scratching the top of my head.

"She's off at college today. I think she mentioned somethin' 'bout a test, too." Rough replied casually, looking towards the back of the diner where Soul had dissapeared.

Kind seemed to notice Rough's look and asked, "Hey, have you seen Alice today?"

"Yeah, she just went in the back to place an order."

Kind looked to the back room and sighed. They then took out a square of paper and a pen, writing down something on it and then handed it to Rough. "Give her this for me, would you?"

Rough took the note without reading it, placing it face down on the table. "Don't worry 'bout it, Officer Brady. I'll get it to her." They smiled.

"Thanks Ricky." Kind smiled, before pausing and looking towards the Jukebox. "Really? She has Beethoven on that thing?"

Rough gave a polite laugh. "I know, it's crazy. It fits her though, for some reason."

Kind nodded and moved towards the door again, picking up their hat from the stand. "It was nice seeing you, Ricky." They paused, then looked at me and nodded again, "Blue." before leaving the restaurant.

The moment the door swung closed and the bell chimed, Rough let out a huge sigh and practically melted in their seat. "Whew! That was way too close!"

I noticed moment and saw the door to the back room open once more, Soul holding a large platter in their hands with steaming food on top of it. They gracefully maneuvered around a few tables and customers before reaching our own table, setting the food down. Soul then noticed the note on the table, raising an eyebrow at Rough.

"It's from Officer Brady. He left it for you-- an' I didn't read it." Rough explained, handing the note to Soul.

After a moment of reading it, Soul placed a hand on their chest, smiling. I was blasted by a wave of affection, concern and most importantly, love. For some reason, the emotions of not-minotaur is intensely strong... strong enough to knock me over and cause me to flop onto the couch. Thankfully, this didn't cause concern. Instead, Rough and Soul looked at me with surprise before laughing, their affection washing over me on top of their other emotions.

"Blue is just precious, you know that Ricky?" Soul chuckled.


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Soul gave me a final scratch and departed with warm wishes, leaving Rough and myself to a peaceful meal. Well, a meal for Rough at least; I was just sitting there, opposite to him. Rough took a bite of their 'egg and pancake meal with extra bacon' and stared at me curiously. I didn't have much of anything to say, so I simply looked out the window at the passing beasts and groups of not-minotaur wandering around together.

A clink of metal on ceramic drew my attention back to Rough, whom had set their fork down and was digging through their coat pocket for something. "Say Blue, I got an idea." They explained, producing a small rectangular object with a white backing that was strangely flat. "You ever seen a Smartphone before?"

A what?

"Yeah, guessin' you havent." Rough sighed, rolling their eyes. They began jabbing at the device with their thumbs and then pressed the sides of it, causing it to click. "Okay, here's my plan. I took a picture of this thing on Speaker mode, so that means if I set it to never turn the screen off, you can talk with me normally-- well, I mean if you use that pegasus voice or somethin'. Wavey alien bug-voice will still sound weird. If people ask or wonder who I'm talkin' to, I can just point at the speaker."

I had no idea what any of that meant; Speaker, screen, smartphone... so I blinked at Rough.

They then covered their face with a free hand. "Just-- alright. I'm gonna put this down on the table, and then we can talk normally, alright?" Rough took another bite of their meal and continued. "So, I uh... I wanted to ask you a few things, if that's fine with you?"

I nodded, and Rough sighed. "Alright, Blue, my space alien bug-buddy. You can talk now."

"I know that; there just wasn't a need to use my voice." I stated plainly. I could sense frustration from Rough.

"You're a pain sometimes, you know that?" Rough grumbled, taking another bite before posing his next question. "So, you think there are any more of you wandering around Earth?"

I frowned as best as I could in Winona-form at that. "I honestly have no idea. I could be the only one, or the entire hive could have been sent here after Canterlot. There is no way to be certain."

Rough's face scrunched. "Do you mean Camelot?"

I blinked in confusion. "No, I meant Canterlot..." Now I was doubting myself; Had it been called Canterlot, or Camelot? There weren't any Camels in Equestria, so I doubted it would be named after them... no, It must have been Canterlot!

Rough waved the question away with their metal stabbing thing. "Nevermind; what about Canterlot? Is that where your people are from?"

I shook my head. "No, it's the capitol of Equestria."

Rough's eye twitched. "Equestria."


Rough held their fingers to the sides of their head in annoyance, shutting their eyes like their head hurt. "Okay, okay. Canterlot, Equestria, whatever. What were you doin' there that caused you to come here?"

The limited capability of a Winona to express themselves was starting to bother me. I tried to bite my lip and realized that my mouth didn't work that way anymore. Now that I noticed it, my body was beginning to hurt. Possibly from being compressed into such a small form for so long. I looked to Rough and asked, "Do you mind if we find a place where I can revert my form? It's starting to hurt."

Rough glanced between their partially finished meal and myself, and then to a room near the back. "Yeah... I mean there's a restroom in the back there that locks for only one person at a time." They said, pointing towards the room with their metal stabber.

I nodded. "I will be back in a moment."

I hopped off of the couch, swiftly moving towards said door and weaving through the legs of a passing not-minotaur. Reaching the door, I glanced around to ensure nothing was looking at me. Finding myself free, I quickly lit my horn with magic, the concealing form of the Winona breaking for a moment as my concentration wavered from the multitasking of turning the door's handle and maintaining my disguise. With a click, the door quickly swung open and allowed me to return to normal, not a single creature wiser.

Shutting the door behind myself, I allowed my disguise to collapse on itself. It scorched from my horn to my hooves, leaving four small marks on the tiled floor. The floor that was also sticky, and covered with thin strips of paper. It was slightly annoying, but the relief alone from being out of my form was far greater than my discomfort with the restroom. Being disguised so long had felt like my body was being pressed and squished into a pinhole which I was then forced to maneuver around in. Finding a seat of white, I took a spot on top of it with a quick buzzing of my wings. It was only slightly slippery, but it would do. Rough had brought up some memories of the attack on Canterlot, and I had to organize how I would speak about them in order to not upset the ones providing a supply of love as well as cover.

"It is time." A fellow disguised changeling had said, a smirk on their face. A great cracking noise was heard, causing everypony in the room to freeze and halt the playing of music. The chandelier swung hazardously, accompanied by the clanking and rattling of glasses as another thunderous boom cracked the shields above us again.

"Everypony move to the shelter!" A Royal Guard shouted, motioning nobles out of the room with a golden armored hoof. "This way, move!"

A tip from an infiltrator was that since my disguise was a unicorn, to keep the eyes of that disguise green. The aura of a pony's magic was linked to their eye color, and changeling magic was a bright green. Seeing as I was a unicorn dressed as a noblepony, I followed the crowd towards their shelter, leaving small traces of pheromone in order for the warrior caste to find this hiding spot.

"What's happening!?" A noblemare shouted in panic. The lot of us were being ushered through a small opening. A staircase lead further down below ground as the deep booming of the shields faltering grew more frequent. Dust and earth were falling from the ceiling, causing even more panic as claustrophobia set in.

"We have everything under control! Do not panic!" A guard shouted over the rest of the ponies. A large and heavy metal door was opened, filled with treasures. "Everypony into the vault! Hurry!"

A loud shattering was heard outside, accompanied by screams of fear that nearly knocked me over from their intensity. "The shield! They broke the shield!" A noble shouted before immediately fainting into a heap of fine culture on the floor. The rest of the ponies had backed into the reinforced walls as shards of solidified spell began to rain down from above.

"What if the building collapses!? We'll be trapped!"

"Keep calm! We'll all be fine, I promise!" A guard shouted over the quickly spreading panic, trying to calm them down.

My diguised teeth rattled when a shard dropped directly on top of our vault above ground, the crashing noise of a building being battered and broken sounding above us and causing dread in the ponies nearby. If this vault was buried, there would be only one way for the hive to find them. I would have to dig them out... but the moment they knew I was a changeling, they would attack me.

"Everypony stand back!" I shouted, taking a position in the center of the vault. I charged my horn and applied a familiar spell to the walls of the vault. My hoof-hardening spell. Hopefully that would prevent the vault from caving in from the weakened structure above us and give enough time for the hive itself to find us. The walls shone a bright green, the same color as my magic.

"What are you doing?" A guard sternly asked, moving close to me.

"I'm reinforcing the walls to keep us safe!" I strained, my own magic not really being up to the task. I was a tunneler after all; fed to the point of being useful, but starved to the point that practicing my magic was almost a traitorous thought with our limited supply of love. Surprisingly after I had said I was keeping everypony safe, I was given a wave of affection and gratitude. The moods of the ponies around me became relieved.

"You're sure what you're doing will work?" A noblepony asked.

"Eh, not really?" I blurted. The strain of trying to maintain the spell was wearing me down, on top of having to keep my disguise from faltering even the slightest.

"Well, keep it up Ma'am. We'll all get out of here safe and sound with your help, I'm sure of it." A guard captain nodded with a smile, sending his own gratitude towards me.

The sounds of collapsing shields and dispersed magic soon went out overhead. This meant that the shield was fully down now, and the real invasion would begin. Warriors would decend from the sky in a fireball of magic, damaging the infrastructure of the city and bringing down buildings as they crashed through them. Every area that could be turned into a chokepoint or dead end would quickly become one, even if towers and buildings had to be brought down to achieve that. A rapid booming like a storm front breaking above us was heard, setting everypony inside on edge. I knew the pheremone trail would lead my hive directly to these ponies, as that was the entire point of my being there with them. It was only how long it would take that made me nervous.

After a short time, Ponies began hearing the sounds of digging and magical blasts coming from above. They cheered, thinking their saviors had found them. The guard captain opened the vault door as well, rolling open on a massive mechanism... only to reveal a literal wall of changeling warriors on the other side. A few guards hastily threw up shields while the captain attempted to close the vault shut, but it was not to be.

I held the vault door's lever in my magical grip as the captain struggled with it, desperately trying to save the ponies within. "What are you doing!?" The captain shouted at me, doom and despair filling the room. "Why are you helping them!?"

I couldn't maintain my form any longer. Dropping the disguise in a wave of fire as the guards' shields broke, I replied above the sounds of gasping horror, "I live for the hive."

And the warriors flooded into the vault...

Breaking from my flashback, I found myself in the dirty restroom of Alice's Restaurant. I no longer hurt, and reverted to my form as Winona. There was a knock on the door the moment my disguise enveloped me. The door soon opened suddenly, and I realized that in my haste to be free of my disguise, I forgot to actually lock the door behind me.

A very confused not-minotaur stared at me as I stayed atop the seat in the room. "The bloody 'ell?"

Since I wasn't near Rough, I decided to refrain from answering them and quickly exited the room underneath their legs. Soon after, I found a place back at Rough's table. In my short absence, they had managed to devour the rest of their meal and now sat in recline, nursing their belly.

"Oh, hey-" Rough greeted me with a belch, "Eugh, sorry." They apologized, covering their mouth. "You alright? You were gone for a while."

I hesitantly replied with, "I was thinking about how to answer your question about Canterlot..."

Sharing Secrets

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"Right..." Rough trailed, adjusting their seating on the couch to listen better to what I had to say. "Canterlot."

I could go about explaining this several ways. If I chose the honest route, I had some idea that these not-minotaur would react in the same way as a pony would; outrage and fear. Nevermind that as a lowly tunneler, I had very little to do with the actual stealing of love itself. I simply lead the warriors towards the targets I had been told prior to the invasion. A simple task at the time that had turned difficult with that wave of pink from the castle itself. I could lie, as there would obviously be nopony or changeling around to deny anything I said, yet I was not chosen to be an infiltrator. That task required a complex mind able to manipulate and remember every lie they had ever said and every action they had performed. My standard tasks for the day were summarized as 'dig here'.

I rested my shapeshifted head on the table, my ears folding down as I looked up to Rough's face. How would I explain this without lying, but also without being discarded? They had only known me for a day, yet I was a novelty to them as well. I doubt if I simply left that I would find another not-minotaur that would be able to keep my secret, as I could only tolerate being transformed for short periods of time. Yet another ability of the Infiltrators: comfortable shifting. They could remain in the same guise for years at a time without removing their disguise, through both conditioning, training and practice. I had none of these skills, as I had only shapeshifted a few times prior to leaving the hive for the main invasion. Smaller gougers tend to avoid eating 'rocks' when there are other tunnelers to devour. Not that I liked being a rock.

"Blue, you alright?" Rough asked, waving a hand in front of my face.

"I don't know how to explain this..." I said honestly. "It is a very complicated subject."

"Just lay it on me, Blue. I'm sure it ain't that bad." Rough reassuringly replied.

I involuntarily whined in place of what would have been chittering, were I in my regular form. How do I explain this? Portray myself as a savior? I did technically prevent a roof from collapsing in, but that was only to ensure the nobility was captured later on. It also wouldn't explain how I landed here, either. 'Oh, you know, I was busy saving the day because I'm a good changeling. Then, all of a sudden, a giant wave of pink smacked me senseless and here I am!'... No, that wouldn't work at all. Even if that were to work, I would have to remember every detail and relay that story from then on, for the rest of my life. It's just not practical. I would be found out eventually.

"You two having some fun?" Soul asked, retrieving plates from Rough's side of the table. "Well, at least one of you is..." They tutted, a slim frown and sympathetic look directed towards me. "What's got Blue all sad?"

"Ah... she must be missing Maria, I guess." Rough quickly explained. "Did I already pay for the food, or did I forget again?" They asked, patting their coat pockets for something.

Soul placed a hand on Rough's shoulder, causing them to pause. "It's fine, honey. Ya'll ready paid me. You two should go outside and get a breath of fresh air or something. It's good for you!"

I hopped from the couch before Rough could object, as this would give me a final moment to decide before we were both outdoors. Rough slid from their seat and followed after me, thanking Soul for their time and good food before moving ahead of me to open the door with a chime. Exiting onto the street with Rough leading the way, I waited until no other listening ears were around.

"So... about Canterlot..." I hesitantly began, "I'm not trained to be an infiltrator, so lying to you would be pointless and just upset you."

"Lyin'?" Rough asked, stopping suddenly. "What do you have to lie about?" A smirk spread across Rough's face, "Blue, you're an alien from outer space. If you're havin' this much trouble tryin' to explain this to me, then how 'bout I tell you about myself?"

I looked at Rough in surprise.

"It might not seem like it now, but back when I was a kid I was a real trouble maker. Well, part of a gang of trouble makers, actually." Rough held up their hand, "Nothin' like robbin' old ladies or stores or anything like that, just petty stuff." They lowered their hand to press a button and continued speaking while we waited for a street light. "So myself and a few other guys; Ricardo, Jason, Vinnie and Andrews; we all got together after school to entertain ourselves. Tagging street corners with spray paint, printing out naked pictures to tape them over stop signs, things like that."

The light changed to allow passage, and we began walking across the street. "So, one day, things get a little out of hand. Ricardo suggests that we do something a little more adventurous, a little more dangerous. Our usual activities aren't getting us the same thrills, ya know? He wants to get some homeless guy to buy us beer. Pretty simple, nothing too outlandish or criminal, aside from us being too young to legally drink. The problem came when Ricardo actually found a homeless guy. He asked 'em; guy didn't want to do it. We had money to pay him for when he was done, too. Well, Ricardo didn't take too kindly to being turned down after lookin' for someone all day, and things got more than a little violent. He started smacking the homeless guy around because he was upset; thought that maybe if he just roughed em up a little, the homeless guy'd see things his way, right?" We had reached the other side of the street by now, and were walking down along a path past several storefronts. "Well, turns out this homeless guy wasn't a pushover drunk like Ricardo had been expecting. Guy was a retired boxer. When things got ugly, Jason, Vinnie and Andrews didn't know what to do. Jumping in to help might get them beaten up worse than Ricardo, right? So they bolted, left Ricardo all alone with the crazy homeless guy." Rough then stopped, crouched and placed a hand on my back. "You know what happened to Ricardo?"

I shook my head in the negative.

"Well, Ricardo stopped getting beaten up after a while; curled into a ball on the ground to avoid the worst of it. The homeless guy didn't stop because of the kindness of his soul, no. He stopped because he was having a heart attack. Ricardo had worked up the poor guy's blood pressure and his heart couldn't take it. The old man fell to the ground, clutching at his chest and gasping in pain." Rough then looked me in the eyes, overwhelming regret and sorrow coming from him in waves. "Young Ricardo didn't know what to do, but he had a phone. He called the police, the ambulance, the fire fighters, anyone that'd listen and pick up the phone for that old man. He might've been beaten to a pulp, but he didn't want nobody dying cause he was a prick, right? Well..." Rough looked away and stood up. "Things didn't work out that well." They motioned for me to follow them as Rough looked away from me and continued their story. "By the time police and the ambulance got there, the old guy was already gone. They asked Ricardo what happened... and he just lied. Lied and lied and lied and lied. They never found out what really happened, or why Ricardo looked so beaten up and why the old man had bloody knuckles. Not from a lack of trying, but from a lack of concern. Nobody knew him, nobody had seen him in the city before. It was obvious that Ricardo had somethin' to do with it, but why bother? This was back before we had all moved here to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. No, this was a massive city, where nobody cared 'bout no one."

"So, little Blue, what's your story?" Rough asked abruptly.

"Ah-I... uh..." I stammered, being caught off guard.

"Come on, it can't be that bad. You kill anybody in Canterlot? I've known a few guys that've gone to prison for murder."

"I... well, I was part of an Invasion, and-"

"An invasion!? Nooo, I never would'a guessed that an alien would be part of an invasion, Blue! Come on now." Rough sarcastically interrupted. "Get any good lookin' 'mares' to probe-u-late?"

"Well, I was disguised as a noblemare before the real invasion would begin and--"

"Wait, hold up, A noblemare? You're messin' with me."

I shook my head again.

Rough waved me off. "Alright, alright. Go on, I'll stop interruptin'."

"I... was disguised as a noblemare just before the invasion was going to start. It was my job to go where ever the nobles would run away to and leave a pheromone trail for the warriors to find them. Their city's shields began to break, and the nobles retreated to an underground vault along with me. When we were there, the vault began to buckle from the debris and rubble crashing down from above along with large sections of the shield itself. So, not wanting to fail my mission, I reinforced the walls of the vault with my own magic until the warriors found us and began digging their way towards us. The guards with the noblemares and stallions heard them, and thought that they might be other ponies or rescuers and opened the vault. They found out they were wrong, and before they could close the door I held the lever in my own magic, allowing the warriors to flood into the room and subdue everypony there."

Rough frowned for a moment before replying. "So, anypony die?"

I paused, trying to remember if any had. "I don't think so?"

Rough leaned down to scratch my ears while I looked in confusion at them. "Well, that's a heck of a lot better'n I did."

Soft Has a Plan

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Rough had barely finished their sentence when their clothing began to make alarming noises.

"Aaah!" I blurted, backing away from Rough.

They reached out a hand to calm me. "Hey, don't worry Blue, it's just my phone."

"The... the smartphone?" I asked in Rough's voice. There was nothing around to hear us aside from the passing beasts on the road, though they never paid any attention to us anyway.

Rough pressed their thumb on the small slab and held it to their ear. "Hey Maria; what's up?"


"What'd you go and do something like that for?!" Rough shouted suddenly. "You can't just go around tellin' everyone about this kinda thing!"

Another pause, and now I was becoming even more confused. Rough wasn't speaking to anything but themself... but, maybe it had something to do with the slab in their hand? How would that even work; enchantment?

"Oh, you got a plan, huh?" Rough sassed, rolling their eyes at me as if I knew what was going on with their sudden insanity. "Oh, not over the phone? Here, why don't you talk to Blue about it?"

Now the slab was being held next to my shapeshifted Winona ear. Rough was looking at me expectantly.

"You're supposed to talk into it, Blue." Rough explained.

"U-uh... hello?" I asked nothing but the air in front of me.

"Hey Blue!" Soft's voice replied cheerfully.

"S-Soft?" I hesitantly asked, jumping from the unexpected voice. "Where are you?"

"I'm in the car with one of my friends. I don't have any more classes scheduled for today, so I'm going to pick up you and Ricky and we're gonna go home. I got an idea!" Soft explained with excitement.

"A-an idea?" I stuttered. I still had no clue as to how I was speaking with Soft from just a simple slab of white and shiny held in Rough's hand.

"I can't talk about it over the phone; who knows who might be listening, right? I'll tell you all about it once we pick you up, okay?"


"Yeah! I'm bringing my friend Karol to meet you." Soft was sounding very excited, though I wasn't able to sense any emotion from the slab and it gave me the 'Eugh'.

"Do... do they have love?" I asked. Affection was well and good... as a snack. I needed actual love to do anything important for long, however. Without love, my body would simply stop working. Much like if a pony were to stop eating, they would eventually wither away into nothing and fall over. It's very convenient that they don't have to live off of love, just baked goods and plaaaants.

"Blue? Are you there?" Soft asked from the slab.

"Oh! Yes, I'm here!" I was daydreaming and missed what Soft had said!

"I said that 'knowing Karol, I'm sure she'll have more than enough love for you once she meets you.'"

That seemed odd. "Why is that?"

"Because she loves... Winonas."

I looked up at Rough in confusion, and they returned a knowing nod accompanied with a frown of sympathy. Rough then pulled the slab from my ear and spoke into it again.

"Alright, Maria. We'll be waiting by Wal-Mart for you." A short pause... "Alright, see you then." Rough then pulled the slab from their face and poked it again with their thumb; placing it in their pocket.

"I have no idea what just happened." I stated plainly.

Rough looked at me in surprise. "What do ya mean? You just had a talk with Maria about her crazy 'plan'."

"But... how? There were no emotions; they weren't here. How was I speaking with them?" I was completely confused, and it must have shown on my Winona face from Rough's stifled giggling at me.

"Sheesh, Blue. For an alien from outer-space, I'm surprised you don't know what phones are."

"Why do you have a mart of walls as well? Do you need to build them often?" I had so many questions.

Rough waved a hand at me. "No, no, Blue, come on now. Wal-Mart is just the name of the store. You go to Home Depot if you wanna build walls. Or maybe Lowes..."

I blinked in confusion at Rough.

"Nevermind all that, Blue. Just follow me, okay?" Rough pointed a hand forward, as if asking me to walk ahead of them.

"How were we talking with Soft?" I asked, moving to the side of Rough and looking up at them.

Rough pulled the slab from their pocket again while we began walking somewhere. I was more interested in Rough than where we were going.

"This thing here is called a Smart Phone. It's your calendar, your watch, your phone, your internet access and your distraction causer. It has a whole lot more uses than that, but that's all I ever use it for." They explained, pointing to different points on the slab with their finger.

This was all very confusing. "So... that slab is enchanted?"

Rough stopped to look at me curiously. "I've been meanin' to ask; When you were explainin' your story you mentioned 'magic' a few times. Do you mean like, technology magic or magic-magic?"

I blinked. "Technology magic?"

"Like, you know... when your technology is so advanced that it looks like magic cause there's no other way to explain it?"

I was completely lost at this point. "Uhm..."

"Alright, nevermind. Karol will probably explain it better than I can, soon as we meet those two at Wal-mart." Rough grumbled while placing the slab in their clothing again. I followed after Rough as they picked up their pace, forcing me to... um... is there a Winona equivalent of trotting? In any case, we passed a few street corners and I got a few more waves of affection from other not-minotaur that we had passed on the streets and 'sidewalks' as the platforms were called. The hive didn't have anything like them, as we all just flew around the place to where we needed to go. Why secrete roads when you have wings?

Eventually, we rounded a corner and I saw an absolutely gargantuan structure looming in the distance. What must have been dozens of beasts were resting nearby, all arranged in neat lines in a pattern. Some were facing towards the structure like dedicated worshipers, and others were turned away as if to spurn the looming fortress. This entire structure, though mostly square in shape, was larger than most of the buildings I had seen in Canterlot. Honestly, it made me fearful to witness it. How would somepony or changeling even accomplish a feat like this? A building of that size could hold an entire army of Royal Guard or Changelings! We hadn't even crossed the street and I was shaking in my disguise. If I had been myself, I would be chittering non-stop!

"Hey Blue, you alright? You're shakin'..." Rough asked abruptly, placing a hand on my head and scratching behind my ears.

I motioned to the 'Wal-mart' with my nose. "That building is terrifying." I explained honestly.

Rough looked to where I had referred and gave a single 'hah'. "Blue, that's just a buildin'. Nothin' to be spooked about." Rough was being reassuring, and their mood gave no hints to any danger that would come from that place, but it still made me uneasy.

"You're certain? It's larger than almost any structure I've ever seen!"

"Blue, either we're gonna walk over there, or I'm gonna carry you." Rough stated with finality, removing their hand from my head and standing over me.


"Nah, none of that. We've gotta meet up with Maria and Karol, so that means we gotta go to Wal-mart. No more fussin', alright?" Rough then walked off without me, looking behind themself and motioning for me to follow. Reluctantly, I decided that I didn't really have any other options aside from curling up into a ball until I couldn't disguise myself anymore from lack of love. As we drew nearer to the Wal-mart, I began to notice other things about it. There were cages on one side of the place, holding back what seemed to be a large garden and a separate entryway, and on the other side was a lumber yard. Not-minotaur were pushing around large wagons made from thin strips of metal in a mesh with wheels on the bottom, having fused the metal together in a pattern many times over and fitting all of them within the other. Finally, we reached the most curious part of the Wal-Mart. The front doors.

The doors that weren't doors. The doors that opened by themselves and shut when nothing was around. The doors that said Enter and Exit, yet opened anyway regardless. The doors that were alive yet held no emotion, much like the beasts waiting silently in the stone field behind us.

"Oh come on. Don't tell me you're gettin' spooked by the doors now, are you?" Rough complained, pushing me forward with their foot on my rear.

There were far too many not-minotaur around for me to speak, so my nervous chitters translated into a whimper as I was lead into the large structure. The doors opened and I was struck by a blast of cool air. Was the building alive!? How was it breathing? It was cooler on the inside of the structure than the outside... how was this possible!?

"Blue, if you don't stop bein' a nervous wreck then we're gonna have to wait outside where it's hot."

I looked up at Rough and nodded vigorously. Outside would be much better than in this Wal-mart of confusion!

Rough heaved a sigh and turned around. "Alright, Blue, We'll wait outside for them. Just try an' calm down, okay?"

I followed Rough outside and away from the scary not-building that was alive yet not-alive to an overhang that gave us shade from the sun. Getting used to the scale of everything here in Earth was taking a toll on me, and I was beginning to shake from the stresses of maintaining my disguise while having a mild panic attack.

"Hey, come here." Rough requested softly, their arms open towards me. "I didn't think you'd be so scared from just a building, but I don't really know much about aliens, do I?" they asked rhetorically. I gladly took the offered sympathy and concern as well as the warm embrace. I sat in Rough's lap while we waited for Soft and 'Karol' to arrive.

It ended up being a short wait, as the beast that Soft had taken to 'College' soon stopped in front of us, holding a new passenger in the front. They soon opened the side of the beast and hopped out quickly, darting towards Rough and myself. They were around the same height as Soft but with a longer mane of black. Their eyes wore glasses for seeing, a black rim over the top but missing from the bottom and rectangular. Their clothing was an oversized black... thing, with a hood attached to the back. They also had blue coverings for their lower half and white foot covers as well. I'm not really sure what to call them.

"Maria, Ricky, If this is some kinda joke, then I'm gonna be really upset with both of you." They warned seriously. Their voice was cheerful, but also restrained in tone. They didn't reveal any of their emotions on their face, but I could feel excitement, anxiety, eager joy and hopefulness tempered by caution and suspicion. "Cause right now, this is looking a lot like a random dog with... with really blue eyes."

"You wanna hold her?" Rough offered, pulling themself from the ground while holding me. "She don't bite." They teased.

"You're both messing with me, aren't you?" The newcomer pouted, taking me in their arms anyway. "This is messed up, you know that?"

"Alright, let's all get in the car, okay? We can talk there." Rough reminded them, as there were far too many not-minotaur around.

Soft had remained in their beast the whole time, and now the Newcomer carried me after Rough as they climbed into the beast once more. Rough sat in the back, and the new one sat up in the front with myself on their lap, staring up at them curiously. With a slam of the beast's side, we were sealed off from the rest of the world.

"Okay Blue, you can talk now." Rough grinned from the back, leaning forward and placing their hand on the seat in front of them.

The newcomer and I stared at another for awhile. How was I even supposed to address them? I hadn't decided on what their voice sounded like the most, and they didn't say anything else when looking at me.

"This is just a dog." They wilted in disappointment. "I mean, it's a really pretty dog, don't get me wrong, but its still a dog."

I had it. They sounded... Anxious, maybe Shy, a little nervous... Timid. "I'm going to call you Timid." I stated with finality, looking up at them.

Then Timid's eyes widened in shock, looking between me and the others in the car. "T-this dog did not just talk. That wasn't either of your voices, was it? I-It couldn't have been! Y-you weren't even moving your mouths!" They were now becoming frightened, though also curious. "This can't be happening. There's no way!"

I looked at Soft and Rough. "Should I say something?"

Then Timid tensed up, fell backwards into the seat, and stopped moving.

"Um... I didn't do it?" I nervously added with haste, poking Timid with my paw.

"It's okay, Blue. She faints when she gets overwhelmed. We'll just drive home and re-introduce you two there." Soft explained, pulling a lever on the beast that allowed us to move forward.

"Timid will be okay?" I asked, poking the side of their face that was pressed against their shoulder from drooping.

"Yeah, Timid'll be fine." Rough snickered, "I just can't get past the fact you named her Timid!"

"Well it's pretty accurate. She is a scaredy-cat." Soft chimed in as our beast turned onto a main road.

"So... what was the plan?" I asked, turning around and adjusting my facing to see forward instead of looking at Timid's unconscious body.

"We're gonna make you famous!" Soft cheered with a wide grin.

"What!?" Rough shouted in alarm.

"I don't think that's a good idea?" I hesitantly objected.

"Trust us, Karol has this figured out. There's no way you're gonna get taken away by the government or anybody else after what we got planned!"

"Maria, you're scaring me." Rough objected as well.

Soft then scratched the top of my head aggressively, causing my ears to flop around. "We've got this!"

Biological Difficulties, Please Stand By

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The trip back to the house was largely uneventful; Rough taking the opportunity to inform Soft of everything that had happened that morning on our journey through the town and Alice's Restaurant. Timid was still fast asleep with myself trying to nap on their lap.

"Do you know if Mom is back yet?" Rough asked as they leaned forward from their seat and rested their elbows on both of the chairs in front of them inside of the beast. "You know she don't like having guests pop up at random."

"Don't worry about it, I already called and told her we'd be having Karol over for a bit." Soft reassured Rough, whom leaned back in their seat.

"I don't know... you sure about this? There's a whole lot o' ways it could go south." Rough worried.

"Karol already has a Tumblr, a Youtube account with a few thousand subs that like her science videos and alien theory, as well as an Instagram where she acts like a tramp in scientific cosplay. I'm sure enough of them will be impressed to re-blog or link it to their friends, and then this will all blow up in no time!"

"That's what I'm worried about."

Rough and Soft continued their worrying for most of the trip until we arrived at the house. I had no idea who a 'You tube' was, or a 'Tumbler' or an 'Insta graham'. Maybe it was like a cracker that was... 'Insta'? I don't know why there would be a tumbler though. Aren't those used in baking or something?

"Hey Blue, you can hop off of Karol now." Soft reminded me, having already opened the side of the beast. We were at the house already!

"Oh!" I blurted, carefully standing so that I wouldn't wake Timid and hopping off of their lap onto the gravel beneath the beast. I turned around to look at Soft, whom was creeping towards Timid with their fingers wiggling. "What are you doing?"

Soft held a finger to their lips and shooshed me. "I'm tryin' to spook her!" They whispered loudly. Moving very close to Timid's face, Soft hovered close and shook Timid's shoulders.

"Eh, wha?" Timid blurted in a dreary haze. They blinked a few times before noticing how close Soft was and immediately pushed themself away and into the beast seat they were on. "Aaah!"

Soft was ejected from the beast, quickly shuffling their feet and spreading gravel everywhere as they somehow regained their balance. They were also laughing at Timid's shocked expression. "Got ya!" Soft declared in a teasing triumph.

Timid was only upset slightly, but soon their eyes landed on myself and their mood swiftly changed. They looked up at Soft. "Please tell me that wasn't a hallucination!" Timid then pointed at me. "You can talk, right? Please tell me you talk!"

"I... talk?" I answered nervously, worried that Timid might faint again. Instead, I was greeted by their eyes going wide accompanied with an almost insanely happy grin.

"Yes! This is amazing!" Timid cheered, struggling with the belt across their chest and waist for a moment before a clicking noise freed them. They soon hopped from the beast and slammed its side shut, making me wince in sympathy for whatever pain the beast might feel from being treated so roughly. Sure, It didn't have emotions and it couldn't speak, but there was still the possibility it could be alive, if the 'smartphone' was anything to go by. You don't need emotions to feel sensation, just ask a Gouger.

"Alright! First thing's first: We gotta get set up inside. Maria, we're using your room!" Timid declared, and I was quickly reconsidering my choice of word for describing their voice. Timid went to the rear of the beast, inserted a key and opened the back of it... and then pulled something smooth and shiny from the beast's insides and slammed the thing together again. Timid held an object that was smallish, black and silver in coloration... and indescribably strange beyond that. I didn't even have the words.

"Okay, I got the camera. We're good to go!" Timid announced cheerfully, holding the 'camera' in one and and clenching their fist in excitement with the other. "First contact, on camera, Live!" they squee'd.

Rough had already gone ahead and left the front door open for us. They were waiting at the end of the staircase with an arm draped over the safety rail. "So, you girls ready to get this show on the net?" They asked teasingly with a raised eyebrow.

"Wait," Timid blurted, crouching down to become face to face with me and grinning with continued enthusiasm. "You're a girl alien?"

"I... um-"

"It talked! Aaaah, It talked!" Timid blurted in hysterical joy.

Soft slammed their hands on Timid's shoulders, grabbing her attention. "Karol, you got to calm down or you're going to faint again. Yes, Blue is an alien. We don't really know if they're male or female because Blue doesn't even know. It ain't that big a deal for them... I guess." They explained in a calm tone, trying to soothe their friend's nerves.

Timid looked to me, adjusting their glasses with their free hand. "Were you always named Blue or is that a translation, by the way?"

"Soft and Rough named me." I explained as quickly as possible, not wanting to be cut off again by any more outbursts.

A wave of Awe and a bit of jealousy washed over me from Timid as they looked wide eyed at Rough and Soft. "You got to name the first alien!? Do you know how lucky you are!?"

Soft shook Timid lightly. "Hey, keep it together, okay? We need you to show the whole world that aliens exist, right? We don't have any blogs or youtube accounts or nothin'."

Timid looked back at me. "Well, there's sort of a problem with that. Nobody is going to believe that Blue is an alien if its just a dog with a voice that comes from nowhere on the internet."

Rough snorted as both they and Soft looked at me. "Hey Blue," Rough called out from their spot across the room, "How 'bout you show her your final form?"

I blinked. "My what?"

Rough and Soft then covered their face with their hands. "He means change back to normal, Blue." Soft sighed.

"Oh. Well that makes a lot more sense than a 'final form'."

Timid was looking at me with anxious anticipation, but my transformation didn't take nearly as long as they might have been expecting. A simple flash of fire spreading from my paws to my head revealed my changeling nature, as well as my height increase from not being crammed into such a small disguise. I had been in that thing long enough that my carapace was sore, causing me to tilt over and fall to the ground with a thud.

"Finally..." I sighed in relief. I looked up at Timid, their mouth open in shock.

"Th-tha-thats an a-alien!" Timid stuttered, pointing at me. "That's an alien!" They then looked with a wide grin to Soft and Rough. "It's an alien!"

"Yeah Karol, we know." Rough chuckled.

"But, but do you even understand what this means!? This is huge!"

"Karol, focus." Soft insisted, moving Timid over to a nearby couch and forcing them to sit. "You've got a camera, there's an alien, and you can let the whole world know that there's more than just humans out there."

Timid was a mess of emotions, though most dominant was a sense of pride. "Okay, I can do this!" Timid said to themself. They then fiddled around with the 'camera' and pulled some parts of it away from the main body of the object, turning and adjusting them. Finally, a red light came on. Timid looked up and me and instantly radiated joy once more. "I can't believe this is really happening!"

"I'm not feeling well..." I butted in. The aching from my transformation hadn't gone away like it did in the restroom of Alice's Restaurant. My body was sore and weak, and I felt things moving inside of me that hadn't ever moved before. "I think I'm sick..." I complained, holding my midsection.

"Oh no!" Timid blurted, practically falling out of their seat and crawling over to me. "Are you hurt?" They asked with great concern. Enough concern to fight off my hunger, but not enough to make the pain go away.

"I need love..." I groaned, wincing. I hadn't gotten an actual whiff of true love since I had arrived in the land of 'Earth', and it was beginning to take its toll on my body's functioning. I couldn't make due with affection and concern any longer.

"Love?" Timid asked in confusion as Rough and Soft leaned over next to me.

"That's what Blue needs to feed off of. She doesn't eat food or rocks or anything like that, but emotions. I mean, I guess. That's what Blue tells us." Soft explained, holding one of my holed hooves in their hand. It was very soft and cozy feeling.

"You're not kidding..." Timid blankly stated, looking at me while deep in thought. "How do we feed Blue though; just give her a hug?"

"N-no hugs," I blurted, my voice wavering as speaking became more difficult. My wings weren't working like they were supposed to now.

"Your voice is so cool." Timid suddenly commented before shaking their head back into focus. "Okay, serious time! The only alien on earth ever is dying from a lack of... love. How do we get it love?"

Timid was greeted by the worried looks of Soft and Rough. "No ideas?" Timid asked rhetorically, "Well, um... Hey Blue, How do you get love?"

"From the Queen?" I winced again, "I mean, the Queen gets love from the Infiltrators, and she gives it to the hive."

"Well where do the 'Infiltrators' get it from?" Timid asked.

"From... ponies?"

"Ponies... like small horses?" Timid asked in complete bafflement. "You take love from small horses on an alien planet."

"I dig tunnels." I clarified, holding my sides and curling into a ball.

"Oh! Idea!" Timid blurted, pointing a finger at Soft. "Maria! Who gives you butterflies in your stomach?"

"Uh..." Soft replied in confusion.

"Too slow!" Timid announced, pointing to Rough. "What about you, Ricky?"

"I really like Grandma's Cookies, like in those little bags of two?"

Timid then grabbed a random object (That turned out to be a rolled up paper with 'News' visible) and smacked Rough in the face with it. "This is serious, Ricky!"

Rough shielded their face from further paper-based assault. "I am serious! Those things give me life!"

"W-well, uh, Think about them! Let Grandma's Cookies into your heart from memory or something!" Timid desperately reasoned, tossing the paper aside.

Rough went still for a moment, presumably thinking about said cookies. They all looked expectantly at me for some reason.

"I don't think Grandma's Cookies are going to work, Ricky." Timid complained with deadpan disappointment. "But... Wait, what about your Mom? She's a pretty neat lady! Think about memories with her!"

"There's so many though..." Soft replied with concern.

"Hey, what about that one time she flipped that drunk guy over the hood of the car?" Ricky chuckled. "That was pretty awesome."

A spark. Just a small spark, but enough for me to latch onto.

Soft chuckled as well, "Or that one time she was getting groceries for us and you forgot the popcicles you wanted, and she just dropped everything, put on Sunglasses and did her best 'I'll be Back' Impression of the Terminator and sprinted into the store in a sun-dress?"

That got a laugh out of Rough and a smile from Timid. The spark was growing now; a flickering light.

"On your tenth birthday when Rust ate your cake and while you were all sad and pouty, she went to the garage and got a backup cake just in case that happened?" Rough added with a nostalgic smile.

"When you got in trouble with that one gang and she caught you while on patrol, got out of her car and took down every single one of those goons?" Soft added with a finger wave at Rough, causing them to blush.

"Wait, your Mom took out a gang by herself?" Timid asked with surprise and awe.

"She used to be the sheriff for the town! Didn't I tell you that?" Soft replied with equal surprise.

"Never! That's so cool!"

The flame had turned into a steady fire in my mind, drawing me closer and closer as if in a trance. I had never actually seen love before, at least in a pure form. It had always been scraps and leftovers from Queen Chrysalis, always just barely enough to get by. What was visible now was more love than I had ever seen!

"Whoa, Blue, are you okay?" Soft asked, backing away from me in concern and standing up.

"Whoa, holy Shi- uh.. Shish!" Timid corrected themself before they supposedly incurred the wrath of the swear jar. They also backed away, pointing their 'Camera' at me.

"Uh, Maria, Karol? You might wanna get further away from Blue. She don't look herself." Rough warned, stepping in front of Timid and Soft, shielding them from me.

It was right there. A bright flame that called to me, begging me to take it. Just a little bit closer and I could feast!

"Hey Blue, get off me!" I heard Rough shout, and I was flung through the air with a hearty shove. My vision upending and nearly causing me to crash into a wall as I hissed in defeat at being so close to tasting love. So close! My buzzing wings allowed me to right myself before any harm came to either myself or the building.

"The heck was that for, Blue?" Rough yelled, waves of fear coming from the three of them.

I blinked.

"I..." I didn't know what happened. What happened? I was on the ground in pain, then I saw the spark... the flicker... the flame of love right in front of me and I just...

"Hey, It's okay Blue." Soft coo'ed at me, cautiously drawing closer. "It's okay, nobody got hurt, alright?"

I lowered myself to the soft flooring of the house, taking a deep breath. I chittered a few times in nervousness from the complete loss of control I just had.

"You sure that's safe, Maria?" Rough asked, advancing along with Soft towards me.

"We don't know a thing about Blue, do we?" Soft reasoned, moving past the table next to the couch that Timid had been sitting in. "So maybe we gotta be careful, yeah, but that doesn't mean we have to treat Blue like a monster, does it?"

"I didn't know what Blue was gonna do, hissin' like that!" Rough defensively replied.

"This is so cool!" Timid nearly shouted in excitement, drawing looks of ire from Soft and Rough. "Sorry!" They meekly added.

Soft kneeled down next to me. "You alright, Blue?"

Timid chimed in from the back, "Did you get any love?"

I looked up at the three concerned not-minotaur around me. "I... I've never seen or felt anything like that before..."

"Seen?" Rough asked, interested.

"It... It was like a spark at first. Just a tiny spark. Then you spoke more of 'Mom' and it grew into a flicker, and then a fire! A bright pink fire that burned so bright that..." I looked away from them, unable to make eye contact.

The next thing I knew, I was being embraced by Soft. "Hey, hey. Easy now." They whispered soothingly into my ear. "It's all better now, alright?"

I could hear a barely audible whisper coming from Timid. "Tune in again for the next episode of: The Final Frontier Came Here!" ended by a happy squee.

The Final Frontier Came Here: Episode One

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Timid took a moment to adjust their 'camera' on a three legged stand, pointing it at me as I sat on a couch in the living room. Things had calmed down after a short while, but I still wasn't able to get the love that I needed, even after coming so close. I was feeling weak, but Timid wanted 'record' everything that I did as part of a 'documentary'. Rough was still wary of going near me after I had attempted to feed off of them, but Soft sat right next to me with an arm around my side.

"Okay..." Timid announced, making a final tweak to the 'camera setup'. "There! It's all set, aaaanndd... recording!"

"Recording?" I asked in Timid's voice. "What does that mean?"

"It means that the camera is looking at you, and a digital copy of everything happening can be seen by other people as long as they have access to it. Since we're putting all of this on my blog, then the whole world can see!" Timid explained eagerly.

"Does that mean that Queen Chrysalis can see this?" I nervously asked, looking at the camera in its singular eye. It never blinked...

"Is she on Earth?" Timid inquired. "Cause, like, one of you is awesome, but can you imagine a whole invasion fleet? Hundreds of bug-ships all floating around in the air! That'd be sick!"

"Bug-ships?" I asked. "Why would we make ships, and why would they float in the air? We can already fly..."

"Because you need ships to travel around in space and reach our planet?" Timid replied as if the answer was obvious before pausing. "Wait, how did you get to Earth anyway? Do you have a space ship?"

"Do you mean a crawl-space?"

"No, like, Space-space. That big empty void with stars everywhere above us at night?"

I blinked. "You mean Luna's Night?"

"Who is Luna?" Rough asked, becoming more interested in what was going on than being frightened of me.

"Princess Luna; one of the rulers of Equestria and the Goddess of the Night. How do you not know of Luna? Does she not visit the nation of Earth?"

For some reason Timid, Rough and Soft all shared a worried glance before looking at me. "Blue..." Timid began, kneeling down next to me and holding my forehooves, "Do you know where you are?"

"I am in Earth?" I sensed worry and concern from them now. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Blue... you're not in Earth, you're on Earth. Planet Earth. There's no Equestria here..." Timid carefully explained.

"What do you mean there's no Equestria? Don't you have a map? I could probably find it... If I knew what I was looking for." How could there not be an Equestria? The badlands would be right near it and I had seen a map before the invasion of Canterlot...

"Blue, how did you get here?" Soft gently asked.

"I...Um..." I felt cold. "H-how is there no Equestria? How will I find the Queen?" I held my hooves closer to myself, shaking.

Soft held me close to them in a warm embrace, affection and concern present like a cheap imitation of the beautiful love I had seen before. "Take a deep breath, Blue. We'll figure this out." Soft said reassuringly.

"I... I still need love, by the way." I pointed out, unintentionally causing the three to recoil from me a bit. "Maybe we could do it differently? So much love at once overwhelmed me... so maybe just a little bit would work?" I suggested carefully, trying not to upset them.

"You needin' love is really weird." Rough complained. "Like, I know it ain't your fault that it's what you need to eat to survive, but..."

"How do you suggest we 'love' differently?" Timid asked, ensuring the 'camera' was staring at me properly.

"Well, when you were first talking about 'Mom' there was a spark. When you talked more, it grew into a flicker, and then a flame. Perhaps we could try stopping at the flicker?" I explained, unsure if it would even work like I thought.

"Okay, we get you love and you'll tell us the story of how you got here?" Timid asked in clarification.

"That's kinda messed up when you put it like that, Karol. Makes it seem like we're with-holdin' Blue's food for information. We ain't interrogators." Rough warned, slightly upset.

Timid smacked their own face in the forehead. "Oh, crap. That's totally right; I'm sorry Blue, I didn't mean it like that."

"I just need love..." I whined, slumping over backwards onto the couch further and sinking into the cushions. Soft's arm was still around me, though they pulled me closer to them in worry.

"Okay, okay. Um, happy thoughts! Loving thoughts!" Timid told themself, shutting their eyes and concentrating.

"Karol, please. Just make sure all of this is recordin'." Rough grumbled, moving closer to me and eventually sitting by my side. "I think I've got this."

Rough closed their eyes and relaxed on the couch, leaning backwards as well. Their breathing began to even out and become steady, like they were in a trance. "I'm gonna think about some things in my life that give me the warm fuzzies, and you tell me if it's workin', alright?" Rough asked quietly.

"Alright." I replied, my interest drawing me closer to Rough as I waited in anticipation.

A few moments passed by in complete silence with Timid adjusting the 'camera' and Soft massaging the shell on my back between my wings. Eventually, something did happen. A small spark appeared, the rest of my vision fading away in darkness to focus on that single speck of love that was steadily growing.

"Okay, stage one is... chittery wings, wide eyes, open mouth... slow creeping approach..." Timid narrated, but I wasn't paying much attention. I could see the Love inside of Rough slowly maturing and growing larger.

"I think it's working, Ricky. Be careful..." Soft warned.

I placed a holed hoof on Rough's chest, carefully trying to not disturb or injure them as I drew closer to the pink flame that only I could see.

"Wow... now Blue is drooling. Neat tongue though. Kinda like a snake!" I heard Timid narrate.

"Karol," Rough grumbled, making me freeze in place, "This ain't animal planet. Narrate in post or somethin'. My eyes are closed for a reason."

"Right, sorry!" Timid squeaked. Eventually movement stopped, and I continued my approach towards the love. It was centered in Rough's chest on their left side; A small flame of pink fire that felt warmer and warmer as I drew close. Bit by bit, I moved closer to Rough until I was right on top of the love, staring down at it in awe.

It was so fragile. So small and warm. Just looking at it filled me with a sense that everything would be alright, no matter what happened. It looked so delicious! Without really knowing what I was doing, my mouth opened even wider and I began to breathe deeply. I could see the pink flames drawing themself towards me in an upwards stream, eventually reaching myself and washing over me.

It was like nothing I had ever felt before. A sense of inner peace, of serenity. Like every emotion experienced at once without the conflict of negativity. Warm, soothing, inviting... addicting. Enticing. Consuming! I needed more! More love! I began draining more and more, lost in a trance of endless need as I felt myself filling up with love. Never enough to fully sate me, but enough to--

"Get off of him, Blue! You're hurting Ricky!" Soft yelled, breaking my trance as they pulled me away from Rough. I flailed my forehooves and buzzed in panic before flopping onto the couch and bouncing off. "Karol, get a blanket!"

"O-on it!" Timid stuttered in shock before finally bolting off towards a nearby door, swinging it open and pulling several very large and heavy blankets from it and tossing them across the room onto Rough.

"Get something warm! Ricky is freezing!"

"W-what's going on?" I asked, peeking over the couch cushions with worry towards Rough. Had I drained too much love from them? Did I hurt them!?

Rough was shaking, holding their arms close to them as if they had walked through a blizzard. They curled into a ball on the couch while Soft rubbed Rough's body in an effort to warm them with friction. What do I do?! There has to be some way to help!

"Aaagh!" I blurted in pain, doubling over onto the floor. When I had been starved of love, something had shifted inside of me that I had never felt before. Now that I was engorged on love, it had moved again. It felt like it was growing inside of me, pressing against the inside of my carapace.

"Oh come on, not now!" Soft exclaimed in despair. "I can't figure out both of you at the same time!"

It needed to come out! I had to get whatever this was inside of me to the outside of me. Maybe I could get rid of it like resin? Vomit it out?

Well, no sooner had I thought that then I felt it moving around, towards my mouth. I backed away from Rough and Soft into a corner of the room, dry heaving and holding myself in pain as my wings chittered in pain and distress. My horn began to glow a bright green as whatever was inside of me moved towards my chest, unconsciously tugging on it so that it would leave me sooner.

At that moment, Timid came back into the room. "Alright, I brought microwaved cocoa-WHOA, what the heck is happening to Blue!?"

Soft glanced over their shoulder at me after ensuring that Rough was sufficiently covered in blankets. "Holy hell!"

The holes in my hooves were starting to secrete something, oozing out onto the soft flooring of the room and sticking to it. My breathing was becoming heavier and harder as the object in my chest pressed against my lungs. "H-help!" I groaned in pain, "I do-on't know what's hap-aaugh!"

I doubled over onto the ground as more of the ooze covered me. My magic was out of control now, shaping the ooze vertically in a pillar all around me and eventually connecting with the ceiling. I tried to crawl up the quickly hardening walls of ooze to little effect. Eventually I had only succeeded in standing on my hindlegs, looking through the semi-transparent ooze at the shocked faces of Soft and Timid. Rough was too busy shivering to really pay attention.

"Help!" I cried, banging on the sides of the... cocoon? "W-wait! Don't help!" I quickly amended.

"What do you mean!?" Soft yelled, still tending to Rough and offering them a cup of whatever 'Cocoa' was. Timid turned the 'camera' around to face me.

"What do you want us to do, Blue?" Timid asked from behind the unblinking eye of the 'Camera'.

"I... I don't know." I replied honestly. "I've never seen something like this happen before but... I've never had that much love before either. Maybe this is good?" My voice was vibrating throughout the cocoon as it solidified even further around me. The holes in my legs were now oozing out a different kind of liquid, much like the green slime that Queen Chrysalis would suspend captured... prey.

"Wait... no, that can't be right..."

"What's wrong, Blue?" Timid asked, taking the 'Camera' from the stand and moving it closer, next to my face.

"I think..." My chest hurt again, causing me to reflexively try and hold it together. The slime had gotten up to my neck at this point inside of the cocoon. "I'm not sure whats going on, actually." I confessed. "I have literally no idea."

"You haven't seen something like this before in your homeworld?" Timid inquired, a smile on their face as I felt giddy excitement from them in waves.

"Well, sometimes the Queen would cocoon herself... but that was usually to repair any harm from a gouger though. Nothing from just getting love."

"Why do you think this is happening now? Haven't you had love before?"

"Only scraps, little bits of love. I've never had this much love before though..." The liquid in the cocoon was up to my mouth now, leaving me little room to breathe. For some reason, this felt normal, almost natural. Why wasn't I in a panic? Wouldn't I drown?

The liquid passed over my mouth and nostrils as I held my breath, and it eventually filled the entire cocoon. The room outside was tinted in a slimy green when I opened my eyes. Swishing around inside of the cocoon, I felt whatever was inside of me move again, more painfully this time. I opened my mouth to yell, and the fluid rushed into my lungs. A deep breath of panic later... and I could breathe?

A few more experimental breaths, and I confirmed that I wasn't drowning. I looked at Timid's 'Camera' in confusion. "How am I not dying?"

Timid shrugged. "You're the alien here, Blue. I have no clue."

"H-he-hey, M-Maria." Rough stuttered in shivers.

"Yeah! Yeah, I'm here Ricky!" Soft coo'ed, moving closer to them.

"S-swear J-jar!" They chuckled before laughing hysterically and then having a coughing fit. "You said H-E-L-L, Hehe."

Timid snickered, and Soft smacked Rough on the shoulder playfully. "Darnit, Ricky."

That One Time I Was Soup

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"Oooh, this is awesome!" Timid cheered, adjusting their camera on me once again. Rough was being tended to by Soft as they sat cross legged on the floor next to my cocoon, Rough huddled in a pile of blankets with Soft holding 'cocoa' for them. Timid was a beacon of excitement that never stopped as they looked around me from every angle. "Alien life cycles, caught on camera!"

"How are you holdin' up, Blue?" Rough asked, pulling the blankets as close to themself as possible.

I looked around on the inside of the cocoon while suspended in glowing green fluid. "I um..." I pressed a hoof onto the side of the cocoon experimentally and felt my hoof... bend. "I've been better?"

"What's it like in there?" Soft asked, handing the 'cocoa' to Rough in order to stand up and get a closer look at me.

I was pressing my hooves together now, to see if they would bend. "It's..." I pressed a little harder and--

"OH BY THE FIRST EGG!" I shouted in panic, my voice muffled by the cocoon.

"What? What happened!?" Soft shouted back, drawing closer to me but also refraining from actually touching my cocoon.

"My... my hoof snapped off." I stated in a daze, staring at the quickly dissolving hoof in front of me as it drifted lazily in the goo. "Why didn't that hurt?"

"You're seriously asking that!? We have to get you out of there!" Soft said with alarm, moving closer to me before a hand from Rough held their ankle.

"Hold on, Maria! What if this is supposed to happen?" Rough reasoned.

"Yeah, It doesn't make sense for an alien to turn into a big protective chrysalis thing and then self destruct. Maybe Blue is like a butterfly?" Timid reasoned, trying to place the 'camera' as close to the cocoon as possible without touching it.

Soft reluctantly backed away, crossing their arms. "I'm the one training to be a vet... but I guess that doesn't really cover insects, I guess."

I tried pressing my non-dissolved hoof into my chest, and that too snapped off. For some reason I felt a compulsion to keep doing that. "I have no idea whats going on." I admitted, pressing my hindleg onto the side of the cocoon until it came off with a muffled crack. "This is strangely satisfying though."

"What are you doing in there? It sounds really gross." Timid asked, following the glow of my eye.

"I'm snapping my limbs off and watching them dissolve." I replied plainly. Then I blinked, realizing what I had just said. "Why am I snapping my limbs off?!"

"Maybe you're supposed to?" Rough asked rhetorically, sniffling.

I tried to feel my chest and find out where that pain in my carapace had come before remembering that my limbs had all been snapped off at this point. I was a floating torso with a head and wings now. "Well... I can't even say stranger things have happened to me at this point. I don't have limbs anymore, nothing about this hurts, and I'm feeling fairly at ease with everything happening."

"It's probably the point of all that goo you're floating in." Timid theorized. "Why else would you be inside of this thing?"

"Hey, is it getting bigger by the way?" Rough asked with worry, scooting away in a heap of blankets from my cocoon.

"Oh crap! What are we gonna do when Mom comes home!?" Soft loudly worried, running from my sight to probably keep watch through the nearby window.

"Uh... Halloween decoration?" Timid suggested halfheartedly, still observing me with the 'camera'.

"What is?" Rough asked.

Timid pointed to my cocoon with their free hand. "Blue is, obviously."

Rough and Soft shared a look of disbelief. "There's no way that's gonna work, Karol." Soft replied.

"She can barely see as is, right? Just tell her its a really fancy one that you got as a gift from... oh, what's that one rich douche's name?"

"Cynthia? Also, Swear Jar." Rough provided and reminded.

"Darnit." Timid complained, reaching into their pocket and tossing a silver coin at Rough's pile of blankets, nearly missing their head.

While their muffled voices continued to discuss things, I took stock of what was happening to me. My lower half had begun to dissolve as well now, reaching to my lower abdomen. My torso had begun to dissolve as well, and my wings were starting to fray as well. None of this was actually painful or as distressing as I thought it should be...

A meaty crack came from my chest, drawing the attention of every not-minotaur in the room as well as myself.

"The heck was that, Blue?" Rough asked, attempting to stand and quickly failing, falling into a heap of blankets again on their back.

I looked down and saw that my chest had split open down the middle, the carapace frayed and being eaten away by the glowing green ooze that held me aloft. What looked to be a smaller... chest was coming out of my old one, floating ahead of me in the glow of my own magic. Was I doing all of this without even thinking about it?

Another crack, and my view of the world started to turn upside down. "Aaah!" I blurted in confusion.

"Holy shi-ih, um. Criminey!" Timid recovered, preventing the swear jar from collecting its taxes. "Blue's head just came off!"

"This is distressing but at the same time, very relaxing." I replied non-chalantly, everything going upside down. "I blame... um... I'm not actually sure what to blame for this right now."

Timid flipped the camera to their face. "You heard it here first folks: Aliens are weird."

"I don't actually know how I'm still talking right now." I said in monotone, my view drifting towards the top of the cocoon. Another crack sounded from me, a lot closer than before. At that point, I realized that my head had come apart. "Okay, seriously, how am I alive?"

"Well... when caterpillars go into a cocoon, they basically melt into a floating brain and re-build themselves. Maybe that's what you're doing?" Timid suggested, tracking my torso as my view drifted around again towards the group.

"Then what about that other torso in here?" I asked, motioning with my glowing eyes towards the... the growing chest that floated in the exact center.

"Maybe that'll be Blue 'Two Point Oh'?" Rough replied, sipping 'cocoa'.

"But it's not even part of me." I retorted as another crack and crunch caused my vision to split in two. "Aaah!"

"What happened!?" Timid blurted, trying to focus on two different points of light moving away from each other.

"I think my head split in half! I'm seeing in two directions!"

"Oh, that is so coooool!" Timid muttered under their breath.

"Are you okay?" Soft asked, worrying next to the cocoon.

"I'm... I feel weird." I replied honestly. I felt the urge to scratch my head or my chin, but... those were all goo now. What was even happening? Is this real life?

"Just hold on there, Blue. I'm sure everything will fix itself soon." Rough offered in support, now able to stand up as a blanket monster with only their head poking from the heap of fabrics.

"You're sure?" I asked nervously.

"Nope. But I thought it sounded good." Rough said with a smirk.

Then everything went dark. "Uh oh. Um, hello?" I asked nothing.

"We're still here Blue. You okay?" I heard Timid reply.

"I can't see."

"Are you in pain? Soft asked.

... "No?" I said with uncertainty. "I'm not even sure I'm alive right now.

"If you were dead, then how'd you be talkin' with us?" Rough reasoned.

"I don't know, magic?"

"Yeah, magic. Sure." Timid scoffed.

"No, I'm serious. Maybe it's my magic at work?"

"What, like your shapeshiftin'?" Rough asked.

"No, like... don't you have magic?"

A pause came from them before Soft replied with, "We don't have magic, Blue."

That didn't make any sense. "Then how do your beasts move? And the doors of 'Wal-Mart'?"

"Hey, you didn't copy my voice when you said that!" Rough said with excitement.

"I didn't?" I asked in disbelief. "But I don't know how to translate 'Wal-mart'!"

"Try sayin' it normally, just like any other word." Soft suggested.

"... Wal-mart." I replied, and in my own voice!

"Hey! The cocoon of dissolving strangeness is working! I think..." Timid cheered hesitantly.

"Try saying 'Maria'." Rough asked, their voice sounding distant for some reason. "Blue?"



"Maria?" I asked, though my voice was strange. Looking around, I noticed that things felt... off. I wasn't in my cocoon anymore. It felt dream-like.

I looked down at my body, noticing that I was simply standing. My hooves were very angular, almost ninety degrees facing forward. The holes in my hooves had moved towards the rear of my leg instead of all throughout as they had been before. I looked behind myself to find that my wings had grown in size as well, extending past my flank. My shell had become a blueish-white tint instead of the teal-green it had been before, and my carapace was still the same charcoal grey.

"Hello?" I called out into the nothingness. I received no reply.

I looked again to my body, discovering that my shoulders and flanks had become armored with plates of chitin. My view around myself was more commanding as well, despite the dark void I stood in.

"Is this a dream?" I asked the nothingness, not expecting a reply.



"Blue, are you there? Answer me!" I heard Rough shout, pressing on the side of my cocoon.

"Rough? Where am I?" I asked in surprise. What was going on?

"Oh, thank grief. I thought we lost you!" They replied with relief.

"Your cocoon started twitching like crazy and you were mumbling non-sense for a solid minute!" Timid chirped, giddy and still recording.

"I what?" I blurted, looking at my hoof and finding the same angled design.

"Maybe you had a dream?" Soft reasoned. "Like, I don't know how Caterpillars do it, but it must be really weird being rebuilt, right?"

"Yeah! Maybe your brain shut off or distracted itself while you... turned into a butterfly or something!" Timid added on with excitement.

"How are you feeling in there, Blue?" Soft asked through the membrane of the cocoon, their figure shadowy and barely visible.

"I feel... different. I'm a lot larger than I used to be..." I looked at my rear again. "And I've got a lot more armoring now."

"Armoring?" Timid asked in confusion. "What do you mean by that? Did your shell get bigger?"

"No, I mean that my flanks and shoulders now have chitin on top of them. My hooves are very angular and sharp; I haven't been able to see my face yet, but my fangs are smaller too." I listed off the changes that I could observe as well as I could, sensing nervousness coming from the other side of the Cocoon's wall.

"Blue... You aren't hungry are you? Like for... meat?" Rough asked, backing away.

I paused to take stock of myself. I wasn't particularly anything at the moment. Perhaps I still had enough love to sustain me, or maybe it was from the cocoon? "I don't feel hungry..."

"Cause if you come out of that cocoon like a freakin' Xenomorph, all bets are off." Rough explained, though I had no idea what a Xenomorph was. Odd, I didn't even think of that word in quotations now...

"That's facehuggers you're thinking about, Ricky." Timid explained, adjusting their glasses with a free hand.

"Nerd." Rough replied jokingly, earning a slap on their blanketed shoulder from Soft.

"How long was I away again?" I asked.

"About a minute? Is somethin' wrong?" Soft asked.

"I feel... older some how. Maybe smarter? I don't really know, but I don't feel like I'm who I was anymore." It was like I had lived a very long time and all of my experiences finally caught up with me, giving a bit of weight to my thoughts.

"Told ya, Blue is gonna be the prettiest alien butterfly anybody's ever seen." Timid smugly replied towards Rough and Soft.

I looked through the ooze at my wings. They were still changeling wings, though much larger. "I don't think I'm going to be a butterfly, Timid."

"Oho, What's this? Is that sass coming from Blue?" Soft smirked. "Now I'm even more interested in seeing what you look like, Blue."

"How long till you think you're ready to come out of there, do you think?" Rough asked, adjusting their blankets.

I poked the side of the cocoon, a hard shell greeting me. "Not yet, I suppose."

"Hey, we can use this as a chance to upload these recordings I have! Then we could have a Question and Answer stream!" Timid cheered, quickly shutting their camera and weaving around Rough's blanket mountain and Soft, running up the stairs.

Soft and Rough gave a look of nervous concern to another. "You think this is a good idea?" Soft asked.

Rough looked at my cocoon. "What do you think, Blue?"

I observed myself, looking at my new long angular legs, my armored body, my larger wings and... and my old forelimb as it drifted past. It was tiny by comparison.

"I don't think I'm going to be able to shift into a dog anymore." I replied seriously.

Unexpected Visitor

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"How large do you think you are now, Blue?" Soft asked, taking part of a blanket from Rough to use for themself and sitting down next to them.

I used my magic to float the undissolved right foreleg of mine closer to me, eventually holding it in front of my face. "Well... guessing from this limb of mine, I'm at least twice as large as I was. This leg here is about half of my new leg... and I don't think I'm even finished yet."

"Seriously?" Rough asked in surprise. "You were kinda tiny before, yeah, but we never even measured you. I mean, you came up to my belt, and I'm about five foot ten.... so you're... you must be massive!"

"We could get measuring tape for when she's out of the cocoon and find out for sure." Soft suggested. Timid was still off somewhere upstairs 'posting their video' or something, and absent from the conversation. My cocoon had slowly been turning a blue tinge mixed with the green of before.

"Well if that cocoon of yours gets any bigger, we're gonna have to shove it into the basement before it blocks off the whole front of the house." Rough pointed out, trying to pry their blanket back from Soft.

I turned myself inside of the cocoon by placing my hooves on the inner walls, allowing me to maneuver. My wings weren't able to help as much inside of this goopy fluid, but being suspended in the stuff was strangely soothing. I saw that my cocoon had grown considerably, nearly reaching the side of the door with a slowly spreading resin that hardened after a few seconds exposure to the air.

"How would you even move me?" I asked curiously. "I think this cocoon is larger than the doors now."

A slight pause before Rough replied with, "I don't actually know. I mean before when this was just starting it might've been possible, but now it's just silly."

A quick thumping was heard and all eyes turned to the staircase to witness Timid racing down. "You guys, we got a problem!"

"What happened?" Rough and Soft asked, worried.

Timid reached the bottom of the stairs and stood in view of all of us, adjusting their glasses. "The problem is... nobody cares."

"Huh?" Rough blurted.

"The video I posted? They think its CGI. Really good CGI, but still fake." Timid pouted.

"They don't believe it?" Soft asked.

"They think that it's super-fake and they downvoted it for a click-bait title. I mean yeah, 'Alien on Earth is Real: Exclusive Footage' was probably over the top for a youtube video, but it isn't getting any views." Timid explained.

"So that just means we'll have to go bigger, won't it?" Rough suggested, sitting upright. "How about we take Blue to Wal-mart again, undisguised? Then people will get out their phones, call the police, start recordin', stuff like that?"

Timid wasn't convinced. "Oh yeah, sure, that's a brilliant idea. You might as well stand on the white house lawn and yell 'Look, I found aliens! Believe me its true!' to the entire world. What would you do if you were a cop and you got a bunch of calls saying 'Aliens are here'? Cause I'd ignore it and leave it alone." Timid took a breath and continued ranting. "And suppose people do take it seriously, what then? Do we really want to explain to a bunch of police and government types that we had an alien with us? What if things get violent?"

There was an awkward pause as the three considered their options. I took it as an opportunity to continue examining myself.

I pressed my hooves together experimentally, and found that they glowed a bright blue with the more force I placed on them. Was it my hoof hardening spell? That shouldn't be how it worked, but here it was... just... there now. A part of me that simply was. I looked behind myself at my wings and tried to buzz them, finding my wings to work perfectly, if only a bit slowed from the ooze.

"You okay in there Blue? It sounds like you're hammering the daylights out of that thing." Rough asked with concern.

"I was testing my wings, Rough." I replied concisely, halting the buzzing of my wings. I felt 'Eugh' from Rough.

"Those wings are going to be freaky when you come out of there..." Rough complained.

"Oh come on, Blue is an alien! She probably thinks you're freaky, Ricky." Soft countered.

"Actually..." Timid proposed, "What do you think of humans, Blue?"

"Well," I began abruptly, "For the most part, you're all kind, caring, considerate, very emotional (Which is a big bonus) and you look out for one another almost without fault. You provide for your families and each other as best you're able, you cheer each other up when they're feeling down, you have close families and you trust easily. I also have no idea how you stand upright without falling over." I paused to hear their replies, and received nothing in return for a moment.

Eventually, Rough spoke up. "That's probably the nicest reaction to humanity I could've ever hoped to hear..."

"Wait, you can't figure out how we stand?" Timid asked with surprise.

"You don't have a tail, you don't have wings, yet you stand on two legs without difficulty like it isn't even an issue!" I explained in slight exhasperation. I couldn't even imagine trying to disguise as one of these not-minotaur-- er... humans. I would fall on my flank in half a second!

I noticed that the three hadn't been paying attention to my last comment, as they had all been looking out of the window. "Hello?" I asked.

"Blue, Keep quiet! Someone just pulled into the driveway, and it ain't Mom!" Rough quietly snapped. "Ah crap, what are we gonna do?"

"Just keep calm! They don't have any reason to come inside, do they?" Timid replied, trying to pull blankets off of Rough.

"What are you doin', Karol!?" Rough whisper shouted.

"I'm trying to cover up the giant alien Chrysalis in your living room, Ricky!" Timid shot back.

"He's getting out of the car!" Soft reported, peeking through some blinds. "It's Officer Brady!"

"Can you tell what he wants?" Rough asked, flinging blankets off of themself and onto the floor where Timid would quickly pick them up and huck them on top of my cocoon. Some of them stuck to the sides, others simply crumpled down when they hit a hardened part of the cocoon.

"He's got a shovel?" Soft asked rhetorically before pausing a moment, then smacking their face. "Ricky, when you hit Blue with the shovel, did you pick it back up?"

"Uh... Oh crap!" Rough blurted, wincing in embarassment. "No! I was caught up in the excitement of it all!"

"Well Brady is comin' this way, and he doesn't look too happy!" Soft replied, hiding next to the door frame.

Three loud wooden steps were heard outside, my own hearing muffled by the ooze. Three loud knocks followed soon after on the metal door.

"What do we do!?" Soft whisper shouted to the other two.

"We can't just ignore him! Mom will come home to the police in her driveway!" Rough countered.

"Then we gotta let him in." Timid said with finality, their hand grasping the door knob and pulling it open despite the protests from Soft and Rough.

The door opened inward, concealing me from the conversation that was taking place just a short distance away from me. I could see that some of my resin had flowed from the cocoon and further along the flooring, coming just into the entryway where this conversation was going to take place.

"Hello, everyone." Kind announced to the three. "How is your evening?"

"Uh... interesting." Timid replied uncertainly.

"Would any of you folks happen to be missing a shovel?" Kind asked, the sound of scraping wood on the floor ending shortly after their sentence finished. "A certain shovel with the name 'Monte' duct taped to the handle?"

"U-uh, Yeah! Where'd you find it, Officer Brady?" Rough asked nervously.

"Well, the funniest thing happened. I got a call last night about a meteorite impacting a farm. The farmer, Josh Andrews, was understandably concerned that his wheat fields might catch fire. I was on-call that night, so I got out to the farm and discovered the crater. The interesting bit is that there wasn't a meteorite! Like someone had come in a big hurry and carried it off somewhere. Now, knowing that isn't very likely, I looked around and discovered a slim trail of trampled wheat leading away from the meteor, but no other path that would've been coming towards it. Now, it's entirely possible that someone came to the meteor impact site, being very careful to go exactly there, despite the fact that its nearly impossible to see over all of that wheat, and then leaving the way they came with an obscenely heavy meteorite filled with precious metals... or..."

I heard a metallic clanking noise come from behind the door.

"Or there could also have been a well known duo of trouble makers out that night as well that I just so happened to run into, speeding away from the very same wheat fields like they had found a demon in the back seat..." Kind's voice had gone from soothing to accusatory now. "I also found this shovel this morning, with your last name on it, abandoned in the middle of the street. Now, take a look at this indentation and tell me what possibly could've made that kind of a mark, would you?"

Anxiety, fear, worry and dread were coming from Timid, Rough and Soft in gigantic waves. I could see that Soft and Rough were sweating as well. They all shared a very fearful look with another before Timid gulped and spoke up.

"O-officer Brady?" They trembled.

"Yes, Miss Karol?" Kind replied expectantly.

"There's... something we should show you."

"Karol, what the heck are you doing!?" Rough blurted before quickly covering their mouth.

"Oh, well now I'm interested!" Kind sassed. "I was worried I'd come all the way out here for nothing but a visit!"

"Look, maybe this is what we need?" Timid explained, turning to Soft and Rough. "We need to get Blue popular on the internet, right? People didn't believe the story was real, but maybe Officer Brady could help? Police are... well, somewhat trusted, no offense Officer Brady, but still!"

"Who is Blue, one of your druggy friends?" Kind accused.

"You know I don't do that stuff anymore, Officer Brady." Rough grumbled defensively.

"How about you come inside and we can talk about it? I have cocoa made!" Timid offered.

"Well... you three don't have a history of violence and we know each other... Still, I'm going to stand right here in full view of my dash-cam." Kind mandated.

"Well... It's kind of hard to move it to you." Timid replied vaguely.

"What, do you admit to being on Mister Andrew's property last night?" Kind asked, still hidden by the door itself.

"Eh... Maybe you could just stand right here and take a look?" Timid pointed towards the center of the living room next to the couch that I had fed from Rough on.

"No funny business, alright?" Kind warned, taking a few careful steps into the home. They soon came into full view of me with their back turned, and I was still in the cocoon of course.

"Alright, are you ready?" Timid asked carefully. "Don't freak out, alright?"

"Freak out about what?" Kind asked, turning to look behind themself at Timid and instead focusing on the very large cocoon in front of him. "Holy Jesus! What the hell is that!?" He yelped in surprise, desperately trying to pull something from their belt.

"Nonono! Officer Brady, stop! She's good!" Soft cried desperately, putting themself between Kind and myself with their hands raised.

Kind was pointing something small, slim and metallic at me. "The hell do you mean 'she', Maria!? The hell is that thing!?"

Rough stood next to Soft, also barring the way. "This cocoon is holding our guest, named Blue. She's an alien. From space." Rough paused a moment in amusement. "I never thought I'd say something like that in my lifetime."

"An alien? Yeah, sure, and I'm actually Superman in disguise." Kind sassed, lowering their metal thing a short distance, pointing towards the floor.

"Blue is in some kind of cocoon stage and we don't know how long it will be until she's free of it." Timid explained, joining the barrier on Soft's left side.

Kind looked between the three humans and my cocoon in complete disbelief. "There's no way." They muttered, placing their metal thing back on their belt. "There's no freakin' way."

"Hey Blue, you still awake?" Rough asked from over their shoulder.

"I can speak now?" I replied, my voice wavering once again and deeper from the friction of the ooze against my wings. I felt a wave of pure fear come from Kind as they backed away and nearly fell over a table in their retreat.

"It's alright, Brady. She's fine!" Soft insisted.

"That thing just talked!" Kind blurted, standing further away now. "The hell is wrong with you people!?"

"We found Blue on the side of the road on that night you pulled us over. The wings you saw underneath the jacket? Those were hers..." Rough explained. "The imprint on that shovel was... well, that was me panicking like you are now and hitting her in the face with it."

Kind's mouth was open in disbelief. "You met new alien life, and the first thing you did was hit it with a shovel?"

"You were about to shoot her, Brady." Rough retorted.

Kind grumbled something under their breath and calmed down a bit. "Alright, you've got me there."

The four of them stood awkwardly in the living room for a moment, just looking at each other.

"So..." Timid asked, "What now?"

"You know what?" Kind asked rhetorically with some heat to their voice. "This isn't happening. I didn't just walk in here and see some horror show hosted by a group of college kids. Nope, It was a halloween decoration. That's it. Nothing wrong here. No aliens, no freaky cocoon things in the living room, Not even a shovel with a mysterious dent in it! Nope! Sorry Captain but everything checked out fine!" Kind ranted, flailing their arms around.

"I do not get paid enough to deal with this shit!" Kind proclaimed before slamming the door shut behind themself.

After a shocked pause from the three I asked, "How much do you think Kind owes the Swear Jar?"

Blue 2.0

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The three of them stood there in stunned silence as the muffled sounds of shoes impacting wood and then gravel continued off into the distance, ended by the roar of Kind's beast and flinging gravel as they left in a hurry. I tapped my forehooves together again experimentally, finding that my hoof hardening spell was indeed a permanent addition to them. I tried my hindhooves as well, and found the same thing to be true. I began running my hooves all over my body to where ever they could reach, and found that the hoof hardening spell had become a body hardening spell. I tried smacking my forehoof onto my other leg and produced a respectably loud crackle of magic.

"Blue!?" Rough blurted, their attention finally free of Kind's speedy get away.

"I think I'm understanding more and more about this body, Rough." I explained, holding onto the sides of the cocoon by pressing my hindhooves onto the bottom of it, allowing my forehooves to move me around inside by pressing up against both sides. Sort of like crawling around... but through fluid... and vertically.

"You think your cocoon is gonna stop growing any time soon? It's pretty massive." Soft worried from their position next to Rough, an arm draped over their brother's shoulder.

"Hey Blue, if you're ever going to come out of that thing you should let me know! I want to record the whole process and tweak around with my videos a bit. I'll probably have to delete that other one and think of a different title." Timid summarized, opening their camera once again and pointing it towards me.

I moved a hoof across my face, finding that it had become longer and more angular, yet hardened and slightly sharp; Somewhat like cut stone. "I think I should be able to break free from this easily, though I don't really know what will happen with all the fluids in here."

"Eugh, yeah... That's going to be nasty." Rough complained, backing away from my cocoon.

"That just gave me an idea!" Soft blurted, quickly moving past Rough to sprint up the staircase.

"Where are you goin'?" Rough called after them.

"Towels!" Soft yelled back, refraining from explaining further.

Rough sighed, "Well, at least she has a plan."

I pressed my right forehoof against the semi-transparent cocoon wall, finding it very solid. "Should I wait for Soft?" I asked the two that remained.

"I'd say yes. I don't think we can explain away a giant stain on the carpet and a cocoon husk and an alien." Timid replied.

What would I even do when I got out of this cocoon? I couldn't shape-shift into a dog anymore as I was far too large... I could dig, perhaps. Give myself a place to sleep that would be somewhat secluded? I doubt that I could stay in Soft's room forever, especially with my growth.

I heard the steady thudding of feet on carpet running down the staircase. "Alright, got em!" Soft called, a large pile of white towels in their arms. They moved awkwardly past Rough and threw the blob of fabric down at the base of the cocoon. "Okay, here's my plan: A whole bunch of we don't know is gonna come out of that cocoon, right? So, we use all these towels to soak everything up and then we use the steam cleaner from the garage to clean up anything that's left!"

"Uh, you two can be on cleaning duty. I have a documentary to film!" Timid replied, focusing their camera on my cocoon again.

"Yeah, alright." Rough grumbled, turning around and chucking blanket after blanket onto the couch. "I was overheatin' anyway."

After a few moments, Soft and Rough had arranged a circle around the base of the cocoon. "Are you ready?" I asked, pressing my hoof lightly against the wall of my temporary prison.

"Ready as I'll ever be." Rough replied cautiously. "Just don't melt us with acid or nothin'."

"I'm ready Blue, go for it!" Soft cheered. Timid readied their camera as well, taking a few steps back.

The single hoof I had pressed against the wall of the cocoon was forced further into it, crackling with magic as the body hardening spell fought against the resin-based chrysalis. I placed another hoof on the edge, causing even more crackles and a blue colored light display from within.

"Hey, this could make for a heck of an Intro video!" Timid commented, backing up again and into the wall behind them.

Rough and Soft had taken cover behind a few blankets that had fallen to the ground. I used the magic from my horn to amplify the spell further, causing cracks to appear in the wall.

"Come on Blue, you've got this!" Soft said in support from behind their wall of fabric.

"This is so pretty!" Timid blurted.

Simply pressing on the wall wasn't working. I decided to be a bit more aggressive and treat it like any other dirt, rock or debris in my way, hammering it with my hooves. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.

"Holy crap, Blue! That's some racket you're makin' in there!" Rough yelled, covering their ears. I glanced and saw Soft doing the same, and Timid trying to use their shoulder to awkwardly block off their left ear as well.

This was beginning to annoy me. I should have broken free of this cocoon easily! I charged my horn again, attempting a different approach. Perhaps I could simply blast it with magic? A high pitched whining noise emitted from my horn, steadily increasing in volume and... vibration?

"Blue, what are you doing!?" Rough hollered with their eyes shut against the noise.

I tried a combination of sonic vibration and hoof hammering. After only a few short moments, the cocoon began chipping away and rupturing!

"We've sprung a leak, captain!" Timid cheered, a giddy smile on their face.

I pushed myself away from the cracks in the cocoon, floating towards the other side. I was somehow able to maneuver my hooves behind my back, somewhat like a spider, and launch myself off of the cocoon's inner wall. I faced all four of my hooves towards the crack and charged my horn with all the might I could give it.

A nearly deafening crunch accompanied my impact into the cocoon, soon followed by the glugging of ooze and other liquids from the side. My hooves had broken free of the cocoon, but I was now stuck. "A little help?" I asked as the messy liquid drained past me.

"Try wiggling!" Rough suggested, pinching their nose now. "Good god does this stuff smell rank!"

"I'm not even going to invoke the swear jar on that. This is god awful!" Soft agreed, pinching their nose as well. Timid was not so fortunate.

Timid kneeled over onto the ground, still pointing their camera at me, and vomited onto the flooring.

"Come on, Karol!" Soft complained with a nasally voice. "It's just Ooze of Blue!"

Wiggling was proving to be effective, as I had pulled one of my angular hooves free from the cocoon. This freed up more space, and I was soon standing within the cocoon in a small pool of ooze that had failed to drain. The wall of the cocoon was something like a blueish stained glass. It must have changed colors while I was... re-forming.

"Hey Blue!" Rough waved.

"Hello, Rough." I waved back.

Rough squinted at me through the cocoon wall, trying to make out details. "Well, I can tell you're a lot taller now if that's you just standing."

"Should I continue to break free?" I asked politely.

"Yeah, sure. Lemme move back a bit though."

When Rough had retreated, I took to hammering out the edges of the hole. After a few minutes of this constant effort, I was able to poke my head through.

"So, how do I look?"

Timid, Rough and Soft all looked between each other with mixed expressions of either fear, intrigue or intense worry. They then all looked to me.

"Blue. Don't take this the wrong way, but you got even freakier." Timid explained.

"You're bending your neck to poke out of that hole right now, aren't you?" Rough asked.

"Yes? How does that make me freaky?"

"Well, that's head height. Our head's height, which makes you even taller than we are!" Rough explained with nervous energy.

"Well, I still need to free myself of this cocoon, regardless of my height." I explained, beginning my task of hammering against the cocoon once more.



After a final strike, Timid, Soft and Rough all cheered, a piece of the cocoon flying past their heads.

"Finally! Blue is free!" Soft sighed in relief.

"Hold on, I'm fixing my camera! Don't come out yet!" Timid begged, fiddling with their contraption.

"Think we got a fog machine around anywhere?" Rough asked of Soft.

"What would we need a fog machine for?"

"To make Blue's New Groove a bit more dramatic, of course." Rough replied jokingly, smirking at Soft's eye rolling.

"Okay, got it!" Timid announced. "Camera is rolling, proceed with Alien-ness!"

"So I walk out now?" I asked uncertainly.

"Yes, Blue... way to kill the suspense!" Timid chided.

I took only a single step before the three had a spike of fear. They didn't blurt out, however, so I continued. Another step, then another. Soon I had revealed my head and front half. I blinked the ooze from my eyes a few times, brushing off even more of the stuff from my limbs and buzzing the slime from my wings. I shook my hind legs as well, flicking even more of the goop from me. That was when I noticed that I now had a mane, and it was getting in my face.

I batted the thing away as it was covering one of my eyes. A stripe of white down the center with bright blue on either side of it in straight lines, somewhat styled like Queen Chrysalis' hair, albeit shorter in length. With my vision fully restored and my new mane out of the way, I proceeded forward. I squeezed the rest of my body free from the cocoon, my midsection freeing itself with a fleshy sucking noise while I pulled myself free with my forelegs marching along on the floor.

Eventually I had freed my wings, and a quick experimental buzz ended up flinging goop everywhere. For some reason there were no complaints about that, so I continued on with my freeing efforts. I wiggled, kicked, buzzed and hammered the last part of the cocoon away, finally freeing myself after minutes of effort that left me very tired.

I fell onto the ground on my side, taking deep breaths from lungs that literally dwarfed my old ones. After regaining my breath, I heaved myself upwards so that I could look at the three that remained silent.

Well, the four that remained silent. 'Mom' had come home.

"Ah..." Rough began hesitantly. "We can explain?"

The nearly blind 'Mom' raised an eyebrow at Rough. From their voice, I could identify them as Stern from last night."You can explain why there's a gigantic bug monster breathing heavily on the Living Room floor?" They scoffed in disbelief. "This is gonna be a laugh."

They then glanced at me, and I returned a curious look to them. "Hello?" I asked cautiously.

Stern took a deep breath and sighed. They then blinked, staring at me in a sort of resigned acceptance. "I should probably be surprised about this, shouldn't I?"

"You mean you're not?" Timid asked.

"Twenty-seven years on the force most of that as a Sheriff n' you see all kinds of strange things. Things they don't let the public know about for darned sure. Nothing like giant bug monsters that speak English, No, but weird stuff all the same. Maybe I'm just too old to freak out anymore? Maybe I'm just too tired to care."

I tried to stand up, my legs a bit wobbly from the exertion of before. Thankfully with some help from my wings, I was able to stand upright with only moderate difficulty. I held out each of my limbs as far as they would go, one at a time, in order to get a bearing on how far I was able to maneuver them. I raised my wings and moved them around in an experimental circle a few times, noting that they had become more solidified and large with my new body. Taking a deep breath and finding that I was perfectly intact once more, I looked to Stern. I then saw that they had been looking above me, and at that point I realized that my horn had been trying to spear itself through the ceiling this entire time. I turned my head awkwardly sideways for a moment and apologetically smiled at Stern. "Sorry?" I offered.

"I so need to measure you now!" Timid chimed in, drawing looks from Stern, Soft and Rough. "Okay, later then!"

Stern squinted at me, their clouded eyes looking into mine and searching for something. Out of some compulsion I returned the look to them. Then something caught my eye. A spark. Barely visible, but still there.

"How long have you been at the house?" Stern asked suddenly.

"A day? I'm not certain." I replied honestly.

"You planning on abducting my kids?"

"Uh... no?" I replied in confused honesty. "Why would I need to do that?"

Stern searched my eyes even more, the procedure going on for a few minutes at the least before they finally relented.

"Alright. I think you're a decent bug-monster alien-thing that just hatched in my living room. Call it mother's intuition, but if you had wanted to do any harm then you would've done it a long time ago, right?"

"Uh..." I blurted, not really knowing what to say.

Stern extended a hand towards me. I had seen ponies do something similar to this during my short stay in Ponyville. It was known as a Hoof-shake. I accepted the offer with my own hoof, thankful that the body hardening spell didn't activate. Perhaps it was based off of my will?

"Welcome to Earth, Bug-Alien thing." Stern said with a smile. The spark I saw in their eyes had become a flicker now. I looked to Rough, Soft and Timid, finding a spark in their eyes as well. It wasn't the spark of love, that much was certain. What was it, though?

Measuring, For Science!

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"By the way," Stern abruptly said, turning around to face all of us, "Just because you're a huge bug from space doesn't mean that you don't have to help clean up your mess." They pointed to the cocoon I had emerged from, the pool of ooze held at bay by the carefully arranged towels, the pieces of broken cocoon laying around everywhere and the dented shovel they had carried in. "I'm going to make Mac and Cheese."

When Stern had dissapeared around the corner, the other three breathed a sigh of relief. "Ooh, I thought we were done for!" Soft exclaimed.

Rough was looking at the cocoon behind me and frowning. "That's one heck of a mess..."

"We should hoard it all in the basement!" Timid blurted, their camera poking around on the inside of the cocoon while their feet tried to stay clear of the goo. "Then we can take it to the college in the morning!"

"Uh, why would we do that?" Rough asked, raising their eyebrow at Timid.

"For science; duh!" Timid sassed back. "If Blue doesn't even know whats happened to her, then we need to figure out everything we possibly can. Her height, her weight, what she's capable of, if she'll need more love right now or later, or if this cocoon thing will happen again!"

"Speaking of love, how are you doing, Blue?" Soft asked, looking up at me.

I stared blankly at Soft for a moment before replying, "You're so small..."

Soft raised their eyebrow. "You're giant, Blue. You used to come up to our waists and now... Oh screw this, I'm getting a tape measure from the garage." They huffed, weaving around me and running off into a nearby room, the door closing behind them on its own.

"I mean, I guess we could do some of that stuff here..." Timid pouted. "The science equipment is just so much cooler looking than a tape measure!"

"I'm gonna get a marker." Rough announced. "Gotta compare our heights, right?"

"Uh, for an alien? I'm not really sure that applies..." Timid replied in confusion.

"Well, she came up to my belt before, so we can use that as a reference for her past height." Rough reasoned.

"Oh! I forgot about that. Sure! I'll have a talk with Blue while you're gone." Timid replied eagerly with excitement.

I used my magic to levitate a mostly unsoiled towel from the floor, wiping off most of the ooze, slime and goo that I had been covered with. I had to lower my neck to avoid impaling the ceiling and it was starting to get annoying, so I opted to lay on the floor away from the mess I had made in order to clean myself in peace.

"Okay, recording?" Timid asked themself, pointing the camera at their face. "Yep!" They flipped the camera around to face me. "Alright, Let's get all this science stuff started! What is your name?"

"Blue Sun." I replied.


"I have no idea."

"Wait, seriously? How do you not know how old you are?" Timid asked, caught off guard.

"I was a tunneler. I tunneled. There was no reason to keep track of time in the Hive." I explained plainly, towelling off my horn. I found that it had grown considerably and was also angular and forward facing.

"Okay... Ricky and Maria are working on the height part... Oh! gender?" Timid asked.

"Female, I think."

"Hmm... I'm worried what would happen if we put you on a scale." Timid hummed. A nearby door opened and Soft came through, a metal square in their hand.

"Found it!" Soft declared, holding it above their head in triumph. They grabbed a slim part of it and pulled, a long yellow strip with tiny markings coming from it. "Now we see how tall you are!"

I set the towel I had been using to clean myself on the floor, set away from the other towels that were quickly becoming soaked. As I stood I was careful to not impale my horn through the ceiling, but it presented some problems.

"Yeah, we're gonna need to go outside for this..." Soft said with a frown, glancing out of the window. "At least it's dark outside. Come on Blue, lets go for a walk! They said with a snicker for some reason.

Soft lead the way, opening the door and leading us out with Timid behind the both of us, still recording. The front steps to the house were tiny now, so I opted to skip them entirely and step from the house itself without trouble. When we were clear of the house, I took the opportunity to stretch and flex my wings, making circular motions with them now that I had enough space to do so.

"Oh, thats another thing! We have to get your wingspan." Timid noted with a smile. "Alright Maria, let's get to measuring!"

Soft rolled their eyes and flipped the metal thing, the metal hook towards the ground. "Hey Blue, could you step on this for me?"

"Hopefully I won't crush it..." I replied with concern, carefully stepping on the fragile looking thing.

"Okay, there's no way I'm going to reach your horn without a stepladder, so could you lift this part of the tape measure with your weird levitation powers until it goes just past the tip of your horn? Try to stand as straight as possible as well." Soft requested, and I complied. The metal thing made a strange sound as it unraveled which I thought was funny. I may have gotten side-tracked in making silly noises from causing the measure to slide up and down.

"Blue, seriously. You can play with the tape measure later." Soft jokingly grumbled.

I focused on the task at hoof, pulling the tape towards my horn and keeping it perfectly straight.

"Okay, can you use the camera to zoom in on that, Karol?" Soft asked.

"On it!" Timid replied, moving close to my side and staring upwards at my horn with their camera. "Holy... It's saying that Blue is Eight feet, four inches!"

Soft whistled. "Dang, Blue. You sure grew up quick."

"How much is a feet?" I asked. "Also, can I move now?"

"One Foot," Soft explained, shrinking the measuring tape down, "Is this long. You are eight of those," They shrunk it again, "And four of these, which is an inch."

"Okay, stretch out your wings to the sides as far as they'll go, Blue!" Timid asked, moving further away. I did as they asked, stretching out my wings to the sides and leveling them parallel to the ground.

"I'm going to hold this end," Soft explained, "And you're going to use your magic to take it to the other side. Karol, you're going to have to read the measurement again."

"On it!" Timid exclaimed, lightly jogging to the other wing.

The measure stretched out across the length of my wings, held in my magic until reaching the other side.

"Hooo-boy. Hey Maria?" Timid called out. "Twenty feet, six inches! Good thing those wings are so close to your sides all the time!"

"Hey Blue, did I ever tell you that you were massive? 'Cause you're freakin' massive!" I heard Rough call from the doorway. "How tall is she?" Rough asked, moving down the steps and towards us. I retracted my wings to my sides, buzzing a little in irritation from having them stretched out so awkwardly.

"Eight foot, four inches!" Timid replied with excitement. "This is so great!"

"Hey Blue, do you think you're a Queen now?" Rough asked, their question throwing me off.

"W-what? Why would I be a Queen?" I blurted in surprise.

"I think I get what Rough's going at." Timid explained, "At least here on earth, we have things called 'Ant Colonies'. They usually have a single queen that controls the rest of the hive, but there's still other female ants in the hive in case the queen dies. The ant queen will release pheremones to ensure that the other female ants don't lay eggs and become a queen as well, and since you're probably the only alien bug thing on earth, there's nothing to stop you from becoming a queen, is there?"

"But... before Chrysalis, we had another Queen. Queen... um... why can't I remember their name?" I scratched my chitinous head with a pointed hoof, my magic crackling and startling me. Setting my hoof carefully on the ground, I continued. "Anyway, the point is that it didn't take one cocoon for her to mature into a full queen. It took at least... three in total, I think."

Their mouths were open in shock. "You mean you're a baby queen!?" Rough exclaimed.

"I think Proto-Queen is more accurate?" Timid suggested, also shaken.

"You're so massive though! Does that mean you're going to get even bigger!?" Soft cheered in excitement.

"I guess that's possible? Queen Chrysalis didn't grow that much after the first cocoon, though our hive was constantly starved for love."

"That sort of makes sense on why you became so huge then!" Timid chirped, causing us to look at them in curiosity. "Oh, well, let me explain it like this: You know those Islands out in the ocean with a bunch of mini-sized animals?"

"Uh, no?" Rough blurted.

"Okay, anyways, if you go on google you can find out about these super neat mini-critters that are tiny because of the lack of resources on their island. So, instead of starving, all the critters evolved to be miniature versions of their larger selves over time. This meant that there was an abundance of food and everything to keep them alive, but they couldn't be as huge as they were before, kinda. I'm glossing over a bunch of super important science reasons for everything, but that's the gist."

"So... Blue was so small before because they were starved?" Soft asked with worry. "That's horrible!"

"How large was Queen Chrysalis, Blue?" Timid asked, pointing the camera to me.

"Well, how small was I when I was a drone?" I answered in question. "This is so strange... How am I a queen?"

"Well, you came up to about here." Rough said, holding a hand flat to their belt. "So, I'd say about... three foot eight inches, including your horn?"

"Hmm... Actually, I wonder if I could copy her form now? I'm certainly large enough."

Timid's eyes grew wide with awe. "Do it, Do it, Do it!" they chanted in excitement.

"Alright." I replied, my hooves lighting in a bright blue flame that wicked up my body, burning along the carapace and ending at my horn tip. I felt... squished.

"How do I look?" I asked in the voice of my Queen. "Eugh, this is strange..."

"You look awesome!" Timid cheered.

"You look really different. Like, almost fragile by comparison..." Rough noted, interested.

"I think you're smaller, too." Soft added.

I moved my legs around a bit, chittering my wings. "I feel compacted... Do you mind if I turn back?" I asked with a raised brow.

"By all means!" Timid replied, focusing their camera on me intently.

In a quick flash of blue, I reverted to my now regular form. "I don't think I'm going to get used to being this large very soon..."

"Okay, time to write all of this down for the camera! Here, hold this." Timid blurted, shoving the camera into Rough's hands and pulling out a small stack of papers and a pencil. "Give me a moment, okay?" Timid asked, turning away from the camera and furiously scribbling.

After a shared moment of awkward glances, Timid was finished and produced a paper. "Here, take a look!"

Species: Changeling
Height: 8'4"
Weight: ??
Age: ??
Role: Proto-Queen, former Tunneler Drone
Demeanor: Friendly, Helpful, Friggin' Cute (Scientific term)
Origin Planet: ??
Time on Earth: Barely two days. Seriously.

"How's that?" Timid asked with a smile.

"Very 'scientific', Karol." Rough snarked.

I turned from the group to see Stern standing on the front of the house's steps. "Alright everyone... and alien... Dinner's ready!"

A Queen's Jive

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Soft, Rough and Timid all moved to enter the house before pausing to look at me. "Hey Blue... are you hungry?" Rough asked nervously.

I took stock of myself, searching for that never ending hunger that I had known for all my life and found it... sleeping. There was still the endless hunger, but it was sated for now. "Not at the moment." I replied candidly.

Rough sighed in relief. "Oh, thank Jesus. I thought I'd have to freeze my butt off again."

"Who is Jesus?" I asked, following the three of them inside and keeping careful vigilance to not strike the doorframe with my horn. The mess of my cocoon was still heaped in the corner, the goo held back by the towels on the floor.

"Uh, really popular guy from a few thousand years ago; helped out a bunch of people and then got betrayed by his friends and died, pretty much." Timid explained, nudging a towel out of the way with their foot.

"Hey, did you just say a name without copying a voice?" Soft asked, interested.

"Ah... apparently?" I replied, caught off guard at what had just occured.

"Do you think she could call us by our names now?" Rough whispered within easy hearing distance.

Soft looked from Rough and upwards to me, meeting my eyes. "So, Blue..."

"I could call you by your proper names, but somehow it feels wrong. Like if you called me Proto-Queen, for example." I countered, motioning with my armored hoof to the dining room where Stern was busying themself eating 'Mac and Cheese', whatever that was.

"You all gonna eat, or just let it get cold?" Stern chided between bites, shoveling the yellow strangeness into their mouth. "I don't know if I made enough for you though, Miss Alien."

"Her name is Blue, Mom. Proto-Queen Blue Sun." Soft explained, pulling out a wooden chair by lifting it to avoid scraping the floor and sitting down. Timid and Rough took a seat in the same way, and I simply stood there awkwardly with my neck craned downward over the table. This house is obnoxiously small now...

"Well ain't that a mouthful." Stern replied, unimpressed. "How about I just call you 'Blue', does that work?"

I nodded my head, accidently poking a hole in the ceiling and causing sheet rock to crumble down on my mane. "Eh, yes. Sorry." I glanced upward at the hole I had just made. "About the damage... and the Cocoon."

"Is your voice always that strange sounding? Its like you're speaking through a really slow fan thats underwater or something." Stern commented, taking another bite of their food.

"I communicate through vibrating my wings." I explained. Something caught my attention however, as I felt a sudden compulsion to dig. I looked down at the tile flooring, fighting the urge to simply burrow through it. It was an overpowering urge to hide, to expand, to create a home large enough for myself. I had the love I needed for now, I just needed a place to live. Some inner part of myself was begging me to leave this cramped house.

"I think I should go outside." I blurted, slowly backing out the way I had come, trying not to knock over or damage anything else in the house.

"Where you goin', Blue?" Rough asked, dropping their spoon into the bowl they had been eating from.

"I need to create a hive to live in. Soft's bedroom is far too small for me now."

"Wait!" Timid called in excitement, "I need to get my camera for this! Maria, Ricky, follow Blue!"

I had succeeded in backing my way out of the house after a few awkward moments of backpedaling. I turned and looked into the moonlit night to see empty fields around me. No plants, no buildings, just flat grassland. Perfect! I walked away from the front of the house into an open clearing, my eyes providing vision in the night and my chitinous armoring glowing the same blueish teal as my magic. I had no idea what I was doing, but something instinctual guided my path. I crouched low before leaping into the air, my wings springing out to my side and quickly beating with a steady thudding of moving air. I turned around to view Soft, Timid and Rough exiting the house to look for me.

"Up here!" I called down to them, my voice unintentionally louder than I thought it would be. It was loud enough to cause distant animals to complain with barking... probably dogs.

"Keep it down, would you!?" I heard Timid shout at me, their voice faint from the distance. I was well over the house in a steady hover, giving me high ground to look around for at least a few kilo-trots in every direction. Spinning slowly, I surveyed the area until my sight spotted something odd: A metal looking archway that was comparable to the house's secondary door in size, painted erratically in many colors and designs. With the direction memorized, I flew back down to the three waiting for me with a camera, landing quietly on the gravel.

"I've found a location for my hive!" I chirped in excitement, doing a small dance of joy. "Oh, I can't wait!"

"You're takin' all this pretty well, aren't you? I mean just yesterday you were just a tunneler drone. Now you're giddy about buildin' an entire hive by yourself?" Rough questioned, concern and worry flowing from him. "I'm not saying that you're going too fast, but shouldn't you take longer to get adjusted to your body? You kinda disintegrated about three hours ago now."

"My body tells me than I am ready, So I must be ready, right?" I reasoned, and for some reason the three snickered at me.

"Did you really just say 'My body is ready.'?" Timid giggled.

"Classic!" Soft agreed while holding back laughter.

I squinted my eyes in confusion at them. "Humans are strange."

"Says the shape-shifting alien queen from another planet." Rough retorted.

"Well, despite the state of readiness for my body," I began, ignoring their outright laughter at this point, "I am going to the metal archway in the distance to begin work on my hive." I pointed in the vague direction of where I was going so they would know. I kneeled down and was about to take off before I was interrupted.

"Wait, Blue! Take me with you!" Timid blurted, their camera in one hand and pointed at me and the other holding onto my chest carapace. "This is going to be recording gold!"

"Are you certain? We would have to walk if you came along." I cautioned.

"What, I can't just ride on your back?" Timid asked hopefully.

"No. I have no idea how heavy you are." I countered succinctly.

"Oof, burned by an alien." Soft snickered, earning a shoulder punch from Timid.

"Shut up, Maria." Timid grumbled.

"Wait, what do you mean by a metal archway in the distance?" Rough asked. "Wait, no... you don't mean Titan One, do you?"

I blinked at Rough. "I have literally no concept of what a 'Titan One' would be."

"It's an old abandoned missile silo they ditched in the sixties. Nobody goes there because it's lined with asbestos and its a rusty death-trap, too." Rough explained, folding their arms across their chest. "I... may have dealt some drugs there at one point in time. It was years ago though!"

Timid held a hand up, pointing a finger skyward. "I would like to point out the odd hilarity that an alien from another world is finding the creepiest place ever to be suitable for a hive... that is all."

"She's right, Blue. Your hive location is Cliche'." Soft agreed sarcastically, tutting.

"I don't care. It looks cozy from here." I grumbled.

"Can you see in the dark? It's going to be pitch black in there and hazardous as heck." Rough warned in concern. "That place is a defunct death trap for anyone trying to move around in it."

"I'm heavily armored, I can fly, I can see in the dark, I can use magic and I'm a Proto-Queen of a soon to be new changeling hive. I'm sure I can manage an old building underground." I retorted smugly, chittering my wings for show.

"Hey, isn't there a saying about power going to your head?" Soft asked rhetorically, rolling their eyes at me.

"Eh, right. Sorry." I replied abashedy, looking at the ground. Hey, the ground here isn't actually that bad...

"Blue... what are you doing?" Rough asked worriedly, backing away from me. "I've seen that look in your eyes before and I almost froze to death the last time."

I looked up with a wide grin at Rough, causing them to back away from me further. "Do you think I could dig here?" I asked, poking the ground with my hoof and causing a few small bits of gravel to evaporate from making contact with my body hardening spell. A dusty vapor caused me to cough once in irritation. "It wouldn't take me that long."

Soft didn't seem opposed to the idea, waving their hand a little in a wishy-washy sort of manner. "Ehh... maybe the backyard? It's great that you want to stick close with us Blue, but we don't want to get in trouble before you're famous either."

"Speaking of which, I'm looking at the views we have for my latest upload..." Timid announced, fiddling around with a 'smartphone' in their hands and their camera held in the nook of their arm, pointed at me still. "There's a lot of comments about you, Blue. Some are thinking its a trailer for a new movie, some are thinking its CGI and Animation like usual, and there's a few that want to ask you questions..."

"What kind of questions?" I asked, interested.

"Do you know what the Caramell Dansen dance is?" Timid asked, showing me the glowing screen.

"The what?"

"It's some Swedish dance song that was really popular a while ago. You don't actually have to do it; I think it was a joke." Timid explained.

"Could I see it anyway? If it would help us for me to attempt it, then wouldn't it be worth the attempt?"

Rough was holding back laughter unsuccessfully, turning away from the group to burst into hysterics.

"You're serious!?" Soft exclaimed, also joining their brother in a mad giggle fit.

After a short wait, Timid showed the screen of their 'smartphone' to me. "Okay, just watch this video, okay?"

After about three minutes of unexplainable magic that I had never before witnessed in my life, complete with moving creatures on a very tiny slab that sang, all the while giving no emotion, I had learned what a Caramell Dansen was.

I looked down at Timid whom was holding their sides in silent laughter. "I-I got your reaction on camera! All of it!"

"Your face!" Rough blurted in agreement, "Oh my god your face was priceless!"

"I'm not sure if I should be more concerned from the creatures trapped in that slab called a Smartphone, or if I should be worried about falling over trying to dance like that..." I replied in confusion.

"Whelp, there's only one way to find out, Blue! Dancing time!" Timid cheered, pointing the camera at me. "Oh, this is even better from all the glowing spots on you!"

I tried to stand on my hind-legs, quickly failing and falling back down to the ground on all fours. "Okay, let me try that again." I widened my stance and held my wings out to the sides for balance, carefully trying to keep upright on two hooves.

"Jesus, Blue. I thought you were tall before!" Rough chuckled from below me. They were right, as standing on my hindlegs had allowed me to gain at least four more 'feet' if i was guessing correctly.

"Gigantic alien queen does Caramell Dansen. Click-bait title of the century." Soft giggled the moment I had gained my balance.

"Okay. Soo... forehooves now." I continued cautiously, lifting my forehooves shakily towards my head. The humans in the video, however strange they appeared, had been shaking their hips side to side, holding their hands above their head and waving in time with the beat of the music. I had barely managed to accomplish this feat when my wings buzzed to regain balance, throwing me off a little. "Whoa!" I blurted, regaining my stance once again.

"Careful Blue, don't hurt yourself now." Rough warned, amused but concerned for my safety despite myself being literally double armored and more durable than any of the three here by several orders of magnitude.

I took a deep breath and attempted to place my hooves above my head once more. Succeeding in only bringing them to the sides of my head, I grumbled, "Good enough."

"Okay Blue! I'm going to hook my phone up to this speaker so you can hear the music. All you gotta do is dance to the beat and wave your hooves together!" Timid giggled, digging through their clothing and connecting their smart phone with some kind of thin white string.

The music began, and I started shaking my hips from side to side. I stumbled more than once from the difficulty of my size and unfamiliarity with my body, but it was going along fairly well. My blank expression was probably adding to the hilarity, judging from Timid's difficulty in keeping the camera on me from laughing so hard. Soft had completely resigned from decency as they were on the gravel in hysterics, and Rough was holding their sides and having difficulty breathing from laughing at my display.

And then I noticed it again. That spark. The spark was growing into a flame, but it wasn't pink... It was multi-colored; Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, all fused together and intermixing, fueling itself further as I continued dancing. What had happened to my need for love? I couldn't see it anymore, but this new spark didn't have the same overwhelming pull as love either...

I continued dancing until the end of the song, finally dropping to my hooves in relief. The three of them recovered after a long moment of giggling, laughing and enjoying themselves. My hind legs ached from supporting my entire body and my wings were cramping from being extended for so long.

"Hey, you kids stop cackling like hyenas and bring Queen Blue in with you! It's way past bed-time!" Stern shouted from the house, wearing some kind of dress with yellow ducks on it.

Rough and Soft immediately made an effort to contain themselves, calling back with "Be right there, Mom!"

Eventually things went back to resembling sanity, the three of them picking themselves up from the ground. "Okay, please tell me you got that on camera, Karol!" Soft giggled, moving to Timid's side. Rough also joined on the other side to view the rear of the camera.

Then I heard the musical tune of Caramell Dansen again, accompanied by the ghostly giggling and laughter I had heard not moments before, devoid of all emotion or the spark I had felt and seen. It caused my entire body to shiver from the wrongness of it.

"Yep! Got everything!" Timid cheered, joined by Rough and Soft. "Now I just gotta upload this and see how it does on Youtube and Tumblr!" The three of them set off towards the house as I lingered for a moment in thought.

"Hey Blue, you coming? I'm sure we can find someplace for you to sleep in the house still." Soft offered.

I looked back to see the multi-colored spark that had become a steady candle-light of flame in them, hiding just behind their eyes. I didn't know what kind of emotion I was seeing, but it grew the more I interacted with them. I could spend another night in the house and work on my hive in the morning.

"Be right there." I replied with a smile, quickly catching up to the three with just simple steps. I listened in silence as the three discussed my dance and how it would be received on the 'Internet', watching the small flame flicker within them. I had no idea how I had caused this to grow, but it wasn't going away like love would. Being near them caused it to burn steadily, so perhaps this would be better than love in the end?

Moving Out

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The world seemed to be foggy, almost blurry. I looked down at myself to see I was back in my old body as a tunneler. Looking around, I saw the caverns and winding tunnels of the hive, accompanied by the buzzing of unseen changelings all around.

This had to be a dream... but why was I so aware of everything? I couldn't move of my own will, and anything I wasn't looking at directly seemed to be blurred.

"Tunneler," A warrior's voice barked, "You are needed in the Queen's chamber. There is a gathering."

My head turned to acknowledge the warrior, finding that they had already gone off to inform more tunnelers of the event. Time skipped forward and I found myself in the large throne room with Queen Chrysalis' throne dominating the center. I had taken my place at the bottom of the room, as the Warriors were closer to the Queen and the Infiltrators took up the walls. The Caretakers were busy with the Nymphs, of course.

"My children!" Queen Chrysalis shouted above the buzzing mass, "We face dire circumstances." The hive quieted to listen intently at her words. "The Gougers burrow further and further into our hive with every breach of the walls. We have lost entire sections of the hive to cave-ins as well as injury. My nymphs are starving for love. We cannot stay here!"

There was nervous chittering from the Tunnelers around me with worried glances being exchanged. We were usually the first to be drained if the hive was to be moved, in order to ensure the Queen would survive the trip.

"Fear not, however!" Chrysalis interrupted, silencing the hive once more. "I have a plan." She said with a devious smirk. "Nearby is the pony nation of Equestria, lead by Princesses Celestia and Luna. They are weak! They live a life completely free of hardship and death as we do, and they are bursting with love! Their guard is limited in number, their citizens fearful and cowardly! We will storm their capital, we will abduct their leaders and we will harvest more love than we can ever dream of!"

The Warrior and Infiltrator caste were cheering and chittering with excitement, as their roles would be integral in the invasion. We tunnelers however grew even more nervous, some of us even bunching up into groups.

"Do not grovel!" Chrysalis snapped upon seeing the Tunnelers, "You will not need to sacrifice yourselves for the good of the hive!" The relief was audible at that, a few tunnelers falling over. "You will be our backup plan..."

Time skipped forward again in my dream, all of this seeming like a forgotten memory. I was in the private chambers of Queen Chrysalis, along with a few dozen other Tunnelers with Warriors blocking the doors.

"Now..." Chrysalis began, pacing in front of us, "In the event that these ponies perform the unexpected, there must be a plan. If I am captured, or slain by Celestia in a confrontation, the hive must endure." She stopped, turning her head to look at us with a malicious grin. "That is where you all come in." Chrysalis motioned to a collection of strange orbs behind her with a hoof. "Here in this chamber I've laid several royal eggs."

The tunnelers as well as myself all shared shocked and worried glances before looking back at the Queen.

"Each of you will carry one of these eggs in your body. In the event that I am no longer alive, or you are unable to find me due to capture or being separated from the hive, you will need to feed this egg. Unfortunately, a royal egg consumes far more love than is typically available, so you may have to siphon the love from your fellow changelings in order to trigger the transformation process." Chrysalis walked closer to the group, some Tunnelers backing out of her way. "But, I can't afford any of you getting ideas of becoming the next Queen of this hive, even if we do succeed." She grinned widely with a hungry look at all of us. "That is why I am going to tamper with your minds. None of you will remember this meeting or what happened here. At any rate, this is just a precaution. If the plan succeeds, which there is no reason that it shouldn't, then you will be harvested, and the royal eggs taken from your bodies."

A few tunnelers fainted and others accepted their fate, bowing their head. I however, looked directly at the eggs themselves. A bright green flash of blinding magic later, and time skipped forward once more. I found myself laying on the ground in the central chamber, being picked up by a warrior.

"Wake up, Tunneler." They scowled. "Fainting from a speech. You sicken me."

I woke with a start, my eyes shooting open and illuminating the dark room of Soft. I was laying down on my hooves next to their bed as Soft slept naked underneath the covers. I still had no idea what I was looking at, but humans seemed far more frail without their clothing. Then I remembered the last time I had awoken and looked around for dogs in a slight panic.

Scanning around the room, I noticed that they weren't there. I sighed in relief and carefully stood, trying not to impale anything with my horn or knock something over to wake Soft. The sun hadn't risen yet, sparing me from the screaming bird that would no doubt inform everything that it was awake the moment the sun did rise.

Standing there in the room, I thought back to my dream. Perhaps that is why I cocooned myself? I had devoured enough love from Rough that it awoke the egg? That would be the only explanation for why I had become a Proto-Queen... Well, more of a large house guest at the moment, actually. What was I going to do? Sit around the rest of my life, entertaining Rough, Soft and Timid? I was supposed to be a Queen! I couldn't stay here; I had to leave.

My eye twitched, the compulsion to dig coming back again. The urge to expand, to lay eggs, to create a hive. I looked down at the peacefully sleeping figure of Soft a moment before opening the door with my magic, carefully trying to not make the hinges squeak. Slow, purposeful steps and surprisingly agile maneuvers later, I was on the other side of the door and slowly closing it.

"So, leaving already?" I heard Stern whisper from behind me, causing me to nearly leap out of my carapace. I turned my head around to see them still in their yellow duck gown, their hands on their hips.

"I need to begin my hive..." I whispered back, feeling guilty for some reason from Stern's gaze. They were smaller than I was, technically, though I felt like a Nymph.

"Where are you gonna go?" They asked, walking closer to me.

"There is a place nearby called a 'Titan One' that Rough was talking about. I spotted it a few hours ago and it is dangerous enough that no human will come inside." I explained quietly.

"You leaving for good?" Stern asked with a bit of hope, masked by a concerned look.

"Only until my hive is established, or at least prepared." I replied, glancing back at Soft's bedroom door.

Stern hummed, looking at me with a sideways tilt to their head. "I may not know much of anything about you, Blue, but you seem like a nice alien. You were wandering around with my kids for who knows how long before you hatched from that big cocoon, cause it sure as heck wasn't there when I left, and you didn't hurt them or eat them or anything else the movies said you would do. That makes you alright in my book."

I didn't really know how to reply to that, so I stared back in silence at Stern.

"You stay creepy, okay Blue?" They grinned, raising a hand behind my ear. "Do you mind?" They asked.

"Uh... no?" I replied, not sure of what they were doing, but also not wanting to upset them either.

Then I felt the curious sensation of my ears being scratched. It was far different from the time I had been a dog, as my carapace could feel Stern's nails sliding uselessly across it.

"Well, you come visit soon. I don't want to deal with upset college kids cause you left. I'll let them know where you went so they don't go on some adventure in search of you." Stern smiled, taking their hand away and backing towards their room.

"Thank you for letting me stay as long as I have, Stern." I replied with a polite bow of my head.

Stern raised an eyebrow. "You named me 'Stern'?"

"Ah... yes?" I cautiously answered.

They chuckled quietly at that. "That's what the boys used to call me in the precinct. 'Sheriff Stern'."

I didn't have anything to say to that, and after a while Stern simply motioned for me to leave and turned back towards their room. I didn't need to be told twice, and quickly yet quietly stomped my way down the stairs. I wasn't really the most quiet of Proto-Queens, what with all my armoring and massive size. Thankfully the other three in the house were heavy sleepers. I succeeded in not falling down the stairs and saw Timid bundled up in a blanket, resting their head on a pillow. They must not have had a spare bed for them, but they seemed cozy enough. I opened the front door with my magic, bathing the entire room in a shimmering blue-teal glow. Thankfully it wasn't bright enough to wake Timid, and I exited the house as quietly as I could.

"Well I'll be damned."

This time I literally jumped in fright from the voice behind me. I turned around to see a parked beast with its sides open, Kind on the left side and a new human on the right. They were of a darker tone than Soul with no mane. They were muscular as well, their clothing having some difficulty staying on without stretching.

"A full blown alien, and my town, too!"

Neither of them seemed hostile. Kind was actually fearful, and the newcomer was... happy?

"What's your name, Alien?" They asked. I was still trying to place how their voice sounded when they interrupted my thoughts with, "I'm Sheriff Jacobs."

I remembered hearing about this human in my first beast ride. Soft and Rough were worried that this Sheriff Jacobs would catch them for pushing their beast too hard. I narrowed my glowing eyes at them. "I am Queen Blue Sun." I replied cautiously. Technically I was still a Proto-Queen, but they didn't need to know that.

Their brow shot up in surprise. "A Queen!" Now they were even happier. "That's outstanding. A full blown alien Queen in my town!"

I looked questioningly at Kind, whom shied away from me. "Kind, why are you here with this Sheriff Jacobs?"

Jacobs looked at kind and laughed. "She called you Kind!? Okay, I'll admit, I didn't believe you when you said you'd found an alien, but this is just rich."

I was becoming suspicious of Sheriff Jacobs' intentions at this point with their treatment of Kind. They reminded me of a Warrior.

"Why have you come here?" I asked abruptly, moving slowly closer to them. I towered over Kind, and Sheriff Jacobs' head came below my chin. Their beast was tiny in comparison to what I remembered.

The both of them had a spike of fear and worry as I drew closer, Kind reaching for the metal thing on their hip again. Sheriff Jacobs waved them off however, hissing 'No!' under their breath.

"Well, Queen Blue Sun, I'd like you to meet our mayor." Sheriff Jacobs said smoothly in a calming tone. "Our little town has been having some troubles, and I think she'd love to know about you."

Everything about this 'Sheriff Jacobs' screamed 'trap' to me. Their mood didn't reflect their words, their posture was aggressive and authoritative. I didn't like them.

"If your mayor wishes to meet me, then it will be on my terms, not yours." I mandated, my voice becoming harsh and commanding. This caused Sheriff Jacobs to recoil a bit in fear from the suddenness of my shift in tone. "There is a place called Titan One nearby. You and your mayor will meet me there in the daytime, when the sun is at its peak. Do not bring any other humans with you. I can sense your fear, and I will know if you have lied to me."

Doubt came from Sheriff Jacobs, a nervous glance aimed at Kind whom was already getting in the beast to leave. They looked back at me and made eye contact.

My horn lit with magic and I noticed Sheriff Jacobs' eyes become a shade of blue throughout. "You will do as I ask, Sheriff Jacobs. I will not place myself or others in harms way for whatever game you are trying to play."

"Yes, Queen Blue Sun." Sheriff Jacobs droned. My magic went out like a flame that remembered it wasn't supposed to exist, Sheriff Jacobs unsteadily falling onto the side of their beast. They shook their head, trying to clear out cobwebs from the spell I had cast on them. With a shutting of their beast's sides, it roared to life and carried them quickly away from the house, gravel flying in their wake.

I looked at my hoof. "What did I just do?" It was like something had taken control of me when I was threatened... Perhaps it was part of becoming a Queen? I was no longer the meek and shy Tunneler drone I had once been. No, I had been dissolved and reformed as something greater than a simple tunneler. If I was to be a Queen, then I suppose it only made sense that I was built to act like one.

I would have to figure this all out later. For now, I had a hive to begin building and a trap to set.

Just in case.

Titan One

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After Sheriff Jacobs and Kind had rode away in their beast I lingered only for a moment. I would have to fly to the Titan One and see if it was as good a location for a hive as I had thought. With a leap into the air and a buzzing of my wings, I found that my increased size had a role to play in my flight. Maneuvering tightly was difficult and ended up causing me to spiral around dangerously. I would have to fly in straight, steady lines if I was going to avoid losing control. As a drone I was able to zip around to where I was needed in a moment's notice, but as a Proto-Queen that was far less likely an occurrence to pull off. I understood now why Queen Chrysalis avoided moving around the hive as much as possible.

With night vision provided by my glowing eyes, I was able to quickly locate the metal archway poking from its hole in the ground. I had to fly over a strip of stone road that had a few beasts roaming along it, but otherwise it was mostly uneventful. The landing at the Titan One, however, was something else entirely.

The entrance looked better from afar. Up close there were errant paints and colors all sketching out different paintings, each of them overlapping another and accompanied by vulgarities and 'So and So was here' everywhere. The most upsetting aspect of this place was the lingering emotions that I could feel, as if they clung to the walls in memory. Fear, dread, anger, resentment, doubt, anxiety, paranoia. All of these negative emotions and more acted like a repellent to me, making it very difficult to walk forward. I explored anyway, hoping all of this nausea was just from the front door alone rather than the entire structure.

Moving through the archway I came to a low tunnel, forcing me to crane my neck downwards in order to not scrape the very rusty metal roofing that was cylindrical in shape, ribbed along the entire length of the structure. More nonsensical paintings were inside, alongside the scrawling of the insane and terminally bored. The air was metallic and dusty, possibly from all the dirt having blown into the entrance combined with the deteriorating metal that groaned with every hoof step impacting it.

"This place is creepy." I complained to myself, my voice vibrating along the walls, only to be swallowed by the eerie void of the place. It was like a tomb in here and all of it silently screamed for me to leave. The emotions of dread and anxiety were so strong in this place it was like walking through sand just to continue on. It was looking less and less likely that I would make a place like this into a home for my drones.

Trudging through, I eventually came to a vertical shaft with some kind of box at the bottom. It was large and metallic of course, fitting the square shape of the tunnel I stood in with what looked like wires strewn around with frayed ends at the bottom. Just beyond that platform was a pool of still water, dark and murky like the rest of this place and contaminated with rust from disrepair. Seeing no other way down, I buzzed my wings tightly to my side, allowing me to steadily float down so long as I didn't move. With a crunch of rust peelings I soon landed, my hooves feeling tainted and grimy from the rusted steel beneath me. Every step gave another metal crunch from the structure relenting under the strain of my weight.

"Definitely creepy." I affirmed to myself, trying to combat the void of silence with my own voice. It wasn't working. "Couldn't I have picked a cave or some kind of other hole in the ground and gone from there?" I complained to myself. The more I saw, the less I liked of this Titan One.

Moving out of the square shaft I happened upon a very large room, errant metal pipes jutting from the floor like some building had been ripped apart where I stood and simply vanished. Steel beams were holding up nothing but a crumbling ceiling that flaked with rust as well, this entire place feeling like a morgue for buildings.

At long last after moving through the large room I came across a barrier in the form of a large stone door with a valve on it. This valve had been rusted shut, and my magical attempts to open it only cracked the wheel right off.

"Great." I grumbled, flinging the valve behind myself to clang loudly against a steel beam before rattling on the floor. "Why would humans even build a place like this? Were they hiding from something?"

Shaking my head I decided to continue with a more direct approach. Looking at the side of the stone door in front of me, I guessed that it should be at least three feet thick. Probably a good test for my body hardening spell, right? I placed a hoof on the door and gave it an experimental shove, my hoof lighting with magic and causing the stone to leave a scorched hoof-print, but nothing else beyond that.

"Alright, how about a bit more force?" I asked nobuggy, shoving my forelegs from the ground to rear up, slamming into the door with such force that it cracked into a dozen chunks of rock and spilled onto the floor intermixed with steel reinforcement that had bent in the center. After my ears had stopped ringing from the cacophony of noise as a result of my actions, I saw a very long and non-rusted tunnel laying in wait ahead of me. The rusted metal on the walls I had become accustomed to at this point were replaced by very smooth stone walls that were square instead of cylindrical. The only problem is that the long tunnel reminded me too much of a Gouger, whom would leave straight tunnels for entire kilo-trots before slamming into the hive.

With a shaky step forward, I soon moved my way up and over the rubble that had once been a door and proceeded down the tunnel to whatever lay ahead. As I continued, the ghostly emotions of stress and fear became like quicksand and combined with paranoia and dread once more. Whatever had happened in this Titan One was strong enough that it was making me physically sick, but I still had to figure out what it was before I left this place for good. This much emotional negativity in one place was too much for even a Proto-Queen like myself to handle. What would happen if a drone were to hatch in a place like this? They would go insane!

After what seemed like an eternity of endless walking, I stumbled onto a set of metal doors that had escaped the rusting process entirely. They also turned somewhat successfully after a little force, possibly being caught by something. Part of the invasion planning had been familiarizing all of us with likely hideouts that Ponies would use. The prime target being bank vaults and storm shelters. These doors worked in a much similar way, so I wasn't that surprised that the humans had found a use for the design as well.

All of my familiarity with what I was walking into vanished the second the door swung heftily open. There was a human boot poking from behind what seemed to be a desk with a metallic box on it. I had no idea what human could live down in a place like this, but something about it didn't feel right. An overwhelming sense of sorrow was coming from this room with a tinge of anger that made my wings chitter in agitation. I carefully approached the boot, swinging around wide in case something were to leap at me. I had no idea if humans suffered from Gougers as well, if they build underground like this regularly.

Well... I didn't have to worry about a Gouger at least.

There was a skeleton. It wore a green outfit that was mostly pristine, aside from the fraying around the wrists and neck. They held one of those slim metallic things in their hand as if grasping onto it for dear life. The jaw of the skeleton was opened wide, like the human had died in surprise or shock. I quickly looked around this large room for anything else that might be out of place and found yet another skeleton just opposite this one. It was sprawled over a desk and looking towards the skeleton on the floor closest to me, a metal thing on the ground below its grasping hand. A great many packages were laid out along the ground, some of them with labels like 'Beef Stroganoff 003'. I had no idea what had happened here, but it didn't look good. On second thought, I didn't want to know. I wanted to get out of this place!

I turned tail and bolted for the entry door, the heavy mass of it still swung open. I turned a bit too roughly and ended up bashing my armored flank against the metal of the door's frame, causing it to shriek in metallic agony and buckle. I was mostly unharmed, but my impact with that door had flooded me with feelings of hopelessness and misery. The feelings of anxiety and paranoia were getting to me and I thought I heard specters of the past yelling about launch codes and access points. I chose to ignore it, favoring a hasty retreat instead.

Eventually after another eternity of running I came across the broken rubble of the door I had kicked open and stumbled over it, nearly bashing my head against the flooring from a dangerous slip. I took a moment to catch my breath and try to calm down after that, looking down the dark hallway with a sense of foreboding. How long have I been down here?

The howling wind from the entrance of the Titan One gave me chills as the sound of a Gouger's wail sounded throughout the tunnel system. It was a mixture of haunting screeches and airy gasps for breath combined with the movement of dirt. Usually that would be the last thing a Tunneler heard before a Gouger burst through the tunnel near them and ate them while the rest scattered for cover.

"I swear on everything holy Jacobs, if this is some kind of Halloween prank I'm deducting at least a day's pay from you for this. Makin' me crawl and stumble through a freakin' abandoned missile silo!" I heard a distant voice complain, modified by the metallic echo of the tunnels. Why wouldn't my own voice echo?

"I swear a hundred percent, Mayor Durn; This is the real deal." I heard Sheriff Jacobs reply with certainty.

"And you're sure your 'surprise' actually stayed here while you came to get me? I have important mayor work to do, you know." Mayor Durn grumbled, coming closer now.

I would have called out to them, but the sickness I was dealing with from all the horror in this silo was making me weak. I had to leave. Hopefully the humans would understand why and leave this place as well. I would rather talk outside in the sun anyway.

With a buzzing of my wings I flew up the square tunnel with the destroyed platform again, landing at the top with a small cloud of rusted dust in my wake. I felt a little light headed and took a moment to steady myself. That was also the moment that Mayor Durn and Sheriff Jacobs came around the corner to spot me.

"Holy Jesus!" Mayor Durn shrieked, leaping backwards into Sheriff Jacobs' arms. "The hell is that!?"

Sheriff Jacobs gave an annoyed glare at Mayor Durn, none too pleased at the outburst. "It's a bunch of lights, Mayor. Keep your panties on.

This 'Mayor Durn' was slender in build, shaped like Soft and Timid. They wore clothing with a more streamlined design, something like I had seen the Canterlot Royals wearing constantly at their galas. They had a brown mane and an angular jaw. Overall they looked intelligent yet somehow welcoming. I sensed mostly anxiety and nervousness coming from them, worsening my condition and itching my nose.

"Aaaah-Aaah-Choo!" I sneezed abruptly, the dust and negative emotions getting to my system and making me more than just feel sick.

"Who's there!?" Mayor Durn shouted, hiding behind Sheriff Jacobs. "Show yourself!"

I walked steadily towards the two humans, my senses overwhelmed by the Titan One. They were blurry in appearance now, or at least my vision was. It was difficult to stand upright as well now.

"H-hello, Sheriff Jacobs... Muh... Mayor Duuurrrnnnn." I drawled, my eyes feeling heavy all of a sudden. "I don't f-feel good."

"Holy hell! What is that!?" Mayor Durn panicked.

"That's the surprise I was gonna show you... but it looks like 'Queen Blue Sun' here is feeling a little under the weather..." Sheriff Jacobs replied, somewhat concerned. "What happened to you, Buggo?"

"So much... negativity here." I coughed, trying to stand upright. "I need to get away!"

"Well, you heard the Queen Mayor Durn," Sheriff Jacobs replied with a shrug. "We have to help her get away from this Silo." They turned to Mayor Durn. "Think of the PR you'll get from this." They arced their hands between the other like a banner, "Mayor Durn saves life of first alien!"

This emboldened Mayor Durn, the skinny human alight with eager determination and pride for what would be to come. "A-alright, lets..." Then they looked at me as I drooped my head to the ground and tried to walk myself away from the Titan One's deeper structure to the entrance. "Lets call an Ambulance!" They shouted with vigour, pulling a smartphone from their pocket and rapidly jamming their thumb into it.

Sheriff Jacobs put an arm around my midsection, just over the wings. "Come on now, Queen Blue Sun. We've got a town to make famous!"

I looked in confusion at Sheriff Jacobs before my vision began to swim. The negative emotions here were so potent they were acting like a literal toxin to me. My legs couldn't hold my weight anymore, and I buckled to the floor. A cloud of dust forced the other two to cough and scatter away for a moment.

"Aw, not on my suit!" Mayor Durn complained before interrupting themselves. "Yes, This is Mayor Durn speaking. I need an ambulance at the Titan One silo just outside of the Monte's villa right now! Bring your largest vehicle!"

My vision was growing dark as Sheriff Jacob's hands wrapped around one of my hooves. "Hey Durn, get your big butt over here and help me pull the Queen!"

The last thing I saw before blacking out was the figure of Mayor Durn rushing towards me.

Welcome To Earth

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I had no idea how much time had passed when I awoke, but I knew that my body hurt. I was laying on some kind of cushion on my side, blankets draped over me with only my neck exposed. With a chittering grumble I opened my eyes to blurry vision. A few blinks later and I was greeted by an entirely white room. White curtains, white tiles, white bedding, white doors... white. I noticed there was a human in a room nearby, separated by a transparent wall with silver lining. They wore a black suit with a white shirt, dark glasses and a black tie, sitting on a nearby chair and reading a newspaper. Their mane was black and short cut; their coat color more of a pinkish white. If humans even had coats. They never really explained it, but I never asked either.

The room itself was more clean than I could even have imagined. Everything practically shone or sparkled and the furnishing was kept to a bare minimum. My bed had taken up over half of the room but there was still a small crevice where I could stand if I decided to slide my way onto the floor. I still felt sick from Titan One, my body complaining about its visit there very pointedly by making my movements sluggish and clumsy. I reached my right hoof out in order to pull myself off of the bed, yet the shifting of weight caused the bed to creak in protest. I looked at the human in black that was standing guard and found that they had already stood up to silently observe me.

They held a hand to their ear and spoke rapidly in a calm tone. "Party Guest has awoken, might require a Bed and Breakfast, over."

"Party Guest?" I asked in confusion. The human's face was kept purposefully blank like a mask, but their emotions couldn't hide from me. Excitement, curiosity and wonder. Nothing malicious, which was a pleasant sign. "What is a Bed and Breakfast, by the way?"

They continued to speak to the wall, their eyes hidden behind their darkened glasses. "Guest is coherent; English speaking; Non-hostile as of this moment. Advise, over?"

"Whom are you speaking to? Does your ear function like a smart phone?" I asked again, slightly annoyed that they had refrained from speaking to me. I moved my hoof again and succeeded in pulling myself off of the bed with a loud thud. Pushing myself from the ground I found that I had become very weak, possibly from being starved.

"How long have I been asleep?" I asked the human again, hoping for an answer.

They waited for a moment, possibly staring at me while their hand waited on their ear. At that point I noticed a white spiraling cord descending from it and into their clothing. "Roger, out." They blurted abruptly, and moved towards me. "I would like to apologize for your treatment on Planet Earth thus far, Queen Blue Sun. Our sincerest apologies for those humans you may have encountered that would upset our relationship with your species. I am currently the only available representative in the area qualified to speak with extraterrestrial life forms, of which we consider you. If you have any needs or questions, feel free to ask me. Our knowledge of your species is exactly nothing, aside from unconfirmed reports from those humans that have interacted with you. It is the collective wish of humanity to smooth over any slights against your being and to start again, formally."

This human was very direct and their way of speaking was more formal and respectful than other humans I had encountered. Maybe this was one of the royalty for humanity? They certainly dressed like a noble at least. "I need love in order to live. I know of three humans that could provide this to me; would you be able to retrieve them?" I asked in an equally formal tone. If I was going to be a Queen I would need to play the part. Showing any form of weakness now could have disastrous consequences in the future, especially if the royalty of humanity saw me as anything but an ally.

"You need love?" They blurted before correcting themself. "I apologize, Queen Blue Sun, that was not intended as an insult." They adjusted their glasses and continued, "Would you know the names of these three humans?"

I almost replied with Soft, Rough and Timid, but those were my names for them, not their own. Remembering their actual names took more effort on my part than it should have, considering that I remembered Sheriff Jacobs and Mayor Durn easily enough. "They would be... Ricky... Maria and um... Karol." I slowly said as I recalled their proper names. So much for appearing regal and in control, me. Good job.

"Do you have a last name as well? It is very difficult to locate the right person based off of their first name alone." The human in black asked politely.

"Monte', I think." I thought longer on the subject before I confirmed it, "Yes, Maria and Ricky Monte', and... I don't know the last name of Karol, but the other two should know them."

The human nodded and moved away for a moment after excusing themself. I could barely make out the words 'Bring them up' before they returned. "They should be arriving shortly, Queen Blue Sun. Is there anything else you need for your temporary stay in this clean room?"

I had a few questions. "Clean room?"

"We have no idea what sort of pathogens or infections that could transfer between our species or their impact on either of our species biologies. You are currently inside of a hospital clean room that has been modified to temporarily house you. This is intended as a precautionary measure until we can be certain that either of our peoples will be safe with normal interaction. We understand that you've made contact with a few humans and they are being securely held in similar rooms of this wing in the hospital to separate them from the general population. They are being closely monitored for signs of infection, sickness or other ill effects that may have arisen from contact with you. We don't mean to imply that you intentionally meant any sort of harm to humanity, though we insist on taking precautions." They explained in a monologue. It all seemed recited and memorized, not at all personal.

"Who are you? You know my name, but I don't know yours." I asked in as diplomatic a tone as I could.

"You may call me Agent K. Our public identity has been erased from record to keep the public safe, leaving that as my only form of identification." The human explained.

"How long have I been in this bed, Agent K?" I inquired, passively interested that a human would need to erase themself for 'public safety'. What was so dangerous that a name couldn't be attached to it?

"About four standard Earth days, Queen Blue Sun." Agent K replied without pause.

The formality was beginning to irk me. "Please, Agent K, call me Blue. You don't seem to behave in the same way as Sheriff Jacobs or Kind-- eh, Officer Brady."

"As you wish... Blue." Agent K replied awkwardly.

Wait a minute, four days!? My eyes widened in shock as I took a step back. "Four days!?"

Agent K was alarmed, stepping forward with concern. "What's wrong?"

"How am I not dead!? A whole four days without a speck of love? How!?" I rambled, as I had never gone longer than two without more love to sustain me. How was it that I wasn't starving right now? I had asked for love earlier out of habit, but now that i took a moment to examine myself, I wasn't hungry at all!

"Blue, please calm down." They urged with their hands motioning downwards. "We'll have the three you requested here very shortly and we'll be able to figure all of this out." Their emotions were spiked with anxiety and fear, but they contained those emotions behind their mask of professionalism.

I took a few deep breaths as well as Agent K's advice, calming myself down. It wouldn't be very Queenly of me to freak out about not having a meal on time, would it? "I... apologize for that outburst, Agent K. It's just that my need for love has always been a constant. Not having it caused me to panic." I explained in as dignified a manner as I could.

After that, two white doors were pulled open, revealing a human in all white dress and face mask leading three others. Soft, Rough and Timid.

My spirits lifted, accompanied by the loud buzzing of my wings and a chitter of excitement as I smiled. "You're here!" I exclaimed happily.

They were worried and nervous as they walked in, but those feeling fell aside to relief and joy as well upon seeing me. "Blue!" Soft cheered, rushing to the clear wall separating us. "We were worried about you!"

Rough joined the wall to Soft's left. "They wouldn't let us see you for days! We came here as soon as we heard about it!"

Timid noisily bonked into the wall as well on Soft's right. "It's all over the news! A few people with smart phones caught you being pulled out of the ambulance and posted it to news channels and it drew a whole load of reporters from all the major stations in the country! It's a spectacle!"

"Unfortunately." Agent K quietly grumbled to themself.

"Are you okay in there, Blue? Do you need love?" Rough asked in worry.

"Actually..." I began slowly. "I'm not certain why, but... I'm not hungry." I looked between the three of them, noting that multi-colored flicker had become a steadily burning flame. "At least, I don't think I need love anymore."

The three looked in confusion between them. "Huh?" Timid blurted.

"There is a sort of flame in each of you," I began to explain almost clinically. "It has six colors that I can see. Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green and Purple. Right after I 'Caramell Dansened', I noticed it as a small spark. Now after seeing you again, it has grown into a flame. While I am near to you, everything feels... better, somehow. I don't feel hungry or starved like I did before. I have no idea what emotion I'm feeding off of now, but I don't even need to drain it from you anymore like I did with Rough."

Timid playfully punched Soft in the shoulder. "I knew you liked girls!" they teased.

Soft returned the punch to Timid. "Says you! You got the Pride Fire inside of yourself too ya know!"

For some reason, Rough distanced themself from both Soft and Timid with a nervous glance to myself and Agent K.

"So... what do you think the fire really is, Blue?" Soft asked after the two had stopped giggling.

"I honestly have no idea." I confessed, "It could be something unique to humans entirely."

Agent K moved away from the group to speak into their ear more, turning their back to me.

I leaned in close to the three of them. "What happened to Sheriff Jacobs and Mayor Durn?"

Soft looked confused. "Huh? How do you know them?"

Timid shrugged. "Nobody's heard from them in a few days. I think the spooks like Agent K took them somewhere."

Well, I could always just ask. I lifted my head to look at Agent K and called out, "Agent K, I have another question!"

They quickly turned around and walked to me. "Yes, Blue?" They asked politely.

"What happened to Mayor Durn and Sheriff Jacobs?"

Agent K began explaining right away. "Mayor Durn and Sheriff Jacobs have both been suspended from their positions with pay regarding an official investigation as to how long they knew about your presence on earth as well as their involvement with your incapacitation. If you have any information regarding their actions, it would greatly assist us."

I didn't know what suspended with pay meant, but judging from Agent K's tone and Soft, Timid and Rough's reactions, it was something bad. "Sheriff Jacobs and Mayor Durn arrived at the Titan One by my request in order to have a more formal meeting. I had explored the depths of the Titan One by myself and became... poisoned by the negative emotions there. I had been looking for a secluded area to... live." I explained, ending in hesitation to avoid revealing to a royal that I was intending to create my hive in their lands.

"Did Mayor Durn or Sheriff Jacobs play any role in your incapatication or injury?" Agent K asked formally.

"I do not think so, no." I replied honestly.

"If you'll excuse me for a moment, Blue." Agent K nodded, taking a step back and turning to speak into their ear again.

Soft, Timid and Rough exchanged awkward looks with me. "So..." Timid began, "How's the clean room?"

The Queen's New Shoes

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"Agent K?" I asked from the sterility of my Clean Room, "May I have a word?"

They looked over the shoulder in surprise for a moment before excusing themself from their ear-based conversation, quickly turning around and placing themself very formally next to Soft, Timid and Rough. "Yes Blue, how can I help?"

"Timid-- er, Karol mentioned that the news of my being here on Earth was detected by 'news outlets and the media'. Would I be able to speak with them?" I asked cautiously. I had no experience in speaking with large crowds, but If I was to survive as a Queen on this... planet, then I would have to inform the humans that I didn't intend to harm them.

"I would strongly advise against that, Blue." Agent K warned. "The Media likes to take a spin on things to get ratings and to turn everything into a catastrophe so they can provide 'updates' on the situation. Nothing good can come from meeting them."

"We already have a video of Blue dancing on youtube, what harm is there in a little bit more exposure to the public?" Timid asked defensively, their hands on their hips.

Agent K ignored Timid and turned to me. "Queen Blue Sun, I cannot guarantee your safety if you are exposed to the public without preparations being made first. A guard detail, bullet-proof panels, a secure room, limited access, the list goes on and on. Walking out of this hospital into the middle of a crowd of reporters can only end badly." Agent K was very strong in their opinion, their emotions bringing up intense concern for my well being as well as their job.

"How long would it take to prepare these things?" I inquired.

Agent K scratched their chin. "About... three hours. We already have more than enough security, but we have to clear each camera crew and news outlet before we begin, as well as a room inside of the hospital that can fit your size. However, all of this can only happen after we're certain that any pathogens, diseases or sicknesses have harmed either yourself or the humans you've been exposed to."

"Does stupidity count as an alien pathogen?" Soft snarked playfully. "Ricky hit Blue here in the face with a shovel on first contact."

"Hey! We promised not to talk about that!" Rough protested.

Agent K's eye twitched. "You what?"

"I got better." I replied pleasantly as I could, my smile not really having the desired effect with Agent K. I guess doubled fangs and sharp teeth made them uneasy. Actually, Soft, Timid and Rough also had a small spike of concern and backed away from me.

"Whoa!" Rough blurted, "Those teeth are scary!"

"No offense, Blue, but don't smile for the cameras." Timid added in agreement.

"What? I could've sworn that I had smiled before." I replied in confusion, my smile melting away.

They shook their heads.

Agent K held a hand to their ear once more, apologizing and turning away to speak with whomever had another ear like theirs. This lasted only a few moments though, as they soon turned and moved quickly towards a window.

"Is something wrong, Agent K?" I asked while moving carefully towards them in my cramped room. Timid, Soft and Rough followed close by from the other side of the transparent wall.

They looked through small dividers that blocked out the sun near the window, grumbling before replying to the ear-voice in hushed tones. Eventually they turned to face us. "We have a problem." They turned to me. "There are protesters outside."

"Protesters?" Timid, Soft and Rough all asked in confused unison. "Who the heck could protest first contact with aliens?" Rough asked.

Agent K moved to the side, parting the dividers open for the three to see. My side of the room had no windows, as it was sealed.

"You gotta be kiddin' me." Rough complained.

"It's them? Of course it's them!" Soft added in agreement.

"Who is outside protesting?" I asked.

All four of them turned to me with a disappointed though unsurprised scowl on their faces.

"Westboro Baptist Church." They replied with matching groans.

Timid pulled a latch on the window and pushed it upwards, their ear against a screen mesh. "God hates Aliens... Aliens are evil... Kill all Aliens. Very original." Timid quipped sarcastically, closing the window.

"Why would they want to kill me? I haven't done anything to them." I asked with concern.

"They're a bunch of idiots that hate literally everything ever. They probably even hate God." Rough groaned.

I blinked. "Who is God?"

The three of them frowned as Agent K dismissed themselves and left the room to begin preparations for my encounter with 'the media'.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you've never heard of god, but at the same time I am surprised." Rough commented. "Do you have any kind of deity you worship, Blue?"

Now I was even more confused. "What is a deity?"

"Its... like a god?" They provided unhelpfully.

Timid spoke up. "The concept of God is basically 'Everything in the universe exists because of this all powerful being that created everyone and everything, so we have to worship him to get into paradise after we die'."

"Could I meet them?" I asked.

Timid blurted in laughter before covering their mouth quickly. Soft spoke up while Timid recovered. "Uh, no, Blue. This is sort of a touchy subject for humans but... God is something that doesn't really physically exist. They're more of an idea than a person."

My mouth was open slightly in growing confusion. "So... they devote their lives to the idea of a figure that created everything?"

Rough shrugged. "Sometimes. Other people just use God as an excuse to push whatever they're tryin' to sell. Like these Westboro goons. They'll put the name of God on anything and say he hates it in order to try and push their agenda across."

The three in the room were becoming more upset the longer they talked about Westboro and God. "Um, perhaps I could speak with these humans?" I offered, hoping to ease their sour moods.

"With how you look, those idiots would either try to start a riot or run away." Rough grumbled.

With how I looked... hmm... "Would a different appearance help?" I asked.

"Well if your other appearance is Queen Chrysalis, not by much." Soft replied.

"Not, not Queen Chrysalis... Princess Celestia." I explained. "She is an Alicorn in Equestria, one of two ruling Diarchs that controls the sun. Her sister, Princess Luna, controls the moon. I remember that you liked earlier when I had become a pegasus, so perhaps assuming her form would help ease the concerns of 'the media'."

"Controls the sun?" Timid asked skeptically, "Like with what, a big ship or something?"

"No, Princess Celestia controls the sun each day to travel across the sky until it reaches the other side of the land, disappearing under the ground to make way for Princess Luna's night."

They looked at me like I was either insane, or an idiot. "I think you just explained your version of God." Rough said with uncertainty. "I mean, That sure sounds like somethin' a god would do."

"Yeah, but it can't be literal. That's not how suns work!" Timid retorted.

"What does she look like, Blue?" Soft asked.

"Seeing as how Princess Celestia is a bit shorter than Queen Chrysalis, this might hurt to transform into... well, unless I give some liberties and just make her form bigger. I don't know why I never thought of that before." I muttered, concentrating on my memory of the Solar Princess.

White body, A design of a radiant sun on their flank as the cutie mark, Alicorn of course, Regal, tall in comparison to when I had been a drone, and... her mane. Oh grief, how was I going to pull that off? Perhaps I could simplify it? maybe just go with Pink throughout instead of that radiant nebula that never stopped flowing. I had no idea how that even worked!

Teal-Blue flames began to lick at my hooves when Agent K returned to the room. "Oh Hell!" They blurted, rushing towards me only to be stopped by Rough and Soft. "Stay back, she's shape shifting!"

The flames wicked across my chest plating now, replacing them with the regal attire of Princess Celestia with its gold necklace and amethyst centered gemstone. Agent K looked on in awe as my form finalized, my disguise completing with a flowing pink mane. I looked down at the scorch marks on the tile flooring, noticing that I had even remembered the gold hoof-shoes.

"Haha!" I chuckled matronly in Celestia's voice. "Perfect copy... Well, aside from the mane." I looked up to see that not only was Agent K looking baffled, but Soft, Timid and Rough all held a feeling of wonder and amazement. "...What?"

"You look gorgeous!" Soft squee'd, holding their jaw and performing a small tapping dance with their feet.

Timid plastered themself against the transparent wall. "Oh my god I want to hug you so bad right now; how are you this pretty and gorgeous!? Could you always do that!?"

Rough was chuckling at their reactions, and Agent K was stupefied.

"Agent K?" I asked regally, "Are the Media ready?"

They stared back at me with an open mouth.

"Agent K?" I now asked in concern.

Their hand moved shakily towards their ear. "Control... I have an update on Queen Blue Sun... I don't think we're going to need a guard detail. We're going to need a riot squad. Several, actually." There was a short pause as whomever else had a speaking ear communicated with Agent K. "Yes, trust me Sir. When you see Queen Blue Sun, you'll understand."

"I hope that means something good?" I inquired while leaning as close to Agent K as I could from behind my wall.

They turned around to look up at me. "Well, Possibly. The public is going to be awestruck just on the principle of you being a Pegasus/Unicorn thing, let alone an alien Pegasus/Unicorn."

"Princess Celestia is called an Alicorn, Agent K." I clarified.

They blinked at me. "R-right." They held their hand to their ear once more. "Alright, Information update for the press. We're continuing forward with this Q and A session, but Queen Blue Sun will be disguised as a 'Princess Celestia'. The public is not to know about her original form until a far later date, if ever." Agent K looked back to me apologetically. "I apologize for this, Blue, but your true form would probably create a panic by comparison to how you appear now. This 'Princess Celestia' plays into a great part of our own mythology, and would be far better to appear in public as from now on-- for your own safety, I mean." They returned to their earpiece. "Alright, how are preparations going?" A pause... "Good, get all of those media jackals into the meeting room. The humans that have had exposure to Queen Blue Sun haven't shown any signs of sickness from alien pathogens as well as Queen Blue Sun remaining immune to anything they might have been exposed to thus far. If any media ask about Queen Blue Sun's previous form, tell them it was a corruption in the video or something. Find all of those videos and delete them..."

Agent K wandered off, still speaking into their ear about arrangements to be made.

"Hey, Blue, how cramped is your disguise?" Rough asked.

"I scaled up the form of Princess Celestia. No humans apparently know of her, so the size difference shouldn't be a factor. It's actually fairly comfortable, though my wings feel strange from being folded." I explained, expanding them to fill the entire room and blot out a nearby light source.

"Blue, you're freakin' majestic." Timid happily coo'd with a smile.

"What do you think the media will ask you?" Rough inquired.

"I honestly have no idea." I replied.


View Online

It had taken almost an hour for Agent K and their allies to 'wrangle the media' downstairs, setting up folding chairs made from steel in neat rows and allowing the camera 'crews' to 'setup'. There was a podium with a small cylinder on a stand in the center of the room, apparently recovered from a 'first contact readiness van' that was waiting outside. As Agent K described it, they had to be ready for anything, anywhere, so bringing an official looking podium with their van had become standard practice. Agent K disliked the 'Hollywood notion' that 'they'd just assume we'd be so unprofessional as to hold a meeting without some kind of official airs to it'.

A construction 'crew' had come buy to install a very dramatic looking drape that was held in place my small metal things drilled into the ceiling. It was a pleasant shade of muted red with the podium itself bearing the symbol of Earth on it. I hadn't seen a flag with so many stars and stripes, but then again I hadn't seen any flags before. Perhaps they all appeared that way?

"Hey Blue," Rough whispered in a hushed tone, "I think there might be an issue with your disguise."

I looked myself over quickly, trying to find a flaw that I had overlooked during my transformation. Well, aside from the mane. There was no way I was going to be able to get all of that strange flowing-ness correct.

"No, not that kinda wrong. I mean, your name is Queen Blue Sun, right?" Rough asked rhetorically.

I nodded, uncertain as to what they were meaning. Rough then pointed to my flank.

"That sun ain't blue."

I blinked, looking to my own flank like it was a small decaying Gouger. How did I overlook that? That! Of all things!

"What do you suggest I do?" I asked Rough, my head drooping low to become eye level with theirs.

"Make it blue?" The shrugged.

Well, I suppose that made sense. The coloration of my disguise would be off then, however. A blue sun with gold and amethyst decorative armoring and a pink mane? No, that would clash and be unbelievable for a Queen of anypony. The ponies highly prized those with good colors. Granted, I wasn't about to speak to ponies, but I had to make preparations in case the humans valued matching colors as well.

"Do you have a mirror?" I asked Rough. They tapped Timid's shoulder and informed them of my need. Timid reached into a pocket and pulled out a small circular mirror.

"I meant a large mirror." I grumbled, my ears folding down in annoyance. "I have to see my entire body or this isn't going to look right."

At that moment, Agent K parted the drapes to make way for themself. "Queen Blue Sun, are you ready?"

"I need a large mirror, Agent K." I stated seriously, as if lives depended on it. This shook them a bit, but Agent K didn't question for a moment. A quick conversation with their ear and not minutes later a very large standing mirror was presented to me. With a short nod, Agent K went back to their preparations of the meeting.

"Perfect!" I quietly cheered, still in the same room as the murmuring media only a spell's cast away, hidden behind the soft red curtain. I stood sideways towards the mirror, getting a look at my entire body from an angle.

"Mane? No, Pink won't do." I fretted, a teal-blue fire washing over it and turning it into a garish light teal. "Aah!" I blurted, and another fire of my magic washed over turning it into a deep sapphire. "Much better!"

I looked to my flank at the golden sun on it. "No, I'll have to make that blue as well." A puff of fire, and it was a sapphire color throughout. "Hmm... maybe a dash of teal?" I turned the tendrils of fire into the lighter blue that normally accompanied my magic, giving it a two tone motif.

I paused, suddenly very confused. "Wait a minute," I blurted, "What the shell is happening to me? I don't normally know a single thing about color coordination or fashion or... any of this!"

"Blue, are you alright?" Rough worried, coming closer to reach a hand onto my back.

"I... I don't know... but I blame my new form. I'm suddenly aware of a great deal of things I had no clue about before. I'm able to state a human's name, I'm able to speak clearly without the use of my wings for once, and I think that has to do with my new body... I'm able to break through solid stone doors with ease and... I'm less afraid of everything." I looked with anxiety to Rough. "Is this supposed to happen to a Queen?"

"Hey," Soft cooed, scratching behind my disguised ears, "We're here for you, Blue. No matter what."

I looked into Soft's eyes and found the multi-colored flame had grown in size once more in response to my distress. It was comforting to me to see, even though I had no idea what it really meant.

I took a deep breath and sighed. "You're right. Thank you, Soft." I smiled, my disguise making that action pleasant for them instead of worrying.

"Hey, Blue." Timid butted in with a playful nudge, "You might want to change those eyes of yours."

I looked to the mirror again, noting the very pink eyes of Celestia staring back at me. "Oh." I blurted, and my eyes lit on fire for a moment before returning with a sapphire blue coloration. I noticed that my adornments were still golden as well. In another burst of fire I changed them from Gold to more of a silver, matching the white stripe on my mane. For the amethyst gemstone in the center, I changed the look to a sapphire as well to match my new blue sun cutie mark. This would work fairly well!

"Blue, do you think you could make your mane all... fire-y?" Rough asked, scratching their neck. "It looks really cool when you shift certain parts of your disguise, and it would look really neat since you're Queen Blue Sun after all."

"Yeah! It'd be like solar flares!" Timid agreed excitedly.

I looked to the mirror. "Well, it's worth a try I suppose." I didn't really know how I was going to do it, but... I figured I would just have my magic replace my mane, right?

I attempted to do just that, but soon Timid, Rough and Soft were all shouting at me to return it to normal.

"Put it out!"

"Turn it off!"

I returned my mane to its original Celestia-minus-fancy style, with blue coloration and a single white stripe along the middle this time, just for class. "What went wrong?" I asked. "I thought it looked nice."

I looked at them and found they were all sweating, pointing to the roof. It was scorched black, small embers of blue-teal fire eating away at the ceiling tiles where it had made contact. "Oh. I suppose that is a no on the magic mane?"

Agent K returned at that point, pausing in the open portion of the curtains to look at the ceiling. "The hell happened?" They blurted, a confused look on their face at the immolated interior.

"Eh... dress up?" I replied with a bit of embarrassment. Agent K shifted their gaze to me and did a double take.

"Well damn." They acknowledged. "That's a good... eh... change? I mean, It fits your name perfectly so the media won't question it." Agent K then looked to Timid, Rough and Soft. "We do have a problem, however."

"What do you mean?" Timid asked with slight nervousness.

"Those videos you posted to the internet? The Media saved copies of all of them on private servers. Tumblr is all over this story as well, a large number of the crowd outside is from all over the world to see Blue here. Youtube took down all the videos relating to Blue but people just constantly repost videos of it, and we've decided that we'll need a story to explain your change in appearance, Blue." Agent K explained calmly, though their emotions spoke of great anxiety if this were to blow up out of proportion.

This left me confused. I had never been able to tell why something felt the way they did, only that they had felt that way... was this a part of becoming a Queen?

"I might have an idea for that, Agent K." Soft replied, patting me on the back to gain my attention. "Okay, here we go. I've been thinking about this ever since you needed a disguise. When you came to us, you were a drone, right?"

Agent K's intrigue spiked at that, giving me a curious look.

"We made a video of you feeding off of Ricky's love, and Timid posted that. Then the next video was of you in a cocoon, and then emerging from that same cocoon as a Proto-Queen. Everybody on the internet is going to know about you being a bug-alien, not as this Princess Celesti-blue or whatever."

My brow furrowed in interest. "What do you suggest?"

"Tell them that you're a shape-shifter-- but!" Soft held a hand up to interrupt the others, "But! Tell them that this is your... political form. That you have different forms for different purposes. Your 'normal' form would be what they saw on the internet, and that you use it to conserve energy, right?"

"Well, that isn't even a lie..." I answered.

"Exactly, but it'll help your story if there's truth in it. As for your form right now, you have to interact with the other species on your planet and they're... skittish, I guess. They don't trust your species so you evolved to... disguise yourself in order to make friends better."

That was more or less what had probably happened originally, minus the friend making part. "Alright..." I conceded, waiting for more of this idea.

"So, since we're making first contact and everything, how about you explain that you were uncertain about your chances of survival, so that's why you used your energy conserving form?"

"That's.. basically the truth, minus the whole 'I need love to survive' portion. What do I say when they bring that part up? I know it was in the 'videos'." I asked with concern. If the humans didn't like their love being taken, like so many other species, then it would be fairly bad for relations.

"Well, do you even still need love?" Timid asked, "You haven't needed to feed in almost four days now, and you said yourself that something else was keeping you... eh, full."

"Well I can't just admit that I don't know what's happening. I'll appear weak!" I rebutted.

"Just do some lawyer dodging. Explain it away by distracting from the topic or answering it but not really." Rough butted in helpfully. "Here, let's do some practice. Queen Blue Sun," Rough addressed me, holding an imaginary cylinder in their hand, "What do you have to say about your need for love to survive? We've all seen it on Youtube and various other social media, but we'd love to hear your explanation."

"E-eh, um." I stuttered, my ears folding backwards in nervousness.

Rough sighed, dropping their arm. "Come on Blue, it's just pretend for a moment. How can you answer the question without directly answering it, or how do you avoid it?"

"Uh..." I blurted. "W-well... I don't think I need love anymore?" I replied in a rising pitch of uncertainty.

Rough covered their face with their hand. "Agent K, are you still here?"

The Agent came from nearby, having never actually left. "Yes, Ricky. I am here."

"Could you help teach Blue how to artfully dodge questions?" Rough asked.

"Alright. Blue," Agent K abruptly asked, addressing me, "I ask that you request sensitive information about my government."

My lips seemed to suck themselves into my Alicorn mouth. "Hmm?"

I couldn't tell what expression their eyes were making behind sunglasses, but their mood was more than enough. "Ask me something I wouldn't want to answer."

My lips popped after freeing themselves to speak. "Ah... what kind of..." Oh great. I can't even think of something that a human would... Oh, Idea! "Agent K," I asked officially, "Do you sleep naked?"

Agent K then sputtered profusely, completely caught off-guard by my question while Rough and Soft burst into laughter. "W-what!?" Agent K quietly blurted in absolute befuddlement. "What kind of question is that!?"

My mouth was open a bit in fear of having offended Agent K, but they were more embarrassed than anything. "A-ah... an honest one?" I replied meekly.

Agent K simply stared at me with a stony face, though their emotions were a burning fire of embarrassment and shame. "I can neither confirm nor deny allegations that I may or may not sleep in the buff." They stated plainly, without their emotion showing in their face or voice.

Rough covered their face." Oh come on, that's so cliche!"

Agent K was very grumpy. "Oh? It's worked for years!"

A new human pulled the curtains away, looking at Agent K, Timid, Rough and Soft. Somehow their sight completely missed me. "Agent K, the media are getting antsy. How long until Queen Blue Sun is ready?"

Agent K's head swiveled to look at me. "Are you ready, Blue?" They asked, their professionalism returning as their embarrassment waned.

I took a deep breath and ruffled my wings. "Now or never, I suppose."

Field Day, Part One

View Online

I used my magic to part the curtain a small amount, accidentally causing it to smoke from exposure. Letting it go, I instead peeked through the curtains by using my hoof.

There were four rows of seats, eight seats across. The Media were all impatiently sitting, writing on small pieces of paper in tiny booklets or conversing with other members of their group. There was a great deal of worry coming from them; worry about their jobs in the future. They were concerned they had to ask just the right questions or there would be a storm upon them from their superiors for wasting this opportunity. This troubled me in more ways than one. My emotional sense had been rapidly growing as soon as I had gained consciousness; I apparently knew not only a human's emotions, but the exact reasoning behind that emotion as well. If they were upset, as the human in the fourth row and seat furthest away from me was, then I knew it was because their seat was inadequate. As a drone, I knew only that the 'not-minotaur' were upset. I shook my head in remembrance, both at how far I had come in barely a week as well as for what I had become. I was a Proto-Queen now, tasked with the future of an entire hive on my ingrown crown. Generations of changelings would be hatched from my eggs; they would interact with the humans on the surface and it was up to me to show the way for how those interactions would play out.

I released my hold on the curtain, the fabric falling away. Agent K was speaking with another human in a similar uniform to theirs about how to present themself for this Question and Answering session, as they could not be seen in the 'public eye' for my own safety. Agent K's duty was my protection and exposing themself would open up a pathway towards myself. Rough, Timid and Soft waited nearby with a small 'TV Screen' that showed the podium just in front of the curtain I was now behind, small red text announcing that this was 'Live'. They waved to me with hopeful smiles, already having given me their best wishes.

"Queen Blue Sun?" A human asked. They were the one that Agent K had been speaking to. "Are you ready for the conference?"

I nodded, looking towards the small part in the curtain that swayed from a 'fan' nearby. "I am." I stated with finality, drawing a calming breath before exhaling.

"Just wait for me to introduce you. When you hear your name called, walk onto the stage and just behind the podium. There will be a small black microphone on a stand. Just speak near that device and it should pick up your voice to everyone in the room. Don't get too close, or-- actually, imagine it like someone's ear that you're speaking into." They clarified, interrupting themself.

"I wait for your signal." I replied with another nod of affirmation. They gave a polite bow and turned towards the stage, moving past the curtains with respectable calm given the immense impact this moment would have.

"Men and Women of the Media," The human began, "This is a very special occasion for humanity and by request of Queen Blue Sun herself, you have been granted access to speak with her about anything that you may have concerns about. Due to the unfamiliarity with alien biology, we ask that you silence all cell phones and turn off the flashes from your cameras. Video cameras will still be allowed, yet if you break any of the rules we have set in place, or Queen Blue Sun asks you to leave, you will be ejected from the room. This conference is being held for the entire planet, not just as an exclusive for your news station. This isn't going to be a frenzy for who gets the best scoop on TV, alright?"

There was quiet murmuring of acknowledgement from those seated, and the human continued.

"Behind these curtains is the first alien ever seen on planet Earth. You may have misconceptions about Roswell and little green men, as well as UFO's, but we can safely confirm now that there have never been aliens on planet Earth, that we've known about, until this past week. You were all given a pamphlet of acceptable topics to discuss, as well as how you should conduct yourselves during this Q and A session. Do not deviate from that instructional booklet, or you will be removed from the building. Are we clear?"

A louder round of engagement from those seated.

"Good. Without further delay," The human turned to point a flat hand at where I was peeking through the curtains, "I present: Queen Blue Sun."

I took another deep breath to calm myself before shoving my way through the heavy curtains to absolute silence. Walking to the podium, there was only the dampened sounds of my hoof falls on the soft carpeting to greet my ears. I found my place, the small 'Microphone' on a stand below my mouth, the podium itself ending midway towards my chest. I adjusted my stance to appear as slim as possible, facing forwards towards the double doors down the hallway made by the folding chairs that lead to it. I swept my gaze from one side of the room to the other, seeing humans of all shapes, sizes, colors and clothing choices. Some were round, others were sticks. Some were darker, others were lighter. Some were mixtures of both, and others were a happy blend of everything.

I cleared my throat and leaned forward to speak into the microphone, remembering the advice about it being an ear. "Well... here we are." I stated plainly. I had no idea what else to really say, but the atmosphere and apprehension in the room was so thick that it was making me sluggish. "You have questions, I assume?" I asked softly, trying to wake the group from their malaise.

They were still frozen.

"You." I abruptly pointed to a random human in the room, one operating a camera. "What is your question?"

"A-ah I'm just a camera man, man!" The human stuttered, their camera shaking. They wore a forward facing cap of some kind with a large Seven on it. They faced the device's attention upon me, attempting to hide behind the bulk of it.

"You must want to ask something, right?" I leaned forward to press the subject, "Something you've been wanting to know?"

The 'man' looked at me again, before noticing the interested looks of the other humans in the room that also wanted to know his question. Some of the other 'Camera Man, man's' were becoming hopeful that they would be able to ask a question as well.

"U-uh..." They bit their lip. "D-do... do alien's... you know... take a dump?"

My brain stopped working for a second as it was assaulted by a wave of profound disappointment. "Wh... what?" I slowly asked, leaning forward and swiveling my ears to hear better. "What did you ask, again?"

"N-nothing!" They blurted, backing away from the others in the group and whimpering quietly to themself. "It was nothing; ask someone else a question!"

The disapproval was powerful when directed at the 'man' in the corner, so I chose to distract the humans in the room by calling upon the one that was annoyed from their seat being so far back. "You, the dissatisfied one in the back, what is your question?"

They looked around at the other humans sitting near them, and I pointed to them again. They pointed to themselves, not believing I had chosen them and I nodded. They slowly stood while setting their notes aside and picked up a microphone. "W-well, um, Queen Blue Sun... I had a whole list of questions but now I'm more interested in something else. How did you know I was dissatisfied, and about what?"

I decided to go with the truthful route. "While the human that announced me was speaking to your group, I was peaking from behind the curtain. There was a great sense of unease coming from this room, though yours in particular was for a different reason. Would I be correct in assuming that your dissatisfaction arose from the placement of your seating being so far back that you believed you wouldn't have had the opportunity to ask a question in the first place?" I asked in as pleasant a tone as I could. Princess Celestia's voice was unsurprisingly perfect in that regard.

"Y-yes... that would be exactly right, Queen Blue Sun." They replied somewhat shakenly, their emotions battling between elation at having a crucial question answered that opened many doors of possibility and also the uncomfortable feeling of paranoia that their mind was being read. Perhaps it was, or perhaps I was becoming better at guessing intentions. I didn't know for certain. The human sat down, their question having been answered and emboldening the other Media in the room to raise their hands quietly.

I searched through the room, my gaze falling upon a thin human in a dress. "Yes, It is your turn to ask a question." I said while pointing at them.

"Hello, I'm Louis Avenue from the Nightly Moon; Have your species ever visited or observed Earth in the past?" The human asked quickly, their eagerness and prepared question giving me the impression they wanted as many questions answered as possible. Perhaps we were on a time limit?

"Not to my knowledge." I replied honestly. I seriously doubted that our hive even knew of Earth at all, let alone... other planets...

Louis sat down, and the hands went up again. I pointed to another up front, next to me. "You. Your question?"

They stood up but refrained from saying whom they were. "Queen Blue Sun, what are your plans for humanity?"

Huh? "My plans?" I asked in confusion.

"More specifically, do you intend to rule over humanity by force, or do you plan on--" They were asking, before being swiftly interrupted by Agents. The black suited humans rushed towards the Media human in question, nearly tackling them to the ground in their haste.

"You broke the rules, Channel Nine." An agent seriously warned, picking the Media human from the ground and leading them by force from the room.

"Ah... well." I slowly said, still somewhat surprised by the suddenness of what had just happened as the double doors slammed shut with an eerie quiet. Now the other reporters in the room were on edge, most of them seriously reconsidering their line of work and thinking very fondly of their families for some reason. "Next... question?" I asked with a bit of forced cheer.

A human in the back was the first to recover and raise their hand, so I called on them.

"Is it coincidental that you seem to be a Pegasus and Unicorn combined?" Their higher voice inquired.

I could lie and say that it was, but... if I was going to establish a permanent hive on Earth, and I was, then I was going to need honesty to be at the forefront of my relationship with the humans. I had been honest with Rough, Soft and Timid and it had gotten me this far. Lying at this point would only be detrimental to my efforts of securing a future home for my changelings... whenever my body decided to be ready for that task, that is.

"It is not a coincidence." I stated carefully. "I have the ability to change my appearance at will, and I chose this form to present myself in a light that wouldn't seem overtly hostile or intimidating for our first meeting. Where I come from, many species and cultures exist in close proximity to another. I have been told that you are the only intelligent species on your planet by a few representatives of your... Nobility?" I turned towards the curtain. "Would it be Nobility, Royalty or something else?"

Timid poked their head from the curtain quickly. "It's Government!" They blurted before quickly disappearing from the wall of fabric.

"Thank you!" I called to Timid, turning back towards the Media. "That was my... um..." I turned back to the curtain to find that Timid was already waiting for me.

"We're friends, Blue. That's what Humans call people they like to spend time with." They explained, vanishing once more.

"Right... they are my friend. I have been on Earth barely a week and already I have seen a very caring, considerate and welcoming...eh, species." I finished lamely, though I felt I could do better. "Let me explain before I take up any of your questions," I interrupted as several hands had come up. When they rested once more, I explained. "When I came to your world, I was very weak; injured, even. I was starving, I had no idea where I even was, as difficult as it seems you have a time believing that." Their emotions told me everything. "I can sense it, you know. Your emotions." Now they were becoming uneasy, great. "Nevermind. Ask me a question and I will answer."

The first hand that raised was pointed to. "What do you mean you didn't know where you were?" They asked.

"There... was an accident. Something went wrong that wasn't supposed to and I was struck by a very large wall of... energy. Through some mechanism unknown, it transported me to this 'Earth' and in the middle of a wheat field as a painful meteorite. The humans behind this curtain, whom I have come to know as Soft, Rough and Timid, all nursed me back into health. They have also posted 'videos' of our adventures together online, though most will be... unflattering of me, to say the least."

If I was going to play the honesty card, I might as well go all out.

"So that video of a dancing alien... that was really you?" Another human asked to the left of the one I had just called on.

"Yes... that was me, performing the Caramell Dansen." I replied with an embarrassed smile that was joined by either amusement or a new wave of suspicion.

"So that was your 'true' form, correct?" A different human asked.

"I was still recovering from my injuries, so yes, that was my true form." I answered honestly.

"Would you be willing to show that form to us now?"

I looked behind myself to the curtain for guidance and found no one. Looking back to the group I noted their expectations were a mixture of highs and lows...

"Yes. I do warn you, however, you might not react well to what you see. For my people, I would be considered... well, we don't really apply aesthetic value to our original forms, but you... Just get ready, alright?" I replied with a bit of annoyance, unable to find the correct wording.

I took a few steps away from the podium to move to the side. I looked across the room and found that all cameras were pointed at me, with a few Media moving backwards a bit. "No time to rest when there's tunnels to dig, right?" I whispered to myself, hoping that this would be the right move.

The blue-teal flames started at my silver adorned hooves, crawling dramatically upwards as it revealed my carapace and chitin plated holed hooves. Confusion and wonder were the most prevalent emotions, some of that being mixed with outright fear directed at the holes in my legs. Odd.

From there, the flames had grown over my flank and chest, revealing my armored torso and flanks along with the glowing gems of my body. My tail flowed near the floor after it had the disguised version burned away. Moving past my neck, I noticed that my real wings had caused one of the camera humans to faint into a heap of equipment. Continuing, my neck quickly gave way to the rest of my head, the flames zipping past my eyes and ending with a flick at the tip of my holed horn. I stood very still, not wanting to startle any of the humans as they collected themselves.

A human cheered, grabbing the camera that was on the floor to point it at their own face in delight. "Okay, First reporter to get a hold of themselves, Live on CNN, calling it right now: Aliens are freaking AWESOME!"

Field Day, Part Two

View Online

A few of the media began chuckling after the CNN Reporter gave their outburst of enthusiasm. Agents then called for calm and order, and for 'everyone to get back to their seats'. Why did they always call themselves 'ones'; why not everyhuman? An Agent raised a hand to their ear, soon followed by other Agents in the room doing the same.

"Queen Blue Sun, there has been a development outside." An Agent reported, "Westboro Baptist Church is causing their usual fuss but a new group has arrived... armed with semi-automatic weapons and machetes. Contacts with the local police identify them as a collection of civilians that have individually voiced concerns about your presence in this hospital before. This conference will have to be cut short in order to ensure your safety."

"Could I speak with them?" I asked the Agent, catching them off guard as their head spun around with a look of absolute confusion.

"N-- uh... well, we can't technically order you to seek safety, but we can't guarantee your security if you confront them, Queen Blue Sun. I strongly advise against it. The local police and our security detail should be able to deal with the situation." The Agent replied nervously, seriously hoping that I wouldn't endanger myself.

"Maybe they just want to talk?" I suggested hopefully. The media in the room had become nervous as our conversation was being loudly broadcast to them via the microphone stand. A few were speaking with their 'camera men' about getting 'a good shot' for the situation outside.

"They haven't made any contact with us so far. They've only just arrived in vehicles and blocked the roadways outside. Again, I strongly urge that you seek shelter."

"The Humans that I have met have been nothing but helpful and kind to me so far; why should these new ones be any different?" I reasoned, moving away from the podium and still in my natural form. If anything were to happen, I wouldn't want to be struck in a fleshy body.

"Queen Blue Sun, is it true that you are going to confront the mob outside?" A reporter asked, a microphone close to my mouth.

"I just want to meet them, I'm not going to confront them." I explained, before being ambushed by another reporter.

"What methods are you going to employ to deal with the current threat?" Another microphone to my mouth. The group of media were beginning to block my path at this point with their questions.

"Words? Don't words usually work when you meet some'one'?" I replied, slightly annoyed that I had been forced to stop.

"Do you have criminals on your homeworld? If so, how do you deal with them?" One asked.

"We do not have criminals," I replied honestly to the surprise of the humans nearby. "Any changeling that looks out for themself above the good of the hive is... eh..." Uh oh. I couldn't really tell them they were reclaimed, could I? "We don't have criminals." I said with finality, hoping to avoid the question.

"Earlier you said that there were other species on your planet. How would you describe these other species? Do they have criminals? If so, how are they dealt with?" Another reporter asked in a barrage of questioning.

"Eh..." I stammered, as more and more questions started piling on. Excitement, fascination and a general rush of emotion were starting to overwhelm me from the close proximity as well as from being surrounded. Agents were shoving and pulling humans away from me as they tried to barrel past the crowd to protect me; Rough, Soft and Timid looking with worry from the podium.

"If you are a Queen, where are your people?"

"Why have you come to Earth?"

"Do you plan to harvest Earth for its natural resources?"

"What do you say to the allegations that your presence here is actually a ploy to distract the world from an invasion?"

Question after question, shoving and pushing from the media trying to get their microphone closest to my face. They were like a swarm of starving nymphs all trying to feast on love from a caretaker that had been late in arriving to the nursery. Their emotions were so powerful that I was beginning to become overwhelmed by the energy of this mob and the Agents were taking far too long to reach me. Any reporters that were pulled off would soon take up a position around me again, a circle of cameras, humans and microphones all pointed at me and awaiting what I would say next. I could feel a swelling inside of my chest again, a crack of pain from the emotional overload. I sincerely hoped that it didn't mean that I was going to go into a cocoon again, or that I was being injured from the excitement.

Regardless of what was happening, things were getting out of control fast. I had to act, and the only way I knew how to deal with the situation right now was... invasive. Hopefully they would back away from me if I simply lit my horn with magic?

"Enough!" I bellowed as loud as I could, the lights in the room flickering out as my magic flared to life and began scorching the ceiling above me. A blue-teal glow lit the room as the reporters backed away, more than one of them tripping over a steel folding chair. I stayed silent, looking at each of them as a massive wave of fear and dread crashed into me from all sides. I had to close my eyes to regain focus, as the emotions had caused me to sway on my hooves and my vision to blur. Why where their emotions so powerful? It would take all of Equestria to equal this much emotional energy, and this was a room of barely sixty!

"I... I need space." I said in a softer tone, my magic snuffing out. The lights came back on as my magic went away, and the Agents of the room quickly set about rushing the reporters away from me, along with their camera men. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself as Agent K and my... 'friends' arrived.

"Blue, are you okay?" Soft asked with great concern, their arms going around my neck in a hug. They were surprisingly warm against my chitin plated carapace.

"Those reporters practically jumped you the second you left that podium. What where you thinking; confronting a mob!? You could've gotten hurt!" Rough scolded.

"I think those reporters might have saved you from something even worse happening, actually." Timid pointed out. "What would you have done if that mob outside wanted to hurt you?"

That thought hadn't even crossed my mind... "Why would they? Every human I've seen has been nothing but kind, considerate and welcoming to me. Even the reporters didn't mind when I showed them my natural form. Yes, they were excited when I came down from the podium but... there was nothing malicious from them. They were simply curious."

"Queen Blue Sun, have you been harmed or injured?" Agent K asked formally.

"N-no Agent K, I'm fine." I replied, still somewhat shaken from the emotional overload. I looked to Soft whom was still clinging to my chest. "Soft..." I asked, "What is a friend?"

Soft looked at me in confusion. "What?" they blurted, "You don't know what a friend is?"

I shook my head carefully, so that my fangs wouldn't poke them. "No. Changelings do not have 'friends'."

Rough patted my side with the flat of their hand. "Hey, you've gone at least three of 'em now, whether you knew it or not." They said with a smile.

"Are you still going to talk with the mob outside?" Timid asked, nervous. "I really don't think it's a good idea."

Agent K stepped in as well to add to the conversation. "Confronting the mob outside is a terrible idea, Queen Blue Sun. Speaking with knowledge of humanity... there are some small portions of the population that refuse to follow the laws and morals that the rest of us have agreed upon. They in no way represent the vast majority of humanity, and I urge you to avoid them if at all possible."

My face scrunched up a bit at this in thought. I chose to think out loud. "Well, that may be true but... Earth is changing now, isn't it?"

"What do you mean, Blue?" Rough asked.

"Well, humans have only ever known about humans, yes? Now at least one changeling is on this Earth, so perhaps they've come to me specifically?" I reasoned, my own thoughts gaining hopeful momentum. "It doesn't make sense that a mob would show up suddenly, well armed from what I'm told, and just patiently wait outside of this hospital. They must want something, right?"

"Yeah, they probably want to use you as a punching bag." Rough grumbled, anger flaring towards the mob outside.

"If that is the worst they can come up with, then I'm not very concerned." I replied, nonplussed. "Agent K," I asked formally, "I would like to speak with whomever calls themself the leader of the mob outside."

Agent K's mouth scrunched up with indecision and worry. "I... can't do that, Queen Blue Sun. My orders strictly prevent me from placing you in harms way."

"I want to meet these humans outside, Agent K. I want to understand what has caused them to riot against their hive-- er, their... people. There must be a reason for this. Only the most desperate of ponies in Equestria would resort to crime, and in other places it is heavily punished. If nothing good can come from their being here and they aren't able to meet me, if that is the reason they came here, then what actions do you think they will take?" I asked with as much calm as I could muster. As I had continued to speak, the four humans in the room became more and more worried, anxious and upset with me.

"Nothing good." Agent K replied vaguely.

"Let me explain my reasoning for wanting to speak with them, Agent K." I asked softly. "These humans outside, these criminals as the media calls them... They weren't like that from birth, were they? Something must have happened to them for them to despise their hi-- er... I'm just going to call this country your hive. It's too far ingrained a behavior." I waved a hoof in dismissal, having gone on a tangent. "Anyway, the point I was trying to make... Oh, right; these humans outside, they might be like I was when I came to Earth. Alone, starving, looking for anything that might help them get out of their peril. When I arrived here I was beaten, injured and starving. I was separated from my hive and completely lost. Without Soft, Rough and eventually Timid offering their help to me, I would be long dead by now on the side of a road. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if these humans are alienated to your own hive so fully, then perhaps they're trying to turn to an alien for guidance?"

Agent K shook his head. "Blue, I'm going to be a hundred percent candid with you. You're being a damn fool right now. I am not letting you go out those doors to face a firing squad of deranged lunatics with fire-arms because you think they might want to 'chat'."

"Alright, alright," I conceded, causing Agent K to relax a bit. "What If I just spoke with their leader on neutral ground?"

"Queen Blue Sun, I cannot allow that under any situation. Your life is far too important to the entire planet for you to go meeting up with a bunch of scared people with weapons because you have a hunch." They affirmed sternly while crossing their arms.

A smirk spread on my face. "I thought you said you couldn't prevent me from doing anything, Agent K?"

Agent K's face paled as they looked to me with their sunglasses drooping a bit, revealing their eyes. "Blue... you're forcing my hand here. I cannot allow you to be harmed.

"Do your own Agents have weapons?" I asked, moving a bit closer. "Enough to cause a stalemate?"

Agent K blinked at me, shaking their head. "Blue, seriously. You're putting lives in danger."

"I can sense their emotions, Agent K. They won't be able to surprise me. You saw how I handled the reporters, and that was just a bluff. If I am going to become a part of your Earth, then I will need to make a positive impact, yes? If I can convince this mob to... Join my hive, for example, then that will be good, right?" I explained cautiously.

"You can't be serious..." Timid skeptically interrupted. "What do you think an angry mob is going to do once they're alone with you, sing kum-bai-ya?"

"I don't know that song." I replied. All four humans covered their face with their hands.

"Blue, we know humans way better than you do. All of us can say without a second thought that this is a terrible idea." Rough sternly warned.

"But you've all dealt with mobs as best as you were able to, without magic, without... a different option available. If I can have this mob join my hive, then that would present an option for any other humans that have no other choice, wouldn't it? If these humans exist separate from the main hive, struggling to survive, then why can't I adopt them into my own hive?" I asked the group.

"How are you gonna feed 'em, clothe 'em and take care of them in general?" Rough asked grumpily. "You can't just pick 'em off the street and make everything right in the world.

"I could... put them in a chrysalis?" I offered uncertainly, not really having thought of that. "I know, I know, its very strange but... if anything goes into a chrysalis its practically immortal until its removed. Nothing happens to a creature placed into a chrysalis aside from dreaming, unless a changeling is involved or the chrysalis is broken."

Their jaws were open. That wasn't a good sign.

"You want to what!?" Soft yelled.

"Stasis?" I confirmed meekly. My ears folded down from the confusion being hurled my way.

"What the hell good would putting them in a chrysalis do?" Rough asked heatedly. They then glanced at Soft. "Don't you even call me on that."

Soft folded their arms and instead chose to look at me questioningly.

"There has to be something I can do for them, right? I am a Queen now! I should be able to look after any of my hive, even if they're... not changelings." I was becoming desperate to find some way to convince my friends that this was a good idea, but time and again they were proving to me that it wasn't. "I just want to help in some way, after all that you've done for me..."

"Blue, you need to take care of yourself before you can help the whole world..." Soft replied with quiet confidence, hugging me again. "You can't do any good for anyone living out of our basement," They added with a chuckle.

"Wait. You've had an alien queen living in your basement?" Agent K asked with incredulity.

"More like my room but... we were handling it." Soft sassed with a smile.

Agent K adjusted their sunglasses and addressed me. "Queen Blue Sun, I have two questions if you don't mind my asking."

My ears perked in interest. "Go ahead, Agent K."

"Do you have a permanent place of residence, and do you still insist on meeting the mob outside?" They asked formally.

"Ah, no... and no. When I was being taken the hospital I had been exploring Titan One in order to..." I looked to Timid, Soft and Rough for their advice.

"A changeling Queen needs a hive, Agent K." Timid explained succinctly. "Got anyplace Blue could live?"

A thin smile spread across Agent K's face. "I have a place in mind." They replied with cryptic humor. "We're going to need a helicopter."

Helicopter Ride

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The 'helicopter' that Agent K mentioned proved to be immensely more terrifying than I could have even expected. It was called a 'Chinook', but to my eyes it was more of a flying titan of steel and blades, floating through the air without wings that had buffeted the grass around us in a constant storm of air. I didn't need to worry about debris impacting my eyes, but the humans with me had held an arm in front of their face to deflect the harsh winds. On its approach I had thought the ground near me was being broken through by an entire digging team of tunnelers from the rapid thudding of its 'blades'.

Entering the thing was something else entirely. Agent K had explained that I was supposed to go inside the impossible thing, as it was the only helicopter they believed would effortlessly lift my unknown weight and accompany my size. The mouth of the beast had slowly lowered down onto the clearing; the blades spinning worryingly close to my head. A human in an olive outfit with a bulbous helmet had greeted me and motioned towards a large seat with many straps waiting for me.

It was in that seat, strapped down with many restraints and chittering madly with nervous energy that I tried to stop myself from seeming terrified. Timid, Soft and Rough had come along with me on my request, as I would both enjoy the comfort of their company as well as my need for love and whatever other energy they provided me passively. I did what I could to stop shaking, but every turn of the beast made my wings attempt to adjust course to prevent a plummet to the ground that never happened. I was used to flying, but this was like falling forward and never hitting the ground.

"Hey Blue, are you alright?" Rough loudly asked, yelling over the roar of the beast and leaning forward in their seat that was amongst a row of many seats bolted onto its innards. "You don't look to good..."

"I-I am f-fine!" I stuttered, holding my limbs closer to my body. My wings wouldn't stop buzzing from trying to fly on reflex. I looked at the humans inside of the beast with me, and none were convinced.

"Blue, it's alright to admit you're frightened. We're all here for you." Soft provided with equal loudness.

"I feel like I'm falling!" I replied with a nervous shout. "Why aren't I falling!?"

"We're in flight, Queen Blue Sun. Human flight, I would say." Agent K explained, also yelling over the beast's blades. "We don't have wings on our back, so we have to improvise!"

"Couldn't I just follow this 'Chinook' myself? It would be far less terrifying!" I yelled back.

"Can you fly at nearly two hundred miles an hour?" Agent K replied with a sly grin.

I didn't know that unit of measurement, but judging from Agent K's smugness, I doubted it. "I don't think so?"

"Then how about we pass the time with a briefing?" They replied loudly, adjusting their sitting position to address everyone. When Agent K had our attention, they began their speech.

"First off, let's start with the mob that was outside of that hospital so there's no confusion." They shouted, somehow not bothered by the need for volume inside of the beast. "The crowd was peacefully dispersed by Riot Squads as well as a SWAT team in support, along with patrol officers. Thankfully, the arrival of a military helicopter drove the point home that they needed to leave. The Media are already picking over the conference footage as well as analyzing everything that was said in great detail. Some media outlets are taking a negative spin on all of this, like they normally do, but most remain hopefully optimistic. I know that a few media stations are going to portray all of this as a disaster for humanity, but its going to be up to your actions as a representative of your species as well as our government's interactions with the other world powers for how this truly plays out." Agent K then looked at a small watch on their wrist before continuing. "The location that we're going to provide for your hive is the lower portions of a place named Cheyenne Mountain. It was built during the Cold War from fears of Soviet nuclear retaliation, and if anything is going to protect you and your hive from human stupidity, it's going to be a nuclear bunker in a mountainside. Nothing short of a of nuke dropping directly on top of the door is going to put a dent in that thing, Queen Blue Sun."

I had no idea what a 'nuke' was, but it seemed like a good place for a hive. "Has any human lived in there before? Will it be like Titan One?" I asked loudly.

The beast took another turn that caused my wings to temporarily freak out from trying to adjust course, causing my heart to leap into my throat for a second. When I calmed down, Agent K continued. "It was the center for our space control and airspace monitoring before all of that got moved out. Right now it's being held in reserve in case of nuclear attack to protect the president, but that isn't very likely. When we heard of your existence on Earth we began clearing out the place for your stay, as we had no idea how long you would be on Earth and we wanted to provide the best protection we could as fast as possible. The fact that you're able to turn it into your own hive is just convenience."

Agent K then held a hand to their ear for a moment, listening closely. When they were finished Agent K yelled, "Alright, we've got a while before we land. Is there anything that you're going to need to get your hive... um, up and running?"

I didn't really know the answer to that. I was a tunneler before, yes, but Queen Chrysalis had always told us where to dig and how far for each room. The building of rooms was easy enough, it was just... well, I had the emotion for everything I would need as long as Timid, Rough and Soft were with me. Changeling construction wasn't very difficult, at least for us. "I'll have to figure that out when we arrive, Agent K." I replied loudly.

Agent K then addressed Soft, Rough and Timid. "As for you three, let me be very clear. You're going to stay with Queen Blue Sun as long as she needs. You're going to be inside a government facility, so we're confiscating your electronics." Timid was most verbal in their protests before being cut off by Agent K. "Listen! We're going to provide everything you'll need to cover any developments made regarding the Queen. Believe me, we're just as interested in alien life as the rest of the world. All we're going to do is edit out anything that could potentially harm Queen Blue Sun, yourselves, the nation, or compromise the location of the Queen. This entire operation is for her safety, and we're not going to place her or anyone else working at this location in danger for a selfie on Twitter. It's also going to be your duty to show the public that Queen Blue Sun isn't an alien invader out to destroy humanity. We all know that narrative isn't true, but with the media trying to sensationalize everything all the time for ratings, the rest of the world isn't going to know that."

Agent K then looked back to me. "Queen Blue Sun, I would advise that you continue to be yourself in front of any camera. You handled the media fairly well considering it was your first time with them, and they'll have very little footage to suggest that you're anything but good for the world. There's still that situation where you were apparently overwhelmed in the end of their recordings, but that can be easily explained away. As for... your hive, I would suggest that you explain to these three here, as well as the camera, exactly what you're doing. Humans tend to panic when something is happening that they don't fully understand."

"Like hittin' an alien in the face with a shovel... heh." Rough added with embarrassment.

Agent K gave Rough a cold stare and flatly stated, "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."

"Where are... Maria, Ricky and Karol going to sleep?" I asked, interrupting the awkward moment before it could begin.

Agent K shifted in their seat to address all of us again. "You three will be staying in an unused section of the VIP suites. I'm under the impression that you will be... modifying the mountain to suit the needs of your hive, Queen Blue Sun?"

I noncommittally shrugged as best as I was able underneath my restraints. "I suppose?"

Agent K did their best to not roll their eyes at me and sighed, holding their hand to their ear once more. After a moment, Agent K began unbuckling their seat as the Olive garbed human from before with the funny helmet came from the front of the beast.

"Landing in three minutes!" The human called loudly, holding up three fingers. They then pulled a lever on a panel next to them, and the mouth of the beast opened once more to the furious whipping of winds as pressure went right out of the belly of this 'Chinook'.

"Get ready to see your new home, Blue!" Timid yelled with a smile, the three of them eager with anticipation.

I just wanted to get off of this beast with its impossible flying!

Into the Mountain

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I had been expecting a very loud smashing sound to accompany our 'landing', but the noisy metal beast landed very gracefully at our destination.

"Alright Queen Blue Sun, just a head's up: The officer in charge of the humans in this area is named Colonel Terra Bunker. Yes, I know; a Colonel named Bunker in charge of a big nuclear bunker. She's heard it a hundred times, so don't call her on it." Agent K explained with hints of annoyance towards the 'Colonel' they had mentioned. "She's none to friendly to new human transfers, so I don't expect you'll receive the best welcome either. I feel obligated to inform you that any negative reaction she might have towards you is not in standing with the rest of humanity."

I nodded in acknowledgement before looking down at all the restraints on me. "Would you mind helping me with these?" I asked, attempting to wiggle my way free.

The large mouth of the beast opened with a loud alarm and flashing red lights before the olive human with the funny helmet pressed a few spots on the beast, causing the noises and lights to go away. A gush of air greeted us as well, causing Timid and Soft's hair to flow around and get in their eyes. The noise of the beast also seemed to be dying down as well, the blades slowing to a dull whine. Agent K and... 'Olive' helped Soft, Rough and Timid from their seats before moving to help me.

"Hey Blue, if you can use magic, why don't you just unbuckle yourself?" Rough asked, releasing a restraint with a click and letting it fall downward.

I blinked and looked at Rough with the dawn of realization on my face. "You're brilliant!" I cheered, lighting my horn with magic.

All of the humans, including Olive, backed away from me very quickly. I had only grabbed a hold of the restraints in my magic for a moment before I heard shouting.

"No, wait! That's normal! Don't use the-!"

Then a very noisy, airy, and cold foam washed over me entirely, covering me head to hooves in a chalky frozen uncomfortable-ness that made it hard to breathe. My horn was doused not from the temperature, but from the sudden shock of freezing. I looked from the faces of Soft, Timid, Rough and Agent K as they stared at me in horror, frozen in a position of rushing to my help and blinking in shock. Turning my head, I noticed that Olive was holding something cylindrical, red, and with a black tube pointing towards me.

Their helmet had covered their face, but their emotions could portray only the deep dread of what they believed to be the last mistake they'd ever make. My head having slowly turned towards them had also made them back away from me in a stumble.

"U-uh... I t-thought you were on fire!" Olive blabbered, holding the red thing in front of them like a shield. "Don't hurt me!"

A few more blinks of confusion removed more of the foam from my eyes. "Why am I covered in... cold foam?" I asked, lifting a hoof to my face to study the strangeness of my situation.

I heard the steady march of footsteps in boots coming from the mouth of the beast and I turned to see whom it would be. It was at that point when the new arriving human, flanked by other humans with helmets and some kind of strange armor, that they burst into laughter.

"You're kidding me!" One blurted with a grin, "First contact with aliens and it's a glowing ball of foam? For real!?""

Olive looked from myself towards the newcomer, a sense of unease and discomfort coming from them. "Um, Colonel?" they asked hesitantly. "She's not made of foam..."

This stopped the human whom was apparent Colonel Bunker in mid laugh, their face becoming stony and serious. "She's what?"

"S-she's... not foam?" Olive repeated hesitantly. Agent K was sitting down, enjoying the awkward exchange between the Colonel and Olive. Timid, Rough and Soft were busy standing in a mixture of confusion at the events taking place as well as the indecision of what to do in the moment.

"C-can s-somehuman please get this f-foam off of m-me? It's very c-cold!" I asked in a shivering chitter, my frigid wings making my voice echo unusually.

That plea caused Soft, Timid and Rough to spring into action, using their hands to both uncover my body from the foam and to undo the remaining straps on me. From the reaction that Olive had given me, I decided it was best to not use my magic for the time being.

"Why is Queen Blue Sun covered in fire extinguisher, Specialist?" Colonel Bunker asked in a hostile tone towards Olive. "I'm absolutely certain that your orders included the phrase 'absolutely no hostility towards an alien', didn't they?"

A few more humans in similar clothing walked onto the beast, one of them with a large camera on their shoulder pointed towards me. The others set about inspecting the inside of the 'Chinook', doing their very best to avoid the attention of Colonel Bunker. Soft and Rough had just about finished removing as much foam from me as they could, my height while sitting allowing them to reach most of me with ease. Timid was having a few difficulties with a strap, but for the most part I was free to move. I could sense the feeling of doom beginning to crush Olive, judging from their position of standing very stiffly upright. They may have worn a helmet, but their body shook.

"I'm gonna bust you down to PFC after this, 'Specialist' Mayweather." Colonel Bunker threatened. This caused Olive to become even more upset, and I felt a pressing need to interrupt; both for the growing discomfort the situation was causing me and to bring all of this hostility to an end.

"Colonel B-bunker, I assume?" I interrupted, leaning my head in between the views of Bunker and Olive. I gave a very large smile to further distract the Colonel, though I was still shivering. "Very nice to m-meet you."

Colonel Bunker's eyes had a fit for a moment, attempting to both process my 'new' un-foamed form and avoid focusing on my fangs with accompanying sharp teeth. For some reason, humans didn't like the sight of sharp pointy teeth. I've always thought that was a sign of good health, though I suppose it's different for humans.

My distraction had worked, as the Colonel was now focused on myself and assuming the same stiff and upright position as Olive to address me, their hands at their sides. "Queen Blue Sun; I hope that no harm has come to you?" They asked officially, shooting a glare at Olive.

I looked down at my body as the last strap was undone by Timid. With a nod of thanks towards the three I began to slowly and carefully stand up. The constant shifting and uneven movement from the travel had made me a little unsteady, as well as the foam from the 'fire extinguisher' causing my wings to move a bit too slowly, making me unbalanced. Before I could slip and fall onto my face, I widened my stance so that all of my hooves were a square platform, steady with a sense of balance or not. "I'm f-fine!" I chittered, my wings slightly delayed with one another from the cold. I caught another spike of worry from Olive and interrupted Colonel Bunker before they could berate the human again. "I have a r-request, C-colonel Bunker." I asked officially, still freezing.

"You want to inspect the location of your... hive, I assume?" Bunker replied with slight irritation.

"A-actually, I would like... Specialist Mayweather, w-was it?" I asked Olive while looking at them. I was slowly regaining my sense of balance from my wings un-freezing, so my stance returned to normal. Apparently the cold didn't last as long as winter, which was a bonus.

"Yes, Queen Blue Sun!" They blurted out.

I turned back to Colonel Bunker. "I would like Specialist Mayweather to accompany us in our tour and to stay with me afterwards. I want to speak with them in private. I assume that you are the queen of this... hive, and that would make Specialist Mayweather your drone?"

The colonel raised an eyebrow of surprise at me. "You think I'm a queen?"

I tilted my head to the side in confusion. "You are the leader of the humans here and you live in the side of the mountain. I would also assume that you are female, from Agent K's description. That would make you the Queen."

A huff of amusement accompanied by a smile was my reply before Colonel Bunker changed subjects. "I'll allow your request, Queen Blue Sun. For now, however, let's get you all set up inside the 'hive'." They stepped aside and pointed a hand towards the outside of the beast, finally freeing me from the impossible metal thing. As I walked out onto a smooth black platform, I heard whispered warnings from Colonel Bunker to Olive.

"This place is massive!" Soft exclaimed in awe. I looked to Soft and followed their gaze, my eyes setting on a very large mountain.

My ears folded back from the enormity of it. "W-well..." I stammered unintentionally. "I guess there's plenty of room to improve?"

I felt a hand rest on my shell and found Rough at my side, smiling. "Hey, don't worry about it. You'll have us to help out."

"Where did Agent K go?" Timid asked. I turned around to look for them and instead and found that the Camera human from before had followed us, silently watching.

"Can I help you?" I asked, confronting the Camera-man.

"I'm just here to observe, Queen Blue Sun. I can stand further back if you wish." They replied professionally, though their emotions told of worry.

I stared at the human for a moment, considering options. It would only be slightly annoying to have them following me around, and I had nothing to hide from the humans in the first place. If they were curious and wanted to watch what happened, then it wouldn't hurt to let them. Besides, if they were going to post these videos of myself on the internet, then perhaps it would help against more angry mobs? It would also save Timid from being stuck behind their own camera as well, and they would be able to help myself as well as Rough and Soft with creating my hive... however I was going to go about doing that.

I realized that I had been staring daggers at the camera-man for a few minutes now, causing them to sweat nervously. "You are fine, Camera-man." I replied, blinking away the fog of my thoughts to focus on what was happening around me.

We were apparently on some separate platform made from dark stone, a circle with a large 'H' in the center of it where the beast rested after its long flight. A metal staircase led away from this place and towards a tunnel entrance into the side of the mountain. Looking away from there, I spotted the large camouflaged camp that Agent K had told us of earlier. It looked like a small town rather than a camp. Inside of that camp were many similar looking structures, like the humans had made pre-constructed buildings and simply stuck them together in odd patterns. There was another stone field to the side where the oddly arranged beasts rested, similar to the Wal-mart of before. These beasts were much larger however; some of them with heads and odd noses or mouths that pointed forward. Groups of humans in their helmets and armor were patrolling around the camp, some of them standing in towers looking somewhat bored.

"Let's take you into the mountain, Queen Blue Sun." Colonel Bunker suddenly stated next to me, catching me off-guard and startling me. Agent K was still missing, having gone off somewhere without any of us noticing. Timid, Rough and Soft were following behind me while taking in the sights and Olive kept a wary distance from me, forced to follow by my request. It was my hope that with Olive being near me at all times, that they might escape the attention of Colonel Bunker for what was basically a well intentioned mistake. Bunker didn't seem to be the forgiving type of human. They didn't know that, however, and being near me was causing them to be nervous.

"That right there," Colonel Bunker pointed out proudly, "Is the door to Cheyenne Mountain. Nothing short of a nuke is gonna make a dent in that thing."

I realized that while I had been spacing out, we had walked through not only the overhanging metal tunnel entrance but a very large metal door as well. Colonel Bunker was now pointing towards a different door made of a combination of stone and metal with the design of a bank door and a secret entrance. There were a great many locks and bolts on the side of it that matched to the wall it had come out of as well. I placed a hoof on the flat of the door, giving it a small shove.

My hoof charged, and only gave a small black scorch mark on the door. I didn't want to actually damage the thing or test its limits, but if the humans trusted in its design so faithfully then I could hold off on stress testing it later.

Colonel Bunker seemed to be annoyed, but they kept it hidden from their tone. "If you'll follow me, then I can show you to where we've already cleared out some space for you, Queen Blue Sun." They then looked to Olive. "Specialist Mayweather, escort these three... guests of the Queen to their rooms."

"Yes, Colonel!" Olive replied dutifully. Timid, Soft and Rough looked at me with concern.

"I'll be fine." I said reassuringly. "It's only for a short time, anyway."

"Stay safe, Blue." Rough gave in farewell.

I nodded, and Olive lead the three around a corner to disappear from sight.

"Queen Blue Sun, could I have a word; off the record?" Colonel Bunker asked.

I looked down at them with a slightly raised brow. "Yes?"

"I'm under orders to be as polite and accommodating as possible for you, and I intend to do that. What I can't help do is keep track of those three that you've brought along with you. They follow the same rules as any other human, and if they go snooping around this place and getting themselves into trouble, I will have to deal with that as the law demands. This entire operation is to ensure your safety, so please keep them wrangled close to you." The Colonel warned seriously. "We humans might not know a lot about you, but we know ourselves pretty well. Keep an eye on them, or they'll start to wander around. The only reason they're here is because of your say so; otherwise, they'd be at home watching Scooby Doo and eating Mac n' Cheese on their couch."

I had no idea who Scooby Doo was, or why anyhuman would watch them, but the implication was clear enough. "I will do that, Colonel Bunker."

They gave a curt nod and continued on their tour. They explained that the complex had been built originally to protect the President and other important personnel during an all out nuclear war, but it was now being stripped down of everything that wasn't structural or important to 'scientific study' in order to accommodate myself and my future hive. Colonel Bunker didn't seem too enthused about the idea of a Hive, but they kept their feelings to themself. Well, as much as they were able to with myself around.

I was lead into a very large room with a high ceiling that curved like a dome all around. The floors of this place had all been smooth stone, so it was no surprise that this design had continued into here as well. What was immediately interesting to myself however, was the sudden rush of inspiration and ideas as to what I would do with such a room!

The large open space in the center could be carved out, giving room for eggs to be laid and nurtured by Caretakers... as soon as they hatched first, that is. The walls themselves could be arranged into smaller sleeping zones that would allow my drones a place to rest, the resin of the hive itself providing cushioning for them. Oh, that would be another thing I would have to do. I suppose all of the dust from excavating out the hatchery as well as the sleeping areas in the walls would provide all the material I would use, though I would need Soft, Rough and Timid here in order to fuel the process. Looking at the domed roof I could imagine ropes of resin and what was known as 'Dirsime' (Dirt Slime) to stretch across and provide a walkway. I could knock out more of the roof's siding in order to create more rooms as well, and this was only with the large open space in front of me! When I had my own tunnelers, I would be able to do all of this so much faster than on my own.

I then noticed a hand waving in front of my face. Looking down, there was a concerned Colonel Bunker staring at me. "Are you alright, Queen Blue Sun? You zoned out the moment we came in here."

I shook my head free of the designs and plans that had blocked my vision. "I'm fine, Colonel Bunker, thank you for asking." I looked around the room once more, a small grin spreading across my face. "Could I get started?" I asked, charging my horn.

Colonel Bunker greeted me with confusion and worry about my magic. "Get started?" they inquired cautiously while backing away a few steps.

My grin broke into a smile, and I turned to the Camera-man that had never stopped following us. "You're both going to help me build my hive!"

Changeling Remodeling, Part One

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"How am I supposed to help you with a hive?" Bunker asked in disbelief, giving a look towards the cameraman as if they could somehow answer their question.

"You're a Queen, correct?" I replied, as if it was obvious.

"Just because I'm the officer in charge doesn't mean I know the first thing about an alien hive!" They replied in exasperation. "Don't you have a build-it-yourself guide or something?"

"Eh... there was usually another Queen for that." I replied cryptically. I didn't really want to tell Bunker that I had very little idea what I was doing. The digging part I understood just fine, but the layout? Not so much. "I'm sure it will be fine; I just need Rough, Soft and Timid with me for this."

"You need what?" Bunker asked, even more confused.

"Er, I mean I need Ricky, Maria and Karol." I explained, though Bunker's face didn't stop portraying confusion. "I feed off of positive emotions, and they... freely give theirs to me? They're the reason I'm still alive."

Bunker closed their eyes for a moment, their hand pinching their nose with their face scrunched up, a hand on their hip. "You know what?" Bunker asked rhetorically, "I don't know what the hell is going on, but I guess that's to be expected, isn't it?" They then looked at me, and then to the cameraman. "Give me that damn thing and go find those kids that came in with the Queen." The cameraman gave a concerned look for Bunker and then a nervous one towards me before Colonel Bunker barked "Move it!", sending the Cameraman off on their task after a strange hand gesture.

While Bunker messed around with the large Camera, I set about my usual tunneling tasks. Tapping the floor to find odd vibrations and marking them with my hoof. The granite flooring of this place made that more difficult than if it had been loose sand and rock, but scorching the floor worked just as well.

"Hey, why are you marking the floors?" Bunker asked, handling the unwieldy thing on their shoulder.

"When I used to be a tunneler, it was our job to find weaknesses in the tunnel walls as well as the rooms, reinforce them, and then continue digging. I have no idea how sturdy this..." I marked another spot on the floor, "...Structure is, so I'm finding all of the weak points in it."

"By tapping your leg on the floor?" Bunker inquired, interest spiking.

"Changeling legs are very sensitive to vibration; they help us know when gougers are tunneling nearby if their screams don't give them away first. The smaller types will burrow close to our tunnels and weaken the walls so that the larger ones can break through. By tapping on the ground, it helps us locate areas that will need reinforcing to prevent a cave in and a gouger attack." I explained, having marked several more spots. "I take it that there are no gougers on Earth? This structure is full of weaknesses..." Another mark, and soon a second one right next to it. This place must have been made of compacted sand or something; Granite, pfft.

"This bunker can withstand a thirty megaton nuclear warhead a kilometer away. It's built as strong as they come, Queen Blue Sun." They replied, a slight tone of annoyance in their voice. I think I had upset them...

"In any case, when I am done with my hive it will be even stronger than it is now. I just need the three I mentioned earlier here with me, and I can begin." I said diplomatically, wanting to divert attention away from my unintentional insult.

"You're gonna make this place stronger than granite?" Bunker asked skeptically.

At this point I had covered about half of the floor in a pattern of hoof scorches. There were a great deal of weaknesses in the flooring, and it would take some effort to work on the walls and ceiling as well. I suppose I could just start with the hatchery and move on from there... unless my eggs decided that it would be the perfect time to need laying. That would be problematic.

"Queen Blue Sun?" Bunker questioned, "What exactly do you do to make something stronger than granite?"

I stopped checking the floor for any more weaknesses and turned towards Bunker. "Do you remember the Dirsime I mentioned before?" They nodded. "Its a building material unique to changelings, woven with a bit of magic, emotion, and the holes in our legs. Alone, a single strand of Dirsime will just melt onto the floor in a pathetic glob of goo, being just a combination of dirt and slime." I moved closer to a cluster of markings on the ground, charging my hoof. "I can give a demonstration of how this works, if you're ready."

Colonel Bunker adjusted their stance and the camera's eye before saying, "Ready when you are."

My horn burst to life, causing Bunker to take a few steps back as the room was bathed in blue-teal fire. I put more magic into my hooves and began hammering down into the granite floor, causing cracks to appear and spiderweb around the impact point. If I wanted to go faster, I could've hovered with my wings and begun hammering with all four of my hooves in a sort of dance, but I didn't want to risk weakening myself without Rough, Soft and Timid nearby. It took a few minutes to get enough material beaten out of the floor, but soon there was a respectable pile of granite dust around the new hole in the floor. Looking to find Colonel Bunker, I saw that they had gone to the far edge of the room with their camera.

"Colonel Bunker, are you alright?" I yelled across the room, my chittering voice echoing slightly.

"You really need to tone down that fire of yours!" Bunker yelled back. "It's roasting in here!"

I looked around the room and to my own chitin and carapace. The room didn't seem to be any hotter or colder than when we had come in. "Are you sure?" I yelled back, cutting out my horn's magic. "Nothing seems to have changed!"

The moment my horn had gone out, Colonel Bunker immediately relaxed. "Oh, thank Jesus!" They exclaimed, setting the camera down on the floor pointed towards me and slouching onto the ground. As I walked closer, I noticed they were drenched in sweat and trying to keep strands of hair from their face. "I thought I was going to get baked alive in here!"

"Why didn't you say anything?" I asked, looming over them.

"I did! I yelled at the top of my lungs, but you couldn't hear me. You just started glowing brighter and brighter while you hammered into the damn floor." They said between deep breaths, unbuttoning their camouflage shirt. "We need a fire-fighting team in here if there's gonna be any humans working with you, Queen Blue Sun; Too damn hot!"

"That's... strange. My magic has always been the same, and I was unaffected by any heat you're talking... well, actually..." I had recently become a queen, and my magic used to be the greenish glow of Queen Chrysalis', so perhaps that was an explanation? Did magic behave differently on Earth than Equestria? I already noticed that changing disguises had scorched the floor, but I thought that was a fluke...

"Colonel Bunker!" A voice yelled in alarm; several humans in their armor and helmets along with metal cylinders in their arms rushing towards us. "Get back!" Another yelled, pointing their metal things at me as the group of four stood between myself and Colonel Bunker.

I took a few steps back out of both curiosity and politeness, not wanting to accidentally trample a human from a careless step.

"Stand down!" Bunker yelled, pushing themself against the wall and onto their feet. "I said put your damn weapons down!"


"Yes, Colonel!" The group replied, their... weapons pointing towards the floor. "Are you injured?" A human with a cap asked.

"I'm fine!" Bunker snapped. "It just got hot in here; calm down."

These four were very wary of me. They wore olive jumpsuits with a black vest, many pouches sticking from it. There were various symbols on their shoulders along with what I assumed were smaller weapons on their thighs. "You would be...?" I asked carefully.

"Call me Jack." One sassed. They were the one that had asked if the Colonel was injured. "Who're you?"

"I am Queen Blue Sun." I replied with a nod that I had seen noble ponies give to another in greeting. "Those things you hold in your hands... they are weapons?"

The four newcomers gave each other odd looks before they were interrupted by Bunker. "Get your team out of here, Jack. I've got this handled."

"You've got a giant alien queen in the mountain 'handled'?" Jack questioned, turning from me to focus on Bunker. "It looks like she almost melted you before we got here!"

"Why did you point weapons at me?" I asked, confused.

"I said get the hell out of here, O'Neill!" Bunker hollered, pointing towards the exit.

Jack gave me a look that promised retribution before reluctantly ordering their team to leave the room. Jack walked backwards most of the way, keeping their eyes on me as they left.

Bunker took a deep breath before sighing. "I formally apologize on behalf of humanity for Jack O'Neill and his team, Queen Blue Sun. They've been away on mission for the past few weeks and I'll have to debrief them to avoid any more conflicts in the future."

"They pointed weapons at me?" I asked, still hung op on that fact.

"They're not used to... friendly visitors, I should say. It won't happen again, Queen Blue Sun." Bunker replied, doing their best to both calm down and cool off.

"Colonel Bunker!" Another voice yelled from around the corner.

"What!?" Bunker yelled back, extremely frustrated and trying their best to remain calm.

"A-ah, I found the three you were looking for?" The cameraman said, Timid, Soft and Rough behind them.

"Whoa! What the heck happened here!?" Rough blurted, moving past the cameraman and myself towards the crater of granite.

"Why is it so hot in here?" Soft asked, fanning themself.

"Eh... magical difficulties?" I replied hesitantly. "Apparently, whenever I use magic, it raises the temperature around me. I'm not affected by this, but humans are..."

"So... how do we help you?" Timid asked, "If we're going to melt from you needing energy, then we can't be in the same room..."

"How about you just take breaks?" Soft asked, "We could give you some 'emotional energy' or whatnot, then seal this room and let you get to work."

Timid nodded. "That sounds like it could work!"

"But what the heck are you doing, Blue? Beating up the floor?" Rough wondered.

"Well, I was going to show Colonel Bunker how hives are made before... well, things got heated." I replied.

Bunker smacked themself on the forehead. "Please tell me that none of you taught an alien how to make puns?"

I blinked. "What is a pun?"

"Nevermind!" Bunker snapped. "We need to get you charged up before you can start digging, and we also need to be in a place where we can observe you without being flash fried."

Timid pointed to a small black slit in the wall behind us. "You mean that observation room over there?"

I walked towards the small space in curiosity. "You have entire rooms dedicated to watching?" I asked, reaching the small strip and poking it experimentally with my hoof. "What do you watch in them?"

"Eh..." All five humans behind me replied in nervous unison. "You?" The cameraman provided.

I blinked a few times before turning back to the observation slit.

"Hello!" I said with a smile and wave of my hoof.

Changeling Remodeling, Part Two

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"Alright, once more for the camera, please." The cameraman asked, "This time, without scorching the camera."

The humans had taken more than a dozen safety precautions after my last interaction with Colonel Bunker; Fireproof suits, closed blast doors, observation rooms with cameras and several air conditioners all hooked up within it. I had no real clue as to how the air conditioners worked, but it was simply explained as 'Hot air go out, cool air go in'. I felt that wasn't the full story on the contraption, but I was learning a lot about the humans and their technology. The past several days had been very educational; the humans asking me to take a break so that they might be able to reinforce the area that would be my hive with new blast doors, heat resistant paint and several other 'nick knacks' as they called it.

"You're sure it won't melt?" I asked the room's camera as it zoomed in on me. "The last one didn't even survive the vibrations from tunneling."

The cameraman's voice of filtered static came back to me over the intercom, a slight echo throughout the chamber. "We've triple checked it this time, Queen Blue Sun. We're sure it can take a beating."

I rolled my head a bit and sighed. "If you say so..."

The area that I had hammered into before barely a week ago was beneath my hooves; scattered dust and chips of granite shifting away from me as I walked around the perimeter of the modest hole in the flooring. I had come here once or twice in order to get back to creating my hive, the natural drive to lay eggs beginning to break its way into my thoughts on a more regular basis as I held off at the request of the humans. The task of resisting my urges was made easier by the company of Soft, Rough and Timid, further added onto by Stern joining us as well on the insistence of Agent K; something about 'protecting assets'. Colonel Bunker was more than polite to me when we encountered another in the hallways of Cheyenne Mountain, though I suspect that they didn't fully trust me.

"Whenever you're ready." The cameraman called on the intercom, patiently waiting.

I shifted the loose rock beneath my hooves, creating a pillar after a few moments. "Alright, Camera, here we go."

I allowed my magic to flow freely, blanketing all of the debris around me in a teal-blue fire. Some of the equipment that the humans had installed flared to life, warning tones of orange and yellow spinning around in alarm as the room began to heat up. I could feel nothing, of course, as this had always been something entirely natural for me to do. Using my magic on Earth, however, proved to be problematic. White robed humans known as 'Researchers' had asked me politely to perform several mundane tasks with my magic as a sort of test, both to calibrate their own devices and to provide information for the curious royals that they worked for.

Any attempt at interacting with objects on Earth directly, such as telekinesis, ended up with said object bursting into flame and becoming ash. They warned against me using any magic in public for when I would be requested to meet with the 'United Nations' in a few months, and for talk shows that Timid had arranged, the whole operation being pre-approved based on my own willingness to go ahead with the idea. Agent K was very upset with the decision as they couldn't ensure my safety as easily as they could in Cheyenne Mountain, but with my body being armored the way it was as a Proto-Queen, I wasn't very concerned.

The ground around me finally feeling 'just right', I willed all of it to collect on the pillar that I had arranged beforehand. Using my hooves to shape the stone, slime began to ooze from the holes in my hooves, holding the material in place and hardening as it came into contact with my magic at the right place. The human engineer known as 'Shen' had expressly forbade me from knocking out holes in the ceiling of this domed room unless I built a structural pillar first. With this Dirsime pillar that I was now building, it would be more than sturdy enough to hold the roof for what I was planning. I would have to wait for at least a few weeks as the engineers under Chief Shen examined the material I was creating, but it would be worth it in the end. The humans would better trust me, and I would be able to have a secure location for my hive.

The granite dust beneath me was beginning to clear out as the pillar reached a comfortable half-way point to the ceiling, meaning that I would have to begin tunneling again.

"Cameraman, are you ready for tunneling?" I called, my magic holding everything in place as I paused and looked towards the observation room at the far end of the chamber.

There was a lengthy pause as I heard clacking, distant talking and unintelligible chatter filtered through the intercom from their end. I assumed they were 'clearing it with the higher ups' as they usually did, so I went to work in smoothing out the small crater that I had already created. The edges were covered in Dirsime, the granite causing it to become a dark purplish blue instead of the lighter coloration I was accustomed to. Rough described the feeling of Dirsime to be a sandy slime that was somehow sticky despite feeling so smooth to their fingers. None of the humans had tested its durability yet, as the small samples I was allowed to make were able to fit in their palms. With this pillar however, they would be able to conduct more studies and eventually 'give the go ahead' for my hive to continue.

In the mean time however, the itch to lay eggs was becoming very concerning to me. My chest had begun to have pains again, much like the last time before I had cocooned myself and become a Proto-Queen. Looking back to the observation room with an impatient glare, I assumed that the humans had become caught up in an argument again and had muted their microphone so that I wouldn't hear. Jack O'Neill had become a passive hindrance to me; their own paranoia about aliens in general causing them to antagonize me in an almost petty way. I had attempted to befriend Jack O'Neill, but they distrusted me on a principle I wasn't able to discover. Jack's team was more welcoming, though one with a golden emblem on their forehead kept a chilly distance between us. The other two seemed to be 'Researchers', and more than once attempted to explain how human culture works in hopes that I would share with them how Changeling culture behaved. More than one occasion was interrupted by the arrival of Jack or the immediate need for them to all disappear in to a deeper part of the facility on 'assignment' on a moment's notice, however.

"We are finally ready, Queen Blue Sun. Tunnel when ready!" I heard Colonel Bunker announce through the intercom.

"Finally!" I cheered, charging my hoof and slamming it into the ground around the edge of the hole. I was going to cut and smash my way in a circle around the crater I had formed already as my own magics worked the debris that would come from tunneling into a Dirsime coating around the base of the pillar and eventually outwards along the edge of the hole. Once I had broken through the initial top layer of the chambers I occupied, the rest of the tunneling had become much easier. The useful thing about Dirsime is that it doesn't require a very high concentration to apply correctly. The magic that I was accustomed to simply arranged the material in a sort of webbing that reinforced everything according to the points of weakness I had already identified, causing ropes and lines of it to stretch and mold itself perfectly to assist with the overall structure.

It took around another hour of continuous hammering, carving and magical exertion, but I eventually tired and became weakened from the lack of magic needed to continue. My horn snuffed itself out when I stopped, and my hearing slowly returned to the sounds of alarm klaxons and sirens. Looking around, it appears as though I had destroyed the lighting again.

"Queen Blue Sun!" A very upset Colonel Bunker yelled, "Queen!"

"I am here!" I called back, climbing out of the hole with a bit of assistance from my wings. "Did I break something again?" I asked.

"This is Doctor Shen, Chief Engineer." I heard Shen announce themselves over the intercom, "I need to have an urgent word with you, if you have the time."

"Right after I visit my friends, Doctor Shen." I answered, shakily making my way towards the blast door at the far end of the chambers near the observation room. I craned my head towards the viewport and offered a weak smile. "It's hard work excavating, you know."

I of course couldn't see their reaction to my comment, as the observation room's window had become a black scorch march along with the rest of the interior of the room on account of my magic. I noticed that the camera was looking fairly pathetic as bits of the lens globbed down onto the granite flooring from having melted yet again. "Would you mind opening the door?" I asked.

"As soon as the room reaches a temperature we're certain that can sustain life, Queen Blue Sun." Shen quipped, "I am actually glad that you need a break; at this rate, the room would've begun melting along with the cameras..."

I took a deep breath and sighed again, pressing my face against the glass of the observation room. "It feels cold to me, Shen."

"What few surviving instruments we have in the room indicate that it has reached a temperature upwards of three-hundred degrees." Shen replied with a bit of amusement, "Certainly no human could survive that for long, so we must wait for a moment as the ventilation system attempts to calm down from the anxiety attack that you've given it."

"Are my friends nearby, at least?" I asked again, giving the glass an experimental lick. I didn't have many 'taste buds', as the humans discovered, but the char was kind of nice regardless of my tastes. "It's very boring in this chamber."

"Eh... of course. We'll have them here as soon as possible, Queen Blue Sun." Shen replied with a bit of amusement, caught off guard by my licking of the window.

I moved away from the window to sit down next to the hole that I had carved. Apparently during my tunneling, the Dirsime had decided that a pillar wasn't needed afterall. It had become something of a basin with a thin layer of the material at the bottom, the edges of the hole becoming ridged and very sturdy. The hole itself was nearly as deep as I was tall currently, and something about it just felt... right.

With that idea in mind, my chest decided that it wanted to crack with pain again. With a yelp from the unexpected event, I tilted forward and slid my way down the edges of the crater and into the bottom of the thing, my mane following me like a blanket as I came to a stop. I held two hooves to my chest, my wings buzzing in irritation a bit from the pain.

"Oh, why does this have to happen now!?" I asked rhetorically, curling into a ball. "Of all the times, It has to be when I'm starved of emotion!"

The suddenness of this had caught me off guard. I was expecting at least a few more weeks as a Proto-Queen at this rate, but apparently tunneling and securing this pit of Dirsime had been the event that triggered my next cocooning phase.

Then I felt something in my midsection and lower regions shift.

I looked with with wide eyes and an open mouth as I rolled onto my back, my hindlegs coming apart on their own.

"Are you serious!?" I exclaimed, my body shifting again with a gurgling noise. I watched with a mixture of fascination and horror as my carapace warped and moved along with the odd sensations coming from my body; what felt like four distinct objects coming into alignment.

"Queen Blue Sun, where are you?" I heard Timid ask over the intercom.

"I think I'm laying eggs!" I yelled back, my voice shrill from another sudden shift and a pain in my chest.

"Wait, you're what!?" I heard Soft yell, their loud voice overloading the speakers.

I felt a pressure at my lower end and witnessed my legs parting a ways outward, what was most definitely an egg making its way out of me.

"This is so weird! Why does this feel so weird!?" I yelled more in panic than in any pain. It didn't actually hurt, but just the immense suddenness, the overwhelming feeling of strangeness and the pain in my chest, combined with the knowledge that the chamber wouldn't be able to be opened for a few more hours at least all combined into a general anxiety and panic.

"Are you okay?" I heard Rough ask. "We're here for you, Blue!"

The first egg forced its way free of me, a very uncomfortable sound accompanying its exit from my body as it slid onto the Dirsime flooring. "I have no idea what 'okay' is anymore!" I yelled, another egg shifting into position. I used my forehooves to push myself away from the last egg, not wanting to be buried in my own drones. I had noticed that my midsection was far less... bulky than it was before. Was that the reasoning for my large figure?

In an almost perfect repeat of the process, accompanied with panicked yelping and immense confusion, the other three eggs were eventually laid in a neat pile next to me. Breathing heavily and laying on my side in the pit, I could feel a bit of slime from my insides pooling beneath me. With weary effort, I pulled my head up enough to see that my hooves had also joined in the creation of slime.

"Oh, you're kidding me!" I complained, the mannerisms of the humans I had come to know better over the past week having already made their way into my vocabulary. "I wasn't even a Proto-Queen for a full week!" I complained.

"Wait, what!?" Colonel Bunker asked with alarm over the intercom, "A Proto-Queen!?"

"We'll explain later!" I heard Timid retort. "Blue, what's going on?"

"I'm cocooning again!" I yelled, pushing myself up and away from the slimy resin that was beginning to cover my body. "I don't know how long this one is going to take, but I don't recommend coming into the room while its happening!" I shouted in order for the intercom to hear me. "The last time I rambled for a minute, but as a Queen I have no idea what will go on when I become soup again!"

The slime was beginning to interact with the bits of magic that I had left, creating the walls of the cocoon around my legs. I took one last look at my body and noticed that my midsection had thinned considerably, nearly like Queen Chrysalis' own lithe figure.

"Hey, maybe you'll look even prettier as a full grown queen!" I heard Soft hopefully voice.

I took a deep breath as the cocoon raised over my head, sealing me away in a protective shell from the rest of the world. Letting out my breath, I noticed that this cocoon was much sturdier, with no way to see out. There was no transparency, no gaps... only hard shell. Tapping on the side of it I noticed that it was becoming harder still, Dirsime coating the outside as my magic continued its work. The blue-teal glow of my magic illuminated the interior of my cocoon. From my nethers, I noticed a differently colored slime beginning to fill the inside of the cocoon. It was a blueish purple in color this time that glowed softly.

"Well," I said to myself, my voice coming back to me very quickly from the enclosed space. "I guess it's time to be a queen after all..."

The glowing fluid eventually flowed over my chest, up my neck, to my mouth and above my head as well, eventually leaving me in a glowing pod of ooze to float. My eyes were already open like last time, and I took a deep breath once more. As before, I could still breathe.

"Does this mean I dissolve again?" I asked myself, tapping my forehooves together at regular intervals.

It took only minutes before the tap tap tapping of my hooves became a crunch, once of them snapping off and floating around in the blue-purple soup that I was suspended in.

"Yep. It's one of those days." I again said to myself, a bit of Jack's personality having 'rubbed off on me' from my interactions with them.

The Human Perspective

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Colonel Bunker turned from the console that she had been staring at for the past twenty minutes after Queen Blue Sun had become a cocoon to view Jack O'Neill coming through the doorway. The colonel had called him in as part of an insurance policy regarding the alien that had made a storage hanger its home, and now they were treading deep into unknown waters with less than a clue of what was going on.

"Reporting in, Colonel." Jack said officially with a salute. Colonel Bunker pointed with her hand to a swivel chair nearby.

"Skip the formalities, Jack. You know this is serious." Bunker replied casually, moving away from the console to the desk in the center of the room.

The 'meeting' was being held in the observation room just next door to the Queen's new hole in the floor. The alien had scorched all of the equipment in the room, save for one barely functioning camera at the far end. It no longer had much of the capabilities it once did, but it still had visual. It was good enough. Joined by Jack was the rest of his team: Teal'c, a man with an almost religious icyness to his demeanor that only served to further distance himself from those he didn't know. To those that he did, he was reliable to a fault, always direct in his mannerisms and held a solid faith in humanity. He was joined by Samantha Carter and a self proclaimed xeno-archeologist named Daniel Jackson. Samantha was Airforce before being volun-told that she would be transferred to Cheyenne mountain, and Daniel was a civillian egghead that claimed to know far more than Colonel Bunker would attribute to the awkward man. They were all cleared by Agent K, so that was good enough for the colonel.

"Take a seat, everyone. We don't know how long it will be until that Queen wakes up and becomes a butterfly." Colonel Bunker quipped, rubbing her forehead from the stress of this new development. When everyone had taken their seat, she continued with her rushed briefing. "Not thirty minutes ago, Queen Blue Sun went into the testing chamber to continue her 'demonstration' of Changeling excavation and construction methods. Science is still going over just how the energy field she produces is able to make a material as strong as 'Dirsime' without any kind of metals, but that isn't why you're here." She then turned to face towards the blackened view-port and placed her hands on her hips. "In there is a whole can of worms that nobody else wants to open..."

"So you're going to send us in, I take it?" Jack inquired, shifting in his seat to get a better view of the scorched window.

"What about those kids that the Queen befriended?" Daniel asked, leaning forward in his own seat. "Wouldn't they have a better reaction to the Queen when she 'wakes up'?"

"I'm not putting civilians in the line of fire on a hunch, Jackson." Colonel Bunker quickly replied, turning from the window towards the group. "We don't have any knowledge about alien lifecycles; unless you'd care to share your vast knowledge of the extra-terrestrial with us."

Daniel put his hands up in open palmed defense, leaning back in his chair. "Hey, It was just an idea..."

"Do we know the alien's intentions? What was its behavior before entering this cocoon?" Teal'c asked, his arms folded across his chest.

"It seemed caught by surprise, almost panicked." Bunker explained, moving towards the meeting table. "I don't want to take any risks that the alien coming out of that cocoon isn't the same one we've known the past week." She added, placing their hands on the table and leaning in. "We definitely need to handle this as delicately as possible, or an alien queen going on the offensive is going to be the least of our worries with Agent K watching over this entire operation."

"I haven't seen Agent K in a while; Where has he been all this time?" Samantha Carter asked with an interested tone. "Last I've heard of him, he was going to investigate some disturbance out in the Nevada desert?"

"As always, anything that Agent K does is classified." Bunker replied, though quickly held up a hand to preemptively hold off the protests that would claim that was just an excuse. "Classified means I don't know, Jackson."

"So what do you want us to do with 'Queen Bug' in there?" Jack asked, pointing a thumb towards the general direction of the cocoon past the observation window. "I don't think I have a can of Raid large enough for that thing."

"All you're going to do is remain on standby incase things go wrong. We're simply observing for the moment, so don't jump the gun." Bunker replied with a bit of annoyance. "Shooting the Queen is an absolute last resort option."

"What of the eggs?" Teal'c asked, pointing to the four glowing orbs that shimmered in the camera's view. "Do we know anything about them?"

"We know they glow." Jack snarked.

"Again, next to nothing." Bunker responded while choosing to ignore Jack's comment. "If the Queen is anything like the species on Earth, if we so much as breathe on those eggs there will be hell to pay. Stay away from them."

"What are we bringing with us; weapons, scanning tools, a notepad?" Daniel wondered, a bit excited and nervous at the idea of entering into the 'hive' of an alien queen.

"Standard kit along with a new drone that Shen cooked up just for this situation." Bunker replied with a smirk on her face. "I think the old engineer was getting upset with Queen Blue Sun's energy interference on his equipment all the time. He was more than ready to give it up for a test run when I asked."

"What does this drone accomplish?" Teal'c asked.

"It's basically a gigantic Tesla coil on treads. Shen was hoping that it would have a high enough energy capacity to at least stun the Queen long enough to restrain her, though what we'd need to do that with exactly, we have no clue." Bunker explained.

"Indeed..." Teal'c replied with reserved concern.

As if the fates had convened to interrupt their briefing, the audio feed from the testing chamber came to life with filtered sounds of crackling. All five humans in the room turned or swiveled towards the camera in alarm and witnessed the outer shell of the Cocoon beginning to fracture.

"Well, Colonel..." Jack said with unease while getting up from his chair, "Time to greet the new Queen."


I blinked multiple times as I realized that I was awake once more. Looking around, I saw I was still inside of my cocoon. I raised my hooves towards my face and found that they had changed. My overall form appeared to be very thin, if my chest and abdomen were an accurate judge. My bulky form as a Proto-queen was all but gone, only the chestpiece remaining of my carapace with a more refined and elegant tone to its arrangement. My legs were long and thin, my mane more flowing and elegant. My horn had changed as well, though not by much. It also seemed that the Cocoon was bigger. Did that mean I had shrunk, or that the cocoon had grown as I was re-assembled?

Swimming around as much as I could in the cramped space, I found that my wings had become smaller as a result of my thinner form. It was probably because they didn't have to lift so much weight now, I suppose. Floating onto my back, I found that my midsection was roughly half the size as it was before. To use a human comparison, I had been built like a 'tank' before. Now I had all the regality of Queen Chrysalis yet with my own... features.

I tapped on the side of the Cocoon, noting that the shell had become far softer than when I was a Proto-Queen. Running my holed hoof along the inside I felt tiny cracks and weaknesses in it. With enough force I could easily break free of this cocoon, but at the same time I needed to better understand my new body. The tight space didn't help much for self exploration, but my hooves were able to note that my shell had become more angular towards the rear. My mane was now down my neck instead of being short as before, and my eyes had changed as well.
As it turns out, tapping a hoof into my eye was now painful. I decided to find out what else had become more fragile in my Queenly form, starting with running my hooves along my horn. Unexpectedly, I found something else atop my head that for some reason I hadn't been expecting.

A crown.

It was a part of my body now; coming from the top of my head with four small glowing orbs that shone with a blue-purple hue at the crown's tips. I was able to tell by somewhat painfully flattening the crown towards my forehead enough to see them. Looking around more at my own body, I noticed that the chitinous plating around my hooves had disappeared, along with the shoulder and flank armoring as well. It was only the chest piece that remained, adorned with a center glowing spot in the shape of a diamond with four orbs around it in different sections.

"Oh no, my eggs!" I yelped, suddenly remembering that they were exposed as long as I remained within the Cocoon. I pressed against the wall, used to my body hardening spell automatically activating to get through anything it came into contact with. To my surprise, I no longer had that ability.

"Come on! Get out of my way, cocoon!" I strained, pushing with all my might against the wall of the cocoon I was trapped in. I tried using my magic to call the hardening spell to myself, but my horn only sparked and died from my starved state.

"No, no!" I panicked, pushing harder against the wall with my hindhooves using the other side of the cocoon for leverage. "Let me out!" I yelled.


"More activity from the test chamber, Colonel Bunker;" Chief Engineer Shen reported from his technical console. "High spikes of energy."

"From the queen, or the eggs?" Bunker asked over the radio, her electronic voice coming through the speakers.

"Both, it would seem. Audio clips we are de-scrambling seem to identify that the Queen is in distress, and the eggs are reacting to it." Shen explained, growing nervous as more cracks appeared in the cocoon's wall. "Is your team ready?"

There was a pause over the radio, and Shen witnessed even more cracks appearing around a specific part of the cocoon.

"They're on their way. Give 'em two minutes, tops." Bunker finally replied.

Shen shook his head while staring at the video feed, glowing blue lines radiating out from the cocoon on the camera's video feed. "You had better be faster than that, Colonel..."


"You won't keep me from my drones, Cocoon!" I shouted, my anger with the cocoon mounting as I desperately tried to use my magic to break through the outer shell. My limbs were weak from starvation; my magic pathetic compared to what it had once been.

Open, you cursed cocoon! I shouted in my mind, too busy gritting my teeth and fangs together with effort to verbally berate the inanimate byproduct of my own biology.

Just after I had shouted in my mind, I felt something answer in reply, causing me to pause. I blinked with confusion, drifting lazily in the blue-purple goo of the cocoon to focus. I felt four distinct flames just barely out of reach, moving closer to my cocoon... and they were growing brighter!


Jack held a hand to the radio clipped to his tactical vest. "This is Jack. Activity with the cocoon has stopped..." He paused for a moment before adding, "I've got a bad feeling about this..."

Jack O'Neill and his team stood on the edge of Queen Blue Sun's small hive, their P-90 SMGs pointing towards the cocoon that had stopped moving around like a bag of cats suddenly. The drone that Shen had provided waited somewhat noisily behind them, scanning around with a flashlight on a remote-control arm to provide light.

"Orders?" Jack asked into his radio.

"Keep away from the cocoon, watch what it does. If it looks volatile, get the hell out of there." Colonel Bunker replied via radio, the sound of the device echoing in the test chamber with an eerie quality.

"Right... watch it, she says." Jack snarked, adjusting his aim towards the center of the cocoon.


The flames... stopped?

I furrowed my brow in confusion. The flames weren't the same as they had been before... They were Red at the front, with a blue, purple and white flame behind the first one. I tried to sense their intent, but that too was weakened from my starved state. I couldn't feel the emotions that the flames outside of my sight had, and this was worrying me. They were far too close to my eggs...

Not wanting to risk harm coming to my drones, I redoubled my strained efforts to break free of the cocoon. I launched myself with my hind hooves towards the small dent I had been making with my forehooves in the wall, hoping that it would eventually crack open.


"Jack, we have new orders." The voice of Colonel Bunker announced with very obvious anxiety.

"What is it, Colonel?" Jack replied.

"You need to get one of those eggs." Bunker replied seriously.

A chill went through Jack as he turned towards his team, all of them exchanging very concerned glances. Jack pulled the radio closer to his ear with his free hand and asked, "Say again?"

"You need to get one of those eggs, and put it on the Drone." Bunker repeated. "I've tried warning them, but it's out of my hands."

Jack bit his lip, looking up at the one working camera in the room. "You're absolutely certain about that?"

There was a tense pause as Jack and the team awaited Bunker's reply.

"Doesn't that seem wrong to you?" Carter asked, "It's like taking a mother's children away..."

"We do not often get to choose how events unfold, Samantha Carter." Teal'c replied.

"That doesn't mean we have to kidnap alien babies because somebody told us to!" Daniel protested, lowering his weapon towards the floor.

"Look, I'm not big on the idea either." Jack replied, also lowering his weapon. "If we have to, we'll make up an excuse. I'm not about to piss off an alien that's bigger than I am and that can melt through shielded equipment with a thought."

A very loud, wet crack came from the cocoon, causing all of the team members to point their weapons towards it reflexively. Backing away, Jack called in again on his radio.

"Colonel, we've got a problem here!" He urgently warned.


The flames! They weren't Soft, Timid, Rough or Stern, no... They were Jack O'Neill and their team! It took me too long to realize that fact, and now I had put my drones in danger because of it!

I used my magic and my anger to bash into the cocoon's wall, fracturing it and splintering the internal carapace. They wouldn't have my drones!


Colonel Bunker looked on with horror at the video feed from the camera for only a moment before springing into action. "Jack, get your team the hell out of there, now!" She shouted, already moving with a security detail towards the Test chamber's blast door.


"Yield to me!" I shouted, my own desperation combined with the fury of my drones being endangered giving me the strength to break through my cocoon, chipping it away blow by blow. It was buckling; breaking!

With a final desperate breath, I summoned all of my will and anger into single spell directed at the weakened cocoon's walls, shattering the prison that kept me from my precious drones. Blue-purple goop gushed from the shattered cocoon, spreading out in a thick slime across the Dirsime flooring as I fell to the bottom of my cocoon.

I looked up from the jagged lip of the cocoon's bottom to see that all four of my eggs remained exactly where I had laid them, the Dirsime securing them from being taken while I had been trapped. My mane was soaked and across my face, though I could see through the darkness with my horn set alight by my magic.

Pushing myself unsteadily from the slick floor I carefully stepped out of the cocoon, dripping ooze all over my body as it ran down my carapace onto the pool of goop below me. Looking at my reflection in the Dirsime walls, I saw that my eyes had become glowing orbs of magical power from my anger, causing me to back away from my own reflection with a startled yelp. I slipped in the goo, falling on my flank with a soggy splash, and decided that I had completed my duty of protecting my eggs; the flames of Jack's crew having long escaped.

Now only the fatigue of escaping my cocoon and my own starvation had caught up with me, and I collapsed sideways completely, falling asleep.


Jack and his team had just barely made it into the sealed airlock before a deep explosion of energy rocked the facility, staggering them.

"The hell was that!?" Jack yelled, recovering his footing.

The other side of the airlock quickly opened, revealing Colonel Bunker and a small security detail at her sides. "Jack, you need to see this."

Bunker left immediately without another word, which forced the team to make haste to catch up with her. Rounding a concrete corner, they walked into the main observation room where Engineer Shen was waiting. He simply pointed to the video feed, an image frozen on the screen.

"That," Shen explained in a scolding tone, "Is why you do not mess with a Queen's eggs."

Tiny Grubs

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I awoke to the noises of tiny chittering; half of my face covered by the still glowing goop of my cocoon in the pitch black room and the other half squirming with...

I opened my eyes, and a small weight moved along with my eyelid towards my brow. A blink was enough to send the small thing onto the goop, its tiny body causing it to float around. Lifting my head, I saw more of the tiny things holding onto another to create a raft of bodies, drifting on the surface of the pool. With ooze sliding down one side of my face, I leaned in towards the floating blob and rubbed my eyes to get a clearer look at what I was seeing.

Tiny grubs, bundled together and squirming around on top of each other. They made tiny squeaks and chitters as they tried to climb away from the goo, most of them having not noticed me awaken yet. One grub, however, took notice. One that had been clinging onto my face for dear life and crying for salvation. Pushing myself from the goo rather than continue laying in it, I was now laying mostly upright, giving the grub a chance to gain a hold onto my face where it crawled up into my mane, nestling itself next to my crown. I couldn't see it clearly with it being on top of my head, but I imagined that it held a content expression on its tiny face.

"Well," I softly spoke, "Look at all of you..." I gave as warm a smile as I could, keeping my movements slow so that they wouldn't be startled by their Queen.

The grubs atop their makeshift raft looked up to me with awe, one of them yawning as their eyes widened too far. I scooped up the tiny raft in my hoof and carefully placed all of the grubs it held within my crown. The crown itself was convenient in that there was a large enough space in the center for them to stay safe. In total, around thirty to forty grubs had already hatched. The other three eggs lay dormant and nestled against the wall of the spawning pool. My cocoon had begun to turn to paste, already slumping over and collapsing into itself. I didn't really know what a grub would need, but something told me that my cocoon would be the best place for them at the moment. It was fairly simple to lower my head and allow the grubs to crawl onto the soggy remains of my past self. To my surprise, they began nibbling away at what remained of it, happily gurgling and squirming as each took a section of the husk for themselves.

While the grubs ate away, I moved my exhausted self over to the remaining three eggs that had yet to hatch. I noticed that the one egg that did hatch was the closest to my cocoon, and moving closer to the other eggs allowed me to see a faintly burning pink flame within each of them. They were unharmed, and still alive as well. A faint smile spread on my face from knowing that I hadn't failed my drones, though it was quickly wiped away by the fact that it nearly hadn't been so. I was weaker as a full Queen, though if that was from starvation or my new form... I wasn't entirely sure.

Something I was certain of, was that I had very nearly come close to my drones being taken from me.

I couldn't afford to act rashly, however much the appearance of a betrayal from the humans seemed. The fact remained that I didn't fully understand why they had entered my hive, or why they had come so close to my eggs in the first place. I would have to ask them in order to find out for certain.

I heard a crack come from the next egg in line from my cocoon. Looking down at it and my own thoughts veering far from the troubles ahead, I was greeted by a few more noises of the egg breaking apart before the top fully came off. The grubs had been working together, using their combined force to push the top of the egg off in unison and allowing all of them to be freed. Such teamwork brought a smile again to my face, and I began to realize that my own drones had given me more happiness than all my time with the humans. Yes, they had given me Love enough to live comfortably on, as well as the other flame I hadn't figured out exactly what it was, but... there was something entirely different with having my own hive. Watching the grubs work their way down the egg, helping another and working as one was something I hadn't seen with humans. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen that with the ponies of Equestria either. When I was in Canterlot I witnessed the royalty bickering and arguing amongst themselves over things that mattered very little to anypony, especially the 'common-folk', as they were dubbed.

The grubs from the second egg had managed to move down into the goo in an effort to reach me, and after taking notice of their efforts I scooped them up in my hoof before placing them with the rest of their hive-mates on my cocoon. I noticed a few differences from these grubs than the others: They were larger, if only by a little margin, but they were sturdier in appearance as well. Comparing them to the first group, I would assume that the first were the Tunneler drones, and the second were Warriors. That would leave the Caretakers and Infiltrators to be the other eggs...

My body reminded me of its own needs, now that my drones had begun to take care of theirs. I didn't need to eat, but with my friends nowhere to be found it was a matter of survival to begin eating my own cocoon as well. I couldn't really taste anything, as the humans had discovered, but the cocoon was at least notable as 'mushy' in texture. I tried to take as few bites as possible, as I didn't know how much the grubs were going to need in order to fully grow and cocoon into their mature bodies. Something I did notice however, was that the cocoon and the goo itself had faint hints of love within them, making my meal more than just a reaction of desperation.

After eating alongside my grubs for several minutes and finally being sated for the moment, I heard the other eggs beginning to crack themselves open. The third egg was the first of the two, the top popping off in a neat circle as the grubs ate around the outer shell in a thin line. This allowed the grubs on the bottom of the egg to push the top off and into the goop below, greeting me with pleased expressions and tiny chittering cheers. I extended my hoof to them, allowing them to crawl onto me with a few taking up residence in my hoof holes. I placed them atop the crumpled remains of my own cocoon, giving them the opportunity to feast and for me to observe the differences.

They were... softer shelled, I guess would be the best way to describe them. They allowed room for other grubs to eat next to them, often trading places with grubs from another egg that hadn't been able to fully gorge themselves and moving the ones that had over into a pile on the side. From their behavior and kinder nature compared to the Warriors and Tunnelers, I took these grubs to be the caretakers. Counting all of the grubs had become a chore in itself, as there were easily over a hundred now; all squirming or wriggling atop of my cocoon with content faces from their meals.

Looking to the final egg expectantly, I began to feel as if something was wrong. I put my ear closer to the egg and was relieved to hear noises coming from within, but... they weren't like the other grubs. They seemed upset, almost angry with another. I tapped on the side of the egg lightly with my hoof and listened for their reaction. To my surprise it sounded like they moved as one towards where I had tapped, attempting to knock the egg over with their combined momentum. Either they were working together, or they were all rushing for the same prize.

After a few minutes of observation, It became clear to me that this last egg wasn't going to break free of itself on its own. Rather than do it myself, I grabbed a few of the Tunneler and Caretaker grubs from the pile atop my cocoon and placed them on the Infiltrator's egg. The grubs looked at me with confusion, their faces asking me what was going on.

"Listen to me, my little grubs..." I cooed softly to them, trying to ease their worries. "Your hive-mates fight amongst themselves in the egg beneath your tiny hooves." I explained, pointing my comparatively massive hoof to the egg below them. They followed my movement with their small heads, a few of them crawling closer to the edge of the egg in order to see my hoof better. "They look out only for themselves, not the good of the hive as you have." I continued. I hoped my voice was loud enough that the Infiltrators inside would be able to hear me. "I give you your first task, my grubs; Free your hive-mates from their egg. Work together as one, as you did to escape your own egg, and teach the youngest of you the importance of cooperation within the hive."

A few of the brighter grubs nodded, with one or two already beginning to chitter to the others. Their voices were very difficult to make out, but it sounded like the most basic of instruction was being called out. 'Dig here', 'Help them', that kind of thing. It brought a smile to my face to see them working together to free their hive-mates so quickly, and I wondered how Queen Chrysalis felt when her first eggs had been hatched.

Working together, the Tunnelers and Caretakers were easily able to break their way into the shell of the Infiltrator's egg. A Caretaker would offer a tiny hoof in support of their hive-mate, and a Tunneler would assist in lifting the grub. The warriors watched from their own spot on the soggy cocoon, a few of them looking at me with reverence and admiration in their softly glowing blue eyes from the darkness. The glowing goo had begun to lose its luster as the grubs fed on my cocoon, and now that the Infiltrators had been freed by the cooperation and assistance of their hive-mates, they looked at each other in a new light. Some of them were ashamed by their behavior, offering hugs to some of the more reserved grubs. The Caretakers of course had already been hugging every grub in sight, and the Tunnelers were looking to me with curiosity.

I returned a curious look with a sideways tilt of my head, leaning closer to them. My muzzle was large enough that two grubs climbed their way onto it, and my eyes focused on them. They clung to my face, their tiny eyes glowing brightly as they wiggled around. Despite my own concerns about the actions of the humans recently, with my hive already over a hundred strong and quickly growing it gave me great comfort for the days that would come ahead; especially now that I had far less to worry about as my own hive matured.

I wonder what my friends would think of this moment...

A tiny burp from one grub on my muzzle returned my attention to my hive, and I lowered my head to wiggle the grubs free of my face onto the soggy cocoon. The Caretakers and Tunnelers had already created bridges across the eggs for the Infiltrators to reach their meal, the last of them now crawling their way onto the soggy pile. I poked my head above the ridge of the Dirsime pit, looking around for the observation room. Stretching my wings and giving them an experimental buzz, I found that they had dried enough for flight. A quick burst of my wings was enough to fling me free of the pit, nearly causing me to flip forward from the unexpected speed of it. My body being so thin and unarmored would take some getting used to, especially with flight. Thankfully, this room was large enough to practice maneuvering in. My longer legs were clumsy as well, along with throwing off my gait from their lighter frame. I hobbled my way awkwardly towards the observation window, stumbling a few times as my brain became accustomed to how I was supposed to move now. Long, careful steps were the mode of transport now. My frame and newfound walking quickly went from a newborn foal to a regal Queen as I made my way across the room, causing me to hold my head up with pride at my new form.

Coming close to the observation window and without a peep from the humans, I wondered at their lack of response only for a moment before remembering their attempt to... do something with my eggs. Perhaps they felt worried from their actions, and what my own reaction would be? I lifted a regal hoof to the charred black window, tapping it lightly on the glass. I received no reply, so I instead tapped even harder on the glass. I knew that it might be difficult to see me, but hearing me should be something different all together.

"Hello?" I asked in a loud and chittering tone, my wings mixing with my newfound vocal chords to create a pleasing double-voice that was both hypnotizing and comforting at the same time. "Colonel Bunker, are you in there?"

I heard a few quick taps from the other side of the glass, my head going back a bit from the suddenness of the noise.

"I will take that as a 'yes'." I replied, taking a step away from the window. My tone dropped to a low scolding that I remembered Queen Chrysalis having used on misbehaving drones. "If I remember correctly, we have much to discuss..."

Complications With Love

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The reply from the humans was taking quite a bit of time, which left me to assume that my hive was still too heated for them to enter. They made no direct attempt at communicating with me, so I decided I would care for my hive in the mean time.

Walking steadily back to the hive was cut short, however, when I noticed a very odd pattern on the granite flooring. There were thin lines in a regular pattern imprinted in the char alongside several sets of footprints. They lead from the main blast door all the way to the edge of my spawning pool, with the lines ending behind the footprints. One set was at the front, with the other three pairs waiting behind them. If these prints were from Jack and his team, as I had suspected, then whatever they were planning to do must have been cut short. I was thankful that they had only reached the outer edge of the hive itself, as small as it was, but with the help of my drones it would be a much more difficult task to walk into my hive; invited or not.

My mood was soured by the thought of intruders of any kind so easily making their way to my precious drones, though that was quickly interrupted by the tiny noises of complaining coming from the pool. Taking steps to loom over the edge of the pit, I noticed that my cocoon had completely deflated and covered the bottom of the pit along with the rapidly melting eggs of the drones themselves. With a quick buzzing of my wings I descended into the pit, my hooves causing small splashes of goop as I landed. Looking around, I soon spotted the groups of grubs wriggling about. Something about this caused alarms in my mind to go off, however...

They were all separate. They were sticking close to those they had hatched with. My eyes narrowed and I became upset at this. "What are all of you doing?" I asked in a harsh tone, moving nearer to the grubs. My voice was so sudden that a few grubs flipped onto their backs in surprise. They didn't have the size to actually reply to me in their current state, but I did notice that they had grown during my short absence. They would be the size of a human's thumb now, where before they might have been closer to a pinkie. "Is there some sickness that your hive-mates have been struck by?" I again asked in a warning tone. I put my face closer to the individual groups of drones as they inched away from me. "I had thought you'd learned a valuable lesson when you hatched from your eggs about cooperation, but it seems I was mistaken.' I explained, moving closer to them. "Why do you shun the other grubs of your hive? Are they not similar to you? Are they not your brothers and sisters?"

The Caretakers seemed the most upset by my words, looking amongst each other with worry. The Tunnelers were cowering in fear, huddled together in a sizable blob for protection. The Infiltrators were scattering, all of them fleeing for their own safety with complete disregard for another. The Warriors... assembled in a formation. I blinked a few times at them, their reaction being unexpected to me for some reason. I sighed at my grubs and myself most of all. It would do no good for the hive if I scolded them this early. They didn't know any better, and their entire world was likely those they had hatched with at this point.

I lowered my tone to one more soothing and used a hoof to scoop all of the grubs together in a large pile where they intermixed. They tried to find grubs like themselves almost immediately once again. "All of you, listen to your Queen." I softly demanded, my face lowering to be level with theirs once more. They lay frozen in my view, attentive as if their lives depended on it. "You must work together, as a single hive. You may have different roles, and you may work with other grubs from different eggs entirely, but it is the safety of the Hive and your Queen that you should keep at the front of your minds, always. I will provide for all of you, so long as you provide for each other. Understood?"

The grubs took a few moments to absorb what I had told them before looking to each other in a different light. I was their Queen, and I would provide for them. I would keep them safe. Their only requirement in life was to provide for each other and to ensure the continued safety of all, regardless of caste or hatch-mates. A few nodded, others smiled, and I noticed the Caretakers immediately going to hug other grubs once again. The Warriors seemed the most reluctant to receive them, and the Infiltrators begrudgingly accepted the Tunneler's attempts at getting along with another.

With that matter hopefully resolved, my mind drifted to my complete lack of love. I had been able to ignore the pain of starvation with the help of my cocoon, but If I didn't get love soon and feed my grubs, there wouldn't be a hive to worry about for long. I lowered my head to speak to my grubs once more in order to inform them of my plan. "Listen, my little grubs." I whispered to them, "Your Queen must leave for a while in search of love for you all. Keep another safe, and if anything comes into this room aside from myself, you must hide."

The Warriors were the first to nod, and the Infiltrators had already begun searching for tiny nooks and holes that they could squeeze into, pointing them out to the confused Tunnelers. I smiled at their efforts as they began preparing already, proving that they were able to work together so quickly. I readied myself for flight, and a burst of wing power sent me more gracefully from the pit this time and allowed me to land softly on my hooves. My own hoof prints were settled in the charred flooring alongside the strange lines and the footprints of the humans that had entered my hive as I became a Queen. I would have to confront them later on that subject, but for now it was Love at the forefront of my needs.

Walking again to the observation window, I tapped with force against the glass. "Colonel Bunker?" I called loudly. "It is urgent."

Suddenly to my left, I heard the latches of the blast door unsealing themselves with hissing air and the metallic grinding of metal. Apparently the room had cooled down enough. I moved away from the observation window to stand in the center view of the doorway for when it opened. There was a small rectangular window in the blast door that had been coated in char, along with everything else in the room, but I saw faint blurs of figures moving within the airlock behind metal door. At that point I finally noticed that I had indeed become smaller since becoming a full Queen; My horn came just below the top lip of the blast door's frame now, where before I was forced to duck my head down. The human researchers had noted my height earlier to be above eight feet, but with my new size I assumed that it would be closer to seven at this point, including the horn. I assumed I would still be able to rest my head easily atop a human's and looking into their eyes would be no trouble as far as height was concerned. It just meant that although I lacked the chitinous armoring of before, I would be able maneuver more easily in their facilities.

The door began to slide backwards, the loud noise of screeching metal hurting my ears until it stopped. It soon rolled sideways to reveal a few familiar faces that made me smile.

"Blue? Is that you?" Rough asked, Timid and Soft in tow behind him. There were no human warriors with them this time, which struck me as something out of place. Normally when I had been a Proto-Queen they would always keep two warriors with them at all times...

"What has happened to your escorts?" I asked in a neutral tone, standing my ground as they cautiously approached.

"They're... more than a little on edge at the moment." Timid explained. "You got really pretty! I mean, not that you weren't pretty before- you were- its just that... eh... you're even more pretty now?" Timid fumbled with their wording. I remembered that my smiles before usually upset humans, but now that my mouth was entirely different I chose to risk the action anyway. Thankfully, they didn't react with spikes of 'Eugh' this time.

"We heard that you cocooned again, but they didn't tell us much else beyond that. How're you doing?" Soft asked, the three of them now standing closely in front of me. Rough was the tallest of the three, and my own head was above his easily. The other two came midway up to my neck now, where before they came to my chest. "You're smaller now, at least..."

"I'm happy to see all of you." I said officially, before my smile grew very wide and my face leaned in towards them almost conspiratorially. "You should be the first to see them!" I quietly cheered.

"See who?" Rough asked, intrigued but concerned.

"My Grubs!" I squeed happily, already turning and quickly walking towards my hive. I turned my head so that I could see them over my backside to continue talking. "They all hatched after I came from my cocoon! They're very small now, So I ask that you not touch any of them, but they're just... perfect!"

Soft and Timid shared a glance of concern before Rough spoke up. "You laid eggs?"

"Four of them, right before I cocooned." I explained, and my body reminded itself of the need for love once more. "By the way..." I asked, turning to face the three of them. "I have a problem that you three could help me with."

"Did you need to 'eat'?" Soft asked, already anticipating my question.

"Yes! But, more importantly, so do all of my grubs. I can use the love you offer me to feed them, but it would be a good idea to stand clear of the grubs until they're more fully matured as well. I don't think they're going to be able to control themselves if you get too close." I explained in a cheery tone.

The three were worried at this, but they refrained from voicing it. "How much do you think you'll need?" Rough asked.

I bit my lower lip, my mind filling with the logistics of how much love I might need on a daily basis. "I think the best answer would be 'more'." I replied with an uncertain smile. My eyes already searching in hunger for the flames of love, I instead noticed something else...

The multi-colored flames had vanished.

I took a closer look at Rough, with him being the closest, and confirmed that there was still the bright pink flame of love at least. The other flame had eluded me however.

"Something wrong, Blue?" Rough asked with concern.

I placed a hoof carefully on his chest. "The flame is gone." I stated. "The flame of different hues is missing!"

"What do you mean?" Soft asked, "What flame?"

Was this a fluke? Was it from not being in contact with the three of them for so long, or the fact that I had become a full Queen? I was no longer able to so easily sense what emotions they were having now, though from my starved state or my new form I wasn't certain. The only things to have changed since my last encounter with these three had been my cocooning and my grubs... though the loss of that ever present flame was going to complicate things considerably. During my time as a Proto-Queen, it had kept me constantly fed without having to worry about love at all, and now it was gone!

"Blue?" Rough asked, placing a hand on my head. "Are you alright?"

I looked into Rough's eyes, searching for anything out of the ordinary or wrong, yet I could find nothing. The flames had gone for some reason, and it would be my highest priority to figure out what had caused them to disappear.

Rough suddenly embraced me in a tight hug, his arms wrapping around my chest and neck. Soft and Timid were caught off guard, but they too soon joined. My mind soon became distracted from thoughts of disaster and doom as I felt trickles of love flow freely into me from them, soothing my thoughts and steadying my heart. I lowered my neck to return a hug to Rough as well as I could, though his body tensed up when my smaller fangs accidentally poked him roughly in the back.

"It'll be okay, Blue. It just takes some getting used to you looking so different all the time." Soft explained, petting my mane.

I looked towards Soft, and noticed that the multi-colored flame had returned once again. It was small, but it was still there. Perhaps it was something to do with humans than my own body? I suppose they operated like ponies in that way; They become accustomed to certain others and their appearance, so when you suddenly change your looks they don't know how to respond.

Hopefully for the sake of my hive, I wouldn't be changing how I looked any time soon. Queen Chrysalis hadn't changed her form in however long I had lived in her hive, so it would make sense that my own form wouldn't change for quite some time either.

"Nice crown, by the way." Timid noted with a smirk. "I like the glowing bits."

"Oh!" I blurted suddenly, backing away from them. "I have to show you my hive!"

The three of them recovered quickly, soon taking up positions behind me as I lead them to the lip of my spawning pool in the center of the room. They peered over the edge expectantly, and soon became worried.

"Um, Blue?" Rough asked.

I waved a hoof at him with a shooshing noise. "My grubs, you can come out now. It is safe." I calmly stated, and soon a great many tiny holes opened up within the Dirsime and the slime in the walls. Tunnelers opened the sides of the spawning pool to allow the others to squirm their way free, with Warriors taking up the front.

"Eugh." Timid blurted before quickly covering her mouth. "I mean, uh-"

"Too late, Karol." Rough interjected. "Now you gotta adopt one to make up for that little outburst." he chuckled.

Timid looked down into the pit as more grubs revealed themselves, and then sheepishly towards myself. I raised an eyebrow at her in response, and she quickly looked away. "Y-yeah, sure! I'd love to!"

I leaned my head closer to Timid's ear and whispered, "You'll have to wait until they're grown, Timid. They have work to do first. Besides, It's up to me if I give away my drones, isn't it?"

"I think they're cute." Soft said, laying on her belly on the charred ground and extending a hand towards the nearest grub, which happened to be a Tunneler. "They look like little Blues in pajamas!"

I placed a hoof in front of Soft's face, causing her to back away. "For the safety of both my hive and yourself, please stay away from my grubs. I have no way of knowing how they'll react to you yet, and I'm still... learning." I explained, before offering my hoof in assistance for Soft to stand up.

I looked towards the observation room over my side once again, attracting the attention of Rough and Timid. "Have you heard anything from Colonel Bunker?" I asked.

"She just told us that you needed us here as fast as possible. We haven't heard much else for the past day or so." Rough explained. Soft was crouching next to the edge of the pit, smiling at the small grubs that waved back at her.

"I need to speak with her." I replied in a serious tone.

"Wait, did you just say 'her'?" Timid asked.

I looked to Timid with a curious glance. "Yes?"

Timid smiled, "You've never said 'her' before! This could be huge!"

My eyebrow raised. "How is that?"

Timid waved a hand at me dismissively. "It's more of a human thing, but I can write a paper on it if you want. I'm just excited!"

Rough rolled his eyes and went back to watching my grubs, and Soft wasn't paying attention in the first place. "If you really want to, Timid." I sighed. "For now, I have to feed my grubs. Please find Colonel Bunker when you're able and tell her that I need to speak with her as soon as possible."

Timid gave me a salute that I had seen the human warriors give to Colonel Bunker. "On it, Queeny Blue!"

Doctors, Grubs and Cocoons

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No sooner had Timid turned in search of Colonel Bunker than three figures cut her off. Colonel Bunker herself, flanked by Doctor Shen and a newcomer in research clothing. A longsleeved white labcoat as usual except with a green stripe going from the shoulders down to the cuffs. She held a clipboard that had a large stack of papers secured to it as well as a pen in her other hand. The clipboard was kept close to her body as she approached, worry and nervousness radiating off of her despite the appearance of controlled calm. Shen was joined by Colonel Bunker in a sense of dread as they drew near along with the newcomer.

"Queen Blue Sun," Colonel Bunker began, halting a fair distance away from me and holding her hands at her sides in a rigid stance. "I owe you an apology."

I raised my eyebrow. "For attempting to steal one of my eggs, correct?" My head tilted as I looked once again to Doctor Shen and the female newcomer while they fidgeted like guilty pony foals.

"Y-yes." Colonel Bunker stammered, caught offguard by the directness of my reply. "I think that Doctor Vahlen will be able to explain the situation, since she is the one that the order came from."

The newcomer, apparently named Doctor Vahlen, shot a dirty look at Bunker before her previous mask returned. She took a single step forward to address me. "Hello, Queen Blue Sun. I, as you have just learned, am named Doctor Moira Vahlen." Her voice was different than that of Bunker or Shen; possibly meaning that she was from a different part of Earth. "You have questions, no doubt. The foremost being why I ordered a team to take one of your eggs."

I nodded, moving a bit closer to Vahlen while Timid, Soft and Rough moved to my sides. I noted that it looked somewhat like a standoff between myself and my friends against Bunker and her own people, but it was amusing more than anything. I was concerned about why they had entered the hive during my cocooned state, but in all honesty I wasn't entirely sure they were trying to take one of my eggs until now.

Doctor Vahlen continued her explanation. "You had already been in stasis for several hours with no sign of movement or life-- quite possibly from the hardened shell of the cocoon which you broke free of. I was concerned that the video feed I was receiving from my own department's monitoring equipment about your love-starved state upon entering the cocoon, and not having roughly any idea about your physiology or lifecycle, I made a reactionary call to secure one of your eggs in the event that you never... hatched." She adjusted her stance to favor the other leg before continuing. "Hindsight, of course, is always perfect. I asked Colonel Bunker to take me down here to apologize in person, and to ask a favor of you."

Both Shen and Bunker gave each other a nervous look before Rough spoke up. "You tried to take her kids and now you want a favor?" He asked harshly.

Vahlen was not impressed by Rough's tone, sending a look of contempt his way before choosing to ignore him altogether. "Queen Blue Sun, as I said before we know nothing of your kind apart from the fact that whatever field of energy you use to manipulate matter around yourself causes a massive spike of thermal energy. The more we can work in tandem to identify the causes of this phenomenon, the better we will be able to understand and co-exist with one another. Doctor Shen has already hypothesized a thermal generator that might be able to harness the raw heat that comes from your hive simply existing, let alone the temperatures from your 'remodeling'."

Shen seemed worried by his idea being mentioned, but remained quiet when I replied. "I already know what this 'energy' is; It's my magic." I stated simply.

Vahlen gave me a blank stare for a moment before blinking. "Magic." She deadpanned.

I tilted my head. "Yes, magic."

Vahlen looked to Shen and Bunker, whom both returned a helpless shrug. She then regarded my friends and asked, "You three have had the most contact with Queen Blue Sun. Do you have any insights on the subject of her 'magic'?" She asked skeptically.

"Well, it scorched the floor when she was a drone..." Soft provided helpfully. Vahlen wrote down a note of that on her clipboard.

"When she was smaller there wasn't as much heat as there is now. Maybe she uses more because she's larger?" Timid added, and another note was written.

"I'm standing right here, you know." I pointed out with a tiny bit of annoyance.

Vahlen looked from her clipboard towards me. "This might be going too far, but I have to ask: Would I be allowed to examine one... 'grub' from each of your eggs? They would not be harmed in the slightest and I would return them to you as soon as my studies were completed."

My first instinct nearly made me snarl at Vahlen, but I held it in check and let out only a grumble of annoyance. My narrowed eyes and serious expression were apparently enough to get my feelings across.

"Perhaps another time, then." Vahlen amended, backing away from me and holding her clipboard to her chest like a shield.

For a tense moment I held a staring contest with Vahlen while I tried to figure out her intentions. Obviously she wanted to study myself and my hive, but I had no idea where that would lead. Did she actually want us to co-exist, or was there some other motive? I couldn't risk any harm coming to my grubs, as every one of them would be needed to expand the hive into something that could support generations to come. They were barely out of the egg, and already this Doctor Vahlen was thinking about experimentation and study. There was also the fact that she was higher in the social hierarchy than Colonel Bunker, since she was able to order Bunker around. That meant she wasn't a typical human... so she must be a Royal, right?

"Queen Blue Sun?" Shen asked, breaking the standoff while adjusting his glasses. "About my idea that Doctor Vahlen mentioned earlier..."

I broke my glare with Vahlen to neutrally address Shen. "Yes, Doctor Shen?"

"If you would be willing, A space could be excavated within your hive to allow for a thermal generator to be constructed and adapted to withstand the enormous temperature that your 'magic' generates. This would provide a proof of concept that could help all of us in the long run as well as provide some assistance with our day to day operations. We have significant power draw from other projects within Cheyenne Mountain, and I know they could use the energy that our funding simply cannot allow for."

A generator? "How large would this 'Generator' be?" I asked, my interest and suspicion peaked.

Shen looked to Colonel Bunker and Vahlen a moment for support, yet finding blank faces he turned to speak with me instead. "Well, the problem is that we-- I, don't know that yet. There would have to be a significant space for tinkering, engineering, other kinds of machinery needed to move the building materials in place as well as safety barriers set up to avoid any harm coming to your... offspring." He explained, his voice a mixture of excitement from the possibility of discovery and worry that he might offend me.

I took a moment to stare at Shen, as I had with Doctor Vahlen to consider. I had no issues with Shen, as he mostly stayed true to his word and was nothing but polite to myself and my friends. He seemed to fill the role of a father figure more than a scientist, and something about him made me give him the benefit of doubt.

"Very well, Doctor Shen." I said calmly, nodding my head slightly. "You may build your generator within my hive, so long as you ensure no harm comes to my grubs." I turned to Colonel Bunker to address her specifically. "Colonel Bunker, what has happened to Jack O'Neill and his team?"

Bunker bit her lip a moment before replying hesitantly. "They were... reassigned to a different project within Cheyenne Mountain. I doubt that you'll be seeing them again."

I raised an eyebrow of suspicion. "Reassigned?"

Vahlen and Bunker shared a look before the Doctor spoke. "I decided that it would be best for both parties if the team I had sent to take your children from you was no longer within the same sector to avoid... incidents."

I had little issue with that personally, but my friends had more than a few favorable interactions with Jack and his team. "What of my friends? Will they be allowed to see them?"

Vahlen regarded my friends almost in surprise before replying. "I very much doubt that, Queen Blue Sun. The specifics of their involvement in their new project would be detrimental to the possibility of your friends from seeing the light of day again, were they to find out."

"What, and being friends with an alien queen isn't grounds for that already?" Timid snarked.

Vahlen's tone was sharp. "The entire world has seen Queen Blue Sun, child. Be thankful of that fact, for your sake."

A single step from me was all it took to make Vahlen cease her hostility, the Doctor retreating another step. "W-well," She stammered unintentionally, "If there is nothing else to discuss, we all have work to be doing at the moment." She looked to me specifically and made a short bow. "I apologize for my rash actions earlier, Queen Blue Sun. I wish you good luck for the future of your hive."

For some reason I hadn't been expecting that compliment, but even less so the fact that it had been a genuine wish. "Thank you, Doctor Vahlen. Good luck in your own work as well." I replied with measured patience.

The Doctor used that as a cue to leave the hive as quickly as possible, turning around on her heel before fastwalking towards the blast door and leaving Shen and Bunker in the figurative dust.

"I don't like her." Rough grumbled.

"I think she's cute." Timid replied without thinking. Our stares attracted her attention, and then she gave the three of us a reply of, "What?"

Soft rolled her eyes and Rough smiled in response, but the moment was interrupted by a collective chittering from the spawning pool. My attention was immediately focused on my grubs as I quickly moved past my friends and ignored everything else. Looking down into the pool, I noticed that the grubs were larger even still, though they looked hungry.

"Whoa, they got big fast!" Rough commented, remembering to keep his distance from the edge.

"They must be the size of my palm by now!" Soft cooed.

"You might want to leave the room. I have to feed them, and I don't want to place any of you in danger." I stated, moving down into the pit as my now larger grubs swarmed around me. They were halfway up my legs from the density of them as well as their size, the group of them becoming a wiggling blob.

"Still gross." Timid whispered, stepping away from the edge.

"We'll be outside if you need us, Blue." Rough replied with a wave, a hand on Soft to pry her away from a very wide eyed grub looking back at her. "Stay safe, okay?"

I nodded and carefully sat down, moving a few grubs from my path as they came to my neck. "I will, Rough."

I watched them leave the edge of the pit, and after a few minutes the loud noises from the blast door's closing had ended in a metallic slam. My grubs were huddled around me, crawling on me and a few were taking a spot on my crown as well.

"Well, my grubs. You are hungry?" I asked in a soft voice, nuzzling a few of them and receiving happy squeaks in reply. "Well then; let's feed you!"

My horn lit into a blue-purple glow as before, bathing the interior of the hive in its light as the grubs looked toward me in awe, their eyes wide and hungry. I channeled the love I had as well as the strange multicolored flame of emotion into my horn and caused an orb of it to condense on the tip before lowering it towards them. They swarmed over each other, climbing and pressing against another to be the first to get to the love.

I raised my horn out of reach, a displeased look on my face. "What have I told you, time and again?" I scolded. "What comes first above all else?"

They were frozen for a moment, looking at each other and a few shrinking away. After a short time, a Caretaker started pushing a larger warrior that was unable to move on its own towards my horn. I smiled as more grubs shoved the oversized one ahead of themselves, helping those that were too fat for their own good to get food as well, rather than starve them.

"The hive comes first, my tiny grubs. Selfishness will see the death of the hive. If you do not look out for another, none will look out for you. I, as your Queen, will always place your best wellbeing at front of my thoughts. You should do the same for everyling else. Without unity, we are pathetic. Together, we are unstoppable!" I said with vigor, noticing that a bit of Chrysalis' own speeches had come to mind. She wasn't wrong, and if not for the unexpected re-uniting of the bride with their groom, we would've been successful in taking Canterlot where so many others had tried and failed.

I lowered my horn to allow all of them to feed, now that the larger ones had been pushed to the center. The smaller grubs were riding on the backs of the larger ones-- the smaller ones being mostly tunnelers-- and they again looked out for another. It would remain to be seen if the lessons they had learned would carry over to when they cocooned and hatched into their roles as drones, but I was confident that I could teach them regardless of the outcome. I was a full Queen now; my duty was to my hive above all else, just as theirs was to the hive and myself. I would have to introduce them to my friends and the humans in the future, though they would be able to control themselves much better when they had taken their new forms. As grubs, they were capable of little more than assisting another and basic speech, but as a drone... well, I had become a queen, hadn't I?

As the grubs fed, the larger ones were pushed towards the rear to allow the other drones to take their fill. Many streams of magical mist were coming from my horn down to each grub, creating a web of 'energy' that made my hive glow like a lighthouse in the night. I hoped that I wasn't damaging anything else of the human's, though I doubted that any technology they thought to bring into my hive would survive for long; unless I worked with Doctor Vahlen, that is.

The grubs in the back were already beginning to cocoon, their tiny forehooves leaking the ooze that would create their temporary shell that would be shaped by their small horns. The look of absolute confusion on their faces was amusing, but I didn't want them to be distressed for long. I made soft cooing and chittering noises to them, reassuring them that everything was fine, and that this was a normal thing to happen. I had completely forgotten my own transformation from grub to drone, though that was possibly from it being so long ago. There was no way of keeping time in the hive, so I had no idea how long I had been alive to begin with. I knew that it was long enough to see a once thriving hive turn to desperation with the Gougers constant attacks and our dwindling supplies of love, and I was determined to avoid the same fate as Chrysalis' hive did.

The grubs in the center were cocooning now, noting that it was the Infiltrators that were next to transform. The fat ones in the back had been the Warriors, so I assume it made sense that due to their need of harder carapaces and chitin that they would need more love. The next two would be the Caretakers and finally the Tunnelers, so my mind drifted away from that as the grubs began stacking atop of one another and cocooning.

I still had to figure out what that multi-colored flame was, and what Vahlen wanted with my drones. She wouldn't be able to get her hands on my grubs now at least, until I laid more. Colonel Bunker needed a talk as well, in order to determine how far I would be able to construct my hive to avoid these other facilities that Vahlen had mentioned, and to prevent unintentional damage to their 'technology'. With Doctor Shen... I wasn't entirely sure how he was going to prevent his materials from melting. Maybe Vahlen might come up with something...

I sighed, interrupting a few of the grubs and causing them to stare at me. I cooed at them again, petting them with my hoof as they absorbed more love from me. "It is alright, my grubs. Your queen is just... thinking."

This placated them, and they resumed their previous activities of cocooning. I would probably have to work with Vahlen in the end, though anything they did with my grubs or my drones would be monitored closely by me. If she harmed any of them...

A tiny grub made a sound of protest and drew my attention. Looking down, I found that my forehoof had been accidently squishing them while I was upset with the thought of Vahlen. I picked up the grub in my magic and rested them on my hoof, leveled to my face.

"Are you alright?" I asked with worry. They were slightly deflated and it made me feel terrible to see them.

They gurgled, and nibbled on the edge of my hoof. I gave them a bit more love than the others to make up for my mistake, and they soon re inflated to their regular grubby self.

"I didn't mean it, little one. Are you better?" I asked, holding the grub in both of my hooves now with their lower half dangling down, their midsection between my hooves. It smiled at me, its forehooves reaching out towards me. I pulled it close and gave it a hug, careful to not squish it again. "Your Queen will protect you, tiny grub. No matter what." I whispered reassuringly.

Second Contact

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Meanwhile, in Arizona...

Agent K had been forced to leave his supervision over Queen Blue Sun very abruptly due to the nature of his job; that job being classified and buried under mountains of boring paperwork that would make any human go insane from the sheer mind numbing nature of the documentation itself. In actuality, his job was much more straight forward: First Contact with extra-terrestrial life forms. With that job description in mind, Agent K's handlers had noted his exemplary work in creating peaceful first contact with Queen Blue Sun and summoned him for another call of his position.

"Second contact?" Agent K asked with a hint of incredulity through his earpiece. The agent, whom prefers the handle of 'Kay', was en route to another impact site in the Grand Canyon. More than a dozen separate reports had all warned of a meteorite impacting the canyon's inner wall and barreling through the hardened rock to leave a charred hole in the natural monument. Riding in the back of a standard government SUV, Kay was in the middle of a very rushed briefing.

"That's right," The clear voice of Kay's handler replied with practiced calm, "We're just lucky that we've managed to track down the target without any fuss so far. Your role in this is going to be talking the alien down; they haven't taken kindly to our attempts of negotiation so far, and they really don't seem the trusting type."

"You haven't been pointing rifles at them, have you?" Kay inquired with a tone of worry. He wouldn't be surprised if the situation he would arrive to amounted to a 1980's alien invasion flick with tanks in a circle around the 'evil alien invader'.

"Eh..." The handler hesitated, "Not exactly."

Kay's heavily tinted and black colored SUV rolled to a quickly fortified security checkpoint; a sandbagged and well armed tourist welcoming center complete with several more government vehicles and individuals in black suits. There was already a Chinook waiting nearby; the pilots running checklists in their front seats as an engineering crew double-ensured their work wouldn't cause the large helicopter to spin out of control from a loose bolt. The driver side window rolled down, and a quick glance confirmed the identity of Kay's driver to allow passage.

"What do you mean, not exactly?" Kay asked forcefully. "It's going to be difficult getting another alien to talk with us, considering we were so lucky that the first one ran into a group of harmless farm kids."

"I mean that our people have been the ones ducking for cover." Handler replied. "Large bolts of very hot and very angry orange have been flying out of that cave every time one of our agents gets too close to the entrance."

Kay blinked and considered the information a moment before replying. "You're sure it was orange?"

The SUV finally came to a stop in a forward post that amounted to a 'borrowed' trailer near the mentioned hole in the canyon. Dull clicks announced the opening of the doors and Kay pulled them-self free of the vehicle to land with a crunch onto the dusty gravel below. With hand still held to ear, he fast walked towards the post while keeping an eye on the impact site.

There were several agents around the entrance, like he had been envisioning, but most of them were hiding behind rocks or whatever other debris nearby. Already deep in the canyon, any noise made would echo upwards and along the walls and give the impression to whatever was within the cave that there were a great deal more humans outside than there really were. The agents were thankfully armed with sidearms at the least, some of them wielding shotguns filled with beanbag rounds; as if they would harm something remotely like Blue Sun.

"Definitely certain, Kay." The handler replied. The filtered voice soon gave way to one more gruff as Kay entered into the makeshift control room. "Thing has been in there a few days now, flinging all kinds of bad our way."

Kay tapped his handler on the shoulder, and with a startled glance the handler set his earpiece down on a coffee table. A very concerned old woman was looking between the two men in black standing over her as she adjusted her large glasses to see them better. The agents paid her no mind however, and they continued their conversation in person.

"Any idea if it can speak?" Kay asked.

"It's been chittering and buzzing something fierce, but nothing English." Handler replied.

Kay rolled his eyes. "We would be so fortunate." he replied sarcastically.

"You seem to have a special talent for this line of work, Kay. It's up to you to make contact with it in a way that won't get everything around here killed. No pressure." Handler responded with a smirk.

"Do you have a spare vest laying around? I'd rather not take a chance on the goodness of our guest's heart... or hearts." Kay blinked in a momentary sidetrack of thought. "If these aliens even have hearts..."

Handler placed a reassuring hand on Kay's shoulder, and shoved a vest towards him with the other hand. "I'm sure you'll do fine."

With a glance to the completely confused and even more concerned old woman, Kay slipped the armored vest over his black suit and exited through the same door he had entered. A few blurbs of echoed shouting came to his ears from the direction of the hole, and seeing no reason to delay despite his nerves and the instinct of self preservation screaming for him to run very far away, Kay moved towards the new 'visitor'.

Looks of weary concern greeted Kay as he moved through the fortified and barricaded sections of the Grand Canyon, a few agents giving an approving nod or silent gesture of good luck. The entrance to the alien's impact site was littered with freshly loosened rock and debris, most of which bearing scorch marks or hoof imprints. Kay moved with as much speed and quiet as he was able, the gravel crunching beneath his dress shoes providing him no favors in the area of staying alive. As he drew nearer, inching and cautiously advancing to avoid being surprised by the alien, he could hear chittering and scratching coming from inside the crater in the canyon's wall.

With a frown to himself, he poked his head over the edge and blurted out, "I'd like to have a word!" before ducking again. No sooner had he retracted his head did an orb of orange fire fling itself outward like a very obese tennis ball to cause a collection of agents to yelp in surprise and scatter from the incoming danger.

"Alright," Kay muttered under his breath to himself, "So far, so good."

The alien from the blackened hole hissed in Kay's general direction, followed by chittering.

"I'm not here to hurt you!" Kay called over his shoulder towards the edge of the hole. Thankfully, another orb did not fly out this time. "I just want to talk!"

Nope, wrong wording. Another orb of death was lobbed out of the hole towards some very upset looking Agents in black. Kay smiled nervously towards said agents and waved. Kay racked his brain for something that would calm down the alien, thinking on his interactions with Blue Sun and her farm friends.

Suddenly, as if a light had shone from his eyes, Kay had an idea. He edged closer to the entrance of the death tube that was the alien's hiding place and hollered, "Hey, If you stop trying to kill us, we can find love for you!"

Kay quickly ducked away from the hole, shielding part of his body in a vain attempt to ward off both bad luck and immolation by alien. After a few moments, he noted that there were no panicked cries of distress, nor flame based noises of doom screeching past. Inching to the side and closer to the alien, he listened closely for any noise coming from it.

To his great surprise, the alien had already been waiting for him to peak around the corner. A holed hoof lunged and grabbed him across the chest to pull him deeper into the tunnel and caused him to yelp involuntarily from the startling speed. The same holed hoof pressed down on Kay's chest, giving his eyes a line to follow towards the new alien's face.

She was large; around Blue Sun's size. This either meant that another queen had decided to grace this great blue-green ball of desperation with its existence, or seeing as how it looked different from Blue, it was another alien entirely. A somewhat shiny black carapace was seen for the majority of its body, followed by patches of yellow glow around the shoulders, midsection and thighs. Quadrupedal as well, with an erratically curved horn jutting from her head. The body was more angular and lithe compared to Blue's bulk with sharp edges accenting any holes rather than the soft curves that Blue had. A holed and straightened mane in the color of a flame drooped down from her head with eyes of an orange-red glow looking down on Kay, revealing a surprisingly nervous expression. If this alien was a queen as well, she was certainly from another hive. The glowing shoulders and thighs of the alien seemed to be armoring, though with a more functional design rather than regal. The only thing aside from the armor that would hint at a refined role would be the crown growing from the alien's head, glowing with four points of gold-orange light.

The large and presumably queen alien pressed her hoof into Kay's chest, causing him to wheeze. "Ssss-pee-k," She insisted in broken english. She seemed to be having difficulty.

Kay held his palms upwards in the standard human gesture of 'please don't kill me, I'm only doing my job here' and replied, "I'm Agent Kay, Terran Extra-Terrestrial Response, International Section of the United Nations! We've already made contact with another of your kind, and we know that you need love to survive; All I ask is that you speak with me."

The queen narrowed her glowing eyes at Kay, the only light coming from the distant setting sun that was seen from the entrance and her glowing body armoring. "Terran... love?" It asked, attempting to grab a hold of the English language.

"Terran means 'of earth'." Kay explained. "Would you mind letting me stand?"

The Queen's eyes narrowed, and she pressed harder into Kay's armored vest. "Yes. I mind."

Kay grunted, breathing and attempting to hold his breath in order to avoid his chest from caving in. "Got it!" He managed, and the queen relented in order to check the entrance. Kay had only been around this alien a few moments and already he picked up that this queen would need to be handled in a different way. So far, the only thing she had responded favorably to was the promise of love. That meant that she was likely hungry from having been pinned down the past few days, or that she had other mouths to feed.

"Can I ask--" Kay grunted, his chest thanking him none for being so mistreated by an alien hoof pressing down atop of it, armor plating between them or not, "--What your name is?"

The queen's attention returned to Kay as she considered him for a moment. Her glowing eyes becoming a thin line of suspicion before thankfully relenting. "Queen Catalyst." She replied in a cautious tone, releasing her hold of Kay and taking a single step to the side.

Kay quickly sat up and dragged himself to the side of the wall opposite the Queen named Catalyst to both catch his breath and coincidentally allowing him a spare second to scream if he was stepped on again. "Nice to meet you," he wheezed, "Queen Catalyst."

The queen's attention returned to Kay as she asked, "Where am I?" In a commanding tone. "What is this place?"

"You're in the center of what we call 'The Grand Canyon', on Earth. You don't remember coming here on maybe a ship or some other means?" Kay replied and asked cautiously. He was rewarded with a snarl.

"Chrysalis." Catalyst snapped, barring her teeth and fangs in a very concerning display.

"Is... that another Queen?" Kay probed.

"Queen!?" Catalyst shouted, her horn lighting in a golden glow to match her eyes. "Queen of nothing! Queen of failure!"

Kay held his hands out in an attempt to calm the very upset Queen. Her temper was starting to heat everything very quickly. "Tell me about Chrysalis; How can we help you?"

Catalyst regarded Kay for a moment until her horn snuffed itself out. With a huff, she regained her composure and explained. "Queen Chrysalis," She sneered, "Stole my hive from me." Kay's look of obvious confusion spurred Catalyst onward in her explanation. "Her own hive was usurped by a drone; one called 'Thorax'. The traitor was aligned with Equestrians that sought to rid themselves of Chrysalis' idiot behavior, and the result was her banishment."

"Equestrians?" Kay asked, though he was ignored and Catalyst continued.

"Chrysalis came to my hive, asking for a temporary place of rest. Like a fool, I assumed she would adhere to the old ways and cause no trouble for myself or my drones. She hid away in the recesses of my hive for weeks, tampering and tinkering with some strange device she had found in the deserts until one day, she asks for my presence." Catalyst explained, her tone quickly becoming bitter and resentful. "Look at what I've discovered, Catalyst!" The Queen said in what could only be a perfect copy of another Queen's voice. Catalyst's face fell into grief as she slammed a hoof into the rock beneath her. "What I fool I was!"

Having no real idea what was going on at the moment, or how to fully relate to Catalyst's situation, Kay did the only thing he could do. "Would you like us to take you to some Love for now, until we can work out... something?" He asked carefully. "I'm certain we can at least feed you."

The Queen looked ready to resist Kay's offer, if the glare was any indication, but her anger faded rapidly with a weary sigh. "There is little point in fighting, now that Chrysalis is free to use my hive with that cursed contraption of hers." Catalyst looked down to Kay before pointing a hoof towards the entrance to the hole in the canyon. "Lead the way, Terran Kay."

The agent looked upwards at Catalyst with a face that betrayed none of his need to groan at the Queen's probably unintentional rhyming while he focused his efforts on actually standing by pushing himself upwards along the wall. "As soon as I can stand, I'll get right on that." He quipped with a grunt. Catalyst took the momentary pause as an opportunity to peek from the hole towards the 'Terrans' outside, noting that they had come closer now that she wasn't throwing fireballs at them.

"A little help here, please?" Kay asked, having progressed to holding himself upright and holding onto his chest with his free hand. "I'm not used to being squished." He added in a light hearted tone.

Catalyst's raised brow and look of reluctance were followed by her standing next to Kay, allowing him to use her midsection as an uncomfortable crutch. A buzzing of her wings informed Kay that she didn't like being touched, so he kept his leaning to a minimum. The both of them progressed steadily from the hole in the wall towards the setting daylight into the semi-friendly and wary view of the waiting Agents. To Kay's amusement they were arranged like a bad sci-fi movie, except thankfully free of tanks. The wide eyed looks of the men in black waiting for them soon went from awe to caution, as they remembered that even if this was the first alien they'd seen in person, this particular alien had been lobbing fire at them for the past few days.

The noise of blowing winds and crunching desert lasted a short while before Handler approached the both of them with an armored vest of his own, his hands open and to his sides to show that he was not armed. "Welcome!" he called, "We apologize for any misunderstanding between our peoples over the past few days. We have transportation waiting for you if you're willing to accept our offer."

Queen Catalyst gave a suspicious look to Handler, noting the rotund man and his groomed beard. "You have a train?" She asked cautiously.

Handler blinked in surprise for a moment, looking to Kay for guidance. Kay gave a non-committal shrug that caused Handler to shoot a glare at him for a moment before he replied in a friendly manner. "We have much faster transport than that, and I assure you that it's completely safe."

Catalyst was surprised, though skeptical. "Faster than a train?" She muttered, now more interested than threatened by the Terrans.

"If you'll follow me, I can take you there." Handler offered. "Would you mind telling me your name?"

Queen Catalyst leaned her head down to Agent Kay. "Do you Terrans make a habit of asking everyone this question?" She whispered.

Kay nodded. "It's for our convenience, and a cultural thing."

"I am Queen Catalyst," She replied towards Handler, her subtly chittering and buzzing voice unnerving the few agents within earshot. Kay was finally relaxed enough to notice that her voice had a smoother tone overall, despite the alien noises accompanying it. "Whom would you be?"

"Call me Handler, Queen Catalyst. Thank you for taking the risk of speaking with us, by the way. I can't imagine how worrying this must be for you." Handler replied as non-aggressively as he could.

Queen Catalyst was apparently having nothing to do with social rituals and instead asked, "What is this contraption that you've created that claims to be faster than a train?" Looking around, she soon added, "I see no railway in this canyon."

The gathered Agents, Handler and Kay couldn't help but smirk as Agent Kay himself lead Catalyst past the barricades, scorched ground and scattered debris of the Queen's landing. They traveled with Handler in tow, along with several Agents that were keeping security and making Catalyst nervous from their proximity. Nervous chittering and buzzing warned the humans when they came too close, forcing them to keep a respectable distance. After some minutes of travel, they came upon the Chinook that had been waiting in a cleared out parking lot nearby.

"That, Queen Catalyst, is a Chinook. A cargo helicopter designed by the United States and made to lift... eh, People and equipment." Handler explained, while dodging the true purpose of delivering soldiers and equipment. She really didn't need to know that if things had gone wrong, that a team of highly trained and well equipped ex-special forces were waiting just out of sight. To Handler's benefit, Queen Catalyst was more taken with being absolutely confused by the aircraft instead of paying any attention to him.

"That?" She asked skeptically with a pointed hoof. She turned towards Handler and repeated the question differently. "You mean to tell me that that can travel faster than a train?"

Kay grinned and pointed the way towards the loading ramp of the helicopter. "You might want to buckle in; It's going to be the ride of your life if prior experience is anything to go by."

The few chuckles from the surrounding Agents did nothing to comfort Queen Catalyst, but if she was going to survive and feed then she was left with little other choice. With a slight scrunching of her face, she muttered, "I know I'm going to regret this decision."

Queen's Landing - Short Chapter

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At Cheyanne Mountain, Colonel Bunker and Doctor Vahlen were in the middle of a very rushed briefing from an 'Agent Jay'. The darker toned agent was handing out several photos depicting what looked to be another changeling queen in a folder marked 'Catalyst'. Sections of the document were blacked out, though most of the wording was still intact.

"Is this what I think it is, Agent Jay?" Vahlen asked while flipping through the various photos. She couldn't help the smirk on her face from the possibilities that having two alien queens presented, let alone the fact that this newcomer seemed to be from a different sub-species all together. "Another Queen?"

"That's correct, and I gotta bring you up to speed on everything we've learned about her before she arrives." Jay explained, pressing a clicker to begin a slideshow presentation with a heading marked 'Catalyst and You' with flashy lettering.

"Wait, we're putting two alien queens in the same facility?" Colonel Bunker protested, flattening the vanilla folder onto the table. "Shouldn't we place her somewhere else?"

"The only known people we have that seem fine with 'feeding' these queens are those kids in your base, Colonel. The personnel on base are already uneasy around Queen Blue Sun, and none of them want to even get close after rumors of Vahlen's team nearly getting toasted went around." Jay explained while keeping a neutral face. The slideshow clicked again to reveal a large high quality image of Catalyst strapped down in the back of a Chinook with a very upset expression and puffed cheeks. "She was tryin' not to scream." Jay explained.

"Where is Queen Catalyst now?" Vahlen asked, skimming through notes in her own folder.

Another click revealed a map with a single red dot on it. Pointing, Jay explained, "We're trying to get her to calm down right now; most of these photos were sent over a secured network only a few minutes ago. Agent Kay has been handling the situation with the new Queen, but it looks like we're gonna have to be extra careful with her. She doesn't play nice." Another click showed a photo of what appeared to be a special operations team huddled in the back of the Chinook behind a cargo box as their weapons were held in a ball of orange-gold glow, and slowly melting together.

"How did they even take these pictures?" Colonel Bunker wondered aloud.

"I think you're familiar with Lieutenant 'Olive'?" Jay replied. "He was on this Chinook's crew as well, seeing as he had prior experience with Queen Blue Sun. He brought a camera this time."

Bunker shook her head in dull acceptance. "Alright, what else do you have for us?"

Another click revealed the impact site of Queen Catalyst, as well as dried orbs of some unidentified substance embedded into surrounding structures. "These things," Jay explained, "Aren't from around here." A click showed another photo. "These orbs, whatever they are, seem to give off a ton of radiation. We've had teams try to get close enough to secure them in lead, but they start burning through their suits before they can even get close." Another click showed a photo of a human male undergoing surgery to have a radiation suit removed.

"Have you tried using drones to handle the material?" Vahlen asked, completely undisturbed by the suffering on display.

A click, and a photo of a burnt out robot with a mechanical claw and treads was shown. "Tried that too." Jay replied in a slightly defeated tone.

"So what do you suggest?" Bunker asked.

A click ended the presentation, and Jay set the clicker down on the table before resting his hands on a folding chair's back. "We don't really know. Anything that gets too close to those orbs gets fried or melted before it can do anything. The odd part is that the field of radiation isn't expanding beyond a very fine sphere around those orbs. It isn't damaging the surrounding terrain either, just making it hot."

"Do you think it could be linked to the queen's own 'Magic'?" Vahlen asked.

"Your guess is as good as any, Doctor Vahlen. For now we're quarantining the area to stop any looky-loo's from getting themselves killed." Jay replied. He adjusted his sunglasses before pointing with his hand towards the nearby steel door. "Let's go meet the new Queen."


"Never again!" Catalyst shouted as she exited the Chinook's loading ramp via wing-power and hatred. "Never again will I step hoof in a Terran device of any kind!"

The black-orange queen was now hovering above the Chinook as she debated melting the thing entirely out of spite, but refrained due to both the limited amount of love she had left to survive on, and the supposed hospitality of the Terrans in general. Looking away from the accursed thing, Catalyst spotted a group of Terrans with more weapons moving with an Agent and two differently dressed persons that seemed to be in charge.

"That's Catalyst all right." Jay muttered from the side of his mouth to Vahlen and Bunker. "Cheery as reported."

The very large bug-like queen swooped down from her place in the air to land next to the three important looking Terrans, startling the nearby guards. "You are the leaders, correct?" Catalyst asked in a demanding tone.

"Yes, Queen Catalyst. I am Terra Bunker, this is Moira Vahlen and he is Agent Jay." Bunker explained, pointing to each of them in turn.

Catalyst, however, pointed immediately to the Chinook behind her. "Never. Again."

Vahlen used her clipboard to hide a chuckle as Bunker stepped forward. "Welcome to Cheyanne Mountain, Queen Catalyst. We've got a lot to go over before we can get you settled here for the time being. If you'll follow us, we can get started."

With a huff, Catalyst looked away from the Chinook towards the group of guards and the three that had spoken to her. Taking a moment to gather herself, she replied, "Lead on, Terra Bunker."

Meanwhile, the group of ex-Special Forces and Agent Kay were able to safely exit the Chinook in her absence, breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The 'Grand' Tour - Short Chapter

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While Agent Kay was busy with a debriefing based on everything he had learned about the temperamental Queen Catalyst on his helicopter flight back to Cheyenne Mountain, the queen herself was being lead on a tour of the facilities around the base.

"Why do you have a box with two doors on it, just sitting in the middle of this room?" Catalyst asked, pointing to the metallic box in question.

She had been lead through one of the breakrooms on the way to see Maria, Karol and Ricky, but had become sidetracked by nearly every oddity that had crossed her vision. One of which being the device she now stood in befuddlement of.

"That's a refrigerator." Lieutenant 'Olive' explained. "It keeps our food cold so it doesn't spoil as quickly."

As Queen Catalyst gave a renewed look that was a combination of disgust and intrigue at the refrigerator, Lieutenant Olive did his best to retain his composure. At first it had been funny- The alien having no idea what a sink or a sliding door was- but now it was becoming annoying.

"Is this related to the freezer?" Catalyst asked, pushing on the top of the refrigerator and nearly shoving it over.

"Hey-hey! Easy there!" Olive quickly blurted, pushing on the opposite end to prevent the food preserver from falling. It landed back on its side with a metallic thunk that made Olive wince from the imagined damage to it. "Let's just get you to some love, alright? No need to touch everything."

This distracted Catalyst from her examinations of Terran appliances as she directed a suspicious gaze towards Olive. "I had meant to ask about that before I was intrigued by all of..." She motioned to the refrigerator with a dismissive wave of her hoof. "That..."

Olive motioned towards the nearest door, directing the comparatively large queen on the right path again. "What do you mean?"

"How do Terrans harvest love? Do you keep them in chrysalis', cocoons...." She paused to turn around with a now wide eyed expression. "Do you use the Freezers?" She whispered conspiratorially.

Olive didn't know what Catalyst meant by keeping 'them' in cocoons, but he knew that the volunteer kids weren't frozen. "No, nothing like that. They have their own quarters here in the base where they live mostly normal lives while we get everything figured out." He explained while leading Catalyst through another concrete hallway. The main chambers that housed heavy or expensive equipment were made from Granite, though to save on operating and construction costs the remaining portions of the base were constructed from easily repairable concrete.

"You let captured prey wander around?" Catalyst asked, ducking her head uneasily through another sliding door while half expecting it to decapitate her as she walked through. "That is very dangerous." she pointed out.

Olive shook his head when the pressurized door closed behind them. He tapped a button on a nearby console which then lit up with the number eight. "It's not like that." He explained, and the elevator they had stepped into lurched downwards suddenly, causing Catalyst to temporarily freak out by expanding her insectoid wings to catch herself from a fall that never came. Unfortunately, her wings had smacked directly into Olive, whom was now pulling them down in order to speak. "They're volunteers. We can't order anyone to love a changeling, but these three came along with a different changeling and have been helping us out."

The mention of another changeling immediately made Catalyst think of Chrysalis, however unlikely her being here would be. Her wings buzzed in rage, hammering Olive in the face as he fought for dominance over the appendage. "Another changeling!?" Catalyst blurted out in a fit. "Where!?"

At that moment, calming elevator music began to play.

"Wait." Catalyst again blurted, her body frozen. "What is that noise?" She asked in confusion, looking around the cramped walls of the elevator. "Where is it coming from?"

Olive now had temporary control over Catalyst's unattended wing, pushing it down enough that it would retract. "That's music." He replied wearily.

Catalyst's carapace nose scrunched in confusion. "Music? What is that?" Her ears twitched as she looked around again. "Is it magic of some kind?"

Olive was simply thankful that the very large queen wasn't freaking out about the news of another changeling in the mountain for the moment. "Some people think it is, others just like how it sounds. We have better songs than elevator music though, if you're interested."

Catalysts eyes were wide and entranced as she located a speaker box, drawing closer to it and unintentionally shoving Olive out of the way. Her mouth was slightly open, revealing her fangs and sharpened teeth that soon formed a fairly terrifying rictus grin. "It's..." she blurbed half-attentively.

With a ding, the music ended and the elevator halted. "Floor Number: Eight." The elevator announced. Catalyst shook her head and blinked the trance from her mind and attempted to regain her composure.

"It's alright." Catalyst finished, her wings chittering a small amount as she made hasty retreat from the elevator. She then completely froze, turned around, and stared at Olive. "Did the elevator just speak!?"

Olive covered his face with a hand while pointing towards the barracks that the volunteers were staying in. "Just through there, Queen Catalyst." He sighed in somewhat contained exasperation.

The queen paused only for a moment to regard Olive's quickly fraying patience before turning towards the mentioned room. A robust metal door was embedded into the concrete ahead, a sign confirming it as a VIP Bunker Barracks. In her weakened state, Catalyst could only faintly pick up the fluttering emotions of those whom awaited her on the other side...

The Drone and The Queen

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I had been keeping a close watch of my cocoons, ensuring that nothing would harm them. They pulsed with a soft blue that sometimes silhouetted the drone within and gave me shivers of anticipation and giddiness. It was really happening! I was becoming a full Queen now, in more than just name and appearance. I was going to have my own hive! My own swarm to look after, nestled within this protected mountain with the humans as friends instead of prey. That entire concept was still taking some getting used to, after hearing for so long that any creature other than a changeling was considered prey. What would Chrysalis think of this? Perhaps she had considered friendship before I was hatched, but hadn't been as successful?

I heard a small cracking noise and looked down in a flash of panic towards one of the cocoons. My spike of fear was replaced with elation when I saw that the cocoon wasn't in danger, no, It was hatching! A small horn poked its way through the top of the cocoon, bits of blue goop oozing from within and running down the side as the drone attempted once more to breach its way through the hardened shell.

"Come on, little drone!" I cooed in support, leaning in closer to witness the hatching of my first drone. "You can do it!"

The drone paused for a moment to look in my direction from within the cocoon before returning to their efforts with even more vigor. They slammed their horn into the top of the cocoon with enough force to pop the entire top of it off, sending a splash of goop over the side and causing their forehooves to flail for anyplace to grab onto. They found the rim of their cocoon a suitable support, though the cocoon's shell spun around their horn like a hat. Lifting the shell enough to see their face fully, I noticed something was wrong almost immediately. Or, well, I think it's wrong.

"My Queen?" The drone asked uncertainly. My eyes ran over their appearance again and again in concern, but I couldn't figure out why... why they were white! The drone had blue eyes, similar to mine but without the detail that a Queen's eyes usually has. Their wings were a blueish-white; almost like my shell in pattern. The carapace though, was entirely white!

"Is something wrong, my Queen?" The drone asked again, now becoming even more worried that it had done something to offend me already. They quickly began prying off the shell from their horn in a desperate attempt to look presentable in front of me, which made me more concerned for the drone's well being instead of my own curiosity about their carapace color.

"N-nothing is wrong... drone." I replied a bit faster than I had time to prepare. I stepped back in order to give the drone enough room to maneuver. Something else felt wrong, however. Maybe it was all the time I had spent with humans recently, but simply calling this drone... a drone felt wrong somehow. Humans had a specific name for everyone on their planet, and they all could identify who was who fairly easily. Doctor Vahlen had a habit of naming everything in a different language to the one she typically spoke, so I figured it would be just as appropriate for any of my drones, considering that I was named by a human.

"What is your role, drone?" I asked, internally wincing at the lack of a name for this drone. I couldn't just call every changeling in my hive 'drone', but it would help if I knew how to classify them. After all, I would be the leader and provider of thousands of drones all looking to me for guidance. I remembered from the moment I had hatched, I knew clearly what my role was in the hive. I was hoping that my own drones would have a similar insight as to what they were supposed to do, as the different cocoons all began to look the same after I had watched over them long enough and maintained their shells with small patches of love.

The drone made a hasty bow, sending the shell-hat onto the floor with a crack that split it in half. The drone flinched as the shell cracked, but otherwise remained as reverent as possible while covered in goop. "I am an advisor, my Queen. Each of the castes should have an advisor of their own, though I am the first to hatch." The drone was about to continue, when a look of confusion spread across its face. "I..." Their mouth scrunched. "I um..."

"It is alright, drone." I cooed, moving closer to them. "Take your time. You've only just hatched."

The drone sat down next to their cocoon with a look of pure confusion and loss on their face. "I... I don't know what I'm supposed to be advising you about..." They replied with a defeated tone. "Something feels... wrong."

Uh oh... was this the one that I had stepped on? Maybe that would explain the change in carapace color?

The drone looked up at me in sorrow. "I have failed you, my queen!"

I then immediately poked the drone's muzzle with my hoof, causing it to be caught completely by surprise and blink in confusion several times. After a short time, the drone regained their senses and looked up to me again. "W-what was that?" It asked.

"The humans call it a 'boop'." I explained. "I would sometimes become panicked with worry about being a queen, and Soft would poke my muzzle very abruptly in order to get me to calm down. Apparently this works with you as well!" I finished happily, smiling as reassuringly as possible while lowering myself down to the drone's eye level. "So, now that you've calmed down, what are the first things that come to mind?"

The drone took a few moments to think hard about its purpose, giving me equal time to study it. It was close to my previous size before I became a queen, meaning that its growth wasn't impaired by either myself stepping on it before, or by the strange type of love that I had been feeding off of. Their carapace and shell seemed as strong as I would've expected from being recently hatched, though aside from the white coloration they seemed normal to me. If more drones were to hatch soon, I would be able to tell if this was an oddity or just a feature of my own hive.

"I remember being a grub..." The drone began, drawing my attention. I sat beside them, attempting to reassure them that everything was alright. After a moment, they continued. "You told us that we must look out for the hive above ourselves; that we shouldn't be selfish." The drone looked up to me with even further confusion. "What am I supposed to do to help the hive, my Queen? I don't know what my original purpose was, but I know I can still be of use."

"I'm certain that you will find a place in the hive," I began, leaning my head down. "For now, I need your help in looking after your hivemates. There's so many of you!"

I stood quickly, scanning over the tops of the cocoons for anything that seemed to glow out of the ordinary. The oddly white drone followed after me, uncertain though eager to assist.


"Facinating!" Doctor Vahlen muttered in excitement to herself. She was amongst a small research team observing the developments in Queen Blue Sun's hive through the charred glass and whatever other viewport they could get a peek from. Doctor Vahlen of course had the best view and had been recording notes in a scribbling frenzy of short-hand coded letters.

One of the sliding doors leading to the observation room slid open with Colonel Bunker standing in the doorway. "Moira?" she asked. "It's about Queen Catalyst."

That name drew her attention as she quickly shoved her notes onto a nearby colleague. "Yes? What has happened?"

Bunker waited a moment for Vahlen to get within whispering distance to avoid causing any kind of alarm with the research team, and the doctor noticed an armed guard team waiting in the hallway behind the Colonel. "Queen Catalyst has had a run in with our 'volunteers' in their quarters. Things didn't go how we expected, obviously, and we need your input on the situation."

Vahlen raised an eyebrow. "My input? I am a scientist, not a diplomat. Why don't you call Agent Kay for this? I am in the middle of very important research."

"It has to do with those Orbs we found at her crash site as well. When Catalyst made contact with the volunteers, they began emitting a different kind of radiation. We need you to determine what it is, because as far as we know, it isn't harmful. We just need to be sure before we send a team in to investigate." Bunker explained, guiding Vahlen away from the observation room with a hand at her back.

"The orbs? But they were placed in containment! How could they be affected now?" Vahlen asked as she was lead in the middle of the security team around a concrete corner.

"That's what we're trying to figure out. Queen Catalyst hasn't said a single word about those things, but any time we get close to them she gets aggressive. Now that she's made contact with the volunteers, it seems like her attitude has changed along with the orbs. You're our best bet into figuring out just what the hell is going on with this." Bunker continued, leading the party through several sets of guarded doors.

"What happened when the second queen met with the volunteers?" Vahlen asked. "Surely they weren't alone when this happened. Do you have a recording?"

"You'll have to walk and view at the same time." The colonel replied, handing Vahlen a video phone. "This was just transferred across the base's network. Take a look, I'll warn you of any foot hazards along the way."


Camera 23
East Hallway 23

"Just through there, Queen Catalyst." An olive drabbed soldier explained, pointing the alien queen towards the doorway. "Actually, I should go first so they have a bit of warning." He quickly amended.

A few muffled beeps from the door's keypad soon caused it to open with a gust of pressurized air, ruffling the soldier's uniform. "It'll only take a moment." He explained.

Camera 24
VIP Living Quarters

"Olive! How are you doing?" A dark haired female replied, and Vahlen recognized her by Blue Sun's moniker of 'Timid'.

"I've got a surprise for all of you waiting outside that door, but don't be too shocked." He explained.

"A surprise? Is it Blue!?" Another female asked, probably the one named Maria. Now Vahlen was wondering why she couldn't remember the first girl's name, but quickly discarded the thought in order to listen closely.

"Actually, no." Olive explained with a smirk. The lens of the camera focused onto the meeting. "There's a second queen; Queen Catalyst."

"Another one like Blue?" The male of the group asked; Ricky, Vahlen thought.

"A bit different." Olive revealed. "A lot more glowing bits on them; different coloration. She's actually right outside the door, and she needs love. We figured that since you were the only people on the base that have a history of it that--"

"I want to see her!" Timid immediately blurted, cutting off Olive. Now Vahlen could remember her as Karol, always interrupting her train of thought.

"You're all okay with this?" Olive asked.

"Bring her in!" Ricky agreed, and Maria nodded.

Camera 23
East Hallway 23

Olive's head poked through the door. "They're ready for you now," He smiled.

Queen Catalyst was curious, though cautious all the same. She slowly advanced through the sliding door while giving it a contemptuous look before appearing on the other camera.

Camera 24
VIP Living Quarters

"Wow!" Karol blurted, keeping her distance from behind a couch though leaning forward to get a better look. "You're so glowy!"

Catalyst blinked in reply before leaning closer to Olive. The microphone on the camera could only barely pick up what was whispered. "I had imagined this going a completely different direction."

"So you need love just like Blue, right?" Ricky asked, drawing the attention of the Queen.

Her ears perked along with her expression to a cautious optimism. "That would be correct, yes... though I have no idea how you Terrans harvest love..." She then looked around the room for something, and her scrunched face revealed that she hadn't found what she was looking for.

Karol and Maria then quickly approached Catalyst, causing her to back away from them. "What are you doing?" Catalyst asked accusingly.

"You wanted love, so here we are! You're different from Blue, but you still seem nice." Maria explained. "Besides, we've had practice."

Catalyst's brow raised again. "Practice? Who is this 'Blue' that you keep referring to?"

"Queen Blue Sun." Ricky explained. "She was the first changeling that humans have encountered, and she just so happened to land near our home. So, Maria's insistence, we took care of her. Now she's a Queen and we're staying here with her as long as she needs us."

Catalyst's eye began twitching almost crazily as she backed away from the three volunteers. "T-there's another queen here!? I'm trespassing in another Queen's hive!?" She shrieked, quickly becoming panicked.

Immediately, the three volunteers and the soldier known as Olive attempted to calm the Queen down. "Hey, its alright! She's our guest here, and you are too!"

Catalyst was taking panicked breaths, squishing herself into a nearby wall in a chittery mess. "This is a trap! How did I not see this coming!?"

"Calm down!" Ricky shouted, holding Catalyst in a hug that wrapped around her chest and neck as Karol and Maria joined in. "You're safe here, and nobody is gonna hurt you!"

Catalyst's breathing slowed as she was embraced, and the camera's sensors detected an increase in temperature in the room. "Y-you... this isn't a trap?" She asked, and several parts of her glowed brighter as supposedly more love fed into her. "It isn't, is it?"

"No trap here, Queen Catalyst." Maria reassured her.

Catalyst's wings stopped chittering and buzzing nervously as she relaxed further, moving away from the wall. After a moment of collecting herself and when the volunteers had given her space, Catalyst asked, "So... there is a second queen in this mountain?"

End of Recording

Vahlen looked up from the phone to Colonel Bunker. "That's very... touching, Colonel, But I don't see how this involves me."

Bunker pointed to the blast door that they now stood in front of. "In there, is where we're keeping those orbs we found at the crash site. It's safe to view right now, but we have a second recording of what happened at the same time as that meeting with Catalyst and the Volunteers."

A second video was selected, and played for Vahlen.

Camera 7
Hazardous Containment

The video began, and was soon overlapped with the video of Catalyst's meeting with the volunteers at the same time stamp. The orbs were a standard fire-like orange before the encounter, but soon after being embraced by the volunteers, the orbs began emitting a different, almost rainbow-like glow.

Looking from the phone again, Vahlen was still confused. "So you think that there might be a correlation between the 'love' received by Catalyst and these orbs changing their type of emission?"

Bunker nodded. "That's what we need you to figure out. We've already had Doctor Shen send in a drone, and so far absolutely nothing negative has happened to it. No melting, no short-circuiting, nothing."

Vahlen handed the phone back to Bunker and walked towards the viewport into the shielded room. The rainbow glow of the orbs danced across the walls inside, almost like an oil painting brought to life. "Interesting..." she hummed.

The Advisory Board

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The drone that I had yet to name had circled around the small hatchery space several times in confusion, their face scrunched up in a mixture of annoyance and frustration. A few eggs had come close to hatching, though it was only a matter of time before they fully gathered the strength to break through their cocoon. As this was happening, I was observing the single white drone that had hatched with curiosity. Perhaps this one was supposed to be the Caretaker advisor? That would explain why it was pacing around so much and its frustration with what was going on right now... or it could just mean that the drone thought that being a Caretaker was it's purpose. Regardless, seeing my drone so agitated was upsetting me. While they were distracted I maneuvered myself around the edge of the hatchery to stand alongside them, causing the drone to be startled.

"M-my queen! I apologize, I didn't know you were walking this way." They blurted, moving away from me and bowing. Their head was nearly to the ground; horn level with the floor and their eyes closed tightly shut. Were they afraid of me?

"What is wrong, drone?" I asked as softly as I could, using my hoof to lift their head from the ground in order to look into their eyes. "Why do you behave this way?"

The drone tried to avert their eyes from my own, replying in a wavering chitter. "T-there are patches in my mind... things that I should know, but can't remember." They grew more frightened as their eyes focused on me. "I-I don't want to be drained! I can still be useful!"

I lowered my hoof to release them while I thought. Drained? I had seen Queen Chrysalis do that to injured drones in the tunnels, though it occurred to me that it also might be a reason I had never seen a drone with a white carapace. Maybe they were drained as soon as they hatched to save the love for a drone that would know its purpose from the start? I frowned at the thought of doing that to my own drones. There was no need! My friends had always provided more than enough love for myself; enough love to create a hive. I wouldn't need to drain any of my drones, white carapace and faulty memory or not. I pulled the drone closer to me in a hug, causing it to chirp uncomfortably.

"M-my queen?" It asked uncertainly, wiggling in my hold.

"Yes?" I replied, redoubling my hugging efforts. Maybe I was doing it wrong?

"One of the eggs is hatching... and you're crushing me..." It squeaked, and I hastily set it down, brushing off its shell.

"Ah... right. Thank you for letting me know." I replied awkwardly. I would probably have to let me drones know what a hug was before I gave them any. I certainly didn't know anything about them before coming to Earth.

After the momentary awkwardness had been replaced with the anticipation of seeing another egg beginning to hatch, myself and the drone eagerly awaited the changeling we would meet as the small horn of a drone broke through the top of their cocoon. A more standard changeling with a dark grey carapace greeted me, their eyes mirroring my own coloration with a blueish-purple glow. Still not as defined as a Queen's, but that was expected anyway. Their shell was still blue with a white stripe down the center, and they had my own version of wings instead of the holed ones of Chrysalis' hive.

"Queen!" It chirped excitedly, flinging the top of the shell from its head. It then looked to my side and spotted the White changeling. "And... defective?" A look of confusion spread on its face before it looked at its own body in a panic. Seeing it was darkly colored, the drone sighed in relief. Then, it observed the white drone and its proximity to me before it became even more confused. "Why the defective alive?"

The white drone and I shared a look of concern. It motioned for me to lean down and whispered into my ear. "Are you sure I'm the defective one?"

My head raised again and I addressed the newly hatched drone. "What is your role, drone?"

Said drone quickly toppled out of their cocoon and landed on the floor face-first. Before I had a chance to smile, they had righted their stance and stood proudly in front of me. "I am Hive Adviser! I advise on hive!"

I bit my lip. "Ah-huh..."

The adviser then looked to the floor that I had coated in dirsime, and then immediately to the ceiling. "No no-no!" It complained. Completely forgetting that I was present, the Hive adviser began surveying the room making chittering and chirping noises of agitation. "No, not cave! Not underground! All wrong, wrong!"

I tilted my head in confusion, noticing the white drone doing the same.

"Queen!" The adviser shouted from across the chamber, causing a mild echo. "We build outside! Open air! No ventilation here; very hot! Hot is bad for mountain!"

"Oh." I blurted quietly. That would probably help with the issues my friends were having with me... melting everything. Though that brought up another issue. "We can't build outside, Adviser." I called back.

"What!?" They shouted, using their wings to zip over and land directly in front of me. "Why no outside?"

"Ah... danger?" I replied uncertainly. The directness of their speech was throwing me off.

The Hive Adviser then whipped around in search of something and grumbled. "Where Warrior?" It asked, before looking at me, and then the white drone. Pointing, it asked. "They warrior adviser?"

The white drone and I looked to another, shrugging in unison. "I have no idea." The white drone replied.

The Hive Adviser buzzed in annoyance. "Great."

Our attentions were taken by the sounds of another cocoon hatching, and the three of us moved quickly to the edge of the hatchery once more. One of the larger cocoons was hatching now! After a moment, a slightly larger and armored horn pierced its way through the cocoon.

"Ah, that warrior adviser!" The Hive Adviser cheered. "Please no defect!" it added with concern.

I really need to name these drones, I thought Idly. I can see why ponies and humans are so concerned with names now. It makes everything so much simpler to understand.

To my surprise, the top of the cocoon flew away into the air before cracking on the ground some distance away. The drone that had emerged from the goopy insides was heavily armored, looking somewhat close to myself when I had been a proto-queen, minus the regality and... well, ferocity of my previous appearance. Now they looked like a standard drone, albeit larger and with heavier armoring. Their carapace was black instead of the dark grey that my Hive Adviser was given.

"My Queen." The drone buzzed in a deeper register. "I am ready to serve."

"Well, they're very serious." The white drone muttered. This drew a thought of curiosity from me, as they were starting to remind me of my friends. Maybe they were a Human Adviser?

"You! Warrior Adviser, I-" The Hive Adviser blurted out before being interrupted by the Warrior.

"You will speak when the Queen allows it, Adviser." They warned, shooting the other drone a harsh look. The Hive adviser backed away, their wings slightly chittering. The Warrior then looked to me a second time before finally noticing the white drone. "A defective!" They shouted, dropping down and looking ready to pounce.

I moved in front of the white drone just as they moved behind me for shelter. "Stand down, Warrior!" I shouted at them, giving them a mild shock. "Do you not remember what I told all of you as grubs?"

The warrior backed away for a moment, apparently lost in thought. They blinked several times, scratching their head with a hoof. "I..." It muttered.

"All changelings must work together for the good of the hive." I re-stated, hoping to rekindle the memory. "No changeling should look down on another because of their station. If we don't all work together, we will only die alone."

The warrior was struggling for a moment, but soon bowed their head. "Yes, my queen. I apologize for my outburst." they then looked towards the white changeling and asked, "What of the defective?"

"All changelings." I replied sternly.

"Y-yes, my Queen." The warrior bowed.

"Warrior Adviser?" The Hive adviser requested. "Queen need help. Area dangerous, though not know why. Must build outside- open air. No build if danger. You fix danger, yes?"

It took a moment for the warrior to process what the Hive Adviser was even trying to say, though the message was eventually understood. "I will... look into that. As soon as the rest of the warriors hatch, that is."

"Yes!" the Hive Adviser replied. "You make safe, we build hive!" they paused shortly after their finished thought, and looked towards the hatchery again. "Where infiltrator?"

The two drones then looked to the white drone, which also drew my attention. Nervous, the white drone backed away from the group. "I-I don't know!" They replied defensively.

The warrior's eye twitched for a moment before sharing a look of annoyance with the hive adviser.

"This is going to get very confusing, very quickly." I stated, drawing their attentions.

"What do you refer to, my Queen?" The warrior asked.

"What wrong?" asked the Hive adviser in simpler wording.

"I can't continue to call all of you 'The Hive Adviser' or "the Warrior Adviser' in my head all day long. I'm going to be in charge of perhaps thousands of drones, all with different personalities and roles within the hive. At the very least I can give names to my advisers; maybe the other drones can give themselves names..." I hummed in thought.

"Y-you name us?" The hive adviser chittered excitedly, looking to the warrior adviser with a smile.

"Do you know what that implies, my Queen?" The warrior asked before being nudged harshly by the Hive adviser.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"N-nothing." The warrior blurted at a poor attempt in lying. At the moment, however, I was more concerned with what to even call them. Maybe my friends would have a better understanding of how to name my changelings? They had given me a name after all, why not my drones as well?

A loud cracking sound came from the hatchery once again, drawing me from my thoughts towards it.

"Again? More adviser?" the hive adviser announced in surprise. "So many!"

The four of us gathered around the outer edge to see where the noise was coming from, and I soon spotted a cocoon towards the bottom of the hatchery with a glowing horn sticking through it. The top lifted off and was set neatly aside, allowing the drone to pull their body to the edge of the cocoon and heave themself out.

"I h-hate goo." They complained, shivering on the ground.

"Eh... maybe not adviser." The Hive Adviser quietly added.

The drone looked around for a bit until it spotted me and flipped itself over quite nimbly. "My queen!" The drone replied in a higher register of chittering. Their carapace was a dark grey, similar to the Hive Adviser, so I knew they weren't 'defective'.

"What is your role, drone?" I asked, my other advisers at my side and the white drone staying behind me, perhaps out of sight.

"I am the Infiltration Adviser, my Queen. Ready to serve!" They chittered happily.

"That explain that, but not defective." the Hive adviser hummed. "We have Hive, Warrior, Infiltrator... oh." They then shared a look with the Warrior adviser as the thought dawned on them as well.

"Whats going on?" The Infiltrator Adviser wondered aloud, flying next to us. "What's wrong?"

The warrior and hive adviser pointed behind me, and I moved to the side to see what was wrong. They were pointing at the white drone.

"A defective?" The infiltrator asked in confusion.

"No, worse." The hive adviser stated.

"A defective Caretaker Adviser." The warrior finished.

Well, that confirms my suspicions at least.

Unexpected Difficulties

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"Tell me more of this... Blue Sun." Queen Catalyst asked, following the soldier known as Olive along with the three volunteers down winding pathways of concrete and metal. "Blue Sun doesn't sound like any name I've ever heard for a changeling."

Olive was leading the group, followed by Catalyst in the middle with Maria, Karol and Ricky in the back. Armed guards dotted the hallway at points with sliding doors, most of whom were quite nervous of the large alien queen walking past them with her head ducked low to avoid smacking her curved horn against the roof.

"Well, she originally came to us as a 'drone', if that's the right wording--." Ricky began,

"And you hit her with a shovel." Maria interrupted with a coy smile.

"Hey, she was scary and it was the first time anyone'd ever seen an alien. You're the crazy one, going up to Blue and bringing her in like some stray dog." Ricky countered in good humor.

"A drone?" Catalyst wondered aloud. "Was she already named, or did the drone choose her own name?"

"We picked it out for her; got tired of callin' her 'alien' all the time." Ricky explained.

Catalyst then stopped, causing an inattentive Karol to slam into the queen's backside. The group looked upwards at the shocked expression on the Queen's face. "You... named her? You did?"

"Uh... yeah? Is that bad?" Ricky asked in a mixture of curiosity and concern.

Catalyst blinked a few times. "I'm... not certain, actually." she replied, her head facing forwards once more. "I'll have to see for myself."

"Hey Catalyst, have you ever met another queen?" Karol asked, and received angry chittering as a response.

"I refuse to speak of it." The glowing queen snapped. "A different subject; if we're going to distract ourselves with conversation, that is."

"Ah, okay..." Karol awkwardly continued. "Do you have a hive of your own?"

"Different. Subject." Catalyst growled from behind her teeth.

"How are you liking Earth so far?" Maria asked in hopes of avoiding immolation at the hooves of an increasingly upset queen. "It must be pretty different from where ever you're from."

"Most of my time was spent in a hole, a flying contraption, or this different hole that you terrans call a 'base'." Catalyst grumbled, before taking a moment to further organize her thoughts. "However, despite the limited experience I've had thus far... you seem to be far more welcoming than dragons; Ponies especially for that matter. Not a single scowl or sneer since my arrival." Catalyst paused a moment to regard a sliding door that stood open in her path, barring her teeth in a grimace before quickly moving past. "Aside from these contraptions and gadgets everywhere, I can see why this 'Blue Sun' chose to use this mountain as a hive. What I don't understand is why you're all allowed to be so close to it."

"Wait, did you say dragons?" Karol asked with excitement. "Like, big flying fire breathing dragons?"

"Yes, what of them?" Catalyst replied with a bit of confusion. "Are there dragons here that don't breathe fire?"

"We don't have any dragons." Ricky explained. "Apart from yourself and Blue Sun, we don't have other changelings either."

The orange queen was now even more confused. "Do you have ponies here then? Who controls your Sun and Moon?"

"I think we call it 'Gravity'." Olive snarked. "They're a pretty big deal."

"Do they rule Earth alone, or is there a second?" Catalyst asked, intrigued.

"Olive is being a smart-ass, Queen Catalyst." Maria explained. "Nobody controls the sun and moon or anything, they just kinda do their own thing. Gravity is just a force of nature or physics or something that keeps everything in place to where it should be."

"Swear jar." Ricky chuckled.

"Eh, remind me later." Maria shrugged.

"So... wait a moment." Catalyst asked, stopping in the hallway to turn awkwardly around in order to face the three. "There is no one controlling your Sun and Moon? No ponies, no dragons... are there Minotaur? Yaks? Sea-Serpents, Griffon... anything?"

"We've got a whole bunch of mythological guesses about things like that, but nothing aside from Yaks exist anymore; If they even did, I mean." Karol explained.

"So... of all the races it's just... Terrans and Yaks. I would've thought them the first to be annihilated if it came to a war..." Catalyst hummed in thought, scratching the side of her face with a hoof in an expression of numb acceptance. "Wait, where there changelings before Blue Sun and myself?"

"Nothing like yourself or Blue, no." Maria answered. "Why would the Yaks be the first to go? They're just a bunch of annoying... goat things I think, right?"

"You're the one that's gonna to be a vet here, Maria. I have no clue." Ricky shrugged.

"I think they're a type of Ox, actually." Karol chimed in.

As the group was explaining things to Catalyst whilst figuring out semantics, a guard barred the path of Olive. "Hold here a moment, Lieutenant. Colonel Bunker is on her way here-- She wants to be part of the introductory committee."

"Fine with me, just be sure to keep your weapon out of sight. Last person to mess with Catalyst nearly got melted out of curiosity." Olive warned, spooking the guard.

"Wait, how is this possible?" Catalyst asked, drawing the attentions of the three volunteers whom had been discussing Ox in relation to Bison. "If terrans are the only species left on this planet capable of thought... what happened to all of the others? I doubt you could have vanquished all of them by yourselves."

The three exchanged looks of uncertainty. "I dunno, Queen Catalyst. If all the myths and legends are true, then we probably did." Ricky explained.

Catalyst seemed troubled by this news and took a moment to organize her thoughts. It was at that moment that Colonel Bunker had caught up with them.

"Lieutenant 'Olive'." She greeted in humor. "I see you've kept our guests entertained."

"Colonel Bunker, yes Ma'am." Olive saluted in greeting, and the Colonel returned the salute in order to continue the conversation normally. "How are you doing, Queen Catalyst? Did you get enough love?"

Catalyst was still in an informational overload daze of sorts, her eyes blinking a few times.

"Uh, Queen Catalyst?" Bunker repeated, waving a hand near the Queen's face.

"Yes!" Catalyst blurted, her head rising swiftly and denting the concrete ceiling with her horn in surprise. "Ow!" The ceiling would have wilted under the queen's ire, had it not been made of concrete and incapable of anything other than being a construction. "Who build these pathways so small?"

"Well Queen Catalyst, we weren't really expecting visitors from another planet when we made them." Bunker replied with a smirk.

"Speaking of visitors," Catalyst asked, "What of Queen Blue Sun? I had thought we were walking through this place in order to locate her."

"You were, I just wanted to come along for the ride." Bunker explained, motioning forward. "Lead on, Lieutenant."

With Olive in the front and Bunker just behind, Catalyst remained nearby the three volunteers in the back to continue their conversation.

"So... there are no ponies on this planet, nor any other creature you consider mythical?" Catalyst asked.

"Well yeah, we got ponies. Horses too, though I don't really see why you'd be worried about them." Ricky explained.

Catalyst's face became a numb mask. "You said they were slain."

"No, we ride them. They're kinda like pets, though they used to help out with farming." Karol provided.

The queen's face scrunched a moment before she replied. "Alright, I am going to give the benefit of doubt and assume that we are not talking about the same kind of ponies, or this conversation is going to drive me insane."

"Alright... what would you want to talk about instead?" Maria asked.

"If I am going to be meeting another Queen, I need to know everything about the queen herself and her hive. How many changelings are there? Are they well fed? Will she be expecting me?" Catalyst asked, her anxiety coming to the front of her thoughts.

"Oh, right. We should probably let her know you're coming." Karol replied with mild sarcasm. "We... we did tell her that Queen Catalyst was coming, right?"

"That... ah... may have slipped my mind, somehow." Bunker admitted, taking out a handheld radio. "Slight oversight, aliens everywhere, kind of hectic." She added. With the radio close to her face, she began speaking into it. Catalyst watched with interest, even if she had no idea how the contraption was working. "Shen, are you there?"

"Doctor Shen speaking." the Radio replied. Catalyst's eyebrow twitched and her head tilted in examination of the radio, causing Bunker to lean away slightly from the proximity of the large queen's face.

"Would you mind letting Queen Blue Sun know that she's going to have another changeling Queen as company soon?" Bunker responded.

"Wait, do you mean now?" Shen asked with alarm. "There seems to be a situation in the hive at the moment; I'm certain that a better time could be found."

"A situation? What do you mean?" Bunker asked, concern showing.

"Well, her eggs are hatching at an increasing rate. I'm not certain if there will be room within the chamber for all of the drones and the heat they're giving off isn't survivable at the moment. We're going to shunt off the excess temperature by opening a pathway out of Cheyenne mountain before the structure is compromised." Shen explained before red warning lights sprang to life, lazily spinning around in dramatic fashion on the nearby tunnel walls.

"When was I going to be told of this?" Bunker inquired with annoyance.

"This only began in the last minute or so, Colonel. You should be able to meet Queen Blue Sun and her drones outside in a few moments. Use the emergency exit tunnels to find your way to the main entrance- I will meet you there along with security." Shen replied, and the radio cut out.

Bunker shook her head, clipping the radio to her uniform. "This day just keeps getting more and more interesting."

"Where are we going?" Ricky asked as Bunker swiftly brushed past him.

"We're going on a little picnic outside, seeing as Blue Sun's hive turned the temperature up to eleven." The Colonel replied.

"How much is eleven?" Catalyst asked, following the group.

"Well there's hot, and then there's really hot, and then there's up to eleven." Karol summarized. "It's basically non-specific speak for way-too-freaking-hot."

"I know of at least one queen I'd like to turn up to eleven at the moment." Catalyst grumbled.

The Meeting of Queens

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Great job, Terra. You can run an entire base inside of a mountain with who knows what going on behind closed doors, but no, you somehow forget to tell an alien queen that there's a second alien queen just waltzing around the place. Maybe if I'm lucky, I won't have this all blow up in my face.

Colonel Bunker was leading the group consisting of Queen Catalyst, Maria, Ricky and Karol through the red-lit halls of Cheyenne mountain accompanied by Lieutenant 'Olive'. She had forgotten the Lieutenant's original name, as the entire rest of the facility had addressed him as such ever since Queen Blue Sun had named him that. Doctor Shen wasn't messing around when he warned Bunker that the base was overheating; The temperature along the walls was approaching a hundred degrees rapidly, slowly crawling past ninety-five as she glanced towards the thermometers in her brisk pace. Despite being used to Queen Blue, at least from a distance, having the seven foot four Queen Catalyst chittering and clacking behind made her skin crawl. There was something that set this queen apart from Blue, and Bunker couldn't put her finger on it. More of a hunch that something wasn't going to go well very soon. It was probably her own nerves from forgetting to inform Blue Sun about the guest, but again her gut knew something was wrong. Glancing over her shoulder as she lead the group ahead, she noticed that Catalyst wasn't even aware of the temperature change. In fact, she seemed more preoccupied with the swirling alarm lights than anything else.

"What was your name again?" Catalyst asked, her chittering double-voice clicking unnervingly in Bunker's opinion. "I remember that your drone here is named 'Olive', and that these three are volunteers, but I can't seem to remember yours for some reason."

Oh, right. I never really introduced myself, thought Bunker. "I'm Colonel Terra Bunker, Queen Catalyst. Lieutenant 'Olive' isn't my drone, either. He's an Officer." She clarified.

The group continued through a mess hall, most of the chairs being slid out and creating a tripping hazard from the rushed yet orderly evacuation of the base. Bunker decided that they would have to perform more drills later on just so people would remember the push the chairs in when a situation like this happened again. Half-eaten meals and discarded magazines or newspapers were left on the tables; some of the food still steaming.

"What is it that you do, exactly?" Catalyst inquired, and Bunker couldn't help but feel like there was something crawling up her back, though she let none of her discomfort show. Perhaps it was simply the fact that she wasn't fond of bugs in the first place and Catalyst was a mix between her worst nightmares and her greatest interests. "Would you be considered a Princess?"

A Princess? Bunker turned her head just enough to keep an eye on where she was going and to reply to Catalyst. "A princess? What gave you that idea?" she asked, somewhat regretting her decision to look towards the glowing alien Queen. The only thing even remotely relate-able these Queens had to humans was their hair, or 'mane' as Vahlen insisted. The eyes reminded her of a snake, the fangs reinforcing that idea.

"You lead the forces in this mountain by yourself, at least from what I've seen, and you are regarded rather highly by your...subordinates." Catalyst replied, changing her wording to avoid having a conversation about the semantic difference between a worker, drone or underling again.

Past the mess hall, the group moved through the general living area of the base personnel and the opened doorways that lead to bunk-beds and hastily opened dressers. Thankfully she wouldn't have to remind people about leaving their belongings on the floor, though she was still concerned about how generally messy this evacuation was. How long had it really been since this was practiced? A glance at another thermometer on the wall graced Bunker with a temperature of ninety-eight degrees in the span of the three minutes it took to cross from the last one.

"We've got to pick up the pace if we're gonna make it out of here at this rate. The place is already close to a hundred." Bunker stated with the trained calm of her position, though internally she was concerned for those soldiers that remained in deeper sections of the base. She knew there were alternate pathways they could've taken that were far from the hive inside, though the realization that she hadn't run across anyone else was a good sign that everyone had escaped without incident.

"If it gets any hotter I'm going to start carrying a water cooler jug around with me just to dump it on my head." Ricky complained from the back. "Just as a precaution."

"I still don't understand what you're all complaining about. This seems perfectly fine to me." Catalyst chimed in, her voice again causing discomfort to Bunker. "I don't understand how you Terrans survive if you're this vulnerable to a bit of heat."

"Well, were was your hive before you came here?" Karol asked, receiving an angry buzzing from the queen at the mention of a hive.

"A volcano, in the Dragonlands." Catalyst replied curtly, obviously annoyed. Bunker made a note to avoid any mentioning of Catalyst's Hive in the future, for fear of something out of the movie Aliens happening to her.

"A volcano!?" Karol replied excitedly. "Wait, a volcano in the Dragonlands? Did you try to get dragons to love you?"

Catalyst's wings buzzed in an oddly... well, Bunker didn't really know how a cheerful buzzing sounded, but it made her feel like it was an amused kind of noise. "A dragon can't love anything but their treasures."

"So... how do you get love from them, then? They won't love you or another dragon." Maria asked. "I mean, if you set up a hive in a volcano of all places, you had to feed your drones somehow."

The casual conversation was a welcome distraction from the rising temperature in the base; Bunker's uniform was already starting to soak with sweat. She could tell that the kids were doing about as well as she was; Ricky had taken off his jacket and thrown it over his shoulder, Maria had taken off her shirt and wrapped it around her upper chest, and Karol... well, she decided she'd rather sweat than reveal skin, Bunker assumed. Now she was worrying if Karol was a changeling, but the obvious matted hair and sweaty face from Karol dispelled that assumption as quickly as it arrived.

"A dragon loves their treasure, so all it takes is for a drone to become the treasure." Catalyst replied as if it was obvious. "For example, if the dragon takes great pride and joy in their collection of gems, yet also stolen trophies, you would disguise as a trophy nearby to soak in the emotion. Besides, the drones that choose to become a gem don't last long."

"Why's that?" Maria asked.

"They get eaten." Catalyst responded simply, causing the shock of an unexpectedly blunt reply on the surrounding group.

The hallways were beginning to lead towards the main entrance of the mountain now, colored lines along the walls showing that the lobby was nearby. The ventilation of the base was doing its best to cool down, though the only air that came through was even hotter than the surrounding area. Perhaps the air conditioning systems had already broken trying to maintain a temperature that was too taxing on their machinery. Moving past desks and placed clip-boards on tables, the group arrived at the front lobby and sighed with relief to see the front doors already open with comparatively arctic breeze blowing in.

"Oh thank Jesus!" Karol blurted with glee, running ahead of the group to be the first outside. Maria and Ricky soon ran after her, also rejoicing. Catalyst shook her head and continued after Bunker to the outside world where the main faculty of Cheyenne mountain awaited them.


Catalyst could see row upon row of pre-fabricated buildings outside, tan and green in an odd pattern that made it difficult to see clearly at a distance. She then rolled her eyes, finally remembering the correct wording was 'tents'. The Terrans had celebrated their escape from the supposedly hot interior of the mountain, and Catalyst spotted more groups of Terrans exiting and gathering around outside. They wore similarly patterned clothing and organized themselves fairly quickly after recovering from their evacuation. Some of the people outside were passing around bottles of... something, Catalyst couldn't identify the-- It was water. Of course it was water! That's what mammals drink when they overheat: Water! The Queen was busy being thankful that she had no need for things like food or water when one of the volunteers, Maria if she remembered correctly, pointed towards the entrance of the mountain.

"Look! It's Blue!" She shouted in joy, and certainly there was Queen Blue Sun in the entryway. What Catalyst hadn't been expecting was the defective drone standing directly next to her, along with a few hundred drones crawling or buzzing their way out of the mountain. Catalyst was so pre-occupied with staring at the somehow still-alive defective in front of her that she didn't notice Blue's approach until they were face to face.

"Who are you?" Blue Sun asked curiously, her head tilted. "How did you get here? Were you in the... um. The Canterlot thing?" She added conspiratorially.

Catalyst blinked, still staring at the defective. "Th... the what?" She mumbled.

"Queen Blue Sun," Colonel Bunker stepped in, "This is Queen Catalyst. She only recently arrived on earth a few days ago." Catalyst noted the cheerful expression on Bunker, but her emotions betrayed the unease she had from proximity to the two Queens. Blue Sun seemed not to notice this, and Catalyst was busy backing away from the defective. "Is something wrong?" Bunker asked.

"Why is that defective still alive?" Catalyst asked accusingly, pointing at the white changeling. "Don't you know what that thing is?"

Queen Blue Sun looked at the defective, and the white drone backed away from the orange Queen. "I can be useful!" it protested.

"The only use a drone like you has is death!" Catalyst hissed, backing farther away from the defective. "Why haven't you killed it yet?!"

Blue Sun stood between Catalyst and her defective drone. "Every changeling is welcome in my hive, even defectives!"

"You fool! That defective isn't some kind of disabled pet, it's a death sentence to any hive! You must kill it immediately!" Catalyst countered, lighting her horn in an orange-golden glow of flames that was causing the grass nearby to shrivel into brown matting.

"Everyone get back!" Colonel Bunker shouted. "Clear the area, get cover!" She was using her arms to making sweeping gestures to those whom were out of earshot, and the other groups were relaying her orders to get back.

"What do you mean?" Blue Sun asked, her own horn lighting in a Purple-blue glow. "What are you doing?"

The defective was now in full retreat towards the base, shoving its way past hissing drones from Blue's own hive. Catalyst launched a bolt of magical fire towards the defective, cursing as her blast impacted the wall nearby causing a scorched crater. "If you allow that defective to live, your entire hive is going to die. I don't know what insanity has made you keep it alive, but you must kill that abomination!" Catalyst explained, moving towards the mountains entrance before being intercepted by Blue.

"What are you talking about? Stop trying to kill my drones!" Blue protested, launching her own bolt of magical energy at Catalyst's hooves. The blast kicked up dirt and made a hole in the ground from the impact, scorch marks and smoldering grass around the edges.

"I will explain when that drone is dead! There is no time for a discussion!" Catalyst hissed in response, taking to the sky and zipping past Blue Sun into the facility.

Blue Sun looked towards her friends and Colonel Bunker, seeing that she was organizing her people and arming them with weapons that had a blue barrel sticking out. She didn't know what they were for, but she was wasting time just standing out here.


"Warrior adviser!" I shouted, and said adviser buzzed right in front of me. "Organize the hive; don't upset the humans. I'm going to chase after that Queen and save my drone."

"Yes, my queen!" The adviser nodded, flying off to do as I requested. I was about to take off when I heard Soft shout.

"Blue! Hold on!"

I turned to see the three of them running towards me, and I settled down enough that my horn stopped scorching the ground nearby. They looked overheated and worried, but the flames inside of them were far brighter than they had been before.

"Don't go in there without an empty stomach... or heart, or whatever." Rough said with a grin. "We've been with Catalyst for some part of the day, and we don't think she's bad people, but she sure isn't like you."

"Be careful in there, Blue." Soft added, the three of them embracing me in a hug that filled me with love.

"Go save your kid, We'll take care of things out here." Timid joined in, before releasing me.

"I don't think this is going to be nearly as bad as you all seem to think, but thank you for the support!" I replied happily.

"Go get 'em, Blue!" Ricky cheered, and I flew off after Catalyst.


"Come out, defective!" Catalyst shouted down the hallways. "Your kind can't hide forever!"

The defective was hiding in a closet inside one of the living quarters, somewhat fighting with the hung clothing and the cramped spaces. they could hear Catalyst chittering down the halls and her own orange glow gave away where she was before she arrived.

"Sooner or later you'll get hungry, and it will be all over for you!" Catalyst continued, closer now.

Defective or not, the changeling was determined to be useful to their queen and hive. They had no idea what the Queen was talking about, but they were certain that being spotted by her would lead to death.

"Do you know what you are, defective?" Catalyst shouted, now outside of the room. "You're a disease! A plague upon the hive you hatch from."

The defective could hear the clacking of hooves come into the room, the glow showing from the cracks in the closet.

"You're supposed to be dead already, so consider the time you've had so far to be a gift from your ignorant Queen." Catalyst hissed in agitation from outside the closet. "Sooner or later, defective," Catalyst shouted, "You'll get hungry, and it'll be all over!"

The defective considered that they hadn't been alive for even an hour, so hopefully there was time left if this Queen's suspicions were true. What would happen when they were hungry? They had no clue, and if they had to breathe they would've been holding their air as Catalyst wandered out of the room in search of the defective.


"I'll find you eventually, defective." Catalyst grumbled. Her searching wasn't going well with how large the mountain facility was, on top of having little clue of where she was going.

"Queen Catalyst!" Queen Blue Sun shouted from down a hall. "Wait where you are!"

Catalyst noted that the other Queen's horn wasn't alight, and reluctantly yielded. She was, after all, in the other Queen's hive. "You're wasting time, Queen Blue Sun. While we talk, the defective burrows deeper into your hive." Catalyst explained with poor mood.

"Why are you so focused on killing my drones?" Blue Sun asked, keeping their distance from Catalyst.

"Not all of your drones, just the defective that you've let run freely around. I can't believe you haven't already dealt with that terror." Catalyst replied.

"Terror? They've done nothing but try to help where ever they could." Blue countered with confusion.

"Then I'll be brief, since you don't already know the dangers of a defective somehow." Catalyst replied with agitated unease. "A defective is a changeling of changelings. They sap the love from their own hive in order to feed themselves, yet provide nothing beneficial in return. They need the love of a hundred changelings a day just to remain alive, and as soon as they begin hungering they will lash out and drain as much love as possible from the entire hive just to avoid being hungry again. The sooner we slay this monstrosity, the sooner your hive can come out of hiding."

"Hiding? What do you mean?" Blue asked.

"Your hive? The drones that were able to escape along with you are outside, correct?" Catalyst responded in concern. "Well the other drones still trapped in here won't be able to escape with that defective barring their path."

"There... are no other drones." Blue replied. "That was every drone in my hive outside."

Catalyst blinked in disbelief. "How long have you been a Queen?"

Blue's face scrunched in thought. "Less than a day, I think?"

Catalyst's own face contorted into such an expression of disbelief, annoyance, disgust and confounded-ness as to avoid accurate description before covering her face with a hoof. "That explains a great deal." she moaned.

"So... is there any way to cure a defective drone?" Blue asked.

Catalyst looked up from her concentrated display of disbelief to face Blue Sun. "Why would you even consider wasting love on something like that? Do you know how much that would take to re-birth a drone?" Blue blinked, and Catalyst was reminded of the fact that the Queen in front of her wasn't even born yesterday. "Of course not." She grumbled. "You'd waste the love of a hundred changelings just to cocoon that defective and rebuild it."

"Then I'm going to do that." Blue insisted. "Every changeling in my hive is useful, and none are going to be thrown away or wasted."

Catalyst was skeptical. "Are you going to do that for every defective in your hive? Where are you going to find the love for that? Your foal-ish ideals are going to hit the wall of reality soon enough, Blue Sun." She warned.

"This world isn't like Equestria, or where ever you come from. There's something different about this place, um... whatever your name is." Blue replied a bit awkwardly.

"Catalyst. My name is Queen Catalyst." She grumbled. "The colonel introduced us just a few moments ago."

"I was distracted by the fact that you were trying to kill one of my drones." Blue replied dryly. "Wait a moment, are you from Queen Sanguine's hive?"

A spike of suspicion came from Queen Catalyst now. "How do you know of that name?"

"It must have been a while ago, back when I was a tunneler drone. I was digging a new pathway from--" Blue began before being interrupted.

"Wait, wait a moment. You were a Tunneler drone? No wonder you're an idiot! You weren't hatched from a royal egg, you were implanted with one! This makes so much more sense now." Catalyst voiced with relief.

Blue's face was a model of annoyance. "May I continue?"

Catalyst waved a dismissive hoof. "Be quick, we don't have long to play rescue with the defective drone of yours."

"Wait, you're not going to try and kill it?" Blue asked.

"It's your own foolish plan, Blue Sun. If you want to nosedive into the ground, that is entirely your own fault. Your Hive, your command." Catalyst explained. "Now, the story?"

"As I was saying, I was digging a pathway from a hatchery that would link into a storage room for the grubs. Unfortunately for me, that pathway ended up burrowing into another hive. I fell through the roof of another tunnel and landed face first on the ground, and when my vision had cleared I looked up at the semi-surprised face of another Queen.

"What are you doing here?" She had asked, lighting her horn and looking at me in contempt. "Where is your Queen?"

I vaguely remember what she looked like... and I asked if you were from the same hive because you look almost identical in appearance. Let me describe the scene for you:

"Yes, very detailed. We have to find your defective, you know." Catalyst grumbled.

"Just a minute! I'm almost done with my story." Blue replied defensively. "Anyway, I had explained that I was expanding the hive of Queen Chrysalis when--"

"QUEEN CHRYSALIS!?" Catalyst shouted, her horn lighting instantly in a rage. "You mean to tell me that you are from Queen Chrysalis's hive!?" Catalyst continued, her voice dripping with metaphorical lava.

"Ah..y-yes?" Blue stammered.

"Do you still follow her?" Catalyst asked, barely containing her own rage as the nearby walls of concrete charred and melted along with the steel support structure, causing Blue to worry about a cave-in.

"No! I was cast out during the Invasion of Canterlot and I haven't seen her since. I'm only alive from the kindness of humans, honestly." Blue explained, trying to defuse the situation with a calm front. She wasn't worried about fighting Queen Catalyst so much as digging her way out of a collapsed base that would crush her.

Catalyst stared more than daggers at Blue Sun, but eventually relented. "Wise answer, Queen." She snapped, her voice now a low broiling venom instead of lava. "Were it not for the laws of Changelings, I would have slaughtered you."

"Not that I'm not grateful, I am, but what do you mean 'The laws of Changelings'?" Blue asked, and Queen Catalyst groaned in response.

"I'll answer your questions on one condition, Blue Sun: swear that no harm shall come to me for as long as I stay within your hive."

"Ah... weren't you going to kill me a moment ago? Why are you asking for shelter? Don't you have your own... no wait, if you got here the same way I did, you wouldn't have a hive. Oh! Well, in that case, Yes. You're free to stay so long as you don't murder my drones or anything else in my hive." Blue replied with an overly positive smile.

"I didn't kill you for the sole fact that you are no longer allied to Queen Chrysalis." Catalyst explained. "Any Queen which separates herself from their birth hive is treated as a separate Hive, even by the hive she hatched from. That has the benefit of creating a hive without ties to any other, though the downside of being vulnerable to stronger hives if that queen oversteps."

"Well... I guess that's good then. Friends?" Blue asked, offering a hoof to Queen Catalyst.

"What are you doing?" Catalyst asked, looking at Blue's hoof with a scrunched nose.

"It's a thing that humans do, apparently. When they settle and argument or meet for the first time, they shake hands. I figured we could do the same, since we're no longer on our own planet? At least I think that's how that works." Blue rambled.

Catalyst's response was a half-hearted deadpan acceptance of the hoof, which clacked against Blue's and vertically ascended and descended a few times. "Are we done?"

"Yes! Let's find the defective." Blue replied cheerfully, leading the way.


"Defective! Come out please!" Blue Sun shouted down the hallway. The defective in question was still hiding in the same closet it had been before, and was becoming worried now. It felt peckish.

"I won't kill you!" Catalyst called.

"Catalyst, that's not how you reassure a drone-- Or anyone for that matter!" Blue semi-quietly whispered.

"Fine then, you call for the Hive-killer. I'll just remain in the back where I won't become a husk while you play the hero." Catalyst snarked.

"Defective! Answer your Queen!" Blue called again.

The defective in question pushed on the door to their closet, causing it to creak open slightly. The voices could be their Queen and Catalyst, but... It could also be Catalyst being clever.

"I'll give you a name!" Blue called out again, and now the Defective knew for certain that it was truely their Queen.

"You'll what!?" Catalyst blurted in a panic. "You can't be serious!"

"Why not? I was named when I was still a drone." Blue distantly replied.

The defective crawled from their closet to the nearby door to listen in on the conversation.

"If you name a changeling, they become part of the royal family-- they can claim ownership of the hive from you! It's a completely moronic thing to do for any Queen, let alone giving the title to a defective! Naming a changeling gives them purpose beyond their function, it empowers them with skills and talents just as naming a pony would! Why do you think only Celestia is allowed to name every newborn in Equestria?" Catalyst explained in a semi-panicked exposition.

"She is?" Blue asked.

"Listen, just don't name your drones anything important, and they won't have the talents needed to usurp you the moment they think they can do better. Keep a guard on your Royal eggs, or any named drone might get the thought of a crown on their head and implant themselves with them." Catalyst continued before pausing. "You didn't steal Chrysalis' eggs, did you? I only ask because if you did, that would be hilarious poetic justice for that hive-stealing husk-loving scum-slathering--"

"Catalyst, please." Blue interrupted, "We have to find the Defective so I can help them, remember?"

The defective now stood in the open hallway, facing Queen Catalyst and Blue Sun. "M-my Queen?" They asked hesitantly.

Both queens looked down the hallway with a startled chitter. "There you are!" Blue Sun cheered.

"I... I want to help the hive but... I can feel the hunger that Queen Catalyst was talking about. I don't know if you should be close to me." The defective replied with reserved worry.

Then, unexpectedly, a bolt of orange-gold flame screeched down the hallway and struck the drone directly in the chest, leaving a scorch mark where it had impacted the white carapace as the drone collapsed to the side.

"Catalyst! What have you done!?" Blue shouted, her own horn lighting up.

"It was a stun blast, Blue Sun. Calm down." Catalyst replied in annoyance, already walking towards the Defective. "Your hive, Your command. So long as I stay here, that is."

The two Queens stood over the body of the defective, a small line of smoke drifting from its chest with the ground beneath it becoming a puddle of melted hallway.

"Your move, Blue Sun." Catalyst pointed out. "Take it outside and decide what to do."

Madam President - Short Chapter

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1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
White House Oval Office
Tuesday, 12:57 AM

Agent Kay stood in the hallway, peeking into the Oval Office with a folder in hand, dressed in his typical attire: Black suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes, white socks and sunglasses. The fact that it was past noon and that he was indoors didn't bother Kay or anyone that knew him, it was just the uniform.

"You can come inside, Kay. I was just about to have lunch and It's the perfect time for a chat." The president called from within the room, sitting at her desk with a box of local Chinese takeout that had gone somewhat cold from its security inspection. She was busy flipping through pages of a different briefing that Kay could already identify as classified from the large red stamp across the front of the folder.

"Yes, Madam President." Kay replied dutifully, stepping inside and closing the door carefully behind him. Looking towards the President he noted the look of annoyance as she held the classified documents in one hand, her elbow rested on the desk.

"Have you seen these yet?" she huffed, dropping the folder unceremoniously on the desk before opening her takeout. "Seven separate reports, all unverified of course, of additional landings and 'Strange happenings' across the United States. Three previous reports all turned out to be hoaxes from people wanting attention and now we're getting reports that there's sightings in other countries as well!"

Kay winced as the President lanced a piece of teriyaki chicken a bit too viciously, her fork biting into the Styrofoam packaging. "I have another report for you, Madam President." He said carefully, extending the classified papers towards her and receiving a hopeful look in return.

"More news from our 'guest' at Cheyenne mountain? How is she doing?" She asked with a smirk, opening the file and once again forgetting her meal. Flipping through the pages, her face lit up with excitement before quickly tempering itself in worry. "There's two of them now?" She asked, before scanning more papers and quickly adding, "And Blue Sun is laying eggs?"

"The report is a bit outdated from what I'm told," Kay explained, "The eggs have already hatched and the heat from the event forced an evacuation of the base's personnel."

"Is everything under control?" She asked, skimming through some of the later pages. "None of the aliens were harmed, correct?"

"As far as we know, none of them have been injured." Kay continued, "One of the queens, 'Queen Catalyst', pointed out that the white drone in that photograph was apparently defective and a threat to their species. Not long after an argument between the queens, Catalyst went back into the facility with Blue Sun following after. We still haven't received word on how they're doing, but the commander of the base has forces on standby in case the situation gets out of hand."

The president's response was firm. "Do not kill the aliens. Not a single one. The political fallout alone would be catastrophic, let alone the impact that it would have if we encounter any more of their kind."

"The commander, Colonel Bunker, already took that into consideration, Madam President. She's issued the base rifles equipped with rubber bullets and shotguns with beanbags. We're uncertain if they'll have any effect against their carapace, but its better than bullets." Kay provided, the President nodding with grim approval.

"What about all of these drones in the photo here?" The president asked, pointing to the groups of caretakers, warriors, tunnelers and infiltrators. "If the queens are busy inside of the base, what are they doing?"

"So far, the groups all seem to have organised by themselves and begun assisting the soldiers stationed there." Kay explained, pointing to a set of notation added hastily in the back of the folder. "The caretakers, as our volunteers describe them from being within earshot of Queen Blue Sun when she was giving orders, are the thin drones with a slim shell. They've been working with the tunnelers, seen with bulkier legs over here, to create triage centers for those afflicted with heat injuries and dehydration, as well as those in shock." He then pointed to a very alien looking structure. "That building, made out of the same material as the Queen's when her hive was being secured within the base, was constructed in less than two minutes by the Tunnelers."

The structure itself was three stories in height, several holes going through the structure and allowing the photographer to view sections that were open to the air from one side to the other. The photographs progressed to the interior where circular pillars rose up to the ceiling in an odd pattern. A notation from a scientist named Doctor Shen expressed interest with the building techniques presented, as each floor of the structure was independently supported by its own pillar apparently within the main support column in the center.

"The Doctor was pretty thorough with these notes," The president observed, tugging on a clipped together segment of paperwork a half inch thick.

"Doctor Shen told me he was going to provide a separate report to whichever departments that would be interested in their structural design." Kay replied.

Inside of the structure there were makeshift beds that housed human and changeling medical personnel, along with wounded. Some were depicted with severe burns from the temperature inside of the base. "They didn't make it out in time?" The president noted.

"They were in deeper sections of the facility when the alarm sounded." Kay explained.

The main attraction that caught the photographer's attention was a pool of blueish-purple goop in the center of the structure, with changeling caretakers moving so quickly as to create a blur in the picture. Additional photos depicted human medical staff arguing with the caretakers, presumably over applying whatever this goop was onto the wounded. Eventually, the photos showed larger changelings entering the structure.

"Those would be the Warriors, I'm told." Kay provided when asked. They were nearly twice the size of the caretakers and tunnelers, approximately five and a half feet tall and armored even more than their counterparts. A slightly larger one in purple armoring stood at the front of the group in this photo, clearly agitated. "When the staff started arguing with the caretakers, the warriors went into the building and had them removed. They allowed the photographer to stay since they weren't getting in the way."

The president raised an eyebrow, looking up from the photographs. "This is a pretty in-depth report for being out of date, Kay."

Kay nodded his head. "The situation is developing as we speak of course, and no one has been injured by either side so far. We're still uncertain about the fate of the Queens or the personnel inside of the alien structure and Colonel Bunker is on stand-by, waiting to see how everything plays out instead of giving a knee-jerk reaction."

"What about the fourth group, the infiltrators?" The president asked.

"So far, they seem to have occupied themselves with studying the soldiers on the base. Some have attempted shape shifting into human form, though it hasn't succeeded. They keep falling over onto their backside when they try to stand up and they can't seem to get our proportions correct. Others are flying around the camp that's set up like a scouting force, and others are collecting debris and other material that is laying around the base and placing it in a pile next to the large structure. Everything from rocks and grass to loose equipment, boxes and food. They're behaving like scavengers mostly, though since we haven't observed changeling actually eating anything, we're not sure what they're doing. They don't like confrontation, and simply telling them to 'shoo' is enough to keep them from more important areas." Kay explained.

"Keep me updated as best you can, Kay. We might have to move up the meeting with the United Nations if this gets too out of hand." The president ordered, finally taking notice of her takeout box. "Could you get me another one of these? I'll pay you for gas out of pocket and you can get a coffee or something."

"Yes, Madam President." Kay nodded, making his way towards the door to the Oval Office.

"Agent Kay?" The president called. "Tone it down a notch, you're way too uptight around me lately!' She finished with a smirk as Kay turned around.

"Whatever you say, Amelia." Kay smiled in return, closing the door behind him.

Wait and See

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"What's the report on that changeling building; the 'hospital'?" Bunker asked a nearby operative. She, along with several other officers, were all inside of a command tent on the surrounding edge of the base outside of Cheyenne Mountain. Doctor Vahlen and Shen were present in the tent as well, with Vahlen using binoculars to observe the structure mentioned previously. Some boxes were piled in the tent next to a white folding table holding a laptop and more than a few folders with updates on changeling movements.

"Infra-red is useless and we can't get close enough without agitating the 'warriors', Colonel." The operative replied, setting down another folder in front of Bunker. "The 'Infiltrators' are the least threatening of the Queen's hive, physically at least. The Tunnelers are a close second, but I don't think anyone wants to catch a hook from one of their hooves; they dug out a foundation for that hospital in the time it takes to brew coffee."

"Are their heat emissions comparable to Queen Blue Sun?" Vahlen asked, not taking her gaze away from the frantic movements of the Caretakers that were visible through small openings in the changeling 'hospital'.

"So far it seems that the Caretakers are giving off the most heat with how fast they're moving. From what we can piece together, the reason our medical staff were kicked out of that building was because they were getting in the way of the Caretakers. Shortly after our staff left, the place got a whole lot hotter from how fast they're moving." The operative explained with grim tones. "I really wouldn't want to get on any of these bugs' bad side, but if that hospital gets too hot, we may have to get our people out of there."

"What about the gel that you reported?" Bunker asked, pointing to a photograph of the blueish-purple gel in the center of the hospital.

"The Caretakers started coating our wounded with that stuff against what our own medical staff suggested, since we have no idea whats in the stuff. It could be some kind of alien Neosporin for all we know." The operative shrugged. "At any rate, we're all standing by on your orders, Colonel."

"What of the structure, Operative?" Shen asked, adjusting his glasses and browsing through additional photos. "Of course being alien, its composition is somewhat of a mystery. Would you be able to navigate in that kind of environment?"

"From what Jack's team has suggested, it should be simple enough." The Operative provided hopefully. "Something about these bugs though..."

"What is it?" Bunker asked, looking up from documents.

"It just doesn't feel right; using force against them. They haven't harmed any of us directly. Even the infiltrators will leave us alone if we tell them to shoo." The operative explained with worry in his voice. "The warriors don't back down so easily, but they aren't aggressive either."

"Colonel Bunker, there is movement from the 'hospital." Vahlen interrupted, lower her binoculars and waving the Colonel over.

"What did you see?" Bunker asked, moving from the makeshift desk towards the tent's window.

Vahlen handed over the binoculars and pointed out an area to observe. "Just now I saw a human figure stand up in one of the windows. With the injuries those personnel endured from the heat, none of them should be on their feet."

"It could be another Infiltrator trying to look like us." The Operative mentioned, also moving towards the window. "Whenever they try it, they fall on their back from losing balance. I hope they don't figure out how to walk upright or we're going to have security problems from now on."

Looking through the binoculars, Bunker spotted the person that Vahlen had mentioned. Their right side was covered in the strange goop with several caretakers hovering next to them, apparently keeping the staff member upright. Bunker bit her lower lip, "I think we should hold off for now. The changelings look like they're trying to help, though we don't have all the specifics of whats going on. I don't need to start a war between a Queen that can melt mountains and humanity."

"Speaking of that," Doctor Shen intruded, "Where are we going to place these changelings now? The mountain is no longer stable from all the structural damage inflicted by Blue Sun's hive."

Vahlen's eye twitched. "Does that mean our research and the artifacts recovered from the crash of Queen Catalyst are still trapped within?"

"I'll check the logs of what we were able to recover in the evacuation, Doctor Vahlen. It's possible that they came along with us in the rush." The operative provided helpfully.

Bunker and Vahlen shared a look of concern before the Colonel resumed observations of the changeling structure. "Well, we wait and see. I just hope that Blue Sun and Catalyst aren't having a war in that mountain."


"You could just pick it up, you know." Catalyst snarked. "It might be a love draining plague, but if you're so inclined to save it's life, you could drag it behind you at the very least."

Blue stared down at the defective caretaker, not wanting to get closer from what Catalyst had told her about defectives but also wanting to save her drone. "I can't pick it up," Blue said with a scrunched nose. "If I use my magic, the walls will start to melt again."

"So kick it down the hallway or something." Catalyst suggested. "It's a drone, they're meant to take a beating."

"I am not kicking my drones!" Blue protested loudly, causing Catalyst's ears to fold away from the loud noise.

"So bury it here or throw it onto your back, Blue Sun. I won't stand in your way of re-birthing a defective, and I'm certainly not going to put myself anywhere near that thing." Catalyst huffed with a buzzing of her wings in annoyance.

Blue's eyes narrowed in thought while moving toward the defective. Maybe if I used my magic only enough to place it onto my back, that wouldn't cause too much damage? With her horn lighting in its blueish-purple glow, she wrapped her magic around the limp drone and drifted its body onto her back.

"Congratulations, Blue Sun. You've embraced death all on your own!" Catalyst quipped from a safe distance. "Now please, lead the way before that thing wakes up and kills us all."

"Catalyst, my drones are not 'things'. They're precious to me, and I treasure all of them." Blue replied in annoyance, turning towards Catalyst.

"You've said as much, Blue Sun." Catalyst grumbled. "Lead the way out before the mountain falls on us, please." She finished with a dramatic bow.

Blue Sun rolled her eyes turning away from the golden-orange queen. "I'll have to teach you manners at some point, Catalyst." She buzzed softly.


"Easy there, weird thing." A caretaker buzzed. "Don't walk too roughly on that side, you're still crispy."

"Did you just call me 'weird thing'?" Jack grumbled. "Really?"

Jack O'Neill was currently inside of the changeling hospital, under the caretaker's watch with part of his right leg covered in goop. What remained of his uniform was dissolved into a puddle of grey blob on the floor from anyplace the goop had touched. Several warriors gave what Jack assumed were stern looks, and if it weren't for the armor plating and the pointy teeth, Jack would've laughed at how serious they tried to appear. That and the fact that his side still felt like it was on fire.

"Yes, we call you weird because you are unknown to us." Another caretaker pointed out, holding up his left side while buzzing off the ground.

"Very weird." The other caretaker agreed.

"You don't even know what I am, and you're covering me with goop?" Jack sassed. "Am I a guinea pig or something?"

The caretakers blinked at one another in response before shrugging. "You say strange things." The rightmost caretaker explained.

Jack scoffed, instead taking in the scenery of the building that he had woken up in. "Wait, where am I?"

"Hospital." Another changeling replied succinctly. It stood directly in front of him, their hooves being larger than the other changelings nearby. "Weird creatures hurt, we fix."

"Ah...huh." Jack nodded. "And you are?"

"Hive adviser." It replied quickly. "Advise hive."

"Yeah, I gathered that." Jack snarked. "Whats with the other people in here?" he asked, pointing an unsteady hand at the other 'beds' laid out on the floors and some attached to the walls themselves. They looked like they were capable of holding more humans with the inner mold of the bed, though some were shaped more like changeling outlines instead.

"Rest; fix." the Hive adviser explained. "Dead useless."

"Right..." Jack nodded, a growing headache making it more difficult to concentrate.

"You should rest now. Your injuries are too great for you to stay upright for long." A caretaker insisted, joined by the other in pushing Jack towards his bed again. "You strange creatures are fragile, but strong. It is a very curious thing to us."

"Yeah, well you look pretty great yourself." Jack replied, groaning as he fell slowly backwards onto the sticky bed. "Eugh."

"Uncomfortable?" The hive adviser asked. "Wrong?"

"It's sticky." Jack complained. "That's generally a bad sign."

The hive adviser nodded. "Will consider, thanks," before quickly buzzing away.

"Is that guy always like that?" Jack asked.

"Guy?" Both caretakers repeated in Jack's voice. "What is a guy?"

Jack managed to only shiver a slight amount at that. "Nevermind." he grumbled.


"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Catalyst asked. "We've passed this red cylinder at least three times now."

Blue Sun looked over her shoulder. "That's a fire extinguisher." She pointed out.

Catalyst growled softly at the fire extinguisher, inspecting it. "It doesn't look like much."

Blue buzzed in light amusement for a moment. "Why don't you try biting it? That's how you turn it on."

Catalyst regarded the fire extinguisher for a moment, eyeing it suspiciously. "I very much doubt that, Blue Sun."

"Oh, you've become an expert on human gadgets already?" Blue snarked. "That was quite fast!"

"Well then I'll take it with me. If we're to encounter an actual fire, then I will test your assumptions, Blue Sun." Catalyst defensively sassed.

Blue Sun snickered a moment before replying. "I'll let you know when I spot one, then."

Catalyst, not wanting to melt any more of the mountain, used her teeth and fangs to bite off part of the metallic box that held the fire extinguisher, prying the metal away quickly until its protests gave way to a loud crunching snap as the door flew off. Pulling the fire extinguisher out of its container by the black hose, it dangled from her mouth.

"What?" Catalyst asked, the extinguisher swaying back and forth.

"Nothing, just good work is all." Blue replied with a smile.

"Whatever, Blue Sun." Catalyst grumbled, her wings chittering with more annoyance than usual.


"What are they doing now?" Bunker asked, looking over Vahlen's shoulder. "They don't look too happy."

A small swarm of tunneler drones were accompanied by warriors and a few caretakers as they flooded from the changeling 'hospital'. They didn't travel far, however, as one slightly larger tunneler drone halted in front of the swarm and started chittering loudly, pointing their hoof in various directions as more drones went to work hammering into the ground. Large heaps of dirt flew from where the changelings were digging, causing some nearby soldiers to run for cover from the wall of debris flying at them.

"It looks like they're expanding, Colonel." Shen replied, taking up the other side of Vahlen as he observed along with them.

"What do you think they're building this time, a hatchery maybe?" Bunker asked.

"There's no way to tell at this early a stage," Vahlen pointed out. "We'll have to prepare for any eventuality, but for now, we wait and see."


"You, wall. Four, Pillar!' The hive adviser chittered and buzzed, directing the swarm to begin construction on the latest expansion. "No, no!" They flew over to an infiltrator that was standing in the wrong spot. "You, up!" they pointed into the air. "There!" The infiltrator was confused, but flew upwards until they were told to stop. "Good!"

The adviser spun around in place, pointing towards a group of tunnelers that were standing around. "Foundation!" they then turned to a group of warriors and pointed towards the strange ones watching from a distance. "Fortification!" Finally, pointing to a group of infiltrators buzzing above them, "Observation!"

"What are you doing, Hive Adviser?" The heavy buzzing of the Warrior adviser asked. "Giving orders already?"

"Queen occupied. Hive must grow!" The hive adviser explained.

"The hive should grow at the Queen's orders, not yours." The warrior pointed out. "Remind yourself of your place before I must do it for you."

"Queen will return, appreciate!" The hive adviser replied, giving a dismissive way of their hoof to the warrior adviser.

"It will be your love on the line, Hive adviser, not mine." The warrior warned, turning away.

"It fine, you see!" the hive adviser assured them, turning back to their work.


How am I supposed to infiltrate if I can't shift into these things? The Infiltrator Adviser wondered. They were staring at a fairly well guarded tent-thing in the distance with two creatures guarding the entrance. The adviser had already attempted to take on their form, but they had no luck with standing on their rear hooves. Maybe I could disguise myself as an animal? They wondered, looking around the camp and finding a complete lack of any animal to disguise as. Alright, that isn't going to work... maybe... Then they spotted it.

A box.

Anyone looking for a changeling wouldn't think to look for a box, would they? The adviser could shapeshift their upper body to look like a box and use their smaller hooves to maneuver around! If they were spotted, they could stop and observe until the danger went away. Perfect!

With a burst of Blue-purple flame, the adviser was now a cardboard box with barely visible hooves hidden by the box's flaps. A small viewport allowed them to see roughly where they were going, and they set about testing the usefulness of their disguise. Inching along the ground and making sure to not move when the creatures were looking, the adviser sneaked their way past the two creatures standing watch, only to find even more creatures within the tent-thing.

"You don't think they could be making another hospital, do you?" A balding one asked.

"No, that wouldn't make much sense." The longer haired one replied, lowering some kind of device from their face. The adviser used this moment to sneak further into the tent and plop themselves down in a corner. "Why would they make room for more wounded when they already hold them?"

"Maybe they're making a bed and breakfast?" Another suggested, a heavy looking one in the back.

"Now is not the time for jokes, Operative." The long haired one grumbled. "We are observing rapid expansion of an alien hive, and the Queens have only been gone an hour inside of the mountain. I'm beginning to worry about their safety."

"You're only worried now?" A shorter haired one asked. "I'm just glad that things haven't gotten out of control so far."

"That's implying we were ever in control to begin with." The long haired one responded darkly. "From what we've observed today, we didn't have a finger of control over these aliens."

"Well, that's not our ultimate goal to begin with." The balding one pointed out. "It's always been cooperation and co-existance from the beginning, hasn't it?"

"That is true, though I haven't been assured that our 'guests' see things in the same light as we do. Well, both metaphorically and physically." The long hair replied.

"Is this really the time for scientific discussion?" the one named 'Operative' asked. "We should be securing the area in case those drones decide our base looks like a nice vacation spot."

"What happened to being optimistic, Operative?" The short haired one smirked.

"Look, don't get me wrong Colonel, I like the bugs. It's just... I don't like the bugs. They're like giant beetle-moth things and they creep me out." The Operative shuddered.

The long haired one harrumphed and returned their attention to the hive being constructed. "Well, that's an interesting twist."

"What's wrong?" the bald one asked.

"They're building up." Long hair replied.


"No, no! Bend more! Curve!" The hive adviser buzzed, now a few stories off of the ground. "Yes!"

"Hive adviser?" A caretaker asked. "Where is the Caretaker Adviser?"

The adviser waved a hoof at the caretaker. "Defective."

The caretaker's glowing eyes shrunk a bit in fright. "D-defective?"

"Queen find." the adviser explained, still directing the other tunnelers in the construction of a rather large structure.

The caretaker bit their armored lip in nervousness, looking toward the entrance to the base. "She is within the mountain?"

"Queen return soon. Stay." The adviser insisted. "Throne almost finished."

"As you say, adviser." The caretaker replied worriedly, their movement blurring as they returned to their work within the hospital.


"See, look. A fire, just for you!" Blue chirped happily, pointing towards the flames barring their path as the Defective rested on her back.

"I just bite it?" Catalyst asked skeptically, the red cylinder between her teeth. "This doesn't seem right."

"Yep, just give it a big bite!" Blue insisted.

"Wait, how would a Terran activate this? Their teeth are pitiful!" Catalyst realized, her eyes narrowing at Blue. "Are you trying to trick me?"

"What? Never!" Blue poorly lied. "I am a model of innocence, Catalyst! Besides, I've had more time to study their gadgets."

Catalyst regarded the inferno in front of her, noting that it wouldn't even be enough for her to bother with on her own. She supposed that Blue's hive was more vulnerable to fire, what with her own hive being inside of a volcano. "Very well, Blue Sun."

She then walked to the center of the fire, idly noting a few papers that somehow hadn't been turned to ash at this point, and bit down hard onto the fire extinguisher. It wasn't long before pressurized jets of powder erupted from the cylinder and sprayed everywhere, including down her throat as she dropped the metal thing with a loud clanging. Coughing, Catalyst was too busy being surprised to notice Blue sneaking off ahead.

"See! Fire's gone!" Blue called behind her.

With another heaving cough, a cloud of white powder puffed from Catalyst's mouth, the rest of her body coated in white. "Maybe there's hope for you after all, Blue Sun." She noted in approval, before attempting to cough out more of the powder from her throat.

Developments in Equestria, Part 1

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Far away from the planet Earth was a land known as Equestria, ruled by two immortal god-sisters known as Celestia and Luna. Under them, were the goddesses of Love and Friendship, known as Cadance and Twilight, and all of whom were revered by the populace of Pegasus, Unicorns and Earth Ponies. Their cities and towns stretched all across the land of Equestria, from places lush in culture to arid deserts where life seldom made an appearance. In the city of Manehattan there was a secret meeting being held. A meeting that under normal circumstances wouldn't have been conceived until the end of time. A meeting of hives, and more specifically, the advisers to separate hives from all across Equestria. Changelings, disguised as the unknowing ponies that they harvested love from in order to survive.

"Can I get you anything?" A waitress asked in her best customer service voice. "Perhaps a water to start you off?"

The group of mares and stallions, all in varying levels of attire ranging from a trench-coat and expensive suit to nothing at all stared with unsmiling faces at the waitress for an uncomfortable amount of time, each not saying a word.

"I'll just... come around again later!" The waitress smiled nervously before making a hasty retreat from the table. Unknown to the waitress or those at the local diner, these ponies wouldn't be ordering a single thing from any menu.

The largest of the ponies, dressed in a trenchcoat and a black suit, set down a rather fancy looking hat onto the table, pressed their hooves together and leaned forward. Their voice was deep, as if it wouldn't be out of place on a rock golem. "What's the word; another disappearance?"

A skinny pegasus mare nodded, also leaning in so that she wouldn't be overheard. "Two last night, Big Boss. We can't keep hiding these queens if Chrysalis keeps finding 'em somehow."

The large pony, apparently known as Big Boss, waved a hoof in caution. "No names, not here."

The other ponies nodded, sharing looks of worry and concern. "She came in through the roof of the apartment; not a scratch on her. Just pulled up this strange glowing looking thing and ZAP! No more queens." A nervous looking stallion in a black hooded sweatshirt provided, tugging on the strings of the hood as their eyes darted around the ponies at the table. "This can't keep happenin'; not like this."

"You sure it was the Big C?" Boss asked the nervous stallion. "You get a good look at the glowing thing?"

The stallion nodded eagerly. "It was her, and it was big- like the size of a dog- and it glowed orange and yellow. Ain't never seen nothin' like it before, and I really hope I never see it again. She just busted in through the roof, pointed it at eh... the 'VIPs', and zapped 'em out of existence." Shaking his head from side to side the stallion affirmed, "Nope, never wanna see that thing again."

Big Boss nodded, looking to the rest of the group. "Have any of you seen somethin' like this before? Any ideas on how she's trackin' us?"

"We're all from different 'neighborhoods', so I got no idea." The skinny mare replied with a shrug. "Heck, we don't even take the same love, so that isn't a commonality either."

"Should we get somepony to help us with this?" A quiet mare asked from near the back of the table. "We aren't making any progress on our own, and this situation is getting out of control." She wore wire frame glasses and a white overcoat, a uniform that wouldn't be out of place at a university or lab.

"An' just who do you suggest we get to help us with this?" Big Boss asked sincerely, his hooves held together in an arch on the table. "Nopony is gonna help us after the 'C' pulled that stunt in Canterlot."

"What about King Thorax?" The quiet mare suggested, holding up a hoof to ward off the hissing at the mention of his name. "I know he's a traitor to all of us, but he has contacts that we don't."

"There's no way I'm workin' with that usurper, even if it was the C's hive he took, its still not right." The skinny mare protested. "Especially if he insists on turning us into whatever he became." She crossed her hooves in front of her chest and finished with a grumbling of "Freak."

"Why do we need help from Thorax?" Big Boss asked, entertaining the idea.

"He has good relations with Princess Cadance, and if we get on their side, we'll have enough love to last us until we can get our 'bosses' back, assuming that's even possible. In either case, we won't be able to feed our 'families' on our own, not without the bosses." The quiet mare continued, adjusting her glasses. "So with time against us, and the C not wanting to go anywhere near the Crystal Empire, I say we head there as a group and confront Princess Cadance about the issue."

"What makes you think she won't just blast us to smithereens like she did with the C's hive?" the nervous stallion asked, his eyes wide with worry.

"She's the Princess of Love, and she gave Thorax a chance. All we gotta do is go there, ask for help, and make things real worrying for her so she'll fix things." the quiet mare replied with certainty. "I'm sure she won't like all of our 'neighborhoods' squatting on her empire until our 'bosses' are back."

"What about the guards?" the skinny mare asked. "And what about Shining Armor?"

"I'm thinking we'll need an insurance plan if we're gonna do this. Somepony important to 'em." Big Boss suggested. "Who was that one pony that messed up things for the C at the wedding; Twinkle?"

"Twilight." The nervous stallion corrected. "She's an Alicorn now. Not tha best idea to go messin' with her."

"Alright, so its a no-go on Twilight. Who else do we got?" Big Boss asked the group.

"Still doing alright?" The waitress again asked to the groups surprise, startling the quiet and nervous ponies.

"We're doin' fine." the skinny mare grumbled.

"Just checking!" The waitress replied before darting away.

"How 'bout that pet dragon of hers?" The skinny mare suggested after watching the Waitress retreat to a safe distance from the table. She had a smile that screamed mischievous idea. "I think somethin' happened in the Crystal Empire that made 'em a hero, so if we capture that dragon baby then we'll have a good bargaining chip, yeah?"

"We know where to find him?" Big Boss asked, giving the kind of frown that implied hopeful optimism with unexpected outcomes.

"He should be visiting tonight, as it happens." The quiet mare provided. "He's visiting an art gallery with one of the Princess's friends; somepony named 'Rarity' I think."

The large stallion motioned towards the door, directing the group to take the rest of the conversation outside. "You know the place?" Boss asked, putting on his hat and pushing the table away from his chair, as his bulk would not allow him to move himself from the table. It scratched across the hardwood flooring with an attention getting screech of protesting friction, causing the entire room to stare at him. "My bad." he apologized, setting a bag onto the table. "This should cover it."

The other ponies at the table quickly hid their faces from the crowd, following Big Boss as he bulldozed his way through the tables, apologizing all the way through. At the back of the restaurant, a very happy waitress with stars in her eyes nabbed the bag of bits and hid them away from the management as a 'tip' for her excellent service.

Once outside, the conversation of the changelings in disguise continued. The quiet mare spoke first as they walked along the noisy sidewalk in the morning weather, a light drizzle coming from above. "It's supposed to be some kind of 'past advances in fashion' gallery, showcasing all kinds of clothing from before the rise of Nightmare Moon to present day. Rarity is there as part of her own creations are being awarded a slot in the 'present day' category. Spike is following Rarity in attendance as either a poor excuse for a body guard or as a friend." she replied in confusion. "Sometimes I don't understand ponies and their obsession with friendship."

"You're an Infiltrator Adviser, so you should know this kind of thing." The nervous stallion mentioned, nudging the quiet mare.

"Don't use our titles in public, ya idiot!" the skinny mare hissed, nudging the nervous stallion into Big Boss.

"Hey, quit messing around." The large mass of muscle warned. "We've got a dragon to steal."

Later that night...

"Remind me why I'm hanging upside down in this getup?" The skinny mare asked, dangling via rope from a rooftop overhang dressed in a black turtleneck sweater with matching face-mask and socks. "How am I supposed to catch a dragon with this junk on?"

"Hush; they help you blend in." The quiet mare explained, fiddling with some arcane device while the nervous stallion kept watch on the roof of the Art Gallery building. Down below there were spotlights shining into the air next to a red carpet, with fancy carriages arriving to disgorge the wealthy and pompous of the city before departing just as quickly. Cameras would flash and the crowd would ride a wave of excitement for each new arrival, their adoration crashing into the disguised changelings hiding from sight.

"Blend in? Really?" The skinny mare asked, bursting into flame to become a far darker color of earth pony with grey pupils. "Why don't I just look like this instead?"

The quiet mare rolled her eyes before replying with annoyance, "It's the spirit of the occasion, you know? We're technically breaking into a fashion gallery, so we may as well look good doing it. Honestly, I don't know how you infiltrated pony society before I came along."

"I think you've gone native, lady." the skinny mare quipped, and soon yelped as her harness was dropped a foot downward.

The quiet mare smugly stared over the ledge at the skinny mare in victory. "Just go down there, get the dragon, and get to the garage. Got it?"

"Yeah, on it." The skinny mare grumbled, descending into the art gallery's unattended section filled with covered paintings.

"You think this is gonna work?" The nervous stallion asked, peering into the abyss below. "I mean, what if she gets spotted?"

The quiet mare waved a hoof at the stallion and scoffed. "Please, what are they going to do; send a physical description of a shape-shifter?"

"Well, all somepony has ta do is yell 'changeling' and the place will explode in panic." The stallion pointed out. "Speakin' of that, where's Big Boss?"

"He's downstairs, running 'security' for the event. Boss is going to open the garage as soon as the other one bags the dragon." The quiet mare explained. "Speaking of which, we should get our escape carriage right now."

The nervous stallion watched the quiet mare burst into flame, granting herself the wings of a pegasus before jumping off the side of the building. With worry, he too shifted wings of his own and followed soon after into the streetlamp lit night.


"Oh Rarity, these dresses look... nice?" Spike offered uncertainly, joined to Rarity's side. He had accompanied his friend to the grand unveiling of both her latest design as well as newest bragging point of high pony society in the fashion scene, The fashionista herself sporting a white and purple accented dress of her own creation with sky blue gems that played in with her natural colors and cutie mark. Part of her latest creative set was devoted to enhancing and displaying a pony's natural beauty and grace, and of course none would be able to better showcase that than Rarity herself. Spike himself was wearing a black and white Tuxedo with black bow tie, his bottom claws exposed.

"Well, I do admire the effort put into these dresses," Rarity replied with cautious praise, "But some of these I just simply don't understand." She pointed to an outfit that was a cross between an ancient farmer and statespony rolled into one, tied together by the bootstraps of early Pegasus military. "Maybe they were trying to combine the fashions of all the tribes into an ensemble?" she thought, tapping her chin.

"Lady Rarity!" A voice called out, revealing a rather dark coated mare that appeared to have missed one too many meals for the sake of appearance. "Such a delight to see you here." The mare continued with the practiced voice of civility known for events like this. "Who is your friend, if you don't mind my asking?" She inquired, looking to Spike.

"Oh!" Rarity blurted in surprise, "This would be my dear friend and absolute life-saver, Spike the Brave and Magnificent." motioning reverently to Spike himself, who puffed his chest and adjusted his small bow tie.

"Yep, that's me!" Spike declared, offering a hand to shake.

"And who might you be, Miss...?" Rarity asked as the skinny mare shook Spike's talon.

"Miss Alter Eco, At your service." The mare replied pleasantly, performing a small head bow. "I deal mostly with gourmet chocolates from other nations and bringing their recipes to Equestria." She added proudly.

Rarity's eyebrows went up in surprise, as did her voice. "Wow! That must be very interesting work. I wasn't aware that other nations even had chocolates of their own."

Miss Alter Eco smiled. "Very much so! I heard there was a Griffon chef in Equestria not too long ago for a cake competition, if I am correct?"

Rarity smiled nervously, "I may have been there for that, actually."

Seeing the dialogue between Alter Eco and Rarity was beginning to bore Spike, and he quickly excused himself from the conversation in search of the punch bar. Rarity and Miss Eco conversed about Chocolates and differences in fashion design for a few minutes before ultimately parting ways on a positive note. With Spike and Rarity separated, it was now up to 'Alter Eco' to kidnap Spike before he rejoined Rarity.


Big Boss, is the back door opened? The voice of the quiet mare inquired. The members of the changeling group were communicating through a series of rune engraved square stones that projected voices only to the wearers of the stone, which made planning far easier over distance. We're pulling the carriage in the back now.

"On it." The deep voice of Big Boss rumbled. He had been standing at a guard point inside the art gallery that was supposed to ward off curious party goers from the wine storage area by assuming the appearance of one of the gallery security. Nopony was around to notice Boss sneaking off and it was moments before he found his way through the unused painting collection held in the building's storage area to open a garage door. Just in time, the carriage pulled up with the quiet mare and the nervous stallion in front, waiting expectantly while harnessed to the device.

"Where is she? Where is the dragon?" the quiet mare hissed.

The nearby door soon burst open to the sounds of screaming party goers, a very dark mare leaping from the door's caution taped platform and onto the cold concrete just below. On her back was a very drowsy purple and green dragon in a small tuxedo.

"What's happening? Rarity, is that you?" He mumbled, attempting to right himself on the mare's back.

"Get him in the back!" The nervous stallion insisted, motioning to the open carriage door with his head. Big Boss opened the door, and the mare leapt into the back along with the dragon. No sooner than had she landed inside did the door to the Gallery open once more, a very upset mare in a white and purple dress with half a salad in her mane standing in the doorway with the chaos of confused and dazed ponies scrambling behind her in the light.

"We gotta go now!" the quiet mare shouted, Big Boss leaping atop the vehicle while slamming the carriage door shut.

"Get back here, you criminals!" The mare in the doorway shouted, salad flying freely from her mane as her horn lit up in a sky blue to hold the wheels of the vehicle in place.

Try as they might, the quiet mare and nervous stallion pulled and tugged all they wished, but the mare's magic was too powerful. That, or they had become too weak from lack of love. Big Boss jumped from the top of the carriage, grabbing the reigns from both of them and began pulling with all his might, inching the carriage forward.

"Oh no you don't!" The angered mare insisted, lifting the entire carriage into the air and causing Big Boss to fall onto the floor. Spike then opened the carriage door in confusion only for it to be slammed shut by 'Alter Eco' soon after. "You're not taking Spike from me!" she shouted as the quiet mare and nervous stallion were dangling helplessly from the carriages harnesses, attempting to free themselves in a panic.

"What's up with this mare?" Alter Eco yelled from inside the carriage. "This thing must weigh as much as a boulder! How's she stoppin' us?"

"It will take more than a boulder's weight to stop me from saving my friend!" The mare yelled, dropping the carriage and the other two changelings on top of Big Boss in a cloud of smoke that shattered the wheels of the vehicle and sent splinters and wood in every direction. Apparently the elegant construction of the carriage didn't account for high impact arguments with gravity and fashionistas on a magical, salad dressed rampage.

Dazed and confused, Big Boss along with the quiet mare and nervous stallion stumbled around in the dust attempting to regain both their balance and senses. It was too late for them, however, as Rarity used the unhinged door of the carriage to smack the three of them across the face and into the land of unconsciousness, where they immediately lost their pony disguises and collapsed into a heap of bruised changelings on the slightly damp streets outside of the gallery.

Huddling in the wreckage of the carriage sat Alter Eco and Spike. Alter more out of a sense of fear and self preservation, Spike out of confusion and a foggy perception of reality. Her mane in tangles and damp with sweat, Alter slowly turned her head toward the now quickly approaching Rarity, noticing her horn still alight with retribution.

"It wasn't my plan, I swear!" Alter insisted, raising her hooves in surrender. "We weren't gonna hurt 'em!"

Narrowing her eyes in suspicion, Rarity regarded the mare known to her as Alter Eco, and judging from the changelings laying in a heap nearby, she was certain that this mare was actually a changeling in disguise as well. Only one way to find out for certain, however. Raising the door of the carriage once more and pulling the mare from the wreckage, she dangled Alter Eco by the tail in the air, using the door as a nearby source of worry.

"Just one question, dear." Rarity asked in her most nonplussed voice. "Why were you trying to steal my Spikey-Wikey?"

Alter blinked in confusion. "Your what?"

Rarity's tone changed to one of imminent doom for Alter. "Why. Where you trying. To steal. Spike."

Fortunately for a changeling, turning sheet white is not a difficult task. Unfortunately for a changeling, that expression of speech is quite literal when their self control fails them, as Alter's coat burst into a flame that changed the coloration to a shade of white used primarily in military surrender. Letting out a whimper, she replied with "We... need... help?"

Expecting a door to the face, Alter shielded her body with her forehooves and braced for impact. A few moments passed, and she was soon dropped to the floor in a cloud of carriage debris. At the same moment, a team of security guards arrived with Royal Guard in tow.

"Ma'am, are you alright?" A guard asked, cautiously approaching the scene of devastation before noticing the heap of changelings. "Ma'am?" He asked again with heightened worry.

Rarity, for her part, adjusted her mane into a pony tail and flipped it to the side with her magic, ensuring bits of stray lettuce and salad made their way to the floor. "Everything is fine, darlings. Miss Rarity has it under control." she finished with a proud stomp of her hoof on the ground, a cloud of dust puffing up and the motion causing Alter to curl into a ball.

"You're... you're sure?" A guard asked as a piece of carriage fell from its embedded home in the ceiling. "It looks like a bomb went off in here!"

Rarity motioned with her forehoof for the guard to not worry. "Oh, it's fine, I assure you. I've dealt with far worse than a group of changelings, darling. Would you mind doing something for me?" She added to the surprise of the guards.

"What would that be, Ma'am?" The Royal Captain replied, stepping to her side.

"Would you be a dear and let Princess Twilight Sparkle know that I need to see her immediately?" Rarity replied with a self contented grin and batting eyelashes.

"Right away, Miss Rarity." The guard saluted before running off.

"Spike, are you alright?" Rarity called, walking past the cowering Alter Eco into the debris of the carriage. Inside, Spike sat in a daze while holding his head, attempting to keep it upright. His suit was slightly torn in a few places and he was covered in dust, but he was mostly unharmed.

"I- I think so. My head keeps spinning." Spike replied drowsily.

"I think they may have Spiked the punch, if I may be so bold." Rarity smiled, lifting her friend onto her back with her magic and returning to the center of the room.

"Hah." Spike sleepily laughed, "Good one."

With the changelings unconscious or cowering, It was now Rarity's turn to figure out just what the plan of these changelings was, aside from kidnapping Spike, of course. Twilight would take next to no time in getting here, but Rarity was no stranger to detective work. Her questions would be answered, and she would be able to dress the part just for the occasion!

This was going to be fun!

Developments in Equestria, Part 2

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Dear Princess Mi Amore' Cadenza,

Rarity and I have just recently discovered a changeling plot to abduct Spike. We are already on a train to the Crystal Empire and should reach you by the end of the day. Spike is safe, though from what we were able to gather, you should be on guard.

Stay safe,
Princess Twilight Sparkle

Princess Cadence, also known as Mi Amore' Cadenza, was reading this letter by Twilight from her balcony that overlooked the Crystal Empire. The sun was lowering in the distance, and she had re-read the wording of this letter a hundred times already with worry. What did Twilight mean by a changeling plot? Why was Spike involved, and why did it involve the Crystal Empire? It was in times like these that Cadence really wished Twilight was more forthcoming with her information, but she was anything if not obsessively punctual. Cadence frowned in thought, looking down and absentmindedly waving to the crystal ponies heading to their homes and closing down their shops for the night.

"Is everything alright?" A familiar chittering voice asked from the doorway, the door creaking open. "You've been out here all day."

Cadance turned to see the newly dubbed 'King' Thorax standing nearby, concern etched across his lime green face. Purple eyes searched for any sign of bother, and he immediately rushed to her side. "It's bad, isn't it?"

Princess Cadance nodded. "A letter from Twilight." She explained, floating the parchment to Thorax and sidestepping so they could both appear regal and relaxed to the ponies below. "She said there was an attempted kidnapping of Spike and that they're on their way to the Crystal Empire right now."

"A kidnapping?!" Thorax blurted in alarm. "Is he aright?"

Cadance smiled for a small filly below that was frantically waving her hoof at the princess before answering. "Twilight said that Spike was fine, and I'm sure she'll tell us all about it as soon as she gets here."

"Has Shining Armor heard about this yet?" Thorax asked, waving to the same small filly that Cadence had been, earning an odd look mixed with confusion from the pony. He was still a novelty around the Empire, along with his 'Hive' of drones from Queen Chrysalis' hive that had been transformed alongside him. Crystal ponies hadn't been sure how to react to any of them, but they were allowed to stay within the Empire for the time being and were treated with the cautious welcoming that any would expect from ponies.

"He's waiting for Twilight at the train station right now, just over there." Cadence replied with a smile at Shining Armor's name, pointing to the train station and small group of guards that could be seen accompanying him. "He wanted to go alone, but I insisted he bring along a few of the guard just in case."

Thorax followed the hoof of Cadence to spot the Prince and his guard down below on the outskirts of the city, his eyes were able to spot Shining Armor pacing back and forth with nervous energy. "I hope it's not something too big, but considering what happened to Chrysalis when we last saw her and the fact that it's a changeling plot makes it seem like it has to be big." He grumbled. "Why go after Spike?"

Cadence breathed deeply and sighed. "I don't know, but I'm sure Twilight has it all figured out by now."

A few moments of silence passed between the two as they observed the railway leading to the train station before puffs of black smoke made themselves known on the horizon, just as the sun was setting and the moon began to rise.


"Do we have everything?" Twilight asked, adjusting saddlebags filled with scrolls and paper of all kinds. "I really need to know that we have everything, because this is huge!"

Spike's grumpled face looked up from one of the many checklists piled around the traincar that Rarity, Twilight and he himself had occupied for the entire trip. "Twilight, we've checked over a dozen times. We've got everything."

"Are you sure?" Twilight asked once more, looking through one of her saddlebags. "I'm pretty sure I don't have that note where we wrote down everything about the different hives relationships with each other and-"

"Twilight, darling." Rarity pointed, placing a hoof on her friend's shoulder. "We've got this."

"But!-" Twilight insisted, before Rarity shoved her hoof in Twilight's mouth.

"We've fought Nightmare Moon, Discord, dragons, A soul eating centaur, Sombra, and a half dozen other terrors of Equestria and come out just fine. I'm sure we can handle this too." Rarity reminded her, removing her hoof and wiping it with a tablecloth that was laying nearby. "Honestly, we've even fought armies of changelings before and we're going to have Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor's love... bomb... thing. We'll be perfectly alright." She added, waving her other hoof to punctuate her words.

"We can handle a talk with Cadence and your brother, Twilight." Spike added reassuringly. "Even if it has to deal with this crazy plan from all these other hives and everything."

"But just to even get those changelings in the same room with another! From what they told us, it would've never happened in thousands of years if they still had their Queens!" Twilight continued in a vein of worry. "What is Queen Chrysalis even thinking; vanishing all those other Queens?"

As Twilight's concerned rant continued, an almost unnoticeable buzzing sound began to build around the train, masked by the loud engine and the wheels gliding along metal rails.

"It can't be anything good if they're working together, we know that for a fact." Rarity agreed. "However, there isn't much we can do until we speak with Princess Cadance, is there?"

Twilight performed a small dance of anxiety and agitation for being forced to wait so long. "Ooh, I wish this train would hurry up!"

"Why didn't we just teleport here?" Spike asked aloud, fastening down Twilight's saddlebags. "We would've been here in a few moments instead of an all day train ride."

"Do you know how difficult and risky it is to teleport a group of ponies and a dragon, and all of their things, blind, hundreds of kilotrots?" Twilight asked incredulously. "The amount of luck we would need just to not collide with somepony else where-ever we landed would be incalculable! Do you know how many ponies are in the Crystal Empire?"

"Uh, no?" Spike replied, but was drowned out by Twilight's continued ranting.

"Tons! That's like, lots and lots of them! One mistake would turn them into a very grumpy crystal pancake, and I really don't want to risk something like that because we were too lazy to take a train." Twilight continued, and the growing buzzing sound began to become noticeable.

"Twilight, is something wrong with the train?" Rarity asked, concern and curiosity blatant on her face. "I'm fairly certain I've never heard a train make that noise before."

Twilight paused in her ranting to listen carefully, "Actually, yes. I don't think I've heard a train make that noise either."

Twilight, Spike and Rarity soon peeked from their traincar's room, joined by other nearby rooms filled with travelers from all over Equestria wondering what the strange noise was. "Do you think we should check it out?" Spike asked, fiddling with his claws. "Because I don't think any pony else is gonna take a look."

Sharing a look of curiosity, Rarity and Twilight stepped from the safety of their train car's room. "Looks that way, Spike." Twilight agreed. She then turned to Rarity, "Want to wear anything for the occasion?"

Rarity politely shook her head. "I'm fine, darling. Besides, if it's anything messy then I wouldn't want to get my clothing dirty for it anyway. It's very difficult to wash some of my dresses without tearing or shrinking them!"

"Alright then! Lets-" Twilight was about to declare, before a loud belch from Spike produced a scroll that nearly smacked her in the face.

"Whoa, sorry about that." Spike apologized, opening the newly conjured letter with practiced ease. He then read aloud the following:

Dear Princess Twilight,

If you are arriving by train, for the love of Celestia, do not go outside. There is a changeling swarm following directly above you. If you're not on a train headed for the Crystal Empire right now, then please find a train and get on one!

Your Brother,
Prince Shining Armor

P.S. Seriously, don't go outside.

The three of them blinked in disbelief for a moment before rushing to a nearby window, fighting between themselves for a better look for a short moment before Spike simply pushed the window upwards, allowing their heads to stick out. Sure enough, if the sun had still been out, it would've been blotted out by the sheer volume of changelings present. Changelings of all colors, sizes, designs and temperaments buzzing and chittering angrily in a great swarm above them, far larger than what they had witnessed and fought in Canterlot.

Pulling their heads back into the train car and slamming the window shut with urgency, the moment of silent realization was broken only by the sound of wheels rolling over segmented track and the frantic billowing of the engine being made to go faster to their destination. The three were soon joined by the nervous looks of train-goers exiting their rooms to murmur and gossip in the hallway amongst themselves.

"Well, we should be there any minute now." A pony that looked the part of a train staff member announced with professional calm. "Everypony just remain in your seats, and I'm sure everything will work out just fine. For all we know, this is a surprise visit to King Thorax and they just forgot to tell us."

"They forgot?" A noisy Griffon asked incredulously. "How do you forget to mention that a gargantuan swarm of changelings is visiting the Crystal Empire?"

"Ma'am, I'm certain that everything is fine. If you'd just remain in your seats then we can get everything sorted out. We'll be serving a free round of snacks and refreshments soon, so just sit tight and we'll be right with you to address your individual concerns in person." The staffer replied to the group, most of which returned promptly to their seats with the promises of free food distracting them from the looming threat above.

Twilight, however, was gathering her friends close. "I think it's time we teleported." She whispered.

"But I thought you said you didn't want to do it blind?" Spike replied, worried.

"I know someplace that nopony will want to go, and we've been there before. You know where I'm talking about." Twilight added cryptically, charging her horn in a powerful lavender glow.

"Ma'am, please!" The train staffer urged, moving towards Twilight. "There's no need to-"

The horn reached the height of its charge, and she warped herself and her friends the vast distance between the edge of the Crystal Empire and the Crystal Castle itself, landing slightly above the floor of what was known as King Sombra's treasury. The place where the Crystal Heart had been hidden for millennia.

"Aaah!" The three yelped, before thumping onto the ground. "Nice teleport." Spike grumbled, picking his face from the smooth stone floor.

Rarity was scratching her head. "Where are we?"

Twilight was the last to get up, nursing her horn that lanced with pain. "Not really important right now; let's just find Princess Cadance."


"What do you think they're here for?" Princess Cadance asked, her mouth slightly open in disbelief at the growing swarm headed for the Crystal Empire. Already, the edges of the city had been masked in black and grey chitin, multicolored and florescent in the moon's glow.

Thorax was joined by Prince Shining Armor and a handful of guards on the balcony. "Do you think we should still be outside?" Thorax asked, looking nervously to the coming tide. "I really don't think they're going to be easily convinced that sharing love amongst them is really the best thing for them at the moment."

"Why not?" Shining Armor asked. "It worked for you with Queen Chrysalis."

Thorax shook his head. "That was a special thing. The changelings were from my own hive, and Chrysalis wasn't a very good Queen for them. These other changelings?" He trailed, pointing to the ever growing mass of chittering, "They won't care what I have to say. The fact that they aren't fighting each other right now is... well, it's never happened before."

"Do you think Chrysalis has something to do with this?" Shining Armor asked, bristling under his armor. "Do you think this is the 'revenge' she was talking about before she escaped?"

This gave Thorax pause. "I don't know. For some reason, I think this is a little beyond her planning skills." He then paused a moment to consider. "Well, a lot beyond her skills. Still, I don't think we should be waiting outside."

Suddenly, the door leading to the balcony slammed itself open, causing every pony present to whip around with charged horns to meet whatever had breached through.

"Whoa!" Twilight yelped, "It's me!"

Shining Armor was relieved, but Cadence wasn't so sure. "How do I know it's you?"

Twilight rolled her eyes before performing a hastened version of 'Sunshine Sunshine, Ladybug's awake' in order to ease her fears.

Thorax snickered before covering his mouth with a hoof. "What was that?"

Twilight nodded with a smile to regard Thorax before quickly adding, "Don't worry about it, Thorax. Nice to see you again, though I wish there wasn't a swarm of changelings on my tail... no offense."

"None taken!" Thorax replied with good humor. "Though I can't speak for every-ling present." he added, motioning to the rapidly approaching swarm.

Twilight frowned with abrupt fierceness, "Yikes! We should really get inside before they all show up."

"Do you have Flurry Heart?" Cadance asked Shining Armor in a hushed voice, and he nodded while presenting a small bundle of Alicorn filly that had been cradled next to him.

"She's safe with me, Cady. Don't worry about it." Shining replied in a hush, to which the small filly giggled at the blurry images moving around in front of her vision. It was probably for the better that Flurry Heart didn't fully understand what was happening at the moment.

"Alright everypony! Time to head inside." Twilight insisted, forced to yell in order to be heard over the approaching swarm.


Inside of the Crystal Castle and towards the most prized section of it, the Crystal Heart, stood a full company of elite Crystal Guard. On the outside perimeter were additional guards, all arrayed to protect the main entrances of the castle from any ground-based attack, though considering that changelings are capable of flight, there wasn't much the crystal ponies would be able to do in the face of this many changelings.

The swarm itself, however, had halted its approach rather suddenly. Around the outer ring of the Castle, the changelings behaved as if there were some barrier preventing them from moving forward. The streets themselves acted like walls to the swarm, though no field of magic could be seen to impede their progress. Either they had stopped on their own, or something had told them to wait. Not a single sound came from the previously deafening swarm. It was dead silent, save for the regular breathing of the ponies around them. From the changelings, not even that could be heard.

"I don't like this." Shining Armor grumbled. "Why are they just waiting around?"

He was accompanied by Twilight, Rarity, Spike, Princess Cadance and 'King' Thorax. The bottom layer of the castle held no true defensive fortifications aside from support pillars, so it was a castle more in name than actual function. The Crystal Heart floated in place, locked at the very center of the elite guard's formation.

"Maybe Chrysalis hasn't told them to attack yet?" Spike offered. "Or maybe she wants to gloat about it."

Thorax wasn't so certain. "No, this doesn't seem like Chrysalis. She would just attack and throw every changeling she had at us until she won. Having all of them wait like this, and the fact that there's maybe a dozen or more hives out here? Something else is wrong."

"Princess Cadance!" A chittering double-toned voice called out, very reminiscent of Queen Chrysalis, yet impatient in tone. "I seek parley!"

Cadence's serious mask dropped only for a moment, long enough to blurt out, "Wait, what?"

"Come out here, so we may have words!" The voice called once more.

A voice of protest rang from nearly every pony and dragon gathered, but Cadence held up a hoof. "Who are you? Show yourself!" she called out into the mass.

A few chitters of annoyance came from the mass of black and orange changelings ahead of them as they parted ways, revealing a much larger changeling that had been laying down previously. With the crown atop her head, it was clear that this was a Queen of at least one hive. What set her immediately apart from Chrysalis, however, was the fact that her body was almost armored with glowing spikes and plates of chitin that illuminated the changelings around her as she moved closer to the street that prevented the changelings from coming closer.

"I will come no further, Princess Cadance. You must come to me!" The glowing orange queen demanded. "I promise no ill will toward you, your kin, or your kingdom!"

Spike puffed smoke from his nose in a scoff. "Yeah, right. That's a good one. A changeling queen making promises?"

Thorax regarded Spike for a moment before speaking up himself. "What binds you to your promise, Queen?"

Her previous calm shifted almost immediately to outright hostility. "Do not speak to me, treasonous usurper!" She spat with venom dripping in her voice. She looked ready to leap onto Thorax and tear him to shreds, which gave Thorax himself reason enough to back off for the moment.

"He makes a valid point, Queen. What would you give for us to trust your word?" Shining Armor shouted across the distance to the Queen.

The queen's attention shifted from Thorax to Shining Armor, her temper calming rapidly. Her glowing eyes narrowed to horizontal slits of suspicion, orbs darting from pony to pony as she thought.

"I will not parley without trust between us, Queen." Princess Cadence affirmed, her posture secure and steadfast.

The Queen regarded her words for a moment before hissing loudly, chittering and buzzing to the nearby changelings that surrounded her. Seconds later, the surrounding changelings chittered to the others, and the entirety of the swarm backed away with a great deal of unease to the block behind them. The swarm covered the roofs, the pavement and grass, even street lamps. Anyplace that a town might be visible instead held a changeling, be it wall, roof or ground. Now, only the Queen stood apart from the swarm, exposed to any spell that might be cast in her direction.

"What say you, Princess Cadence? Do we have Parley?" The Queen yelled to them, obviously agitated and uncomfortable.

"What's with the weird speaking?" Spike wondered aloud. "She sounds like she's from a pirate comic."

"Maybe she's an older queen?" Rarity suggested. "We haven't seen another Queen aside from Chrysalis, so I don't think anypony really knows."

"That would probably explain why she looks so different compared to Chrysalis," Twilight agreed. "Do you see those thorns and how she glows? Maybe the eyes are just the first thing that glows, and they get more... glowy as they age?"

"Glowy?" Spike smirked, "Real scientific."

"We have Parley!" Cadence announced, taking steps toward the Queen.

Twilight's ears went back in alarm, but she was held back by Shining Armor. "Don't worry, sis. She's a big Alicorn, and we can take care of ourselves. You remember the wedding, right?" He added with a smile. Twilight wasn't happy about sitting on the sidelines, but she nodded in agreement.

Finally reaching a safe distance to the Queen that would no longer require shouting, Princess Cadence was more or less face to face with the Queen that had asked for parley. "What is your name, if you don't mind my asking?" She requested as politely as possible.

The queen's eyes of glowing suspicion returned, but she soon shook her head briefly before answering. "I am known as Queen Sanguine, Princess Cadence." Her tone was cautious, yet soon grew dark. "Do not allow that traitor to speak in my presence again."

"Thorax, is a close friend of mine. He can speak if he wants to." Princess Cadence replied with firm certainty. "Why are you here?"

Queen Sanguine growled in response, but calmed herself once more in order to speak. "I am here because of Queen Chrysalis. Her idiotic quest to avenge herself has placed every hive in peril, and It drives me to do things that no Queen would have ever considered until today."

Princess Cadence raised an eyebrow. "Oh, and what is that?" She asked cautiously.

Queen Sanguine bit her lower lip, her fangs being quite pronounced as she mulled over what she was forced to say. "I..." She began, almost choking on her own words.

"Are you alright?" Cadence asked with worry, and Sanguine just as quickly backed away from her concern.

Sanguine waved a hoof away at Cadence, continuing her words. "I need your... heeelp." She finished, and just as quickly had a fit of chittering and buzzing. "Euugh!" She spat, scraping her tongue with her sharpened teeth and hooves. "Eugh, I hate that word!"

"You want my help?" Cadence asked in surprise, looking to the surrounding swarms of changelings. "Why would you need my help?"

The Queen stopped for a moment, regaining her composure enough to speak. "Promise that I will never have to speak that word again, and I will explain."

"What, help?" Cadence asked, smirking slightly.

"Yes. That." Sanguine chittered in annoyance.

"Alright, deal." Cadence replied with teasing amusement. "Would you prefer to speak inside the castle?" She offered, pointing a hoof towards the Crystal Heart and the group of armed guards.

Sanguine was giving the Crystal Heart a look of contempt. "On one condition, Princess Cadence. No love is to be shared while that thing remains in place."

Cadence, understandably, was confused. "What do you mean; I thought changelings survived off of love?"

"Does King Sombra still live?" Queen Sanguine asked, her eyes scanning the assortment of guards.

"He... was shattered more than a year ago. I don't think he'll be troubling anypony anytime soon." Cadence added with a sad smile. "What does he have to do with anything, though?"

Sanguine's glare returned to Cadence. "This land was cursed by King Sombra during his reign, over a thousand years ago. Before the Sisters of the Sun and Moon made their assault on this castle, we changelings had attempted to infiltrate and steal the Crystal Heart from him many times. A source of amplified love that could feed thousands of changelings with just a hoof-full of ponies? It was a dream come true!" Sanguine added bitterly, looking to the crystalline ground between them. "In order to rid his lands of us, he cursed the Crystal Heart, imbuing it with properties that are detrimental to changelings, but a boon to ponies. It amplifies love, yes, but for a changeling that is struck by the magical wall that turns ponies into crystal, they are infected with a plague that has yet to run its course. The first egg of every hive is 'Defective', a certain doom to any Queen that fails to properly deal with the drone afflicted by the curse."

"So that's why you won't cross the road?" Cadence asked, moving closer to the Queen. "What does the curse do?"

Sanguine remained where she stood, staring down Princess Cadence as the changelings behind her chittered nervously. "It turns the carapace of a changeling pure white, and they are filled with an insatiable hunger for love. They drain the love from their own hive-mates, and eventually their Queen. Nothing can cure the drone of this hunger, short of re-hatching them as a Queen. As any Queen would tell you, that is a complete waste of time and resources to accomplish, so the drone is banished from the hive or secluded until it goes into stasis, where it can be safely 'disposed of'."

Cadence nodded, the gravity of the situation now known to her. "And you don't want to go near the Crystal Heart in case it activates on accident?"

Sanguine nodded, joined by a few similar looking changelings that stuck to the walls of buildings nearby.

"Well, I can see that getting close to the Heart is dangerous for you, but why are you here? I'm thankful that this doesn't seem to be another changeling invasion, but you have covered every inch of the Crystal Empire in changelings. It's enough to make a kingdom worry, you know." Cadence replied with added humor.

"Our Queens are disappearing!" a changeling nearby shouted. One of purple and black coloration with butterfly wings of lavender. "The hives must endure!"

Queen Sanguine immediately hissed at the changeling, causing them to back away in fear before she returned her attention to Princess Cadence. "Even though the drone speaks out of turn, he is correct. Queen Chrysalis, the changeling I suspect most responsible for these disappearances, has been ridding all hives of their Queens these past few months since that traitor overthrew her." She explained, glaring daggers at Thorax in the distance.

"Are you the last Queen, then?" Cadence asked worriedly. "She can't have... she didn't kill them all, did she?"

Sanguine shook her head with confidence. "We would know if a Queen had been killed, Princess Cadence. No, she is doing something far worse for a hive. She is transporting them from one reality to another."

Cadence blinked. "I'm sorry, what?"

"She is using an ancient device constructed by Earth Pony kind and modified with magics unknown to me in order to transport our kind to another reality where they can never return." Sanguine attempted to explain. Seeing Cadence's continued lack of understanding, she opted for a different approach. "Is there one among you more versed in magic that I would be able to explain this to?"

Cadence's eyes lit up as she turned to face the group next to the Crystal Heart. "Twilight, get over here!" she shouted, stepping to the side to allow the young alicorn to land next to them.

"You needed me?" Twilight asked Cadence, soon looking to Queen Sanguine and realizing with some discomfort how dis-similar the queen was to Chrysalis. The only thing that was the same was their height; taller than Princess Celestia.

"This is Queen Sanguine, and she says that the other changeling Queens are being... teleported?" Cadence attempted, and Sanguine soon took the lead.

"They are being transported to another reality through ancient rituals and technology from before the age of the Two Sisters. I have no idea how Chrysalis managed to get her hooves on such magic, but I know that I am the last of the Queens remaining in Equestria." Sanguine replied in her own chittering double-speak. Twilight was still having trouble dealing with the fact that this queen, though similar to Chrysalis, was different in just as many ways. The glowing chitin, the strange spikes coming from parts of her body, even the way that her eyes were a strange cross between a drone's pupil-less glow and a Queen's snake-like iris' set her on edge. It was like dealing with an alien in the likeness of a pony. "I do not know where she has sent our Queens, but I know that without them, we will not survive as a species for long." Her gaze turned swiftly to Thorax in the distance, her expression hateful. "That traitor must have driven her to madness for Queen Chrysalis to do something like this."

"This isn't Thorax's fault." Twilight stated firmly, dwarfed by the comparatively tall Queen that looked down on her. "If you could see that sharing the love between all of you is so much better than stealing it, then-"

"Don't you dare speak of things you don't understand, Princess." Sanguine snapped, "That usurper standing obliviously will learn soon enough why changelings must take their love. 'His' hive will die out without a Queen, or at the very best they will exist until they can no longer find a host to give them love."

"But that's where you're wrong, Queen Sanguine! He doesn't need to steal love anymore, hes cured!" Twilight insisted.

Sanguine was visibly angered by this point, having a staring match with Twilight and chittering quite rapidly in anger. Cadence stood between the two of them and placed a reassuring hoof on their shoulders. "Alright, let's save this discussion for another time. We have Queens to save, right?" She reminded them, and Twilight was the first to agree and break the stalemate of wills.

"Keep that filth out of my sight, and I will remain civil. If he so much as speaks a word to me, the Will of the Hives demand that I end him." Sanguine threatened seriously, her teeth barred like a wolf as she looked to Thorax.

"I'll go tell him and meet you both in the Library. I'm sure we can find something that can help you there." Twilight offered, soon flying off before Sanguine could reply.

The Queen was shaking her head, following alongside Princess Cadence closer to the Crystal Heart.

"What's wrong?" Cadence asked, motioning for the guards to stand down and move aside. Prince Shining Armor was waiting with Flurry Heart next to the looming Crystal Heart in the center of the room. The baby alicorn, for her part, was completely oblivious to everything going on and quite intent on making noises to Shining Armor.

"That baby." Sanguine hissed quietly. "If she keeps making those noises, somepony is going to emit enough love to trigger the crystal."

"Shining Armor, would you mind taking Flurry Heart somewhere away from the Crystal Heart?" Cadence called politely.

"Um, sure thing, honey." Shining replied with confusion, placing the baby on his back as it made giggling noises.

Sanguine's wings flared upward, her face a model of horror. "No! Stop interacting with the baby!"

"But she's so cute!" A nearby guard pointed out, waving to Flurry Heart and making cooing noises.

"No! Stop that!" Sanguine insisted, hissing at the guard.

"Everyone, don't look at Flurry Heart!" Cadence called, and the guards all immediately covered their eyes with a free hoof.

"Hee hee, Peeka-booh!" Flurry Heart replied, covering her own eyes and continuing with giggly noises.

"No! Stop this at once!" Sanguine insisted, buzzing her wings to catapult herself next to Shining Armor and Flurry Heart. She used her holed hoof to pry the filly's own hooves away from her face. "Stop being cute this instant!" she demanded.

"Peek-boo!" Flurry Heart replied quite happily, completely unafraid of the very upset changeling queen with razor sharp fangs and none to happy demeanor that loomed above her.

Queen Sanguine growled in response, and from the distance, barely heard, came an "Awww." From a nearby guard.

Sanguine whirled around, looking to the heart in fear, and sure enough it was already beginning to glow.

"Everyone stop noticing Flurry Heart!" Cadence yelled.

Sanguine looked to the small filly, whispering closely to her ear. "I swear, you demented spawn of an Alicorn goddess, that if you don't set off that heart this day, I will be a devout follower and loyal to you for all time. I absolutely swear this, now till the end of time, do not set off that heart!"

Flurry Heart seemed to recognize speech for a few fleeting moments, but all was for naught when she thrust a small hoof directly into Sanguine's snout, announcing the victory of basic motor skills with a resounding, "Boop!"

It was too late, at that point, for anypony or changeling to change what happened next. The chorus of "Dawws" that came from the guards and even Shining Armor against all their military discipline was enough to supercharge the heart, and it glowed with a power soothing to behold. All except for those with the knowledge of the true danger, of course. To Queen Sanguine, it looked as if the world might be torn asunder by a small filly, and there was nothing she would be able to do that wouldn't doom her ever further.

Sanguine's fate was sealed, and she turned to Cadence in order to hiss, "This is your fault, Princess Cadence! You just 'had' to go and bring a filly to a parley, didn't you!"

"It's not my fault that my daughter is adorable!" Cadence replied in protest. "It's also not my fault that the Crystal Heart is cursed for changelings!"

Sanguine was having none of that. "If that Crystal Heart goes off, I will not leave this empire until an anti-curse is found! I swear this! I will spend every waking moment of my life haunting you until I am cured!"

"Nopony do anything adorable, and nopony gets hurt!" Shining Armor added, shaking a hoof with serious determination at the nearby guards before leaning in to visit Flurry Heart in her small carrying cradle. "Hear that, sweety? No being cute for now, alright?"

Then, to the doom of all watching, Flurry Heart replied with a bubbly, "Okay, da-dah."

"Oh come on!" Sanguine yelled to the skies in defiance, as the Crystal heart was filled to bursting with Love enough to send out a gargantuan wave of energy that lit the surrounding streets and sent changelings flying in every direction, much like a repeat of the Canterlot Wedding but with more crystalline ponies left behind. Queen Sanguine barely stood her ground as the wave passed through her, but the nearby drones were not so hardy. What changeling that didn't end up through a broken window or a flowerpot was soon found embedded in a crystalline wall or upside down in a pond. A scene of complete changeling based destruction took place, minus any part where somepony or changeling could possibly be injured. This was a love explosion, after all.

Queen Sanguine, however, was not happy of course. Standing up on shaking hooves, she was able to stare directly at Flurry Heart. "We had a deal, you spawn of demons."

Flurry, for all her vast baby intellect could allow, giggled quite happily with her accomplishment. In response, Queen Sanguine soon collapsed on the crystalline floor, cursing Flurry Heart's name until she could no longer remain conscious.

Blast From The Past

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Deep in the Crystal Castle's library, Twilight Sparkle was already busy gathering what information she could on curses and spells relating to the Crystal Heart. Perilously stacked towers of books loomed on each side of the desk she worked at, threatening to collapse at any moment as she flipped from page to page and book to book with her magic. Each collection of knowledge stayed in its home for only a moment before the young alicorn glossed over all the book had to offer her, and placed near her side atop the ever growing towers of literature. Her most recent find, however, gave her pause. Its cover was bound in purple crystal, etched with arcane symbols and wording that Twilight had never seen before. From what she was able to piece together, she was certain that the book referenced King Sombra.

"Please tell me you've found something, Twilight." The exhausted voice of Princess Cadence pleaded, pulling down the top of the book with her hoof. Queen Sanguine was waiting impatiently nearby, glaring at Shining Armor and Flurry Heart with a look of hatred so intense it threatened to cause a repeat of the Library of Aleks-sandria's burning. "The Queen is getting more unbearable by the moment, and the changelings outside are getting restless."

Twilight nodded hopefully. "I think I have found something," she replied, setting the crystalline book down with a loud clank that scratched the glass table. "Oops, sorry!"

"What is it?" The rapidly approaching orange queen asked, "Something to do with the curse?"

Twilight pointed to the odd book in front of her. "I think this has something to do with King Sombra, but I'm not familiar with any of the wording on it." She scratched her chin in thought, scanning each line of the odd symbols that were carved into the crystal. "Maybe if we-" She began, before an aura of orange fire lifted the book from the table and floated it towards Queen Sanguine. "What are you doing?" Twilight inquired quite grumpily.

After a moment of searching eyes, Sanguine huffed in annoyance and tossed the book back to Twilight. "I have no idea of what this even says."

Twilight caught the book in her magic easily, giving a look of deadpanned annoyance. "Really? Didn't see that one coming."

The orange queen growled in annoyance, already making her way to the exit of the library. "Find a cure for this curse, and quickly, or these hives are going to lose their minds as soon as their carapace turns white."

The four ponies present watched Sanguine leave in what they were becoming to know as her typical state of being: furious with a side of livid. As if to affirm that observation, the door slammed with excessive loudness on her way out, leaving dust to fall like a blanket on the rest of the library.

"No pressure." Spike replied, waving dust away from his face and bringing yet another book to the table. "Find anything yet?"

Twilight returned her attention to the mysterious crystal book in her magical grasp, floating it over to the table and moving the book that Spike had provided to the side with a gentle shove. "This book says something about King Sombra, but I'm not sure what it is. There's all kinds of runes and encryption on it, and knowing a little about King Sombra's magic from when we defeated him, it probably isn't the best idea to open it."

The ponies and dragon stared at the book for a short moment before Spike spoke up once again with a weary sigh. "That mean's we're going to open it, doesn't it?"

Twilight's smile was wide, "Yep! Nopony ever learned anything by staring at the cover of a possibly dark magic warded tome, did they?"

Claw swung to meet forehead faster than swift vengeance against a mosquito. "I knew we were going to do something like this today." Spike groaned.

"Everypony ready?" Twilight asked to the few gathered. Her magic was already pulling at the crystal snap binding that fastened the book together with eager readiness.

"Hold on, Twily. I'm going to put Flurry Heart somewhere safe. Do you want to come along, Cadence? She doesn't mind naptime as much when you're around." Shining Armor interrupted, once more adjusting the harness that held the wiggling filly on his backside.

Cadence gave a pat between Twilight's wings. "I'm sure you and Spike can handle some research in the library, Twilight. Good luck, and please hurry; I may be the leader of the Crystal Empire, but I don't think even Princess Celestia has the patience to deal with Queen Sanguine for long."

Spike gave a quick salute to Princess Cadence, his chest puffed with duty and determination. "We've got this covered, Princess Cadence!"

Exchanging farewells, Cadence and Shining Armor soon left the room with Flurry Heart, only to catch an ear full of complaints from Queen Sanguine on their way out. Some of the wording was quite colorful, with Twilight and Spike thankful that the heavy door to the library closed quickly to drown most of the noise out.

Looking down to the ominous book, Twilight took a deep breath. "Welp," She announced while tugging at the strap, "Here goes nothing!"

Twilight squinted at the book in preparation for whatever wall of magic that might erupt from the runes on the book's cover, pulling the book strap apart with an anticlimactic click. Blinking and opening her eyes fully, she noticed that Spike had taken cover underneath the table itself. "Oh. Well, I guess that was kind of silly." Twilight noted, laughing nervously to herself. "I mean, I only thought it said something about Sombra, right? What would he do, make it explode in our face?"

"Hmmph. That would have been a good idea, now that you mention it."

Twilight felt a snake of cold slither down her backside at the sound of that deep voice. She had heard it before, and if she was right, the opening of the book unleashed something far worse than an explosion. Her shoulders next to her head from involuntary squeaking, she slowly turned to see her fears realized... somewhat.

"What are you staring at me like that for?" King Sombra asked, his eyes red and cloaked in shadow. "Do I have something in my teeth?"

His 'smile', if it could be called such a thing, was a horror story incarnate. Something to tell to young fillies and colts to make them stay in bed at night. This was offset somewhat by his unexpectedly genuine pursuit of debris with his forked tongue, his head listing slightly with determined focus.

"Um... Twilight?" Spike asked cautiously, "Is this real?"

Twilight was frozen for the most part, staring wide eyed at King Sombra. "I... I hope not," She shakily replied.

Finding nothing of note, King Sombra gave up his search and focused on the two in front of him. His voice cast a fog around the library, dripping with malice and hate. "You've opened my journal." He stared at Twilight and Spike for an uncomfortable amount of time, his jaw tensing with the accompaniment of a loud chomp. After what seemed like an eternity, the fog lifted abruptly, and the cloak of shadow that obscured King Sombra's face went along with it. "You also haven't run away screaming yet, so this must be fairly important."

King Sombra and Twilight stared at another for a while, neither speaking a word. Finally, Spike was the first to break the stalemate. "So... are you really King Sombra?"

The dark unicorn in plated armor turned his head slowly towards Spike, leaning down to eye level. His red horn jabbed uncomfortably against Spike's forehead and Sombra smiled wide. "Actually... no."

Twilight collapsed with a gush of air from relief onto the flood below her almost immediately. Spike glanced over with understandable concern, only to find that 'Sombra' was already looming over Twilight.

"An Alicorn? Well, I mean a purple alicorn," Sombra commented, poking Twilight's side. "Just how many of you are there now? One was bad enough, and clearly two was far too much, but three? You're kidding me."

Spike held his head with one of his claws as he walked over to Twilight. "Okay, this is really confusing. What's going on?"

Sombra smiled once more, his teeth strangely normal in appearance. "It's fairly simple if you have all the facts, tiny dragon. You've come into my Library in search of knowledge or gossip, and stumbled across my personal journal." What was even more concerning is that his voice was pleasant at this point, and gone was any sense of danger. "Since I'm not able to flay your flesh from bones, that must mean that I'm asleep again."

Well, so much for the sense of safety.

"Spike?" Twilight called, pushing herself from the floor. "Are we dreaming, or is this really happening?"

"I dunno, I thought you were the magic expert." Spike replied while assisting her in standing. Sombra waited patiently by their side, not lending a hoof in assistance.

When the two had collected their senses and dusted themselves, Sombra spoke once again. "So, you've broken the spell on the cover and not run in terror from meeting me. What is it that you want?"

Twilight had a mental checklist the size of Cloudsdale for all the questions she needed answers to right now, but one stuck at the front of her memory. "How do we stop the curse of the Crystal Heart to cure the changelings?"

Sombra's body froze for a moment, his eyes scanning and twitching from side to side in a blur. His face slowly contorted into one of absolute confusion before replying, "I'm sorry, what?"

Spike and Twilight shared a nervous glance. "You placed a curse on the Crystal Heart against changelings?" Twilight asked nervously, "How do you remove the curse?"

Sombra gave a helpless smirk before shaking his head. "What year is this? A curse? Changelings? Alicorn, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"It's over a thousand years since the banishment of Nightmare Moon." Twilight replied with a reflexive academic tone.

Sombra blinked with a lack of comprehension. "Who?"

Spike face-clawed and pulled Twilight's ear to his mouth. "Twilight, If this is really Sombra, then he was 'sleeping' before Nightmare Moon even existed. Princess Celestia and Luna defeated Sombra before all of that happened, remember?"

Her mouth scrunched by obvious facts being made known to her once again, Twilight attempted a new line of inquiry. "What is the last date in the journal?"

Sombra smiled at the request. "Well, the last recorded date is 873 A.D.," He placed a hoof near his mouth to whisper excitedly, "That means 'After Discord', in case you were unaware."

Twilight's eyes went wide with wonder, whispering in awe. "That long ago!?"

"Twilight, we have a very angry changeling queen outside who's waiting on us with an army of starving drones with very sharp fangs. Ask the spooky 'not Sombra' about a history lesson later, okay?" Spike insisted, tapping on Twilight's side with a pointed claw.

"Oh, you're right." Twilight realized, shaking her head free of the many unrelated questions she had. "King Sombra, I-"

"Please, Sombra is fine." He insisted, a hoof pressed formally against his breastplate.

"Uh, Sombra, then." Twilight continued, regaining her train of thought. "Have you ever encountered a Changeling before?"

Sombra's eyes searched through the nothingness in front of him once more before returning with a confused expression. "I've never heard of that name before."

"They're a bit taller than you are," Spike explained, "Holes in their hooves, kind of bug-like, feed off love and really angry all the time?"

A faint spark of recognition played across Sombra's face. "Those things?" He asked incredulously. "They're what drove you to invade my journal? What, did you steal one of their Queens or something? You should've known better than to kidnap royalty, even if they're a hideous abomination!"

"Well, its more complicated than that, Sombra." Twilight replied, realizing in that moment how absurd it was that she was now speaking to what was essentially the ghost of an evil unicorn king. "One of the changeling queens is using some kind of device to banish all of the other queens to a different reality."

Sombra stood still for a moment, his face frozen.

"Um, Sombra?" Spike asked, waving a claw in front of his face.

"No," He suddenly replied, shaking his head, "I still have no idea what you're talking about."

Twilight stomped her hoof on the ground and roared in frustration. "You've got to be messing with us!"

Sombra shrugged. "And what if I was? I'm just a book brought to life, what are you going to do, burn me?"

The look in Twilight's eyes soon made Sombra realize that the act was indeed in the realm of possibility at this point in time, and he soon backpedaled his previous remark. "W-wait! Alright, I know that I'm made of crystal and that I won't easily burn, but that doesn't mean I want to slow roast in a forge room either. These runes are delicate, you know!"

"Tell us everything you know about the device, and changelings. Now." Twilight demanded with a tone that allowed no dissent.

"Well, you'd better find someplace to sit, because it's going to take a long while." Sombra smiled nervously, motioning politely to a nearby chair. "Seriously, you should get water and food for your mortal shells."

"Oh, well in that case, I'm going to make sandwiches. You want any, Twilight?" Spike asked, already headed for the door out of the Library.

Twilight's face was scrunched in annoyance, but her grumbling stomach soon betrayed her. "Fine," She shouted after Spike. "Whatever's available, but no Jalapenos this time, alright?" After a moment, Twilight took notice of Sombra's confused expression. "What?"

"What is a 'Jalapenos'?" Sombra asked with a raised brow.

The Great Collapse

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"I see you've taken the time to make yourselves comfortable." Sombra grumbled, pointing to a stack of sandwiches in the center of the table. "Would you like to make popcorn as well, or perhaps some kind of juicy beverage?" He continued, narrowing his eyes in annoyance at Spike.

"Nah, this should be good. You did say it was going to take a while." Spike quipped immediately, taking a large bite out of a masterfully crafted sandwich of his own design. "Whenever you're ready." He added after chewing.

Sombra was staring forward towards Twilight, his left eye twitching in annoyance. "Finally." Placing his right hoof on his own journal, Twilight noticed a dark fog creeping from the ancient king that drifted onto the table. "The rules of my binding to this tome demand payment: information sought for information gained. Every question that you ask me from this point forward will be truthfully answered, and each answer will demand a question from myself towards you in return." Removing his hoof from the book, the tome vented out a purple miasma that scorched the table beneath it. "Are we understood?" Sombra asked, his face a mask of neutrality to match his grave tone.

Twilight gulped reflexively, noting the new holes that accompanied the table from whatever magic King Sombra had placed on his journal. "Got it." She replied stoically.

"As you are the seeker of knowledge, the first question to ask is yours." Sombra explained, taking a seat opposite the young Alicorn.

The possibilities of knowledge that Twilight could learn about the days from before Princess Celestia and Luna were staggering to her, an age of history from an alternative perspective that would never have been uncovered if not for this interesting, albeit dangerous meeting. Her own fantasies aside, she knew that there was an obligation to not only Princess Cadance and the Crystal Empire, but to the possibility of befriending multiple hives of changelings from this opportunity, if King Sombra was to be believed. From how seriously this 'copy' of the banished king was taking things, however, she hoped that he was going to be genuine.

Taking a deep breath and deciding on a question, Twilight's first question was for the benefit of the changelings. "How do we break the spell that affects changelings on the Crystal Heart?"

Sombra's eyes seemed to imply that he was searching for something in the wording of Twilight's question. "Another piece of information needs to be explained, it seems, for this is a complex question."

"Oh, give me a break." Spike grumbled, offering a sandwich to Twilight, whom was unfortunately far too focused on what was happening to notice. "Are you going to keep hiding the rules of your 'game' from us the whole time?"

A snarl from Sombra was followed by a red and purple whip of energy that snapped around Spike's snout, yanking behind his body and causing him to collapse backwards onto the hard floor behind him. "Keep your mouth shut, whelp." Sombra snarled, his teeth flashing to a jagged line that would make a shark flinch. "This is between the Alicorn and myself only."

Twilight looked to Spike with immediate worry, but found that he was mostly unharmed by Sombra's magic, if a bit winded from the suddenness of it all. "Spike, are you alright?" She asked, reaching out towards Spike with a hoof.

"Spike, is fine." King Sombra snapped. "Let me explain the rules, so that there are no further interruptions."

Making one quick glance towards Spike a final time, Twilight shifted her focus to the very agitated phantom of Sombra in front of her.

"Any question that requires further explanation, such as specifics to honor the intent of the original question, will not count towards the questions already asked. Put simply, if either party requires clarification in order to answer a question, the opposing party may not use those clarifying questions to seek additional answers from the defending party." Sombra explained, his temper quickly cooling along with his normalizing appearance.

"So if I need something explained, it won't count as a question that deserves an answer to you?" Twilight cautiously asked, her hoof half-raised as if she were still in magical kindergarten more from muscle memory than conscious choice.

"You ask, I request more information, I answer your question, then I ask a question. The same applies to you, yes." Sombra agreed, pleased that he wasn't dealing with the typical peasantry that had surrounded him for centuries. "Now, you asked about breaking a spell that affects changelings embedded within the Crystal Heart, correct?"

Twilight nodded in response.

"To which spell do you refer?" Sombra asked, his metaphorical mask giving way to a slight smirk.

There's more than one!? Twilight thought in a panic, her eyes going wide.

Spike held a single finger pointed to the sky from his prone position on the uncomfortable floor. "Eggs." He blurted, his head still dizzy from impacting the ground so roughly. It was at this moment he found new appreciation for dragon scales and the mitigating effect they provided against sudden impacts.

"Oh, right!" Twilight remembered, a wide grin across her face. "The changeling queen outside is worried that the Crystal Heart is going to infect all of the changelings nearby with some kind of disease that turns their carapace white. How do we remove that spell from the Crystal Heart?"

Sombra seemed upset by the question, his upper lip twitching more than once. "It is not a disease, nor an infection."

Twilight's ears folded backwards in worry, her tone equally cautious. "What is it, then?"

King Sombra's jaw tensed before answering. "It is a gift offered to their horrific species. One that they constantly throw in my face, even alleged centuries later."

"A gift?" Twilight curiously replied, her eyebrow raised. "What kind of gift, and why?"

"Is that another question, Alicorn?" Sombra asked, his evil grin creeping across his face once again. "You owe me two answers now, as dispelling my gift and the purpose behind the spell are two different subjects."

Twilight realized that she had been caught, her own need for information and context giving a new window for King Sombra to gain information on anything he wanted. Why am I putting up with this? Thought Twilight before looking to the sprawled out Spike on the floor next to her. She grimaced, realizing that she had no real idea of how powerful Sombra was, even if he was a ghost trapped in a book at the moment. If Sombra's journal had enough power to effortlessly throw Spike onto the ground, conjure magic and interact with the world around it, she really didn't want to think about what kind of Sombra had attacked the Crystal Empire on its return.

"Your question, Alicorn: dispelling my gift to the infighting Queens." Sombra continued loudly, interrupting Twilight's thoughts. "The Crystal Heart cannot break any enchantment cast upon it by myself. Nothing short of shattering it into countless pieces will break that spell, or any others that I've worked tirelessly to integrate it with."

Wait, shattering it? Flurry Heart already did that months ago! Does that mean that the curse was already broken? Twilight thought with increasing hopefulness. If Sombra is right, then I really don't have to do anything to the heart or the changelings!

"Why do you look so pleased with yourself?" Sombra asked, his face a model of suspicion.

"You asked a question." Spike pointed out from the floor before laying down again.

Sombra took a moment to close his eyes in silent frustration with his own mental slip before opening them again.

"Well, since the rules are to answer questions, I'll tell you." Twilight replied quite smugly. "The Crystal Heart has already been shattered, a few months ago in fact, and put back together again. No more curse!" Twilight added, accompanied by a 'hah!' of victory.

If the coat of a ghost king could become pale, Sombra's made its best attempt at it. "Y-you did what?"

"Shattered the Crystal Heart. Completely." Twilight replied quite proudly.

Sombra's eyes began to search the space in front of him, as if Twilight no longer existed at all. "No, no this can't be possible..." He muttered, his voice wavering. "It can't be shattered! That's impossible!"

Now Twilight and Spike were beginning to become worried. A defeated Sombra was one thing, and learning that a possible disaster was never going to happen was a great relief, but a panic induced ancient king? That was more than enough cause for worry, especially with the knowledge that any powers that Sombra wielded were entirely unknown. "Um, Sombra? Are you alright?" Twilight cautiously asked, backing away from the visibly upset phantom in front of her.

"I..." Sombra quietly replied, "I worked so long on that relic..."

"Sombra?" Twilight called, inching closer to the literally unstable apparition. "You're turning into smoke."

Sombra's eyes flicked up to meet Twilight's, and she saw they were filled with a deep sorrow. "How?" he asked, sitting on the floor, "How was it shattered?"

Twilight and Spike shared a look of worry, torn between helping and being suspicious that this sudden vulnerability might be a red herring to get more information out of Twilight than she was willing to share. Spike shook his head, thinking that it was too severe of a shift for Sombra's mood to be genuine, but Twilight was willing to give him the benefit of doubt anyway. "A baby alicorn broke it with her crying." She explained as softly as possible.

In an instant, Spike's suspicions were proven correct, although in a way not expected by him. Sombra's sad expression and defeated tone immediately switched places for one of absolute surprise. "A baby what!?" Sombra shouted, bouncing to his hooves. "That really can't be possible! Where is this baby, I must see it for myself!"

It took Twilight and Spike all of half a mili-second to protest in unison to that idea. "Not happening!"

"You misunderstand, Alicorn," King Sombra smirked. "This is my castle, not yours. I go where I please."

Twilight's eyes widened with worry in the same instant that she tried to hold Sombra with her magic, but the moment the ancient king finished his sentence did he shift into smoke, slithering away from the table and underneath the Library's main door to the courtyard beyond.

"We've got to stop him!" Twilight declared, leaping from her seat with Spike following closely behind.


"How long have we been in this forsaken mountain?" Queen Catalyst complained. "Has it been years, or merely months?"

Blue Sun was in the lead with the defective caretaker laying on her back like a saddle. "I know where we're going, but the walls are still holding up well. Don't worry, Queen Catalyst. We'll find out way out."

"You mean you don't know where you're going!?" Catalyst growled in anger. "You've been here long enough to know your way around, haven't you?"

"Well, I was inside a single room for a few weeks here. I've only seen the other hallways and rooms once or twice." Blue replied unphased. "Besides, this gives me more time to plan out how my hive is going to work now that my advisers are here."

Catalyst rolled her eyes, upset with Blue's nonchalant attitude towards being buried under a mountain. Though, that outlook could be entirely due to the fact that Blue Sun was a tunneler before she became a queen. "When your defective wakes up from my spell, you're going to be the one that deals with it this time." Catalyst grumbled.

"Of course I will; the defective is my drone after all. Would you have any other Queen... eh... nevermind." Blue replied, before swiftly cutting herself off.

"Do not talk about Chrysalis to me, Blue Sun." Catalyst darkly warned.

Blue decided it was best to remain silent after that near disaster, instead choosing to press onward in search of an exit. It would have been a far easier task if half the hallways hadn't collapsed under a heap of molten rock from Catalyst's own spikes of impatience and anger fueling her magic, which then lashed out against the surrounding interior. Further complicating things, the walls that had been painted to give directions had peeled away, giving the appearance of a decrepit old structure rather than one that functioned perfectly mere hours ago.

Continuing onward, Catalyst's attention was caught by a fairly imposing metal door. "Blue Sun, what is this?" She demanded, halting in front of the large vault-like barrier. "Do the Terrans keep a bank vault in their mountains?"

Turning around with curiosity at the front of her mind, Blue studied the imposing metal slab that was embedded within the wall before them. "I don't think I would've had the time to notice anything like this in a sealed room, Catalyst." She replied sincerely. "It does look sturdy, though."

"If these walls are any judge of integrity, I doubt it would hold against magic, do you think?" Catalyst reasoned, her horn already alight with a flaming orange glow. The nearby walls were beginning to blister simply from the ambient magic, further proving the orange queen's point.

"What are you going to do, steal from them?" Blue asked worriedly. "What if we harm whatever is in there with our magic?"

Catalyst huffed and waved her hoof dismissively. "Steal from the Terrans? What could they possibly have that I would want, aside from love?"

"Then why open their vault? Won't they be able to do that themselves?" Blue countered, taking a spot next to Queen Catalyst.

"It's not about what I want, Blue Sun. It's about how appreciative the Terrans will be when they hear we've rescued their prized possessions from this collapsing pile of rubble!" Catalyst answered with a smile, her horn becoming brighter and wrapping the entire door in orange magic. "Shield us so that we may avoid death by squashing, would you?"

It seemed like a good idea to Blue, whom was not entirely fond of being squashed. Her own magic of blueish purple created a dome overhead before she realized that the ground beneath them was beginning to bubble. Instead, she conjured a sphere of magic entirely around them, causing the two queens and single defective to hover in the air as the hallways and mountain was reduced to slag around them.

"Come on, you bulk of metal. Give way!" Catalyst shouted for catharsis, using her magical might to incinerate the door itself, the surface bubbling and dripping onto the floor.

"Can't you just pry it off the hinges?" Blue asked, straining from the weight of rubble and debris rolling off of her shield and creating a pool on their sides and beneath them.

"This door is thicker than Queen Chrysalis' skull, Blue Sun. It's going to take a moment!" Catalyst angrily quipped, focusing her anger into her magic and causing the door to buckle.

"I thought you said not to talk about her?" Blue smiled.

"Focus on your shield!" Catalyst snapped, causing the center of the metal vault door to crumple like a tin can. "Finally!"

The vault door was soon pulled towards the Queens, laying it on its front and allowing it to melt into the floor beneath them. Thankfully for the Queens, the temperature in the room was only a bit warm to them. For any human that might have been in the area, however, it would be a different story.

"You can set us down now, Blue Sun." Catalyst reminded Blue, wiggling her hooves impatiently as she was suspended in the air.

Landing in a puddle of molten steel and magma from the mountain's rock combined with concrete, Catalyst flicked away what little of the material that had attached itself to her hooves. Curious to Blue was the bittersweet smile that spread across Catalyst's face.

"Reminds me of the volcano." Catalyst explained, taking the first steps through the melting door to the room behind it.

Walking into the sealed room, paint was already peeling and flaking from the walls. Various boxes of unknown things were stacked around, some of them accompanied by stray papers and clip boards marking an incomplete checklist of items. Towards the back of the room, however, was something unique. Catalyst walked towards the strange object, a rainbow light shining through a small view port that revealed several floating orbs. She immediately withdrew from the thing, her frills raised with suspicion.

"What is it?" asked Blue, joining Catalyst in looking through the view port. "Rainbow rocks?"

Queen Catalyst's response was drowned out by the screeching of protest from the nearby support beams that had been slowly melting into a puddle from the amount of magic concentrated in the vault, giving cause for both queens to whirl around and stare at the ceiling with worry and the expectation that it might collapse at any moment.

"That can't be good." Blue observed nervously.

Manila Folders

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Cheyenne Mountain, Base Outskirts

In the makeshift encampment outside of Cheyenne Mountain, Maria, Ricky and Karol were still waiting on word of their friend Blue. They could see that her children were creating a few buildings off in the distance, but Colonel Bunker had instructed their guards to not allow them anywhere near them for their own safety. Stuck inside of a shade tent and surrounded by crates from the mountain containing whatever could be thrown inside in a rush, the three turned their temporary holding area into a place as comfortable as they could. For the moment, all they could do was listen to the passing conversations of soldiers and worry.

"Hey, heads or tails?" A nearby soldier asked of his partner.

"Tails. Is this what I think it's for?"

"Whoever wins the flip deals with any curious bug. You got a spray bottle?" The soldier asked seriously. "For whatever reason, the main bug's kids don't like dealing with water that much. They buzz right off if you get 'em a little bit wet."

"We're seriously going to defeat a swarm of flying alien bugs with spray bottles? I would've thought there'd be more bullets and explosions, ya know? Maybe like Starship Troopers but on a smaller scale and less terrifying."

"What, that queen isn't scary enough for you? She can shapeshift into whatever she wants in a moments notice. Who's to say we haven't already carried her out of the base or somethin' as a chair?"

"Oh shut up, you know she went in after that other queen a few hours ago. No way we would've carried her out."

"Yeah, but what if that was just one of her bug-children throwing us off? She could be plottin' something."

"Would you two shut up?" Maria interrupted angrily. "Blue isn't like that at all."

The two soldiers turned sideways at Maria before sharing disbelieving looks. "Yeah, and you'd know all about alien life considering you're the kids that 'found' her, right?"

Karol and Ricky were now aware of the confrontation going on and joined Maria at her sides. Maria crossed her arms, "Yes. I do know her, and she is the least threatening thing on this planet!"

"Maria, can I talk with you for a minute?" Ricky asked, placing a hand on Maria's shoulder.

The soldiers returned to their quiet conversation and betting as Ricky walked Maria away. "I know you're worried about how Blue is doing, but we're not going to help her by getting into fights with soldiers."

"You know Blue isn't like what they're saying, Ricky." Maria countered, shrugging off Ricky's hand. "I can't just stand by and listen to them treating her like she's some kind of monster."

"Well..." Karol whispered with a smile, "What do you two say we do something about that?"

"What do you mean, Karol?" Maria asked, huddling with Karol and Ricky to avoid the soldiers eavesdropping on them.

"You know how all of Blue's drones are making buildings and everything next to the mountain?" Karol grinned excitedly, "What do you two say we go visit them; see what's going on? If anybody knows whats going on with Blue, it should be her kids, right?"

"How do you suggest we get past the soldiers? You know the Colonel doesn't want us wandering around." Ricky whispered, looking over his shoulder to ensure the two guards were still distracted.

"Well, I was thinking that--" Karol began, before a very loud clanging sound was heard from within the tent near the back.

"Hey! What's goin' on in there?" A soldier shouted, peeking his head through the tent's doorway.

"Uh, nothing! College stuff!" Karol loudly voiced back. "You know, like, rough housing and hormones and everything?"

The soldier gave a blank stare of annoyance at Karol and decided that investigating further wasn't really worth his pay grade. "Well stop messin' with things, would you?"

"Yep! Can do, sir!" Karol chirped back eagerly, giving an awkward salute.

The soldier then rolled his eyes, pulling the tent doorway shut. The three friends breathed a sigh of relief before refocusing.

"What made that noise?" Maria asked, investigating the back of the tent.

"Maybe something just fell over?" Ricky suggested. "They did put this area together in a hurry."

"Uh, guys?" Karol called just loudly enough to be heard. "Anything odd about this box to you?"

Maria and Ricky joined Karol in staring at a very out of place cardboard box. Just above the box was an open skylight of jagged tent in the square shape of a box.

"Considering that this box wasn't here before, yes." Ricky replied confidently, reaching out to grab the sides of the cardboard box. Before he could fully grasp it, the box moved just out of reach on its own.

"Okay, boxes don't move. Are you a changeling?" Maria asked, her hands on her hips as she looked down on the 'box'.

"No?" The chittering box replied, before shifting unnaturally as if it was folding in on itself. "I'm a box."

The three college students shared a sigh and lunged for the box in unison, grabbing it by the edges to lift it in front of them.

"You're sure about that?" Karol asked with a straight face. "You're a hundred percent box?"

The panicked movements of four small chitinous hooves could be seen flailing underneath the 'cardboard' box. Before long, the box erupted into blue-purple flame to reveal a distressed changeling drone trying to escape from the three of them with very wide eyes.

"Hey-hey, shh." Maria cooed, "Don't worry. We're not going to hurt you, okay?"

"We're friends of Blue Sun." Karol added, motioning for the three to set the changeling down on the grassy ground.

For a moment, the changeling and the three students looked at one another. The drone with suspicion, and the three with wonder and excitement. Karol had a very large smile across her face, hidden by the sleeves of her hoodie. Maria and Ricky were cautious but eager to hear from the small drone that darted its gaze between the three.

"What's your name?" Maria asked softly, leaning down to eye level with the drone. "Or have you been named yet?"

The drone's eyes went even wider at the question, backing up a few steps. "Oh no, no! I've done nothing to deserve an honor like that. Well, not yet, anyway."

"An honor?" Maria asked. "What do you mean?"

"Well, only members of the Queen's royal family are allowed to have names." The drone explained, before its eyes went wide and shoved its hoof into its mouth. "I don't know why I just told you that!" It exclaimed, before realizing something was wrong. Taking its hoof out of its mouth and sputtering, the drone sighed. "Yuck. I don't know why I did that either."

"Maybe its reflexive?" Karol suggested, taking a seat next to the drone. "You know you talk with your wings, right?"

The drone's rolled its eyes, even though said eyes were little more than slightly brighter points of glowing light. "Of course I know that, It's just... nothing is right!" As if to add to its observation, the drone kicked a nearby crate and hissed in pain from it being harder than expected. "Where are the wooden boxes? These things aren't normal! These tents! All these... not minotaur!"

Maria and Karol shared a quick chuckle and explained. "You were only hatched a few hours ago, right?" Ricky asked.

"Uh... yes. But that doesn't make me any less capable than a full growth!" The drone replied defensively.

Maria placed her hand on the drone's forehead, rubbing its carapace. "Hey, we're not making fun of you, okay?" She added soothingly.

The drone looked with confusion at Maria's hand, its eyes nearly crossing. "What are you doing to me?"

Maria placed another hand behind the drone, quickly scooping it up into her arms in a cradle. The drone began buzzing and wiggling with the sudden change, and Maria ran her hand along the neck and shell of the drone to calm it down. "Hey, don't worry, alright?"

After a few moments, the drone began to calm down as its chittering became less frequent. Its wings were draped over the side of Maria's arms and its hooves were curled up next to its underbelly.

"What do you think we should call the drone?" Karol whispered. "I mean, we can't just call all of Blue's kid 'that one drone', you know?"

"I think Blue has to be out of the mountain before we can ask her, right?" Ricky pointed out, ruffling the drone's tail.

"I am so confused right now..." The drone quietly buzzed, its ears folding downward. "Why am I..." It questioned, before yawning.

"Well, I don't think the Colonel really knows whats going on with Blue, but like we discussed earlier, her kids might. There's a convenient hole in the tent now, so all we have to do is finish cutting the hole from the top and sneak out of here, right?" Maria offered.

"With what knife? And how would we do that without the soldiers noticing?" Karol asked, before her gaze shifted to the drone.

"No, we're not using one of Blue's kids as a distraction." Maria immediately replied. "We'll say that we found the drone, which is true, and we're returning it to the rest of them, right?"

"That's not gonna work. They'll just spray it or take it from us." Ricky countered, scratching the side of his face. "Hey, do you think they have any lab outfits in these crates?"

"Think they had time to assign separate key-codes to each crate?" Karol wondered, kneeling down and beginning to press buttons. "Lets try One-one-one-one."

"Karol, there's no way that's going to-" Maria began, before a long beep and a green light from the keypad announced that access was granted. "You're kidding me."

"Hey," Karol shrugged, "Logistics are hard. Gotta find some way to keep things simple. Who wants to carry around a list of boxes and codes for every box?"

"Lets see what we got." Ricky suggested, sliding the lid from the fancy metal box. Peering over the edge, the three were quickly disappointed.

"MRE's?" Maria grumbled. "The mountain was falling down, and they packed food that would survive nuclear fallout?"

"How about another box?" Karol suggested, pressing the same combination of numbers and fortunately opening another box.

Ricky shook his head. "This is rediculous."


The White House

Presidential aides buzzing through the Oval Office were becoming a common sight along with the Starbucks coffee cups that filled every trash can in the building. The halls of the White House were slowly stacking with manila folders filled to bursting with alien sightings, incident reports and collected data on every new kind of Queen that had been dropping out of the sky. President Amelia, for her part, had decided that a ponytail would have to suffice for the rest of her term with all the havoc around. Members of NATO had been calling almost every hour, one after the other since the first news report of an alien meeting had been released. The President's latest call with the British Prime Minister had the fortune of ending positively, but it was only a short moment before a new aide popped their head through a doorway.

"Madam President? The President of Russia is calling on line seven..." She reported, concern etched across the aide's features. "He wasn't very patient."

President Amelia gave a tired nod and picked up the receiver of a newly installed phone brought in to deal with the sudden influx of international traffic. After sparing a moment to brace herself, the president was greeted by the thick accent of her Russian counterpart.

"President Amelia. It is pleasure to be meeting with you."

"President Virtolya. How has the 'alien invasion' been for you?" The president replied with serious tone. "No violent reactions yet, I hope?"

"Nothing of the sort. The few 'Queens' we encounter are more concerned with warm blanket than world domination. Imagine the disappointment of my generals to learn of this news."

"Has anything new happened in your section of the world? We're up to our necks here in international calls."

"Only slight problem." The Russian President replied cautiously. "Have large pillars of black crystal appeared in your mountains? Crackling energy, purple and green?"

Amelia stood from her chair in alarm. "Pillars of crystal? Are any of the Queens causing it?"

"Well you are alien expert, President Amelia. You are supposed to be telling me, da?"

"You know about as much as anyone else, Virtolya. Do your forces need assistance? The President of Germany has had forces sitting on their hands since all of this started." Amelia optimistically suggested while shifting manila bricks of paperwork to the edges of her desk, making room for an inbound stack of even more reports heading her way via the Intern Express.

"I doubt these aliens will be like your Independence Day, President Amelia. In any case, more assistance would be welcomed. Tell the Germans to pack for cold weather this time, would you?" Virtolya joked before switching into a more serious tone. "Is this all that has happened since our last conversation?"

Amelia paused for a moment, switching the receiver from one ear to the other while glossing over a new report. "Well, according to this fat folder in front of me, apparently not."

"What is report?"

Flipping through the pages with helpfully included pictures and highlighted wording, the President relayed the information in front of her. "You remember the report earlier about the media Queen's eggs hatching and melting one of our bases?"

"It still makes me feel warm inside." Virtolya chuckled. "Yes, I remember."

"Turns out that Queen's progeny have been busy. They've already set up what our best and brightest are guessing to be hospitals, living quarters, watch towers and a shrine... to their queen. Of course." Amelia sighed, flipping through more of the report.

"I like her already! Statues are always a sign of self important leadership. Egotistic behavior can be exploited to our advantages, da?"

"The report goes on to state that some of the 'drones' as they're being called, have taken up leadership roles in the Queen's absence. They already have what appears to be a General and an engineer. The aliens could be caste based, so look for other queens attempting to lay eggs. We don't need this getting out of control any more than it already is." President Amelia reasoned, switching the receiver's side again. "And Virtolya?"

"Da, Madam President?"

"Be sure to keep China and India in the loop on this. They haven't contacted us during this whole debacle for some reason."

"They've not? We assumed they had been in contact with you all of this time."


India, Region Unknown

"Yes! Feed, my children!"

A very maniacal looking changeling queen with a dark teal mane and green eyes had sillouetted themselves on a nearby mound of dirt overlooking a chittering swarm of agitated changeling drones. Every color, size and temperament of drone could be seen, and one theme was common amongst them all.

"No, get that out of your mouth!" Queen Chrysalis shouted, smacking a red colored changeling with the clunky looking metallic device she wielded across its face. "That's plastic!"


View Online

"Lieutenant Olive, any sign of movement from the hive entrance?"

An 'away team' comprised of a few volunteer soldiers and eager scientists was on a slow approach to the quickly rising alien structures that had begun to form around Cheyenne Mountain's base entrance. Lieutenant Olive was volun-told to lead the mission while the senior officers and scientists monitored their progress via the team's helmet cameras. Colonel Bunker was becoming worried about the queens that she had been ordered to safeguard. Several hours had passed since their initial flight into what remained of the base and it was well past the time to investigate.

The ground leading towards the cluster of alien structures, what Doctor Vahlen had dubbed 'The Hive', was coated in what appeared to be Dursine. The grassy ground would suddenly give way to this new material as if it belonged there like a buried bolder the size of a parking lot while it merged with the high rising structures that the drones swarmed around to create with expediency. The buildings spiraled upward with a fleshy and almost organic quality to them, despite their durability. Lieutenant Olive could see several larger and apparently armored changelings giving his group a suspicious glare.

"There's quite a lot of movement. Warriors are camped out atop the structures and in what seems to be windows." Olive reported, his handheld radio scratching audibly with static. "That's strange..." Olive voiced quietly to himself, "There shouldn't be any interference this close to the radio tower."

He looked behind himself towards the base and to the makeshift radio array that allowed temporary communications in the remote area. Using cell phones wasn't a secure method of communication, and Colonel Bunker was following standard procedure anyway. Olive clicked his radio on once more to continue his report. "Are you getting interference on your end? We might be having some kind of equipment malfunction, over."

There was no immediate reply from the lead operations post, so Olive took the moment to check in with his team. "Muldaney. Anything?"

A soldier to Olive's right shook his head. "I don't have anything that you don't, Lieutenant. There's not exactly an 'alien incursion unit' where they get trained for this sort of thing, is there?" He pointed with all of his fingers in a flat and knife-like movement towards the nearby changelings that had started to gather around them. "Think they'll attack us?"

The drones that had spotted the group seemed not to be warriors. They were far smaller than their armored counterparts and their glowing eyes seemed more curious than wary. A brave changeling moved its way through the group of its hive-mates to stand directly opposite to Olive. Its head tilted sideways, what would normally have been in the place of an eyebrow raising with its carapace in curiosity. "What are you?" The drone chittered in a higher pitch. "Not minotaur?"

A scientist quietly gasped joyfully at the mentioning of a mythological creature while Olive responded calmly. "We're humans, and you're on planet Earth. What's your name? My 'name' is Olive. At least now it is." He added with a quiet grumble. Lieutenant Olive was originally named Lieutenant Shepard, but thanks to circumstances beyond his control, he had been re-branded as a playful joke amongst the base personnel.

"You are named 'Olive'?" A different drone asked eagerly. "Do you plant olives? Are you a farmer?"

"It's more of an inside joke, really." Olive replied tactfully.

"We do not have names, Olive." The first drone answered. "The queen must see us worthy of a name, and we would not overstep in asking for one. It is a great honor to be named!"

"You must be very important to have a name, Human Olive." The second drone added. "Are you part of the royal family of your own hive?"

"Well, I guess you could say I'm something like that. It's not entirely accurate, but close enough." Olive smiled before changing topics. "Have you heard from your queen in a while? She went into the base earlier and none of us have anything to go by, and we're getting worried."

The demeanor of the drones gathered around changed rapidly. They looked amongst themselves with worry and anxiety before a few in the fringes of the group flew away towards their hive. The first changeling gathered their composure and shakily replied, "W-well, um, you tried, I guess?"

"Hey bug," The soldier known as Muldaney interrupted, "You know of any other people that look like us around here? We have some missing persons that we'd sure love to not list as KIA. We heard you got some kinda hospital around here?"

The drone was taken off guard by the soldier's questions but soon replied, "There were some not-minotaur we found crawling around outside, so we brought them to the building..." The drone turned around, their right hoof on the side of their face while they buzzed unintelligibly to them self. They seemed to be looking for a specific structure, and sure enough it soon pointed one out with its hoof. "That one! It's the one with the blue mist next to the queen's tribute."

Olive followed the small changeling's hoof to a multi-storied structure in the distance next to a large replica of Queen Blue Sun standing very authoritatively in a plaza surrounded by watchful warrior drones.

"I can take you there if you want. The queen said not to upset any of you, and I think it's considered rude to let 'guests' wander around lost..." The drone meekly added, looking up at Olive. "So, um. You want to go?"

"Lead the way, buddy." The lieutenant replied while gesturing towards the building in the distance. The group readied itself and moved after the quickly traveling drone that had begun to weave its way through the mass of fellow changelings. After some uncomfortable chittering and fierce stares, the hive began to split in half and partially take to the skies in order to allow the team passage.

"Kind of makes you feel special, doesn't it?" Muldaney quipped with a smirk. "Red carpet and everything soon, right?"

"Just keep your rifle pointed to the floor, corporal." A nervous scientist whispered behind the two soldiers. "We still don't know what actions will provoke the hive into... self defense."

"Come on, doc. Have you even paid attention to these bugs? They can't stand up against a water bottle. What makes you think they're any kind of threat to us?" Corporal Muldaney reasoned, taking his left hand from his rifle to point out a distracted changeling that was staring at the statue of their queen with an open mouth of awe.


Inside Cheyenne Mountain

"You know, I'm actually surprised the mountain hasn't collapsed on us fully by now."

Blue Sun pulled her head from a stuck together clump of dirt and rock to witness Queen Catalyst attempting to brush debris from her orange and red mane. "Were the pretty rocks worth the near death experience?" She coughed.

The 'rainbow rocks' as they had been dubbed were collected in a pile next to the black and orange queen, her tail draped over half of them as Catalyst sat down to fiddle with her mane even more. She was having difficulty using her hooves as a brush for reasons that seemed to escape her. "Definitely worth it!" she replied with frustration. "They even give a painful jolt of magic whenever you touch them. I should place them all around my sleeping chambers to wake up in the morning! Maybe I could use them to ward off curious dragons!" She added with a pained buzzing as a clump resisted her efforts to become untangled.

Using her wings to create a burst of air, Blue both maneuvered her legs free of rubble and blasted a cloud of dust over the both of them. Queen Catalyst seemed even more annoyed by the slowly settling particulate and shoved over a rock with her hind leg, sending it clattering across the broken concrete flooring. Reaching out with a hoof, Blue gingerly tapped the rainbow colored glowing rock and jerked away. A loud crackle discharged from the rock and scorched what remained of the structure around them with a short screech of magical energy. Their manes standing on end and in every direction, the two shared a look of discovery before Blue tapped the rock once more with a gleeful expression.

"Would you stop tapping the rocks!?" Catalyst protested, "Once was enough!"

Blue paused for a moment, her hoof hovering over the rock. "Did you feel that?" She asked with wonder.

Catalyst's eyes narrowed as she struggled with a clump in her mane. "Feel what?"

Blue's hoof drifted closer to the rock, just far enough away to not make contact. "From the rock, when it does its zapping thing." Blue explained. "Watch." Another tap, and a small spark zapped off of the rock and arced across Blue's hoof. She smiled widely at Catalyst and tapped the rock once more.

Catalyst was not amused, and her mane was in an even greater state of disarray. "What are you talking about, Blue Sun?"

"These rocks have love in them!" Blue explained excitedly, tapping the rock again. "Whenever I tap them, I get a burst of energy. They're like batteries!"

Now Catalyst was confused. "Batteries?" she asked with a raised brow. "You're speaking nonsense, and I also don't feel any love from those rocks. Maybe the collapse took what was left of your mind along with it."

A pile of rubble shifted in the corner of the room, drawing the attention of the two queens. A white hoof poked out from the top of a mound, and was accompanied by muffled chittering and strained buzzing.

"The defective." Catalyst hissed, hopping to her hooves and charging her horn. "It's awake."

"Augh..." The defective groaned, "Was I struck by lightning or a fireball?" Tapping itself on the head a few times and shaking itself free of dust, the drone stood atop a small chunk of half melted concrete intermixed with charred glass and twisted pipes. "It felt like it was both!"

"Are you alright?" Blue Sun asked, carefully approaching her drone with concern. "You can stand, so that's good." She glanced at Catalyst with annoyance, "All things considered."

"My Queen!" The white drone chirped with glee, "How may I serve the hive?"

"Not killing all of them with hunger would be an excellent start!" Catalyst called from further away, as she had been inching towards what remained of the room's doorway since the drone had awoken.

"I would never endanger the hive!" The drone barked back angrily. "I would give my life for it!"

Blue Sun softly rested her hoof on the drone's back, gaining its attention. With a soft melodically buzzing voice Blue tried to ease the drone's worries. "I am glad that you are alright, but we must leave this mountain before it shifts again. You are not in trouble, and you don't need to worry about the hive's reaction to you when we leave. I will ensure your safety." She added with a pleasant smile, (For a sharp toothed and fanged changeling queen).

"Heartwarming." Catalyst deadpanned. "Let's leave before the roof collapses."

"Here," Blue Sun quietly mentioned, "Take these gems into your care. I think they will be useful later."

With the defective drone being given its first task, its big blue and purple eyes lit up with wonder and duty, returning a smile to its queen and taking the sparkling gems along with it in its hooves where the holes were. They turned out to make perfect holding spots for them, and Blue Sun approved of the ingenuity. With Catalyst leading the way from the inner workings of the facility in order to get away from the defective, their time left in Cheyenne mountain would end quickly.

Catalyst was carving a path straight out of the mountain with her magic.


'Away Team'
Entering Alien Hospital

What counted for doorways in a changeling building was something the away team had never seen in any science fiction movie. The drone in front had lead them to the flat surface of a tall building near the central plaza of their makeshift town, and right before the scientists and soldiers had begun to question the alien's sense of direction, a tear in the building opened itself in front of their eyes. A cool mist began flooding from the opening, causing the team's skin to bristle on contact. It seeped straight through their uniforms and protective equipment, greatly worrying the science team that had come along.

"What's the point of a sealed suit if alien fog can just float right on through it!" One scientist remarked, ripping off his gloves and pulling his head free from the sweaty helmet with a suctioned pop. "Nothing makes any sense with these creatures, I tell you."

"Keep your glasses on, Doc." Muldaney quipped while reaffirming the grip on his rifle, "I don't want any of this to go Xenomorph on us, so if I see an egg, I'm bookin' it."

"That isn't how the changelings work." Lieutenant Olive calmly replied, taking the first step through the 'doorway' onto a moist, almost mosslike floor. "It's more... unexpected." he added cryptically.

"Oh, you would know." Muldaney muttered under his breath, following after the Lieutenant and uneasily testing the floor beneath him before fully committing his weight. "I'm Olive, all the aliens love me, I sprayed their queen with a fire extinguisher, nyah nya nyah."

As the rest of the away team made their way into the structure, they spread out with awe and caution. The fog that had drifted out from the doorway had been originating from the very top of the building. Over some kind of organic and sturdy railing sat an orb-like blob of mass that continuously pulsed out the fog, almost like breathing. There were no stairs, and unsurprisingly there weren't elevators either. The drones within the 'hospital' simply walked across the ceiling or up to the next floor. Some even flew in a dash from room to room, finding other patients to tend to.

What drew the eye of the Lieutenant was a certain human in the corner. "Jack? Is that you?"

The man in question was laid on his back in what seemed to be a reclining hospital bed made of the same mossy-resin of the floor. Two changelings quietly buzzed near him working tirelessly on something that Olive couldn't make out. Bringing Muldaney along with him and informing the rest of the soldiers and scientists to have a look around, the Lieutenant made his way towards the missing in action operative.

"No, not like that, just- give me that part!" Jack grumbled as the two got into earshot. A changeling buzzed further back to hover in the air next to Jack, and it was revealed that the two changelings had been attempting work on something approaching a wicker sun hat. "There, see? You make the brim of the hat wider so it catches more sun and keeps it off of your head."

"Jack?" Olive asked uncertainly. "Are you alright?"

"You finally made it!" Jack O'Neill rejoiced. "I've been stuck in this... wonderful hospital ever since the base went to hell." He added with careful sarcasm. "Take a look at my arm." He asked abruptly, pointing to his left arm with a sly smile. "See anything out of the ordinary?"

The arm in question was slightly tanned as was the rest of his body, for some reason missing a shirt and most of his clothing. What stood in its place was some kind of thin fabric with a blue-ish purple shine almost like plastic. On closer inspection, Olive noticed that his arm was lacking any hairs on it whatsoever. "They shaved it?" Olive guessed.

"Not even close, but kind of close." Jack replied smugly. "This arm was a complete wreck. Toasted down to the bone with bits of muscle looking like steak before these gracious little bugs decided to drag my unconscious body to their hospital thing and give me a once over."

"We did not drag you." A drone pointed out with a raised hoof. "You were flown."

O'neill waved a dismissive right hand to the hovering drone. "Semantics. You still saved my arm and probably my life."

Olive was caught offguard by this revelation and took a moment to collect his thoughts. Looking around the room, he noticed that the drones had apparently done their best to mimic a normal human hospital bed, probably taking guesses based on Jack's descriptions and doing their best with the resources available. The lieutenant spotted a few 'salvaged' metal boxes fused into the wall nearby with clear logos of the base's operational number on the side, but there were other far more important things that needed to be addressed first.

"You seem to be in a good mood, Jack." Olive noted. "You feeling alright?"

A drone butted in before O'neill could answer. "The patient is probably feeling a little loopy from all the... fun things we put in the air. They should wear off when he leaves, but if you're uninjured, they shouldn't have any effect."

Olive raised an eyebrow at that, and Muldaney arrived almost unheard from the softness of the mossy floor. "Lieutenant, you're gonna want to see this."

Giving the changelings a questioning look and getting pleasant waves of alien hooves in return, Olive followed Muldaney to the center of the hospital where the group of scientists had gathered around. Making his way through the crowd, he witnessed a large glowing pool of thick liquid in the floor with a round barrier covering the edges. The liquid moved as if something was causing waves within it and the scientists nearby were murmuring theories and sharing baffled head shakes at what they were looking at.

"Bit of a trip, ain't it?" Muldaney commented, gesturing to the moving pool of liquid. "Blue and purple, just like everything else in this freakin' hive."

"Has anyone figured out what it's for?" Olive questioned, leaning down to try and look through the almost slimy looking liquid. "Or why it's just in the middle of the room?"

"We could try asking a changeling, Lieutenant." A scientist suggested. "They haven't given us trouble thus far, despite our worries."

With a shrug, Olive attempted to wave over a changeling to ask it just that. Eventually, and after earning a few awkward hoof waves in return, one changeling finally understood what the Lieutenant was trying to do and flew down to greet them.

"Hello! How may I help you, friends of the Queen?" The drone pleasantly chittered, its eyes wide and searching.

"Hey, what's this goop do?" Muldaney asked bluntly with a thumb jabbing over his shoulder towards the pool in the center.

Looking to Muldaney, and then to the pool, the changeling ceased flight and landed softly on the moss-like ground of the hospital. Apologising for bumping into scientists and armed soldiers, the alien made its way to the edge of the pool and dipped a chitinous hoof into it, scooping out the material as it jiggled itself into place.

"It fixes stuff." The drone replied equally bluntly. "We put it on hurt drones, and the drones get better." It added, pointing to Jack O'Neill in the corner who was still making finishing touches on his sun hat. "We didn't know what it would do to you... not-minotaur things, but we figured it was better than doing nothing. Apparently it works almost as well on you as it does us."

"Almost?" A scientist asked while scribbling down notes. "What do you mean by that?"

The drone frowned, making its fangs less pronounced for a moment as its face contorted. "It takes more goop to fix you. More goop means more love needed to make the goop, so... we need to improvise. Your friend over there was disheartened for some reason, and we did what we could to cheer him up. In return, we gained some measure of affection, and were able to heal his wounds. We also topped off our supply from the excess, which is very beneficial for the hive!" The drone added with some enthusiasm and pride.

"You getting all of this?" Olive asked, tapping the side of his helmet-cam.

"Affirmative, Lieutenant Olive." Colonel Bunker chimed in. "We're getting new reports of seismic activity out here. Something is happening in the mountain again. Is that building secure? Things are shaking all over here."

The hospital seemed grounded, and had the Colonel not mentioned the commotion outside, Olive would have been completely oblivious. "Not a single rumble here, Colonel."

"Maybe we should make bunkers out of whatever this stuff is." Muldaney added, now tapping the ground with a more appreciative intent. "Doesn't care about anything, does it?"

"Stay inside of that building until you hear an all clear. Out." The Colonel ordered.


The Crystal Empire
Crystal Throne Room

A wall of guards lined the far side of the room in a complete stupor. Bits of ceiling chipped off and clacked to the ground beneath it, sometimes glancing off of a guard's helm. Paper fluttered across the room in a complete mess before settling down, and a very frazzled looking purple alicorn stood with widely spaced hooves and even wider eyes at the circular scorch mark that dominated the center of the room.

Galloping hooves announced the approach of Prince Shining Armor and Princess Cadance, followed by an upset Queen Sanguine. The three moved past the stunned guards while taking in the scene before them. Windows had been shattered, glass had melted where it lay, and a gust of wind carried bits of cracked crystal and dust around the room. The thrones themselves had been split in two with dark purple crystals prying them apart. Tapestries had been shredded, bits of colorful cloth and the empire's flag intermixed in the scene of destruction and the room was silent.

Twilight tried to blink away her confusion and turned to the waiting assembly of ponies behind her. "So... um..." She announced nervously. "It turns out I did a whole lot more than I intended with that book of Sombra's."

Shining Armor and Cadence were equally confused, and Sanguine was annoyed. "What do you mean, Twilight?" Shining asked.

"Well..." Twilight nervously trailed, "It turns out it wasn't just a book written by Sombra, it was one of his phylacteries. He's a whole lot more powerful than anypony knew, I suppose!"

"Phylacteries?" Cadence asked. "I could swear I've heard of them before."

Twilight nodded, taking swift steps away from the still smoking crater in the center of the room. "They're really bad news, especially with Sombra involved."

"Just what exactly happened in this room?" Queen Sanguine asked while bumping a guard aside. "It looks like somepony exploded in here."

"He may have heard about a certain baby alicorn?" Twilight cringed. "I swore he was just a ghost, honestly! I mean, who could've known that the real King Sombra would just re-appear some day because somepony opened a book!? It wasn't my fault that he immediately went and opened a portal to who knows where in search of some magical gems and-"

"Wait, he knew about Flurry Heart?" Shining Armor nervously, his eyes wide with fear. "Did he get her? Where is she?"

Twilight placed a hoof on her brothers side. "Flurry Heart is fine, Shiny. Sombra got sidetracked the second he found something was missing in this room. I guess he figured a baby alicorn would be next to the throne room because he always kept his most important things in here, like the Crystal Heart when he was still in power."

"What kind of gems?" Cadence asked, still wanting to check on her daughter but also interested in what Twilight had to say.

"I told him that the Crystal Heart had been shattered, and... then accidently about Flurry Heart, but when he got here, he went crazy. Magic flew everywhere and I tried to stop him, but then he just tore open a hole in the fabric of reality and leaped through! All I saw was a bunch of snow on the other side and some... mintoaur that didn't look like minotaur. They were thinner, they had clothing on and they didn't have horns either. Some loud bangs happened that hurt my ears, and the next thing I knew was this giant hole in the floor."

Twilight was shaken at this point, taking deeper breaths to offset the realizations that had just reached her mind during her explanation of her story. "If he's out there somewhere, hurting other ponies because of something I did whether I meant to or not, I have to do something to stop him."

"And how do you suppose you'll do that, Princess of Friendship?" Sanguine sneered. "Follow the example of a reborn king and 'tear open reality' like he did?"

Twilight's horn lit with a powerful lavender glow. "Well..." She calmly replied, using her wings to distance herself from the group. "Somepony has to do it, and Celestia taught me a thing or two about dark magic. I'm sure I can copy his spell and--"

"Twilight, hold on a minute." Cadence interrupted in an almost scolding tone. "What did I tell you about magic?"

Sparkle was confused, her horn ceasing its glow as she drifted to the ground. "Huh?"

"When you were a little filly, you would always try to use magic to solve every problem you had, without thinking. You're distressed, you're upset and you're worried. You're not thinking clearly right now, and I don't want you to get hurt because of it." Cadence explained, walking toward Twilight. "You have friends to help you, and the Princess of Friendship shouldn't have to do anything alone, should she?" Cadence added with a smile.

"Oh please, I'm all for affection and love but this is making me sick." Sanguine gagged.

"Don't worry, I didn't mean you." Cadence sassed at the grumpy queen. "I meant Twilight's friends in Ponyville and the powerful magic users she already knows. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. They've been around longer than anypony, so they might know the right way to follow Sombra to where ever he's gone."

Twilight took a deep breath and slowly exhaled the stress from her body. "You're right. I'll see what I can do. In the mean time, please don't open any other books in the library? I don't want another Sombra to hunt down on top of this one. Or worse."

"You got it, sis." Shining Armor smiled, quickly adding a light hearted jab. "Next time though, try not to have the evil not-dead king blow up our living room?"

Status Report

View Online

Cheyenne Mountain

An explosion of dust came from the mountainside, followed quickly by an orange ball of of slowly drifting energy that dripped molten rock in its wake. All eyes were on the orb, looking to see what had emerged after being in the tunnels of the base for so long.

"Hello!" The cheery voice of Blue Sun greeted the changelings below her. "Have you been good to the humans?"

A few chitters of nervous discussion were heard before some drones flew off in separate directions, each soon returning with an adviser in tow. Catalyst's orange magical orb drifted slowly to the ground, landing with a slight roll as it glanced off of the dursine flooring before bursting into flame and disintegrating. The two queens and the bejeweled defective changeling stood opposite to the row of eager advisers, waiting for their report.

"Queen, not-minotaur curious. Few hurt from mountain. I expand hive! Very small now, but big soon." The Hive adviser quickly blurted, their eagerness following their steps toward Blue Sun. The drone's progress was halted by a larger, more armored hoof pressing against their chest.

"The defective." The Warrior adviser stated. "It still lives? Has its hunger not overtaken it?" The adviser added with narrowed glowing eyes to the white drone hiding behind Blue Sun.

"Every drone is precious to me, Warrior adviser. I would never hurt any of my hive." Blue reminded all of the advisers. "When I went after Queen Catalyst and the defective, we were able to find these strange rainbow rocks that hold love like a battery." She explained, pointing to the mentioned rocks that rested in the defective's leg holes.

"A battery?" A nearby drone questioned, its head turned sideways with confusion.

"It doesn't matter right now," Catalyst stated with a dismissive wave of her hoof. Her mood quickly turned sour when she pointed to the hive they all stood in. "What does matter, is the absurdly large structures you've built on the human's territory!"

Blue's attention was now grabbed by all the buildings around her, part of her bursting with pride that her hive had accomplished so much in only a few hours. "Did you speak with Colonel Bunker about this?" She asked calmly, turning to the advisers assembled before her. "Or Doctor Vahlen?" Blue added, and saw the Hive adviser shrink away nervously. "Chief Shen?"

"N-no, my Queen. I thought you like big hive." The Hive adviser explained. "You gone so long, I have to do something. What is drone without hive?"

Catalyst buzzed with annoyance while looking to Blue Sun. "This is your hive, Blue Sun. Punishment is up to you, not me."

Blue sighed. "I'll have to speak with Colonel Bunker about this. Hopefully she isn't upset." Blue then turned to motion the defective forward to the center of the discussion. The white drone nervously obeyed the command of her queen, its ears folded down while trying to appear as non threatening as possible.

"Warrior adviser." Blue commanded, "You will bring the defective somewhere safe in the hive for now while I speak with the humans. No matter what, the defective is not to be harmed."

The adviser bowed its head. "Yes, my queen!"

"What about me?" The hive adviser asked. "Punishment?"

Catalyst appeared unhappy with the drone but Blue barely noticed. She instead placed a hoof on the adviser's shoulder, causing it to flinch with worry at what might happen. "I will speak with Colonel Bunker. If everything is alright, then we'll just have a talk. If she isn't happy, then we'll have a talk."

The adviser's eyes widened at that before bowing. "Yes, my queen."

"Now, what do you all have to tell me about what's been going on since I went into the mountain?" Blue asked her advisers.


North Atlantic Treaty Organization Unofficial War-room

A large room with an equally absurd round table dominating the center was filled with heads of state and generals from all sections of the globe, each standing huddled in small pockets of allegiance to either their home country or political allies. The room was cold with stone floors and metal furniture; one large LED screen presenting a grand map of the world large enough to park a bus onto embedded in the wall that dominated the attention of everyone present.

Blips of color showed regional conflicts, the countries themselves outlined by green, yellow or red for which countries had been unaffected, reported sightings, or who had lost contact all together. The countries of China and India were bright red with Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia being a reddish-yellow.

"What the hell are they doing here?" The Prime Minister from Britain whispered, pointing to the small cluster of gentlemen from North Korea. "Did they want to come make more demands now that there's aliens everywhere?"

His train of thought was soon interrupted by the South Korean President cautiously approaching his northern counterpart. The two groups stood opposite another in an icy standoff that attracted attention from others in the room, each leader staring the other down. Taking a few slow steps forward and raising the tension even further, the North Korean leader stopped just a few paces in front of the South Korean President. The two stood there, staring at one another for what seemed like an eternity before the North Korean leader made the first move.

"In light of the recent invasion, I wish to discuss peace between our peoples." He stated carefully, offering a sincere bow to the South Korean President to assure him of his resolve. Continuing to speak from his bow the North Korean added, "I will unite Korea as one, under the people's rule, but now is not the time to be fighting a war on two fronts."

The South Korean President was taken aback by this sudden shift in policy, even more so to the fact that his long time rival had just given a symbol of respect by bowing to him. In return, he bowed as well without comment before the two arose. "Is this simply another truce?" he asked cautiously.

The other shook his head. "No, it is a genuine peace. I will not have my generals worry about an invasion from South Korea and her allies while we will be under inevitable siege by these freakish monsters from space. This is, of course, assuming we can trust you."

"Very well then. We will have to formalize this after the meeting today." The South Korean President agreed, still shaken by this unexpected development.

"Leaders of the world!" A voice announced, calling attention away from the meeting of the two Koreas. "Please find your seats; The meeting is about to begin."

The two leaders nodded at another and took their seats. After a few minutes, the rest of the people gathered had found their places and awaited the report on what was happening.

The Russian president was the first to stand, motioning to the map behind him. "As you can see, the world is under attack." he stated pointedly. "It is not Russia you should all fear for once, it is these invaders from another world." He added, pressing a button on the laptop before him to add a picture to the large screen. The image of a town being swarmed by hundreds of changelings with different colors popped up, followed by photos of people being coated in a slime-like material before being cocooned and carried off.

"So far, the armies of the world have been ineffective against this foe." The Russian explained, showing a video of Russian soldiers firing away at very hot bubble shields that slowly approached them made from different colors of magic. "Standard munitions do nothing against these barriers, and they are too hot to approach. These aliens, dubbed 'changelings' by American scientists, are able to maneuver through them with ease and seem immune to the heat generated by them."

Another slide appeared, this time in a smog covered city in China. "They are masters of ambush and assault," he continued, a new video clip showing meteors raining from above the city and crashing into buildings with large chunks of debris raining in a dusty cloud below. "They become the weapons themselves, as we have been unable to find a single device amongst them that would be capable of this kind of destruction."

"Well they must have something that fuels that kind of destruction." The British Prime Minister pointed out. "They can't wage a war entirely on will alone, can they?"

"Why are they wrapping people in those cocoons?" The French President asked. "Are they taking them somewhere?"

"What are those shields made of?" The Israeli President questioned. "Not even a tank shell was able to get through it from what I just witnessed!"

"Our best guess," The American President stated, "Is that these aliens are fueled by 'love'."

The entire room slowly turned to stare at President Amelia. "It sounds insane, given what they're doing on the screen, I know." She continued, unphased by the room's attention. "If you remember, we were in contact with the changelings just weeks before this invasion happened. Scientists have been studying as much as they could about the changelings, and from what they tell us, they live entirely off of emotions, the most powerful of them being love."

"That's absolutely ridiculous!" The French President blurted, pointing to the still image of a changeling pouncing on an Asian citizen. "Does that look like the face of a creature of love to you!?"

Amelia shook her head. "It could be a disease of some kind that makes them behave this way, we're not certain. What we do know, however, is that not all of them are so cartoonishly evil as this invasion makes them appear." She replied, pointing to the same photo. Pressing a button on her own laptop, a new image of Blue Sun waving and smiling to a scientist appeared.

"Cute." The North Korean leader deadpanned.

"This is Queen Blue Sun. She has been under voluntary study with us the past few weeks and has shown absolutely no signs of aggression or hostile action during her stay." Amelia explained, pressing another button. Now an image of Blue being covered in her slowly swarming grubs was shown, one of them nibbling on her ear. Grumbles of disgust dotted the room's vocalizations, yet Amelia continued. "Queen Blue Sun is the leader of her hive, and her hive all share the same characteristics as she does. Blue-Purple in coloration, even tempered, respectful of others, and a need to ensure that their hive gains enough love to sustain itself and grow."

"So they are parasites of love?" The French President questioned. "If they wish for love, then why attack us? They will gain nothing but fear and hatred if this is their plan."

"One common thing we've noticed is that these swarms of changelings are all colored differently, yet we haven't seen a single queen among them." Amelia explained. "Our scientists theorize that this could be the result of a lack of organization or leadership."

"How did they even get here?" The German Prime Minister questioned. "If they are so leaderless, then they should have never made it to our planet in the first place."

The Russian President took the stage now, revealing a photograph of large crystalline pillars arching with purple-green energy. "Not long before this invasion began, some kind of wormhole opened in northern Siberia. A different kind of alien emerged and attacked the local garrison, killing all present. Before we lost communication, helmet cameras were able to transmit the incursion to us."

A video soon displayed showing Russian soldiers on patrol returning to their base via truck, the group complaining about the cold and sharing cigarettes. No sooner had the truck reached a gated checkpoint did a loud screeching pierce the lazy calm of the base. The soldier's view shifted wildly, wondering where the sound had come before a leader ordered them out of the truck and to enter the base.

The video cut ahead, showing the soldier with a few of his allies hiding in a dark room, their rifles all pointed towards the door in front of them. For a few tense moments, nothing happened. The soldiers questioned each other, asking if the creature had gone. Soon after, the doorway they had been guarding burst open in a spray of metal shards and splintered wood causing the soldiers to seek cover. A few gunshots rang out loudly in the small room before a cloud of black smoke billowed forth and swarmed each soldier one by one. The viewpoint of the last solder saw the bodies of his comrades completely drained of life, like mummified husks crumpled with clothing suddenly made far too large for what remained of their bodies. The video cuts out to static on a freeze frame of red eyes with a green background and purple smoke radiating outward.

The room was deathly quiet after witnessing the video, and the Russian President continued. "We do not know for certain if this is related to the invasion in Asia, but this creature appeared in the same moments as they did. It is safe to assume they may be related and act accordingly."

"So we have alien bugs and a smoke monster invading the world." The Canadian Prime Minister put succinctly. "What are we going to do about it?"

"Obviously, we must find some way to counter these invaders." The French President stated. "I don't think anyone here is planning on allowing their people to become food for these changelings and smoke monsters, are they?"

"What do you suggest? We have tried all that we can think of within the realm of reason." The Japanese Prime Minister pointed out. "Perhaps your friend Queen Blue Sun may be able to help?" he asked to Amelia.

The room soon became a low rumble of discussion and ideas bouncing off of each other, each leader and general unable to come up with something that might help with their current situation. Faces became covered in the palms of frustration as quickly as ties came undone from stress. Old enemies began speaking together after their usual connections could think of nothing, and the room joined together in a mess of worry about what was happening. As tensions reached their threshold and concern gave way to exaggeration, the temperature of the room shifted quite suddenly. One of the nearby stone walls had begun emitting a cold fog that drifted lazily to the ground in a cloud, and the leaders of the world backed away as bodyguards and secret service members formed a line of pistols and sub-machine guns between the fog and their leaders.


Equestria, Throne Room of the Crystal Empire

The blackened crater in the center of the room was billowing fog from it, becoming a mysterious pool with worried voices of distortion coming through. Princesses Twilight, Cadence, Celestia and Luna stood around the pool looking in.

"You're certain this is where Chrysalis went?" Queen Sanguine questioned, giving the pool a suspicious look from further back.

"I am certain." Celestia stated. "My sight extends to where ever the rays of the sun touch, and I have seen thousands upon thousands of changelings on this world."

Queen Sanguine was taken aback by this. "Wait, any sun?"

Luna was the next to speak up. "I control the arrangement of the stars, Queen Sanguine. Did you think that our world was simply draped in a blanket of my creation?"

Queen Sanguine was now left open mouthed and questioning her place in the cosmos at that moment as the Princesses continued unphased. "Are all of us going there?" Twilight asked somewhat nervously. "What if they don't want our help?"

"King Sombra has escaped to their world through same magic that I taught you to defeat him, Twilight." Celestia explained. "He is our problem, as well as Queen Chrysalis. Neither of them should be where they are, and it is our duty to bring them back."

"We must remain here, in order to safeguard Equestria and maintain what balance remains in the cosmos." Luna explained.
"Once again, it will be solely up to you, and your friends, to save the day." she added with a small amount of bitterness.

"My friends are coming?" Twilight asked with a mix of excitement and nervousness. "How did they find out?"

At that moment, the doors leading to the chamber burst open with Pinkie Pie leading the way. Her bouncy entrance soon skidding to a halt at the sight of the foggy pool and her eyes went wide. "Whoa! Far out!"

The remaining elements walked or flew in after Pinkie, all seeing the pool for themselves before spotting Twilight. "We came as quick as we could, Sugarcube." Applejack announced. "All our cutie marks started glowing and when we couldn't find you at the castle we got a message from the Princess tellin' us to come quick."

"Are we really going to another world?" Fluttershy added nervously. "I mean, we've been to the Breezie's world and that was nice, but nopony has been where ever we're going, have they?"

Luna and Celestia shared a uncomfortable smile for a moment before Celestia reassured them. "We may have been known to them in the past as Khonsu, but they've hopefully forgotten us long ago by now. I'm certain that you'll all do well. You've fought Tirek and Discord together and emerged unharmed, haven't you?"

A nearby vase came to life with the likeness of Discord himself blowing literal raspberries at Celestia before reverting to its original ceramic form. The scene was so common for the all present that none batted an eyelash, save for Queen Sanguine who was now even more confused.

"Khonsu?" Twilight questioned. "Why have I never heard that name before?"

"Well..." Luna explained with an awkward smile, "It was one of our darker phases that we don't like to talk about."

"They may have a book about us, now that I think about it." Celestia mused.

"Do you think they still write in Hieroglyphics?" Luna added, also interested.

"Well, the world isn't going to save itself, is it?" Rainbow Dash interrupted, pointing to the noisy pool of fog below her steady hover. "A bunch of creatures in trouble, a bunch of changelings causing problems and King Sombra being evil. Sounds like a job for us!"

"Speaking of changelings," Rarity pointed out, "Will you be coming with us, Queen...?"

"Sanguine." The orange queen finished. "No, I have to remain here to watch after the changelings that refused Chrysalis. Without me they would probably cause the same havoc they are where you're going, or simply starve."

The six elements, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Twilight moved closer to the pit with expressions from surety to anxiety. Twilight took a deep breath to marshal her courage before stating, "Well girls, its now or never."

"Yay, adventure!" Pinkie Pie shouted, swan diving into the portal and vanishing with a huge cloud of fog to announce her exit from the world.


North Atlantic Treaty Organization Unofficial War-room

The guards standing in front of the portal didn't have to wait long before the growing sound of cheer grew closer to the room. Aiming their weapons with renewed purpose and suspicion, they were greeted by the embodiment of pink in pony form sliding across the floor, forehooves first like a waterslide, into the wall on the far end of the room.

Half of their weapons remained on the small equine while the others covered the entrance. More noises could be heard, some whooping with excitement, and others screaming in terror. The confusion mounted even further as multi colored pastel pony after another warped into the room with a burst of fog accompanying their entrance. First a light blue one, then a white, then an orange, a purple, and a yellow one dumped themselves in a heap before the foggy portal shut itself closed.

Blinking and disoriented, the small creatures collected themselves before noticing the wall of very tall and none-too happy looking non-minotaur pointing unfriendly looking devices in their direction.

"Hi!" The pink pony blurted fairly loudly while un-crumpling herself like an accordion from the wall. "I'm Pinkie Pie! What's your name?"

Since You've Been Gone

View Online

The report from Blue's infiltration adviser was long winded, though it does helps a drone's ability to report when it doesn't have to breathe. In summary, Queen Blue Sun and Queen Catalyst were now aware that something was wrong in the human side of the camp that caused Colonel Bunker to worry a great deal. The Hive Adviser had gone out of their way to build the hive as efficiently as possible for Blue Sun, which she appreciated greatly. Her friends had yet to be seen in the few hours since the base evacuation, though a single drone was missing from the hive's role call as well and it may simply be observing them. Additionally, a group of humans had ventured into the hive in search of information and found one of their friends in the 'hospital' section of the hive.

Taking the queens through a tour of the hive, they were made aware of four separate spires designed to each house a different sub-group of changeling within the hive. Warrior, Infiltrator, Tunneler and Caretaker each had their own place to sleep. The spire that the humans had taken to calling a 'hospital' turned out to be the Caretaker's spire, and it was where the group of humans currently waited. In the center of the hive between the four spires was a large statue of Queen Blue Sun serving as a gift to the drones' queen agreed upon by all three advisers.

On the outskirts of the hive, however, sat the human encampment. Chest high walls of cautiously placed sandbags and routinely refreshed soldiers guarded the perimeter of their hastily constructed tents and shade-screens, with a large tent dominating the center complete with air conditioning. Power cables weaved their way through the entire encampment linking with boxes and other things that the Adviser had no clue as to their purpose, and reported that the humans seemed very uneasy about the rapid expansion of their hive.

"The decisions of how to run your hive are yours alone Blue Sun," Queen Catalyst reminded her, "I suggest you deal with the humans before things get out of control, and to ensure your Hive Adviser doesn't go on a building spree and waste more of the hive's love storage."

"Where is the love storage, by the way?" Blue Sun asked, earning a deadpan stare from Catalyst.

"You're joking," Catalyst sighed. "You used to be a drone, idiot. Where was it in your hive?"

"Uh... Queen Chrysalis rationed the love, so we didn't have one." Blue explained naturally, causing Queen Catalyst to bristle with anger, her head frills raising in the same moment her expression soured.

"Of course that selfish waste of life would hoard it all for herself!" Catalyst spat in angry buzzing. "It's no wonder her hive was always starving," Catalyst added, walking off in an angry rant, "The stupid scum-bubbler attacks Canterlot with the excuse that her 'hive is starving' when she's the one that caused their hive to starve! When I get my hooves on her.."

Catalyst soon stormed out of earshot, still rambling and muttering to herself as a very bright glowing orange light before disappearing into the Warrior's Spire. Blue Sun and her drones shared an uncomfortable look before continuing on with their discussion.

"So..." A caretaker drone spoke up after a long pause, "The love storage is in the Caretaker Spire, my Queen."

Blue smiled, nodding to the drone. "Thank you! Now we just have to talk with the humans that came into the hive. Are they still waiting in the spire?"

"Yes, my queen. They haven't left since the tremors." The drone reported.

"What has the rest of the hive been doing? I'm very proud of all of you for the hive that was built while I was away and that nothing horrible has happened with the humans, but are you all well?" Blue questioned, giving the drone beside her a concerned and inquisitive look.

The drone then went into lengthy detail about the roles each of the advisers had played in the hours of the queen's absence. The evacuation of the base had lead to some casualties amongst the humans, and all the wounded that were within a large perimeter of the hive designated by the Warrior adviser were taken to the caretaker's spire in order to be healed. Various low ranking soldiers, cleaning staff, medical personnel and a few pets had all taken up residence in the various floors that dominated the spire and most were still unconscious. All of the patients had been dutifully restored to the best of the caretakers' ability, of course, but it still left most of the hive with a sense of uneasiness about their overall relationship with the humans nearby.

They were confusing, the drone explained. All with similar coloration and slight variation in clothing, all stern and serious with sparse laughter away from certain individuals that seemed to hold power amongst their group. The human warriors, as the adviser put it, shared a sense of fear for the unfamiliar and uncertainty about how they would actually 'deal' with the threat that the hive presented to them. From the drone's understanding, the humans had their own queen that needed protection along with a similar amount of advisers that ran operations that couldn't be micromanaged by the queen of the humans alone.

Blue tried to explain that there was no queen in the human's encampment, only a leader named Colonel Bunker and her two subordinate advisers referred to as Shen and Vahlen. The hive's infiltrators had noted regular reference to 'The White House' and the 'United Nations Security Council', along with the grumbling that came from soldiers being forced to sit and stare at the hive. The persons referred to as Vahlen and Shen wanted to learn more about changeling biology and architecture, respectively. The drone explained the reactions of the advisers upon hearing the reports from various infiltrators as being very defensive, neither the Hive adviser nor the Warrior adviser wanting to allow the humans a single step on the territory of the hive, while the Infiltrator adviser had reminded the two other advisers of Blue's command to not upset the humans. Instead, the hive was advised to be as vague and uninformative about the specifics of the hive as possible in order to confuse or disinterest the humans in the hope that they would get bored and leave.

"How much have the humans asked about?" Blue Sun asked, approaching the Caretaker's Spire. "Has there been anything the advisers think they shouldn't know?"

The Infiltrator adviser explained their encounter with the humans in the spire and their interest in their love storage. The drone explained it away as 'healing goop' along with a fancy mist that keeps patients calm, though the drone was uncertain if the humans accepted it as fact.

"Queen Chrysalis never allowed a love storage." Blue pointed out, "Would you explain to me what it does?"

The drone happily obliged. "Love is stored in the center of the Caretaker's Spire. As we gain more of a reserve, more energy is spent to raise the pool's outer walls vertically in order to store more love. As it is right now, we had only enough left over from building the few sections of the hive necessary to house the few hundred drones that were hatched along with a very basic flooring. We told the humans that their contributions of affection from being healed were more than enough, but it was on recommendation of the Warrior adviser to not give signs of want or weakness to the humans," With the final bit of the drone's explanation, it grew more worried, "In truth, we could use far more love than we have, and we are draining our reserves steadily enough that our Hive adviser states we will be depleted within the remainder of the day."

"All of the love is nearly gone already?" Blue replied with surprise. "How many humans do you think the hive would need to sustain itself at the current number?"

"From the huge amount of emotion that these humans give out, the Hive Adviser calculates that about one human per one hundred changelings should be enough, should nothing strenuous happen." The drone explained while adding, "The warriors use more love than any other changeling from their patrolling and heavier bodies, and the Warrior adviser seems very eager to rid the hive of the few humans within it."

"We're on our way to speak with them, aren't we?" Blue smiled along with a reassuring pat on the drone's head. "I'll take care of it. Go and tell the other advisers that I've returned along with Queen Catalyst, and not to harm Catalyst or any human that's around. If you find one that looks suspicious, take them to the Caretaker's Spire to meet with me."

The changeling bowed. "Yes my queen, right away!"


"Getting anything on the radio?" Muldaney asked, "This place is starting to lose what little friendly vibes it had the longer we wait here in silence."

The few soldiers along with the away team had begun to set up a perimeter with the scientists either in the middle of their circle or very slightly apart from it and collecting samples to place in glass vials. The pool of 'healing goop' as it was called had slowly been drained by passing changelings and unconsciously reminded the group of a ticking clock.

"I'm certain the Colonel will get through," Lieutenant Olive replied while checking his shoulder radio, "Her signal got through the walls last time, so there's no reason to assume it would stop working suddenly now."

One soldier was unconvinced. "If the ground outside's been shakin' that long, I don't think there's a base to go back to at this point. What's it been, ten minutes?"

Muldaney raised a flat palm to the fellow away team member, taking it away from his rifle. "Cool it. It's not gonna be that bad."

"How do you know? Nobody's gotten a single glance outside since their weird doors all shut." He countered. "What if-"

The soldier was interrupted as part of the wall rippled open, allowing some of the strange fog that engulfed the bottom floor of the 'hospital' to vent out from it. In the doorway stood a comparatively large yet familiar sight.

"Lieutenant Olive!" Blue Sun cheered, her fangs and sharp teeth being unsettling to the away team. "I'm glad to see you again."

"Blue Sun?" Olive asked with some surprise, lowering his rifle and allowing it to hang by its strap. "You've gotten shorter since I've last seen you."

The tall queen approached the group steadily, her worrying smile still presenting itself to the increasingly nervous team. "Don't fear, everyone." Blue announced, "Olive and I know each other, and I'm the Queen! You're all welcome to stay here so long as no harm comes to my drones or hive."

"Somehow I don't buy that." Muldaney grumbled, lowering his own rifle but keeping his hands on it all the same.

"What happened in the base?" Olive asked as Queen Blue Sun arrived within conversational distance. "We hadn't heard anything for a few hours and Colonel Bunker had me lead this away team to figure out what was going on."

"Oh, nothing too dramatic," Blue Sun replied with a dismissive wave of her hoof. "I chased after Queen Catalyst to save one of my drones, ended up melting a room, getting lost in the base, and now here I am!"

"You melted a room?" Olive asked, crossing his arms over his protective vest with interest. "How'd that happen?"

"Oh," Blue Sun nervously chuckled, "Well, Queen Catalyst got bored with wandering around lost in the base, so she created a magic shield around the three of us and we melted our way outside."

"You..." Muldaney questioned, before shaking his head and deciding it was better for the Lieutenant to deal with this craziness than himself.

"What about Colonel Bunker?" Blue Sun inquired, "Did she make it safely away from the mountain? I know you stated that she gave orders, but it's also possible to give instructions while wounded."

"The colonel is fine, Blue." Olive reassured her, "So is Vahlen, Shen and your friends as well."

"Have my friends been worried?" Blue wondered. "Do they have somewhere to sleep in your encampment?"

"From what I've been told, they've been slinking around the base looking for a way out. They keep running into perimeter patrols and we're keeping track of their progress. They probably just want to make sure you're alright." Olive explained, "By the way, we can't get any radio signals out of this hospital. Would you mind if we all walked back to the command tent and debriefed the colonel?"

"It would be no problem at all," Blue applied with hasty agreeableness. "I think that Doctors Vahlen and Shen have a lot of questions to ask me about the hive and the wonderful work of my drones."

"They're pretty eager, I gathered that much." Olive replied, giving a hand signal to the rest of the away team to ready for movement. "Shen was practically drooling when he saw your drones raising these spires in such a short time. Vahlen has been asking the perimeter patrols non-stop about your location and the effects of your absence as well."

"I'd be more than happy to answer their questions, though I'll be bringing along my advisers." Blue replied with another of her unsettling smiles. "They would probably have just as many questions for Doctors Shen and Vahlen, and I wouldn't want to disappoint them."

With the group now ready to move, Olive motioned towards a nearby wall. "So, how do the doors work in this place?"

Blue Sun raised a brow. "The doors?" Looking to the wall, the realization came quickly. "Oh! A changeling simply walks toward where they need to go, and a hole opens for them."

The actual mechanics of how the hive worked was more complicated than that, but Blue reasoned that if her advisers had told her drones to not give away anything about how the hive really worked, she should probably be following the same advice. Blue Sun stood next to the wall, and when everyone was ready she opened a hole and stood by as the away team exited with an uneasy rush through to the other side. She felt each of the humans she was unfamiliar with emit a sense of fear and repulsion as they drew closer to her, and that it was mostly based on her appearance.

"Ah well, more to work on, I suppose." Blue cheerfully muttered to herself. "Lieutenant Olive! I will gather my advisers and meet you outside of your encampment's territory."

Olive gave a quick salute and lead his group away from the hive, checking his shoulder radio for signal as they proceeded down the artificial hill that the hive rested upon.


"Base, this is Lieutenant Olive, come in, over."

A nearby communications soldier lunged for his headset, quickly putting it on. "Roger that, away team. We hear you, over."

The attentions of Colonel Bunker, Doctor Shen and Doctor Vahlen all turned to the sudden commotion from the radio. Shen and Vahlen set down their unsweetened dirty bean water, an instantly made poor substitute for coffee, and listened in.

"Queens Blue Sun and Catalyst have returned from the base unharmed. Queen Blue Sun is interested in meeting with command and is bringing over her advisers," The scratchy radio voice of Olive relayed,"We're approaching the perimeter now and can confirm the missing wounded personnel are being administered by the changeling hive in their hospital, over."

Colonel Bunker took up a spare headset and placed it on her head. "Away team, this is Colonel Bunker. Any signs of hostility to your presence? Over."

"Negative, command. The drones were peaceful and gave us a tour of their hive. They seem insistent or almost religious on following their commands from Queen Blue Sun." A short pause from Olive's radio, and he spoke again. "The Warrior drones seemed the most suspicious of us and the caretakers were the most helpful. I'll give a debrief when the team returns, over."

"Interesting..." Vahlen hummed, taking another sip of the blackened MRE powder that attempted to pass for coffee, her face scrunching with bitterness. "Their reactions are better than I had expected."

"Understood, away team. We'll await your arrival. Out." Colonel Bunker replied, setting the headset down on the desk and turning to Vahlen and Shen. "So, what do we think so far?"

Shen was scratching his chin. "The fact that our radio signals couldn't pierce the walls of their hive is interesting. I wonder if it is their biology or architecture that interferes with the equipment, and if there is a way to counter the effects."

"The behavior of the drones suggest at least some form of limited free will among them." Vahlen added, "They follow the spoken orders of their queen, and that order is quickly communicated through the rest of the hive with speed. Perhaps suggesting some kind of biological signaling. Pheromones, perhaps?"

"From the perimeter reports there haven't been any negative incursions," Colonel Bunker added, "Warrior drones standing in towers or flying next to the camp are common, but only their infiltrators attempt to move past the patrols. It seems odd that China would have any issue dealing with the changelings, considering we haven't seen a single vehicle."

"Perhaps the changelings don't have enough resources to develop them?" Vahlen suggested. "Or they have some other form of defense that renders large vehicles obsolete or inefficient."

"Didn't the reports state something about shielding?" Shen pointed out, his arms crossed with interest. "Perhaps the warriors are capable of the same barrier that we witnessed Queen Catalyst use to escape the mountain."

Vahlen shook her head. "The amount of energy that would require would be unsustainable in larger amounts. There have only been scattered reports of a changeling fitting the description of a queen, and she hasn't been in every engagement. There is simply too many unknowns to guess at without proper study of these changelings in more detail."

"We're not going to damage relations with the only friendly queens we've seen so far, Doctor Vahlen." Colonel Bunker mandated. "Maybe if they can kill one of the ones in China and they send it our way you can take a poke at it, but we're certainly not starting an incident on our home-front out of curiosity."

The interest of the radio operator was peaked once again as a new message came through. "Base, this is watchtower six. Sighting matching the description of Queen Blue Sun and three changelings has been spotted. Recommended action? Over."

"That must be her already." Colonel Bunker muttered, moving to the headset and placing it on her head once again. "We copy, Watchtower Six. Direct the queen to the command post, over."


"Copy that, base. Out." The soldier replied, standing to the side and allowing Blue Sun to pass, pointing with a vertical and flat hand towards a tent in the distance. "Just follow along that path and take a right. Look for the tent with a bunch of equipment and antennae sticking out of it."

"We know the way already," the Infiltrator adviser smiled, "But thank you for the help regardless."

"No anger, nice." the Hive adviser replied, bumping the Infiltrator.

"Complacency will only weaken our hive. The less the humans know about us, the better. Keep conversation with their warriors to a minimum." The Warrior adviser warned. "My Queen, I must insist that this idea of cooperation can only backfire."

"The humans haven't endangered our hive even once, Warrior adviser. What makes you so certain that they would change their minds so suddenly?" Blue Sun questioned, leading the group towards the command tent. "Besides, you've all met my friends before and they found you cute."

"One of them did." the Infiltrator adviser pointed out. "The others were not so enamored."

"One is all it takes for a hundred of us, remember?" Blue pointed out. "We don't need as many humans to love us as we would with ponies. They are as unknown to us as we are to them for the time being, and I'm certain that we have nothing to fear from them."

"My Queen," the Warrior adviser pointed out, "the only thing we can be certain of is that we do not know enough about the humans to be certain of anything."

Blue hummed in agreement. "I suppose you're right. It's your duty to look after the security of our hive, after all. Perhaps I've been too close to the humans to be suspicious of them?"

"Queen know best," the Hive adviser stated, "Queen final say."

"We all know that, Hive adviser." The Infiltrator grumbled. "We're simply stating the fact that not everything is as peaceful as it may seem at any given time, and we want our queen to be aware of it."

"Yes." The Hive adviser simply replied.

Approaching the command tent, a soldier called in through the tent flaps about the changeling's approach. They had been steadily monitored throughout their slow walk through the camp with many soldiers and personnel seeing a changeling up close for the first time. Their presence in the base had been largely kept secret, as most other things had been, and Queen Blue Sun could sense the fear and uneasiness surrounding them.

The Queen and her advisers now stood outside of the tent, smiling with their sharp teeth and glowing eyes at the door soldier. Seeing him tense up and his hair stand on end with worry, Blue Sun decided to stay put with a passive expression instead, her drones following her example.

"Come in!" Colonel Bunker called from inside of the tent. The door soldier gladly pulled the tent's door flap away from the center, allowing him more room to stand farther back from the aliens that stood too close in his opinion.

The tent was well air conditioned despite the electronic equipment in the room that constantly hummed or scratched with purpose. Doctor Vahlen was once again standing at the ready with a pen and clipboard in hand and Doctor Shen stood with equal interest with a mug of coffee. Colonel Bunker was taking up the center of the room behind a folding table, her hands behind her back at ease and awaiting a reply from Queen Blue Sun.

"Cold," the Hive adviser commented, "small."

"Is something wrong?" Colonel Bunker asked, "We could have the discussion outside, if that would be more comfortable."

"We are simply taking notes, Colonel Bunker," the Infiltrator adviser replied smoothly, "Much as you are doing the same."

Bunker was a bit unsettled that the changelings had already discovered her name, considering the fact they had hatched not a few hours ago and held a single conversation with their queen before Blue Sun went into the base. They could have been informed on their walk over, of course, but the chance was slim.

"Your warriors seem few, Colonel Bunker." The Warrior Adviser pointed out, "You are not an army here to contain us, then?"

Bunker shook her head, relaxing her stance to one more informal. "No, we're not. What are your names? You already know mine is Colonel Bunker, and I suppose you know Doctors Shen and Vahlen. It would be rude of me to call you drones for our conversation, wouldn't it?"

"No name. Honor not given." the Hive adviser replied immediately, earning a stern look from the Infiltrator adviser.

"What he means to say is that our culture is different." Blue Sun explained. "I hadn't received a name until Maria, Rickey and Karol gave me one when I was a drone."

"Strange name for queens." the Hive adviser wondered aloud.

"They're my friends." Blue Sun explained further. "The point is, until my advisers are given a name, they are referred to by title."

"Would it be a terrible thing to name them now?" Doctor Vahlen asked, scribbling away in shorthand notes as the conversation continued. "It would be far simpler to communicate if they had some unique identity to refer to them as."

The advisers all shared an uncertain look of worry and confusion as Blue Sun pondered the question.

"Perhaps a working title, for our records?" Shen suggested. "If a name is too much to ask, then a nick-name might be enough?"

The drone's eyes went wide. "A nick-name! A second name!" They blurted in awed unison. "Such honor!"

"Eh... I suppose that might not work, then." Shen quickly backpedaled, rubbing his chin in thought.

"Do you have everything you need for the continued health of your hive?" Vahlen asked, looking up from her clip board.

That comment drew the attention of the advisers once again, the drones becoming serious and focused while looking to their queen.

"Being honest, we are in need of love." Blue Sun stated simply. The Warrior and Hive advisers chittered with annoyance in reply, but the Infiltrator was curious. "I haven't seen my friends since Catalyst and I escaped the remains of Cheyenne Mountain and I'd like to meet with them again."

"I'm certain we can arrange that, Queen Blue Sun." Colonel Bunker quickly replied with good will. "They've been poking at our perimeter trying to get into your hive for the past hour now."

"We were watching." The Infiltrator adviser noted. "They are not successful with stealth."

"How did you manage to construct such tall structures in a short amount of time?" Shen asked, his hands now moving to his hips after setting down his coffee. "I've never seen anything like that. Of course, I doubt any human has seen changelings at work, but the speed is just unprecedented."

"Carefully." The Hive adviser replied ominously. Receiving a nudge from Blue Sun and a slight look of disappointment, the adviser continued. "Use love, make dursine. Dursine make spire. Many spire hold drone. Hive."

"That... doesn't really answer my question, but thank you for the information anyway." Shen smiled, still caught off guard by the advisor's clipped speech.

"Why the sudden interest?" Queen Blue Sun asked.

Colonel Bunker shared a look with Vahlen and Shen before producing a red colored folder and placing it open on the table. The Infiltrator adviser was the first to leap onto the table with their wings, getting quick and informative glances at the information and documentation.

"Changeling Queen... a great many hives working in unison... but only one queen?" The Infiltrator chittered. "Not possible... something missing."

"This queen showed up while you were in the mountain. Most of China and Korea have gone dark and the rest of the world is gearing up for a war," Colonel Bunker explained, "We could use all the information you can provide on how to defeat this queen, seeing as she doesn't share the same positive outlook about humanity that you do."

"That's Queen Chrysalis..." Blue Sun announced with open mouth. The gesture was more of a reflex that she had seen humans do, and Blue hoped that it would convey her astonishment well enough. "What is she doing here on Earth?"

"Apparently her plan is world domination," Vahlen summarized. "Chinese forces have been over run by some kind of energy shield that is immune to our weaponry and we could use any information you are willing to give us to avoid more bloodshed."

"My queen, if I may?" The Warrior adviser asked, gaining a nod of permission. "It is standard tactics for the warriors of a hive to form a many layered shield in front of their formations to deflect projectiles. From these photos, they are following that tactic."

"Like a shield wall?" Shen asked.

"I think a closer representation would be a Testudo." Colonel Bunker guessed, her expression becoming grim. "The drones in the front create a shield that deflects fire, and the ones in the back cover the ones in front of them. Using their dome shields, I suppose that it would be like trying to fire through a hundred tank hulls at the same time. Any drone that falls can simply be replaced by the rest of the swarm, and bullets would be useless against it. We probably couldn't figure it out until now, seeing as the shields overlap to appear as one giant barrier."

"Would we be able to train our soldiers against such a tactic?" Valhen asked. "With your assistance, Queen Blue Sun, any breakthroughs in tactics would greatly help with the conflict in China and abroad."

"That would place our own hive in danger." The Warrior Adviser quickly pointed out. "At any point that you discovered a weakness, our hive would be much easier for you to defeat."

"There is also the problem of love, Warrior Adviser." Queen Blue Sun pointed out. "They don't have to attack our hive if they want us gone. They simply have to wait us out." Blue Sun smiled at Colonel Bunker, "Not that you would harm my drones, of course."

The sweet chittering of Blue's voice was offset somewhat dramatically by a flash of menacing purple and blue in her eyes, immediately seen as a guarantee that she would never accept any harm done to her hive as a queen.

"Of course, Queen Blue Sun." Colonel Bunker replied a bit uneasily, seeing the slight shift in Blue's personality. "We mean your hive no harm."

"Good." Blue Sun replied. "How can we help?"

Project Report: Hive 'Blue Sun'

View Online

Date: Redacted
Location: Redacted Redacted
Codename: Lamp Light
Subject: Life-forms designated as Changelings
Project Lead: Dr. Moira Vahlen
Project Assistance: Dr. Raymond Shen, Lieutenant Adrian 'Olive' Shepard, Colonel Terra Bunker.
Civilian Consultants: Richard Redacted, Maria Redacted, Karol Redacted.

Preface: Thanks in large part to the cooperation we have received from Queen Blue Sun, we have completed a series of tests and studies that will greatly improve our understanding of how an ideal hive is operated as well as the role that each classification of drone provides. Each subject will be chosen based off of their uniformity compared to others in their sample size to prevent outlying information that may tamper with the results. References to each type of changeling will be directed to the header photograph at the front of this report.

Each type of changeling is shown in order of appearance from left to right: Tunneler, Warrior, Queen, Caretaker and Infiltrator. This report will present findings a similar order, excepting the Queen for last. Additional data will be acquired and reviewed pending a trial invasion of Queen Blue Sun's hive at a later date. A report and conclusion will follow with recommendations after the encounter.

Changeling architecture and materials will be discussed by Dr. Shen following the assessment of Changeling types.

Height: 1.45 Meters
Weight: 70 Kilograms on average
Gender: 95% Female, 5% Male

Their level of intelligence is highly specialized. A tunneler's ability for communication is clipped, minimalist and rapid. When asked about tasks outside the realm of tunneling, construction or maintenance, a Tunneler is likely to repeat the words used or even the entire phrase in the questioner's voice. When asked to perform a simple task by their Queen, the Tunneler will waste no time until the project is complete. The Tunneler does not rest, it does not sleep, and does not have a stomach for storing nutrients. Any time the Tunneler is not performing a task, it returns to a centralized spire that contains a special chemical that fuels the efforts of the drone. Without this mystery chemical that the changelings themselves identify as 'Love', the Tunneler will slow to a literal crawl before being rendered unconscious. Results continuing past the state of unconsciousness through chemical deprivation were not allowed to continue due to protests from Queen Blue Sun.

Their carapace is uniquely grown, as shown in the photograph. The forehooves are specialized with digging surfaces at the ends of their hooves, making normal movement somewhat difficult and loud. For this reason and for expeditiousness, Tunnelers are repeatedly observed to simply fly to and from their destination, only touching down to the ground when needed. Their chest, shoulders and hooves are plated with a special kind of chitin that prevents scraping from rocks and other debris, as well as protecting from blunt and sharp impacts in those areas. Unarmored areas are more vulnerable to injury, though their viability as a threat is almost nullified by their self preservation instincts when confronted.

Height: 1.85 Meters
Weight: 135 Kilograms
Gender: 80% Male, 20% Female

Focusing heavily on armoring across their entire body and an innate ability for projecting barriers and plasma-based energy fields, this changeling type is not to be underestimated. Warriors are the main drain of a hive's chemical storage, spending much of their energy ensuring nothing enters or leaves the hive and requiring a greater amount of chemical to fuel their bodies. With permission from Queen Blue Sun, multiple conventional weapons calibers were tested against the carapace and chitin of the Warrior sub-type. The changeling volunteer was not permanently injured during testing and is now quickly recovering. The Queen was not happy in the slightest. We have promised to refrain from any further weapons testing.

For the purposes of ensuring the Warrior's injury was not in vain, the report recommends rifles armed in a caliber of 12.7x108mm or higher for most effective use of munitions. Anything below a 12.7x108mm round would be a waste of time and material, as lower calibers are prone to ricochet or framentation and may wound allied soldiers.

When presented with the main barrier to our soldiers success in the field, the form of a literal force barrier projected by a number of Warriors present simultaniously, the weaponry available to us at the time of testing proved insufficient. All standard munitions up to and including the 120mm L/44 SABOT round fired from an M1A2 Abrams Tusk 2 were defeated with zero casualties among the Warriors present.

Reviewing video footage of the tests revealed the cause of this phenomenon. As the Warriors stand together and project individual barriers there is a brief moment when the barrier fails after registering impact, and a single drone moves to the back of the formation to recuperate. Considering the size of the forces reported in China and now western India, this tactic can continue until all Warriors in the formation deplete their chemical storage, or our forces deplete their stores of ammunition.

The Warriors are not purely defensive; they possess an innate ability to hurl what appears to be condensed bolts of plasma from their horn. Warriors have demonstrated a heavy preference for disabling their targets which should provide at least some amount of comfort for the soldiers on the ground. In addition to their penchant for shielding, Warrior drones are likely to attack from above, diving onto encampments or towns in a meteor-like display. The shield the Warriors produce interacts with the air, causing a flaming effect as they descend upon their target with accuracy comparable to a laser-guided missile. The impact is enough to break concrete and leave the warrior unaffected by the descent, ready to engage targets a moment later.

Alternate methods of defeating a Changeling Warrior are being investigated.

Height: 1.45 Meters
Weight: 55 Kilograms
Gender: 80% Female, 20% Male

By far the least threatening type of drone in a changeling hive. Their intelligence is specialized in caring for young changelings identified as 'grubs, mending the injuries of the other drones in the hive and acting as a secondary warning system for any would-be saboteurs deeper in the hive itself. Their demeanor is obsessively helpful, acting as tour guides for those allowed by the queen to be present in a hive as experienced by Lieutenant Shepard.

Caretakers are mainly found next to or in the same chamber as the hive's chemical storage, ensuring all drones that pass through are uninjured and functioning optimally. They remain skittish when in unfamiliar situations and when presented with hostility. Caretaker drones seem especially sensitive to the emotions of those around them, often picking up on mundane things like rainy weather causing poor mood. Upon sensing this, Caretakers immediately acted on cheering up our Civilian consultants while inquiring about their distress.

Caretakers can be identified by their chitin existing only in the neck and chest areas, as well as their non-confrontational nature. When cornered, a Caretaker will resort to self defense by tackling in order to escape. If escape is not viable, the Caretaker will curl into a ball and beg for its life.

I greatly regret that experiment.

They are very likely to surrender when eggs or the hive's chemicals are not present. If eggs are present, they will attempt to disarm and disable anyone behaving aggressively near the eggs and seal them in a sticky resin to the nearest wall. If the hive's chemicals are present, they will fly off at incredible speeds until the Caretaker locates a Warrior drone. As such, it is not recommended to engage a Caretaker. Their main objective is the safety of the hive's eggs and chemicals, not attack.

Height: 1.45 Meters
Weight: 60 Kilograms
Gender: 50% Male, 50% Female

The most intelligent and difficult to study changeling type, next to the Queen herself. Their main purpose in a hive is reconnaissance, impersonation and infiltration as their name suggests. Despite their original appearance and size, they are somehow capable of shape-shifting into any creature within two meters of their size. This ability is not limited to living organisms, as the Infiltrators have demonstrated an ability to mimic everything from ammunition crates to cattle.

There is a limited capability for Infiltrators to mimic the human form, as they find walking upright to be a difficult balancing act. It is unknown as of the time of this report if Infiltrators in the field have discovered a way around this shortcoming.

Despite the assurances given by Queen Blue Sun, the Infiltrators that were interviewed were very suspicious of me, often copying my voice and changing my tone as if to study me. After being able to listen in on Infiltrators unknowingly to them, I was surprised to learn that the drones had been passing along my voice as well as the voices of others in the facility to the other Infiltrators. It is recommended to not base security codes off of voice recognition or finger prints any longer, as Infiltrators will be able to easily bypass those security measures.

In combat the Infiltrator will rely on a quick escape due to their chitin only covering their shoulders. They are built for maneuverability, scouting and quick response. Direct confrontation with an Infiltrator is likely to result with being rendered unconscious through bludgeoning and subsequent swarming by Warriors.

There is currently no sure-fire way to detect a changeling; However, they are unable to easily assume the human form. Do not assume your fellow soldiers are actually an Infiltrator.

The Queen: Blue Sun
Height: 2 Meters
Weight: 100 Kilograms
Gender: Female

The absolute most important part of the changeling hive. The Queen is the absolute ruler of the hive and all drones follow her command with a nearly religious zeal. Thus far, Queens are the only type of Changeling given or allowed to possess a name. The cultural significance of this is yet to be fully understood or documented and will be left for another report.

The Queen is capable of laying eggs insofar as the hive's chemical storage can withstand. Each egg holds fourty changeling grubs within it, and four eggs are laid at a time that are each designated as a section of the hive. A total egg laying takes about four minutes in total to complete and if the chemical storage can withstand the strain, the Queen may produce eggs continually when in the storage room. The Queen is also a surprisingly low drain on the hive's chemical storage when not actively moving.

The intelligence of a Queen is comparable to most humans with the disclaimer that most things need to be repeated or explained several times before a new concept is fully grasped.

The personality of a Queen has a very heavy role on how the hive behaves. The hive of Queen Blue Sun for example is accommodating, pleasant and actively seeking attention or even affection from the staff and military personnel present in the facility. This change in behavior became apparent the moment an agreement was reached between Colonel Bunker and Queen Blue Sun to work together for the betterment of both species and has not changed.

Drones are highly protective of the Queen. Even cowardly drones like Caretakers or Tunnelers will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the safety of their queen.

As a pointed note: No changelings were permanently injured in the gathering of information presented in this report.

As a closing statement I must admit the stark lack of concrete information available in this report. I would very much like to acquire an incapacitated changeling that is not currently allied with our own research efforts for experimentation or dissection, should the subject of capture be unrealistic. I am uncertain of a lasting alliance with the hive of Queen Blue Sun, as her terms seem to largely coincide with the amount of 'love' being generated by those she considers friends. If we are unable to provide adequate resources, it is very likely that alternative alliances will be forged behind our backs.

-Dr. Moira Vahlen


Briefing Room
Cheyenne Mountain FOB

"Alright everyone, I'll assume you read the report?" Colonel Bunker announced loudly to the rows of metal folding chairs filled with nervous looking soldiers. "Then you already have an upper hand on the Chinese and people of India. They don't know a damn thing about what you've all just read. You have Doctor Vahlen and Doctor Shen to thank for that."

The shaded tent of a room was silent as the blowing wind would allow, a few soldiers going over the report again and again while trying to keep their stapled papers from flapping out of control.

"We're going to be performing a mock assault on Queen Blue Sun's hive. This is for informational purposes and as such, you will not be issued live rounds. If you've read the report then you'll understand you're more likely to get hurt from a 5.56 than the changelings are," Colonel Bunker continued seriously. "The Queen has set up a demonstration base and confirms we're allowed to test various munitions on it in order to figure out what works, and what's a complete waste of time. I know, first time for everything."

A corporal raised his hand, pointing to the sheet of paper. "This thing says they hit a Warrior in the chest with a twelve-point seven? Isn't that like a fifty caliber round?"

"For that specific test, its closer to the rounds used for anti-vehicle and anti-armor on lighter transports. So yes, It's similar to a fifty caliber, Corporal." Bunker confirmed.

"Jesus..." The soldier whispered, rubbing his nose and sniffing loudly, re-reading the paper in earnest.

"What happened to the bug, Colonel?" A Private First Class inquired. "I mean, if we're allowed to know."

"The bullet cracked his chitin and he was sent to their Caretakers. Come to think of it, he should be fine by now. Doctor Vahlen is still putting together a whole bunch of reports, her next one happens to focus on what she calls their 'chemical' pool, and what the changelings call their 'Love Storage.'"

A few soldiers snickered at that revelation, a few asking for clarification that their ears were working and they heard correctly.

"It sounds crazy, I'm well aware." Bunker smirked, "The fact remains that the Changelings are alien, and what we know for a fact is very limited. If it's actually condensed love or a cocaine cocktail shouldn't matter much to us. What the people fighting abroad need to know is what works, and what doesn't work. That's where all of you are going to come in today, and for the coming months as our scientists cook up new ways to fight the bad changelings."

"Colonel, just how do we tell who the bad changelings are again?" A different Corporal inquired, testing partially to see how much he could push the briefing into dragging on to avoid getting trampled by alien bugs later in the night.

"That's easy, Corporal. They're who we say they are." Bunker replied jokingly. "In all seriousness, it seems like the forces overseas are lead by a single queen. It's a safe bet that if you're not stateside, they're probably the bad changelings."

"You were going to go over the operation, Colonel?" A Staff Sergeant spoke up, wanting to get on with the beating to be back in time for a smoke and a hot meal, and to crawl into his bunk for when Physical Training came around in the morning. This caused a few groans from those in his squad, and he reveled in it.

"That's right." Bunker affirmed, "We're using the test hive as the site for this operation, and most of Queen Blue Sun's hive is going to be present. We're sending in an attack force that would conventionally be able to secure the structures and hold the area for logistics to catch up and set up house. From this report, I doubt the operation will go that far, but as Vahlen would say, 'Information requires experimentation'."

Colonel Bunker took a moment to down some dirty bean water before continuing.

"You along with Bravo, Charlie and Delta squad will be with a recon company and arrive in Humvee's. You're to approach the hive from these angles," Colonel Bunker demonstrated the avenues of approach with a laser pointer on the map behind her that was hanging by pens used as paper clips, "You're going to effect entry into the spires and clear them. Once that is done, you will locate the queen and return her to the Humvee's for extraction."

A Private then spoke up, "How much of that do you expect us to actually accomplish, Colonel?"

The other soldiers in the room stare straight ahead, filled with the knowledge that the Private had just asked the wrong question at the right time.

"I expect you do to as much as you're able to, Private, and again, and again, and again for the next month until we can develop a tactic or some form of equipment that makes all of your lives easier." Colonel Bunker succinctly replied. "Now get moving, the Hummers are coughing fuel waiting on you."


"Can you believe they put Go-Pros on our helmets for this?" Muldaney chuckled, adjusting the small camera that fit in place of his night vision mount on the front of his headgear. "We're a grade-A science project, aren't we?"

It was now half an hour after the briefing. Lieutenant 'Olive' was leading the group effort to assault Blue's hive for this encounter and was none too fond of the idea. "Just be sure to keep that thing from getting smashed. It'll probably come out of your pay if it does."

"You know that's illegal, right? They can't just dock pay from us." Muldaney countered.

"You've never had an Article-15, Muldaney?" Olive verbally parried. "I'm sure they can file it under 'misuse of vital mission equipment.'"

"Ah crap, you're right," Muldaney grumbled, finally fixing his Go-Pro properly to his helmet. The driver of the Humvee rolled to a stop, the squeaking of the vehicles brakes and slow grinding of gravel accenting their halt.

"Alright everyone, last stop to bug town." Olive called out to the other noisy transport vehicles. "Get your gear ready and gather around for the go-ahead."

For the next ten minutes the soldiers milled around, secured the perimeter and placed bets on who would get glued to a wall first by the Changelings, or who would accidentally make a Caretaker cry from being too aggressive. They then shared a laugh about the idea of a fearsome alien crying when cornered, instead of lashing out and doing something Xenomorph-like. A few then pointed out that they'd rather be fighting Changelings than Xenomorphs any day and were promptly called a pusillanimous.

A scratchy tone and a voice was soon broadcast over the radio. "Alright soldiers, it's go time. Get it done." The voice of Colonel Bunker signaled, and the soldiers brought themselves to task and moved on the hive.


"Stay off that wall, Archer!" Olive whisper shouted to a nearby PFC.

Alpha squad, which Olive was directly leading, was now sneaking around the outskirts of the demonstration hive. The compound had a circular wall of dursine all around it that stuck to their uniforms if they happened to bump into it. Most of the squad had remained as silent as possible during their night time approach to the hive, as they didn't know how well the changelings could actually hear. It wasn't covered in the report, and Vahlen probably forgot around the same time weapons started to get tested.

So far no squads had reported contact of any sort which set Olive's neck hairs on end. The reports in India and China said that changelings would form a huge shield wall and overwhelm whoever they were facing, but they hadn't seen a single drone since the operation started.

"Hey," Muldaney whispered, "is it too much to ask that the drones all fell asleep?"

"Keep quiet, eyes open." Olive reminded his squad mate, waiting for the next signal to proceed into the Hive's courtyard.

Moments later, two blips from the radio came over and the next phase was cleared. Soldiers quietly stormed the center of the open air hive and secured the perimeter, still without a single drone to be seen. Heads searched for anything out of the ordinary repeatedly, remembering to look up as changelings could fly. Nothing moved and the only sounds made were of the breathing from soldiers as their gear weighed them down and their boots sucked to the sticky dursine floor.

"This is giving me the creeps. Where the hell are they?" PFC Archer whispered. "They knew we were coming right? I mean, as part of the test?"

"Contact! North side, five bugs, bearing two-seventy!" A voice shouted over the radio, most marines pivoting in the bearing given by the radio report. A few rubber rifle rounds went off, accompanied by panicked shouts, and everything went deadly silent once more.

Most soldiers were now breathing faster, adrenaline pumping through their veins as they scanned the pillars around them for anything that moved.

"Oh come on, that's a bunch of horse shi-!"

"Contact! West side, thr-- Aaaa!" Another voice shouted before being cut off. More rifle shots and silence dominated once more.

"I thought these things were supposed to attack in a swarm!?" PFC Archer panicked, backing into Lieutenant Olive.

"We just had to mention Xenomorphs, didn't we?" Muldaney added in agreement.

"Keep it cool. It's only a test encounter." Olive reminded them, "Nobody is going to get hurt in this, so keep calm."

"That doesn't make it not freaky as hell, Lieutenant!" Archer countered, his rifle leveled at the nearest spire.

All of Alpha squad remained untouched for the tense five minutes they spent watching each others backs, glancing around every corner expecting a changeling to leap out at them, and sweating from the unexpected and the truly alien landscape they found themselves in.

"All squads, check in." Olive voiced over the radio. Three blips came back.

"Bravo here, Lieutenant. All accounted for."

"Charlie here, Lieutenant. All accounted for."

"Delta here, Lieutenant. All accounted for."

"Wait, that can't be right." Muldaney pointed out, "We heard some of them get grabbed, didn't we?"

"Confirm zero casualties?" Olive transmitted, one hand on the grip of his rifle, the other holding the radio close to his ear.

"All is good with Bravo, Lieutenant. A bit jittery is all. These bugs give me the creeps."

"You said it Bravo, Charlie here and accounted for. Private may have put a few rubber rounds into a rabbit for all we know."

"Delta is sitting pretty, Lieutenant. Waiting orders."

"Oh hell..." Olive muttered. "Squads, regroup at the center of the square, over." The Lieutenant then received three confirmation blips that the order had been heard.

"Alright," Lieutenant Olive spoke suddenly, "If I remember right, their Infiltrators have the ability to mimic our people's voices. No way in hell am I taking that chance, so we're going to set up a line and wait for our squads to show. If they don't, we know the changelings have em, if they do, everything is fine."

"God, I really wish we were fighting Xenomorphs. At least they couldn't copy voices and shape shift!" Archer whispered loudly, aiming his rifle towards the center of the compound. The soldiers remained still and silent as the cold night blew past them. Gentle winds making the squad feel more uneasy as nature inadvertently tried to calm them, only making them more nervous that the wind might not be so benign, that it might be the wings of a changeling zipping past them while they were oblivious.

"Where's a flamethrower when you need one, huh?" Muldaney whispered, biting his lip to keep himself from blurting out more nonsense for the cameras to record and his later embarrassment about it.

"Flame won't work. They walked through melting concrete like it was nothin', remember?" Archer pointed out.

"Then what the hell does work, a cold shower?" Muldaney hissed back. "Keep quiet, they might know we're here."

The group went back to silently observing with rifles drawn and readied. They knew that it was all for a test run deep down, but that primal part of them made it seem all to real, especially with all the horror sci-fi movies they had watched growing up now seeming to come to life before their eyes.

Several minutes spent scanning the cold floor and compound passed with no additional radio chatter or other squads showing up. Presumably, they had either been taken or assumed the other squads were changelings with a radio and a stolen voice.

"Alright..." Olive breathed in a controlled manner, "We've got to get the queen."


After spending a fair amount of time navigating the moonlit darkness with rampant paranoia, Alpha squad managed to find a pathway that lead into a nearby spire. To their surprise, this spire lead both upwards and into the earth as far as they could see. Shining a light down with a mounted flashlight on their rifles, they noted that the tunnel reached a solid five meters down before turning off into another corridor.

"Anyone bring a rope?" Muldaney asked sarcastically. "I thought these changelings built vertically?"

"Ground must've been bad at their other hive. This one is closer to the mountain so it must go through rock." Olive reasoned, pulling off his backpack and searching through it.

"You're kidding, you actually brought rope with you?" Archer asked. "Do you go mountain climbing often, Lieutenant?"

"Of course, Private. I have to hoist your sorry self up to heaven somehow, don't I? Why not help you descend into hell instead?" Olive quipped with a devilish smirk, uncoiling the rope and placing it into an anchor to be held by the dursine flooring.

"Very funny." Archer mumbled, pointing his rifle towards the doorway entrance. Other members of Alpha squad were waiting outside, but the Private wasn't too certain they would last any longer than he would and he prized what few rhetorical seconds he had left in this 'test' that felt like the real thing.

"Come on, Lieutenant. Where are you? We were supposed to meet up, weren't we?"

"We'd get lost without you, Lieutenant."

"Come back to us, show us where to go, Lieutenant."

The three soldiers shuddered at the voices coming over the radio. "It's like hearing voices of the dead calling for you, man." Muldaney quietly stated. "That kinda crap is what gets in your head. The screaming, the mimicry, the freakin' ghost voices!"

Giving a few tugs on the rope, Olive was satisfied. "Alright, that should be good enough. I'll go down first, you all follow me with the rest of Alpha, got it?"

"You're going down first, Lieutenant?" Archer asked with surprise. "Didn't think you'd be the type for that kinda thing."

"He hosed down a queen with a fire extinguisher, private. He can take a rope down the rabbit hole." Muldaney smirked.


The rest of the squad had managed to travel one by one down the vertical tunnel until they secured the next room. It was very poorly lit with only sparse orbs embedded in the wall emitting a soft blue glow. The ceiling was cramped and low for most of the taller soldiers, and they were forced to inch along the ground at a crouch, their knees sticking to the floor and making them more annoyed as time went on.

They moved from hallway to hallway, strange doorway to spontaneously closing tunnel entrance until their patience was rewarded with a wide open room. It had significantly improved lighting on account of all the demonstration eggs present. They were made from beanbag material and duct tape, taking a bit of tension out of the situation.

"Lieutenant, look!" A squadmate whispered, pointing with a straightened hand towards a small changeling hiding in the corner of the room. From best guess, it appeared to be a Caretaker drone.

A few soldiers pointed their rifles at the drone, and it immediately flew off faster than they had time to blink in response. The accompanying gust of wind from displaced air shook them a tiny bit as the eggs deformed a bit from being stuck to the floor while moving.

"This mean we win?" Archer asked, turning around to watch the rear of the squad's formation. "I mean, we got to the eggs, mission complete, right?"

"We still have to get the queen, remember?" Olive replied. "Come on, she has to be nearby."

The group moved out of the mock egg-room and traveled onward through more of the hive, very tense from the lack of Warriors that they had seen after remembering that there should be about a hundred of them present in the hive, give or take a few dozen for the real hive back at base. Their worries weren't eased in the slightest when they heard muffled grunts of struggle from around the corner. Readying themselves and stacking up on the entryway, the squad soon entered the room and covered every angle before declaring parts of it clear with their best whispered shouts.

Soldiers had been glued to the wall in Dursine, their rifles dropped to the floor and bent at odd angles. Their mouths and most of their limbs had been coated so entirely in dursine that movement was an immense struggle considering how tough the resin-like material actually was.

"Archer, Muldaney, Get these guys freed from this crap." Olive ordered before directing the rest of the squad to cover the entrances into the room.

One by one, the soldiers were very forcefully pried from their place as heavy wall decorations and they fell to the floor, gasping for breath.

"Hoo, That slime is a real piece of work!" One Corporal quietly announced. "The hell is that stuff made out of, even?"

"Can you stand, Corporal?" Muldaney asked, reaching out with a helping hand to the soldier.

"Nah, I think my leg got messed up when they dragged me here. Can you hold my rifle? I might be able to use it as a crutch or something till we get back to base." The corporal replied, pushing against the wall and grunting as he made progress towards an upright standing position.

"How's the Lieutenant? Where's he at?" A private inquired, also pushing himself up the wall.

"The Lieutenant? He's right here, man." Archer replied, pointing a thumb behind himself towards Olive. "You get hit in the head or somethin'?"

"Nah, man. We just had to be sure which one to pounce first is all." The private replied with a comically evil grin, his face contorting before bursting into a blue-purple flame that revealed himself as an Infiltrator.

Soon after, all of the other 'captured' soldiers followed suit, each bursting into flame along with their rifles, which also happened to be even more infiltrators.

"Oh you've got to be kidding me..." Olive grumbled, setting his rifle on the ground and putting his arms up in surrender.

"Seriously? I thought they couldn't mimic humans?" Muldaney complained.

Soon after the real rifles were confiscated, Queen Blue Sun herself entered the room followed by several Warrior drones and the rest of the squads assigned to the mission. Bravo, Charlie and Delta squad all filed into the area that had seemingly grown in size since the Queen's arrival, and Blue seemed extremely happy.

"Hello Olive!" Blue cheered, bringing him in for a close hug with her right forehoof. "Isn't this fun?"

A Queen Without Her Drones

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Queen Catalyst stood on the balcony of Blue's Caretaker spire, a hoof draped over the side while another held her chin as she looked out to the frantic movement below her. Tunnelers zipped back and forth from the base of the spire towards what remained of the Cheyenne Mountain complex bringing rock, debris and metal with every trip and returning with enough love to do it all over again. From what Catalyst overheard, the Terrans were planning to excavate their old mountain fortress piece by piece in order to rebuild it with the help of Blue Sun's drones. A lance of jealousy ran through the orange queen's body, causing her wings to chitter with anger. Blue Sun, in all her innocence and idiocy had her own hive. She had a number of drones that followed her will without question and enough love to expand a bit more, should she wish it.

Before Chrysalis, Queen Catalyst was ruler of her own hive. She too had hundreds of drones under her direct command, and none were without the embrace of her hive mind. Now, however, she was alone. Her mind was silent, completely absent the thoughts and observations of her drones in their daily skittering. No more could she witness infiltrators far away winning over their unwitting spouses, gaining their affection in order to feed the hive. No more could she enjoy the successes of her warriors in defending the hive from curious adventurers or occasional beasts.

No, she was left only with the deafening silence of her own thoughts.

Her lips turned into a scowl at the blissful interactions between Blue Sun and her hosts, her friends as she called them. Just as gullible as the ponies had been but with more than a hundred times the emotional power. Just three of them had been enough for Blue Sun and her entire hive while she, Queen Catalyst, sat like a vagrant in the hive of another. Even that plague, the defective, was allowed love. Somehow it had yet to devour the entire hive despite needing more love to sustain itself; the leech often remaining near the love storage at all times.

Pulling herself away from the cheerfulness of Blue Sun, the orange queen walked into the center of the Caretaker's spire. Sure enough, the defective paced back and forth next to the storage, their eyes hungry and impatient. She had warned Blue Sun and the Terrans countless times about the dangers of that thing, but her efforts fell on deaf ears and blind eyes.

A disaster waiting to strike, Catalyst mused. I should have killed you when I had the chance, defective wretch. One day your hunger will get the better of you, and all your hive mates will suffer for your queen's incompetence. Unless...

Catalyst's eyes narrowed in predatory thought at the defective. I could get rid of the defective. Eliminate the threat before it is able to act on its own need for love. A malicious grin spread across Catalyst's face, her sharp teeth visible in stark contrast to her darkened carapace and glowing chitin. The defective is a Caretaker, by the looks of them. A weak body.

The Queen's wishful thinking was soon stamped out the moment another thought struck. The Terrans, Catalyst realized, her expression turning sour. Any action I take against Blue Sun and or her drones, and the Terrans will surely see to my execution. If I am unable to solve the problem directly, there must be another way to remove it.

Catalyst stood up and moved to the inner wall of the spire deep in thought, her vision moving in and out of focus as ideas shifted into place and were discarded at a blinding speed of thought. Finding a place to sit down and allowing herself a spot of calm and relative quiet, she went further into her hive mind of one to brainstorm ideas. Thought after thought was thrown into the void with only silence answering back.

Her drones were gone. Stolen from her. Her mind was gone thanks to Queen Chrysalis.

It was so difficult to think for Queen Catalyst, her frustration mounting at her own inability to perform at the level she had become accustomed to for hundreds of years. Surely she would have discovered some master plan to deal with this defective, but her mind returned only blank answers and wisps of recognition. Thought after thought, plan after plan was lost to the void of her empty hive mind once again, only increasing her hatred of Chrysalis. Even a single drone would help, Catalyst fumed, A single drone with a single voice could provide an approach I would never have considered.

The sound of buzzing wings was faintly recognized by the distracted Queen, her emotions growing more volatile by the minute. Catalyst was lost in her own mind, thoughts of murder and brutality coming to the surface more and more as her plans were thwarted left and right by a lack of input. Mental parts of herself that were now missing because of Queen Chrysalis.

A light touch of her shoulder caused Catalyst to jump out of shock, her vision flooding back into focus in order to shout at who ever had dared to interrupt her. The white face and blue eyes of the defective were staring back, causing Catalyst's heart to skip a beat.

"Um, sorry!" The defective apologized, its hoof lowering to the ground as it looked sheepishly to Catalyst. "I didn't mean to startle you, Queen Catalyst."

Catalyst pressed slightly against the dursine walls of the Spire in order to gain some amount of space from the defective, radiating fear and revulsion from being so close to the white drone. "What do you want?" She buzzed with anger.

"Well, I could sense you being upset all the way down at the bottom of the spire. Are you alright?" The defective wondered earnestly, searching the Queen's eyes for any hint of connection they could share. "You don't seem like you're feeling well..."

"Get away from me, defective. You're a plague upon your own hive and there is no reason to include me as well in its eventual destruction," Catalyst growled, standing up to move even further away from the pale caretaker.

"I've been doing very well," The drone countered with a pleasant chittering and smile, "The longer I remain near the love of the hive and the friends of Blue Sun, the less hungry I feel!"

Catalyst's lips twitched with irritation. "You have been feeding non-stop for days, defective. Nothing will fully sate your hunger, and the moment a drought of love arises those around you will perish in your all consuming hunger. I do not intended to fall with your hive and your idiotic queen."

The drone's feelings seemed hurt by that comment, their frown deepening. "You shouldn't say that about Queen Blue Sun. She's the best queen ever!"

Catalyst scowled at the defective, moving to the ledge overlooking the pool of stored love beneath them. The drone followed suit, standing beside the orange queen despite her revulsion. An idea flashed into Catalyst's mind. It was idiotic, but if she acted now perhaps the hive would be spared in the future. Her right hoof curled around the shoulders of the defective, Catalyst's revulsion spiking fiercely as she did so.

"Do you want your hive to prosper, defective?" Catalyst asked ominously.

The white drone looked up with a confused expression, studying Catalyst. "What are you doing?"

The Queen looked deep into the pool of love beneath her, vague thoughts dancing across her vision unable to be brought into focus. I could break the chitin between the defective's wings. Throw it into the pool and watch as it drowned. Would it drown? Would it simply consume the entire storage of love in an attempt to heal its wounds? What would Blue Sun's reaction be? I've been doing everything possible to help this hive flourish, but I only see the faces of my own drones in those that fly around. I'm reminded of all that I lost to Chrysalis. Is there point of saving Blue Sun's hive, only to see it fall apart as well? What should I do!?

"Queen Catalyst?" The drone chittered lightly, "You're not feeling well, at all..."

Catalyst scowled as her attention was brought to the present. She retracted her hoof and remained silent, her thoughts too turbulent to act upon.

"Do you need more love?" The defective asked, "There's a whole pool of it down there if you do."

The silence grew between the two as Catalyst's glowing eyes flickered, looking around the room as she became more emotionally unstable. The defective could sense the inner turmoil of the queen, but had no idea what the cause of it was. The queen's eyes began to droop and she sat down abruptly, part of her insectoid wings becoming trapped beneath her.

"Queen Catalyst?"

"What is the point of more love, defective?" Catalyst asked in a slow chitter, her wing fixing itself from the vibration as she laid down on the ground fully. "Were I to take more love from your hive, what would I do with it? If you were to take more love, do you even know what you would do? You are no queen, you have no eggs to lay, no hive to create. What do you need it for?"

The defective was now alarmed by this shift in Catalyst's tone. She had become accustomed to the shouting and scowling, but seeing her so suddenly defeated like this set off alarm bells in her mind. "Are you sick? Do you need help?"

The queen looked out at the drones moving around, her eyes watering. "I need my hive... caretaker," Catalyst sighed pitifully, "I need my drones. I need to hear their voices, their chittering and scratching along the walls. I need to see their thoughts, their experiences and their troubles with my own eyes again. I need to hold new grubs in my hooves and assure them of a wonderful life. I need to see the pride in my warrior's face when he reports a new capture, the elation in my infiltrator's disguise being flawlessly accepted, the chittering and cooing of a caretaker to a tunneler that has lost their closest hive mate. I am not complete without them, and I fear my actions in their absence. I am alone, without another voice to resonate in my thoughts; to know how I feel without asking. I am lost without my hive, and while I wait here in this spire surrounded by the happy drones of another I am reminded of all that was taken from me so suddenly."

The immense sadness coming from Queen Catalyst had been drawing a crowd of caretakers from their other tasks to investigate. The orange queen rested on the floor, her head nestled between her forehooves that dug into the spire's resin. Her eyes were shut as she spoke, her mouth quivering as her wings communicated for her. "I am sick, Caretaker. I need my hive back. I am nothing without them."

The spire stood in stunned silence for a long while, the sound of sloshing love beneath them remaining as the only noise. Drones looked between each other, quietly chittering ideas about what to do and if they should bring this event to Blue Sun's attention. The defective reached out their hoof and lifted the chin of the broken queen, causing her eyes to open.

"How much love do you need for your own hive, Queen Catalyst?" The defective asked.

Revulsion and fear were gone from the orange queen, replaced with a void of emptiness. Her eyes seemed to have gone dim, her chitin no longer glowing. The queen heaved a sigh and refused to answer, her heavy head forcing the defective to set it down once again.

The defective knew this look. Deep in their being, they felt a glimmer of this state before and the other caretakers began recognizing it as well. The Queen had given up. Her once glowing body was steadily becoming dim and the pink tendrils of love were seeping from her mouth.

"Get our queen!" A caretaker drone chittered in panic, several of them taking flight from the spire through the nearby balcony window. "Bring Queen Catalyst to the pool!" Another buzzed.

The defective along with several caretakers hoisted the queen into the air, slowly lowering themselves down toward the pool of love beneath them. Other drones observed with confusion as to what was going on, but they too soon recognized the symptoms. A queen without a hive is a queen without purpose.

Catalyst vaguely noticed the irony in her situation. She had become just like Chrysalis. Broken and weak with another hive caring for her health after the loss of her hive. She would not steal this hive, however. She would never become like her.

"It's going to be alright, Queen Catalyst. We're going to help you!" The defective chittered reassuringly, attempting to lift the Queen's face again or open one of her eyes.

"Do what you will, Caretaker," Catalyst buzzed weakly. Her senses began to deafen and blur along with the flurry of movement around her. She remained awake enough to notice a few Terran shaped things enter the room before losing consciousness entirely.

Recording File 335, Research Voice Log
Dr. Vahlen's report on Changeling Biology, Addendum.

"Well, it appears I have learned what happens to a changeling deprived of love. Our team along with Queen Blue Sun were alerted to the critical state of Queen Catalyst, who has been largely overlooked until this point in time. Physically the Queen is still alive, however her current activity is closer to being comatose than anything else."

"The white drone, commonly referred to as a 'Defective' was first at the scene. It was assumed that the drone had drained the Queen of love, yet multiple accounts from Blue Sun's caretakers reported an altogether more interesting development."

"Without the ability to maintain or create a hive, more specifically laying eggs and beginning one, a Queen is likely to die off rather than continue living until starvation."

"What triggered this reaction in the queen is unknown at the time, but we may have to find more volunteers to administer whatever chemicals or 'love' these changelings require, lest we lose valuable research data and knowledge through neglect."

"I will inform Colonel Bunker of these developments. It is ultimately her decision if it will be forwarded."

"End log."

Project Report: Changeling Drone - Short Chapter

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Date: Redacted
Location: Redacted Redacted
Codename: Phone Home
Subject: Changeling specimen recovered from conflict in India
Project Lead: Dr. Richard Tygan
Project Assistance: Dr. Klaus Bergmann, Dr. Claudia Schneider

Preface: I can only relay my pure astonishment with the specimen brought to my table for examination. A more viable means of neutralizing this creature must be found for both the sake of our soldiers on the front lines of this invasion, as well as the future of our species.

Subject: Changeling Drone
Classification: Caretaker - As per Doctor Moira Vahlen's identifying report.
Coloration: White carapace with greenish-teal wings, eyes and shell
Height: 1 Meter
Weight: 40 Kilograms
Gender: Female

Cause of Death: Starvation, Exposure

The subject of this report appears to be far more malnourished than its counterparts in North America. Noticeably thin and shorter, the subject's internal organs appear to be limited in both size and function. What I can only assume to be the stomach of this creature has become vestigial with practically no benefit to the drone itself. This development is most likely to be a result of its preference for 'love' as a sustaining force rather than the metabolisms of more common creatures. In place of a functioning stomach appears to be some sort of organ that would normally hold large amounts of the chemical that our alien advisers refer to as a 'love storage' were the subject not starved.

Further traces of this chemical compound can be found in the creature's lungs, as it appears to not breathe the same air we do. The lungs of the drone appear at my best guess to be the center of chemical production as it held the highest remaining amount of the chemical that sustains the drone's body. How the drone is able to produce this chemical is guesswork at this point in time, though from traces of human DNA within the chemical it is highly likely that they cannot produce this chemical without a host. Whether this sharing of DNA is gained through 'love' as reported or by some other means will require additional study.

The creature is cold-blooded, more specifically the variant known as Poikilothermic. The body was able to withstand temperatures of two thousand degrees Celsius without becoming damaged, though temperatures exceeding this number rapidly began to cause stress fractures in the subject's exoskeleton accompanied by rapid expansion of the tested limb. The procedure was halted in time to prevent catastrophic loss of the subject and further degradation of the subject was narrowly avoided. A far more interesting discovery was the creature's intolerance to lower temperature environments. Cold storage of the body presented far more serious fractures in the carapace when the autopsy was continued in the following morning, leading to the practice of keeping the corpse heated to at least room temperature to prevent further damage.

Further temperature stress tests were undertaken with an unaffected limb, and it was discovered that super-cooled liquid had the most visible effect on the exoskeleton of the test subject. The carapace of the caretaker was brittle to the touch, often chipping in areas with soft contact. The viability of using these liquids must be investigated further if we are to develop weapons in order to defend our planet against these invaders. This vulnerability to lower temperatures may explain the sudden halts of conflict in the Chinese and Indian theaters when a storm rolls into the area, followed by moments of quiet before the temperature rises to more habitable conditions. It also explains the alien's disinterest with an invasion into Russia with their predominantly arctic climate as well as the mountainous regions of India and China remaining largely untouched.

It should be noted that a pressure washer was used to break through the carapace of the changeling for further study. Before this vulnerability to colder temperatures was discovered, several diamond tipped industrial saw blades were used to cut the chest open.

Another interesting discovery about the subject was the lack of fluid that we would normally associate with blood within the creature's body. Only a few droplets of liquid were found within the heart and brain of the drone with a greenish coloration. When examined, the blood was revealed to be a heavily concentrated form of the chemical stored within the large pools reported to be housed in the Caretaker's Spire of a hive. Whether this refinement of the chemical is inherent to this particular discolored drone or to the larger hives of changelings remains to be seen, however it appears that this harvested 'love' appears to replace the blood of their bodies, leading to a distinct need to collect more of this chemical compound in order to survive.

It is unknown if the subject is able to be revived with a dose of the chemical 'love' compound, as our love for science was understandably not suitable for the revival of the deceased. This causes a great deal of concern for the reported incapacitation of an allied Changeling Queen currently residing in the United States as a complete lack of love will cause the Queen to undergo the same starvation state as this drone, leading to her eventual death.

More subjects will be needed in order to establish a base-line level of changeling biology, yet with the different colored drones and the stark contrast from a single hive to the next, it may be impossible to determine more similarities and vulnerabilities shared between hives without further cooperation from non-hostile changeling Queens and their hives.

Recommendations: For now, I would advise our forces to commandeer any vehicle or system of highly pressurized water to counteract the extreme conditions that these changelings are capable of surviving. Kinetic force in the form of standard munitions seems to injure the carapace and cause fractures, but is not reliable in passing through the shielding ever present on the battlefield.

More development will be necessary to create weapons capable of consistently defeating the alien threat posed to our planet, and a greater understanding of each hive's weaknesses will need to be investigated. It is highly likely that different sub-species of changeling will have weaknesses and strengths relative to their native environments. For now, we humans must use cold water to defend our planet.

There must be a better way.

-Doctor Richard Tygan


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"Any word on Queen Catalyst?"

The constant buzz of caretakers surrounded the spire and echoed around the walls. Colonel Bunker, Doctor Vahlen, Doctor Shen, Ricky, Maria, Karol and Queen Blue Sun were all present. None of them knew what was going on.

"It appears the Caretaker drones know more of what is happening than we do," Vahlen replied, scribbling notes onto her digital clipboard with rapid, wild lettering only she could decipher. "However dramatic the circumstances, this presents a unique insight into the changeling hive..."

The doctor trailed off, thoughts taking priority over voicing them as she wrote more notes down, her eyes following the rapid movements made by the drones around the comatose queen.

"So..." Karol toned in, "What do we do?"

Blue pointed to the orange queen with her horn, "Give her love and she's all better, right?"

Ricky shook his head, "If it was that easy, why would she still be knocked out while floating in a literal pool of love?"

"Pool of love..." Vahlen muttered, underlining the words and placing a large circle around them before continuing her work.

"I'm not sure there's much we can do for Catalyst, Blue." Maria softly suggested, "Maybe it's something she has to get through on her own?"

Karol had an idea, if her chin strumming was any indication. "What if the problem isn't that she doesn't have love, but that she doesn't want your love?"

Blue was confused, her head tilting to the side.

"Okay, think of it like this:" Karol began, her hands aligned in parallel to another in front of her chest. "You," She stated, raising her left hand, "Have your own hive, with your own friends to give you the love it needs." Her fingers spread out from her hand like a claw and faced the right hand. "When she tries to get love from your hive, maybe there's something preventing her from taking the love to use for herself?" The right hand moved to the left, with the clawed hand fending off the imagined assault.

"What, some kind of defense system?" Ricky suggested, nodding with understanding. "So you're saying that there could be a whole grain silo filled with love and she wouldn't touch it, all because Blue has a claim on it?"

Karol shrugged, "I don't really know, I'm just throwing out suggestions. Maybe it has something to do with changelings and being weird aliens- no offense Blue- or it could be some kind of personal thing with Catalyst."

"Do you think we could ask a Caretaker?" Maria replied, "Maybe they know something."

Blue waved her hoof at the three conversing friends. "I exist too, you know."

"Well, do you know what's happening to Catalyst?" Ricky asked kindly, "We really don't want to see one of you die because of a lack of love. It just seems beyond cruel, like if you didn't hug a puppy enough and it died."

Maria smacked Ricky's shoulder with the back of her hand. "Don't say things like that; it makes me sad!"

Karol snapped her fingers, "I've got it!"

The group turned to her expectantly, and also questioningly.

"Queen Catalyst needs love, right?" Karol suggested with dramatic pause, "What if we find more people to love her?"

Ricky rolled his eyes, "Yeah, that's gonna go over well." He raised his arms like a stage announcer, "Come one, come all, to our secret military slash alien mountain fortress in the middle of nowhere's-ville to give your love, that's right, your love, to an alien creature desperately in need of affection!"

Maria shrugged, "I dunno, there's a lot of sci-fi fans, right?"

Ricky's arms dropped with a deflated sigh. "No, Maria, I mean that Bunker is never going to allow that kind of thing. Besides, how are going to know we can trust whoever we let into the base?"

Vahlen's head shot up from her focused writing to turn towards the loudly conversing group. "Are you discussing the idea to let people know the location of this facility?"

The three students and Queen shook their heads quickly, "No! Not saying that," they replied with guilty unison.

The doctor's eyes narrowed with suspicion of the highest order as she secured her stylus to the clipboard she held. "If you're going to suggest things like that, it should be with Colonel Bunker."

Blue was curious, "Weren't you in charge of the Colonel before?"

Vahlen's face was a mask of neutrality hiding a storm of annoyance. "That position was retracted after a certain incident with a Queen's eggs, if you recall."

Much to the group's surprise, Colonel Bunker chose that moment to arrive and confront Blue Sun directly.

"Queen Blue Sun?" She asked officially, her stance rigid. "There is a call for you."

The blue queen looked to her friends with confusion. "Is that a good thing?"

Bunker interjected in order to explain, "It's coming from the United Nation's Security Council. They have some... friends that would like a word."

Suspicion rose in the queen. "What kind of friends?"

The colonel shook their head slightly, "I was only told that it was a new kind of alien. Colorful, some with wings, others with horns and one with both."

The Queen's eyes went wide at that. "Ponies? Here!?"

Blue Sun, along with her friends, were lead to a secure room with a great many cables running through the area. A large camera sat upon a Tri-pod, staring at a blank white wall.

Looking around the room Blue questioned, "You said I was called, but the room is empty."

"A video conference!" Karol explained with some excitement. "Aliens talking to aliens over the internet; awesome!"

"The what?" Blue asked.

Ricky replied first, "Haven't we told you about the internet before?"

The queen blinked a few times. "Not that I remember."

A few soldiers moved into the room headed for the Camera and other technical looking equipment while the friends brought Blue Sun up to speed. Cables were reconnected to gain a better connection and test-runs of communication were sent out to confirm that the signal was working properly, and that there would be no interruptions from either end.

After a few minutes of setup time, Blue had been briefed on what she was supposed to do.

"I just stand here and look at the camera?" Blue asked skeptically. "This is silly. I'm not talking to anyone, just a camera on a stand."

"Screen coming up." A technician announced, spinning a laptop to face Blue Sun. "Everything should be good to go."

"Hey," Karol whispered to Blue loudly, "Are we still gonna find people to give love to Catalyst?"

"Not now, Karol!" Maria hissed, backing away from the Teleconference so she wouldn't get in the way.

"Going live in five... four..." The technician counted down, until eventually a screen flickered to life with a suited human on the other end.

"Hello, Queen Blue Sun." He announced in a deep, rocky voice. "The Security Council needs your help in determining the threat that these new aliens represent."

The camera on the man's end panned over to a group of fuzzy figures before refocusing. A blue pegasus with a rainbow mane sitting in the corner with her hooves crossed; a pink earth pony with even pinker mane bouncing happily in place; An orange earth pony hiding their head from the lighting in the room with a hat; A white unicorn that looked all around the room with an expression that flitted between impressed and disgusted; and finally a yellow pegasus that took shelter from the humans in the room behind a certain purple pony that Blue had seen before.

"Twilight Sparkle..." Blue whispered. "How did you get here... and with the rest of the elements, too?"

"What's that?" Pinkie Pie called out in the distance, pointing directly to the camera. "It looks like a big changeling queen!"

"Changelings!?" Rainbow Dash shouted, leaping to her hooves. "I knew there was something weird about you guys!"

Blue Sun almost swallowed her own voice before replying with haste, not wanting the humans on the other end to be blasted with the same magic that had struck with enough force to catapult her to Earth. "Wait!" The queen shouted, "Let's talk!"

The group of ponies were practically in a standoff against the metaphorical wall of security agents with drawn firearms.

"You want to talk?" Twilight asked suspiciously.

"Do you know these aliens?" The rocky voice asked, turning the laptop to face himself once more.

"Yes," Blue admitted, "I may... I may have been a part of an invasion of their capitol in the past."

Ricky almost visibly cringed at that, remembering the conversation he had with Blue when she was still a drone in the diner. "That's who you invaded?" He asked with some alarm.

"They're so cute though!" Maria protested, "Just look at the pink one!"

"Who is that?" The gruff voice asked, "Is this line not secure?"

"Excuse me," Blue Sun announced while raising a hoof to halt her friend's questions, "I have a great many things to discuss with Twilight Sparkle, the winged and horned pony, and her friends."

When things began to spiral out of control, something inside of Blue snapped to the front of her mind. A need to restore order, an official nature that she normally would lack. Now, however, there was more at stake than just herself. She knew the power the ponies had, and that they were able to easily defeat changelings in most circumstances. This could be a major breakthrough for everyone involved if she played her cards right.

Blue smiled at that, realizing that Ricky's mannerisms were slipping into her vocabulary.

"Uh, why is she smiling all of a sudden?" Applejack pointed out, adjusting her stetson. "It ain't a good sign when a queen smiles, ya know."

Blue's expression wiped itself into neutrality in the blink of an eye. "I need you six here, in Cheyenne Mountain."

The technicians, along with the rocky voiced official, covered their foreheads with their palms.

"What?" Blue asked, confused.

"The point of a secret base," A technician pointed out, "Is to not tell anyone where the secret base is."

"Eheh..." Blue stammered, "Secrets among friends?"

"You vouch for their trustworthiness, then?" The official asked, adjusting his suit to look better in the camera's lens.

"Wait," Rarity huffed, "We're the untrustworthy ones?"

The blue queen nodded. "Yes. I declare that ponies are not a source of conflict..." the queen paused for a moment, "For now, at least."

Blue figured it was good to have a backup plan, despite the cries of protest that rang out from the ponies on the other end of the teleconference. The official closed his line of the conversation after a showing of thanks for the information given, as well as the de-escalation between the security forces and the previously unidentified aliens.

"That went well," Blue smiled. "Nopony even cast a single spell."

Ricky raised an eyebrow of skepticism. "What, we're talking about spells now?"

Blue nodded, "Ponies are... unique with their magic."

Walking through the halls of a rapidly reconstructed mountain base, the group ducked as a Tunneler drone flew overhead with a pile of rocks in magical tow behind them.

"Unique how?" Karol asked with interest.

"Well, the purple one for instance," Blue replied, "You might want to stand back. I want to shape-shift for this."

"In here?" Ricky warned, motioning at the still melted walls. "Not the best idea, right?"

Blue waved off the concern, "It'll be fine. It's not that much magic."

Regardless, the group of three moved away from Blue Sun in order to take cover. A flash of heat akin to opening an oven later, and a new figure stood before them.

"The purple one!" Blue announced in the voice of another. A purple pony with wings, a horn and a strange mark on her flank. "Loves books, loves magic, loves her friends... loves loves loves."

"That's a good thing though, right?" Maria asked, standing up from her box of cover.

"Well," Twilight-Blue replied, "It's only good in low doses."

"You said you invaded their capitol, right?" Karol reminded everyone. "Why'd you do that if you just need love?"

The disguised queen sighed. "It's a bit more complicated than that. You see, my queen- well, my previous queen- Queen Chysalis, the one leading the whole invasion over in India? Yeah, she decided it would be a good idea for our entire hive to assault the main capitol of Equestria and seal all of the ponies in cocoons so they couldn't escape while we forcefully drained the love from them."

Blue noticed that her friends were behaving differently, looking at her oddly. "What?"

"Your personality like... entirely changed just now." Maria pointed out.

"Oh!" Blue blurted in her shifted voice, "It's a side effect of the shape-shifting process. Helps us fit in better with ponies when we mimic everything about them," She finished with a bookish giggle. "Mannerisms, habits, quirks, you name it, we copy it."

Ricky rubbed his head. "I feel like I've heard you talk more in the last minute than I have the entire previous time I've known you, Blue."

The queen looked at her purple hoof like a foreign limb. "Eh... It takes some getting used to. I remember the first time I shape-shifted into a pony! I was going to-"

"Blue, please." Karol interjected, "Focus. The invasion?"

"You're right! I completely spaced on that." Twilight-Blue replied with an apologetic smile. "So, I was part of the invasion of Canterlot, the capitol of Equestria, when everything was going well. Ponies were being cocooned, the streets were covered in drones- Most of them tunnelers and caretakers; we didn't have the love for many warriors then- when all of a sudden this big, massive wall of pink magic expanded out from the palace. I didn't know what to make of it at first, but I realized all too late that it wasn't anything good. I was struck by the giant wall and sent catapulting through the air and when I landed later, I found myself in a field of plant stuff and wandered until I found Soft and Rough!"

Blue-sparkle leaned in, a hoof covering one side of her mouth as she whispered to Karol, "Rough hit me in the face with a shovel."

Karol snorted with unexpected laughter, covering her face with embarrassment.

"What, what'd she say?" Ricky questioned.

"You hit her in the face with a shovel?" Karol giggled, "That's hilarious!"

Ricky sighed, "I swear I thought I got that out of the way already. Didn't I tell you about that?"

Karol shook her head, "Nope!"

"So," the disguised Blue announced with the academically inclined smile of Twilight Sparkle, "Any other questions?"

Vahlen, who had gone unnoticed in the background until now, raised her stylus in place of her hand. "I have many questions."

Not-Twilight's eyes went wide as she whipped around to face the stealthy scientist. "Doctor Vahlen!" she greeted with a nervous voice, "What a surprise!"

Doctor Vahlen's eyes narrowed with intrigue and a bit of suspicion. "Why have you never used this form before?" Her stylus moved to her electronic clipboard with speed, waiting.

"Uh," Blue blurted, "Didn't need to?"

"Is it because the disguise is weaker than your original form? Does your physical properties change with your shape shifting ability, or is it cosmetic?"

Blue grimaced at that. "Weaker physically, maybe. Magically though? I really wouldn't want to be in a fight with a pony ever again, especially the pony I'm disguised as now."

"Magically?" Vahlen questioned, her interest peaked once more about the subject seeing as there were multiple instances of this phenomenon, rather than the singular case that the changelings presented on their own. "In what way? Are they able to change their forms at will?"

Twilight-Blue shook her head. "They can't shape shift, but they're way better at magic in general than we changelings are. Queen Chrysalis even had her throne built from some magical artifact we found while tunneling that cancels out every kind of magic except changling magic just so we wouldn't be wiped out if the ponies ever found us."

Vahlen's mind swam with possibilities. Could there be such an artifact on earth, preventing humans from achieving the same kind of otherworldly prowess? Could the fables of dragons and wizards be not myths and legends, but historical fact? She blinked, writing down even more of her speculations about what all of this implied. What if the gods of Olympus were not a dead religion, but history...

Coming to a halt in her note taking after a lengthy pause, she asked, "You stated that the other aliens should meet you here, correct?"

Blue nodded. "It would be for the best. Maybe their magic works differently on Earth as well?"

Vahlen gave malicious grin. "I'm certainly hoping so. If they're as dangerous to you as you allude, then they might be able to help us design a weapon or some other device capable of removing the threat in India and China."

Turning on her heel and abruptly excusing herself from the conversation, Vahlen continued to scribble and scribe her thoughts down onto electronic pages, all the while muttering and whispering to herself at a pace that would be blistering to the mind to keep up with.

Blue blinked. "Now that I think about it," She voiced slowly, "Doctor Vahlen is like an emotionally terrifying version of Twilight Sparkle. All science and study, no charm."

Calling from over her shoulder Vahlen loudly shouted, "I heard that!"

When Aliens Meet

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Queen Blue Sun was bouncing on her hooves, wings buzzing with anticipation. The ponies would be coming here, to her hive! She didn't know whether she should be frightened or overjoyed. They had love in them and they were going to be staying at the base. If everything went well, then they might offer their love to Queen Catalyst and save her life.

Blue had instructed her drones to be watchful of the six, not wanting any of the ponies to wander around her hive or to have the upper hoof if things became violent. She didn't expect many well wishes coming from the ponies that had been present during the Canterlot Invasion.

"Hey Blue, you alright there?" Rick was standing next to her, watching the tall queen twitch and buzz. "You're acting crazy."

The queen bit her lip and stopped moving, her wings chittering. "I really hope this goes well. Do you think it will go well?"

He shrugged. "I've never seen aliens before a few weeks ago. Now there's even more coming and I really don't know what to think."

"Are they nice?" Karol asked while readying her returned camera's tri-pod. "Like, should we wear Kevlar vests or..."

Blue's hoof wavered, "They can be nice sometimes. Not usually when you're invading them, though." The same hoof soon raised, "However! If they choose to attack, then they will be invading us!"

"You still have to tell us about that invasion of yours at some point, Blue." Maria added, scratching behind the queen's chitinous ear. "That, and any other stuff that might cause even more aliens to drop by on earth."

Blue nodded, enjoying the ear scratches while her drones zipped around Cheyenne Mountain. The Tunnelers had continued their work on excavating the base as Caretakers managed Queen Catalyst and tended to any injured drones that flew through the spire. Infiltrators had taken their places along the top of the mountain and the surrounding terrain to act as a first warning to any approaching newcomers to the base and the Warriors had gathered near their queen, right where fighting would be if magic started flying.

"Do you think they'll arrive by noisy flyer, or ground monster?"

Blue looked to her warriors nearby, overhearing their conversation.

"Probably ground monsters. I can't imagine being in either of them would be nice, but the ground ones tend to be less noisy. Do you think it would take longer than a train?"

The other armored drone chittered noncommittally, "Could be. These tall-hosts have a lot of fast and noisy things. Maybe their trains are even bigger than in Equestria?"

"Please," the first warrior buzzed, "These are tall-hosts we're talking about. They don't even have magic!"

"Um, excuse me?" Karol inquired, pointing her now assembled camera towards the conversing Warrior drones, "Would you mind explaining what a 'tall-host' is? It's for research purposes."

The two drones looked somewhat guilty; their eyes avoiding all contact with the camera's lens. "Ah, well... you see..."

"They're... um..."

Blue nodded her head, "Come on, you can say it. The more the humans learn about us, the better."

Both drones mimicked a deflated sigh with their vibrating wings. "A tall-host means any thing capable of love that's taller than us."

Maria giggled at that, "So what, does that mean anything smaller is a-"

"Small-host." The second drone grumbled.

"That's both cute and disturbing at the same time," Ricky commented.

"Do you have any other unique names?" Karol asked while focusing her camera's lens, "What do you call Ponies, for example? The other aliens that are coming here to meet us?"

"Annoying." A drone further away from the conversation replied.

The other two warriors nodded. "They're mostly annoying. Way too cheery, way too pleasant and most of them are insane."

"How do you know about ponies if you've never actually seen one?" Ricky asked. "Hey, you're gonna give this tape to Vahlen, right?"

Karol nodded, "She said we could help where her scientists couldn't. Who knows, maybe they'll let us post this on the internet."

The warriors chittered to each other, each attempting to figure out how to phrase their reply in vibrations that would make sense.

"Well..." The first drone replied hesitantly, "I'd guess the best way to say it would be Chzz'itst'kzz."

The three humans blinked. "Um, mind running that by me again?"

The drones shrugged. "There's really no word for it that we know of."

"Can you describe it?" Maria suggested.

Both drones looked to their queen at a loss. "Could you help us, Queen Blue Sun?"

Blue nodded. "I think the best way to describe it, is like a family lineage." The large queen chittered and buzzed to her drones, assembling them for a visual representation. There was six drones in a line, one branch splitting off from the rest that contained another six.

"Each drone," Blue explained by pointing to the first warrior in line, "Will have their own experiences. When they eventually die, their body is returned to the Caretaker spire and given to the grubs for them to grow into drones." She then pointed to the next Warrior in line. "The new drone will have some of the shared knowledge as the last drone that they ate from, taking bits of that drone's absorbed love through their lifetime like memories."

She then swept her hoof to the branching drones. "Sometimes, drones might not have the same experiences. A tunneler won't retain the same memories as a Warrior would, for example. They don't have a need for it with their role in the hive, and the hive's overall roles are strengthened, each drone type becoming better than their predecessor with each generation."

"Hey Blue," Karol asked, "When did you get so scientific?"

Blue shrugged. "When you're taught a crash course in human history by Doctor Vahlen?"

Ricky vented air through his teeth in a hiss. "Oof. What did you think of it?"

Blue shared a look with her drones, the whole group chittering in a unified discussion. "Could be better. More love, especially." The queen eventually replied. Her drones nodded in agreement.

"More love always better." A drone added.

After a few more minutes of recorded conversation an Infiltrator drone flew to the gathered group. "My queen!" The drone buzzed, "The ponies arrive by blackened SUV. They will be here soon!"

Some warriors raised their brow, "S U V?"

The infiltrator rolled its glowing eyes. "Ground Monster."

The warriors nodded with understanding.

"All right everyone," Queen Blue Sun announced, "get to your places and try not to fire the first bolt of magic!"

The drones assembled themselves by caste. Blue Sun hoped that a greater showing of force would deter the ponies from behaving insanely while she spoke with Twilight Sparkle. She had never met any of these ponies personally.

Warriors were placed near Blue Sun herself, followed outward by Caretakers, Tunnelers and Infiltrators at the far end. Warriors would defend her, Caretakers would mend any broken chitin or carapace, Tunnelers would excavate an escape route and the Infiltrators would swarm them. Blue was really hoping it would be a wasted precaution rather than necessary.

Three large and black colored SUV's pulled in to the base's entry road, each stopping a few meters away from the assembly of drones. The vehicles drivers popped out, each moving to the rear door to open it. In each, two of the six ponies hopped out.

Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and finally, Twilight Sparkle. None of them looked too happy to be where they were, the blue pegasus being the most wary.

"What is this?" Rainbow complained while gesturing to the army of drones. "I thought she wanted to talk!"

Blue Sun couldn't help but chitter nervously. Perhaps the assembly was a bad idea?

"Easy Rainbow," Applejack warned, "We don't want to go upsettin' anypony now."

The pegasus crossed her hooves while hovering next to her friends. "This looks like a big trap to me."

"Let's see what she has to say first," Twilight interjected, "If its all bad then we'll fight our way out just like Canterlot."

"You know we lost that fight, right?" Applejack countered. "These changelings don't look like normal ones neither; all armored and scary lookin'."

Blue decided to get their attention by waving a hoof. She wouldn't be able to talk with the six of them if all they did was converse with each other, after all. "Over here, ponies!"

Fluttershy flinched a bit at the queen's double-voice, memories of being captured by Chrysalis coming to mind.

Twilight took a deep breath. "Well, time to see how this goes."

The six ponies cautiously approached the gathered swarm, each staying more than a limb's length away from the drones as they walked down the center of the assembly. Queen Blue Sun was waiting at the far end along with her friends. Doctor Vahlen and Doctor Shen were either busy reviewing research material or organizing the reconstruction of Cheyenne Mountain and would review the encounter through video footage and interviews and Colonel Bunker was organizing the rest of the operations in the base.

Maria squatted down to eye level with the approaching ponies while whispering to herself, "They're even more cute in person!"

Karol kicked Maria to get her attention. "Focus. This is a pretty big moment and we can't mess it up by giggling at fuzzy and adorable aliens."

Queen Blue Sun loomed over Princess Twilight Sparkle much in the same way Chrysalis did, though Twilight found Blue more menacing. She was armored and commanded a powerful presence. Her drones were even more threatening, each chittering and buzzing as Twilight and her friends passed them. This hive wouldn't need to hide like Chrysalis' had, she worried. They looked ready to launch themselves into an all out conflict.

"Princess Twilight Sparkle?" The changeling greeted diplomatically, "I am Queen Blue Sun. We spoke over the video feed?"

The alicorn nodded respectfully in return, "The small square on the table?"

Blue's smile unintentionally caused a spike of worry through the six ponies, causing her to second guess her own facial expressions. "Y-yes," she stuttered, becoming a bit flustered with how the meeting was already going having a hiccup. "I said that I needed your help?"

Twilight was a bit suspicious, "Help with what?"

The tall changeling motioned to the Caretaker Spire behind her. "Inside is a friendly queen, Queen Catalyst. She has fallen ill recently and is in desperate need of love, or she will die."

Rainbow Dash and Applejack grumbled at that, while Fluttershy seemed genuinely concerned. "Is she a nice queen?"

Blue shared a look with her human friends. "Eh... not most of the time. She means well, though."

"How bad is it?" Rarity inquired, taking a single step away from a Warrior drone that seemed a bit too close for her comfort.

"She's starving," the queen explained, "The love that my hive gathers doesn't work for some reason, and she has recently lost her own hive to Queen Chrysalis and fallen into a coma."

Rainbow lowered herself to the ground, now feeling a bit worse for having been suspicious of the Queen. "We saw what happened to the other hives back in the Crystal Empire before we came here. They weren't doing so well, but I didn't really think about what the Queens would be going through."

Blue Sun nodded, "I was hoping that you would be able to offer some of your love and assist the humans of earth in defeating Queen Chrysalis. I know that your magic is potent against changelings, but I doubt you six would be able to defeat the might of a few dozen combined hives alone."

Twilight scratched her neck and awkwardly replied, "Well... we kind of came here because of King Sombra. I may have accidentally opened one of his phylacteries and released his spirit onto 'Earth'."

Pinkie Pie nudged her friend while grabbing one of Blue's Warrior drones by the neck, pulling him closer as he angrily chittered. "Come on Twilight, just look at these friendly faces!"

The drone's armored head was pressed against two pink hooves, its forked tongue flicking with annoyance while its eyes narrowed with cold menace.

"How could we not help a friendly bug like that?" Pinkie concluded, mercifully releasing the drone.

Twilight looked to the rest of her friends, "What does everypony think? Should we help?"

"Well if we don't, one of the queens will die." Fluttershy pointed out. "I might not be that comfortable with normal changelings, but Thorax isn't that bad..."

Rarity nodded, "I have to agree with Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie. We don't know where King Sombra is, but we can help everypony here while we figure out where he's hiding."

Applejack pointed to Rick, Maria and Karol. "Rarity, they ain't ponies."

The white unicorn rolled her eyes. "Everybody, then."

"Rainbow, Applejack?" Twilight inquired.

"I don't much like the idea of trusting changelings, but on the other hoof I don't want anybody to die on account of bein' stubborn. I say we help 'em."

Rarity's eyes narrowed. "Is that going to be a constant thing, or can we just say everypony with all of us knowing what we mean? It rolls off the tongue better than anybody anyway."

Fluttershy patted her friend on the shoulder while Rainbow Dash voiced her opinion. "Well, we're pretty much stuck here on 'Earth' without any idea where anything is. Might as well stick around and help out."

Blue Sun had a steadily growing grin that now broke into a smile with the groups decision to stay. "This is wonderful!" The large queen rejoiced in her double-voice.

Twilight was still a bit skeptical offering an unenthusiastic, "Yeah, woo."

Silver Lining

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"Hey, Lieutenant."

Lieutenant Olive stepped through the broken entryway into the Testing-Hive, noting Doctor Vahlen and Chief Shen quietly talking with one another.

"Hey, Maurice." Olive waved back at the camera technician, "Any reason we're re-decorating in here while the Queen is away?"

Vahlen was the first of the two to greet the officer, "We've reviewed the footage retrieved from your helmet cameras. They were far too incoherent to gather any meaningful data from, so we've opted to instead secure these stationary cameras within the testing hive for better clarity and resolution."

Shen smirked, "It should also save us the hassle of repairing any broken cameras from when you all get swarmed again in any future tests."

Olive folded his arms in front of his chest. "Well that's nice of you. Have you figured out anything that would help against the drones? Not much else we can do aside from coming in here with super-soakers, is there?"

Shen nodded and pointed to the hive's flooring. "This material- Dursine or whatever we'll end up calling it- seems to be highly resistant to the energy that changelings naturally emit." Reaching into his pocket he produced a small pocket knife and clicked the blade open, slicing away at the slimy ground. "Now, this material is respectably durable and light. With a bit of tinkering and some assistance from a Tunneler drone... I might be able to put something together in the short term; just to see how it performs in the field."

"You think that slapping all of that on us is going to work?" Olive questioned while gesturing to the chunk of material in Shen's hand. "It's not exactly going to fit into a carrier vest."

Vahlen nodded. "I've noticed a miscalculation in my own studies, Lieutenant." Flipping her electronic clipboard around, she showed a diagram of two different changeling drones. Pointing her stylus to one on the left she explained, "This one is the drone that I based my original report on." Moving to the right she emphasized a much smaller, less armored drone. "This, however, is the more standard drone our allies in China and India have been facing."

Squinting, the Lieutenant noticed something right away. "They don't have nearly as much armor."

She nodded again, retracting her clipboard. "This will require a new line of study, but it is safe to say that for now, standard munitions should be feasible against these more common drones. As for Blue Sun's drones and this test hive; they present a wonderful opportunity to not only meet our enemy's ability to perform in combat, but to exceed them."

"Because Blue's drones are stronger than the average?" Olive guessed.

"Like special forces compared to reservists," Shen explained. "If our equipment is able to defeat Queen Blue Sun's drones we should have no trouble with most of the invading forces from that point onward. It would be a matter of supply and availability of materials; so long as we keep as many allied hives on our side as possible, we'll be able to win."

"Speaking of that, what's going on with Queen Catalyst?"

Vahlen scrolled through various electronic pages before finally coming to another photograph. "The 'Orange Queen' as noted in my logs is in a sort of hibernation at the moment." She flicked the page and a different picture showed on screen, "The defective drone has taken a special interest in Queen Catalyst and has begun organizing the various Caretakers for the comatose queen's benefit. As of a few hours ago, before Blue Sun's meeting with the six additional aliens on site, the defective was mentioning something about a Cocooning."

Olive's brow furrowed with concern, "Don't you think you should be monitoring Catalyst instead of these cameras, then?"

"Doctor Vahlen and I were discussing how to best study future Queens and hives to avoid this sort of thing from happening again," Shen explained politely. "I understand your concern, but we have staff working to fill in for us. We'll stay informed, Lieutenant."

"What of Queen Blue Sun's meeting, Lieutenant?" Vahlen asked, "I haven't heard any alarms yet."

The officer scratched the back of his neck, "Well, It could've been a better first encounter. It was more awkward than anything; most of the arrivals were apparently victim to an invasion of their capitol by Changelings so they weren't too trusting."

Shen and Vahlen shared a smirk, "I don't suppose its very uncommon for them to be aggressors, then?" Vahlen questioned while motioning to the hive wall, "From what little information we have on them, Changelings seem to be a war-like species."

Olive shrugged, "Your guess is as good as mine. They say they need love to survive, but why cause war if that's the case?"

Maurice, the camera technician working on a perilous step ladder nearby, tapped his gloved hand on the side of his latest work. A green light soon flickered on. "Hey, there we go!"

Shen raised an eyebrow, "The cameras are working?"

The tech nodded, "Yes chief, all of 'em are up and running now."

"Alright, I suppose that leaves us free for now," Shen summarized, clasping his hands together. "What say we all get a good look at the new visitors that have shown up?"

"Does this place look kinda familiar to anyone else?" Maurice questioned, "I mean, there's sticky walls, spines along the ground... It reminds me of Aliens, you know?"

Olive shook his head immediately, his face pale. "Don't you dare show those changelings the Alien movies, Maurice. I don't want to fight a Xenomorph in a place like this; I have nightmares enough already with the last test run!"

The tech shrugged, "I mean it's not that bad. You know they're on our side, right?"

Shen chuckled and Vahlen smirked as the two scientists took their leave from the test-hive's entrance.

Olive pointed from his own eyes to the technicians, "Not a single word, you get me?"

Doctor Vahlen, Chief Shen and Lieutenant Olive were directed to a large tent that was currently housing the new visitors while a more proper accommodation was being constructed. Entering in through a folded flap in the tent's wall, Olive was first through. The blue pegasus, Rainbow Dash, was busy looking in a footlocker when the Lieutenant came around.

"Finding everything alright?" Olive inquired while holding open the tent for his colleagues.

Rainbow's head jolted out of the footlocker, startled at the sudden question. Vahlen was the next through, followed by Shen.

"We have very little information on your species," Doctor Vahlen began, "though any information you can provide as to sleeping arrangements, food, cleanliness and related subjects would be very helpful."

"Do you have any hay-fries?"

The scientist's attention was drawn to an almost obnoxiously pink alien in the background, "Hay fries?"

The pony reached into her mane, pulling out a box of cold french fries. "They're like this, but with more hay and less potatoes. You know that potatoes are poisonous, right?"

Writing down a note on her clipboard, Vahlen leaned in to whisper, "What is that one's name again?"

"Pinkie Pie," Olive explained. "She's the most likely to be a security risk."

"Pardon my askin', but I don't think I caught any of your names?" The three humans looked down to spot a pony wearing a stetson. "Name's Applejack," she added with a polite nod.

"I am Doctor Moira Vahlen and these two are Lieutenant 'Olive' and Chief Engineer Shen."

The purple pony with wings and a horn moved forward. "Pleased to meet you! My name is Princess Twilight Sparkle and these are my friends, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pi-"

Vahlen held up her stylus, "I apologize for the intrusion, but we've been informed. Thank you for the courtesy."

Twilight was a bit thrown off, her hoof still held in the air part-way through pointing at her friends.

"If you have any other dietary needs, health concerns or the like, you may notify the soldier outside of this tent until we can provide a more suitable environment." Vahlen concluded with, "If you have any other questions before I have to check on a few things, now would be the time."

Pinkie Pie raised her hoof, "Oh! Do we get to meet the big scary blue queen again?"

"That would be up to Queen Blue Sun for the moment," Shen explained as Vahlen quickly exited at the call of her clipboard's alarm. "She's been very busy managing her drones, rebuilding Cheyenne Mountain and helping our own research efforts as well as keeping a fellow Changeling Queen alive."

Twilight was intrigued, "What can you tell me about either of them?"

Shen raised an eyebrow as he saw the Alicorn produce a clipboard and quill of her own as she listened intently. Looking to Lieutenant Olive for confirmation, the soldier instead chose to answer.

"Queen Blue Sun," Olive began slowly, collecting his thoughts, "Well, she's not exactly hostile, I would say. She's extremely protective of her hive, her drones and her friends, and I really wouldn't want to cross her after messing with any of those; especially her eggs."

Rarity's mouth curled with a small measure of disgust at the mention of eggs filled with changelings.

"Queen Catalyst on the other hand... She's a bit more difficult to interact with, but she's not threatening either."

Shen held up his own hand, a pointed finger to the tent's roof. "Except for their energy manipulation abilities, or 'magic' as they call it."

Twilight looked up from her notes with confusion, "What's so bad about magic?"

Olive and Shen shared a surprised glance before the engineer continued. "In our world, on Earth that is, There is no such thing as magic. Any time one of the Queens or enough of their drones use this energy in an area, the hotter the surrounding environment becomes. Use enough of it and..." He gestured to the excavation project of Cheyenne Mountain, "Bad things happen."

The Alicorn then lit her horn, her clipboard and quill hovering in a lavender glow. "I don't get it; I haven't seen anything happen since I've been here."

Shen and Olive backed away for a moment, before realizing that they weren't melting into a puddle. Olive cautiously reached a hand out to Twilight clipboard only to pull away quickly.

"That's really cold..." He mentioned, an idea dawning. "Hey chief?"

Shen was already nodding, a smirk growing on his face. "This is an outstanding discovery..."

Fluttershy chose that moment to ask, "What's outstanding?"

The engineer pulled a slim device from his other pocket and aimed it directly at Twilight's clipboard. "Would you mind holding that still, for a moment?"

Twilight shrugged before looking to see what was wrong, her eyes going wide as she spotted small crystals of frost falling from her notes. "That's... I didn't cast an ice spell; what's going on?"

"That explains so much! How you were able to fend off a changeling invasion so easily!"

"Hey Olive," Rainbow interrupted while hovering next to the lieutenant, "mind cluing us in?"

"Well, look at it like this." One hand went to himself, the other to Rainbow Dash. "You're from an alien planet where everything is crazy, we're from our alien planet where everything is boring. Your crazy comes in different flavors; so far, cold and hot. The changelings are really heated and you ponies are really cold. Changelings hate the cold, so you're able to defeat them better than we can."

Rarity raised an eyebrow, "So you want us to help make things cold with our magic, and you'll help us with King Sombra?"

Shen and Olive shared a glance before nodding. "That's pretty much it."

There was a small hopeful shimmer in Twilight's eyes. "Does that mean you want to learn magic?"

The Chief Engineer scratched his neck, "I'm not sure that's entirely possible for our species, but we can certainly make the attempt."

"I'll grab my notes!"

"You called me?" Vahlen asked as she entered the Caretaker Spire, her eyes soon going wide as she came to a stop. "Good god!"

Having been paged through her electronic clipboard, Vahlen was now standing in front of a very large cocoon of white that positioned itself over the top of the Love reservoir, a large gathering of worried drones surrounding it.

"You're here!" Blue chittered, the large queen moving quickly over to Vahlen. "Do you know what this means?"

She shook her head in astonishment. "At best guess... the 'defective' drone was something that we didn't anticipate." Checking her notes she asked, "That is the defective's cocoon, isn't it?"

"It has to be."

"Where is Queen Catalyst?" Vahlen asked while checking around the spire. "She isn't trapped underneath that cocoon, is she?"

Blue's ears folded down, "Uh oh. That's probably bad, isn't it?"

The doctor looked through her notes, pulling away a tab on the ponies before finding Queen Catalyst's file. "Hmm...."

Blue Sun's attention shifted from the cocoon to Vahlen as she buzzed anxiously.

"No, she should be fine."

Her buzzing stopped, "Really? Won't she drown?"

Vahlen held her clipboard up for Blue Sun, "She doesn't have lungs to drown with."

The image that the doctor presented showed an X-ray of Queen Catalyst. There was a large central mass in her chest- Blue guessed it might be the heart- with a smaller mass further down near the middle of her body. The rest seemed to be mostly uniform in shape with very little deviation throughout her carapace.

Blue studied the picture intently, "That's all?" She looked past the clipboard as if more would be hiding behind it, "Doesn't she need more insides to live than that?"

Doctor Vahlen shrugged, "It's all alien to me."

Blue's attention refocused on the cocoon. "Can you do the same thing to that?"

Moira was a bit disappointed that her small pun had gone unnoticed by the queen. "I could, though I wouldn't want to risk harming whatever is developing inside."

Blue Sun chittered with mild annoyance, "Is there any way to see what the defective is becoming? I don't want to somehow deal with another queen coming up out of nowhere when we can't even keep Catalyst on her hooves."

The doctor switched into note taking mode. "How long has the Defective stayed around the Love Reservoir; if you know?"

"Most of its time, I think." Blue shrugged and added, "I think my Caretakers might know more about what's going on."

Vahlen looked up from her notes to the pale white cocoon. "There isn't much that can be done until that cocoon bursts open."

"Have you visited the ponies yet?" Blue asked, looking past the doctor to the field of tents behind her. "Have they said anything?"

"I'm sure Chief Shen will tell me if anything actually important happened. One of them seemed interested in Hay-Fries." She gestured with her stylus towards the cocoon. "Inform me of any changes, Queen Blue Sun. If no one knows what is going on with the defective, it is best to remain on the side of caution."

Blue Sun nodded, "I'll send a drone the moment something happens."

Shadow on the Snow

View Online

Eastern Siberia
12:03 pm
One Month Later...

The sound of helicopter blades thudding echoed over the frozen tundras of Siberia, crews of Russian military joined by United States and German soldiers working in unison to deal with one of the problems the 'aliens' known as ponies and changelings had caused.

The group was traveling to the last known location of King Sombra, a shadowy monstrosity that had devoured an entire Russian base in the middle of Eastern Sibera and began raising large black and purple crystal pillars throughout the area.

New technologies had been invented, and today was to be their field test. Armoring and weapons developed from the hive material that Queen Blue Sun provided combined with other metallic alloys in order to support weapon and armor designs that would have been impossible for the average soldier to wield before the invasions on China and India. The official name of their weapon was roughly translated from Scientist to Soldier as 'Chemical Sprayers', but the soldiers had taken to calling them 'love sprayers', 'portable flirtation devices' and 'third base'.

A soldier tapped Captain Olive on the shoulder, his hand wrapped in cold weather gear like the rest of his body. "Hey, you think these things are actually going to work against the shadow-guy?"

Others seemed interested in Olive's answer, as the former lieutenant had been the only one of them to not only spend time with changelings on a regular basis but also ponies. "Well, judging from what the Princess said, these things should do the trick. King Sombra doesn't care about conventional ammunition, but these things?" He pointed to his Chemical Sprayer with a smirk, "These should do the trick just fine..." His smirk wavered for a second, "Well, in theory."

"And if theory is wrong?" One of the Russian soldiers asked, leaning from his seat towards Olive and his conversing comrade, "What we do then; use harsh language?"

A few Russian and German soldiers chuckled darkly before Olive could reply. "If these weapons don't work, then we'll have to evacuate and try something else." Everyone present knew that their chances of escape were practically zero, judging from the camera footage of the base being overrun by a large malevolent cloud of black fog.

An hour later the leading Russian pilot came on over the soldiers' headsets. "We land in one minute. Be ready for opening doors; pull up scarf and don't lose feet in snow."

"That's a cheery thought," An American commented, "You think this new armor will protect us from windchill?"

Olive tapped his torso plate with his knuckles, a sharp knock sounding out from it like plastic. "Only one way to find out, right?"

The helicopter eventually landed on a frozen lakebed, the rest of the surrounding countryside being trees and mountains that stretched towards the sky covered in snow. The facility was on a hilltop just a few hundred meters away from the squads that assembled outside of their transports, and it wasn't long until the pilots flew off. The once serene landscape had been transformed into an alien visage of black and purple crystals jutting from the frozen ground, the snow melting on contact as dark energies crackled and arched with neon green magics.

Olive was already unsettled. He felt like the ground was watching him, waiting to see what he would do. Pointing a hand towards the waiting facility that was encased in crystal the newly promoted Captain announced, "Spread out, stay in the sight lines of your fellow squads, shout if you hear anything and spray first. There aren't any allies out here and our weapons don't harm humans."

"Da, komandir!" The leader of the Russian solders replied, organizing his own troops with bellowed Russian words.

Olive's own soldiers seemed a bit apprehensive. "You're sure they don't hurt humans? I don't want to melt anyone's face off on accident, especially when we're working with Russians."

The captain nodded and sprayed his own foot. A bright pink liquid coated the outer layer before evaporating a few seconds later. There wasn't even enough liquid left to make his boot wet. "I'm pretty sure they don't hurt humans, Lieutenant."

"The hell is this stuff, really? We can't be shooting love out of this, can we?"

"Explaining it would take longer than we have time for this mission, and I don't want to be caught out in the open talking about purified love if I get killed." Olive gestured once more towards the abandoned base and his soldiers followed suit, now confident that their weapons might actually do something.

Marching through the snow with strange equipment and an unfamiliar environment took a while; the American group being the last to arrive to the now crystallized base. Windows had been covered in a transparent black and the walls were encased in purple. Catwalks had collapsed from the weight of crystals growing on them and a dark cloud loomed over the horizon. After quick searching, no bodies were found. Piles of ash with deformed weapons were scattered around, the only sign that people had been stationed here any time recently.

The arching magical energy had taken a toll on the base as sections of pipe or heating vents had been welded shut from the intense heat the magic gave off. Computers had frozen over only to be covered in black and purple crystals and the wind itself seemed to avoid the area. A silence that a graveyard would be jealous to possess marinated the atmosphere with palpable dread.

"We find anything?" Olive shouted out to the searching groups.

"Nyet." A grumbling Russian soldier replied. He tossed a crushed Kalashnikov rifle to the crystalline floor in disgust, "Nothing here but ash and dust."

One of the Americans snickered, "Breathing in the chemicals, Chekov?"

'Chekov' gave the American a sideways glare, though it was hard to fully judge his expression from the cold weather gear that concealed his face. "I know of your songs. We are not Soviet Union, Urod."

The American held up a hand in mock surrender, the other holding the middle of his sprayer against his chest. "Hey man, chill! No need to get frosty with me."

"Captain!" One of the Germans shouted, "I found something!"

It had taken a bit of muscle power but between the roughly thirty soldiers present it didn't take long. A large stone door had barred passage to a hidden section of the base and had been coated with the same crystal as everything else, leading the Germans to investigate. With everyone now gathered, the group advanced inside with their weapons readied and flashlights on.

The groups swept through abandoned rooms filled with cold-war era technologies and computers, the hallways lined with steel reinforcement beams through the concrete and paths of purple crystal along the floor. Some doors were smashed open; the metal having caved inward like a great fist punched them to pieces. Shelves were ripped apart, books and documents lay shredded and scattered through the halls of the dark base and Olive was now even more on edge.

"Fan out; check the area here before we move on. I don't want the fog king to come from behind and get us," Olive quietly ordered. He stood in the main hallway with the squad leaders of the German and Russian groups.

"You think he has moved on?" The Russian nicknamed as 'Chekov' asked. "No sign of him."

"Or he is waiting for us up ahead," The German countered. "He is an alien unlike the others we have seen in China and India, and we have only video evidence of him existing. There is no way to tell what he might do."

"Actually," Olive butted in, "Princess Twilight gave me a few pointers about him."

Chekov shook his head and snickered, "Oh, Princess tells him things!" He replied mockingly, "Tells him to save from big fortress, tells of evil wizard in mountains."

The German smacked Chekov's shoulder, "Listen up and keep quiet. Your laughing could get us killed, dummkopf."

"Alright," Olive interrupted, placing himself between Chekov and the German. "This 'King Sombra' guy likes crystals, magic and mind controlling stuff. You see one of our guys acting strange, then Sombra is probably nearby." He lifted his sprayer, pointing the nozzle towards the floor. "One of the reasons we have these things is that friendly fire won't get us killed with it. Sombra doesn't know what these weapons do, but he has seen what the normal ones are capable of."

The German nodded with understanding, "So any of us attempting to shoot an ally would be rendered pointless."

Captain Olive smirked, "That's the idea. All of this was in the briefing, you know that, right?"

Chekov patted Olive on the shoulder. "Yes, but now we go find 'Sombra'. Enough of this waiting around for him to appear."

He was already taking his squad away from the main group, and Olive could see the many ways this operation could go wrong. "Move up!" Olive announced to the other squads. If the Russian was going to be stubborn then he would have to keep the groups together. Splitting up would be a terrible idea...

Ten minutes later, the group was given a reason to split up. The crystals throughout the base had begun to pulsate with green energies and the temperature of the halls quickly rose. Their armor protected the soldiers from the magic, but they would have to find Sombra quickly to stop whatever it was that he was doing.

"Chekov, take your group west. Heinrich, go East. Everyone else with me, we're heading north!"

The soldiers filed out, each with their weapons ready and nerves slightly fraying. There had been mock runs of the base of course, but Twilight Sparkle and Queen Blue Sun had no way to mimic Sombra's dark magic and crystals. The layout was roughly the same though detours had to be made on account of passageways being sealed over with ominously glowing crystal that promised doom to those that looked at them.

"Anyone missing?" Olive whispered behind him. The same call went out through his squad and returned a few seconds later.

"All present, Sir."

Captain Olive's group advanced through the northern section of the abandoned base. They eventually encountered a large, open room that appeared to behave like an observatory. Judging that the facility was from the Cold-war, it was most likely a front for something less than benign.

The squad spread out and secured the room, giving Olive enough time to understand just what he was looking at. Four separate pillars of crystal dominated the center of the room, each of them sending out steady bolts of neon green magic like Tesla coils. A design was scratched out in the crystalline floor, the base of it purple with black lines in...

"Is that a freakin' heart on the floor?" One of Olive's soldiers questioned, his guard lowering from the sheer unexpectedness of the symbol. "You mean to tell me that we came out here to kill a guy that draws hearts on the floor?"

"Keep quiet," Olive ordered, "We don't know where Sombra is and he could be lurking around."

As if waiting for the right dramatic moment, fields of green and purple energy closed the exits from the room. Crystals grew over the doors in the blink of an eye, and a dark chuckle sounded from the very walls around them.

"Great." Olive grumbled, readying his sprayer. "Keep a sight line open!"

The walls shifted in shadow and the building seemed to warp in on itself and contort impossibly. Floor became pits, ceilings became pools of dark fog and the centerpiece of crystalline pillars radiated even more green lightning between them. Glowing red eyes flashed from the ceiling's fog, studying the group with a curiosity.

"Why have you come here?" Sombra's smooth voice asked, "Why do you intrude on my sanctuary?"

The soldiers paused for a moment having not expected to actually speak with the fog monster.

Sombra was quickly becoming annoyed. "I have important tasks to get to, so I suggest you explain yourselves quickly."

The captain was the first to respond, "Well, you killed everyone in this base and we were sent to... uh... you know."

The dark ceiling snorted, "What, you're going to kill me with those?"

A soldier shrugged, "I guess we thought we'd try?"

"Why is it that you're really here? Over a month has passed on this frozen wasteland of a planet and only now do you think to come here. Was it Twilight Sparkle? Did she send you here?"

"Wait, so are you an evil wizard or not?" A soldier asked, lowering his weapon from the sheer confusion of the situation.

Sombra scoffed, "Evil? If you count controlling the minds of an empire for their own betterment, then possibly." The red glowing eyes flashed again, "You still haven't answered my question."

"We came here to kill you, honestly." Olive replied, "Now... I'm kind of having doubts about this whole thing."

The black fog sighed, drooping slightly from the ceiling. "Really? What is stopping you from leaving this place? There is no one else around for miles upon miles."

A soldier pointed his thumb at the crystalline wall. "You leave all this stuff around and we have no idea what it does other than look evil."

Sombra's red eyes flashed once again, "That 'stuff' is known as crystal. I need it for my ritual."

Olive raised an eyebrow, "Your ritual? Are you summoning demons or something?"

The cloud growled and the red eyes flashed, "I'm not anywhere near stupid enough to summon demons!"

"So what's with the heart in the middle of the room?" An American asked. The Squad of soldiers had gathered towards Captain Olive, all of them looking towards the ceiling and the red glowing eyes as if this was the perfect moment for a casual conversation.

"That is the beginnings of my latest work: A Heart of Darkness." Sombra proudly explained.

A few soldiers burst out with laughter. "Seriously! A heart of darkness!? What, you couldn't come up with anything unique and went for the cliche?"

The red eyes flashed far brighter this time, and half of Olive's squad straightened themselves out like puppets. "Silence!"

Olive raised his weapon along with the few unaffected by Sombra's mind controlling magic. He risked a glance to his possessed soldiers and saw a red glow coming from behind their winter goggles.

"I will give you one chance to leave this place," Sombra warned, his voice booming with annoyance. "Leave, or die."

The possessed soldiers pointed their sprayers towards Olive and the rest of the group. The Captain was glad he was wearing balaclava, because he smirked. "A-alright!" He voiced with false fear, backing away from the room. "Just give us a way out!"

Crystalline walls opened up behind Olive, his group taking the opportunity to open the doors and make a quick retreat. Sombra slammed the doors shut behind them, giving the captain a chance to speak.

"Alright, we found Sombra." Checking over his group he noticed that the mind controlled soldiers were still trapped with the king. Using his radio, Olive called the other groups. "Chekov, Heinrich, regroup at the split up point. We're leaving."

A soldier tapped him on the shoulder, "Wait, we're just abandoning them?"

He shook his head and pointed to the radio, "Sombra took our guys, and our guys have the same radios we do. We gather everyone here, and then I'll explain the plan without 'heart of darkness' overhearing us. Right now he assumes I'm keeping my word."

The group snickered at the nickname, and now assured with the knowledge they wouldn't be leaving anyone behind, King Sombra didn't seem as much of a threat as they once thought.

"So, what is plan?"

The German and Russian squads had returned to their original meeting point and Olive had explained they weren't actually leaving.

"A few of my men were possessed by Sombra in the main 'observatory' up ahead. The King still hasn't tried to kill us, but we know from the video footage that if he touches one of us, we're toast." Olive gestured to the sprayers everyone was holding, "If he gets close, spray him down. The guy latched himself onto the ceiling in a cloud of fog, so we'll be slightly out of range with these sprayers."

"I have idea," Chekov announced. A quick order given in Russian later, and the squad leader was reaching into his backpack. "We take canisters, we take explosives. Tape together, add detonator, explode 'King' in his tiny palace. Entire place caves in on him, crystals explode, we win."

Heinrich, the German squad leader, seemed skeptical. "You expect it to be that simple?"

"Won't the explosion cause the love to vaporize?" Olive added.

Chekov waved their concerns away, "Plan will work. If not, then we take our soldiers and leave this place. Then we gather more of this pink... chemical... whatever-the-blyat it is, and drop it onto entire base like bomb."

An American soldier chuckled, "Nuke it from orbit, then?"

Chekov shrugged, "It will work. Shadow man cannot possess bomb."

Olive clasped his gloved hands together. "Alright, sounds like a plan. Everyone on board?"

The squads nodded and readied themselves, all of them packing up their equipment from a short rest.

Captain Olive was the first one through the door, and the first to be flashed by red glowing eyes from the ceiling. His vision went blurry and he stumbled as if he were intoxicated.

"Why did you return!?" Sombra shouted in anger, the walls vibrating from the volume.

The soldiers behind Olive wasted no time with a reply, Chekov hurling his hastily constructed love-bomb towards the center of the room. It landed roughly next to the heart-shaped design and slid into place, a blinking light on top of it. The German soldiers spread to the walls and immediately began spraying them down with chemical, the crystals turning from a dark purple or solid black to clear white or shimmering blue as liquid streamed down the sides.

"What are you doing!?"

The possessed soldiers turned to face the intruders, pulling the trigger of their sprayers and coating their allies in chemical 'love'. The feeling was unpleasant, but they were able to mostly ignore the rain of chemical.

Sombra was in a world of confusion. The soldiers' weapons were spraying some kind of fluid everywhere rather than the sharp metal they had before. What had they done? Why was his magic being washed away? He possessed a few more soldiers with another flash of his red eyes in the fog and used them to tackle the others.

Olive staggered to the floor holding his head between his hands. It was like he was wrestling with an immense headache that sought to order him around. The others continued with the plan, most of the room having been coated in chemical 'love' in the minute that had passed.

"Is ready!" Chekov shouted, his own Russian soldiers having focused on the four pillars in the center of the room.

"Everyone out! Grab your allies and let's move!" Heinrich added, ushering his own soldiers to retreat.

Another flash of red and more soldiers were rooted in place, their minds being taken over by King Sombra. There was a struggle in the middle of the room, the Russian soldiers wrestling with the Americans and a few token Germans.

Olive tried to steady himself with deep breaths, the pain of resisting Sombra forcing him to crawl along the ground away from the bomb in the center of the room. Heinrich reached down and dragged him by his backpack's handle and he slid out of the room on the crystalline floor.

"Move, schnell!" Heinrich shouted, pulling one possessed soldier after the other. Chekov was protecting the bomb in the center and shoving his own men towards the exit, where the more mentally resistant soldiers were assisting in the team's exit strategy.

When most of the soldiers had escaped or locked in a fist fight with their comrades outside of the room, the Germans kept Sombra from escaping by spraying into the room like flame-throwers, sweeping in every direction to hold back the dark fog that threatened to melt the flesh from their bones. The crystals that had been purified with love refused to answer Sombra's magical will, frustrating the apparition of the King to no end.

Chekov's bomb gave its own flashy signal as the Russian leader pushed the doors leading into Sombra's room shut. He held a detonator in his hand and shouted, "Move from door! Pull them all to safety!"

He was joined by a few of his own squadmates as they held the door down. Pools of pink chemical were under their feet, quickly evaporating or fusing with the crystalline floor. Chekov pressed his shoulder against the door and freed one of his hands, allowing him to depress the detonator for his explosive concoction.

A deep boom sounded and a wave of pressure knocked the entire team from their feet. A great wall of pink energy cascaded from the epicenter of the room outwards like a colossal dome of magic, transforming the building and the landscape from a dark and foreboding place of dread into one of serene peace. The distant scream of King Sombra echoed throughout the base as the energy crashed into him, the soldiers he had possessed collapsing to the floor.

Olive sat up and rubbed his eyes, feeling like he had the result of twelve hangovers compounded on top of one another. A solid smack on his shoulder forced him to open his eyes, and Chekov stood over him.

"See? I tell you my plan work! No more dark wizard in big fortress now."

The Captain looked around to those under his command and was astonished to find that no one had died. Had it really been that simple? Granted this would have been impossible a month ago, given the new technology they were using. Any other group that went in with bullets... well, they would be piles of ash right about now.

Chekov offered a hand to Olive, "Come, our mission is finished and is good time to celebrate living another day."

Olive smiled from behind his balaclava and accepted the offer. His first operation as a Captain had been a resounding success.

A Chrysalis of White

View Online

The base of Cheyenne mountain had become a completely alien landscape to the humans who were stationed there. Tall pillars of sticky dursine rose into the sky as hundreds of changeling drones buzzed and zipped across the area. Warrior drones had become accustomed to the soldiers that frequently visited and mingled with the Tunnelers and the Caretakers, and the Infiltrators had been perfecting their bipedal craft to the degree of a toddler taking their first steps. Impressive progress for only a month's time. However, not everything was quiet and scenic in Cheyenne mountain. The defective had been looking after Queen Catalyst the entire time, and its body had begun to change from a drone into something else entirely.

Queen Blue Sun paced back and forth, her wings chittering with nervous energy as she monitored the bulbous cocoon in the main spire. The Defective had formed around Queen Catalyst, something she had never seen before or heard of. Blue had been worried that the Defective might be harming Catalyst somehow, but Doctor Vahlen assured her that the orange queen's life signs remained as stable as they had been for the last month. The Caretakers knew nothing, of course. The rest of the hive knew little else, and the six from Equestria had little experience with this kind of thing. It was only now, today, that any change had occurred.

It began with a sharp crack followed by an oozing of cream colored slime from the top of the Defective's cocoon. Scientists and drones alike moved to study the phenomenon and they were met with the pale holed hoof of some new kind of drone breaking through the cocoon's walls. Every crack, crunch and snap broke off another piece of the hardened barrier between the Defective and the outside world. At least, Blue hoped that it was the Defective. A final tearing of fibers and a hiss of effort came from the cocoon, and a new kind of drone emerged. Its carapace was entirely white, so Blue suspected it might be the Defective from before, yet it was also... different.

It stood just under Blue's own height, roughly six feet or so, and shook its body to flick off slime and gunk from its cocoon. A lining of silver went along its chest and a stripe of blue color went down the center. The legs and hooves were unarmored, but the chest and neck had armoring just like a queen's own carapace.

Blue's eyes narrowed in both curiosity and suspicion. Queen Catalyst was supposed to be inside of that cocoon as well, wasn't she?

The white defective held a hoof to its head. "Oh, for the sake of love, why does my head have to hurt this much?" The voice sounded female, that much was certain. She also spoke with the vibrations of a queen; two voices in one.

She turned to squint at Queen Blue Sun and wiped the cream colored slime from her eyes. "My Queen," the Defective smirked, "Is that you?"

Blue glanced at Doctor Vahlen, Doctor Shen, and the various other scientists and drones that had assembled. They equally gave pointed looks to the changeling queen and gestured to the defective.

"Go on, answer her!"

"Eh," Blue cleared her throat in a vain effort to get the metaphorical cobwebs to come loose, "Hello?" Great job, Blue. Very regal and queen-like.

The defective shook her leg and flicked more of the slime off of herself before walking towards Blue Sun. "I guess I have some explaining to do, don't I?"

"Wait, you knew what was happening?" Blue blinked in surprise, her earlier bafflement about what was going on having been replaced with the casual manner of speaking from the defective.

The newly morphed defective nodded, "I knew I had to do something to help Queen Catalyst, but I couldn't think of anything other than trying to feed her as much love as possible. It took me a while, but... I was able to talk with her for a few seconds each day. They were mostly mumbles and groans, but she knew she was dying."

Queen Blue's gaze moved over to the cocoon in the center of the spire, worried now that there wouldn't be a certain orange queen climbing her way out of it.

"When I got closer to Queen Catalyst, my hooves started oozing." She even held up a hoof for demonstration. "It was like I was compelled to get as close to her as possible, and before I knew it, my body was breaking down along side hers into chunks."

"Is she still alright?" Blue gestured with her head to point at the cocoon behind the defective. "I didn't see her leave."

The Defective shook her head, "I think we're the same changeling now, actually..." She tapped her head as emphasis, "It's really strange. On one half I want to speak with you like we're equals, and on the other it's all I can do to stop myself from kneeling in front of you every time I say something."

Doctor Vahlen was transcribing all of this down as quickly as she could. Even the changelings themselves had never encountered something like this in their species history. If she were able to accurately record it alongside the visual records of the cameras stationed throughout the base, this could be a gigantic breakthrough for not only Xenobiology, but science as a whole!

"My queen," the defective abruptly asked, "what do you call a queen and a defective that merge together? Is that like... a defective queen, or a queenly defective?"

Blue put one of her hooves into the air while looking as queenly as possible and proudly decreed, "I have absolutely no idea, but we'll think of something!"

Doctor Vahlen motioned with her pen towards a very large scanning device. "In through there, just stand as still as you can. This should only take a few moments."

The Defective, now standing much taller than a drone, assumed the same position as Queen Blue Sun had when it was her time to be scanned. "Like this?"

Vahlen nodded and began tapping buttons on her electronic notepad. "Yes. Doctor Shen, you may begin."

A flash of white light announced that the machine had turned on. A sweeping beam went over every inch of the Defective and recorded its findings onto the local computers in the room. After roughly an hour of intense boredom from being forced to stand in the same spot as still as it possibly could, the Defective was released.

"I will have a report in a week or so, should you be interested in receiving a copy," Vahlen mentioned to the Defective. "Come back tomorrow for more tests and studies."

The large white changeling nodded and quickly thanked the doctor for her help.

Date: Redacted
Location: Redacted Redacted
Codename: Ripley
Subject: Changeling listed as 'Defective'
Project Lead: Dr. Moira Vahlen
Project Assistance: Dr. Shen, Consultant Twilight Sparkle

Preface: Having emerged from a cocoon barely twenty-four hours ago, 'the defective', now identified as female, presents an entirely new evolution of changeling biology. Judging from Queen Blue Sun's hive having no collective memory or knowledge of this development occurring before, it is safe to say that this unexpected outcome could be seen as a blessing in disguise for us. I can only imagine how this would have affected the war with Queen Chrysalis, were this discovery to be made with her hive instead of 'ours'.

Subject: 'Defective'
Classification: 'Empress', for lack of a better term
Coloration: White carapace with blue eyes. White wings, blue vertical stripe along chest chitin. Chitin is silver in color. A flowing mane of silver with streaks of blue that fall down to shoulder height.
Height: 1.85 Meters
Weight: 80 Kilograms
Gender: Female

Queen Blue Sun had spoken previously of a 'third stage' to the development of a Queen's body. A proto-queen, the queen, and a mystery. As far as can be seen, the 'Empress' is the third stage of a queen's evolution. The Defective, referred to as 'Deffy' from this point forward, is capable of laying eggs. She is also capable of refining 'love' to a more potent and solid form. This new material is as durable as steel, a vibrant pink in color, and is easily shaped by Deffy's magic.

As for Queen Catalyst's disappearance, it seems that Deffy and the orange changeling queen have fused together. Presumably this occurrence is a natural progression of the changeling hive's life cycle. The 'Defective' variant of changeling comes from the Caretaker sub-species. It then drains the hive's storage of 'love', as well as the other drones in the hive, causing the queen to become weakened and vulnerable. At that point, the Defective and the Queen of the hive fuse together in order to become a new hive. All of the love previously drained is refined into solid form. An entire nest of eggs can be hatched, in addition to the grubs being nourished, by a thimble of this newly refined material. It is unknown if the appearance of a 'Defective' is related to the amount of love currently stored, or the amount of changelings present in the hive.

The material behaves closer to uranium, in that it emits a low-level radiation that changelings are sensitive to. Those few humans that were in close proximity to this material report feelings of bliss and contentment. It is not recommended to remain near this 'refined love' for longer than a single minute, as humans exposed to this radiation for extended periods eventually fall asleep. It is unknown at this time if the radiation emitted by 'refined love' is addictive or harmful to the human body.

Changelings exposed to this concentrated material seem to be quickly sated and become lazy, almost sluggish. Queen Blue Sun has consulted with her advisers and implemented new additions to her hive to lessen the drop of productivity introduced by the material. Possible uses of weaponizing the material are being discussed and theorized as of the publication of this report.

The Empress' body is armored in a similar manner to the Queen. The chest appears to serve a more decorative function than protective. Deffy has a crown of her own, similar to a Queen, with a wider crest and a flowing mane of silver with streaks of blue. though Deffy shows a strong ability in the use of 'magic' as discovered by our alien consultant, Twilight Sparkle.

Strong shielding; strong ability to manipulate objects and to project bolts of white-blue plasma; extremely high control of magic relating to the manipulation of mind, and of communication.

Deffy appears to have absorbed, or perhaps retained, Queen Catalyst's ability to communicate via a hive mind. As of the publication of this report, Deffy has laid and hatched four eggs, each with an unexpected amount of ten changelings. No report has been made thus far, as these drones appear to be similar in function and ability as Queen Blue Sun's drones, excepting for the ability to operate via a collective hive mind.

For now, Deffy and Queen Blue Sun appear to maintain a special alliance. It appears that Deffy's ability to produce eggs is at a much slower rate than Blue Sun, leading to possible implications that are noted by Twilight Sparkle:

"If Deffy and Queen Blue Sun are working together, this presents a very interesting difference between the changelings we've seen in Equestria. That's the place I'm from, by the way. In any case, I'm not sure which is a better path for changelings as a whole. In Equestria the changelings under King Thorax no longer need love, but they're socially lost. Here, with Queen Blue Sun, they look happier and more... at-ease? I think that's the best way of putting it." -Twilight Sparkle

In Conclusion, this new development could prove to be a global game-changer and the force multiplier we've been hoping for. I am confident that should this alliance between Deffy and Queen Blue Sun continue, that our conflict in the Asian theater should end in our favor, though I cannot speculate as to a definite end point.

-Doctor Moira Vahlen