The Badlands in the deep south of Equestria have always been quiet. Plants only sprouted in small specks here and there, where even the smallest pools of life-giving water gave them strength to grow in the harsh sun and wind. Let alone the merciless cold that awoke every night, prowling though the plains, unhindered by any shelter that the land could not provide. Hungry to dig its chilled fangs into any exposed flesh.
Groans of pain and agony emerged from each pony -framed crater in the plateau. The sun was only starting to set, yet the heat it was giving off was almost unbearable for creatures that had fur coats. Luckily for the changelings, that was not the case.
A changeling physiology is vastly different from most civilized creatures of Eques. While most creatures have sweat glands, most changelings did not see the point of having them twenty-four seven.
One unfortunate harvester was lucky, instead of getting deeply entrenched into the ground; she actually had a patch of green slow her down speed enough for her to alter her landing so she ploughs across the dried earth instead of embedding herself into a deep hole. Sadly that "patch of green" was a cactus patch.
A small put. "Ow."
Another put. "Ow."
Put. "Ow. What is the point of having a shell if we can still be annoyed by these blasted things?" She gave a heavy sigh as she cringed pulling the last of the cacti needles from her legs. Finally free of the little bits of pain that were digging into the fragile muscle beneath her shell, the harvester was finally able to give a little thought to her fellows in the various holes dotted across the landscape.
"Anyling awake yet?" She yelled, hoping to find someone to talk with.
"Here!" A voice called back, along with black foreleg was reaching up through a hole just a few steps away from her own trench in the dirt. Shakily rising to her hooves, she slowly made her way to the waving hoof and took hold with both her forelegs.
She leans over the hole to get a good look at the ling. A slightly battered male and judging from his smaller size, worker caste. She took a deep breath in, and out before saying, "I'm going to pull you out on the count of three, ready?"
"One." The worker calls back, eager to be free as he starts the count.
"Two." She replied.
"Three!" They said together. The male pushed up with all his might and the female gave a solid tug as she dug her hooves into the ground, pulling up the smaller changeling to levelled ground. Both were left huffing trying to get some air through in their lungs and weakened bodies. Though weakened, they felt different, than they were before the invasion.
The worker lazily looked with his big blue eyes to the female that helped him out of his dirt cage. Too tired to try and shake hooves, he said, "Thank you. I thought I would be stuck in there until the Hive would send rescue parties. Name's Obero."
"Trialla." She said back with a smile, content to just sit back and rejuvenate under the sun. After a few minutes, Trialla started to notice a strange feeling, or lack of feeling in her stomach.
"Do you feel…full?" She asked the worker, noting her own state of hunger.
"…Yeah, I mean compared to the amount of love we had to ration and develop at the hive, this is amazing!" He jumped to his hooves, before collapsing with a grunt. "You know, minus the all the cracks and jagged bits of the shell poking where we are not suppose to be poked.
Both of the changelings lied down on the hot earth, taking in the intense heat of the sun as they rested their bodies before attempting to pry another changeling free of their hole. A high pitched whistling then reaches their ears; both the harvester and worker look to the sky and watch a black dot zooming towards the Badlands.
"Looks like someling caught the tailwind of the Love Burst." Trialla said.
Obero looked at her, mirth in his tone. "Are we really going to call it that?"
"Yes, I am coining the term since I was the first one awake after it struck, so the early ling catches the morning quickie." Trialla said with a hint of a smile as they continued to watch the falling changeling.
"He is coming pretty slow though…" Obero squints his eyes, trying to see the rapid movements of the other changeling in the air, sunlight reflecting off something on his carapace. "Looks like a solider, and he's buzzing his wings like no tomorrow."
The harvester snorted, before saying, "Good luck with that, nearly tore mine apart just trying not end up in the dirt head first." Trialla may have not been an avid flyer, but technique goes a long way when you watch pegasuses while undercover.
Both changelings watch as the falling solider's speed begins to slow as he heads toward the Badlands, particularly close to the duo. The worker was the first to see it in his trajectory. "Look out!" Obero tackled the female beside him, forelegs around her waist. He roughly pushes her off to the side, along with him, as the tumble away. A mere moment later, the solider crashes right where they were sitting, an explosion of dirt and clouds from the impact.
The dirt settled, revealing something extremely unsettling. The solider that had crashed down was still conscious after the impact. His armour, or what was left of it, was nothing more than a badly battered helmet, and grey paldurons that were still tied to his shoulders a piece of rope as thick as a spider's web. Surprising that even after the high speed expulsion from Equestrian lands that any grey steel managed to stay together after being thrown clear of Equestria.
While any other changeling was knocked out cold and three feet under, this one was wide awake. His eyes constantly moving, focusing on anything and everything, before locking onto the pair of changelings from the lower castes just at the lip of his crater. The look deep within his large eyes sending fearful shivers rattling through their shells.
To the amazement of the harvester and worker, the solider then commanded, his tone cold commanding, lacking any warmth.
"Get me on my hooves."
Centuries of societal education and instinct kick in, forcing them to obey the orders of the higher caste of the Hive. The two changelings clamber into the crater, rushing to to complete the given orders.
They pull him to his hooves, Trialla begins to brush off the dust. "Are you okay? Looks like you got yourself a big dose of-ERK!" Her words were caught in her throat, caused by two hooves wrapped around her neck stopped them from getting out.
"What the hay are you doing?!" Obero exclaimed, not noticing the shimmering around the solider's horn before being blasted back by a stream of green into a gooey mess of limbs a few feet away.
Now that the annoyance was taken care of, Avis turned his steely gaze back to the choking female in front of him. He could feel her legs kicking frantically against his cracked carapace, her struggles getting weaker with every passing second.
Deciding that she had enough, Avis letting his hooves loosen up on her throat, but still keeping her up off the ground and still in Avis's control. He bared his fangs; a low guttural growl came from his throat in the form of a question. "Where are the ponies?"
The harvester frantically tried to speak, the lack of air in her lungs only allowing gasps to pass through her open mouth as she points in the same direction the swarm was launched from Canterlot. "Th-Th-There." She finally sputters; her eyes widen even more at a flicker within the hostile changelings large-once blue eyes.
The colour Trialla could see in Avis's eyes now, froze the blood in her veins.
Avis continues to stare at the lower caste, then tosses her to the side as she lands with a disgustingly plop beside the worker in a sticky green mess.
Avis flaps his wings only to rise a few feet in the ear before crashing to ground with a barely noticeable grunt. He snarls and looks to the offending appendages, noticing the teared membrane, forcing Avis grounded to his destination beyond the horizon. He continues to trudge his way, ignoring the cries of help from changeling holes dotting the landscape around him.
The two changelings that did see Avis up close understand completely what was wrong with the solider caste.
The worker begins to move, thankful that changeling shells are natural resistant to the goo compounds. "Was that what I think was?" He questioned to himself, forgetting his comrade still struggling to breathe next to him.
Finally able to get her breathe back, the harvester nods, "It looks like someling got his hooves on unprocessed food." She shook her head at what has become of the solider. As a harvester, she is constantly among other races, collecting love, happiness and other emotions for the hive. "This is why I am glad I'm not cooped up in the hive; if he knew what the heck he stuck his nose into this would never have to happen. Let alone what he has done to himself."
"What do you mean?" The worker questioned, rocking his body back and forth, gaining inches in either direction with every motion, before freeing his back from its ensnarement of sludge.
Pulling his wings free of the goop, buzzing filled the air as he lifts himself clear of the mess. He then hovers over the mess and pulls the Harvester free as well. "I've heard stories of what unfiltered emotions do to us, but I never knew that the change could be so drastic…"
"Ah you see that is the thing, both of our castes have been taught about what each emotion does for us and how it affects our systems. Anger is far too unpredictable to ever used, and now that poor male is going to burn himself out till he is nothing more than an empty husk." Her voice starts to rise in volume, completely disregarding her terrifying experience just minutes prior. "And maybe if he is lucky, he will find whoever he is trying to hunt down and get all that rage out of his before he collapses after travelling for days just to get to the nearest pony town."
The worker watches Avis as he continues to get smaller and smaller walking farther away from them. "So just like the tales for when the solider caste was numerous, when the hive was almost shattered into civil war by Monstruos Rabia. How long do you think until he turns?"
"I give him a week, maybe two."
Octavia's saddlebag was packed neatly with her wear for her week-long trip to Manehatten. Clothes were packed neatly and tightly, along with necessary items for The Royal Orchestra's first big concert since The Grand Galloping Gala. She pulls out an empty bag of junk food that had not been there a moment before. "Vinyl, I ask that you do not use my bags as a trash bin."
Vinyl free-throws a can from couch and would have sink into the kitchen wastebasket, if not for the overflowing pile of trash already there. She swears under her breath as Octavia walks into the room with her bags shut and cello case beside her.
"You are going to need to take the trash out eventually and I will not be doing for it for you." Octavia says, taking in the sight of the full trash bin and bits of garbage around the room. Wrappers, chip bags, and microwave dinners covered the floor, only small bits of blue carpet stood out as small islands among the sea of mess.
"Don't worry Tavi, I am just relaxing after that big gig at the wedding. Besides, I thought you would at least rest up a bit too after the invasion?"
"I am fine; the Orchestra can only play at perfection when all members are accounted for. And perfection is what we need; this show has been advertised all over Equestria and I will not allow a small skirmish in the capital change my plans."
"That's true, I've heard you guys have posters, radio shows, heck even cloud writing from Appleloosa to Rainbow Falls. Besides it would be pretty hard not to notice the beautiful mare," Vinyl Scratch's eyebrows wiggle suggestively over the black rims of her purple shades. "Headlining the group on every single poster."
"What? I'm just saying if they didn't want Equestria to know your name, they shouldn't have plastered everywhere ponies look. Besides, think of all the stallions that are looking at your picture right now and drooling over you. You might even have groupies!" Vinyl snickered at the thought of ponies prostrating themselves before her friend's cold demeanor.
Octavia shakes her head as she makes her way out of their home and trots toward the train station. Not wanting to know what was going on inside her friend's imagination.
Vinyl suddenly appears in the doorway, "And remember Tavi, if you talk to any high class ponies just ask yourself, What would my sexy beast, Vinyl, do in this situation?"
"Good bye Vinyl Scratch." Octavia called back, without even turning her head to acknowledge her.
"And bring home a stallion. Faust knows your bed needs to be broken in."
"Good bye Vinyl Scratch." The grey mare voice struggled, as she refused to rise to her friends bait.
"And remember our talk, kinky is just another way of saying strangely affectionate."
Octavia twists herself around and glares the gutter mare. "VINYL!" Octavia scans the road quickly; hoping nopony noticed her friend's comment, thankfully a quiet afternoon.
The unicorn was guffawing like no tomorrow at actually pushing Octavia to one of her very rare outbursts. "See ya in week! And I know you'll miss me!"
A/N: Okay, first off, I feel and know that this chapter is not to the same bar set by the previous one. But I am attempting to keep a schedule with this one. Which means personal banns from reading/games/tv/ and other things that are non-lfe essitential at this time. With this chapter you can kind of see me reference changeling culture and history without a big block of text. At the same time a small snippet of Octavia's character, which will basically be shown in her entirety in the next chapter. Don't worry, there is a plan. Just needs to be written out.