• Published 23rd Jun 2013
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Fallout: Equestria - Project HIVE - Cascadejackal



Ponies weren't the only ones to build shelters during the war. These are the lives of those who survived, only to watch the world fall apart.

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Survival

PROJECT H.I.V.E.

SURVIVAL


A ghost town was all that bore witness to the end of the Great War.

A full five hundred souls had lived there, out at the border of the Badlands and Equestria proper, but as the madness of the world tore the sky apart and bathed the land in hellfire, only empty homes and abandoned possessions remained. When the clouds, driven by fear-filled pegasi, blotted out the sun and moon, the gloom was cast upon desolate streets. While radiation poisoned the land, it found no victims, no bodies to twist or ruin.

Because they were all safe.


DAY 0 - WAR'S END


"Quickly now. No pushing." An armored unicorn stallion called out from atop a small wooden platform, his voice magically amplified so that everyone in the nervous crowd could hear him. "Remember your practice drills and have your passes ready. Families, stay together." He, and others like him, were careful to keep order. A single spark of panic, just one, that's all it would take to turn the town into a screaming, stampeding mob, and that was the last thing they needed now. "We've all been inside before, and we all know that there's enough room for everyone."

"Is this another drill, Ironside?" A mare called out, pausing in front of his platform while the others moved around her, an equine river headed determinedly to the town hall and the sanctuary that lay beneath.

The armored stallion cleared his throat, unsure of what to say, then released his spell to keep his words as private as possible. "It... it might be, Daff. I don't know. Damsel gave the order, and she's... well, you know."

The mare, Daffodil, looked towards the centre of town, where a black shape could be seen hovering above the crowd, directing them into the town hall. "I know... she's still out here, though, so it's gotta be a drill, right? I mean, we're not scheduled to go in again until next week, so maybe she just wants to get in an extra drill or something." She forced a smile, but her nervousness showed through.

"Maybe." Ironside gave a smile of his own, more convincing than Daffodil's. "Still, you should head on in as quickly as you can. She'll give us hell if we don't get the town down there on her schedule."

Daffodil laughed, drawing odd looks from a couple of ponies that were passing. "I heard about last time. Did she really put everypony on cleaning duty?"

"Yep." Ironside's smile turned to more of a grimace at the memory. "Everyone on the force. Cells, toilets, lockers. Every room, scrubbed cleaner than a Canterlot noble's vanity mirror."

"Alright, alright. I'll go, then. Don't want you getting in trouble."

"Before you go, Merry was at work when the call went out, so her evac route would've gone through a different checkpoint. When you see her, tell her I'll be late, as usual."

Daffodil chuckled. "Sucks being security, doesn't it?"

Ironside smirked. "Last in, first out. Damsel's rules."

The pair waved goodbye, Daffodil moving with the crowd, Ironside restoring his voice amplifying spell. "Remember your practice drills and have your passes ready. Families, stay together." Through it all, he tried to ignore the growing feeling of dread.


The evacuation took several hours, until only the security team was left outside, gathered in front of the town hall.
They watched as their leader flew one final circuit around the large building before landing in front of them and nodding. "All clear. Everyone's in." A rare smile graced her lips. "Well done."

Damsel looked over the small group in front of her. Each of them wore the same uniform, the same blue barding with yellow trim, the same unmarked, reinforced vest, black and imposing. None had bothered with the riot helmets, leaving the headwear in their offices, lockers and quarters. She couldn't blame them; friendly faces made their work much easier than featureless visors, and they couldn't afford trouble... not today.

"Permission to speak freely, ma'am?" Ironside spoke up and Damsel nodded her consent, knowing full well what he wanted to ask. "Why run the drill so soon? We aren't scheduled for another one until next week." She nodded again, buzzing her wings for a moment before speaking.

"That's right." She paused, then decided that honesty was the best policy. These were her troops, and they trusted her as much as she trusted them. "Our next drill is scheduled for next week. This, however, is no drill."

"Y-you mean..."

"Yes, Ironside. I apologise for not informing you all during the briefing, but we needed to prevent a panic. I'm sure you noticed my civilian brothers and sisters helping to keep things calm?" A few murmurs, from the pony members of her team. "The order came from the top. Get the town to safety. Minimize panic and prevent casualties by any means necessary. If you had appeared nervous, the crowd would have picked up on that, and the situation would have escalated." She cast a careful, knowing eye across the group. "Are there any complaints?"

A few voices could be heard, low conversations between members of the team, until Ironside spoke again. "None, ma'am. Just one question."

"Go ahead."

"When will we tell everyone else?"

"The Overmare and Regent already know. They'll give everyone the news as soon as we're down there. Anything else?"
Shaken heads and a few quiet negatives were her answer, and Damsel stepped to one side, sweeping a pipbuck clad foreleg towards the door behind her. "Then head on in. I'll be right behind you."

The group filed through, heading for sanctuary, but Damsel remained, gazing up at the sky. Noticing this, Ironside stepped back outside, moving beside her. "Bit for your thoughts, ma'am?"

"Worried. About my family. About the Queen."

"Oh... I guess you would be... do you think they'll be okay?"

Damsel gave a half-hearted shrug, eyes still locked on the sky. "They should be. Flutter Valley's not a priority target, and nopony knows we're there. Still..."

"Can't help but worry?" A nod was the only reply Ironside got, and the pair stayed there, gazing into the distance until something shimmered against the horizon. "Was that..."

"It was." Damsel grimaced, before turning and running into the depths of the building. "Let's go."


Down the corridors, through one door, then another, and down a spiraling staircase into the depths of the world, they ran. Wooden structure was replaced with rock walls and steel beams, then grated flooring and reinforced concrete walls. As the great gear-shaped door sunk into place, sealing them from the outside world, they slowed to a trot. It took almost fifteen minutes to reach the atrium, the heart of the Stable, the largest room in a place built to keep an entire town safe, but this place had become their home the day it was finished, with the security forces and their families being housed within the subterranean sanctuary for almost three years.

Brushing through the milling, gathered townsfolk, Ironside took his post beside the stage, where the two leaders of the Stable stood, waiting only for Damsel's whispered words.

"The megaspells launched."


Panic.
It could destroy everything they'd built. Riots, demands to open the Stable door, to let them out, friction between the races, all things that could come from even a few moments of panic.

A panic that never came.

Ironside stood at attention beside Damsel in the office shared by both Overmare and Regent, as the two highest authorities in the Stable, or, as the changeling residents liked to call it, the Hive, watched the ebb and flow of equines, both pony and changeling, moving through the atrium below.

The first few hours had been tense, close to disaster, but well chosen words from both leaders had calmed the population. Assurances from the earth ponies in charge of supplies and the underground orchard that there was enough food for fifty years soothed worries of starvation, while the maintenance crew guaranteed that the supply of clean water was almost infinite, thanks to the water talisman. Damsel's insistence on monthly drills meant everyone was familiar with the Stable, and many of the ponies had spent enough time in the shelter to be comfortable, if less than happy. The changelings had no such worries, as at home in the tunnels as they were on the surface.

Of course, the changeling residents were part of the reason the meeting had been called.

"Are you certain?" The Overmare addressed her counterpart. "Could there have been some mistake? Some... miscommunication?"

The Regent shook her head. "I'm afraid not. The call came from the Queen herself."

"Has there been... anything since?"

"No. A warning, fear, then nothing." The Regent frowned, her blue eyes focused on a family group on the atrium's second floor walkway. Pegasus mare, changeling male, two foals. Both pegasi. One of the earlier groups, she supposed. Possibly in a relationship before arriving in the bordertown. It had been known to happen,. A spouse was a steady source of positive emotions, not the least of which was love... even if the love was for the disguise, and not the changeling themselves. "Outside of the Hive... I can't feel a thing."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing." The Regent turned to her counterpart, giving her a cool gaze. "The Queen may be in hiding; we're capable of hibernation, after all, and our connection is limited without her. What of your leaders?"

"Nothing." The Overmare sighed. "My terminal can't connect to the Stable-Tec network. I'm hoping it's just interference, but..."

"But we need to be prepared for the worst."

"Right."


The Regent nodded, then turned to the security officers. "Damsel, Ironside, make sure everyone is settling in okay. Batons and standard gear only, no firearms or riot armor. Friendly faces."

The Overmare stepped forwards. "The children might be upset or stressed, so talk to them. We've got a Stable-wide party planned, and I'm sure they'll be excited to hear about it. I know our morale division is planning something special; drop hints, start rumors, whatever it takes. Understood?"

"Yes ma'am." Together, Damsel and Ironside, changeling and unicorn, saluted.


The bordertown had begun as a concession, part of the truce between the changeling and pony nations.
On paper, it was a frontier town, part of Equestria's expansion. In reality, however, it was home to a carefully chosen group of ponies. Some were researchers, biologists, archaeologists, scholars of different stripes who sought to learn the secrets of the Badlands and their inhabitants. More than a few were families who had discovered a mother or father was not quite what they seemed to be. Others were genuine settlers, seeking a place of quiet, away from the cities. One thing united the ponies of the town, however.

They did not fear the changelings.

The insect-like equines could, for the first time in living memory, walk freely and undisguised amongst those they fed from. Without the need to hide or lie, they found their pony neighbours welcoming, friendly, giving freely of the life-sustaining emotional energies that had once been so short in supply as to prompt an ill-planned invasion and coup.

There had been friction early on, as there always was when two races, unused to one-another, share the same space. Inconsiderate researchers, treating their volunteers like mindless animals or objects. Overzealous changelings, reverting to the age-old patterns of deceit and secrecy.

Time, however, has a way of changing things.

Caution gave way to acceptance. Friendship took root in hearts that once were wary, sometimes blossoming into something more. Foals were born to parents both changling and pony, showing that the gap between their races was even smaller than they had believed.

And then the war began.

Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings, was nothing if not pragmatic.
Even as, at the request of the Equestrian Princesses, she sent her children out as spies and sabotuers, she worked tirelessly to preserve both her own kind and their allies. Thus, the creation of the Stable, the Hive. None knew the extent of the backroom deals, the greasing of hooves with bits, the careful requests by disguised agents, that allowed such a large-scale project to be undertaken almost in secret.


Stable-Tec filled the terms of their contract, however. A single Stable, built beneath a town that housed, as far as anypony could tell, civilians and little else. Certainly, there was nothing of value there. However, it was when the final worker had left, the final outsider returned to the Equestrian core, that the real work began.

Changelings dropped their disguises, to the relief of all in the town, and began efforts to expand the Stable. Their Queen had pulled the right strings, shuffled the paperwork just right, and gotten Stable-Tec to list the Stable as an Isolated Rural Environment, supplied with extra materials, ostensibly to allow for repairs in an environment that was, even at the best of times, hard on structures. Much of the extra equipment, piping, machinery and construction materials were used far quicker than Stable-Tec would have expected. Extra rooms were dug out, to accomodate two hundred more souls than the standard design had allowed. Lower levels were added, the atrium expanded in height and breadth, until the claustrophobic place was roomy enough for pegasi to fly, if not freely, then comfortably.

Where the standard materials would not suffice, the changelings fell back on their own way of building. Solid, reinforced concrete, all hard edges and dull gray, was replaced by a far stronger substance, smooth and organic in nature. Whole sections of the Stable merged the techniques of pony and changeling constrtuction, even as the town above merged cultures and societies.


DAY 1


"Well?" The Overmare cocked her eyebrow at her counterpart, their desks side-by-side in the office they shared. "Are you going to play it?"

The Regent stared at the single, nameless file on her terminal for a moment, a mystery that had appeared a full twenty-four hours after the Stable door had sealed, brought forth from the depths of the network by some arcane code and timer, then nodded and pushed the button. At first, there was only static, then a voice familiar to her and her entire kind came from the speakers.

"If you are hearing this message, it means Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted, and your Hive has been sealed. Hopefully, Maker have mercy, with as many of our people inside as possible.

You are my Regent, and it is your duty to protect and watch over my children, your brothers and sisters, until it is possible to return to the surface. I... I don't know how long that will be...

If the worst should happen, should we fail and you hear this, then know we did everything we could, and it was not enough. This war could have been prevented, should have ended some other way...

Survive. Regent and Overmare, both of you, set aside any differences. We cannot survive alone, cannot hope to prevent such foolishness from ever occuring again without harmony between our races. Changeling, Pony, Zebra, it doesn't matter. It never did. Hate is a poison to us all.

Do what you can. Do what you must. If all that remains is ash and dust, then build atop it. Work together. We may be divided now, but I beg of you all... remember... remember that we're all hooved at the end of each leg... and..."

The voice became muffled, a small, resentful muttering barely heard through the speaker.
"...I'll find out how that pink menace got hold of my speech, I swear it..."

The voice returned to full clarity. "Ahem. I'm sure you've noticed that I'm not down there with you. That is because I will not abandon Flutter Valley. It is our home and, beyond our kind, only the Sun-Nag and her sister know where it is. Perhaps, if the Maker is willing, we will emerge from our slumber in time to greet you... but if not..."

A long minute of silence, before the speaker could be heard again.

"Persevere. Survive. Do not let our races fall. If traditions threaten your people, abandon them. Learn from our mistakes. You are my Regent and the Overmare; you are our future.

I am Chrysalis. I am your Queen, and I am your Mother. I pray you never hear this message, and that, if you do, then it is not the last time you hear my voice.

Finally, I say... farewell. May the Maker have mercy on us all."


DAY 6


A group of foals ran and played through the orchard, the misty spray from the sprinklers forming rainbows in the faux-sunlight of the Stable lights. Their teacher occasionally called out to them, warning them to be careful or not to climb the trees, but otherwise enjoyed the cool mist and the feel of grass beneath her hooves. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend she was on the surface, enjoying a nice spring day...

"Ms May?"

The green pegasus teacher opened her eyes and looked at the two fillies in front of her. Cream coats, orange mane and tail with green eyes. Completely identical. She sighed; they were up to their tricks again. "Tagalong, Ginger Snap, what have I told you about that? You know it confuses everyone."

"Sorry Ms May." The pair spoke in unison, then the filly on the left erupted into green flames. To absolutely nopony's surprise, a changeling filly stood in her place, beside the real, pony filly whose shape she'd been wearing. The pair were always doing that, and they'd caused their teacher more than a few headaches with their constant place-swapping. Still, she smiled. You could no more stop fillies from getting into mischief than you could the sun rising.

"That's better. Now, what did you want to ask?"

The friends looked to each other, then at the ground, and back to their teacher. Again, they spoke in unison, the changeling's voice an odd counterpoint to that of the filly. "When can we leave the Stable?"

Merry May gave her students a reassuring smile. "I don't know, but I'm sure the Overmare is doing everything she can, dears."

The little changeling buzzed her wings and looked up at the teacher with wide, turqoise eyes. "The Regent too?"

Merry May nodded. "Of course. Now, go on and play, okay?" The pair nodded and ran off, a burst of green fire signalling that, once again, they were identical. She felt her smile slip, despite the laughing colts and fillies running around under her care. She didn't know how long it would be until they could return to the surface, but she hoped it would be soon.


DAY 42


The Regent shuffled through the papers in front of her, the latest reports from the science team, and frowned. "Radiation levels around the town are much higher than expected."

At the desk beside her, the Overmare looked up from her terminal. "You don't think the Zebra megaspells were aimed at us, do you?"

The Regent shook her black, chitin-covered head. "No. We're not important enough."

The Overmare tapped her hoof on her desk, thinking. "Then what would they have been aiming at, so close to the Badlands? Oh." She stopped, eyes growing wide. "You don't think..."

"The Queen."

Pony and changeling stared at each other for a moment. The Overmare was the first to speak. "Do you... do you think they hit Flutter Valley?"

The Regent shook her head again, her tattered ears going flat. "I...no. I don't. If... if they had, we would have known... so many of us were with the Queen... we'd know... I would know..."

At this sign of distress from the changeling, the Overmare left her desk and put a comforting hoof on her longtime friend's shoulder. "They're fine. As you said, if anything happened, you'd know. Right?"

A hole-filled hoof wrapped around the comforting one, the changeling giving a fanged grin. "Right."


DAY 374


"So..." Damsel let the word linger in the still, quiet air of the atrium for a moment. "Pretty quiet. Always is, this time of night." It was the graveyard shift, where the only ones still awake were a few souls down in maintenance, and the two security personnel themselves, currently taking their break in the spacious, yet stifling, centre of their subterranean home. Her companion, Ironside, butted out his cigarette and deposited it into a trash can before responding.

"Yeah..." The stallion shrugged, and with that single word they returned to their silence.

"I hear Merry's pregnant." Damsel again, when the quiet had become too much for her.

"Yeah..."

"Know what it is yet?"

Ironside shrugged. "No..."

Silence fell once more, broken only by the low humming of the Stable lights, turned down to simulate moonlight. It was, in both of their opinions, a poor imitation of the real thing. Long minutes passed before Damsel stood, stretching her chitin-covered legs. "We should get back to our patrol." Ironside followed suit, only for his stomach to growl, much to his companion's amusement. "We'll start with the cafeteria."

Ironside chuckled. "In case there are some leftovers making trouble?"

Damsel nodded. "Of course."

As they resumed their rounds, Ironside pulled another cigarette from the packet hidden in his uniform, lighting it and taking a long drag before letting out a pleased sigh along with the cloud of smoke. His companion shook her head. "Those things will kill you, Ironside." His response was a small laugh and a smoke ring, and she rolled her eyes at him. Their break in the atrium, their patrol taking them to the cafeteria, even her remark about his habit; It was all a part of their routine, their existence in the dull monotony that came after more than a year in the Stable.


DAY 762


A changeling and earth pony, both clad in the utility barding that marked them as maintenance staff, held up their tin shot glasses, filled with the finest gin to come from the still they'd constructed in the back of a mostly unused storeroom. From their pipbucks came the Stable's late-night music broadcast. "To the Queen!" The pony, Hawkeye, made the first dedication of the evening, and the pair downed their shots before refilling them.

"To the Princesses!" The changeling, Honeycut, matched his compatriot's inter-species dedication, as always. Another drink, and the glass-and-copper contraption beside them relinquished more of its liquid bounty.

"To Blue Eyes!" This time, to the singer whose voice was entertaining the entire Stable... or at least the ones who were awake, evening as it was.

"To going beyond the sea!" This dedication, to the song itself.

"To seeing the sea again!"

"To the surface!.. the surface..."

The pair's enthusiasm subsided slightly, and Hawkeye raised his glass once more, a solemn look on his face. "To two years of being stuck in a hole, with the best damn cockroach I could ever hope to call my friend."

Honeycut nodded and raised his own cup. "To two years of being locked up with the best damn grass-muncher I've ever met."


DAY 1582


Merry May set the two cups of tea on the table in her living room, not quite supressing a smile as her guest lifted one steaming mug, inhaling with an almost rapturous look on her face, before taking a sip that left her irridescent wings buzzing from pleasure. "Oh... Merry, where did you get this?" Damsel took another sip, closing her eyes to better enjoy the drink. "I thought the tea supplies ran out last year..."

The pegasus let out a small laugh. "Promise not to tell?" When her changeling guest nodded between tiny, reverent sips, she continued, leaning forwards with a sneaky grin. "Some of us managed to grow a small crop in the back of the orchard. Not enough for everyone, not yet, but it's something." She winked conspiratorally. "One of the perks of being in the agriculture department. We each got some, to make sure it tastes right after being grown down here. What do you think?"

Damsel opened one azure eye, peering at the other mare over the rim of her cup. "I think I should confiscate the lot, since it's an unauthorised use of the Stable's agriculture resources." She grinned. "But I won't. It's too damn good to let it waste away in an evidence locker."

Merry chuckled and picked up her own mug. "That good, huh?" The security chief didn't respond, slowly draining her cup of its heavenly contents, and the pegasus took a long, slow sip herself, exhaling happily as she set her mug back on the table. After so long, it was wonderful to have tea again... even if it was a very small supply. "Enough about that, though. You said you had something important to talk about?"

The changeling regretfully looked up from the steaming beverage. "Right. I actually have something to discuss with your husband."

Merry frowned and picked up her mug again, just holding it and letting it warm her hooves. "If it's about him taking time off work, you know he's only been doing it to help me with Holly. I've been so busy lately, since my class is preparing for their C.A.T."

Damsel shook her head. "It's not that, don't worry."

"Then... what?"

The changeling didn't say anything, just reached into a pocket of her vest and pulled out a small piece of plastic, setting it on the table. Merry hesitantly put her mug down and picked it up, reading the words on the little plastic badge as her jaw dropped. SECURITY CHIEF - IRONSIDE

"Security chief? He's... he's being promoted?" She looked at Damsel, who simply nodded. "But... why?"

"Your husband is one of the finest officers on the force. If anyone deserves it, it's him." The changeling held up her hoof to prevent the pegasus from interrupting. "To be clear, this is only me making the promotion official. He's already been handling the duties for months, so it won't change anything there. However, he'll be getting all the benefits the position comes with." She smiled. "Chrysalis knows you'll need them, with how quickly Holly is growing up."

As Damsel lifted her mug once more, she savored both the heat and smell of the tea, and the gratitude that came from her friend. Merry had tears in her eyes as she stammered out her thanks, only for Damsel to reply that the chance to taste tea again was thanks enough.


DAY 4012


"If we set up an auxilary filter system before the branch here," Hawkeye tapped his hoof on the blueprints which currently occupied the largest table in the maintenance stalls, "we can route water to the new dorms without increasing the water talisman's load too much."

Across the table, Honeycut looked at the plans thoughtfully. "Don't see the Stable-Tec emergency filters lasting long, though... have to do it the old fashioned way." At his pony pal's disgusted look, the changeling shrugged. "It's the same way we've filtered water for centuries in Flutter Valley. I didn't see you complaining when I did it for the still."

Hawkeye grimaced. "That was different. We're talking about the drinking water for a quarter of the Stable, not our booze."

The changeling gave his friend a flat look. "Would you rather use the Stable-Tec ones and have them fall apart in six months? Those things aren't made to handle that kind of load." He tapped his holed hoof on the paper. "You worry about the construction, I'll worry about the filtration system."


DAY 6000


Two ponies, one a mare, the other a stallion, trotted through the Stable. Each wore the standard issue security barding, although the yellow stripes on their vests marked them as rookies, still learning the ropes.

The mare, a pegasus, was bobbing her head in time with the music from her pipbuck's earbloom, much to her partner's displeasure. "Holly, we're supposed to act professional while we're on patrol. If Chief Damsel catches us goofing off-"

"She won't do a thing." The pegasus, Holly, smirked. "Why do you think we got the late shift? Dad asked aunt Damsel- Sorry, Chief Damsel-" Her partner nodded, and she rolled her eyes, "-to put us on it 'cause it's more relaxed. They used to slack off all the time on night patrol, the way dad tells it. "

The stallion frowned. "Be that as it may, we're members of the security force now. We should act like it, and- Holly! Don't you dare!"

The mare blinked. "What?" They'd come to the atrium, their patrol taking them onto the third floor walkways, and she'd propped her front hooves on the safety railing in preperation to jump over. "It's the quickest way down."

"There are stairs for a reason, you know."

"And?"

"And we should take them, like sensible ponies."

"Hmm..." Holly tapped her chin with one hoof, then grinned. "Nah." With that, she jumped over the edge and spread her wings, circling slowly until her hooves touched the ground floor with a small yet satisfying thud. When she looked up, the stallion was hovering in front of her and glaring, his insect-like wings buzzing angrily. She just smirked at him. "Glad you joined me, Lory."

The stallion, Lorikeet, touched down with a final buzz of his wings. "I hate it when you do that."

Holly chuckled. "I know. Hey, you think there are any leftovers in the cafeteria? I'm hungry."

Lorikeet facehoofed. "We are not ditching our patrol, Holly."

"Who's ditching? We're going to patrol the cafeteria." She smirked and turned, heading for one of the atrium exits. "You coming? Or don't flutterponies get hungry?"

"For the last time, I'm not a flutterpony! I'm a changeling!" The stallion had to trot to catch up to his partner, who rolled her eyes and whapped him with her wing.

"You've got no horn, no fangs, a coat instead of a shell, a cutie mark and butterfly wings. Your mom was a pegasus and your dad was a changeling. Face it, Lory; you're a flutterpony."

The pair, pegasus and hybrid, bickered good-naturedly all the way to the cafeteria, unintentionally mimicking the long-ago actions of the security chiefs they looked up to.


DAY 7528


"Ma'am, are you certain?" Damsel questioned her Regent, who simply nodded.

"The Overmare is, at this very moment, getting confirmation from the science team, but initial readings from the surface sensors suggest it's safe. Background radiation has fallen to acceptable levels, and we are able to open the Hive."

"After twenty years, it's about bloody time." Ironside muttered, earning a quirked eyebrow from the bug-like authority figure.

"Quite. However, there is a complication: We have been unable to establish contact with the Equestrian government or the Queen and our own hives. In fact, we have not picked up any transmissions, from any external source, at all." The Regent paused, letting the implications sink in. "The Overmare and I have discussed the matter at length, and come to a decision. Damsel, Ironside, you are to prepare a team and re-establish contact with the surface. Secure the town, or what remains of it." She raised her hoof, stalling the protests from the security chiefs. "We've been gone for twenty years. The world was on the brink of annihilation when we came down here; we have to prepare for the worst. If a megaspell struck near us, the may not be much town left. If that happened, we will have to rebuild. If it survived, there is a good chance creatures from the Badlands may have taken up residence. Damsel, brief the team on what to expect in that scenario. You were born in Flutter Valley; your knowledge of the wildlife and surrounding areas will be invaluable. There's also a chance, depending on the level of damage caused by the megaspells in the Equestrian core, that refugees may have located us. If that is the case, you are to ascertain their intentions and relay the information to myself and the Overmare."

She paused again, studying the pair before her. They were the public face of Stable authority, the right-hooves of both Regent and Overmare. They were the only ones that could be trusted with this duty.

"Prepare and brief your team. You have two days. Dismissed."


DAY 7530 - EMERGENCE


A small security team stood in the entrance to the Stable, their shelter for twenty years. The tension was palpable, even for the ponies present, and everyone stood just a little straighter as their commanding officers entered the room.

Damsel was the first to speak. "Our mission is simple. We advance to the surface, perfom reconnaissance and relay our findings to the Regent and Overmare. You've all been briefed on best and worst case scenarios." She paused for a moment. "The Stable is counting on us. I expect you to do your best, no matter what we find."

With that, the changeling chief stepped back and Ironside took her place. "Check your weapons and gear. Safeties on; we don't want any accidents and there may be civilians up there. Keep your Eyes Forward Sparkles active at all times. That goes for ponies and changelings." His orders delivered, he switched places with Damsel one final time.

"I know this is an intimidating prospect. We've been down here for twenty years now, and some of you were born in here. When we get topside, stay together. No wandering off. Is that understood?"

A chorus of "Yes Ma'am!"s came from the group, and Damsel nodded before adressing the technician waiting by the door controls.

"Okay. Open it up."

Ceiling lights flashed and spun, casting a disorienting amber glow across the team as, with a squeal of metal on metal, the enormous cog-shaped door, as thick as a pony, was retracted. When the slab of steel stopped and began to roll aside, letting in the first breath of air, a number of hooves stomped, bringing up the arcane E.F.S systems of their pipbucks. At the first glimpse of the black tunnel beyond, weapons clicked as they were checked and loaded. With the widening of the gap, everyone activated their helmet-mounted lamps, the beams of light directed into the gloom ahead.

Finally, the door settled in place, and the Stable was well and truly open.


A long moment of sudden silence followed as the machinery stilled, broken only by the clack of armored hooves, shuffling nervously as their owners checked their E.F.S and, in some cases, sniffed the air nervously. As one, Damsel and Ironside took the first step towards the door, and the surface.

Author's Note:

Welcome to Project Hive, the Slice-of-Life FoE fic.
Future chapters will be done properly, instead of being time-skipped like this one. :twilightsmile: