The Super Wizard From Space #46

"The Red Hand Of General Dragutin, part 3" by

Vaso's voice is a staccato of soft x-rays in my ear,
panicked transmissions from his position on Volsci's moon.
"Enemy sighted, General! Several columns of astro-apis
drones moving toward your position. They're coming from
metropolitan centers near you. And from forested areas
directly to your... wait, more contacts coming out of...
sir... sir, they're everywhere! They're *everyone!* The
entire planet's compromised!"

I don't need him to tell me. I can feel them. The muttered,
muted drone of a million beating wings. Causes the floor to
vibrate under my boots. The air's heavier and warmer. I
don't need to look outside to know this observatory, this
facility, hell, most likely this whole mountain range is
literally buried in giant monster bees.

"Sir! I have a clear shot, sir! Permission to engage?"

Whoa! No! I look up through the unshuttered slot of the dome
and hold up a closed fist to the night sky. "No no, not
yet," I send back. "Hold your fire. Hold fast. This... this
is more complicated than it looks. I'm not really
alone here."

Bet I confused Vaso with that. No time to explain. He
doesn't see what I see. The mass of golden gel on the floor
right in front of me, settling into the shape of a small
woman. Their queen and authority, transmitting through a
nanonectar communication avatar. The bees'll defer to her
before trying to tear me apart. I hope.

She's a meagre thing. Crouched down on the ground. Fetal,
trying to protect herself from whole room. Her subjects are
still buzzing. That bass note vibration from the
surrounding... everywhere. She doesn't seem comforted by it.
Her hands clamped against her ears. Her eyes squeezed shut.
She terrified.

Wait. They called her 'Sybilla'. Sybilla. That'd make this
an afterswarm. Okay. That makes sense. Okay. If I can calm
her down, I might be able to...

"SZTOP IT!" she yells at empty space. "Sztop it! Stop! Stop
touching me!"

Okay, I *really* need to calm her down. "Shh. Shush. Okay,
its all right," I lie to her. "Its just you.  Its just us."

Her eyes snap open, startled at her surroundings. "I'm...
I'm in the observatory again. How did I...?" Rambling.
Disoriented. This has got to be recent for her. "They took
me to the canyon... they were all around! They were just
here! Trying to smoother me." Rising to a kneeling position.
Getting a good look at her form. Her current form. Herself.
"What's wrong with my hands? Why can I see through them?
What did they do?"

"You're not here. This, uh, this isn't you." This sort of
thing was never my strength. "Its a transmission gel. Its
the way... the way *they* communicate outside their species.
You're somewhere else. You're still wherever you were, but
you're talking to me here." I need an analogue. What would
her people have had at this level of world development?
"It's, ah, it's like a walkie-talkie?"

She looks over her shoulder. Listening to something
elsewhere but not hearing it. She flinches. In fear.
Avoiding a blow. Then she's confused when nothing's there.
Poor woman. Still in shock. "How long has it been?" I ask
her pointedly. Got to keep her focused on me.


"How long? How long has it been?"

"Since when?"

"Since you were... since they came."

"A day. I think its been a day? Maybe two." She looks at her
hands again, closing and opening them, seeing the sparkling
lines inside. "I was here, in the observatory. I work here.
I was looking through the scope and I saw them coming. There
were so many..." She jumps to her feet, stares at the night
sky. "They came *right* at us. They came right at *me*. They
were everywhere. There was nothing we could do. No where we
could go. They were like... a wave. Like..."

"A swarm?" Uh, stupid of me. I need to avoid re-enforcement.

"Yes! A szwarm! A monsZter szZwarm! Oh! Oh gods, they were
everywhere." She clutches her head, memories overcoming her.
"They killed everyone. They stabbed them and killed them.
And the dead changed into more and went to do the szame.
Stabbing and changing and szZtabbing. Everyone's gone!
Everyone's gone... everyone..." looking at me again, then at
her hands again, "...everyone but us. Why did they spare us?
What's... *wrong* with us?"

"They're a highly eusocial species. They work as a whole,
but they all have their place in a morphologically discrete
hierarchy. They instinctively follow a queen mother. If they
don't have a queen mother, they... they make one. Force one.
In desperation."

"I'm one of them? They made me one of them?"

"Yes. Well, no. No, you're *more* than that. More than
they'll ever be. You're their *queen*. At least for now.
Until they find a better one."

"Queen?" Confused. Confused is better than scared at least.
I wonder how much oxytocins are involved in the
transformation process. Never did pay attention to the
medical details of this species. Kind of regretting it.

"And what about..." she backs away from me, "Are you...
their king?"

Hm? Oh! "Ha! No. No, they don't have male leaders."

"Then how did you survive?"

"I'm not of Volsci. I just got here."

Through the haze I see realization come over her round face.
A mix of awe and astonishment when she recognizes my
uniform. From the murals on the walls outside. "You're one
of them! Our old science-gods! You're a solar wizard! Oh
gods, its been so long. I... I wasn't sure. I didn't know if
I believed or ...!" She wavering, unsure if she should
prostrate herself or grab at me. She's fascinated.
She's relieved.

Not sure if this makes this any better, though. As her
excitement grows, the buzzing noise around us is getting
angrier. This situation's an explosion waiting to happen.
Need to find out what I can, before the swarm's enmity gets
the better of their new queen's wonderment. "You said you
worked here?"

"Yes! Yes! I'm the lead investigator here at the
observatory. I admit, I was never one for attending mass,
but I was in *love* with the stars. I watched them, we all
watched them, just as the scientific apocrypha
taught us to!"

"And what did you see there?"

She bends over at the waist, like a great invisible weight's
jumped on her back. Looks like she's about to collapse from
exertion and panic. Some unseen hand at the other end of the
transmission's twisting her head. Whispering in her ear. She
shuts her eyes again. As *hard* as she can. The swarm's
trying to take control. Bully her into their hierarchy.
"Hey! Listen to the sound of my voice! Stay with me. Stay
here." Not sure how long I'll have her here. "We taught
your kind to observe space for us. Very specific areas of
space, very close to you. What was there? What did you see?
I need to know."

Her eyes open up reluctantly, like big wells of confusion.
"You need...?"

"Yes. Its important. Did you keep notes? Recordings?
Reports? What I'm looking for would have happened recently."

Her brow furrows. "*You* need? Where were you when *we*
needed you?" She stands up straight. She's being helped up.
Supported. Damn. I think I'm out of time. "Where were our
science-gods when monsztersz blanketed my planet? When my
friendsz and family died?"

I set my shield to full strength. Stepping away from her.
"Listen to me. Don't listen to them. Listen to me, here.
Their thoughts are alien poison. I mean that literally. They
want you to be like them. I need you to be here. I need you
to be *you*."

"Don't talk like you know me! Don't act like we owe you
anything!" Her face is a fearful snarl. She's trying to
assert herself against whatever's around her. By lashing out
at whatever's around her. "We believed in you. We
*worshipped* you. We changed our entire culture for you. And
now you need us? You need me? You dog! You cur!"

Vaso's back in my ear. "Sir, I don't know what you're doing
in there, but it doesn't look like they're liking it!" The
thrumming around me's intensifying. Unifying. Shapes spill
out of the halls and doors. Huge and yellow and gold and
black. Beating wings and spear length stingers. Crawling up
the walls and on the massive curved dome. She's angry, and
she's making them angry.

"You're here demanding favoursz? While you breathe the
rotten air of my dead world? You, whosze love I'm szupposed
to prize more than... these? My unburied people? The people
you corrupted? That you abandoned? We needed you! We needed
you and you weren't here! And now they're gone! GONE!"

The numbers keeps growing. Covering every surface. All with
a look in their multi-faceted eyes that I know all too well.
That barely restrained, murderous look. Across a hundred,
hundred horrid faces.

Its a look thats mirrored on their leader. That meekness,
she had, its being drowned in animal fury.

Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't fall in...

"They're gone, but they're not forgotten. Not by ME. Not by
their QUEEN."


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More bee stuff. More than I expected to be writing when
I started putting this series together. I blame it on
Wikipedia. The more I read up on bees, the more little
tidbits of trivia I discover, the more I want to riff off.

The previous issue and this one used to be one long
chapter. Combined, they were over 2800 words, which went
way over my self-imposed 1500-word-ish per-issue limit.
Editor-me convinced writer-me to break them into two
separate issues, and writer-me now winces a bit at
both issues ending on the same beat.

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Wil Alambre, follow me at http://twitter.com/wilalambre