• 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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Chosen


PROJECT HIVE

Chosen

The Overmare and Regent carefully examined the two equines standing in their office, giving no clue to the reason for the meeting. For their part, Damsel and Ironside remained at ease under the scrutiny, keeping any questions to themselves.

Beyond their Security barding, the pair had little in common. Ironside fairly towered over Damsel, a full head taller, with a stockier build than the decidedly average changeling. One had their mane cut short around their horn, though not enough to be mistaken for military, while the other's finned crest stood proud and straight. A thick coat stood in contrast to a glossy black shell, warming hair and protective chitin. Even their uniforms bore tell-tale signs of their wearer's differences, small though they have been. Wear and tear, wing slits, the distinctive shape of a love crystal or packet of smokes tucked into a pocket.

But appearances were deceiving. They were the public face of order and harmony in the Hive, and each was devoted to their home and people, regardless of species.


A minute passed without anything being said. Eventually, though, the Regent nodded, and the Overmare spoke, her tone even. "Ironside. Damsel. I'm afraid we have some... bad news. All attempts to contact the outside world have failed. Equestria is dark, as is the Crystal Empire."

The Regent took over. "The Queen remains silent." She paused, meeting Damsel's eyes for a moment, unsaid words passing between them. "Though, it is likely She, and our brethren, are still in hiding."

Damsel stood slightly straighter, her face not betraying anything. However, it was Ironside who replied. "Do we have a plan, ma'am?"

The Overmare blinked, then nodded. "Yes. We will be sending two teams to re-establish contact. Ironside, do you have any objections to leading the Equestrian team?" The unicorn shook his head. "Very well. The resources of the Stable are at your disposal; any personnel you feel would be suited for this task, they're yours."

"Who is heading the Flutter Valley team?" Damsel asked. The Overmare looked to her partner.

"You are," the Regent stated, to nobody's surprise. "Is that acceptable?" Damsel nodded. "Very well. Damsel, Ironside, choose your teams wisely. The fate of our people may depend on you."


The Security offices were much quieter than usual, the changelings and ponies on duty either patrolling the Stable or guarding the Maintenance teams excavating the town above... along with several off-duty members, who took the chance to enjoy the sunlight.

Only Damsel and Ironside were there, seated at the large briefing room table and going through files, maps and reports from the Science division. They worked in thoughtful silence, only muttering to one another in low tones as they went over everything known about the state of the outside world. It wasn't much.

"Science thinks Equestria might be irradiated," Ironside said softly. "Might be too dangerous to reach the core cities."

"What are you going to do?" Damsel asked, glancing up from her own reports.

Ironside paused to examine a map, then, after making a mark on it, pushed it towards Damsel. "Head for Appleloosa, maybe Dodge Junction." Damsel made a non-commital noise before pushing the map back. "Take a small team, ponies, couple of changelings, see how far we can get."

"If there are survivors?"

Ironside frowned, circling something on his map. "We help. It's the pony way."

Silence fell again, holding reign for several minutes before Ironside spoke again. "What about you?"

Damsel put down the report she was examining and blinked. "Head straight for Flutter Valley. Find the Queen. Wake Her up."

Ironside shook his head. "No, I mean... who are you taking? Anypony in mind?"

"No ponies." Frowning, Damsel pulled another map over and checked it against the one Ironside was examining. "There's a sietch there, in that canyon. A few hours out of your way, but it's shelter." As her partner double-checked it himself and made a small note, she shifted, stretching her resin-encased foreleg with a low groan. "Ponies have never seen our home, Ironside. They never will."

Ironside looked at her in suprise, one eyebrow raised. "Really?"

Damsel nodded, the reports temporarily set aside in favor of a short break. "Really." She stretched her leg again, her wings twitching. "Even your Princesses haven't." Pausing, the changeling chipped away at the resin on her foreleg with her fangs, exposing a patch of slightly lighter chitin, where the wound had healed over. She frowned at it, testing the surface with one fang.


When it became clear she wasn't going to continue, preoccupied with checking her almost-healed leg, Ironside took the chance to stretch himself. As his joints popped in relief after so long sitting, he asked "How did they meet, then? For the talks, I mean. I was just a colt back then, but I don't think your Queen would've been welcome in Canterlot."

Damsel chewed for a moment, mixing resin and saliva, before spitting a small glob onto her leg, using her muzzle to shape it against the existing cast, replacing what she'd chipped off. "Sietches, I suppose." She watched it dry before finally turning back to Ironside. "I was a fishermare then; I wouldn't know. Matters outside of the valley were for the Guard."

Ironside nodded. "I see." He reached out, hooking one hoof around a mug, almost lost among the papers, and lifting it up with a grimace. "Empty. Want..." Before he could even finish asking, Damsel had shoved her own mug across the table to him with an expectant look. He just rolled his eyes and stood, taking both mugs to the briefing room coffee pot, practically an honorary member of the Security team for its long years of faithful service. "You never answered my question." The pot of life-giving caffeine was taken in his aura, surrendering its sweet nectar to the two waiting mugs. "About who you're going to take with you, I mean."

When her mug was set in front of her, Damsel grabbed it with both hooves, taking a swig and grimacing. "We really need tea in here." While she shook her head, Ironside rolled his eyes and sat back down himself, waiting for an answer. "Gah. Too bitter." The changeling sighed. "I want to take officer Lorrikeet."

"Any reason why?" Ironside asked over the rim of his mug. Damsel nodded.

"You know why changelings can't travel alone, don't you?"

"Because of isolation sickness, right?"

"That's right," Damsel confirmed. "Any changeling would do, but Lorrikeet... he's a... what does your daughter call him? A flutterpony?"

Ironside nodded. "Since they were foals. Merry says some of the younger foals are starting to use it, too. Sounds better than 'hybrid', at least."

Damsel shrugged. "In any case, he doesn't just feed on love, like a pure changeling does. He produces love that others can draw on."

"Ah, now I see." Ironside sat up straight, comprehension dawning. "You won't have to carry as many supplies if he goes with you, and if the changelings in the valley are still in hibernation-"

"-then a loving member of the Hive could be enough to wake them up." Damsel finished with a nod, the pair smirking at each other.


Ironside frowned when he realised that something didn't add up. "Wait, didn't you say ponies would never see Flutter Valley?"

Damsel gave him a cool look. "I did. Why?"

"Lorrikeet's part pony, that's why."

"I know. He's a changeling at heart, though... a part of the Hive, despite his coat. Besides," Damsel paused to drink the last of her coffee, the mug having been steadily emptied during the conversation, "it's strictly volunteer duty. If he turns it down, I have other choices." She set her mug on the table with a thud, her wings starting to buzz as the caffeine worked its way into her system. "Aah... I don't think he will, though."

"Hmph." Ironside finished his own mug and collected Damsel's, moving to refill them both. As he watched steam rising from the coffee , he took a deep breath. "By the way, Merry wanted me to ask you something." He turned his head just enough to see Damsel, who was pulling a folder over to herself, already back to work.

"Did you say something?" Damsel looked up from the papers, but Ironside just shook his head.

"Never mind. I guess it can wait."


Holly, now bandage free, was sprawled out on the low bench in Lorrikeet's quarters, taking up as much room as possible while she complained. "I can't believe everyone's going out! I mean, dad's going to Equestria to find the Princesses, and you're going with aunt Damsel to Flutter Valley!" She gave Lorrikeet, who was banished to the far end of the bench, a dirty look. "I get why dad won't take me, but aunt Damsel won't let me come with you guys! That's so not fair!"

Lorrikeet sighed and set the dog-eared romance novel back on the table, marking his page with a bent corner. "Holly, it isn't a game. Chief Damsel chose me specifically for the task. Out of all the changelings here, she chose me." He shuddered, staring down at the cover of his book. "I'm... I... The whole Hive knows I'm going to find the Queen... they're counting on me... OW!" He rubbed his side and glared at Holly. "That hurt."

Holly cocked her leg back for another kick and glared at him. "Well, don't be such a dork, then! You looked like you were about to pass out or something!"

With a flutter of his glittering wings, Lory slumped. "It's so much responsibility, Holly... I know it's forbidden, but I wish you could come. I've heard about the isolation sickness... I'm scared of what might happen if I'm alone. I've never been alone before."

With another kick, Holly snorted, ignoring Lory's grunt of pain. "Aunt Damsel won't leave you alone, you dummy. Besides, you'll get to meet the Queen! Worth it, right?" She grinned. Lory managed a half-hearted smile in return and nodded. "What do you think she's like, anyway? You think she likes flutterponies like you?" Holly delivered a third kick, this one much softer, to Lorrikeet's side.

Lory shook his head and looked across the room, to where a small statue and a softly glowing crystal sat in an alcove. "Everyone says She will... that I'm a changeling, even if I have a cutie mark, and that means I'm one of Her foals." He said softly. "My Queen..."

Holly watched her friend for a minute, then blew a raspberry. "You're too serious, Lory. You'd better lighten up, or aunt Damsel might leave you behind." When the hybrid frowned at her, Holly rolled her eyes. "Too. Serious. Look, you leave in a few days, right?" Lory nodded. "Well, we're gonna have fun! Dad's letting his team take the next couple of days off before they leave, and I bet aunt Damsel'll let you off too!"

Lory shook his head, visibly disturbed at the thought of shirking his duty. "I can't do that, Holly. Security is here to protect the Hive. It's our job."

"Bleagh." With yet another kick, this one hard enough to get a grunt of discomfort, Holly rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. "Way too serious..." A few moments of silence, then "Lory, make me a promise, yeah?"

Surprised, Lory blinked at her. "What is it, Holly?"

With a small groan, Holly squirmed into a sitting position, to look Lory in the eye. "You and aunt Damsel'll find the Queen, and when you come back, you and me are gonna party proper pony style. I'll loosen you up if it kills you."

Lory just shook his head, a small smile creeping onto his muzzle. "No promises, Holly."

Holly scowled and slugged him on the shoulder. "Then I'll make my dad order you to. And I'll get aunt Damsel to make you do it, too! And stop laughing at me, you dork!"

Author's Note:

A wild update appears!:pinkiegasp:

I sat down and wrote this in a couple of days. Had to throw out the first draft, and the second, and the third. The fourth one got recycled into this.:twilightblush:

Here's hoping I'll get the next chapter out soonish!:twilightsheepish: