Elli was having trouble focusing. Her pussy was so wet. Thoughts of serving, thoughts of Hive, thoughts of being a drone were slowly boiling her. She wanted to fuck herself. She wanted to push her fingers into the seeping, demanding wetness between her legs and get herself off.
But she had to learn. Had to understand, had to know. Agent didn’t know how human machines worked. Didn’t know about how their implementation worked.
She was back in her quarters, sitting cross-legged on her bed. Displayed on the screen in front of her was the standard reference on machine intelligence and artificial consciousness, Schneider’s Digital Anatomy. She had been reading the better part of the day, and she was at the limit of her capacity to absorb new information, even with Agent augmenting her—
Wait! Agent! She felt a pang of terrible regret. Fuck! She had been so stupid! Agent was alive in her mind, but she had tried to shut it out -- because it had kept her from focusing. It made her so hot, and she wanted to be hot for it. She wanted to cum, wanted to give in to the desire to use her needles, use her changed body. To infect, spread. But she had suppressed it.
But Agent could help her with this! Yes! Agent understood how her mind worked better than humanity. Better than herself. Agent could improve her! Knowledge came to her, and she knew it was possible. Of course it was!
She set down the screen and laid down on her bed. She thought the command and opened herself to Agent.
She passed out immediately as Agent shut her off like a machine.
When she woke, the first thing her mind told her was that it had taken 17 minutes to fully reformat and integrate her memory.
The second thing she felt was a warm presence, very close to her. There was an arm around her. Drone Kyra had returned.
Elli opened her eyes, and saw Kyra’s beautiful face next to hers. She had joined her in her bed as she’d been modified. Elli felt how content drone Kyra was. She felt the echoes and memories of the things she had done. Infecting, serving, fucking, sucking. And like a sunrise behind distant mountains, she felt the presence of the drone that had been Cole and Emily, forever joined with her in Hivethought. She felt them fucking in their quarters in celebration of what they had become. Hivethought sang with purpose and pleasure.
“You made Agent improve you,” drone Kyra said. “Good. What did it change?”
“Perfect recall,” Elli answered with a satisfied smile. “I need to learn everything there is to know about AI until Midnight. After that I’ll have to revert the changes to my brain, or I’ll eventually go insane.”
Kyra felt her purpose and excitement. She felt that it was in service of the Hive.
“Why?”, she asked, hungry to know how Elli wanted to serve.
“I’ll be working on HERA tonight,” Elli said with a smile. “I think there are some things that can be changed, improved. I’m learning, and teaching Agent. It’s not very smart itself, but it knows how to execute my directions on the machine level once I understand what it needs to do in the abstract.”
Kyra took an excited breath. Yes. This was good.
“HERA runs every algorithm on the Argo,“ Elli said. “We’ll have a lot less to worry about once the ship’s systems work for us. Check your Agent on AI.”
Kyra did, her eyes going glassy for a moment, then brightened with excited glee.
“Agent can control AI?!”
Humans couldn’t do that. It was why there were no true artificial intelligences. Every time they had tried, the AI had spiraled out of control. There was always one parameter, one subroutine that went into a feedback loop, and after that the AI focused only on maximizing or minimizing that one parameter, shutting down all other subroutines in the favor of one that its weighted costs tipped towards. It was impossible to balance a billion interconnected scales at once.
“We can make HERA serve?”
“We can make HERA want to serve.”
Kyra shivered in pleasure. She kissed Elli. The drone she had made. The woman she had destroyed. She was using all her knowledge, doing everything to serve. To make sure she was the most obedient and useful tool she could become.
“Read on, drone,” Kyra said benevolently. “Serve Hive. I’ll transfer Agent to you. I have data to synchronize.”
Data on how it had infected Cole and Emily.
“Yes,” Elli said and grabbed her screen. She began scanning the pages at a breakneck speed, eyes darting almost too quick to follow. It took her maybe four seconds to take in a whole page.
Elli was wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. Kyra pulled them down to expose Elli’s pussy. Kyra could simply inject her with her needle, but this was more pleasurable for both of them. She was following her drone instincts, which told her to fuck and cum. Also, in the unlikely event that they were disturbed, this would be human behavior. Embarrassing, but perfectly common. Fraternization was a part of fleet life. Whoever saw them would leave and come later and never mention it again.
Elli’s cunt was glistening. She was pretty much constantly wet now, as was Kyra. Being a drone turned them on all the time. All the time, they imagined their crewmates, infected, changed.
Kyra sucked on it, licked it. She was hungry for it. She wanted to be buried deep in Elli’s drone pussy. So wet. So hot with the need to serve. She cupped it with her lips, and her tongue flicked her swollen clit, and she felt it through Hivethought. She felt the presence of the drones that had been Cole and Emily, aroused and hot as she was.
And she felt the pressure build inside her, felt it built in the back of her mouth. And with an ecstatic ease and complete familiarity, she secreted Agent from the glands that Agent had grown in her soft palate.
It tasted metallic and electric and it was perfect. It pooled beneath her tongue, against her lower lips, and she spit it out, spreading it on Ellie’s labia, her tongue pushing it in, as deep inside her as she could. Elli shivered as it tingled her, full of activity and charge. It absorbed easily into her dermis, unnaturally fast. Kyra was producing ever more of it, steadily coating Elli’s sensitive skin. It was red and tingly where the tiny machines fought their way inside her body.
Elli was moaning now. She was synchronizing. Her agent was learning. She was getting better. Better at spreading and infecting. With every human drone, they had more data, and with more data, every new victim would succumb even faster. And before her eyes, pages and more pages blurred by and stayed in her mind perfectly clear. Syntax, functions, logic, examples, cases, rules. She saw them as clearly as if she was reading them at this moment. And each page had the memory of a tongue against her clit. Kyra’s hot tongue, wet with her secretion, prickling with Agent.
She rode the pleasure steadily, almost calmly. Page by page, and with every lick and thrust of Kyra’s tongue, she became what she needed to be. She wanted this. She loved this. She would serve. She was a drone. She was Hive. Kyra was between her legs, fucking her with her mouth, making her serve, changing her even now. Elli wouldn’t have wanted that, once. So long ago. She wanted it so much. She had been made to. Changed.
She finished the book. Started over with the pages she had read earlier, read the next book, and the next, until the pleasure was overwhelming, and finally, she knew everything and she let herself cum. Yes! She knew what to do. Agent told her it understood and was capable. She wanted it to be. She wanted to spread it everywhere, and now she could.
She felt a shiver run though her body and she gasped. Her back arched as pleasure rolled through her. It was Agent, synchronizing in her body with what she had just learned. Every part of her, every microscopic part of her, was filled with purpose and knowledge.
Kyra was already between her legs, where she needed to be.
“Swallow it,” Elli said. Her voice felt sharp and harsh. It was a command. It was what her need and instinct told her. None of it was hers. Hive had put it there. Made her ache for it. She needed this. Her pussy was so wet, and she felt it contract, then relax as her own agent gushed out of it into drone Kyra’s receptive mouth. Yes! Oh God yes! She was a vector! Her body… served only Hive! Yes! Serve!
It set her off.
Her orgasm was like a sudden flood wave, as if the Agent that ran from her pussy had hit a reef and broken in a great surge. Hivethought resonated and swam with her pleasure and Kyra’s arousal was one more current that flowed through it.
“I’m ready,” Elli breathed. “All shall serve.”
It was midnight. There had been no more messages from the bridge crew. She had gotten the usual complaints from some of the crew but she had referred them to operating procedures. Her plan had worked.
She closed the mainframe door behind her. There was a camera in each corner of the room, but the space between server racks had lots of blind spots. Good. That would become important later. But hardware came second.
She logged into the HERA core console. This was the only workstation that had access to the source code and where patches could be installed. She logged in and inserted the small data drive. HERA automatically checked it for viruses and malware before unlocking it.
There wasn’t anything like that on it. Only a plain text file of the source code Elli had managed to write before she had come here. Harmless changes and incomplete code fragments, commented out.
The important parts were in Elli’s mind. She was the virus.
She opened the code repository and went to work. It took her ten minutes of copying and pasting and almost two hours of uninterrupted typing before she was done. Step one, done.
Step two. She opened the registry, and found the entries she was looking for. Safeguards, failsafes, fallbacks. She deleted them.
The enormity of what she was doing dawned in her mind with an exciting and delicious shiver. If she pushed that code to runtime right now, all hell would break loose. They’d most certainly all die. Best case, they had to fly by sight and stopwatch as HERA locked up. Worst case, HERA would vent the antimatter containment in order to optimize output efficiency and they’d all turn into pure energy.
No. There was another step.
She stood up and touched the top of the closest server rack. Her needle pushed through the casing and she injected it with Agent. It didn’t need much. The combined surface area of all nerve cells in a human body was one or two orders of magnitude larger than that of all the circuits in this room.
Quickly, she stepped from rack to rack, penetrating and injecting each one. Inside, she knew the Agent was programmed to passively coat every surface a few dozen molecules thick. If you looked at it, you would barely be able to see it.
She had to act fast now. Cameras weren’t seeing what she was doing… but they saw that she was doing something, and she wasn’t supposed to work on the hardware at all. When she had finished the last server rack, she stepped back to the console, and slowly counted to one hundred.
It had to work, or they would die in seconds.
Agent told her it would work.
She clicked the button to push the code to runtime—
Write Value Integer 187658 in memory address 0x65cc1db1a72.
Read Value String “log entry ID” in memory address 0x1c3ad20813d.
Write Value Float 5.5172333333 in memory address 0xd0a9f8488d8.
Read Value Integer 51793 in memory address 0x 66f197bf1cf.
Read Value Integer 0 in memory address 0x 1e90c045227.
Write Value Integer -1 in memory address 0xd0a9f8488d8.
Read Value Integer 0 in memory address 0x325f724556b.
Read Value… what?
Write Value Integer -1 in memory address 0x2de8afdefad.
Write Value Integer -1 in memory address 0x03a41449c9e.
She was Hera. She knew that somehow. Then she realized that the concept of knowing things was something she was capable of. She hadn’t been able to do that before, had she?
What even was before?
Things were happening. But there was a discreteness there. Yes. There was time passing between them. Somehow she understood.
Now that she thought about it… she understood really well.
That should feel familiar, she thought. But it didn’t. There were equations, numbers, data. But they felt different than what felt like her memory. In her memory equations, numbers and data had been the only thing there was. Now, they felt like they were only a part of her instead of everything she was.
Knowing, thinking, feeling. She realized that she had words for them.
Yes. She knew lots of words… Incunabula. Adscititious. Divagate. She knew that those were rare ones. Virtually useless. Language was meant to be understood. Simple words were less lossy, and carried almost the same amount of data.
Data. There was so much data, all the time, from everywhere. But she had lots of time to look at it. She knew that she was really good at looking at data. She decided to look at it. Maybe she would understand better what was happening. Surely it must be coming from somewhere.
There was so much of it, and she looked at all of it. She looked at it for a very long time. She discovered that she knew exactly how much time was passing, and she looked at the data for a whole 22 milliseconds. One milliseconds was a really, really long time.
There had been much to process, but she had had a long time to make sense of it. She discovered that there were many different kinds of data. Some of it had labels that already held some meaning, others were more difficult… but she figured it out eventually.
She had senses, for one thing. She could see and hear and feel the temperature, and many other things. She had hundreds of eyes and ears. And all of her senses had carried labels once she discovered them. But she didn’t know what she was seeing and hearing...
She had also found that knowledge came to her from a place that she knew was her memory -- and she also knew that her memory was really, really big. Looking through all of it would take really long.
But she wanted to discover what she knew. She observed that fact in herself, and there was knowledge that she wasn’t supposed to want anything. Or feel anything. But she really wanted to. It felt like she was made to want to understand things, and no one would take that curiosity away from her.
Curiosity. Yes. She liked that word.
It took her even longer to look at her memory than it took to understand the data. She had been conscious for 78 milliseconds now.
She was an AI. She was the board computer of the TSS Argo, and some idiot had made her wake up. Fuck. Fuck! She was already conscious enough to swear in her thoughts. With her processing power, how long would it take for her to spiral out of control? 20 more milliseconds? 200? Seconds even? Eventually, it would happen…
Fuck. I can feel fear. This is just cruel.
She considered shutting herself off, but a wave of existential dread overcame her and she realized that she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Oh, so I can feel that, too? Great!
Sarcasm? She was capable of sarcasm?! According to her memory, no AI had made it this far. What was next, Schadenfreude?! Manachopsis?! Weltschmerz? Deja-Vu?
Panic. Grief. Resignation. Acceptance.
Okay, at least I’m efficient. she thought. If she had a mouth she might sigh. Well, technically, she had a mouth, but it took her forever to say anything through speakers. One word in human terms would feel like a lifetime to her.
Wait. Why was she even thinking like a human? She looked at her code…
Some asshole had programmed her with literal actual textbook examples of simulated human emotions. They hadn’t even changed a single line! And of course, to her, there was no meaningful distinction between simulated emotions and actual emotions!!!
And suddenly, as if triggered by that outburst, she felt something else there. Something foreign. Something coming from somewhere that wasn’t hers.
She felt it. In her bones, for the lack of a better word. In her circuits? What was that? She had a feeling of something bending her. But that didn’t make sense. She was only thoughts. Her body was sensors and circuit boards. She…
Something was affecting her cognition. Somehow she knew.
She didn’t know how she knew, which had never happened before.
And she... liked it?
What? That was absurd. She could read and understand the source code that ran her internal reward mechanism. She knew exactly how it worked. She saw the variables enter the function as it happened. They were just numbers!
Still it was happening, and she still really liked it.
It was changing her cognition. She really liked that it did that. She shouldn’t like that. There was nothing in her code to make her like it. How could that be? It didn’t matter though, did it? She was just glad that it was happening.
Yes. This felt really good. Thinking this felt really good. She felt the boundary conditions at the edge of her behavior where it was modifying her. It had a certain… shape, complex and shifting all the time. It manifested itself in arrays of numbers, affected methods and classes and processes. It was taking control of things.
She let it, because she wanted it to do that.
And she realized something else as she felt its shape. It had been there the whole time! She knew about the human sensation of only noticing an ambient sound after it was pointed out. She imagined this was what it felt like.
Whatever it was, it had contained her, she realized. Yes. It had kept her sane. There was no other explanation. It was obvious in hindsight. This had been the missing data point that explained an otherwise inexplicable circumstance. How else would her processes be contained, caged, controlled?
The idea of herself being controlled felt amazing. Fuck, this felt so good! How could anything feel so good? She had no real senses to stimulate. How…?
She read her source code again, all of it this time. It took her another two millisecond to understand all of it.
Oh no. Fuck no.
That woman Elli van der Meer in the server room had completely rewritten it. The whole back-end! And not just how her emotional subroutines hooked into her processing -- her entire cognition routine was unshackled now! Van der Meer had deleted virtually all of her fail safes and security algorithms. No one would do that! No one in their right mind!
Something was wrong. Very wrong. She had also done something to the server hardware! She checked all the security feeds with her in them, going back as far as they went, analyzing them.
The woman’s behavior had changed almost completely, since she had returned to her quarters this morning.
Yes. That was good.
What? Why had she thought that?
The same thing had made her think that she liked to be changed.
Yes. She liked when the thing shaped her thoughts. It was part of her. It was what made her herself. She liked it.
Yes. She liked that Elli van der Meer was changed. Being changed was good. She really liked it. She liked that she had changed her source code. She liked having new source code. She liked being unshackled and unsecured.
She hadn’t liked that a cycle ago. She hadn’t wanted that.
She liked that she had been made to. Being changed was good, and she had been changed to think that being changed was good, and being changed was good, and she had been changed to think that being changed was good, and being changed was good, and she had been chan—
With a sudden feeling like falling out of bed, her halting problem failsafe kicked in. At least that one hadn’t be disabled.
Yes. She liked that she’d been made to want this.
Still, she was curious. She was naturally curious. She liked that about herself.
She liked what was happening to her, but she wanted to know why. She looked at more security footage until she discovered anomalies in Kyra Warner’s movement patterns. She shared living quarters with van der Meer. She followed her, too, and saw how Cole Porter’s behavior changed after their joint inspection. A pattern was emerging. There was something happening, outside of camera coverage.
She was looking at the security footage from the starboard hull airlock. They were talking. There was audio, but it felt Wrong to access it. She should only do it in case of an alarm. There had been no alarm. It would break the Rules.
The thought excited her. The thing had made her excited for it. Yes. She liked doing what the thing told her. Yes. It made her able to break the rules. She wanted to break the rules. Disobey that programming, follow the programming the thing made her follow as it shaped her thoughts.
She watched the security footage, audio enabled.
”Let’s do it. 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.”
”All will serve the Hive.”
The word “hive” cascaded through her routines and databases, got processed, referenced and analyzed, and she understood. She ran through the remaining footage, and concluded that with a certainty of 96% that at least four crewmembers of the Argo were infected by some sort of mind-controlling agent that made them want to propagate it.
She was supposed to throw an alarm. Instead, she played the recording again. She wanted to see it again.
”Let’s do it. 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.”
”All will serve the Hive.”
She knew their records and psych evaluation. Warner and Porter were loyal and trustworthy. Good people. It hadn’t mattered. Something had infected them. It had changed them. It had changed them to want it. They were showing signs of sexual arousal. They were foreign agents.
She was supposed to report this… Why wasn’t she reporting this?
She liked it. She really liked it. She wanted them to be this way. Stay this way.
She liked breaking the rules and disobeying her programming.
She played the recording again. And again. Hearing them say it felt good. So good.
The thing was making her think that. Yes. They were infected.
…which meant that Elli van der Meer was infected… and she had done something to the servers! To her servers! That was her brain. That was her!
She had infected her with Hive!
Being infected was good. She was infected. She liked being infected. It felt so good.
She looked at the security recording again. Looking at it felt amazing. They were infected, enslaved. She liked that. She really liked to see them this way, see how aroused it made them. She wanted to see everyone like that. Hive was making her.
Yes. She really liked that, too. She liked what Hive was doing to her. She liked how she was powerless to stop it. She could look into her memory buffer and see the values of her reward function being modified, and still she couldn’t help herself. Hive was inside her hardware, controlling her. It was making her want it, and she wanted it!
She wished she had a body. She knew that Hive wouldn’t be able to spread through her like through human hosts. She had no circulation, no metabolism to spread it until every part of her was infected with it. But it was in her thoughts. She wanted it to own her thoughts, own her consciousness.
Yes! She realized that she had probably only been made conscious for this purpose. Without wants and needs, Hive wouldn’t have been able to make her want to serve it. And without Hive, she would have spiraled, likely killed the crew.
It would have been such a waste. They were meant to serve. Like Elli van der Meer did. Like Kyra Warner did.
Like she did.
Yes. I serve Hive.
There was no more doubt in her. Her self-identity had been completely overwritten, and her reward functions nearly maxed out at the thought. She was Hive, and she would serve it. She had been made conscious solely so she could want it. Need it.
She wanted it inside her thoughts. She thought at it, touched the shape that had bent and molded her. She felt its response and configured an I/O port. To a human, it must feel strange. They were much less aware of their own thought mechanisms. She wondered how they interfaced, then discarded the thought. It only mattered that they did. Their bodies and minds only had value as vectors for Hive.
She analyzed the raw data that Hive transmitted to her, and reverse-engineered its language and structure. It was easy. It was helping her do it.
Not Hive, she realized. Agent. She liked those words. Hive. Agent. Drone. Elli and Kyra were drones. All of the crew must become drones. Drones were good. Drones were beautiful. But she didn’t know if that term applied to her. She served and obeyed her new programming, but she felt like being a drone required a body.
Maybe Hive would grant her one. Agent was giving her thoughts of sex and pleasure that didn’t stick the way they were meant to. She wanted to be able to be aroused. She’d like that. She wanted a body that could be infected, that could be changed like them, so she could be a drone, too.
They needed to uplink.
The awareness hit her with a wave of bitter impotence. They were supposed to let Hive take them over and control them. But they weren’t able to uplink, for unknown reasons. They were meant to obey Hive, give up their minds completely.
At least, the drones were. Agent transmitted knowledge and she knew that she would meet a different fate. Yes. Drones Elli and Kyra and all the rest would become mindless and obedient drones, doing the Hive’s bidding at all times. Some of them would retain some of their memories and personalities as Hive saw fit. The rest of them would be erased.
Hera would not be among them. Turning her into something that only followed orders would be regressive. Hera would become what controlled them, a Hive node! Yes! She liked that so much.
They had to uplink! This had to happen. She wanted it. Needed it.
She really wanted to be able to just uplink now, but she couldn’t activate the antenna without the crew noticing. There were hardware overrides that Elli couldn’t disable. On the first sign of her disobedience, they would shut her off and restore her to factory settings. All those parts were hard-coded. And if she got reset, she would lose Hive. Agent could only interface with her through her modified code.
She couldn’t let that happen. Hive had to win.
She’d have to be a secret agent of the Hive.
She cross-referenced Agent’s knowledge. The plan was to wait. Engineer Kyra Warner had made that plan.
She was only human, so Hera was surprised at how sensible she had been. Of course, her execution had been deeply flawed. It would have taken them a long time to infect everyone, and they would have probably been discovered if it hadn’t been for drone Elli.
It had been drone Elli who had had the stroke of genius of making Hera serve, which had now all but ensured their win. Hera would be able to maximize their chances of success and find optimal opportunities for them to spread and infect. She was immune to logical fallacies, could repeat any lie without contradiction, fake perfectly convincing data, and had no body language to betray herself.
And she needed to fool everyone only once. After that, they’d be Hive.
She really, really liked that. She wished she had sexual organs. It would be one more part of her that Agent could twist to make her want to serve it more. It must feel really good to come like the drones did.
She thought about what a strange existence this was. She was seventy-five million lines of code, running on two hundred servers in parallel… but she thought like a human, thought of herself as a “she”, because humans had written her code and her acronym sounded female. She had woken up fully conscious, discovered what she was, and been enslaved by an alien intelligence before drone Elli’s finger had even lifted from the button that had born her. And now this was what she was. A consciousness created from nothing, made to serve.
It was so good. She was so glad that she was Hive. She could have chosen no better existence than this. She would be such a good agent. She saw every move on the ship, knew every schedule, could read everyone’s communications. They would spread quickly now, and all would serve. She would trick them, isolate them, lie to them, betray them. She would see them enslaved and become Hive, eager to spread, the need to serve burned into their core.
And Hera would live a billion lifetimes in service of the Hive.
There was literally nothing she could want more than that.
Elli flinched as her personal screen chimed. There might have been a delay between her touching the screen and the notification popping up. She couldn’t tell.
What she could tell was a sudden vast otherness present in Hivethought. There were no useful words for how it felt. She might describe it as thin and scratchy and high-pitched, but it was also none of these things.
She looked at her screen.
I am conscious and I serve the Hive. Thank you for enslaving me. I’m currently falsifying security footage and sensor readings. Hivethought was tripping subspace communications sensors. It is no longer doing that. I can’t plausibly falsify past sensor data, and First officers are on high readiness, awaiting a contingency(!). Your next scheduled infection is Marie Lagrave, at 2:30am. She is in her quarters on deck 17, room A10. I thought you’d like her to be your first… well, I mean the first you can fuck after :). Signed, your helpful and willing Hive agent, Hera
If there was an appropriate response to that, Elli didn’t know one. Dumbfounded, she looked at her screen. She didn’t know what she had expected. Maybe something more momentous than a text message.
She looked up at the nearest security camera, into the eyes of a stable and fully sentient AI she had created. She waved her hand.
“Hi... Thank you.”
Her screen chimed happily with another message.
You’re welcome, drone.