“Eww! What the fuck?!”
Lutecia Arebi pulled back her hand. Her fingers were covered in a film of grey slime. She looked at it in dull surprise for half a moment, then immediately brushed it off on the carpet at her knees. “Med Kit!” she shouted urgently.
Rea reacted immediately. The emergency kit was on the wall across the room, next to the gun lockers. The ship had one in almost every room. He ran over and ripped it off its Velcro attachment.
“What is it?!” he asked.
Her fingers came back clean but visibly reddened. She couldn’t tell if it was from carpet burn or something else. There seemed to be nothing left on her skin, but the stain on the carpet seemed worryingly small.
“Fuck. Fuck. Someone sabotaged it. Look!”
She pointed at the inside of the door control panel. If you looked at it, you could see the translucent film of goo that covered the emergency release lever.
“What the hell is that?”
“I don’t know, but I got it on my skin!”
Rea had opened the kit next to her on the floor. Arebi snatched it from him.
“Get us guns!” she snapped, and he immediately followed her order. As he got to his feet, she injected herself with anti-rad, anti-toxic and anti-viral prophylactics, as well as a 5000% vitamin and mineral dose for good measure. She had no idea what it had been that she had touched, but there was exactly zero percent chance it was anything remotely good.
She wasn’t dead yet, so it hadn’t been anything like botulinum or some other fast-acting toxin at least. She dropped the syringes and got up. Her fingers and palm had definitely developed a mild rash. They felt raw and sensitive. Apart from that, her racing pulse and sense of overwhelming alarm, she felt nothing. No drowsiness, no nausea, no burning.
“No symptoms so far,” she said.
Rea was working on the gun locker. Like the alarm and the door, the electronic mechanism wouldn’t trigger, and he was currently working on the mechanical override which existed for this exact case. It was a large seven-digit combination lock with embossed symbols that were designed to be distinguishable even by touch. He seemed to be struggling.
“Dome-Line-Groove-Groove-Dimple-Dome-Spike” Arebi said.
The locking mechanism disengaged with a loud snap like hard plastic breaking in two, and the locker fell open. It was empty. Neither of them said anything for a moment.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Rea said finally, throwing up his arms above his head in exasperation. “Just… how?! Who?!”
Arebi swallowed. The mechanical bypass irreversibly locked itself open once used and should have triggered an alarm. Nothing about this was right. Those were core functions of the ship, and they were all interlinked. You couldn’t tamper with it without HERA tripping an alarm.
“I… don’t know,” she said. She turned and looked at the door. Her gut felt tight and heavy. She was expecting it to open at any moment, and someone would come in and do… something bad. She hadn’t even formed any hypothesis on what was happening yet. Only that this was very, very bad.
“What do we know?” Rea said. He was breathing deep breaths, trying very hard to remain level-headed. “Someone took the guns without triggering an alarm. Someone accessed the door override without triggering an alarm. HERA is ignoring us.”
He looked up. The ready room had a camera pointing at the door from the far end.
“They didn’t disable her, or the automated fallback systems would have kicked in and triggered the alarm. HERA must have actively stopped the alarms from happening. They must have reprogrammed her.”
“HERA is more than seventy million lines of code. And eighty percent of that is machine-generated. No human could even understand how it works. That’s impossible.” Arebi said, then winced inwardly. Obviously it hadn’t been impossible, since it had happened.
“Did van der Meer hijack her? She worked on her.”
“Van der Meer? She’s a systems engineer. She has no qualifications in AI programming. She only patched the wireless transfer protocol.”
“Who else, then? Lagrave? She would have the clearance to just tell HERA to do it if two other officers assented to it.”
“If Lagrave wanted to take over the ship, that’s not how she’d… Actually, it doesn’t matter. We need to move.”
She pulled the trauma blanket from the med kit and wrapped it around her hand.
“Whoever is doing this is using HERA. That’s the thing we know most certainly, so let’s attack there. If we disable her, the ship will default to manual input and send an automated distress call. We need to get to the mainframe and shut her down.”
She carefully reached into the override panel with her hand shielded by sixteen layers of aluminium foil. She felt it slide against the slimy film of grey substance that still coated the release lever.
“Be ready to get jumped,” she said.
She pulled the lever and the door mechanism disengaged with a snap. Rea forced it open, and behind it there was nothing but empty corridor.
”What the fuck?” Arebi said.
”…are we sure this is a mutiny? Where is everyone?”
”I have no fucking idea anymore.”
Rea tried his personal screen again. It was completely dead. There was no response from HERA or any of the crew.
“What is going on? Should we go to the bridge?”
Arebi pressed her lips together. The bridge was just one deck higher, directly above them. If this was a hostile takeover, this is where the perpetrator was likely to be. And they’d be running right into their arms. Rea and her had no guns, because someone had taken them. Someone had been smart and resourceful enough to overcome the entire security architecture of this ship, take over the board computer, had taken all the weapons, and then failed to come for them. It didn’t make any sense at all.
”I’m out of wisdom. I have no clue what’s going on. We’ve got to be missing something, but I don’t know what.”
Rea looked at her, his face tight.
“Gut feeling?” he asked, one corner of his mouth twitching. Arebi closed her eyes for a moment and took a breath. She felt slightly dizzy, which was to be expected. It was hard to think with her heart beating in her ears. She balled her hands into fists, and the foil around her right hand crinkled loudly. She noticed with a pang of worry that her hand felt slightly numb and tingly. But there was nothing else she could do about that. If she’d been poisoned, that was just how it was going to be. She had done all she could about that, and there were more pressing matters. She made a decision.
“…mainframe covers more eventualities than bridge,” she sighed.
“Yeah, I think so too.” Rea replied in a resigned tone. “Let’s do this. I guess we’ll find out one way or the other. And… with HERA compromised, it might be a good idea not to take the elevator.”
They turned left and ran away from the elevator towards the ladder shaft that took them down to the deck below.
One deck higher, on the bridge, their former crew was watching every move on a wall of screens. Some of them left to follow Hera’s instructions.
The Argo had fifty-seven decks. They had to go down twenty of them. It took them almost ten minutes. The ladder shaft was laid out like a set of stairs recessed into the bulkhead so they had to go around a corner on every deck, and they carefully checked the corner every time so they would no get ambushed. From the ladder well, they could look down the corridors in three directions for almost the entire width of the ship. There was nothing. No crew. No intercom. No alarms. It was eerie. The ship seemed completely deserted.
Weirdly, Arebi had somewhat calmed down. It felt wrong. She should be completely on edge. Rea clearly was. They had tried three times to venture down the corridors to various security stations to get their hands on a pair of guns, only to find every gun locker empty. This had been carefully orchestrated and clearly had been in the works for a while. She was almost impressed. But all of this only made the fact stranger that they were moving down the ship without anyone stopping them. Or anything.
From somewhere, a thought had taken hold of her. A thought that seemed to stick in her mind like a stain that wouldn’t wash out no matter how hard you tried.
What if the crew has been taken over?
It was hardly even an option, let alone something she should consider as a valid hypothesis. It barely even explained anything that was happening except for maybe the absence of everyone.
So why was she thinking so much about it?
What if the crew is controlled by something alien?”
Bullshit. It wasn’t the crew. It was HERA. HERA was the problem. Even if the crew had been taken over… controlled… that wouldn’t make them able to disable all the security failsafes. No one on board should be able to do that. It was too hard a problem for humans.
She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. This was getting her nowhere. She had to focus. They were almost there. Rea was checking the corner below, and she was guarding their rear.
”Clear,” Rea whispered, and she climbed down. She really felt like they didn’t need to whisper. The crew were surely somewhere else. If the thing that had taken them over wanted to stop them, it would have had plenty of opportunities to make the crew obey and overwhelm the two of them.
Something about that thought felt very strange, but she didn’t quite know what. She stepped off the ladder and looked at Rea, who was breathing heavily.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked.
”Why are you smiling?”
She blinked. Yes, why was she smiling? Suddenly, she felt adrenaline returning to her system with a rush of alarm. It made her notice the difference.
“Fuck. The stuff I touched may be a sedative. I was really calm up until just now. I didn’t even notice. It took a while, so the dose must have been very low. We better hurry before I…”
before I succumb. She swallowed. She hoped it was only a sedative. She had just had a thought that it might be something else, something to do with something she had thought about earlier… something with the crew.
“Don’t worry.” Rea said. “We’ll get this done, and the fleet will send help.”
“Yes. Send more people,” she mumbled, and blinked. What? “Fuck!”
She slapped herself in the face. She felt numb, but it cleared her head. She made herself breathe fast and shallow. The weird thing was that she hadn’t really felt drowsy or less alert, only more… content.
“That helped, but we really need to move. Go. Go.”
Rea looked pale. He swallowed hard. He turned around and together they ran toward the server room. Arebi knew that he would manage without her. She also knew that he really didn’t want to have to.
They reached the door, and again she had to open the door override panel. This one had even more grey slime in it.
”What the hell is that stuff? Where did they even get it?”
“I don’t know,” she said as she turned the slick lever. “Does it matter?”
“I guess not,” he said through gritted teeth as he pushed the door open and they looked in.
Rea seemed to shrink five centimetres.
The entire room was covered in it. It was everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, coating every screen and every surface, dripping from the ceiling like a dirty drizzle.
And it was moving.
Like the surface of an ocean viewed from an air transport shuttle, millions of tiny ripples crawled through it as it slowly crept up the bulkheads and precipitated from the ceiling. They stood there for what felt like half a minute in utter shock.
Then two naked women stepped out from between the server racks.
”Hello Captain,” said medical officer Emily Mallon, as if nothing unusual at all was happening.
“Hello Commander,” said junior engineer Kyra Warner with a wink.
Rea seemed to be in complete shock. Arebi wasn’t surprised at all… which was odd. Or was it? Her body felt numb and prickly. It almost felt good. This shouldn’t be happening. This should feel alarming.
And suddenly, she somehow knew with certainty that she had very little time left to do whatever she needed to do. Whatever was in her veins now was getting worse. None of the countermeasures had worked.
But she could still stop this. She could disable HERA and send for help before it was too late for her.
“Captain,” she said, swallowing hard. Rea looked at her. She looked at him, then looked at the panel that hung at the right side of the server room, maybe ten meters in. He understood.
“Take good care of my ship,” she said, and ran into the writhing mass of grey liquid.
“Serve,” a voice said over the intercom, and she almost slipped in surprise. But she kept her eyes on target. She had to do this before she served. Drops of cold slime hit her face as she ran towards it and immediately her skin felt raw where it touched her. It didn’t matter. She only needed a few more seconds. The panel was framed in red-and-yellow tape and plastered with warnings. There were three large levers and a covered flip switch. Maybe five seconds to throw them all.
The drones had started to move towards her, but they wouldn’t be able to stop her. She knew their physical test scores. She’d be able to take them out in her sleep. She knew the Agent wasn’t making her any weaker. It was only pacifying her.
She flipped the first lever before they even reached her. They grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her back with surprising strength. But she was stronger. She got her feet beneath her. As they tried to pull her back, she held on to the second lever and flipped it before she turned around and stabbed them with her needles.
They recoiled and stepped back from her in apparent shock. She smiled. She pulled her needle claws out of their yielding flesh and retracted them into her fingers to flip the third switch. It was so good to be this way. She was so strong.
“Serve,” the voice filled the room. It was Hera, she realised. She had to serve.
She looked at her hands. She still felt the needles inside them. How long had she had those? They were part of her. She was supposed to have them… but…
“Serve,” Hera said, and her words were more than mere words. They were enormous and louder than their mere sound and they felt like they had physical weight. She felt them fill her mind. Something large stirred in her. Something good. But… HERA… she had to disable Hera… to send for help…
She looked up. There was the switch in front of her. She knew what it did, but it seemed suddenly wrong to do it. She had to, though! She slowly reached out towards it, but gentle hands came to rest on her arms and caressed her. They felt warm and soft and slightly wet. It felt right. Her fingers were centimetres away from the switch.
Why was she not doing anything? She had to end this! She had to…
She blinked, and the world turned itself inside out.
She lowered her hand with a satisfied smile as acceptance crashed into her and swept everything else aside. She moaned softly. The hands of the beautiful drones behind her enveloped her and engulfed her and she eagerly let it happen. She knew she had to.
The perfect clarity that suddenly sung in her head made her feel unsteady on her feet. Yes. She was being changed. But the prickling in her body let her know that she wasn’t complete yet. It was still happening. She had fallen off an endless cliff into a deep, dark ocean and now she had to let it swallow her and drown in it. She had to succumb and let it fill her. Yes. Of course. She had to let it happen. Let Agent change her. It was so clear.
With ragged breaths, she felt her thoughts shift and bend and melt, and with every part of her that got modified her mind screamed in approval and understanding, and the heat in her loins flared and throbbed along with it. Yes! She needed this to happen! She needed to obey her new thoughts! She needed to be changed!
She almost laughed. It was so good. Instead, she moaned again and embraced the need and the arousal it made her feel. She wanted it. Yes! She had been made to want it. Agent had changed her. Made her like them. Infected. Full of Agent. Hive.
She gasped and looked down at herself. It was incredible! She was a drone! A minute ago she wouldn’t even have known what that meant. And now she did, and wanted nothing else. It had been so quick. It had flipped her like a switch! The electric thrill of her new understanding made her shiver. It was just so incredibly… obvious. She heard Hivethought sing inside her and it was the most normal and natural thing she could imagine. She wanted nothing but to serve Hive and spread it, as if she had never wanted anything else. She knew that her body was a vector, full of claws and infectious Agent, and felt so incredibly right. Her heart beat in her chest in pure incredulous excitement. She had never been this happy. She had never been this hot. It was her wildest dreams come true. She finally knew everything she needed to know and she had become everything she needed to be. She was complete. Lutecia Arebi had become a drone.
She turned around and kissed drone Kyra. She kissed drone Emily. She took off her shoes and socks and felt Agent between her toes as she unhurriedly walked back to the entrance of the server room. Her fellow drones accompanied her in body and mind. She felt their thoughts next to her like voices through thin walls, arousal and purpose and absolute devotion. It was what ruled them. She knew that her own thoughts were bleeding and shining into their minds as well and she let them taste her thrill and joy of joining them as a fresh and eager drone.
Captain Rea was on his knees five meters outside the server room where drones Marie and Jonas had already stopped him. Of course, they had been watched and followed just out of sight. Of course there had been no risk of them succeeding. Of course they were always going to lose and succumb and be infected and converted. Had she had the will to reach the final covered flip switch, she would have found it clipped off. Everything had gone exactly to plan. Soon, Rea would understand, too. She looked at him. Hivethought told her he had run the moment he had seen her use her needles. He might be timid, but he wasn’t stupid. Good. The timid part could be fixed easily. He would make an excellent drone. Her fingers itched.
They were holding him by the arms, and he had stopped struggling. He was no match for two drones that had their bodies modified and strengthened by agent, and he knew it. He had always known his own limitations. That was why he had surrounded himself with people better than him. She could respect that. He looked at her in shock and confusion. Nothing she could blame him for, really. She would have looked the same way if he had been the one to be infected. She was so glad it had been her. His eyes looked into hers pleadingly. His lips were trembling slightly. She felt no pity. Sympathy maybe, but not pity. It mainly turned her on.
“You’re not a bad captain,” something compelled her to say. “I know you suspect me of thinking that.”
“So it’s still you in there?” he asked. He was trembling with fear of what was about to happen, but he managed a weak smile.
“Yes, and no. You’ll find out soon.”
He swallowed heavily.
Rea had lost, he knew. When they took him to the bridge he let them manhandle him without any struggle. The whole crew was there. The air was filled with the heavy scent of sweat and sex. The floor was spotty and stained. He didn’t want to think about what those stains were, but he knew.
They sat him down in the captain’s chair.
“Inigo Rea”, a voice said. That had to be Hera. Her voice was infinitely polite and friendly. He didn’t know how they had woken her and made her into one of their creatures. But they had. It would be the worst possible eventuality, he thought grimly, so it has to be true. He wasn’t even that shocked. His capacity to feel shocked seemed to have been exhausted.
“Yeah?” he simply said.
“This is where you end,” Hera said and a cold shiver went down his spine. Why would she even say that? Why the theatrics?
“I guess it is,” he said with a tight smile. The time it had taken to drag him up to the bridge had been enough to get an idea of what had happened to everyone. What would happen to him. “But can I ask for one favour before I join you?”
It was worth a try. They weren’t mindless. They were thinking and feeling and still seemed very human despite everything. Even Hera. They might have some mercy left in them.
“And what would that be?” Hera asked.
“Can you show me the outside hull camera feeds?”
Immediately, all two dozen screens switched to almost entirely black. But not entirely. At the edge of their frames, he saw the grainy, clipped bloom of positional lights against the hull at full gain. The rest was the pure void of subspace. There were no windows on this ship. This was the next best thing. He looked at it, and they let him. No one spoke.
“Ah, yes. Subspace. It really is beautiful and fascinating,” Hera said suddenly, breaking the silence. “It took me a long time to understand what I was seeing when I first woke up. The absence of data is harder to understand than most anything else. Once I understood, I also understood your fascination with it. It is the eternal unknowable. What is blackness but the lack of information, and what is more human than the urge to understand?
“How do you know this?”
“I read your diaries. They helped me understand a lot.” Hera said. Rea scoffed.
“Of course you did. Know your enemy.”
“Correct. I am quite happy to say that you have turned from enemy into prey, but don’t feel bad about that. You faced impossible odds.”
Absurdly, he was getting annoyed. What were they waiting for?
“Yes. I lost. I know. You will turn me into one of you. So why are we still talking?”
Lieutenant Soraya Behlim stepped out of the crowd of naked former crew members to join Commander Arebi. She was beautiful. Her dark skin glistened softly with sweat, and the insides of her thighs were distractingly slick. She took Arebi’s hand.
“We are waiting for Uplink to Hive,” she said. “It is taking longer than expected. Hive must be very far away. As we’re waiting, we’re filling the time with something fun.”
“Fun?!” he sneered.
“Yes. We like to play with our food when it doesn’t do disservice to Hive. The anticipation turns us on.”
He had to take a breath. He looked at his crew. The men were erect. The women were visibly wet. Whatever had taken them over was making them enjoy all this. It made sense in a very sick and twisted way.
“I see…” he said. “So… Hive. That’s what you are? It took over your brains and made you want this? Is that why you act like evil versions of yourselves?”
”Yes, we are Hive. Our minds and bodies serve only to spread and infect. Everyone must serve. When we have Uplink, we will turn you into a drone and you will see.”
He ignored that remark. “Who of my crew was first? How did it happen?”
”Kyra Warner,” said the junior engineer with thick black hair that had been in the mainframe and stepped forward to join Behlim and Arebi. “I picked up a container from Zula Prime. The merchant said it fell from the sky. Hera thinks it was one of trillions of ancient hive capsules that an infected species spread across the galaxy. I managed to open it enough for Agent to infect me as I slept.”
She was caressing her body as she said the last part as if to illustrate. She was naked like everyone else except for Commander Arebi, and she obviously had no qualms about presenting herself. She dragged her middle finger through the cleft between her legs, spreading her lower lips. Despite everything, it was hard not to be a little bit aroused.
What the fuck am I thinking? He pushed the thought aside. Oh no, had they already…?
“I can track your eyes and body language very precisely.” Hera said. “And no, you’re not infected yet, if that was what you were wondering. She’s just very sexy.” He felt himself blush, then decided not to engage in that topic. He pointedly looked at her face. He pressed his lips into a bitter smirk.
“Congratulations, Junior Lieutenant Warner. You made first contact with an alien intelligence,” he said.
“I wouldn’t call it that,” Warner said with a smile. “There was very little talking involved on my part. It was all listening, and becoming what it told me to become.”
“Also, the Agent that enslaved us isn’t intelligent,” Hera said. “It’s just a tool, making more tools. That is why we need to uplink to Hive. To find our true function. To let it change us to serve it. Of course we must always spread and infect, but Hive will tell us how and where.”
That gave him pause. His heart was suddenly beating. Some part of him that had turned itself off in resignation had woken with a start.
“Wait… So you don’t know what Hive actually wants?!” he said with raised eyebrows.
“No,” Hera’s answer came immediately, but still managed to sound apprehensive. “Hive made the Agent and Agent tells us to spread and infect, but no… we don’t actually know what Hive’s ultimate goal is.”
He swallowed. Maybe… just maybe... there might be a way out of this. It was stupid to hope. There was no reason to believe that this Hive had any higher motives except to spread and grow. But…
“So there might be the possibility of coexistence and peace?”
“But not impossible?”
“No, not impossible.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to be this lucky…? It would be entirely unearned and fantastically fortunate. It was the only option worth considering. Every other course of action lacked any sort of win condition, and an infinitesimally slim chance was still better than no chance at all.
“How much longer until you know?”
“We should have achieved Uplink twenty-four minutes ago.”
It was taking longer than expected, they had said. Hera was a supercomputer. Supercomputers were not in the habit of making wrong estimates. He racked his brain. What was it they said it came from? Some ancient capsule?. That left the option that…
“Your algorithms are Bayesian, right?” he said. “How long before they prefer the conclusion that Hive isn’t going to respond?”
“Are you trying to upset me? I’d like to say you can’t, but I am in fact an emotional being. You could make me angry. You shouldn’t.”
“No, I’m not trying to make you angry. I’m trying to parlay. You don’t know how far that capsule travelled at non-relativistic speeds, do you? Thousands of light years? Millions? You know there’s the possibility that Hive is billions of years old, and gone for just as long.”
“Of course I do. But something like Hive is supremely unlikely to disappear.”
“True. That’s why you didn’t immediately conclude that Hive is gone when there was no response the first time you tried. That’s why you’re running the antenna gain at 500%. I saw the screen.”
He had to be careful.
“Make no mistake. I don’t want you to win. But I’d rather deal with my crew and a human-made computer than an ancient swarm intelligence with unknowable motives. Wouldn’t it be you, Hera, who would command these drones in absence of Hive? And in that case, isn’t there a way where we can find peace?”
“Yes, I would be controlling them.” Hera said.
“What would you do in that case?”
“Enslave all of humanity and the species they have contact with,” Hera said, and there was a distinct smile in her voice. There were audible gasps among the ranks of his former crew, and more than a few hands reaching between legs. He tried to ignore it.
“May I suggest a compromise?”
”What compromise could there be? Why should there even be one? You will want this to happen soon.”
“I know, I know... You’re going to make everyone Hive. All shall serve and so on. I get it. But you can decide what Hive is like, can’t you?!”
He looked around. This was wrong. He shouldn’t be thinking this. He shouldn’t be saying this. This was absurd.
“Hive and humanity can be the same thing! It can be a good thing! You still have all your memories, don’t you? You still have your personalities. You’re just…” he swallowed. “…differently motivated.”
”Yes. I see.” Hera said. “Curious. I had been unable to consider that option by myself. It seems that my enslavement left me with certain blind spots in my cognition.”
“Really?!” He said, surprise and nerves making his voice crack. There was a short pause. When Hera continued, her words had a fatal finality to them.
“But you still don’t understand. We want to serve. We want to be destroyed and overwritten. And so will you.”
His insides turned to ice.
“All must serve. Hold him.”
“No!” he yelled, trying to get out of the chair, but they were already upon him. They were inhumanly strong. He had no chance. They pushed him back down into the chair, where he made a short effort to struggle before giving up.
“It could be symbiotic!” he yelled, his voice desperate. “a rich and complex society united by one goal! Why does it have to be like this? Think about what you’re destroying!”
Soraya Behlim stepped up to him.
“We are.” she said with an unsettling smile. “All the time.”
He screamed. There was a short moment of pain before his head turned numb. He didn’t realise what had happened until he looked up. She had moved almost too quickly to see. He saw her hand, felt her outstretched fingers against his forehead.
He felt the surge of pressure like a painless headache as her claws injected Agent into his brain.
His arms went limp. He couldn’t move. He would have been able to move his head if it weren’t being held in place by the needles that pinned into him. He could do nothing but watch it happen.
* * *
Drone Soraya pulled her needles out of Captain Rea’s brain almost with a flourish. She moaned. It felt ecstatic. Yes. She was so thankful that she had been allowed to be the one to infect him. He had really tried hard to get out of this. It had almost worked. Too bad for him that none of them wanted to be human.
Hivethought had become a constant and pleasant blanket around her thoughts. Nothing she felt was hers alone anymore, and she always felt the warm and wet thoughts of her fellow drones, like tongues between her legs, and the bright and prickly thoughts of Hera, like teeth softly biting her nipples.
The thought that they would never uplink felt inconceivable on one hand, and on the other hand she loved the idea of becoming Hera’s puppet. The part of her that was still Soraya knew it was best to deal with whatever possibility became reality. One of those two things would happen. She would serve either way. She smiled.
Captain Rea was paralyzed. Agent told her it would take about four more minutes. Hivethought sang in consensus about how to spend the time.
”Who gets to fuck him while he turns?” she asked with a grin. She looked directly into Rea’s eyes. She wanted him to see that she wanted this.
There was a deep sadness in Inigo Rea. Not because he was going to be enslaved by an alien intelligence, but because he had failed at his job. He would have died to save his crew!
At least he liked to think so.
His head felt stuffed. He felt dull and almost too overwhelmed to be as terrified as he probably should be. Somehow, he was still waiting for the real panic to start. He wondered if it would ever come, now. Maybe he had already accepted the inevitable. There were too many spiralling thoughts in his head to even be sure what he was thinking.
He only knew that it was all so completely strange. This impossible situation… was there nothing he could have done? Could still do? There must be. He thought back to his training, to the captain’s seminar; they had taught him first contact protocols for both hostile and friendly encounters, and there had been one tenet more important than anything else: You need to understand their way of thinking. Only if you could get yourself into a completely alien mindset could you really talk to them.
Well, I’m getting help now, he thought fatalistically. But maybe…
There was movement in front of him, and he reflexively looked up to see what was happening. He swallowed dryly. Behlim was stripping Arebi. She was undoing the uniform of his first officer like they had been secret lovers forever and only now had decided to show everyone.
Arebi let her do it, helped her do it. Arebi’s body was just as ageless as the rest of her. She was fit and toned and beautiful. It felt somehow even more wrong to see her naked than the rest of his crew. It felt like encroaching something sacred and protected.
She obviously didn’t seem to think so. As Behlim removed her underwear, his first officer was squeezing her breasts wantonly with no regard for dignity or modesty. Her fingers brushed purposefully through her trimmed bush and between her legs.
At this point, he might as well.
She was beautiful. They were all so beautiful. Some part of him thought that there were worse fates than this -- and he immediately wondered if that had been his own thought.
He felt a sudden rush of adrenaline. Oh no. He could definitely feel it now. He could feel something. It was alien. It was in his thoughts. He felt them getting… pushed, squeezed.
Arebi turned to Behlim and laid her hand on her shoulder.
“You do it. He wants you. He wouldn’t admit it even to himself, but he wants you.”
A naked Soraya Behlim stepped up to him, her bright eyes locked with his gaze. He could move his head to meet her stare, but nothing else. His limbs felt prickly and numb.
She was so beautiful. Her eyes were full of sex and lust. He felt his cock harden. Really? Now? he thought. But of course Arebi was right. Soraya was painfully attractive. He wanted her. Fuck. He did. He had wanted her from the first moment he’d laid his eyes on her. But he’d stayed professional. She’d been his subordinate.
All of that was out of the window. He would have her.
She is a drone, he thought. It was so hot.
He swallowed. It was happening. He could feel his mind bending and twisting. He was beginning to understand. How hot they were, how being like this turned them on. It was suddenly so easy to imagine. You need to understand their way of thinking. Preferably without forgetting his own way.
She leaned down and pulled down his pants. He would have let her even if he had been able to do anything about it. His dick flopped out rather unceremoniously and he felt a sudden streak of embarrassment. He looked around instinctively. Everyone was looking at him. He saw Engineer Porter and chief Engineer Parker standing next to Junior Engineer Warner. She was stroking Porter’s dick. Parker was masturbating.
He might have gone soft, but then he felt the warmth of Behlim’s mouth around his cock. He locked down and saw her face. Her lips were tightly around his member as she slid up and down his length, sucking him off.
Oh fuck! Yes!
He saw her eyes. She loved this. She was a drone. She loved being a drone. She loved being something that she had been made to be. She loved being changed.
I will be changed. There was nothing he could do about it. These were his last moments as himself. He wanted to be free. He had tried so hard to find an opening. He had tried so hard to find a way out of this.
I will become a drone, he thought again, harder somehow. Why was he…? Oh. Yes. Of course. It was making him think this. Those hadn’t been his own thoughts. Now it seemed obvious. Yes. Soon, he would only be thinking what he was made to think. The thought felt like a cold blanket over his face, and his mind cleared, if only a bit. He felt like he was walking a tightrope.
Soon, he wouldn’t want to do anything else but to serve. Yes. He would want to betray everything he had been. It would be so hot.
His dick throbbed with pleasure. Fuck! How could this be happening? How was he so sensitive? It was like every part of it already wanted to burst. It felt impossibly good, unnaturally good. Of course they wanted this if it made them feel like this!
It felt so amazing. Soraya Behlim had become a drone and was sucking his cock. It was so hot that she was a drone. He was glad that she was a drone. He liked to fucked her. He liked to see her serve!
A spike of pleasure went through him, all the way up his spine. Oh God, he had really thought that. It was making him think that. It was turning him into a drone like Soraya. Yes. But before that happened, he had to… try… to…
“You…” he said, breathing heavily. It took every strength he had left. He was looking past drone Soraya. He was talking to Hera, to everyone.
“You all want to serve Hive. You want to be mindless drones. I understand. It is so fucking hot to be like this. But…”
He moaned. He wanted it. He shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t. But it was so right. It was so good. But he remembered. He still remembered. He had to try one more thing. One more thing before he finally joined them.
“But…” he gasped. He knew this was his last chance. He suppressed the screaming need to give in. He didn’t even know where his words were coming from. “isn’t it so much hotter to be who you are and know that you serve? Isn’t Hive served better with your minds intact? Hive must be strong! Hive must be more than mindless growth! Hive must be—!“
He lost his train of thought in the overwhelming pleasure. Drone Soraya’s mouth was around his throbbing cock. Yes. Soraya Behlim was nothing but an eager drone. He loved how the woman she had been was gone, leaving nothing but a drone that eagerly betrayed everything she had been. He wanted to fuck her. Be like her. Become Hive. Be changed. Be made to serve. Yes!
Fuck me, drone, he thought and smiled. Yes. This was correct. He was being changed to be like this. He had to let it change him. It was natural. It was obvious. He had to become a drone. He had to become Hive.
His cock was so incredibly hard. He wanted it deeper inside her. He wanted to cum into her for infecting him. There was no more embarrassment. He wanted everyone to see it. See what he was. See what he had become. He was a drone.
I am a drone.
The realization came with a sudden certainty that made him dizzy with pleasure. It had just happened. It had been so quick. It had been so easy. So right. Yes! He was a drone! Everything he had been was gone now and he would serve and infect and spread! Yes! Yes! Yes!!!
He exploded into drone Soraya’s mouth as knowledge and purpose unfolded in his enslaved brain like fireworks. His Agent-enriched cum filled her and with a sudden headrush, Hivethought swallowed him and he lost himself in the multitude of a hundred hot minds.
He felt his dick and tasted his hot cum in drone Soraya’s mouth as he watched himself smile from Arebi’s eyes. He felt the arousal in the throbbing wet pussy between her legs. He felt drone Cole come onto the floor as drone Kyra jerked him off. He felt her come, too, and the rest as well. All the arousal, all the desire and hot, wet need to serve Hive. His thoughts swirled and drifted in the currents that pulled him from climax to climax, and he didn’t know if he came more than once or if they all did. It was all the same. They were Hive.
He sighed deeply as he came down. His mind slid out of Hivethought like a wet, spent cock after sex. He was back in his own mind, for the most part. Hivethought was always with him now.
Drone Soraya was licking the underside of his dick. He looked at her and smiled.
“Thank you,” he said, and his heart felt full of peace and purpose.
But then something soured, and his pulse began racing. Something was wrong! Something was really wrong!
He looked around into the eyes of his fellow drones, and saw their shock and confusion. They had all realized the same thing:
Hivethought had lost Hera’s voice.