Mantis crouched in repose, thinking. Her thought images were multi-dimensional, like the vision of a compound eye.

She considered the latest report from the meat creature, Mila. Finally she had new information, useful information.

Throughout history, as the Hive conquered planet after planet, there had always been some inferiors who tried to join them.

Some thought betraying their own kind would save their own individual selves from the conquerors. That thought was erroneous.

Others had a better understanding of Hive, of the beauty of being an insignificant part of the whole. They gave themselves willingly.

This She allowed—up to a point. It was sometimes useful to have direct reports about the Inferiors from one of their own kind.

In only one instance had She ever allowed a non-Insekt full communion with the complete Hive.

That one had been allowed aboard the Mothership, had received knowledge of their plan, had comprehended all … and had betrayed Her.

The Traitor had fled—to Earth, of all places! Traitor! She clicked her mandibles in fury and excreted a caustic fluid.

If he thought to save that sad planet, his thought was erroneous. She had planned merely to reconquer Earth, but now …

Now She would destroy it!

But first, the Traitor must be captured. Only he had the requisite knowledge and power to organize a successful defense against the Swarm.

True, her old foes, the Order, had once driven them away, but their power had lessened over the centuries since that time.

Their power had dissipated as much as their ambition had increased: They no longer sought to save their planet, but to rule it themselves.

Puny humans, with their reanimated dead and their mechanical servants! Yet She did not make the mistake of underestimating the enemy.

She had first thought the attack on the Traitor was the Order’s attempt to capture him for themselves, but now it seemed otherwise.

The Mila creature had reported that the attack was organized by non-humans, the so-called “animals,” but this appeared unlikely.

The Traitor sought out “animals.” He used them and took advantage of their powers and abilities. Why would they turn on him?

No matter. The Order would eventually attempt to capture the Traitor, as would She.

The difference was that the Hive would be successful. But now … now the Green Mother hungered.

The moment She became aware of hunger, a soft young beetle scuttled up, ready to be eaten. She felt his gratitude as she crunched into him.


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