April, YOH 1515, fifteen years after Luna's Return. Two years ago, the High Queen Nightmare Hunger of the Changelings united hundreds of Hives behind her and launched a massive invasion of Equestria. The Equestrians repelled the assault, and now their armies, equipped with new weapons and reinforced by many Friendly Changeling Hives, are bombarding Queen Hunger's last stronghold.
One Changeling, Theoretical Infiltrator Compound, predicted this disaster. She has been punished for her pessimism by being assigned to the Provisional Hive Defense Swarm, given a spear, and with her two team mates, the Worker "Provisional Warriors" Carry and Cowl, told to defend the Hive against the well-armed and numerous foe.
Now, all Compound can do is struggle to survive — and keep her buddies alive — in a Hive gone mad.
Tropes in this work include:
- Band of Brothers: What Compound, Carry and Cowl are to one another. Even though Compound is technically a "sister."
- Beach Episode: Compound, Carry and Cowl find the Royal Bunker Baths mostly-deserted and joyously horse around for a while. Since Changelings are normally naked and have absolutely no sexual modesty, this has no special sexual implications for the trio, but they do have a good time.
- The Big Guy: Carry, whose most obvious merits are his size and strength.
- The Chick: Cowl, in a rare male example. But then Changelings don't really grok gender roles.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Adopting the Mask of a ling who feels no pain or exhaustion, a tactic known to Infiltrators and Royals. According to Compound:She was lying to her friends. The strength was false. Mask-shifting wasn't like a true Shift at all, it was just a mind trick. What she had actually done was turn off the normal governors that any Changeling has to keep them from expending their last endurance, the reserves which maintained major organ functions.She could keep going for a good while like this — then something would give. Her heart, her blood vessels — if she was lucky she would just faint. If she were unlikely, she could drop dead in her tracks, without her own bodily sensations giving her any hint of danger. When she had been taught this technique in her Infiltrator training, she had been warned that it was extremely dangerous, something she should not attempt save in an extreme emergency, if there were no better options.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Compound, Carry and Cowl form a eusocial bond rare (in its strength) even for Changelingkind.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Blink and you'll miss it (the author deliberately downplayed it because the Changelings themselves don't consider sex very important) but this is exactly what Compound, Carry and Cowl do at the end of their day of relaxation following their escape from the collapsed tunnel and Compound's release from the hospital.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: High Queen Hunger is aggressive, arrogant, overconfident, and not even slightly concerned with the well-being of her Changelings.
- The Heart: Carry, whose gentleness and kindness enable him to rally Compound when she is close to despair.
- Lensman Arms Race: Hunger bred new Warrior castes; Equestria developed Late Industrial Age weapons such as tanks, attack jets and atom bombs. Equestria won the race, and the war.
- Little Heroine, Big War: Compound is brave, smart and charismatic. She is also utterly-dwarfed by the scale of the carnage erupting around her.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Two, one subverted and one straight.
- When High Queen Hunger commands the formation of the Provisional Hive Defense Swarms — which is to say, Warrior Nymphs and Workers pressed into service as Warriors, in a eusocial race whose culture is based on a caste system — this works about as well as one might expect. Most of these pathetically ill-trained forces are utterly-annihilated at first contact with the Equestrians, and some of the Workers wind up being adopted as mascots by Equestrian troops.
- Compound, Carry and Cowl, however, are extremely effective at saving the lives of other Changelings. But then, Compound is a Infiltrator, while carrying out a digging party or evacuation aren't too far from the tasks for which Carry and Cowl were actually trained.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: High Queen Nightmare Hunger, to use her full appellation.
- Nuclear Option: Equestria started using "earthfire" (nuclear fission) bombs to break Changeling strongholds and troop concentrations early in the war, when the Changelings were occupying large parts of Equestria, and they have continued to do so as they have driven the Changelings back into the Badlands. Given that the Sisters are living weapons of mass destruction themselves, Equestria is not overawed by the might of the atom.
- Power Trio: Compound is the mediator, Carry and Cowl the foils.
- Tank Goodness: Equestria already had motor vehicles before the war, and — thanks to the Paradise Entity, had lots and lots of ancient AFV designs available for production. They downloaded the designs, built the vehicles, and began using armored formations as early as their first major counterattacks, to great effect against the shocked Changelings.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Except that the girl is the leader and that Changelings don't really connect love and sex all that much. It's kept deliberately obscure in the story because the issue is trivial to Changelings, but in fact all three are sexually-intimate, with the relationship being the most romantic between Compound and Carry; both of them also loving Cowl to a slightly lesser degree.
- Underground City: Hive Hunger-Prime, as is the case with most Changeling Hives, is of the "Inhuman Borough" variety. It's seen better days.