Changing Expectations - (2024)

I held the door open for Thorax and Coxa as they entered the pony’s guarded apartment. I shut the door behind me but didn’t lock it.

Inquisitor Sweetie Drops was sitting in a chair at a small table on the far side of the studio apartment. She was looking out the boarded window. If it wasn’t for her ear twitching, I would say she didn’t notice our arrival.

“Normally I wouldn’t be letting someone go without some kind of insurance that they won’t backstab me, but… you gave Luna your word. And so, you have my word that you will not be harmed or otherwise impeded by the Fifth Hive, so long as you don’t betray us or our interests.”

Sweetie Drops chuckled and turned in her seat to face us three.

“I’m glad I have your word. Not to bite the hoof that feeds me, but just what is that worth?”

“More than any gem in the world. The only time I’ve broken faith was with Queen Chrysalis, my mother. However, she had broken any sort of bond between us long before I was even hatched, pony. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say that loyalty to her would end in nothing short of the worst fate on Equus, cruel beyond all imagination. Now, I brought my two closest friends with me here: that’s Coxa and that’s Thorax. I want you to tell them exactly what you told me last night.”

“Oh, visiting mares in the middle of the night?” Coxa asked, elbowing me in the side.

“Coxa, Phas wouldn’t do that to Princess Luna,” Thorax said, looking slightly uncomfortable. “Not without permission, at least.”

‘I don’t even want to think about what that means.’

“Just one question before I begin,” Sweetie Drops said. “Just what is Princess Luna to you? It wasn’t quite clear just what kind of alliance you two had forged.”

My face twisted in annoyance. I wanted to talk about Lacewing, not this. Still, it was an easy question to answer.

“Luna is…. everything.”

Sweetie’s eyebrows raised, “Everything? As in, you are her special somepony? Or someone, rather?”

I nodded, “I am, yes. Now, I can’t put her and myself before the Hive’s importance, but...”

Sweetie exhaled loudly while slumping over in her seat.

“Oddly enough, I believe that. But… how? Why? What?”

Thorax and Coxa pulled up chairs to sit in, meanwhile I had to sit on the floor. With all four of us at eye-level, I began explaining.

“I suppose it started with a political marriage, or at least relationship, with Nightmare Moon.”


I snorted, “Adversity makes strange bedfellows. Nightmare Moon offered a future where I wouldn’t have to worry about Chrysalis scooping my brain out with a melon baller– the previously mentioned fate worse than death– as well as a future where pony kind isn’t all but exterminated. Sure, she was evil, but I didn’t have much choice. I had to save my species somehow. Anyways, Nightmare Moon lost, and Luna… still had feelings for me. I rejected her offer of peace initially and continued with the invasion of Canterlot. That turned out well, with a Nightmare trying to possess me while I was on death’s door. Had it succeeded, I would have turned into an amalgamation of myself and it, like Nightmare Moon or Daybreaker.”

“Daybreaker is the same thing as Nightmare Moon?”

“That’s right. Evil parasite and all. Luna saved me from that fate, and I… I don’t know why. She tells me it’s because she cares about me and sees herself in me, therefore wants my survival, but… I basically sentenced her to a slow death back in Canterlot. We talked many times since then, and now I can’t imagine a world where I never met her,” I shrugged

“So it was Princess Luna who pursued you, not the other way around?”


“Hmm….” Sweetie Drops grunted. “That’s something to think about. The Princesses are the wisest and greatest of us all. They see light where we all only see darkness. It comes as no surprise that they saved the Dread Prince, but for Princess Luna to have fallen for you? I would be very careful, King Phasma. Breaking her heart would make lots of enemies… including me.”

“Oh, I’m soooo scared. A pony is threatening me.” Thorax glared at me. “Sweetie Drops, if anyone’s going to pulverize me into a bag of bleeding meat, bone shards, and cracked chitin, it’ll be Luna herself. Don’t try to protect her honor or whatever, because she’s quite capable of that herself. At any rate, that summarizes my story with Luna: a political marriage turned into something more, as the two seconds-in-commands on opposite sides of a war for survival fell in love. I’m sure that if Princess Cadence was here, she would say something like ‘love triumphs all.’ And somehow, she’ll be right.”

Sweetie frowned, “Perhaps you should listen to the content of her message, not just the words she says.”

“I agree with Sweetie Drops, Phas,” Thorax interjected.

I rolled my eyes, “That’ll be the day. Now. Last night, you told me something,” I reminded Sweetie.

“Yes. It was a changeling who set Daybreaker on the path to find you and your Fifth Hive.”

“A changeling that still lives,” I prompted.

“Again, yes.”

“What’s her name?”


Thorax and Coxa both launched out of their chairs.

“What?!” Coxa yelled.

“She’s alive?!” Thorax asked, jaw dropped.

Sweetie shrunk back from their leaps forward, “Uh, yes? I take it you assumed she was dead.”

“Yes!” Both changelings answered.

“We held a funeral for her. Her and another changeling, by the name Oestridae….?”

‘A changeling can hope, right?’

Sweetie just shook her head.

“Damn,” I cursed.

“How is she? Is she hurt? Starving? In one piece?” Thorax baragged the pony with questions.

The pony shrugged, “I didn’t do the interrogation, just read the report. From what I read, she’s alive and not missing any limbs. Can’t say more than that, if she’s starving or… whatever else they’re doing to prisoners in Locksdale. I’m not a Division-P guard, okay? I’m a field agent.”

“Is this why you’re summoning the full Hive this afternoon?” Coxa asked, looking at me.

“To inform them on a single ling’s survival? No. As much as Lacewing is important to us, she isn’t important to the Fifth Hive. We’ll discuss that business later. For now… what else did the report mention, Sweetie?”

“Not much else. She talked a lot about you, apparently. It’s honestly one of the reasons why I even trusted you a little bit to not turn my brain into soup. The report concluded that based on her testimony, and from interrogations gathered from other changelings, you were a popular leader. One of the common pony. Or drone, rather. Had I kept that in mind, your behaviour would not have thrown me off, and I would have successfully infiltrated your Hive….”

“What were you after?” I was curious. I didn’t actually find that out, I was so busy with other things.

“Freeing the ponies you keep podded. Which I expect to be set free the moment Daybreaker, that apparent Nightmare, is dealt with.”

“You’re in no position to be making demands, Inquisitor. But yes, I expect that to happen, too. However, I can’t free them before then. Too many things can go wrong.”

“Do you have any other names?” Coxa asked. “I lost a few friends in Canterlot. If they survived…”

Sweetie sighed, “No, I don’t. To be honest, I never thought that the Invasion of Equestria would be as… bloody for you as it was for us. Some guards died, yes, but even before the Royal Guards swept the city clear, we were finding changeling bodies. That from your rebellion?” Sweetie asked, sending a look my way.

My throat burned, “... We didn’t choose the terms how it was fought. The first sign we had that they weren’t taking prisoners was the trail of bodies leading up to our rendezvous point.” I sighed, “Alright, Inquisitor Sweetie Drops. I want you to stay and answer any questions these two have. After that, you’re free to go. Any help you can give would be a godsend. Especially if you manage to cause some chaos in Division-P’s headquarters.”

“I gave the Princess my word, King Phasma. You don’t need to worry about my motivation, or giving me orders. I’ll do what I can, where I can.”

“Yes, but I especially need help slowing down their internal workings. The Dead Hoof Protocol. I need that slowed down or stopped all together if possible.”

“I’m not familiar with that,” Sweetie said.

I glanced at Coxa and Thorax briefly before answering, “It’s Division-P’s plans for their prisoners, if Daybreaker is ever killed.”

“I’ll look into that, then. I’m not familiar with the latest contingencies the zealots have conjured up, but it should be easy to find out about it.”

“Is that what the meeting will be about?” Coxa asked again.

I cringed, “Yes. It’s bad news. Now, I have to see Katydid about doing some drills, especially in my armor. I’ll see you two this afternoon.”

“Bye, Phas. Thank you for bringing us here and giving us the good news, or at least getting Sweetie Drops to,” Thorax said, wiping an eye. “I mean it, Sweetie. Thank you…. We… I… just thank you.”

I took off my helmet, setting it down and wiping the sweat off from the top of my head. The interior of this warehouse had been cleared in preparation for moving the Hive, so Katydid commandeered it for training the changelings.

‘Sweetie, talked with. Drills, ran. Armor, repeatedly taken off and on. I’m getting quick at putting it on, but I’ll need to be quicker. What’s left for today? Informing the Hive, and going to the speakeasy? Yeah, I think that’s it.’

“You did well today, Your Majesty,” Katydid said, stopping by me.

“Thanks, Katydid. You find space in the Crystal Caves for any equipment or training space you need once we go there?”

Captain Katydid shrugged, “No. I’ll find it when I get there. For now, I have to focus on getting the troops in order. And you, too. You’re training really hard, King Phasma. I am concerned that you are motivated not by just a desire to be prepared…”

I grunted an affirmative. “I suppose I should tell you before everyone else, considering you are the Captain of the Red Right Hoof. We’ll be attacking Canterlot Castle during the Grand Galloping Gala.”

“Ah ha ha ha! Oh My King, you are hilarious.”

“If we do not, hundreds of changelings will die.”

Katydid froze, “You’re serious? That’s…. Why didn’t you inform me sooner, Your Majesty?!”

His yell caused a few changelings in the building to stop exercising and drilling and look our way. I waved a hoof, silently commanding them to get back to their exercises.

“Quiet, Katydid.”

“My King, why now?” He hissed.

“I received information last night detailing a contingency plan. Division-P intends on executing all of their prisoners if Daybreaker is assassinated.”

Katydid groaned and facehooved. “Of course. It was too much to hope that we could just sit out the end of the war. So then what’s the plan, My King?”

‘Right to business,’ I thought with a smile.

“I will order the Hive to mobilize to the Crystal Caverns immediately. Forget an orderly move of assets and personnel, we need to prepare an invasion force. Once there, we will need to either dig our way into the Castle’s dungeons, or find another way in. Then, during the Gala, we hit the prison with everything we have.”

“I suppose with you leading us, we can take care of any resistance,” Katydid muttered.

“I won’t be leading the attack.”

“It just gets better and better. What will you be doing, My King?”

“We will need a distraction to pull away their attention. If I go with the attack, then their full force would just hold us in a bottleneck, and execute the prisoners. I will have to pull the majority of their forces out from the Prison.”

“Which will be accomplished, how?”

“I will attend the Grand Galloping Gala personally.”

“Ah, of course. Alone against the entirety of the Castle’s garrison, Division-P’s attention, and I’m assuming Daybreakers?” I nodded. “Do you have a way of not dying?”

“A few plans. I’ll need to ask a few questions, learn some things. Can you get the troops ready and a plan in place for digging into the dungeons?”

“Do we have a layout?”

“I’ll get it from the Princesses.”

“Then we’ll rescue those prisoners, My King.”

“That’s what I like to hear. Now, the meeting is coming up…”

“And that’s where you will inform the Hive of this development?” I nodded again. “I appreciate you informing us as soon as possible, Your Majesty. Queen Chrysalis tended to guard that kind of information for seemingly no reason… How will you enter the city without your Weave alerting the enslaved changelings, My King?”

“I’ll stay in the caves until the last possible minute. The crystals should interfere with the Weave enough to mask my arrival. Once I’m out in the open, then I will actually be relying on them to report my presence.”

“... I wish you luck, My King. You’ve gotten this far, it’d be a shame if you died now.”

“A tragedy,” I agreed.

“Now, you’ve still got six laps left, I believe,” my slave driver reminded me.

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, putting my helmet back on.

I spent the next hour doing drills and exercises, just as my drones were doing. I was thankfully making progress at getting quicker dressing and undressing Unbroken Radiance. If my plan was to go smoothly, then I would have to be able to don the armor in under a minute.

Eventually, it came time for all the changelings to leave the makeshift gym and head to the designated meeting point.

For the Hive’s meeting, I went fully dressed with Unbroken Radiance. I had to bring it over packed in a box, but I needed to wear it at the meeting. It would be the first time many would see the Adamantium armor, and I knew that it would set the tone right away. The king wasn’t about to give a quarterly report on earnings if he was decked out in shiny plate armor.

Once I arrived, I unloaded the box and put the armor on. The magical suit fit my form perfectly, changing in size every so slightly each day I put it on. There would come a day soon enough where I would stop growing and the armor would as well.

Buzzing my wings, I lifted up from the ground and hovered up to the crate pile that served as the stage for the meeting. In front of me, just about every changeling in the Fifth Hive was present, even more than yesterday’s funeral. They gathered in a crowd, with some even clinging to the walls or watching from the far side’s office section.

I cleared my throat, catching everyone’s attention and ending any conversations going on between the gathered changelings.

“Changelings of the Fifth Hive. Last night, I received information most grave. The plan to usurp the Nightmare possessed alicorn known as Daybreaker continues as planned, but the wicked tyrant does not intend on going quietly. With the help of Princess Cadence and Princess Luna, we have received many of Division-P’s plans. It seems that they are not satisfied with the blood spilled from their attacks on us. A contingency protocol was put in place; if Daybreaker should fall, then Division-P is to carry out orders in just such an event. Division-P will slaughter every changeling they hold captive,” I announced, causing an immediate uproar.

I stamped a hoof down, the effort actually splintering the wooden beam of the crate I stood on.

We will not let that happen!” I yelled through the Weave and out loud, ending the crowd’s frantic yelling.

‘They’re angry. Angry is good. Angry gets sh*t done.’

“In response to this so-called Dead Hoof Protocol,” I began again, “The Fifth Hive shall take its fate into its own hooves! On the night of the Grand Galloping Gala, four days from now, where Daybreaker is fated to die, we shall free our imprisoned brothers and sisters!”

The changelings yelled out again, but this time in approval. Many stamped their hooves as an applause.

“My changelings! This was started with a fight for our survival, so it shall end with one, too! Division-P believe themselves invulnerable, up at the top of their unicorn city. They will not expect over a hundred changelings bursting forth from beneath their hooves, driven not by zealous hatred of the unknown but undying loyalty to the Hive Eternal! I shall attend the Gala myself, undisguised! My presence will pull the zealots’ attention away from their prison, and it is then that the Fifth Hive shall truly strike! In the greatest prison break in history, we shall make our name known and feared amongst the Inquisitors! They will know who they have picked a fight with, and they will regret it!”

The changelings cheered again. If it weren't for the silencing spell around the warehouse, I’d be concerned for our continued secrecy.

“Tonight, we leave Manehattan. Tonight, we begin our plans to save our brothers and sisters. And finally, during the Grand Galloping Gala, I will reveal my survival to the whole world. Let the Masquerade Protocol be broken and discarded wholly and completely for the last time! Let the world know of the Fifth Hive, and our undying spirit! Long live the Fifth Hive! Long live the Hive Eternal!

“Long Live the Fifth Hive! Long live the Hive Eternal!” The changelings cheered.

‘Daybreaker won’t know what hit her.’

The Last Chance.

I wasn’t the one who picked out the name, but I approved of it completely. I would have preferred naming it The Red Dragon, but the job of naming it went to Coxa, who had organized the circus to restore the club.

The speakeasy was finished, completed in a timeframe that would make any normal contractor scream in fear. Now, that didn’t mean that building codes were ignored and safety procedures defenestrated, only that it had work crews on it around the clock. With everything planned out and bits not an issue, creating the art deco club had been a rather simple task.

Some things had gone wrong, but the experience was a valuable one for everyone involved. The entirety of the back areas were unfinished, and the equestrian staff largely unvetted, but it was the best we were going to accomplish in the short time frame we had.

Tonight, it was a full house.

Now, most of those present were changelings celebrating what will be the end to the Masquerade Protocol for good, and celebrating before the attack on Locksdale Prison, but there were a few ponies present.

The ponies were watched as they enjoyed The Last Chance’s merriment and drink. Not only for our protection, but for theirs. The Fifth Hive was a large organization now, and I couldn’t account for everyone’s moral fortitude. The last thing I wanted was a couple of drunk changelings deciding to feast on something other than assigned rations or a one night stand they managed to score.

Though there were still sections to finish up, the main room of the speakeasy was finished. The center area was a restaurant-like section of tables. At the far end, the stage was finished and brightly lit up with magical sconces facing away from the tables. Around the room, booths were packed with changelings and the occasional pony group as waiters and waitresses brought food and drink around the place.

At the opposite end from the stage’s wall, the bar took up most of the space. In the usual fashion of a shortage of chairs and room, each stool had someone on it, talking with their neighbors or ordering drinks and food for themselves or a table. Above the bar, since the room was tall, was a balcony area. Just a few tables were up there, and golden art-deco style railings sectioned it off from the open air of the room. The balcony offered an excellent vantage point to watch the stage from, and more importantly, it was currently the most secure point in the speakeasy.

Until the back rooms could be furnished, it was where I would be spending my time in The Last Chance.

There were many changeling guards around the place, and not only at the main doors or the stairs up to the balcony. Many were just drinking soda or other non-alcoholic drinks from seats as they watched the carousing changelings and ponies.

Up in the balcony, I was not alone. Coxa, Thorax, Double Diamond, Froghopper, Thalamus, Cricket, Thripps, and even Captain Katydid. The entirety of the Fifth Hive’s upper echelon, my own Royal Court, was here. And Double Diamond.

“I’ll admit, I had doubts. No small amount of them,” Cricket told me as he leaned close to speak over the loud volume of conversations going on around us. “But this place turned out pretty damn well, if I do say so myself,” he congratulated himself as he tipped a mug of beer back and downed half of it.

“Yeah, you didn’t f*ck it up too badly,” I agreed as I watched a trio of pony mares set up on the stage. Behind them, a band of ponies set up their instruments, chairs, and other equipment.

If it wasn’t for the fact that we had hired a small team of unicorns to put silencing enchantments around the building, I wouldn’t have allowed a band to be present. But we did hire them, so we would have the full experience.

Even if this place was going to be a money pit, we could take the loss and have fun and relax. The only downside was that we all had to be disguised, as normal ponies were present.

The band started up, playing their trumpets, saxophones, and other jazz instruments.

“Folks, here’s a story about Minnie the Moocher~,” the trio of singers began in sync, swaying as they sang.

I found myself nodding along as they played their song. Looking back from the stage, I saw Diamond leaning in, whispering in Thorax’s ear. Judging from Thorax’s reddened face, I imagined that Diamond suggested something sultry like holding hooves or sharing a kiss.

‘Adorable. Unfortunately, I do have some questions to ask.’

“Hey Thorax,” I interrupted them.

“W–nothing!” He squeaked. “I mean, uh, what’s up, Phas?” He quickly lifted a cup and drank from it.

“You ever heard of atoms?”

“Huh? Yeah?”

“Has anyone tried cutting one?”

“Cutting one?” He repeated, confused.

“Cutting one!”

As he blinked and tried to think, I lifted my own glass of wine and sipped from it.

“Uh…. yes? Maybe? Not in the Fifth Hive, but maybe in Equestria?”

Double Diamond laughed and leaned over so that I could hear him better “Yeah, Phasma. Famous experiment. Didn’t work, and instead broke all their instruments, magical or otherwise. They even got my parents to try, which is how I even know. What brings this up?”

“Just wondering. You said your parents were in the electronics business?”

“S… something like that?”

“They need investors?”

“Uh… this sounds like a conversation that needs to be talked about while not drunk!” He chuckled.

“Nonsense, Diamond! They ever complained about securing funding?”

“All the Tartarus time!”

“Wonderful!” I cheered. Diamond mouthed the word silently before I explained, “I’d like to throw a lot of bits their way. My understanding is that scientists hate getting funding; it’s a pain in the ass and you have to do whatever the college or patron wants.”

He nodded slowly.

“Well I’ve got bits, and I’ve got some ideas. I’d like to give both to them and send them on their way!”

Diamond’s muzzle scrunched up, “Uh…. too darn drunk– can you write all this down? I’ll just write a letter, and we’ll see what they say.”

‘That’s good enough.’

I nodded and waved him away as I sat back in my chair and looked back at the stage. The musicians and singers were doing a great job, though it was hard to tell if their performance was enhanced by the fact that everyone was getting drunk and caring less and less. I myself was buzzed as I continued to rock my head to the beat.

Even though less than twenty percent of the people present were ponies, the ones present were having a grand enough time to imbue the place with a taste of happiness and excitement. In the middle of the prohibition– the end of it actually, though they didn’t know that, here we were, drinking, singing, and hanging out.

‘Ah man, I wish Luna was here.’

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Changing Expectations - (2024)
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