• 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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Sand


PROJECT HIVE

SAND

As far as the eye could see, towards distant Equestria, thick clouds hung overhead. Above the reclaimed town, however, patchy sunlight broke through the post-storm cover, bringing a pleasant warmth to the swarming changelings as they took care of a grisly business.

"I thought changelings didn't kill," Hawkeye muttered to his changeling partner as they dragged a Rock Hound corpse to the edge of the town for disposal. One of the few ponies to volunteer for the clean-up, he'd had to force down bile at the aftermath of so much violence but, as the morning had gone on, he'd found it easier and easier to ignore just what he and the others were dealing with. A visit to the Stable therapist had been scheduled in advance for all the ponies involved, however, at the insistance of both Overmare and Regent.

As they dropped their burden on the pile and turned back for the town, Honeycut bared his fangs in disgust. "We don't kill things that can think or feel. Rock Hounds are worse than animals." They moved aside for another pair of changelings to buzz past, carrying yet another deceased beast, then continued on, climbing up a small dune that had once been a house and sliding down the other side. "They don't think or feel. They just kill and breed and kill more."

They stopped to peer into one of the buildings that hadn't been buried, Hawkeye ducking inside to get out of the sun, the warm rays almost foreign after so long. Honeycut spat before following his partner. "They catch you, they eat you. Pony, changeling, rat, buffalo, it doesn't matter. Those disgusting things'll go for anything that moves... and a few things that don't."

Hawkeye grimaced. "You make it sound like they're monsters."

Honeycut nodded, one holed hoof digging in the pocket of his barding. "They are. Teeth, claws and stink. That's all they are." He pulled out a flask and popped the cap, taking a swig before offering it to his pony partner. "Bunch'a dead dogs ain't no loss. Town's gonna reek for a while, though."

"If you say so." Hawkeye upended the flask, taking a long pull of the alcohol within before sealing it and tucking it into his own barding. Stepping towards the door, he sighed. "Back to it, then... get this done with, we can start digging the houses out."

The changeling followed, wincing and shielding his eyes with a hoof as the clouds parted for a moment, bathing the sand-covered town in the sun's full radiance. "Was the sun always this bright?"

"Be about summer, I'd say," came his pony pal's reply. "The Princess's just making sure everyone gets a bit of sun, that's all."

"Yeah, well, she could turn the damn thing down. I'm gonna go blind here."


Evening came, bringing with it a chill and the silver light of the moon, filtered through the tattered clouds above. Much of the town was still and quiet, save for a small group of changelings on the outskirts who moved busily around a roaring bonfire, tending to the flames.

Far below, in the Stable, Honeycut finished relaying Maintenance's report on the surface to the Regent and Overmare. "That's about the size of it, ma'ams. It'll take a few days to clear out all the sand and get a better idea, but the buildings we checked looked mostly intact. Nothing some resin won't fix."

The Overmare nodded with a small smile. "I see. That's some good news... what about the... remains of the... creatures?"

Honeycut frowned. "Dealt with, ma'am." Recieving a quirked eyebrow from the pony leader, he continued, though reluctantly. "Us changelings are taking care of it."

Before the Overmare could say anything else, the Regent interrupted. "Thank you for your report, Honeycut. You may return to your duties."

Honeycut bowed slightly and made his exit, the office door sliding closed behind him. The Overmare turned to her counterpart with a frown. "Is there something you'd like to tell me? How, exactly, are the remains being 'dealt with', and why was I not made aware of it?"

The Regent stood and approached the large window overlooking the atrium, her companion following to stand beside her. Pony and changeling stood, watching as a few equine forms moved about the grand space, heading to late shifts or the comforts of their quarters. One was thoughtful, the other awaiting an answer.

Several moments passed, before either of them spoke.

"Our ponies," the Regent began, not looking into the atrium, but watching her counterpart in the glass, "are not used to what was in our town. After what Security encountered, you know this."

The Overmare nodded. "That's why we had them speak to the counselor. Violence... even the aftermath... it's not for us."

At this, the Regent gave a nod of her own. "That is why I had our changelings remain on the surface when our ponies returned."

"To deal with the remains?" Another nod. "How?"

"Come morning, they'll be nothing but ash." The Regent had to give her friend credit. Her displeasure was visible only for a moment, before it was hidden behind a neutral, professional mask... that did nothing to hide her true feelings from the changeling.

"I see... you... burned the bodies?" The Regent nodded, drawing a frown from the Overmare. "Why?"

The Regent finally turned from the glass, to look directly at her counterpart. "Would you rather our people drag them into the desert and leave them to rot? It would only draw the hounds back to us." Disgust flashed across the Overmare's face as realisation set in, and the Regent nodded once more, her expression growing dark. "Correct. They eat their own dead. So many bodies... it would be irresistible for them."

The Overmare swallowed, looking slightly ill. "I see..."

The changeling stepped forwards, placing a holed hoof across her friend's withers. A reassuring smile was given, the effect not lessened by her fangs. "I apologise for not informing you, but you and our ponies... it isn't your work, or your way. The hounds are beasts, worse than animals... they would devour us all... and our changelings are far better at dealing with them. It won't hurt us like it would you."

The pony mare took a deep breath to steady herself, then gave her friend a shaky smile. "I trust you... and... thank you. For protecting our ponies. But you don't need to protect me. I am the Overmare, and our people mean just as much to me as they do you... and they rely on both of us. I won't shy away, no matter what it takes to look after our people."

The Regent pulled her friend close, embracing her. Actions said what words could not, and when they broke apart, each wore a warm smile born of trust and friendship. "For Hive and Stable, old friend." She raised her hoof, offering it to the mare before her.

Smiling, the Overmare met the mare's hoof with her own. "For Pony and Changeling."

Author's Note:

Onwards, ever onwards. The restoration of the town approaches!

A couple of side notes. First, thanks to everyone who gave me their picks for the header. I went with the one that was most popular. :twilightsmile:
Second, Midnight Stalker was this chapter's prereader. And the reason it was a couple hours late. :trollestia:
Finally, I was sorely tempted to reveal the Overmare and Regent's names this chapter... but decided not to. At least... not yet.