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Digital Changeling
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PostSubject: On the Brink   On the Brink Icon_minitime1Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:44 am

Just a little something I started out of boredom, and it kinda turned into something I liked so I just had to continue it. I uploaded this thing on Fimfiction just for kicks, and surprisingly it was met with good comments and a few faves.

General Plot:

Following the failed Canterlot invasion, a number of changelings were scattered in different directions, effectively breaking the swarm apart. A small group managed to clump together in Ponyville under the command of a hive officer.

Their objective was to find as many stray changelings as they could, as they make their way to find their Queen. But it wasn't going to be that easy.

After one of their own mysteriously disappears, the resulting search digs up a much darker side of the ponies' society, and a plot that will change the face of Equestria forever.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Brink   On the Brink Icon_minitime1Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:45 am

Chapter 1

Ponyville was as lively and busy as ever. The grown-ups were out and going about their daily lives while the foals were at school. Everything would have been routine, but with new ponies coming in every few days or so, the townsponies were meeting and greeting like there was no tomorrow. It just so happens that another new face was making his way through the market stalls.

Everypony was greeting Black Frost, the newest arrival in town, and by far the friendliest. He was a larger-than-average unicorn with a dark grey coat and a wind-blown mane. Frost waved in return to the ponies who greeted him and continued to walk three steps before being stopped again by another greeting pony. This went on of for, well, quite a while. He was starting to get irritated since his progress was slowed to a crawl as everypony went to greet him. Since Pinkie Pie was still away in Canterlot for the royal wedding, the ponies in Ponyville must have taken it upon themselves to greet the new comers.

At this point, his face was hurting from smiling too much, and he was feeling a bit on edge. Was everypony here this... creepy? Sure, it's nice to be treated like a friend even though you're a complete stranger, but this is just ridiculous! Ugh, ponies and their... interesting ways. He thought, I guess this makes it easier for me to blend in. Can't complain anyhow.



Inside the dark Everfree forest, a lone tree was shaking it's crown without the presence of the wind. It shook once, twice, and thrice before something dropped down with a sickening thud on the wet ground. It was a changeling! Covered in utter darkness of the shadows, he shook a little before using his front hooves to prop himself up. He slowly rose up to stand, but a sharp pang of pain sent him to his knees.

The changeling locked his jaw, trying to conquer the pain. It appeared that his right shoulder was dislocated. He vaguely remembered being flung off by some heart-shaped force field and landing on top of a tree after flying for what felt like an eternity. All the while his body was frozen from the residual magic that sent him flying in the first place. The impact must have caused the dislocation. At least it wasn't anything too serious. "No way am I gonna survive with this. Here goes nothing..." He reluctantly stepped on his right hoof, taking a deep breath. If only there was another way of fixing this. With clenched teeth, he forcefully pulled his right shoulder up while his other hoof held his foreleg in place, which caused the shoulder to make a popping sound as well sending a pulse of pain through his system.

"AAAHHHHGGG!!!" The pain burned into his back, causing him to collapse on his knees again. His shout echoed throughout the forest. Startled birds scrambled to the skies in alarm. For the third time, the changeling rose to his hooves but made sure to keep off his injured foreleg. That needed a day's rest before it would be any good as a limb.

He limped over a tree to just lean back and get his bearings. "Okay, so I'm lost, wet, cold -" his stomach growled as if it wanted to join in on his monologue, "-and hungry... Okay, first thing's first, stop talking to yourself!" It wasn't like anyling was there to hear him talk to himself, but then again knowing his own kind, they could be hiding there as a tree or a rock.

First step: Changeling calls. He shook his body a little to loosen up, took a deep breath to clear his mind. This call needed a focused mind, and a calm body. Slowly he huffed once more and exhaled his voice in a controlled manner. "IS THERE ANYLING HERE?!" He screamed at the top of his lungs, causing another round of startled birds to take off. The changeling's ears scanned every direction, only to be greeted with silence. "Well... that didn't work. Hmm, I should get going, no point staying around here."

The changeling flapped his wings and found that he couldn't lift himself off. Upon close inspection, he saw that his wings were wet from when he fell face-first into the puddle. He looked around to get an idea where to go. Just to his right was a path that lead towards a darker part of the forest. Opposite to that was another path that lead to another darker part of the forest. Great. Which ever path he took, he'd end up in a darker place.

The canopy overhead was too thick to let light through, so he couldn't determine whether it was night or morning. Where was he anyway? It was cold, damp, and dark. Similar to where the hive was hidden, except the air felt... fresher? That only told him that there weren't any hives nearby. But this place did have a creepy aura to it, so that wasn't so bad. At least he'd feel right at home.

SNAP! A twig snapped in the area behind him, causing the changeling to jolt to a blind run towards the left path all the while screaming his lungs out.



Back in Ponyville, Frost was with one of the newer ponies who arrived three days ahead of him. She was an earth pony who had a maroon coat, a golden mane that reached to her knees, and her tail was almost touching the ground. They had been talking for a while now and looked be getting intimate.

"Let's go to my place, we'll have more privacy to talk there." The mare started off and Frost followed close beside her. Small talk were plenty between the two. The topics ranged from their foalhoods, to the weather, and finally to how they ended up here in Ponyville.

Golden Belle opened the door of a simple two-story cottage. The inside was furnished with simple things like a sofa, a coffee table, and a few vases full of flowers. "Over here slowpoke!" Frost followed the mare upstairs into a dark room. The windows were covered by heavy curtains and the room was filled with the sweet aroma of lavender.

"I didn't expect to run into anypony like me. Or should I say-" Golden Belle was suddenly engulfed in bright green flames which subsided as quickly as it came. "-anyling else." Where the once beautiful earth pony stood, another creature took her place. She now had a body of black, holes in her hooves, a horn, a pair of transparent insectoid wings and a dark blue shell on her back.

Unfazed by the sudden transformation, Black Frost followed suit and was engulfed by the same ring of green fire, illuminating the room for a second time in the eerie glow of the flames. Another changeling stood where Frost was previously.

The two changelings standing there looked identical to one another. At first glance, the only noticeable difference between the two was the size between the male and female of the changeling species, with females being generally smaller and softer in comparison. The only other noticeable difference was that Frost had a slightly crooked horn.

This might not be important to other species, but to the changelings, this noted a higher rank.

"What's your designation, soldier?" Frost started, seeing as he was an officer and the other one was a subordinate.

Golden shifted in her spot, embarrassed because she had insulted a hive officer by calling him a slowpoke. "I'm Zulu. Scout of team 5."

Frost nodded. "The name's Ghost. Commander of team 2. Can you tell me where you landed after that force field threw us off? I'd like to know how scattered we are."

Zulu opened her mouth to answer the commander's question, but the sound of her front door busting open interrupted her. There was no time to react before a pony came to her room. "Golden! They found... a changeling... in Everfree!" he said between gasps of air. "They-" The pony suddenly realized that Golden wasn't in the room, but instead there were two changelings.

Without hesitation, Ghost bucked the pony in the face, knocking him to the floor, unconscious.

"Well that was a close one." Ghost wiped off the sweat on his forehead.

Zulu pushed the changeling officer out of her way and rushed to the downed pony. "Why would you do that? Oh Chrysalis, please be alright."

Ghost tilted his head. "Are you telling me this in another changeling?"

"Well no, he's just a regular earth pony. Its just..." She checked to make sure the pony didn't have any concussions.

"Wait, don't tell me you actually care about this pony."

Zulu was silent as Ghost just blankly stared.

The changeling commander walked to the end of the room, shaking his head. "I don't believe this. Did you tell him that you were a changeling?"

"No, of course not! Well... maybe a little..."

Are you crazy! Do you want to get yourself caught? Ghost's eye was twitching from frustration. He wanted to let his thoughts explode all over the room, but he couldn't risk losing his only changeling contact. How could a changeling break the most basic rule of insurgency? It was the most basic of the basic. Why on Equestria would she do such a thing? She will hear from Chrysalis about this... As soon as I find her. The changeling stormed out the room.

Zulu looked up at Ghost, but he just passed her without a word. "Where are you going?"

"To find the other changeling that pony mention. Where was it, Everfree or something?"

"I'll come along."

"No!" He didn't mean to scream, but the frustration just slipped out. He made a deep sigh before saying anything else. "Make sure he's alright." He pointed to the limp pony before turning himself back into Black Frost. "And don't be going around telling everypony that you're a changeling. They wont be too friendly after that failed invasion." He cringed at the thought. How could their queen be that careless?

With a defeated nod, Zulu uttered something similar to "Good luck" before tending to the pony.

Closing the door with a sigh, Frost went around town to see if he could find directions for Everfree.

"Excuse me." He tapped the shoulder of a grey pegasus with a messy looking mane and tail. She was carrying bags full of paper and envelopes.

"Oh, hi! How can I help you?" She turned to Frost, staring at him at two different points.

Okay... a wall-eyed pegasus mare. Don't see that everyday. "I, uh..." He was too distracted by the mare's eyes to structure a sensible sentence.

"Hey! It's rude to stare you know!"

"Huh? Oh! I'm really sorry! It's just..." you look weird "Um never mind. Can you tell me where to find Everfree?"

"What? You mean Everfree Forest?" The mare looked at him funny - well, funnier that before. "Why would you go there? It's a very dangerous place."

Frost raised an eyebrow. A very dangerous place? Aw come on, a changeling can handle any "dangers" there are in that forest, but it seems like he needed to convince the mare first before he could get anything from her.

"Well you see, a friend of mine told me that he was going to Everfree, but forgot to tell me where it was."

"But it's dangerous to go there alone!" The mare protested, flapping her wings as if to emphasize the word dangerous.

"All the more reason why I need to find him quickly to... make sure he's alright."

The mare scratched her head before finally giving in. Pointing to a cluster of trees covered in what looked like a blanket of darkness. It was visible through the gaps of the houses. "It's that way."

Frost shook the mare's hoof and darted for the forest, throwing a "Thank you!" at her. Gah, all this sappy goodie goodie stuff is making me sick.


"Come on, Rook! You gotta find a way out of here. Where did those ponies run off to? I'm sure they came running down this way. Dang it, stop talking to yourself!" A few moments ago, Rook was running for his life after something snapped a twig behind him. He even almost completely forgot his sore shoulder from the fright.

As he was running he crashed into a couple of ponies. They didn't stay long though. As soon as they saw him, they sort of just ran off like two streaks of lightning bolts, screaming. It was then he realized that he forgot to put on a disguise.

Live and learn I guess. Rook kept trotting in one direction, keeping off his sore limb which now started to hurt a lot after his mad dash. I'll find my way out of here eventually. He reassured himself.

He decided to sit down for a breather. Where ever those ponies were, they're long gone now, so might as well rest up, right? "This isn't so bad, I mean sure it has bugs, ticks, leaches, spiders, and centipedes... but every forest has that, right?"

He leaned back on a tree and just let himself relax. With his eyes closed, he could hear the peaceful racket of the forest. The chirping birds, the growling wolves, the changeling language drifting through the - Wait!

His ears perked up as he jumped to his hooves. Did he really hear that right? A few moments of silence later, he could hear wings buzzing, accompanied with verbal clicks. He recognized it! It was the changelings' language!

Excitedly, he buzzed his wings in response. A few clicking sounds could be heard in reply. Translated, it said, "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm glad you're here." was Rook's response in the insectoid language. "I'm over by the tree." Yeah, completely helpful Rook! It's not like there's only one tree here.

The buzzing from the other changeling grew louder as he approached. Rook almost jumped for joy when he saw the form of another changeling.

"Designation?" The other changeling asked. Now that he was closer, Rook could see the other changeling had a larger and a slightly more crooked horn. An officer! he thought.

"Rook. Squad 4."

"Ghost. Squad 2 commander. You look hurt, are you alright?" Ghost pointed to Rook's foreleg.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Rook's stomach growled for the second time. "Although a bit hungry..."

"Okay, we'll have to get back to town and regroup. How long were you in here?"

"I'm not really sure. I remember getting blasted off by that force field thing, -which rudely interrupted my meal by the way- and next thing I know, I fell face first into a puddle, starving." Rook extended his wings to show that they were soggy. "I've been wandering for a few hours."

Ghost raised an eyebrow, being a bit skeptical of his story. "You mean to tell me, you've been up in that tree for a week?"

A week!? Rook stammered for words. Was he really out for a week? That would explain why he was starving.

"We'll worry about it later. For now we have to regroup and get you fed before you turn insane and kill us all."

"Haha, very funny sir." He chuckled, but Ghost remained expressionless. "Wait... you mean I'm going to go insane?"

Ghost was covered by green fire and when it subsided, Black Frost took his place. "Call me Black Frost. You do have enough energy to shape-shift, right?"

"You bet!" After being engulfed by green flames, Rook turned into a simple beige colored unicorn pony with black mane and tail. His mane was short and messy while his tail was about mid length and also a bit messy. "Just call me Rook. I've never been so good with making up names."

Frost rolled his eyes. "Now I know why they call you 'Rook.' Okay, lets move."

The first few minutes were completely silent, until Rook asked a question. "So what's the story of your cutie mark? I mean I know it's not real, but what do you tell the ponies when they ask about it?"

"It's a snowflake, does it need to be explained?"

"Of course! I mean a snowflake can mean anything between making snow, turning into snow, controlling snow, you know. Just look at mine." Rook gestured to his flank. "I'm naturally good at chess so I picked the piece with the same name as me. That way I wouldn't have to stammer when they ask me out of the blue."

That was actually a good idea. This grub might have a future as a strategist.
Ghost thought. "I can make it snow, is that good enough?" With a spark from his horn, a tiny cloud appeared above Rook's head. A short while late, tiny snowflakes fell on the aforementioned pony's head.

"Whoa, I never knew changelings could do that. Where'd you learn it?"

"Natural talent. An' a bit of practice."

"Yeah, that's great an' all, but can you get this could off of me? I'm starting to freeze here! AH-CHOO!"

Ghost couldn't help but laugh as Rook was apparently already blanketed with snow. "Sorry about that."


The sun had already set when the two changelings-turned-ponies arrived. The streets were lit up by oil lamps. Not a single pony came into view, but the lights inside their homes betrayed the deserted village feel.

"So, where are we headed?" asked Rook. "Kinda running on fumes here."

"Relax," Frost said, "we'll get you some love, then we'll meet up with Golden."

"Hold up, I got this!" Rook suddenly jumped between an alley where he transformed into a white, cotton tailed bunny.

He winked as he hopped off to a mare which was late in closing up her flower shop.

"Aww, aren't you a cutie pie?" The flower mare took the bunny in her arms and hugged it.

"I guess that's one way of doing it." Frost commented. In truth, he never really thought about doing what Rook just did. He's a sharp one, I'd give him that.

The mare put Rook the bunny down and he hopped back to the alley where he returned to being Rook the pony. "Well I've had my fill." He looked around before turning to Frost again. "So, where were we headed again?"

"To Zulu's place."

"I thought we were going to Golden's"

Frost drove his hoof directly to the center of his face. "That's her pony name."

"Oh, why didn't you say so?"

The rest of the walk towards Golden's cottage was full of silence. Frost knocked on the door and was promptly answered by the buzzing voice of the mareling, "Coming!"

The door opened to a dark room. "Why is this place so dark?" Frost asked.

"Slate has a nasty headache and complained that the light hurt his eyes." Zulu responded.

"Slate? Oh right, the pony."

"Don't worry, he's sleeping soundly. Let's go to upstairs, nopony can see us there." Zulu lead the way, with Frost and Rook following close behind.

Once the door was closed, Frost and Rook reverted to their changeling forms.

"Okay," Ghost started, "can you tell me exactly why you weren't in a disguise just now? I mean, do you want these ponies to lug you into a jail cell?"

"I know, I'm sorry! It's just I'm not used to walking around like a pony."

"We'll have to do something about that pony. We can't have him slipping up and accidentally telling everypony that you're a changeling." Ghost scratched his chin. He did his best to make his sentence as respectable as he could manage, given that the mareling had fallen for the earth pony, genuinely.

"I... took care of it with a memory spell." Zulu sighed with a hint of regret.

"Really now?" Frost gave her an impressed look. Honestly, he didn't think that the mareling had that much sense in that skull of hers.

"Yeah. Felt like the best thing to do." Zulu turned her attention the new member of the group who had been idly standing there by the door. "So what's your name?"
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PostSubject: Re: On the Brink   On the Brink Icon_minitime1Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:05 am

I like where this is going! I hope you update it soon.


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PostSubject: Re: On the Brink   On the Brink Icon_minitime1Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:22 am

Oh yes, I'll be updating this periodically, though I get stuck sometimes. Looking for some inspiration. Dang, who knew that story writing was this fun and annoying at the same time? XD

Here's chapter 2. Chapter 3 is around 70% done. Don't hold back on the feedback!

Chapter 2
Gone with the Wind

It had only been a week and the changeling population within Ponyville had increased by five. Ghost, Rook, and Zulu had been searching around the town, and the surrounding forests of Everfree and White Tail. It wasn't hard searching the forests since the changelings were free to be normal and use their calls consisting of clicks and buzzes.

Zulu was feeling good about their progress, but there was just something wrong with all of this. Usually changelings communicated with each other via a telepathic link. It was usually a way for the Queen and the hive's highest officials to relay orders to everyling. But the two weeks after the invasion was silent in that channel. It was like that world just vanished.

She understood why the others weren't alert of that fact, given that the grunts -as they were called- were only contacted through that manner when there was an immediate order to be carried out. Only ranked officials were using it constantly. That channel was some kind of secret that only the higher-ups knew how to use. The only time grunts like herself could talk through the channel was when an official commanding them opened some sort of private line.

The mareling didn't understand how it worked, and questioned why the officials were the only ones allowed to initiate channel conversations. It didn't make any sense. What if a grunt found something important and needed someling's immediate attention? What if someling was alone and dying, and the closest changeling was just behind a wall? There was a hundred reasons on top of the mareling's head why it was a bad idea to limit the channel's usage.

Because she was too distracted with thinking, Zulu didn't notice the tree in front of her until she ultimately ran face-first into it. She landed on her rump with a yelp which echoed throughout the Everfree forest.

"Hey, are you alright?" A male changeling behind her helped her up.

"Yeah, thank you, Jellybean." Zulu smirked at the changeling.

"I told you, my name's not-"

"Break it up you two! We're already late as it is." A third changeling pulled up beside the two, another male.

Zulu nodded and together the three of them silently walked down the path. The two changelings with her were one of the new additions to the group. Jellybean was from squad 8. They found him near White Tail.

A little filly was struggling with a jar of jellybeans. She tried so hard to open it until she finally gave up and tossed the jar away in disgust. When Rook and Zulu went to check the jar, they were surprised to see a changeling transforming from it, which earned him that nickname.

The other changeling was Runner, from squad 4. Rook was happy to see an old buddy. Runner lived up to his name by being the fastest flier and runner in his squad, and because of his skills, he was appointed as the messenger. He strayed into Ponyville as a rabbit to score an easy meal. What's with squad 4 and rabbits anyway? It seemed to Zulu that they specialized in being rabbits.

"The cave should be around here, right?" Zulu turned to Runner.

"Just behind these vines, I think... Jackpot!" Runner opened the curtain of vines to reveal the mouth of a cave. It was dark and the air was stale, not to mention it was eerily cold. "Come on, the others should be here already."

Zulu reluctantly entered the cave. She was never really good at dealing with tight spaces, which was why she opted for scouting since all she had to do was turn into a bird and fly around. Luckily the cave wasn't that cramped. Actually, it was quite spacious which helped relieve her claustrophobia, even by a little bit.

The only source of light in that cave were the faint illumination of the changelings' horns.

"This place could do with some torches. Can hardly see in front of m- YOUCH!" Jellybean rammed straight into a stalactite, causing him to yelp in pain. "Stupid cave."

Seeing that the only thing harmed was Jellybean's pride, the trio continued onwards to their meeting spot, with the other two giggling at Jellybean's expense. After what felt like hours, they finally see a dim light at the far end of the cave accompanied by buzzing voices. They galloped towards the rest of the group.

"One, two, three. Okay, so I guess were not the last one's to get here" Zulu said enthusiastically as the three of them joined the others around a glowing, organic sac.

"Actually, you are the last ones here. Ghost and Rook got bored of waiting and decided to explore that part of the cave." Siren, the only other mareling in the group said, pointing to a small exit just behind her.

Siren was a hive drone, the changeling equivalent of pony architects and nurses. Their jobs were to keep the hive in one piece, build hive outposts, stockpiling supplies, taking care of the young, and at times, create cocoons to hold their captives and wounded changelings, caring for the latter and the former.

Drones are the backbone of the whole hive. They had the innate ability to produce certain types of sacs. The organic sac in the middle of the cave giving off light was an example. How they make it was their secret.

The other two remained quiet, still a bit tired with their run-in with an ursa the day prior.

The first one, Coal, was scrawnier than the average-sized changeling, and had distinct scratch marks on his chitin. He was an overaggressive fighter. A bit twitchy and quick to jump in at the first sign of trouble.

The other one, Brutus, resembled someling who stayed too long in the gym. He was the muscle of his squad, apparently. In comparison to Coal, Brutus -or "Brute" as he was known- was a little more reserved and had a calm mind, despite his nickname.

Both of them belonged to the 10th squad, and formed something close to a brotherhood. Even as the two of them were flung out of Canterlot, they were never separated for long.

"How long were they gone for?" asked Zulu.

"Just about twenty minutes or so." Siren shrugged. "So what took you?"


"How much farther does this tunnel go? We've been walking for hours!" Rook whined.

"We've only been walking for ten minutes." Ghost replied with a chill of annoyance in his voice.

"Well it feels like five hours."

"Get a grip and keep that light alive. We don't want to fall down any holes."

Rook and Ghost had left three changelings at the meeting spot so the two of them could look around the cave. Who knows? Maybe there might be something special about it. Though Ghost had other motives for snooping around. If things were going well and there were still other changelings out there, this cave would be a suitable HQ for them.

He didn't know what good would come out of turning this cave into an HQ, other than a place to stay at night, but he was sure it could amount to something. Maybe a hive outpost? A place for other changelings to seek refuge? That would be a plausible purpose.

The path was winding and narrow and it was awfully dark, and the air was even staler than at the site. It became increasingly compressed as they moved along. Rook wasn't by his side. Ghost shrugged, declaring that he must be behind him.

"Hey, check this out!" Rook called out. He was a few meters ahead of the commander.

Wait, when did he get over there? Ghost was confused but trotted closer to where a ray of light pierced through the floor.

"Isn't that the meeting site?" Rook said, looking at the hole in the floor.

Curious, Ghost took a peek at the hole. "It is." He confirmed. "Look, Zulu and the others just arrived."

The two of them could hear the others talking from up there. "We shouldn't keep them waiting." Ghost said, turning for the exit.

"Right behind you Bo- AAAAaaa!" Rook suddenly screamed as the ground crumbled beneath him, landing on top of the pile of rock and dirt with a thump. The startled gasps of the fellows in the room followed, along with rushing hoof falls.

Ghost rushed over to the enlarged hole to see a dizzy Rook being aided by the other changelings. The commander changeling fluttered down gently beside the group. "You okay Rook?"

"Aft pft ah?" was Rook's groggy reply.

"He's fine. Let's get on to business."

The group of eight changelings gathered around the organic torch and settled down, their eyes on their appointed leader.

"As you know," Ghost started, "we haven't been contacted by anyling after the invasion."

The disheartened nods from the changelings confirmed Ghost's statement.

"I've been trying to contact my fellow officers and squad mates, but no dice. Now I know what you're all thinking, but I'm sure that it's only because we're out of range."

"Did you try contacting our squad mates?" Zulu chimed in, backed up by questioning stares of the others.

"It's not that easy." Ghost responded. "To successfully contact another changeling, you have to know their designation, their rank, squad, how they look, and... basically who they are. So it's either you met them beforehoof, or someling gave you details about the changeling in question. Because of that I can only get in touch with my squad and other officers. It's a bit complicated."

"So does that mean you can contact us now that we've met?" Coal, the changeling with the scratched chitin spoke up.

"Yeah." Ghost let out a sigh. It didn't sound like a sigh of disappointment, or relief. It sounded like a sigh from someone who knew that he was going to regret something he was about to do.

"Gather 'round, everyling." There was a short pause. He had second thoughts about it, but decided it was for the best. "We're cut off from the others with no idea where the closest cluster is." He paused again, diverting his eyes from looking directly at the group. "We have to break a few rules if we want to stay together as a group. So I'm going to teach you how to use the channel."


"WHY THE BUCK DID I TEACH THEM HOW TO USE THE CHANNEL?!" It had only been a day, and Ghost already regretted that lesson in the cave.

"This is so cool!"

"Hey can ya hear me?"

"I can see you from here, Zulu!"

"Anyone seen Jellybean?"

"Told you my name's not Jell-"

"CHRYSALIS! Watch were you're going, Rook!"

"Watch out for that tree!"

Ghost screamed through, but his calls fell on deaf ears.

"Ha ha! Nice crash Rook!"

I can see why this thing was officer-exclusive. The channel traffic had, so far, only served as way to get a horrible headache for the commander. Maybe it would have been better if he only taught them how to link a private line.

"Hey guys! Siren here, and I thing I found something. It looks like some old ruins or something." The mareling's serious tone was like a cue for silence, much to Ghost's relief. "Meet me there."

"Where is it?"


It only took a couple of minutes before everyling was at the ruined entrance of what looked like a former castle. The craftsmanship of the standing pillars stood the test of time... mostly anyway. But they were not there to admire pony craftsmanship.

The place was like a candle attracting a swarm of moths. It was almost eerie, and the clouded night sky didn't help at all at making the scene any more welcoming.

Nonetheless, the group cantered through the hallway towards a throne room Siren had described beforehoof.

"Siren?" Rook's voice echoed throughout the large throne room. "No time for games, Siren! Come out, come out where ever you are!" But only echos of his voice filled the still night air.

"Shh! Keep quiet for a second." Ghost looked around and saw no sign of the changeling anywhere. The place was quiet. He felt a chill run down his shell. No place should be this quiet, even if it was an abandoned ruin in the middle of a forest. "Something's not right here. Everyling, buddy up and scramble. Look for any clues."

The changelings paired up with their buddies except Ghost. He headed behind the thrones. If it was anything like the hive, surely there would be something hidden there. He scrutinized every brick on the walls and floor for any signs of some loose or movable doodads. Every ancient castle had that, right?

Finding nothing on that part of the wall, he moved to inspect another, then another, until found himself facing a door, cleverly hidden behind the remnants of once-bright red curtains. What do we have here?


Rook paired up with Runner and the two of them opted to backtrack and make sure they didn't miss anything after they rushed towards the throne room. Surely enough, they found... nothing. Well, they did find a neat sculpture of gears on one part of the wall, but that didn't really give them any ideas where the missing mareling was. Still, it was nice to look at, if you were the gear nerd type of changeling.

Runner went up to that sculpture and tried turning the large gear, just to humor himself. "This one's stuck." He said with a grin. "Well, there's nothing here. Want to go search someplace else? Uhh, Rook?"

He looked around, but couldn't find his squad mate. Great, another missing changeling. "Rook? Where are ya? Not funny man!"

"Hey, over here!" A voice beckoned from out of nowhere. It was barely audible, let alone recognizable.

"That you, Rook?"

"Behind the curtains! I found something."

Shrugging, Runner sheepishly approached the tapestry across from where he was. Careful not to rip the rotting fibers, the changeling ducked under it and what he saw surprised him. Not! It was wall. A dead end crawling with moss and bugs.

"Quit playing Rook." Just out of his view, a hoof reached out behind him, slowly inching it's way to his shoulder. "This is serious, we need to find Siren and- GAH!" Runner suddenly jumped, and in a split second found himself fixed on the ceiling, using claws to keep a grip on the stone surface.

"Runner, where'd ya run off to?" Rook said, coming out of the shadows of a hidden passage. His head was full of cobwebs and he clawed at his own face to clear his view. "Stupid webs." In hindsight, perhaps it would have been best if he used his horn to illuminate the passage before blindly treading the darkness.

Once the webs were out of his eyes, he looked left, right, and finally above, where he saw a stiff figure of a clawed changeling hanging upside-down with his whole body shaking violently and his teeth clattering. "Runner? What are you doing up there?"

Hearing his friend's voice, Runner stiffly turned his head to where the other stood and let out a nervous laugh. He wasn't ready to let go of the ceiling just yet, his muscles were still tense. The same couldn't be said for the ceiling though, as it crumbled from age plus the constant vibrations from the scared fixture.

It was only a matter of seconds before the crumbling stone gave way, and with it a spectacular rain of changeling and rubble.

"DAMMIT! D-Don't scare me like th-that!" was the first thing Runner screamed when he got back to his hooves.

Rook shrank under Runner's twitching eye as he said his apologies, though completely unaware of what he did. "So anyway, I found a secret passage. I accidentally leaned back on a loose brick and this part of the wall-" he gestured to where he came out of earlier. "-just slid open. There's some really neat stuff in here. Come on, I'll show you."

Not waiting for a reply, Rook dragged his partner through the tight hallway with only their horns lighting the walls. "Watch your step."

The path introduced a set of stairs which lead downward. It wasn't long until they stumbled upon a rectangular room which was surprisingly well lighted, and Rook pointed out why.

He trotted over to a corner and planted his hoof on a very familiar object. A glowing sac, just like the one at the cave before. "Know what this means?" Rook asked. He was clearly beaming from his find. "Someling's been here. And we know Siren could make this kind of sac."

"Good find." Runner was visibly impressed and didn't waste time contacting the others. "Runner here. Rook found a light sac, or torch sac, or whatever you guys call it, in a hidden room. Looks like Siren's been busy looking around. Anyling tried contacting her yet?"

"She doesn't answer." Ghost reported. "Been trying to contact her, but she's silent. Though I can say for sure she's here. I can feel it. Just can't pinpoint where exactly."

"Let me guess, an officer's secret?"
Coal poked. He sounded annoyed, probably because he didn't like others hiding things from him.

"Watch your tone Coal. Not my fault the hive has these rules. Just know that I basically exiled myself from the hive by teaching you how to use the channel. Arguments aside, keep up the search. She has to be here somewhere. And the sooner we find her, the sooner we can get out of this place. I can't shake the feeling that someone's watching us. I might just be imagining things, but double time it. Any luck on your end Zulu?"


"None so far. Jellybean and I have been wandering around these rooms for quite a while now. Nothing but dust and broken furniture." The mareling reported.

"I told you, my name is not- GAH! Forget it." Jellybean didn't even bother saying it through the channel. He'd probably get cut off again. Might as well let the name grow on him. At least it didn't sound as corny as his real name, and he started to like it to be honest.

"There, there, Jellybean." Zulu said with mocked pity.

The changeling just snickered as he moved to the edge of the room to resume his search. So far the only thing the pair found was jewelry, utensils, broken mugs, and the occasional jumping spider, which prefers to jump on the mareling rather than Jellybean himself.

It was entertaining for him to watch Zulu suddenly cry out and throw herself at the end of the room in less than a second. It was like she had legs made of springs or something.

"Well I got nothing." Jellybean slammed the drawer shut. Just like the other rooms before, this one held nothing but useless junk and a ridiculous amount of dust. The two changelings even fashioned a type of filter over their faces, but they still sneezed once in a while. "Lets move on before my head explodes from sneezing."

They opened the door to another room and found that it was surprisingly empty. "There has to be something here!" Jellybean declared. "I mean a big empty room with absolutely nothing inside. Yeah, spells 'nothing here', right? And that's exactly what they want us to think! They're hiding something here, I can just smell it."

Zulu couldn't help but tear up trying to hold back her laugh at Jellybean's ridiculous claims. "Wait, who's they?"

"They. You know, who ever made this place. I bet there's even some booby traps here."

"Hey, watch were you step. The whole ceiling might fall down and crush us. Heh heh."

Jellybean boldly marched into the room with his head held high. "Ha-ha. Want to bet we'll find something h-" His train of though halted abruptly as his senses indicated that the brick he just stepped on felt a little loose. A spine-chilling click followed. "Uhhh... I win?"

He was trying to act cool, but the sound of turning mechanisms just behind the walls quickly made him pale.

"What did you do?" Zulu inquired in a state of panic.

But Jellybean was frozen stiff. The sound of turning cogs and chains moved from one part of the wall to another. Every second feeling like a minute. Everything just slowed down from his perspective.

The door was shut with a loud bang.

Then suddenly, from the wall he was facing, large spikes shot out from the holes -taken for mere design before- and rapidly made their way towards the changelings.

Zulu barely managed to dive out of the way. She closed her eyes as the sound of Jellybean's screams and the sound of metal grinding into stone filled the room.

It became deathly silent. The rain began to pour. She didn't want to look. She didn't want to see her partner impaled on the wall. She just curled up into a ball and let the tears roll down her face. What a way to go.

"A... A l-little h-h-help, pl-please?"

"Jelly!" Zulu rose up and spun around to see her partner impaled on the wall, but not in the way she imagined it. The projectiles went strait through the holes of Jellybean's hooves. He looked like a pin cushion from where Zulu stood.

"Don't just stand there! Get me down from here!"

"I don't know. You look better like that to be honest."



"What'cha got there Brute?" Coal asked from across the room.

They were in some kind of gallery. The paintings and portraits were rotting with age, just like everything else in this forsaken ruin. Critters were prancing about the hall like it was part of the forest itself. Well, the way it's looking now sure makes it look that way.

"A whole lot of rusted metal and broken glass." replied Brutus. "You know it's weird, it's like the glass was just broken a few moments ago. Doesn't really sit well with the old, broken down castle look."

"Really?" Coal trotted closer to his partner. "Hmm. Probably broke cause of these critters or a stray rock or something. Don't think too much about it, we have to focus on finding Siren."

"Hey guys, this is Zulu. Watch out for traps. Jellybean nearly got skewered. Other than that, still no luck finding any clues about Siren."

Coal sighed. As if a search wasn't wasting enough time, now they had to worry about booby traps? "Thanks Zulu. We'll keep our eyes peeled."

"Ponies wouldn't booby trap a gallery, would they?" Brute asked.

"If they did, it must have been fun for the janitor."

They resumed their vain search for clues, only to end up empty hoofed a few minutes later.

This whole search was pointless. Why did that drone go off by herself and waste our time? Coal was undoubtedly annoyed with the whole thing, because for one, he was geared for action, not sleuthing, and two, he could have cared less about that drone. If she decided to go into tight spaces and fall down a hole fifty feet deep then, served her right! Everyling knows better than to go off and get yourself killed. Then again, what could he expect from someling on the lowest rank of all changelings?

"You don't seem too upset about our missing mareling." Brutus cut through to Coal's train of thought.

"What'd you expect? She goes around getting lost, and now we have to waste our time finding her? She could have at least placed some markers where she went so we wouldn't have to blindly prod the darkness. And look! The rain just fell. Perfect."

"Oh, I see. It's because you had to skip out on that date of yours with that filly?"

"What? Of course not! What do you take me for?"

"I don't know, I mean, you are the one who decided to masquerade as a colt from out of town."

"Aw come on. It's the oldest trick in the scroll! Colts and fillies are easily loved by everypony."

"Oh I can see that. I'm pretty sure that grey filly with the blue-rimmed glasses found you rather dashing."

"Hey, shut it!" Coal started to walk away, but before he made some distance, the ground whole floor suddenly shook.

When the shaking and rumbling stopped, it was Rook's voice which came through the telepathic channel first. "I did not do that! I swear!"

Runner tuned in with an explanation. "He tripped on a lever on the wall and set off some kind of machine."

"I didn't do it on purpose!"

"Really now?"
It was Ghost talking this time. "It's a shame. Who ever was responsible for that also opened a passage. Too bad, eh? I guess I'll take the credit for this find."

"What? That's not fair!"

"Alright everyling, double time it back to the throne room."
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