• Published 1st May 2021
  • 11,031 Views, 495 Comments

Adopt-a-Hive - DreamCloud



A simple guy inherits the leadership of a small changeling hive and is woefully unprepared for the responsibilities thrust upon him. Yeah, he did volunteer for it, but how was he supposed to know that some dreams are real?

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1 - Connection Established

You know, lucid dreaming isn't really all it's cracked up to be. All the sources I've read said that's it's basically the world's best sandbox videogame or some such. Go on adventures limited only by your imagination! Yeah, right...

I sigh as I glance around the white void that I could only assume is my subconscious.

The dream had started out fine, just walking through a nondescript mall passing by multiple storefronts I can't remember. At one point I came across one of those flea-market stands that you'd find in most malls that sold off-brand merchandise, this one in particular selling cell phones. I had noticed that one of the devices was ringing, and when I went to answer it, I was zapped and transported here. That's when I became lucid.

Of course, once I was aware I was dreaming, I was initially excited about all the things I thought I would be able to do. But as I tried to do those things, change the dream setting, manifest items, and whatever else I could think of; I found myself still stuck here, in this unchanging, colorless expanse.

"Come on! Show me anything!" I scream into the nothingness, hoping for some sort of change.
"...anything"
"...anything"

Seriously, an echo? Really? There's not even anything here for sound to bounce off of! Well, fuck you too, brain; I know I'm not that empty of creativity.

Feeling disgusted and insulted, I prepare myself to start trying wake-up methods. Wondering if-
"Hello?"

I freeze, swearing I just heard a voice. I'm not going mad, am I?

No, this is just a dream, and hearing voices is actually good in this case. Is something interesting actually going to happen?
"Please, is anyling there?"

Oh yeah, I definitely heard someone, and it sounds like a cry for help. A cliche way to start an adventure, but at this point, I'm not being picky. I still don't see anything around me, so the only thing left to do is to respond, "Yes, hello, who's there?"

"Oh, thank the makers..." the hidden voice sighs in relief. Slowly the white surroundings fade into a darker environment, fuzzy details becoming more distinct. I find five strange creatures huddled around a pile of glowing green gems in the middle of a small cave, holes and branching pathways mark the walls in random locations. While the scene in front of me is creepy in nature, I feel a strange comfort from the environment itself.

My gaze is drawn downward as I notice one of them moving to look up at me, the rest of them still motionless in deep meditation.

With a cautious smile, it says, "Greetings, my name is Skitter. Please, don't be afraid." Holding its foreleg out as if for a handshake, exhaustion clearly shows through its struggling composure. At a glance, the creature looks as if some mad scientist merged together a small horse and a beetle, which was then thrown out and left to starve. However, closer observation shows their situation might actually be much worse than that.

Even with my limited knowledge of insect life, I can tell that the holes in their legs and wings signify some sort of illness. Scars and scratches cover their forms in various places, and one of them even has a missing wing. It's obvious that this group has gone through some hard times, and I can't help but feel sorry for them.

Hah, take that, brain. I do have some creativity, albeit a little morbid...

Noticing its fading smile and lowering hoof, I bring myself out of my contemplative stupor. "Ah, sorry, my name's Tyler," I say, reaching my arm out to grab the offered hoof. Surprisingly, their exoskeleton isn't completely hard or brittle like most insects, but in fact has some give to it. The closest thing I could compare it to is a fingernail, but for the whole body.

"So, um... What are you?" I ask, after the hand(hoof?)shake.

After gathering itself and sitting down, it says, "We are changelings, named for our ability to change ourselves into nearly any desired form."

I raise my eyebrows, "Anything?"

"Nearly anything. There are limits such as size conservation and weight; neither can we gain any abilities we don't already have."

"Sounds like a neat ability, regardless..." I say, once again glancing at the others. "Your group looks like it's seen better days."

It sighs forlornly, "That's an unfortunate understatement, and is also the reason we've been calling to the outer dream realms." Noticing my confusion, it further explains, "Our Queen, while powerful, was a terrible leader. Under her rule, our resources dwindled and our population stagnated; we were suffering. Eventually her follies caught up to her, and in a final desperate act of pride invaded the land of those who once fed us."

"Why would she do that?"

Grimacing, it replies, "Changelings are emotivores; we eat the emotions given off by other creatures. Don't worry, it's harmless." Pausing, it thinks for a moment, "Well, the way we were doing it for hundreds of years until she came into power, that is.

"We had survived off silence and subtlety, real friends and genuine relationships. For her, it wasn't enough; she wanted it all, immediately. But she was too prideful to notice the flaws in her various plans, of which she would accept no criticism. Inevitably, the invasion was repelled, and our losses were devastating. The result of her actions can be seen right here; as far as we know, we are the last surviving changelings."

"Damn, I'm sorry..." I say, digesting everything I just heard. "So, you've come into the 'dream realm' to find help, but what kind of help are you expecting?"

"Simply put, we are searching for a new queen. Without a queen, there is no hivemind, and without a hivemind, we cannot survive. Normally, a drone would be able to lay a new royal egg in the absence of a hivemind and given enough energy, but even if one of us fed on the maximum energy the rest could carry, it would not be enough. The only other possible solution is to find another creature to become our new queen, which is arguably a harder task but actually doable with our limited numbers."

Huh, so they're looking for a new leader on the dream-internet. Still... "That seems kind of risky, how would you know if you didn't just get another tyrant?" I ask.

Its expression wilts a bit, "We're more desperate than you probably realize; this is our last chance to save our kind. It's taken so long to find the ingredients and energy needed to cast this spell, and if we fail, the energy loss will kill us."

Wow, this is one hell of a start to a dream adventure, but I'm still wondering why I don't really have any control over this dream. Is there more to lucid dreaming than just being aware that you're dreaming? I didn't think so but maybe I missed something when I was researching it.

"So, why me?" I ask. Yeah, it's my dream, of course it's going to be me, but I still want to hear their explanation.

"Because you're the only one who's answered." It gives a half-hearted chuckle, then winces in pain. "I've been searching for so long and I can feel there's not much time left for us. If you decline, we'll most likely..." Trailing off, it goes quiet with tears starting to form in its eyes.

Oof, my heart. I was already going to accept, but this is just rubbing it in. Crouching down, I put my hand on its shoulder reassuringly, "Hey, don't worry, I'll do it."

"Y-you will?" It looks up at me with a shocked but hopeful expression.

With a smile, I say, "Yeah, I don't know if I could live with myself if I just let you guys die while knowing I could have done something."

It says nothing else and slowly collapses into my arms as it quietly cries; I begin petting its neck and back as a way to hopefully comfort it.

I really did not expect this dream to get as deeply emotional as it has, though I'm not complaining. Considering how strange this whole situation is, I'm not sure I could have purposely thought of anything better. Maybe I can't control my lucid dreams because I subconsciously know that I'll enjoy a story more if I don't know what's next? Spoilers and whatnot.

Looking over at the other changelings, I notice that they're in more discomfort than before, most likely running out of this 'energy'. Gently prodding Skitter, I say, "Hey, we should probably get on with this. Your friends don't seem to have much left in them."

Sniffing, it quickly gets back to its hooves. "Yes. Yes, you're right. I'm sorry." Its horn lights up as it composes itself, then continues, "All I have to do is to create a direct mental link to you and the spellstones will do the rest."

"All right, I'm ready," I say, leaning forward. Skitter touches their horn to my head, and my world explodes into green light.


BEEP BEEP BEEP BEE-

My hand slaps the alarm off as I groan into my pillow. Of course I wake up right as I get to the good part, that dream was getting really interesting. But, as time flows, Monday is inevitable.

Slowly, I get up from the bed with one hand massaging my scalp trying to get rid of the small headache that's starting to grow. Opening my eyes, I see my room as I've always left it. Shelves with books and various knick-knacks on the wall to my left, my desk and computer to my right, and finally my dresser across the room. What is odd, though, is that everything seems to have a green tint to it. Rubbing my eyes slightly solves the problem, but doesn't totally go away.

"Ugh, I hope I'm not getting sick," I mutter to myself, grunting as I get off my bed and move towards my closet to get dressed.

We're already one man down on the Kleiner project, and as one of the lead developers, I have to pick up a lot of the slack if the work is to be done in time. A delay from me getting sick would definitely cause all sorts of problems I don't want to deal with right now.

After putting on my dailies, I make my way over to the bathroom to do my business. The first thing I do is go for the medicine cabinet to find something for this damn headache. Glancing at the mirror, I do a double-take. Was my eye color always that vibrantly green? Dark brown hair, scruffy beard, skin as white as can only be obtained by sitting at a desk all hours of the day. Nothing else seemed off.

Sighing I grab some pain pills, hoping that the day doesn't get any worse than the previous fights Molly, you actually did really well considering he didn't have a handicap."

Growling, I retort, "I lost again, just like I lost the last four duels, and you know the queen will take no excuses, no matter my situation. At this rate, I'll be demoted to waste cleanup."

With a huff, I march into my quarters, yelling back, "And my name is Maul, get that through your thick and chunky milk pours out slowly onto the bowl of cereal.

"Dammit, I just had to jinx myself," I say, closing up the milk carton and throwing it away. Making a note to hit the grocery store later, I grab some bread to make toast instead.

As I wait for the toaster to finish, I take a sip of my coffee and gaze out my front window. Multiple cars drive by along with the usual procession of people walking their way to work. To be honest, I've always hated living in the city; too many people, too many cars, and everything is a clusterfuck. So of course, I just had to make software engineering my career. I'm so jealous of Maul and being able to live out in the badlands with the rest of- ...Wait, who's Maul and what the hell is this, Echo?" My infiltration instructor sighs with frustration.

"What?" I ask innocently, "I think it looks good." I do a fashionista spin in front of the reverse-mirror admiring myself.

"What do you mean 'What'?" she says incredulously, "This is an infiltration mission, not love collection!" Messaging her head with a hoof, she continues, "Look, I know you're one of the best love collectors we have, and that looking good is your specialty, but the whole point of infiltration is to not attract attention. I don't want to have the queen on my flank about a mission that failed because a drone couldn't help themselves from stopping at a red light, I look to the gas station up ahead and notice the prices are pretty good to-

Ah, It happened again! Did I blackout while driving?

No, that's not quite right, I remember finishing breakfast and getting in my car and driving out. But I've been daydreaming about changelings at the same time? No, that doesn't sound right either. What's going on?

HONK HONK
Startled out of my musings, I notice that the stoplight had turned green and I quickly start driving again.

It's also weird that the medicine I took earlier hasn't really helped my headache go away. In fact, it almost seems like it's gotten worse. And now I have to worry about being forced into the twelfth district and we can use the Starlight warehouse to store pods." The squad leader says while pointing to a specific part of the Canterlot map.

"Wouldn't that leave us undefended from retaliation on the side of district ten? This whole maneuver only works if nothing goes wrong with the Queen's gambit." I say, quickly noticing potential issues in the plan.

The squad leader's eyes narrow. "Know your place, Fractal, this plan of attack has been meticulously laid out by the queen and her top military advisors. We are naught to do but follow every order to the letter."

He straightens up and addresses the group once more, "Now, once we arrive at the office, opening the front door. Alice is sitting at the front desk as usual and gives me a wave as soon as I come in. "Good morning, Tyler, how are you today?"

Holding back a grimace, I respond, "I'm fine, thanks."

As I try to nonchalantly walk by her desk, she gives me a scrutinizing look and says, "Are you sure? You're looking a little green there."

"Really, I'm fine. It's nothing I can't work through."

"Well, alright, if you say so." She says, returning back to her work. "Oh, and Chris wanted me to let you know that today's meeting is moved to first thing this morning."

"Great, thanks," I say, making my way over to my cubicle and sitting down. A quick glance over at the clock confirms that I only have about five minutes until the meeting starts.

I put my head in my hands and groan. How many times am I going to be put into a waking dream? It's an absolute miracle that my autopilot didn't get me killed on the road, but how am I going to perform at work? If I'm lucky that we didn't get assigned to the palace strike force, eh Grift?"

I glance up toward the Noble district and palace to see the flashes of a large magic battle occurring. Fortunately for us, most of the resistance from the citizens has been minimal and easy to overcome. A quick recall of the day's events so far shows everything going according to plan.

"Yeah, but this all feels too easy. I can't help but feel like something is going to go horribly wrong soon."

Smirking, he nudges me with his elbow, "Aw, stop worrying so much. You're always feelling well today, Tyler?"

I jump in my seat, surprised. Quickly I stammer out, "Ah, sorry Chris, it's just a small thing. I can work through-"

"Don't give me that crap, you looked completely dead throughout this morning's meeting," he says, interrupting my rambling. Looking back at my memories, I realize he was right. I had spent nearly the entire time staring at the conference table.

With a sigh, he continues, "I can't have you here getting the entire team sick this close to the project deadline; things are already precarious since Peter quit last week. If you must, grab a company laptop to work on while you're recovering, but for now, I want you to go home and sleep."

"Yes sir," I mutter as he walks off. Maybe it's for the best, I do feel like shit and these fugue states that I keep having aren't helping.

After gathering my stuff together and grabbing a laptop, I head back out to my car. Alice made a snarky comment about not being able to work through it like I said I would, but I was too tired to bother with a response. I was half tempted to just sit in my car all day moaning and complaining, but the idea of jumping back into my soft bed won out. Maybe I can trigger another dream state so I don't have to concentrate on moving my wings, but nothing worked. It's bad enough that the weird explosion blew us all out of Canterlot, but that it has paralyzing effects too means that most of us will have an unfortunate meeting with the hard ground at terminal velocity.

Chuckling darkly, I roll my eyes a bit to see a 'ling in the air next to me. I didn't recognize them off-hoof, but their eyes were closed which means they had the mercy of being unconscious in these final moments.

...

If I had an epitaph and a queen that cared enough to open up the catacombs again, what would it be?

Heh, probably 'Here lies Skitter, the Queen's worst spe

...I came-to again inside my apartment right as I closed the front door, and took a moment to compose myself. It's one thing to hear of the changeling's mass casualties, but to see, feel, and hear it is...

No, I'm getting ahead of myself. I just had a weird dream last night, and now my current sickness is taking advantage of it and showing me weird things. Maybe.

I quickly stumble my way to my room, my sight becoming blurry as my headache starts to intensify. Eventually, I manage to flop onto my bed, groaning in discomfort as new symptoms of whatever it is I have pop up. My skin begins to feel like it's crawling all over me, more sweat than I have ever produced pools around my bed, and the strange sensation of simultaneously starving and being overfed war from within. By the time I finally consider calling 911, it's too late; I can't get my body to move.

It is a small mercy, then, when my world gives way to darkness.