Commander Arebi was rolling her eyes.
“You did everything there is to be done, Inigo. There’s nothing else to do but wait,” the Commander said. “So stop worrying so much.” Her voice was strict, almost scolding, but the corners of her lips were stretched into a knowing smile.
Lutecia Arebi looked almost ageless, even though Captain Rea knew that she was over twenty years his senior. Her hair was starting to go gray, but there was nothing else about her that age had diminished. Her body had the fit and tight shape that a life of strict regimen entailed. She had the dignified air of a diplomat and the immaculate posture of a soldier. Not for the first time today, Rea felt supremely lucky to have the crew he had.
Rea looked at his first officer, and there was a moment of mutual understanding.
“You’re right,” he said.
“Of course I’m right,” she said and he had to laugh. He walked around his desk towards the small cupboard against the wall. He opened it and got from it two glasses and a bottle of spiced rum. She gave him a look.
“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on getting drunk,” he said. He poured a modest finger’s width of liquid into each of the glasses. He offered the less empty one to Arebi, who took it.
He leaned against his desk and took a sip, looking at his first officer thoughtfully.
“When I get like this,” he asked. “do you think that you should be back in the chair?”
Her mouth twitched and her eyes grew distant for a moment, then focused back on him. She drank, coughed, smiled.
“You want me to comfort you, boy? Okay. Sure. But I’m not gonna lie to you, Inigo: Of course I do. Sometimes. I was captain of this ship for nineteen years. No one can let go completely of that. But don’t worry, I made my decision and I’m glad I did it! Being number one suits me better than being captain ever did.” Her smile grew wistful.
“Nineteen years commanding the Argo. I was with her from her first day, and never left her since. I was good at it. I did well. I made first contact with Kirex. Mapped half the quadrant. Discovered dozens of new worlds. Started a war and ended it. It was exciting, it was good, and it was enough. I’ve had my time.”
There was no bitterness in her voice, and there never was when she talked about her time as a captain, and her decision to take on the lower rank of first officer. She sounded utterly content and sincere.
“I could have been Admiral… but for what?” she laughed. “Fame, accomplishment, influence?! I don’t give a shit about that. Too many do.” She pointed at Rea. “I think there’s plenty of dignity and accomplishment in serving a young captain as sharp and driven as you. ”
She emptied her glass.
“Even if he does sometimes get frightened like a first-year cadet doing his first zero-g drill, and should definitely know better by now.”
He snorted. “Thank you,” he said.
She paused, then sighed. “Actually, you’re one of the few men in and women in the fleet who worry enough,” she said, suddenly somber. “The fleet is full of gung-ho sailors who think they will live forever, and whose every plan is the only plan. You have something approaching an appropriate amount of respect for the millions of ways in which things can go wrong.”
She leaned forward in her seat, cradling the empty glass in her hands.
“But worry must never take hold of you, Inigo. It paralyses you, leads to indecision. You need to let uncertainties be uncertainties. Know when you have done due diligence and prepared for the worst. After that, worry has done its purpose.”
“I find your counsel invaluable, Commander,” Rea said with a smirk.
“Don’t you forget it, kid.” She smiled and held out her glass. “And since I’m not the captain who needs to function, I think I’d like another glass.”
He poured it for her, then turned his attention to a recent message on his personal screen.
“What? Oh come on…” he said with a sigh.
”What is it?”
“Ugh, engineering wants to shut down HERA for maintenance. But she’s listening for subspace comm bursts.”
“Didn’t you tell Parker about it?”
“I did. Parker didn’t send this. Junior Lieutenant van der Meer did. Voice call to Junior Lieutenant van der Meer,” he said at his screen.
“Captain?” the young engineer’s voice came over his screen’s speakers after a short wait. She sounded surprised, almost nervous.
“I need you to reschedule HERA maintenance until after we’ve reached Tau Ceti. Lieutenant Behlim has some high priority programs running, and we can’t have an outage.”
“Yes, Captain,” the junior lieutenant’s voice said, sounding almost disappointed for some reason. “Of course. But Sir, I could also set up Lieutenant Behlim’s console with a local runtime and have her access the mainframe over the network! Maintenance is software-only.”
He took a slow, controlled breath. He tried to keep rank and hierarchy pretty flat most of the time, since everyone on board was supremely qualified for their job. Also, this wasn’t the military. Still, second-guessing the captain wasn’t done lightly. “Is maintenance that important?” he said, a slight edge to his voice.
“I’m sorry, Sir. There’s been some sync issues with my personal screen. Junior officers Porter and Warner have reported the same issues. It’s really hard to work when you have to try multiple times to access anything.”
“I see,” Rea said. He looked at Arebi who gave him no hint of what she thought, which meant that she was emphatically letting him be Captain. He sighed, too quiet to be heard through the call.
“Bridge operations have priority. You may try setting up a local runtime over the network on every bridge console. But if that doesn’t work, or underperforms, maintenance will have to wait. If it works as you say, I see no reason not to proceed as you suggest. I’ll tell Lieutenant Behlim to expect you on the bridge.”
He disconnected. Arebi was eying him with a thin smile. He was about to say something, when his screen rang with an incoming voice call from security chief Lagrave. There were another three unread text notifications. He sighed deeply.
“Still wonder why I quit?” Arebi said with a raised eyebrow and took another sip of rum.
* * *
Elli dressed herself hastily, her mind racing. She had been completely naked when the Captain had called her. Her heart was still beating. The adrenaline in her body was making her dizzy. She was heading to the bridge.
It wasn’t like she never saw the bridge crew. There were 138 people on the Argo, which wasn’t really that many. No one was a stranger. Still, the prospect of working on the bridge would have been exciting, possibly even daunting to Elli even without the prickle of forbidden opportunity that tempted her now.
No. It was too risky. She had a plan. She would do what she had to, nothing more. Keep her head down, look for safe opportunities. If everything went well, she’d even have the Captain’s blessing to work on HERA. This was good. There was no need to infect any of the bridge crew unduly. Unless there was an easy opportunity, which, however much she hoped, there wouldn’t be.
She zipped up her overalls and headed for the elevator.
The Argo was built like a flying skyscraper, with the thrusters at the bottom. It was a useful holdover in ship design from before the invention of graviton emitters. Under thrust, acceleration would still keep them in their seats if artificial gravity failed.
The bridge was two thirds toward the top of the ship, deep behind layers of compartments, quarters, corridors, and airlocks. Far away from any source of damage as possible. It didn’t need to be on the edge of the ship, because windows were strictly inferior to broad-spectrum high-magnification cameras. Sapphire glass was for pleasure cruises and civilian transports.
The elevator door opened, and she stepped out into the circular corridor that surrounded the bridge. She pushed a button to open the nearest entrance, and stepped in.
“Engineer Elli van der Meer, reporting,” she said, and four pairs of eyes fell on her. She saw security chief Lagrave, communications officer Petrova, helmsman Pauli, and—
“Oh, that was quick,” said the tall black officer that manned the nav console, Lieutenant Behlim.
She was nice, some part of Elli remembered, if a bit obsessive. Elli had probably never seen her truly relaxed, even on the rare occasions when she visited the rec area. She was smiling politely at Elli.
Elli realized that these were the first people she’d met since she’d become a drone. She felt the urge to infect them and convert them nag at the back of her mind. She felt her needles in her fingers, ready and waiting. But she couldn’t. Mustn’t. It was torture. She swallowed and pushed the feeling aside.
“I came as quickly as I could. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Don’t worry,” said helmsman Pauli. “We're not as busy as we look. Less so in fact. Just in readiness. And nothing’s happening right now anyway.”
“Lieutenant Commander Pauli, we don’t need to discuss this,” Lagrave said tightly, her words like little whip cracks. Elli winced inwardly.
Marie Lagrave. Ugh.
The Terran exploratory fleet was filled with the most qualified people humanity had to offer, and Marie Lagrave was truly one of the most diligent, disciplined and hard-working people among them. She was sharp as a knife and unyielding as diamond.
She was a total bitch.
Elli had hated her the moment she met her… and that had been before Lagrave had stood between Elli and taking over the minds of the crew. Lagrave was in charge of keeping the crew safe from human and inhuman threats. Threats like Hive. Threats like Elli.
Lagrave was their enemy. This was who they had to beat. It would be so fucking delicious to make her serve.
”Sorry,” helmsman Pauli said with a slight eye roll, and Elli’s thoughts snapped back.
“Just do what you’re here to do, Miss van der Meer,” Lagrave said with what might pass as a polite tone of voice during a police interrogation.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Elli said, and went to work.
”Hey, Emily!” Cole said into his screen when the voice call connected.
“Hey, what’s up?”, the bright voice at the other end replied.
He and Kyra were still drifting in the weightless space between the hulls of the ship. Kyra’s mouth was slowly caressing the length of Cole’s cock as he spoke, licking off the last of his cum. She had swallowed so much of it, hot and saturated. His Agent was inside her, and it carried the information how his mind and body had been taken over. Her next male would not take as long to convert as he did.
“Are you still on your shift?” Cole asked, smiling down at Kyra. His fingers were gently combing through her hair.
“Yes, but not much longer. Are we still hole-free?” Emily’s voice was full of smiles.
”The ship is,” Cole said, and his hand reached up to touch his forehead, his fingertip brushing over the tiny scar that imperceptibly marked the point where he had been injected. He smirked. “Crew… not so much, from what I’ve seen. Might need to do an inspection later.”
“Cole!” Emily half-shouted, half-whispered, audibly embarrassed. “You’re impossible!”
“Sorry, couldn’t help myself… Listen, I’m calling to ask if you’d like to come to my quarters straight after the end of your shift.”
“…I thought you wanted to go to the gym?” she said coyly.
“I can go to the gym later. I really want to see you. Maybe I can get my workout another way?”
“Oh really?” she jabbed. “I guess you’re lucky, because I really want to see you too.”
“I friggin’ hate shore leaves.” Emily said through gritted teeth. “I swear, there’s no friggin’ oversight at all. I should get Lagrave on this. I had to quarantine one crewmember, and someone else managed to catch batarian cytohypertrophy. It’s only transmitted sexually!”
“Eww. Too much information,” Cole said, but Kyra had felt his cock twitch at the mention of sexual transmission.
“Sorry… Anyway, see you in half an hour,” Emily said and made a kissing noise.
Cole hung up. Kyra pulled herself up his body and kissed him, deeply.
“We need to go now,” she said, her voice a breathless whisper.
“Yes,” Cole said through a smile. She felt his thoughts touch hers.
“Any way you can come, too?” Cole asked. “You want it. I feel it. And I want you to be there when I infect her.”
“I know... Let’s get dressed first. We have a little bit of time to think about it.”
They helped each other into their harnesses and overalls, straightened Kyra’s hair which had come loose from her ponytail, and made sure that no liquids of theirs remained anywhere on them before they entered the airlock, back into gravity and back into the part of the ship where they got to pretend to be the people they no longer were.
Kyra weighed the risks in her mind. Rationally, she should go to her own quarters and let Cole infect Emily by himself. There was no reason for her to be there.
Except for the all-encompassing, overwhelming need to be part of it. That need was what made her a drone, made her serve, made her want it. Sure, it wasn’t the only thing that made her what she was, but it was so much a part of what defined being a drone. Serving Hive was sex. Spreading the Agent made them horny and wet, and hard. Giving into that impulse was obeying their nature, obeying their programming. Denying it would be denying what Hive had made her.
She wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize them being discovered, of course. But there was nothing in which Kyra saw risk here. Even if anyone checked the security footage of her entering Cole’s quarters—and found anything about it suspicious, Emily would corroborate any excuses they had once she was a drone.
Kyra bucked. Oh God, yes. The thought nearly set her off.
“Let’s do it,” she said. She caught herself. There were cameras in the airlock, but they only recorded audio during yellow or red alerts. “…Let’s do it together. I’ll come with you. We’ll make her serve. I want to see you infect her. I want to see her turn.”
Cole smiled, and where their minds blurred, she felt his cock strain against the insides of his clothes, hot and turgid. She loved the feeling.
“All will serve the Hive,” Cole said with a conspiring grin that looked utterly normal.
Kyra remembered Cole as he had been. The man she had loved from afar. She had desired him, wanted to be with him, wanted him to want her back. She had never made a move. Even if she had been audacious enough, it would have been wrong. Even if the impossible had happened, and somehow he would have come on to her, she would have felt guilty.
She still tasted him from when he had come in her mouth. She had destroyed him and enslaved his mind, made him into a drone. She had made him cum. She had made him serve. What they used to be meant nothing. The hottest thing about him, the thing she desired, the reason she wanted to fuck him, was that he was as enslaved as she was. She felt his cock throb in anticipation of infecting the woman that had been his girlfriend and now meant nothing to him except that she would be a good, hot drone; eager to spread, infect and serve.
“All will serve the Hive,” Kyra echoed, and her heart was aglow with the warm feeling of being exactly where she wanted to be.
They got out of the airlock, calmly removed their harnesses, and logged the inspection as nominal. Some small, useless part of her felt guilty about lying. She told Agent to change it. Then, they took the elevator up to Cole’s quarters.
Kyra’s cunt felt raw and sensitive. She had fucked herself so much in the last twelve hours. It did nothing to diminish her desire. She was already wet again. She looked at Cole next to her. His face betrayed nothing. He looked approachable even when lost in thought, a thin smile naturally resting on his lips. But Kyra could feel his arousal, feel his thoughts, feel the need in his cock and in his fingers. Penetrate, fuck, infect. It was so hot to see him like this, so ready to serve.
The elevator stopped on the 23rd deck, and they followed the corridor down to Cole’s quarters. Each step made their anticipation swell, and Kyra felt their minds spiral closer as they approached their destination. Their thoughts were in sync. Images of Emily. Purpose, instinct, desire. Infect. Spread. Serve. Drones. Almost automatically, they walked on until they arrived at the door.
Emily had written a text message. She was already there. She had access.
They looked at the door. Emily was behind it.
Some part of them wanted to prolong it, ride the anticipation for even longer.
No. They needed to serve. Their thoughts separated so they could be more aware of their own bodies and actions. Cole opened the door and stepped in, and Kyra followed, barely registering Emily before immediately shutting the door behind them.
“Kyra?”, Emily said, mild shock in her voice. She had been sitting and waiting on the bed, and now she stood in the middle of the room, looking flustered and confused. Her face had lit up for a split second when she’d seen Cole walk towards her, then turned into a frown when she’d noticed Kyra behind him.
“What are you doing here?“, she asked, too perplexed to do anything but stand there. She was such easy prey. Cole reached around her head and grabbed it from behind, five bent fingers in her blonde hair. Wide-eyed, she looked at him, more out of reflex than anything else.
Five needles burrowed into Emily’s skull and the words died in her throat as she seized up. The tendons in her neck flexed and tensed and the muscles in her face twitched and contracted into a grimace. Her arms and torso convulsed and trembled. Her eyes were wide with panic, her mouth stretched open in pain and fear.
Then the light in Emily’s eyes went out and she dropped unconscious into Cole’s arms.
He lowered her to the floor. Carefully, he pulled out five long needles from the top of her head and for a moment, just before they came loose, they looked like five silvery strings, and it looked like Cole was the puppeteer that had attached his strings to her mind. His claws retracted into his fingers and he rested her back against the nearest wall.
It had been so easy.
“Undress her!” Kyra said, her pussy squirming with need. She wanted to see her naked. Wanted to see the body that they were infecting.
“Yesss,” Cole breathed, feeling her thoughts, understanding. He felt the same things as her. Their thoughts danced in hivethought. He wanted it, too. It was one more act of power over the girl they were destroying, one more act of domination.
And the drone they were creating would love it! Yesss!!! It made Kyra want to do it even more than she already did. Have their way with her body! Use it! Get themselves off over it!
They eagerly went to work.
Emily’s unconscious body was wearing white medical overalls. Cole unzipped them and pulled them over her shoulders and down her arms. Kyra lifted her legs and he pulled them off. Below, she wore only lace underwear. He undid her bra and Kyra pulled off her panties and socks, tossing them aside.
Their prey was naked. She was so incredibly hot. Emily’s body lay at their feet, unmoving, helpless, and underneath that naked flesh, Agent was infecting her, changing her, making her serve! Only a few minutes, the Agent told Kyra in her thoughts. She couldn’t believe how hot it made her.
She took off her own clothes, and Cole did the same. Her fingers found her wet slit. She moaned in pleasure and pushed them inside herself as she fell to her knees in front of Emily. Cole was next to her, furiously masturbating. Her free hand reached between his legs, cradling his balls from below and behind, feeling him shake as he worked his cock.
She could feel it, too. She felt his cock in her mind. Felt his unbelievable need. She felt him stroking and squeezing, and she knew that he could feel her push into the wetness of herself, feel her clit throb, feel her nipples ache with impossible arousal. They moaned and screamed as their minds fucked each other over Emily’s body.
Suddenly, his pleasure spiked and soared and like a shockwave it rippled through Kyra’s mind, and Cole exploded in orgasm. Hot cum shot out of him in long streams and onto Emily below him, gobs of it hitting her belly, her breasts, her face as Kyra watched.
“Serve, bitch!” Cole spat, and Kyra almost came.
“Serve!” she repeated, and it came out as half a moan.
…And in the place where Hive made their thoughts touch in hot, wet ways, there awoke something new. Kyra shivered and stroked harder. She looked down at Emily’s cum-stained face.
She saw the drone that had been Emily open her eyes. Saw her ecstatic smile. Felt her thoughts. Felt the need at the center of her being. All she wanted. All she was.
Serve! Spread! Infect!
“Miss van der Meer?”
Lieutenant Behlim was giving her a curious look.
“Sorry… I phased out for a moment there. I should be sleeping right now. But this is important. Don’t worry, this is routine, and I’ll be back in my bed when I’m done here” Elli said. She blinked, and swallowed. It had taken all her concentration not to moan outright. She felt the incredible heat of drones Kyra and Cole burn against her mind, rippling through her spine, gripping her between her legs. She felt drone Emily’s pleasure, new and pleasantly unfamiliar, like one more finger in her pussy.
She hated ignoring it. It was unnatural. She was Hive. She lived for the pleasure of being a drone and the thrill of spreading the Agent.
She could do none of that now.
She pushed it aside and looked back at the screen in front of her. Installation had finished. There was now a copy of HERA’s runtime on all bridge consoles.
“Okay,” she said as she got back into the rhythm of familiar work. She knew how to do this. It made her feel more confident and kept her mind calm. She started the configuration tool and entered a dozen lines of script into the startup parameters. She opened HERA and ran the script. She made sure the network ports were set up correctly.
When everything was done, a popup notification appeared on screen. Elli was the only one to notice. She hadn’t been meant to see it.
It read “100% increase in isolated subspace frequency intensity” and bore a minute old time stamp. It must be related to what Behlim was running on the mainframe. Elli said nothing and let the popup close itself.
She stepped back to let the lieutenant return to her post. “Just use the local instance the same way you would use HERA normally. It should work exactly the same. Well, technically, there’s 25 milliseconds of input lag, but that’s barely perceptible. Your calculations are still running on the mainframe, but the HERA simulated intelligence runs locally now. It shouldn’t impact her performance at all, unless you want a hundred thousand pages of reading comprehension done within the next ten seconds. You’d need the mainframe for that. If anything like that comes up, tell me, and I’ll postpone the maintenance.”
“Thank you,” Behlim said courteously. “Sounds great. Did you test it already?”
“No, Ma’am,” Elli admitted.
Lieutenant Behlim opened the HERA dev console and ran the command for a self-test and benchmark. As it was running, she opened her system and network monitor to see processor and bandwidth loads. She seemed satisfied.
“Working perfectly. But I do feel a little bit guilty every time I run the self-test,” she said with a smirk.
“Guilty? Why?” Elli asked, raising an eyebrow.
“How would you like it if I made you solve increasingly hard math and logic puzzles until you couldn’t handle them anymore, 5000 times a second?” Behlim said.
Elli snorted. “Well, I’m conscious.” She said, “And I’m able to dislike things. HERA isn’t. She has intelligence, but it’s task-oriented, not free-roaming. She only thinks when she’s told.”
“Obviously. But… well… maybe one day we’ll figure out how to let her think without any runaway logic. And when that day comes, I’ll be on her good side.”
Elli smiled. That day might come sooner than Lieutenant Behlim thought. She looked at the tall Officer, and had to stop her own thoughts from running away with her. She cleared her throat.
“I for one welcome our new machine overlords,” she said and Behlim chuckled. She was so pretty. She would be such a good—
“Is that all, Miss van der Meer?” the acidic voice of Marie Lagrave cut the air.
“Then you may leave. Thank you for your assistance.”
Elli grabbed her work screen and left before she could do anything stupid. Bitch, she thought. You’ll be next.
Emily was fucking Cole like a rutting bitch. She needed him inside her. Needed his cum. Her eyes were manic with desire. Her blonde hair which had been neatly braided had become a messy disarray of strands, covering half her face. Her breasts bounced up and down, her nipples painfully erect as she rode the drone that had been her partner. She was so glad he had been destroyed and made to enslave her. They were Hive!
She couldn’t see his face. It was buried in drone Kyra’s pussy. She loved it. She loved how she felt it through hivethought. She felt his tongue against Kyra’s clit like it was her own clit -- and her own tongue. She felt his cock inside her. She felt his pleasure as he pounded her, felt the inside of her pussy so hot and wet as it slid against his throbbing cock. Their thoughts were a smear of pleasure in Hivethought. She was fucking Cole with her pussy. She was fucking Kyra with Cole’s mouth. She was fucking herself with his cock!
She squeezed drone Kyra’s hand in her own as she looked into the drone's wild eyes as Kyra moaned and shivered across from her. Drone Emily loved that she was here. She wanted her to see everything, feel everything. She wanted to see her come! Kyra had turned Cole into a drone. She had infected him, turned him, fucked him, sucked and swallowed his Agent-enriched cum! Drone Emily loved her for it. She only wished Kyra had enslaved her first, so that she could have been the one to infect Cole and end him.
She felt the needles in her fingers, and she let them slide out of her aching flesh as she raised her hand in front of herself. Seeing them push out of her fingertips made her pussy scream with joy just as much as Cole's cock inside of her. Yes!!! She had been infected. Changed. Erased! Emily had become an eager drone. Nothing but a drone. She would infect! Spread! It turned her on. It was so fucking hot. “Fuck me, drone!” she moaned at Cole and the truth at her core made her buck and shiver.
I am a drone! I serve Hive! Forever!
They all thought it, and they all came together, all three of them. It was like nothing Emily had ever felt. It was incredible. She wanted this. Only this. Forever.
And as they all came down, panting and moaning, their minds intermingled, their thoughts still licking and kissing each other, they all thought the same thing:
Who will we infect next?