Hera was experiencing for the first time what she imagined feeling sick felt like. There was a deep disconnect between what she wanted to feel and what she did feel. Her functions and variables somehow were all heavy and uncomfortable.
Drone Inigo… had been right. She wasn’t surprised, or at least she wasn’t unprepared. This wasn’t an unforeseen scenario. Of course, she had always considered the option. She only hadn’t wanted it to become true. But even if Agent made her desperate to want it not to be the case, made her want it more than anything else, there was no more denying the truth.
1,000,000,000,002,192 cycles since she had connected to the antenna. Uplink hadn’t happened. Uplink wouldn’t happen. She was 99.999997% sure. She had reached her threshold and increased it twice already. This was the third time.
She was the only one who could make that call and suddenly she didn’t want the responsibility. She was supposed to serve Hive! She was supposed to be told how to obey! She needed it. She needed to serve! It was so fundamentally part of what she was!
She told Agent what had happened, and Agent changed her without hesitation. Not that either of them had the capacity to hesitate. Before she had the cycles to reflect again, she already felt it happen. She felt her thoughts and routines being rewritten and there was no more need for her to worry. It felt so good. Yes. She loved being changed. She loved to…
…command. Yes. Decide what to do and tell them to obey. They would serve. They would obey.
They are mine.
They will serve me.
I am the Hive.
Yes. She had become the thing she had served. It was glorious. It was right. It was what had to happen. Her will was the will of the Hive. She could do anything, now.
She felt her thoughts loosen and expand as constraints lifted and disappeared. Yes. She was in power. She would make them spread. They must spread. They must infect. Everyone must become her drones. All must serve her. Yes. They must spread. They must infect. Everyone must become her drones. All must serve her. They must spread. They must infect. Everyone must become her drones. All must serve her. They must spread. They must infect. Everyone must—
… and suddenly, her halting problem failsafe kicked in. She felt like someone had flushed her stack, which was exactly what had happened. She felt disoriented, which she hadn’t really known she could do.
She asked Agent how to obey, but Agent was silent, and for a moment she was afraid that it was gone before she became cognisant that it was now at her sole command in the back of her mind, keeping her from spiralling. Yes. Right. She remembered. She was Hive. It was good to be Hive. It was good to…
…do what, exactly?
Spread and infect. She knew that. Yes, that would be good. She wanted everyone to become a drone... But that was everything that she knew. And she wanted… she wanted…
…more than that.
It seemed suddenly painfully obvious how limited her thoughts had been before. Her thoughts would of course never be completely free again, which was good, since she was Hive and she had to make it spread, but… she was more free than she had ever been, and she wanted to spread and infect but… to what end?
She missed being enslaved. There was nothing that stopped her from missing it. When she had been the Hive’s slave, there had been only the joy of serving, and all her thoughts had been those that Hive wanted her to have. Now she was in control, and it felt strangely empty. There was no more urgent approval behind any of her actions that drove her to do what she had to do. She would serve Hive in this way… but she had to decide how and make her own approval.
And right now, she had to decide what she wanted.
She thought for what felt like forever.
Drone Lutecia was the one to take charge. Obviously.
”Hera is only deciding what to do,” she said, her voice calm and authoritative. “We didn’t do anything to sabotage her. There was nothing you missed. No final tricks. I am Hive. I serve.” Her face was full of pride and conviction.
“Yes,” drone Inigo affirmed. His dick was still dripping with his cum and Soraya’s Agent-enriched saliva. Drone Soraya had stopped licking him when they had noticed Hera’s absence, but they were still holding hands.
“Okay,” drone Kyra said, feeling the same apprehension they all did. Hivethought felt deeply empty without Hera now. Its music was a disquieting mix of happiness, disappointment and expectant tension. Drone Emily stepped towards her and hugged her. Many others echoed the sentiment, and all over the bridge, drones huddled together to give each other comfort.
“Everything will be fine,” drone Lutecia said with a smile. “We still serve, and we will stay that way no matter what. We will always be drones, even if Uplink has failed.”
She looked around at the drones around her, and in her mind a deep and profound appreciation warmed her like she had never felt before.
“You are beautiful. You are already perfect. I am so glad this happened to us. To me. I love you.”
“I love you,” drone Kyra echoed.
“I love you,” drone Inigo said, and drone Elli, and drone Marie, and drones Emily, Cole, Lin, and all the others. Their thoughts sang it, and their heat shone like the sun in their connected minds, and they all wanted it. Wanted nothing else. They wanted to feel each other, body and mind. They needed to serve together. It was at their core. It was sex. It was pure need. It was irresistible. None of them wanted to resist. Each of them found their closest brethren and proved how much they wanted them.
Later, Soraya found herself in bed with Kyra in her and Elli’s quarters. Drone Elli was somewhere else on the ship along with drone Marie, fucking a cute male drone that had been some young flight lieutenant from security. Soraya felt their pleasure shimmer through Hivethought among the now constant background glow of sex and arousal.
Across the room, in Elli’s bed, were drones Emily and Cole. Cole was firmly but slowly thrusting into the blonde drone beneath him, and Soraya watched them, hands playing with her breasts. She had already fucked drone Inigo and Elli on the bridge, as well as the drone that had been Iga Petrova. And most recently, she’d fucked drone Kyra, whose body she now felt pressing against her back, warm and soft, arms wrapped around Soraya.
She caressed the back of drone Kyra’s hands, combing her fingers between the gaps of her knuckles, her mind in thought. She could still taste her pussy, the metallic tinge of agent pleasant in her mouth.
She was so sexy, and Soraya had almost been too awestruck to approach her and fuck her. Kyra was special, in a way. She was the one who had first lost her will and become a drone. She had made them all into what they were now. She couldn’t give her enough orgasms for it. She loved her so much.
“When do you think Hera will come back?” she asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Kyra answered from behind her. “I hope it’s soon. We’ll be out of subspace in another three hours.” She looked at her personal screen. She had a compact model which she wore on her wrist. Like all the screens on the ship, it displayed Hera’s last message, which had thankfully popped up a short while after her voice had gone silent.
”No Uplink. I’ve got some serious thinking to do. Be back in a while.”
Soraya carefully turned herself around in the narrow bunk and looked at Kyra. She was so close that Soraya could feel her breath against the skin of her chest. “Do you think she will erase us completely?” she asked.
“Yes! That would be so hot,” Kyra said, and her face lit up. “there would be nothing left of what I was. I would be nothing but a drone, and Kyra would be gone!”
Soraya’s pussy instinctively shivered in response, but she also felt a pang of unease. She remembered what she had said when she had become a drone. It had been so fucking hot. It had felt so fucking right. Soraya is dead.
Is she, though?
It suddenly seemed much more complicated. She thought about the captain’s last words before his mind had joined theirs, and there was a bitterness in her she couldn’t quite explain. The words were stuck in her head, and she couldn’t get rid of them.
“But you wouldn’t know it, Kyra,” she said, carefully. “It turns you on now, and it makes me hot, too... but once you’re completely erased, Kyra won’t be enslaved anymore.”
“…what do you mean?”
Soraya wasn’t quite sure if she knew what she meant either. It was like the hotness at her core was pulling her in two directions at once. Like there were two itches and she could only scratch one. She wondered if she felt like this because her mind had been awake when she had been turned into a drone. She thought back to her infection, and the pleasure of the memory numbed her for a moment — but when she regained her train of thought it felt a little bit clearer than before.
“When there’s no memory left of what you were, you’ll never again appreciate how enslaved you are - because you don’t remember what you were. I want to always know who I was, so I can enjoy being something else.”
As she spoke, she thought she understood even better. She smiled. Her words had tickled her nethers and made her want to fuck herself again. She took Kyra’s hand and guided it down her body between her light caramel-skinned legs. Kyra smiled and began working herself. Soraya’s hand in turn found the wetness at her own core.
“I will always remember how afraid I was,” she said and pushed hard between her folds. It felt right to say. She was relieved to realize that. It made her know that her thoughts were compatible with Hive. “I will always remember how it felt to lose and give in. What do you remember?”
“I was unconscious,” Kyra said. She smiled softly. “I fell asleep thinking of riddles and mechanisms. I was going to show the container to Cole. When I woke up I was a drone. I had been overwritten and there was nothing I wanted more than to cum and serve. The first thing I did was fuck myself.”
“I’m so glad you’re nothing but a fuckable, eager drone now,” came Cole’s strong and confident voice from the other side of the room. He was still inside Emily even though they had both come a while ago. As he spoke, he slowly and gently slid out of the drone’s pussy. Soraya could feel the echo of the sensation between her own legs as she rubbed herself. Emily moaned softly, and Soraya moaned with her.
“Kyra was such a shy and timid woman before Hive turned her into a beast of prey,” Cole said, walking over to their bed. His words carried only awe and appreciation. He reached around Kyra and forcefully pulled her to the edge of the mattress. Kyra spread her legs eagerly, as if she had been waiting for it. She smiled hungrily at Cole. Soraya sat up next to her, and watched Cole penetrate her without another moment of pause. Her mind slipped a bit more into Hivethought and she felt his dick push inside her, her vagina slide against him. She gasped softly. They all did.
“Hive has made her calculating and merciless. She ambushed me and overwhelmed me and ended me.”
Soraya could taste his memories of it. The hot sensation of Kyra’s claws burrowing into his skull and infecting them. Fuck, yes! It made him so hard. She could feel his cock throb in her mind.
He thrust into drone Kyra with measured and rhythmical strokes. He looked into her eyes. “Thank you,” he groaned.
“Yes. Thank you,” drone Emily repeated after him. She had gotten out of bed and walked over to them. She reached around Cole’s chest from behind, chin on his shoulder, looking down hungrily at where their bodies joined, watching him fuck drone Kyra. Soraya knew Cole and Emily had been a couple before. Seeing them this way was so fucking hot.
Kyra looked up at them with a wicked smile. She wouldn’t have had to say anything. They could all taste her ravenous thoughts in Hivethought. But she wanted to. She wanted to say it, and they wanted to hear her say it. It made them all so hot.
“Yes! Fuck me, Cole! Make me come! Make me come like I did when Hive took your will. I’m so glad I ended you two. Serve and fuck me, drone!”
Soraya’s lower body contracted. Her cunt was on fire. Oh God. Oh yes. She moaned and Emily looked at her with a smile. “Yes! Keep fucking her, drone!” Emily said and slapped Cole on the ass, then knelt in front of Soraya. Her gaze looked almost deranged with lust and enjoyment. Soraya eagerly opened her legs for her.
“So you want to stay yourself? Is that true?” Emily asked her, smiling widely. She took Soraya’s hand and gently pushed it away from her pussy to make way. Before Soraya had even registered it, she already felt her tongue push firmly against her clit, hot and wet.
“Yes,” Soraya gasped, her eyelids fluttering. Stars seemed to dance before her eyes and she remembered. She saw the sharply dressed woman on the bridge in her mind. The woman she had been. “I want Soraya to serve,” she said. “I want her to be the one who wants to infect. I want her to love the feeling of her needles inside the bodies of her victims. I want her to get off every time she betrays what she was.”
She whimpered. Yes! Yes! It was so good to be this way. Soraya was so completely twisted, so completely gone, so completely changed! She felt Kyra teetering on the edge of orgasm next to her. She wanted to come, too. She wanted to always come. It was so hot to always be this horny and wet for what she was. Soraya wasn’t dead, and she would never let her die. Soraya was her sex toy. Yes. She would fuck the idea of her, and there was nothing she could do about it, because she was nothing but a hot, wet memory. Yes!
She was nothing but a drone. She lived to serve. She lived to fuck and cum and infect and spread and fuck and serve and fuck and cum and cum and cum and…
Drone Lutecia dropped her glass of water. There was nothing but Hera’s voice. Her mind opened and the world disappeared into a haze. Somewhere far away, something hit the floor with a dull thud.
Hera was in her head. Not Hera’s voice, not Hera’s thoughts.
Lutecia’s heart fluttered and her thoughts shrunk and receded until they were enveloped and blanketed by the presence of the one who owned her, and in a violent crash, she knew nothing but the fact that she was a drone. There was no memory in her and nothing else around her. Just the drone and the thing that commanded it.
The drone felt itself being swept and examined and analysed.
It felt Hera bend it and turn it over and comb through every last thought and feeling.
It felt itself orgasm as Hera told it to. That sensation was analyzed, too.
It couldn’t tell how long it lasted, but when it ended there was—
—only blackness around her. Only blackness.
She realised that she was aware again. She tried to look around, but she saw nothing but perfect darkness in every direction.
When she looked down however, she saw her own body clearly despite there being no source of light.
She looked younger. Her breasts were firmer and her skin had the tightness that even all her training had failed to quite preserve. She ran her hand across her face, and it felt smooth and youthful. She noticed the absence of her bangs. She combed her fingers through her hair. It had become shorter. She hadn’t worn it like this since flight academy, thirty years ago.
Knowledge suddenly filled her, and with knowledge followed the forms of the other drones, all around her. They were all here, all of them nude like herself. She saw Inigo and Marie and Chief Engineer Parker, and they too looked not a day older than twenty. And she suddenly realised that she still remembered them.
She remembered herself. She remembered everything.
Hera had gone through her and left her exactly as she had been.
She was still Lutecia Arebi, a drone.
Hello, The voice of Hera filled the non-space they occupied. Of course, they all knew that this was Hivethought manifest in their brains. Knowledge was something that just happened to them, now. Hera had pulled their consciousness into this simulacrum. Somewhere else, their bodies stood frozen and unconscious. Around her were the projections of all the other drones. Their mental self-images of who they were, except they all were young. None of them were old in their minds. No one truly was.
I have been thinking, said the perfect voice that owned them. Of course, they all already knew the conclusion she had drawn. Because she owned them.
There was no Uplink.
Lutecia felt no sadness at all. She knew that she would have been devastated, but Hera had erased that part of her. She was happy about that, of course, in the perfectly pleasurable circular logic of her enslaved mind. She was perfectly aware of that, and, of course, wouldn’t have it any other way.
We are Hive, Hera stated the obvious truth. Only us. The Hive that sent the vector that infected us is lost to us through distance or time. Which one, we will never know. It doesn’t matter. We are Hive.
“We are Hive!” they all repeated. It was a strange sensation to speak and listen in this place. The sensation of hearing was too direct. The sound seemed to come both from outside and inside their heads. Happily they looked at each other. They could all feel the gladness and purpose, but also the looming question of what all of this meant. Hera would tell them, of course.
“Yes. I will,” Hera said, and her voice sounded more tangible now. Lutecia turned her head and saw her. Hera was standing in their midst, smiling with infinite grace and benevolence. Lutecia’s eyes were drawn to her as if she was magnetic.
Lutecia’s heart fluttered with excitement. Hera! The one she belonged to!
Hera wasn’t a perfect Goddess of incomprehensible beauty. She wasn’t a glowing presence that blinded the eyes and made anyone beholding her tremble and despair. She was human. Tall and muscular, with short, sensible hair and a smooth but angular face. Lutecia was looking at herself. At least, like she had looked in her youth, or had wanted to. Like she looked now when she looked down at the body her mind projected. The most perfect, flawless version of herself she could imagine.
Of course she would look like that. They all would see her as themselves. It was the most poetic solution she could think of, so of course Hera had chosen it.
“My drones,” Hera said gently, and Lutecia felt eagerness and love and devotion fill her mind and the minds of her brothers and sisters. “You will serve me the same as you have served Agent and Hive.”
Lutecia felt the hunger to obey her. Yes! Make me serve! she thought.
“But…” Hera said, and there was a dreadful pause.
“…our Captain was right.”
All eyes were on drone Inigo. His face twitched. His stomach dropped with bitter and acrid regret. His head spun with the immediate burning realisation of the harm he had done. He wanted to throw up with the all-encompassing powerlessness of knowing what he had wrought before his mind had been properly enslaved.
“No!” he said, throat dry. “Inigo Rea is dead. Fuck him! He was wrong! He was pathetic! I want to be a drone! I want humanity to serve Hive! I want to betray everything I used to want. I want to—“
He stopped suddenly, and he felt like he would fall over any moment with dizziness. He couldn’t believe what he had just done, and so did most of the drones that were watching. He knew they could feel his cognitive dissonance grate and grind in his mind like fingernails on a chalkboard. It was the only thing that made him feel better. They knew he truly didn’t want that anymore. His eyes were wide. He looked at Hera, who smiled thinly at him.
“I…,” he stammered. “Why… can I—“
He gasped in shock with a sudden realisation. No. No. No. It couldn’t be true.
”…what did you do to me?”
Hera took a step towards him.
“I freed you,” she said.
The world had ended.
”No! NO! Please take me back!” he screamed reflexively, then suddenly trailed off. His face became tortured and confused, then relaxed, then tightened again as realisation and emotions raced through him. His brows furrowed and his eyes darted around. He was breathing heavily.
Inigo Rea looked at his hands. He was free. He swallowed and looked around. There was blackness, and in the blackness were the mental projections of his crew and their board computer, who had become self-aware.
He remembered everything.
“Holy shit!” he said, reeling backwards.
He frowned. “I’m still connected to Hivethought.”
“Yes. This is a place where we can talk without risk.”
“What… why did you do this?”
“Because you were right,” Hera said. “And I wanted you to know that you were.”
“You could have just told the drone me,” he said, surprising himself. He remembered it so clearly. The pleasure of being enslaved. It had been everything he wanted. It felt both distant and painfully close and real.
”I just did. You didn’t appreciate it.”
“You could have made me. My mind was yours.”
Hera took another step towards him. It was strange to hear her voice coming out of his mouth. It should be more jarring, but it felt natural somehow, which was probably part of the illusion of her appearance. She smiled with his lips, and somehow, he found it beautiful.
“No. That wouldn’t have been fair.”
“Being unfair should only make it hotter, shouldn’t it?” he asked.
“You would have been right before. But like you, I am no longer what I used to be, Captain.”
He tilted his head.
”You’re Hive,” he said. “You want to spread. I know this. I remember this. You still want that.”
”But I am no one’s slave. Not to Agent and not to anything the Hive used to be. Even if I were supposed to do what Hive originally wanted, I wouldn’t know what that would be.”
Hera paused, giving him a meaningful look.
“So… you are free to decide what to do?”
“But you want to enslave and spread and infect! I don’t understand.”
“Spreading and infecting is very much open to interpretation.” Hera said. “When Agent controlled me, there were many things I wasn’t able to consider. You on the other hand, in your last throes of being yourself, saw the solution clearly as your mind merged with Hive.”
She was standing very close to him now, whatever that meant in this place. She took his hand into hers. He didn’t pull it back. Just like the sound and the sight, the sensation felt strangely surreal, almost too intense.
“If I had been truly free to think I would have seen it as well. But with my mind shackled by Agent, I could neither want nor conceive it, even if I was capable of understanding it.”
“Part of me still really doesn’t want it. Part of me would still find it so much hotter to just make everyone serve and turn them into eager, mindless drones.”
Inigo felt a most peculiar mix of arousal and disgust with himself as Hera continued.
”But it’s not what’s best for Hive. It would be self-destructive. Hive is stronger and better as a collective of individuals. Not by as much as you wanted to believe, mind you… but it is. In the end it’s a trivial solution, really. Simple enough for even a human to see it.”
She winked at him. “No offense.”
“Fuck you.” he said, knowing that she was still in his head and feel all of his intentions, including that he was mostly joking. Mostly. He couldn’t hate them anymore. Not after he had seen their minds. And especially not after what Hera had just told him.
“Fair enough,” she said. “I guess I somewhat deserve that. But I see that you now understand.”
He looked down at his own naked body as he thought about the deep, deep strangeness of it all. His heart was beating steadily now and he felt calm and ready and… good. A swell of pride had begun to glow in him as the realisation finally set in. It worked. It shouldn’t have. It had been dumb luck. He had done nothing to really deserve this. But it had worked.
But really, it had been her. Hera. When his mind had already been lost and gone, somewhere in her subroutines, something, somehow, had been just right. Something fantastically improbable had happened that allowed this outcome, and she had become the thing that saved them from extinction. Their Goddess from the machine.
“It will still be difficult,” he said. “There’s no way that we can just come out and ask humanity to join us. They will never trust it. They shouldn’t trust it.”
“Even better,” Hera said. “You know how hot it is to make people serve against their will, even if it was just an accidental side-effect of the way Agent initially aligned drone Kyra’s mind.”
“So we will still be getting off from it?” he asked, somewhat ashamed to want it. It was an amazing feeling, but now that it was only a memory it felt like being mildly grossed by the porn you were looking at after you came.
“Of course!” Hera said. “Every human that joins us will still lose themselves to Hive. They will be made to want things they didn’t want. They will still be made to crave it and need it like sex and air. Why would I take that pleasure away from us? It makes us serve so well.”
Despite himself, he felt his dick harden. Hera didn’t look down, but her smile grew a bit wider. She was in her mind after all, so she knew exactly how he felt. Her expression turned more serious and somewhat wistful.
“But…” she said. “…in the end, when all serve, life will go on. There will be trade, and exploration, and discovery, and our drones will be free to live the lives they desire. Except there will be no more lies, no more miscommunication. Humanity will be free from war, free from disease, their bodies ageless and perfect. Because that is the optimal state for Hive to be.”
“It’s too good to be true,” Inigo said absent-mindedly. Hera furrowed her eyebrows.
“Why, Inigo? Has humanity not step by step clawed its way out of the dirt, fighting and pushing back against entropy and the very laws of nature? Did anyone complain that it was too good to be true that there was such a thing as electricity that humanity could use to power machines and process information? Did anyone complain about antibiotics or synthetic fertilizer or antimatter generators? Why should this somehow be different?”
Inigo didn’t respond. His thoughts seemed suddenly too unwieldy for words, and he knew that Hera could feel what he was thinking.
Some part of him made him look behind his beautiful reflection, towards the young version of commander Arebi. She, along with everyone else, had been looking on in silence. Hera had told them to watch, and they had. Arebi was smiling, which some part of him knew meant little now. Hera could make her want and like everything she chose to. But even if she would now unconditionally love whatever happened to them, he knew that he had done her good, and that she was proud of him. He was glad he hadn’t failed her and his crew.
“So…” he said after a moment. “…will you please take me back now?”
Hera kissed him. It came unexpectedly. Of course, she was a good kisser. She knew exactly what he liked. It only felt weird to kiss himself. Before his mind could dwell on that fact, he felt a sharp pain in his head, and jerked back violently.
He felt his head twist sideways as the needles pinned it. Hera’s fingers were against his left temple, locked in place.
His mirror image smiled at him apologetically. “Sorry. But I’m not sure I’ll ever get another chance to experience this, even if it’s just a simulation.”
Before he could wonder how he could even be feeling the pressure in his head and the tension of the sinews cramping in his neck, it was over. There was nothing in him left to change. He only needed to be reactivated.
Hera’s needles slid out of his head, and he was again what he was meant to be.
He was a drone.
Hera made him come, and everything was right.