Changeling Drone: (noun) · 11:29pm
Food for thought when people are assigning classes and casts to changelings. I know it's just a kind of natural thing and we all know what we're meaning when we say it... But here's something for when one is actually trying to be accurate:
drone 1 (drəʊn)
1. a male bee in a colony of social bees, whose sole function is to mate with the queen
2. ( Brit ) a person who lives off the work of others
3. a pilotless radio-controlled aircraft
[Old English drān; related to Old High German treno drone, Gothic drunjus noise, Greek tenthrēnē wasp; see drone ²]
Emphasis BOLD. Imagine the look on Chrysalis' face when somepony refers to all her children as 'drones'...
Thus, a concept:
The Drone Changeling
A Drone Changeling is considered the rarest of sights in a changeling hive. It is classified as the only male in the entire hive capable of producing genetically viable offspring with the queen*, and is capable of fertilizing over 400,000 eggs. (In fact, it is the only fertile male changeling, period.) The Drone is considered the second most valuable 'ling' (next to the Queen herself) because of this, and more often than not is never seen by outside society.
Physically, a changeling drone appears to be somewhat larger than worker or soldier class Changelings, but slightly smaller than the queen. It's shell is composed of a softened chitin that feels like hardened rubber to the touch, and is characterized by a glossy shine that scatters light at certain angles to create a kaleidoscope of colors. On its back, it has four wings instead of the traditional two (Simlar to a dragonfly), which are also larger, longer and heavier than other changelings. The wings are characterized by a look similar to laminated plastic and produce a sound similar to a human device called a Helicopter when one is in flight.
Unlike most changelings, which acquire a number of minor injuries which appear as holes in the legs, scuffs on the shell and tatters to their wings, drones are often unblemished due to a protected lifestyle, and look significantly less 'monstrous' than either the queen or the worker/soldier classes. Aesthetically, the drone is considered even by ponies who've seen it to actually look 'rather handsome... for a monster' or 'pulls that look off very well'.
A changeling drone is also known for a type of pheromone it secretes naturally. When a changeling queen is exposed, the effects are often described as 'silly'. Despite a changeling's inability to feel love, and the biological need to consume the magical essence that comes with it, queens tend to become 'highly affectionate' and in some case 'rather dumb'. It is theorized this is to help streamline the reproduction process, as changeling queens are known to be a touch territorial, snide, and generally picky and nasty in just about every aspect of their existence.
Interestingly enough, this pheromone has a noted effect on all known pony races well. While the effect is not as strong as with a queen, it generally appears to act as a relaxant. Hostile ponies are easier to calm down, while mares suffering anxiety issues have been noted to be able to relax when exposed. This appears to help significantly with a drone's natural behaviors, and it is theorized that a drone would be the perfect ambassador.
As a creature who's sole purpose in life is to mate with the queen, a drone's behavior is tuned with its body. Drones naturally avoid conflict, and often prefer to flee from a threat rather than fight. It's larger wings are of great use here, as their increased size and strength give it an average level of agility that far outstrips even the most agile of pegasi. While not capable of the top airspeeds a strong pegasus (such as a one Rainbow Dash) can achieve, a changeling drone has the closest thing any living creature in existence has to a high speed zero turn radius. In the only known incident of a changeling drone being chased by Royal guards, the drone was able to maneuver a narrow alleyway just above ground level and then perform a 270 degree inverted turn in under half a trot-length, without losing any of the considerable speed needed to keep ahead of its pursuers. Said pursuers were forced to end the chase at that point and simply wait in the skies above.
However, despite its naturally flighty nature, a changeling drone can be just as aggressive as any soldier class changeling. Particularly when the drone is exposed to the 'fear' pheromone of a changeling queen secretes when she is in danger or hurt. In an incident linked to the previously mentioned chase, a drone acting on protective instincts for a queen challenged and fought both of the Royal Sisters simultaneously. Although it lost that fight, the altercation was surprising to have occur as it was already noted to all parties that a drone's magic is inferior to a queens, and its physical skills are inferior to those of both worker and soldier classes.
It is also noted that the drone exhibits this protective behavior towards children as well without regard to race. Because of this, it is theorized that a drone's side role within' a hive may be to act as head caretaker of hatchlings, and supervisor to workers acting as nurses. But this information is inconclusive. Queen Chrysalis herself noted that a drone hadn't been seen in her hive for over four-hundred years. (She is noted as saying: 'Four hundred years too long...' while absentmindedly licking her fangs.)
*It should be noted for completeness that a changeling queen can perform cross-species mating with other equines and is in fact one of the methods changelings use to introduce genetic diversity into a stagnating hive. However, such couplings produce only one or two offspring with a fifty-fifty chance for total infertility. The sheer volume of offspring a single drone can produce with a queen makes up for this.