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.