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!