Category Archives: XI. DEEP SPACE

Week 49

Somewhere within the Oort Cloud, a grey-green craft of ancient design glided through the icy gloom.

Long ago, this massive ship had been the center of a vast empire, lying beneath the great Temple of Ishtar in the city of Nineveh.

A giant praying mantis that had once been worshiped as a goddess stared out from her vessel, compound eyes coldly observing a vast panorama.

Behind this terrible creature a circular door snapped open like mandibles and a messenger beetle as big as a Galapagos tortoise scuttled in.

The Queen turned from the window to face her visitor. As the other insect neared her, its abdomen began secreting a viscous yellow fluid.

Quickly the beetle scurried in circles around its Queen, brushing its pheromone-soaked fluid against the ground in precise spots.

With each further excretion the Queen understood more, the chemical signals conveying new information from the Hive’s network of spies.

The message complete, the large beetle scurried onto the Queen’s outstretched tibia, and she flicked the creature into her mouthparts.

Still crunching on her snack, the Queen pondered the significance of this new information: Putin had secured the octopus.

This would explain why the Hive’s informant network could not locate the Fetid Lord: surely the Order was conferring on the Astral Plane.

The Hive’s technology allowed it to observe events on Earth, but the Astral Plane was a realm of magic, beyond their reach.

“They are frightened,” thought the Queen. Fear had always been the Order’s weakness; fear was the weakness of all outside the Hive Mind.

Whenever the Hive met other civilizations, those without collective intelligence were doomed: Fear for their survival made them weak.

Selfishness cultures were fragile; it was the selflessness of Hive members that had nourished their society for millions of years.

The Hive was spread across the galaxy, and had colonized the Earth when trilobites still coated Silurian seafloors.

Many b’ak’tuns after those first Insektile scouts began to spread across the land, the Queen’s royal brood ship had arrived.

She found a world rich and fertile, with many hominid species coexisting. Soon all were extinct or enslaved, absorbed by the Hive.

For millennia the Queen ruled the Earth, organizing humans into great slave cities. The prisoners believed their alien masters to be gods.

Then came the Great Uprising, when a secret society used magic to drive away the Hive, forcing the Queen to abandon the Earth.

Now she was returning to reconquer her empire—and once she controlled Putin, the Order would be powerless to stop her!

Week 50

The Queen could not dwell on thoughts of Putin, however, for she soon detected the presence of a new creature entering the Hive Mind.

She held still for a moment to recognize the new arrival: It was one of her agents on Earth. The Queen’s antennae twitched.

Into the Hive Mind drifted new information, spreading like dye dropped into a pool of water, the visitor pouring out all that she knew.

Many millions of miles away, a heavyset woman slumped on a sofa, barely conscious as thousands of roaches swarmed over her.

Still, melding with the Hive was Mila’s holy communion—the feel of twitching legs against her skin, ecstasy; the loss of ego, bliss.

The Queen thought crossly that the length of time Mila spent in the Hive Mind was inversely proportional to the quality of her information.

But it was not time to dispose of her … yet. She was still the only spy who moved between both Putin and one of the Order’s servants.

While the Queen would not hesitate to devour any of her offspring, she also could be nurturing, a giver of mother’s love.

She inserted some of this affection into the Hive Mind now, sending Mila the perception of smells and feelings reminiscent of infancy.

“You are one with us,” the Queen told her. “You will never be alone.” Suckling. Warmth. A wave of dopamine washed through Mila’s brain.

The Queen accepted that her spy could gain little information about Putin now. “Focus on the Commander. Use guile, for his mind is weak.”

“Watch where he goes, who he speaks with. He is hiding much from you, Soft One. This will please us.” The Queen’s antennae twitched again.

That movement was the equivalent of yanking a plug from a socket. In an instant, the roaches scattered from Mila, and she sat alone.

She did not feel lonely, however, for the Queen’s presence clung to her like royal jelly. Tears streaked her fleshy cheeks.

Slowly, Mila rose from the sofa, trying to remain in the state between dream and wakefulness as if grasping at a spider’s web.

She felt a renewed sense of purpose. She’d feared the Queen would be disappointed in her inability to learn anything new about Putin.

Now she felt foolish for ever having feared the Queen. The Green Mother loved all her children, and Mila knew she must never forget that.

Instead of letting silly fears trouble her, she would focus on her new mission. What important information could the Commander be hiding?

She would start gathering intel tomorrow. The Commander had been away on business, but was due to return to his office.

Deep in space, the Queen observed a distant blue dot as she cracked open another messenger beetle’s carapace and sucked out its innards.

Week 51

It was long ago V saw the blue dot on the screen and knew it might be beyond the pod’s range. Still, it was the nearest viable planet.

He acknowledged the difficulty as a fact, careful to keep any doubt or fear from his thoughts, careful to avoid the Hive Mind.

He did not so much make the decision as recognize and accept the decision he’d already made. He pressed the launch button.

The pod separated from the Queen’s Mothership and hurtled through Deep Space toward the blue dot.

Of course, they would not simply allow him to leave; of course, there would be pursuit. But the other pods were not the worst of it.

The worst was the Queen, inserting her thoughts into his brain, tenderly coaxing him, trying to lure him back into the Hive.

Once she realized he did not intend to return, she began furiously shooting wave after wave of pain directly into his somatosensory cortex.

It was all he could do to remind himself that the pain was not “real”: His legs were still intact, his skin had not peeled off in sheets.

The pod hurtled toward the planet. He slowed it as it approached the gravitational field, not wanting to burn as he entered the atmosphere.

The other pods did not decelerate, since their Insektile pilots were heedless of personal survival.

One by one, they caught up to him, bursting into flame even as they rammed his rapidly disintegrating transport.

He realized he would have to abandon ship; he would have to fall.

The last thing he saw on the view screen was a green mass, the top of a large forest, far below. Then he was falling, streaking downward …

Falling, glowing as if on fire, falling, falling, closer and closer to the tops of the trees—he was going to … the impact …

Putin jerked up into a sitting position, gasping for air in the darkness. What had happened? What place was this?

Gradually the darkness resolved into a dark grey dimness, the lights of Moscow outside the curtained window, a snore from the other room.

That damned recurring nightmare! What did it mean?

The space ship, the Hive Mind, the escape, the falling … He always woke just before he hit the earth.

But he was here, in Moscow, in the bedroom of his apartment, his awful wife Mila snoring loudly out on the living room sofa.

Unfortunately, to be a successful politician he needed a wife. He punched his pillow a few times and turned it over to the cool side.

He had to get more sleep, because tomorrow would be a busy day. Tomorrow he would begin his quest for the presidency.