Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic belongs to Hasbro and was created by Lauren Faust. Some concepts regarding the Changelings and the Hive are from Silver Wing. I own nothing besides a smattering of original characters. 3

OCs: Calamity, Raven Wing, Granite, etc.

Notes: My second FIM fiction project. This one is probably going to be 99% OCs, whereas Fallout is pretty much all canon characters. Since watching the S2 finale, I've found myself intrigued by the Changelings. There isn't much fic about them yet (that I can find), so I'm tossing this one out there.

For Starless I've borrowed some ideas about the Changelings and the Hive from Silver Wing (with permission, of course), who is writing a Changeling-centric fic titled "To Find Love", which I highly recommend. You can find it listed in my favorite stories here on PonyFiction. :)

Please enjoy, and as always I love reviews and constructive criticism!

- STARLESS -

Chapter One

By Senashenta

"Being loved by someone deeply gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

-Lao Tzu

Her name was Calamity and she was a Changeling.

As such she was black, her hide sleek and shiny but also degraded- full of holes and pits, making her look almost frail, as if she might break at the slightest touch. That fragility was nothing but an illusion, as her kind had proven time and again throughout history. Changelings were nothing if not strong, defending themselves with hooves and sharp, curved horns; tough insectile wings and the cutting teeth of a predator.

Like all Changeling drones, Calamity's mane and tail were not made of hair, but rather barbed fins and membraned spikes. Her eyes were very large, wide set and a deep, bright cerulean blue. A thin carapace covered her back and hips- mostly unneeded and entirely nonfunctional, a remnant from eons before, when Changelings had been weaker and lower on the food chain.

And, as with the rest of her kind, unlike the other pony races of Equestria, she had no Cutie Mark; her haunches were, and would always remain, blank.

The concept of a Cutie Mark and finding your own "special talent" was a foreign one to Calamity. Within the Changeling society, individuality was not highly prized. The efficiency of the Hive relied on each Changeling that was hatched doing their assigned job and nothing else: scavenger, soldier, worker, scout, nurse. Any who couldn't, for some reason, be categorized, found themselves shuffled around the Hive from odd-job to odd-job. Those were the lowest class of Changelings, ruled over by all others.

Above all the rest, of course, was the ruling Queen Chrysalis, and, alongside her, the Nymphs. While every Changeling goes through a short nymph stage of growth, between pupa and adult, the title of Nymph was given to the Queen's few, rare sterile daughters. The Nymphs were what ensured the survival of their race, against any and all future odds. Once their growth and training was complete, they would leave the Hive and set out to establish colonies of their own- and if the Queen was somehow lost before then, it would be one of the Nymphs who would step up to take her place both in name and position.

Calamity, for her part, was just beyond the nymph stage of life. Young, untested, but good with direction, orienteering and reading the stars. She was only barely an adult, but had already been placed in the job of a scout. The colony was always in need of more of them, and her mental maps of the countryside made her perfect for the position.

Unlike scavengers, who went out in groups, scouts rarely worked together unless there was a clear, foreseen danger to going it alone. With their transformative powers, it was much easier to blend in with the ponies outside the Hive in ones (or occasionally twos) than if they had been scouting in a team. One unfamiliar pony could easily just be passing through or visiting someone nearby. They could come and go and raise little suspicion.

Now, Calamity was preparing for her first mission. Not packing, since she would take nothing with her, but the kind of mental preparation that all Changelings went through on their first real foray outside of the Hive.

She had been Outside before. The Outside was wide, open, and without the ever-present, comforting drone of the others of her kind. Beyond the Hive walls, her connection with the other Changelings- with the Queen- was immensely weakened. She could only feel the barest of vibrations from the others, just a faint buzzing between her eyes every now and then, and the silence always made her feel very much alone.

Very few Changelings enjoyed their time Outside. Being hatched and raised in the Hive, always surrounded by multitudes of other Changelings, always with the collective hum at the forefront of their consciousness, made most very insecure, very nervous outside of the colony. To be a Changeling was to never be alone, never be entirely singular, never be apart from the rest. It was to be part of something greater than simply yourself.

Calamity would, of course, grow more accustomed to the silence and stillness; the more missions she went on, the more time she spent Outside, the easier it would become- or so she was told, assured by her teachers and the elders.

Despite this, she was nervous. Her stomach rolled and fluttered as if she had swallowed a moth, delicate wings beating and tickling inside her.

"You're hyperventilating."

The voice was familiar but came out of nowhere. Calamity nearly jumped out of her skin, startling and jerking her head around. Her eyes met with another similar pair. Then she snorted, shifting in her nest; she had been trying to rest, though it was true that she was less resting and more attempting not to have a panic attack. Still.

"I am not, Raven." Frowning, she readjusted herself, then let her chin come to rest against her foreleg and made a face at the other Changeling, who was standing in the corridor directly in front of her nest. Raven Wing rolled her eyes before pushing forward, shoving Calamity over and settling down beside her. The two of them were more than the single nest was built to hold, but they had been hatched in the same cycle and grown up together; being cuddled up as they were was familiar, comforting.

"Okay, maybe not hyperventilating. Yet. But you're obviously freaking out." Raven shrugged, just a ripple of black hide. "Your first mission, right?"

Calamity made a quiet agreeing noise and closed her eyes. "Yeah. The forest north of Canterlot. I'm leaving in the morning." Then she cracked one eye open again and added pointedly, "so, you know, I kind of need my sleep."

Raven ignored her. Calamity wasn't surprised by this.

"Don't do anything stupid while you're out." The other Changeling finally said. She wasn't looking at Calamity, but there was a great deal of force and feeling behind her words despite the lack of eye contact. "If you don't come back then I've got no one to help me deal with Granite when he's being an idiot."

Calamity actually laughed at that, just a soft chuckle in the otherwise quiet sleeping chambers. "Granite's always an idiot."

"Exactly my point."

Another long silence then. Despite the joking between them, Calamity could feel anxiety rolling off her friend in waves; it was thick, bitter and tasted faintly of spoiled oranges. Raven was a newly-selected nurse, charged with raising Changeling larva and teaching them the ways of the Hive. For her, even the idea of ever leaving the colony was frightening; she had never left before and would likely never do so in the future, either. And here was her best friend, readying herself to venture into the Outside and the countless dangers it possessed.

Shuffling a little, Calamity leaned sideways against Raven in an attempt to be comforting.

"I'll be fine. It's only a couple days. I'll be back before you even know I'm gone."

"Yeah, well. I'm holding you to that, Callie."

"Of course."

Calamity closed her eyes again while Raven made a point of settling in even more. She obviously didn't intend on going anywhere any time soon. But that was fine.

It just meant that the other Changeling would be there to see her off come morning.

The next day came sooner than either of them would have liked. Neither Calamity nor Raven had been able to get much sleep, even in the silence and darkness that remained when their conversation ended. And when the sun began to rise outside the walls of the Hive, they were both awakened from light, restless sleep by the familiar, insistent buzzing between their eyes that signaled that the rest of the colony was rising to start their daily routines.

Breakfast was a bowl of off-grey gunk, a mix of congealed greed and sadness that tasted like soap, ash and, for some reason, sour honey. No one enjoyed these kinds of meals, but most were used to them. Everyone simply gulped the slimy mess down as fast as they could to avoid tasting it more than they absolutely had to.

Calamity remembered once, many cycles ago, when they had been served a dinner of love and joy. It was a pudding- thick and smooth and delicious- rather than the curdled, off-putting texture of the negative emotions. Love tasted like chocolate and cinnamon; joy tasted sweet and crisp as ripe apples and autumn air.

Unfortunately, they didn't have meals like that very often; only once that she could recall in all the seasons since she had been hatched. Those kinds of emotions were less plentiful and more difficult to find and harvest than the other, less palatable ones. So most of the time they subsisted on the negative, bitter and rotten-tasting emotions—the ones that, beyond the safety of the Hive, tore ponies apart from the inside.

Now Calamity picked at her breakfast, pushing it around and playing with it absently. She could barely eat anything, her stomach was so twisted up into anxious knots.

If Raven or the others sharing that particular table with her noticed, they chose not to comment. After all, it wasn't the first time a Changeling had been a basket of nerves before going into the Outside world. It was common enough, particularly among the young ones.

First missions had a frighteningly high mortality rate. Be it the inherent dangers of the Outside or simple inexperience, about one of every couple dozen Changelings simply vanished on their first real foray into Equestria.

That number was particularly high among scavengers. Calamity thought herself lucky to be a scout—their mortality and disappearance rates were much, much lower. But they were there nonetheless—occasionally even a scout went missing, never to return to the Colony.

A low buzzing in the back of her mind told her when the designated meal time was over. All around her other Changelings were bolting down the last of their breakfast or standing to return their bowls and spoons to the proper receptacles. Calamity had barely eaten anything, but was more than glad to finally be rid of her own personal bowl of slop.

Everything was orderly as they all filed out of the mess hall, perfectly in sync as always—and Calamity was sure she was going to miss that aspect of life once she was immersed in the chaos of Equestria proper.

"Hey."

When Raven's shoulder bumped into hers, Calamity startled slightly. Her thoughts and attention, which had of course been elsewhere, jerked back to the present. Blinking, she gave Raven a questioning look.

Raven smiled in return. "I've got to go. Larva babysitting." Then; "good luck out there. I'll be waiting. When you get back you've got to tell me everything about what's out there, okay?"

After a short pause Calamity smiled a little as well. "Mn." A soft agreeing noise. "I'll see you in a couple days."

"And you'd better come back." Raven added, nodding decisively. "Or I'll have to come after you and drag your sorry rump home. By the tail, if I have to. I'm sure Granite would help with that, too. So don't even think about getting yourself lost, you dummy."

Despite her subdued mood, Calamity had to laugh at that. "Yeah, okay okay. I promise I'll come back."

"Good."

Another smile, then Raven moved away, heading toward the corridor that would lead her down to the nursery. Calamity watched until her friend disappeared out into the hallway, then moved off in the direction of the Hive's entrance.

While the Colony had several smaller tunnels leading to and from the Outside, it also had one larger tunnel to Equestria that was used as the main entrance and exit. The small tunnels, while used regularly by some, were actually supposed to be emergency exits, in case of a large-scale attack on the Hive. They exited into the forests nearby, where Changelings could easily shapeshift into various creatures to avoid enemy detection.

For her purpose, Calamity was heading for the main entrance, a wide swath of a mouth at the front mound of the Hive. It was always busy there, with scouts and scavengers coming and going at all hours of the day and night as their shifts started and ended.

Her steps echoed along the hall as she walked, slowing to a hesitant pace when she reached the check-in point by the exit. For safety, each Changeling was counted as they left and then again when they returned—that way, if something happened to them, the rest of the Hive would know as soon as possible.

"Name?"

"Huh?" She hadn't even noticed the guard until he was looking down at her, clipboard in hand. She shifted nervously. "Oh. Um, it's Calamity. I'm going out for—"

"Scouting mission. Two days." He interrupted crisply, ticking off something on the papers in front of him. "Check in when you get back. Watch your back while you're out there. The Outside is full of dangers."

"I—um, yes, I will!" She shuffled a little while he looked at her critically, uncomfortable under his scrutiny, then hurried on past him when he finally gave a curt nod. "Th—thank you!"

He didn't respond, simply going back to his duties without a second thought.

But while he didn't hesitate to continue with his job, Calamity did—she stopped short at the lip of the entrance, swallowing hard. Finally she forced a deep breath, then spread her wings, gave two quick, short buzzes to test them, then pinned a look of what she hoped was determination on her face.

Here goes nothing.

And she jumped forward into the unknown.