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Hyperlinks in the text are intended as supplemental material, discussing elements of the science behind the science fiction. They are not intended as required reading for the story. Hyperlinks will be provided at the point in the story where it comes up, but all the links will also be collected at the bottom of the post for easy reading.
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2476 AD, 66 years ago
Sellen Star (Proxima Septimus Eridani), 3rd planet
Thia’s home had been beautiful once.
Everything hurt. Every second of every day, it hurt. Pain, though, wasn’t something new – it had been the first and one of the two constants of her life ever since Thia emerged from her cocoon into the form she had chosen. It was the price of being a Queen… the pain that she felt from every other member of her race. Every injury, every heartbreak, every mourning family and every crushed dream, and it was a cost she had accepted gladly… but to be fair, there usually wasn’t this much pain and suffering.
The end of her people was like that.
Meditation helped. She sat cross-legged in a mediative stance upon a throne of large, bright flower petals that supported her weight, its curving petals surrounding the central core which constituted her cushion, focusing her thoughts, blocking out some of the thoughts and feelings that flooded her mind. Experiencing so much would be a sure route to madness if the form didn’t also give her the mental capacity to process it, but that capacity wasn’t just an innate thing… discipline needed to be trained like anything else, so one by one she shut out everything distracting, shielding herself from the vast majority of her people that still lived suffering in slavery, and focusing her thoughts and attention only where she wanted them. The last Queen of the Faliran reached out with her senses to learn what remained of her civilizations.
Every Faliran that lived was tied to every other one, constantly in touch to some extent with every other member of their species at all times. Every member was an individual, but in a real way, there was a second consciousness, one shared between every member of the species… a vast collective hivemind made of impressions and emotions and reactions and thoughts of every single Faliran that lived. For most people, however, trying to pick much specific out of that tangled mess that impossibly difficult. They could only do it on an instinctive level… pulling on the people they were very familiar with, or those that they were currently close to and able to pick up on the context of their thoughts. For anyone else, knowing enough about their life, their history, and their situation to put much meaningful context to the order of their thoughts was all but impossible.
That was where Queens were different. They could navigate the tangle, finding enough of the context to translate, and they did it well… that collective consciousness pressed against them like a heavy weight all the time because, while every Faliran had access to the same stream of information, for most it was a background white noise. For Thia, it was like a trillion people talking over one another, each of them trying to have a harmonious link with her. It should have been impossible… but Faliran scientists had painstakingly worked on this form, maximizing the ability for her to go through it through thousands of iterations until Thia could do… this.
An almost omnipresent eye roamed in her mind to wherever Faliran were, across continents, moons, and even the interplanetary void of space. The distance was no obstacle – the speed of light was slow compared to the instantaneous transmission of information possible through quantum physics. She could see anything they saw, feel what they felt, know what they knew… and that wasn’t exactly always a benefit. There were… not nearly as many of them as there had once been anymore. Nearby – terrifying nearby – she felt it as the light of thought and life from the minds of her outer Hiveguards was extinguished one by one, like flames vanishing in the dark. The Kthid were pressing forward again, making their final assault at their underground stronghold. Hordes of those unarmored casteless monsters stormed their perimeter, doing all of the dying while armored warriors struck in sudden lighting blows like a hammer, shattering points of resistance. Aegis shielding turned war into primarily a battle of melee weapons, swords, and axes battling alongside lances of plasma and explosive rockets in a conflict so all-consuming and deadly that the Faliran could never have imagined it outside of their worst nightmares about themselves before the Kthid came… An apocalyptic clash where extinction was the only outcome.
Thia knew that the war was already over… the final decision had been made when Bardarach was shattered, and the memory of the sudden, echoing silence in the wake of that horrible slaughter threatened to drag Thia out of her meditation. She breathed deeply, shifting her weight, and resolutely pushed the thoughts to the side. Though sensing all this death and murder pained her, observing it was not what Princess Thia had commenced her meditative focus for… such blood-red visions were nothing new. She had observed them for what felt like a lifetime now, most of two decades since the Kthid came and the war had dominated her thoughts and life that whole time… in its progress, Thia had felt it as her race went from several trillions of shining lifeforms to just hundreds of billions of flickers within her mind’s eye. No, Thia wasn’t looking at the doom. She was looking for the reasons left to fight.
Slowly, she pushed her vision out, sensing those further away, beyond the battle… expanding her awareness through the tangled, confusing tangle of thoughts that made up the hive mind. Meditating helped: Thia visualized it like a sonar pulse radiating out from here like like electromagnetic waves of a radio. This mind’s eye bore her through underground rock and dirt, through the roots of the Mountains and collapsed mounds that had once been cities on the surface of their sun-scorched home, through virtually all of the crust of her homeworld Zoraida itself. Her homeworld had always been stark and harsh… the sun baked the surface, forcing most plant life to have evolved to sink beneath the surface at the height of each day and only emerge for light in the dawn and dusk. The Faliran lived likewise, emerging from sunken cities out into the world to work resources at night when they weren’t baking in nuclear fire. For all of that, however, it was beautiful… at all times of day or night, the world had unique sights, from the phosphorescent plants that emerged at night when the crepuscular, sun-drinking plants had gone dormant, to the animals that stalked to dig and forage and hunt, to the shelves of shimmering stone carved by the strong wind and rain.
No longer. Her mind’s eye found nothing living on the surface now. She could see it in her imagination, if not in the hive mind… the great roots of those plants no longer lead anywhere for their originators were gone, pulverized out of existence by Kthid bombardment along with almost all of their cities and monumental achievements. The entire topography had changed… Thia could no longer recognize the place she had been born. Topside, there existed a feeling of intense hyperborean cold so ultimate in its psychic malice that Princess Thia felt hollow. It felt almost like the lingering consciousness of a billion killed Faliran souls. The aftershock of genocide.
At the flower throne, a deep wince contorted Thia’s brow. She was staring at the totality of a species-wide murder. The utter blackness of a once beloved home rendered null, and the only life she sensed up there now were the slaves… dragged off to orbit to be sent off to their horrible fates. Where she any other form, even Calm form, the sheer emotional shock of feeling such a massive annihilation would have threatened to stop her heart… but Thia was a Queen of the Faliran race. Through the hive mind, she corded off those traumatic thoughts, forcing herself to experience them just data without attachment. One by one she forced the dark thoughts and feelings into deep vaults upon vaults where such historic maladies could be closed off and the keys thrown away.
Finding no free Faliran left on Zoraida beyond what fought beside her, Princess Thia knew that she needed to push even further. She needed to make sure.
Her mind ventured onward.
Zoraida rotated around a pair of binary stars, two resplendent suns, and so the night was short compared to the rest of the worlds in their former empire. However, ash storms now blotted out the skies and allowed no light rays to penetrate. It was as if the Kthid had sealed off their homeworld within some volcanic cloud, a funeral veil for the entire world. Nuclear ash formed dust devils and blackened swirls as Thia mental outreach gathered impressions from the Faliran who had seen it across the landmasses. Her home was now a desert of darkened cinders, small traces of still-glowing embers being the only thing giving off light at the surface.
Things grew even more baleful when her projection reached the next nearest city. The Faliran built their cities beneath mounds of Earth fired by the sun into thick ceramic shells hard as steel. Those great spires, however, had been toppled over like children’s toys by the force of nuclear detonations. What had once been white-gleaming structures of blasted clay shining the sun and radiating heat away from them were now besotted black. Some of these magnificent towers had broken off by the midpoint, leaving a stub standing by the fallen high-rise. Other had fallen virtually whole like decapitated timber. Others still, closer to a detonation, had been largely reduced to dust. Either way, they all pointed in the same direction, away from where the blast had been detonated.
Here, the ash was no longer made out of vegetation, but of people. As such Princess Thia experienced no flicker of consciousness within these baleful ruins. Her mind flew onward.
The next step saw her journeying across the oceans. This great pond had been made gunky and oily like a peat bog. Not even the richness of its blue was allowed to go unspoiled. Its consistency was like liquefied mud with dust and debris having already fallen into it. Even their oceans were destroyed by the Kthid.
Crashing the threshold of land, Princess Thia was now upon a fresh continent. This was the landmass where the Faliran species had first emerged, evolution enlivening them from amongst dozens of other competing insectoid species into one, single dominant one, one that had outcompeted and slain all of the others. This was where the first of them had begun to form society, sentience, and culture. It was where they had first grappled with the horror of the mass butchery their race was responsible for in their mindless aggression against competitors, wiping them all out. It was then, faced with the mountain of corpses that they realized they stood upon, that the hive mind had filled with horror at the enormity of it. Never again, they had sworn. All Faliran were One People… to raise your hand against one was to kill all.
Like the continent which Princess Thia’s underground fortress was located under, this landmass had once been beautiful. Now, it was not only desolate, but also peppered with enormous craters visible even from space where thousands of horrified Faliran eyes looked down on it, remnants of the bombardment. Once, the Faliran had cultivated this planet into an eidolon of beauty, mixing civilization and nature into a harmonious system, various forms existing in a harmonic webwork of efficiency. The Kthid had responded to the stubborn, efficient defense of their civilization and people by turning this beauty into a void-black desolation and calling that victory.
Upon the flower throne, Princess Thia’s breathing grew deeper. She was approaching the Capital, the city she was born in… once the hub of their entire civilization. Though she already knew what to expect, the sight of that beautiful place made into a wasteland haunted her soul with fear. It was in this capital city where most of Thia’s peers should have resided. There should have been a monumental megastructure where the Council of Queens held court and directed governance. Most of them, however, had been closer to the war, had been directing their people from Bardarach… where they should have been safe on that fortress of a world. Now it was gone, as much rubble as the capital. Princess Thia had trouble even locating the spots where buildings had been – The Kthid had learned their lesson in underestimating them. Now, any vestige of that fortified strongpoint had been reduced to a pile of rubble unremarkable from every other pit of rubble on the surface. Not a single monument to mark its existence survived.
And no Queens.
Thia had been the youngest of the Queens. Anyone was permitted to attempt to become one if that was what they wanted, but it came with heavy responsibilities and the process wasn’t easy. Unlike most of their forms, it wasn’t a natural form but one designed by hard work by geneticists, and as such they didn’t have any instinctive knowledge of how to take the form. It required training, preparation, and artificially created Imaginal Disks to reorganize the genetic soup that was all that a Faliran was when they changed form, and when the war began creating new Queen’s wasn’t really a priority anymore… as long as there were enough Queens to organize at the speed of thoughts, there was intense diminishing returns on their value as a military asset. For that reason, there had been no Queen with the time and need to teach anyone else… Thia was the last of the young candidates to join their elevated position. As such, this affectionate nickname connected to youth still remained with her – Princess.
Of course, now it appeared that she would be the last Faliran in history to be called either Princess or Queen.
Theirs had been a culture developed through thousands of years. Innumerable historical events had occurred upon the surface of Zoraida that guided them towards this stage of civilization. Whole libraries had been filled with history books detailing those who had come before her so that the Faliran would never forget where they came from. 10,000 years of recorded or recovered culture… and all of it gone now beneath Kthid bombardment, as merciless and uncaring as death itself.
They had killed the planet. Zoraida was dead. Even if the Faliran somehow held them back – impossibly – it was dead. Even after the Kthid left, it was dead. They had turned the surface to little but ash and glass in the desperate fight that the Faliran had fought for their survival. They had all died for it – Only Thia and her closest followers remained upon their natal earth, besieged as they were.
Knowing that nothing of this species now remained on this planet, the last remaining Faliran Queen set her mind in the only direction yet unexplored. Space.
Her psyche pushed skywards, through the ash clouds which now permanently blackened the atmosphere. Up here she discovered the first group of Kthid battleships hovering in near orbit above Zoraida, their guns finally silent. To her great dismay, their metal hulls bustled with signs of Faliran life, drones, warriors, and members of other casts. All were survivors captured upon the planet and spirited away for the purposes of Kthid sexual thralldom. This foulness was not something she wished to linger upon right now so Thia quickly continued onward, but the dark impressions were not so quick to desert her. Eventually, however, she quested toward more distant points of light.
In her mind’s eye, she was confronted with the immensity of darkened space. As her senses were ethereal in nature, the crossing of these boundaries between Zoraida, the Heavens, and outer nothingness provided no obstacle for her thoughts in her imagination, the vast emptiness and cold finally hastening away the sensations of suffering aboard those ships.
Before encountering the Kthid and beginning their hard-fought decline, the Faliran race had established numerous colonies on other heavenly bodies, both inside their solar system and outside it. Each of them had always been in close contact with the others, and each had originally had at least one Queen on it at all times. They were One People… and no matter how far their hives drifted from one another they would not grow separate where it mattered.
Now, it didn’t matter. It was towards these colonies that Thia pressed her mind… and found much the same. In the memories she found, the terraforming of Zoraida’s closest neighbor had been completely reversed. Said planet was a desert once and now was a desert again, although now one smeared with craters and dark blotches of nuclear ash instead of just red sands. The numerous moons and asteroids in its vicinity which had been settled for the purposes of mining were also devoid of life. No matter where she looked, Princess Thia could not find anything more than scattered survivors left behind on obliterated worlds.
Thia pressed further, bridging the vast gap between stars at the speed of the Hivemind, outracing light itself. If this day was to be her doom then she needed to know what, if any, remnants of the Faliran species would survive. Going this far away from her own senses, to places she had never been, momentarily made her feel unmoored from reality until the memories of others rushed in to fill the context of what she was seeing for her. It was very much like plummeting even deeper into cold water until you couldn’t tell which way was up anymore, the extremities of her body feeling momentarily numb and cold. It was an uncomfortable sensation, but not a difficult one… Princess Thia knew well that she could do it.
The colonies were subsumed by total darkness. These outposts among the stars had been fairly recent… Cities were actually towns, towns actually villages, villages mere habitats. Military defense structures had been scant. Despite that, these colonies had largely been some of the last places the fall – not because of their strength, but because of their relative unimportance. Around them, wars were still being raged around these heavenly bodies… but Thia knew dismally well – because the defenders knew, as well – that it was no true fight. The Kthid had saved these isolated and helpless colonies for last, to take as many slaves as possible, and as many Faliran as possible defended themselves to the death. In spite of that, however, there was no question as to the outcome. The Kthid would triumph – math alone had decided the outcome of these wars, years ago at this point. The Faliran population there would meet with either death or captivity. These colonies did not constitute a new hope for their species… Merely an epilogue to their downfall.
All of them but one.
There was one world where Faliran hid still. Not many. In fact, a dangerously tiny breeding population… but along with the Faliran they had no reason to believe the Kthid knew they existed. Her last ray of hope was with them… and they were not even on a Faliran world.
During their species’ sideral travels, the Faliran had encountered many alien lifeforms upon many diverse sets of worlds. However, these unanimously belonged to a lower stratum of the evolutionary scale. Few had achieved anything resembling intelligence, and none intelligence… until they had. The Faliran called in Yin 14c, for the direction it was away from Zoraida… but the native population, from what they had observed, called it Lealis.
Immediately upon finding them, the Faliran had begun to study the new species. They were definitely intelligent… quite so, actually, though their civilization was young. Studies concluded that their species was only a scant 10,000 years old at the very most and barely was a civilization at all… hunter-gatherers mostly, but despite that they exhibited a high degree of intelligence and socialization, enabling them to form complex social structures with the aim of overcoming the jungle that was their primary environment. It seemed like the dangers of the natural elements would soon be a thing of the past for these young, winged aliens. After that, who knew how they would develop?
They had only been discovered a few decades ago. In the years before the Kthid attack, academic discussion over what to do with these strange, tree-gliding creatures had consumed the luminaries of the scientific world. For the moment, until had time to fully study them, they had settled on a policy of observation and non-intervention, to determine how best they might be able to aid their new neighbors. Then, before any kind of determination had been made, the Kthid had rather changed the situation.
Importantly, however, towards this end an observation satellite had been built in orbit. In order to best hid it, they had put it in geosynchronous orbit with the planet’s largest moon, and between the lack of radio communication from the hive-minded species, the lack of ships going to or from that system, and the absence of any civilization to pick up on, the Kthid seemed completely unaware of the planet. It was the scientists housed here that Princess Thia could pin some small hopes on.
Thia could feel the thoughts and emotions of the Falrian there, and when she touched them they could feel her just as clearly… sensing the benevolent overwatch of their Queen whenever she focused upon them. Here it was. The smallest ray of hope that she could have imagined. The Kthid had never even imagined going to hunt for Faliran there. They would remain unmolested, hiding along with the peculiar natives of Lealis.
The Faliran would live on, in some form.
Seated cross-legged upon her flower throne, Princess Thia sighed. Their hope still remained… it was a small hope, but it was real.
That was that, then.
It was time to make the invaders pay.
Princess Thia’s eyelids opened, becoming aware of the sensations she had forced herself to filter out… physical sensations, and nearby ones through the hive. She was hungry… starving, actually. The metabolism of a Queen-form was something incredible to feed the processes in their brain that let them handle the information they received. She felt every ache in her folded limbs, the bruises and scraps from the last few days, and the bone-deep sense of exhaustion. None of those, however, were as distracting as the fear and tension, and determination of those around her, the way their adrenaline spiked with each nearby explosion, the despair trying to be hidden away by many of them. The Faliran didn’t really have a concept of privacy, but they did try to keep unhelpful thoughts from boiling over into the hive mind. Here, however, it was difficult.
Quietly, Thia ate and tried not to pay attention to the way Faliran lives kept winking out in the hive mind nearby. Some of them were defenders. Others… others were still, temporarily, safe inside her fortress. Thia, however, had reluctantly opened access to their medical supplies to everyone… they weren’t going to need them anymore. No small number of the women trapped down here chose to inject themselves with lethal doses of painkillers, letting themselves peacefully drift off to sleep, never to awaken, before the Kthid could arrive to claim them. Thia hated it… but she would not forbid them the escape of taking their own lives. Her group had been in the middle of a fighting retreat that had lasted months as they looked for a way to escape the planet and get the last remaining Queen and civilians to safety, braving waging months of battles to keep them alive while their numbers were slowly whittled down bit by bit. By being here at all it meant they had fought and suffered plenty.
Thia would not hold it against them… but no matter how much some of her Hiveguard begged she would not take that way out. She had a duty here still. While a Queen still lived, there was hope that all the memories, all the history, all of the life that had come before could still be saved, stored away in the Hivemind and recovered… and there were survivors out there. She had to live.
An especially close explosion shook the room, and some smoke billowed in through the vents of her fortified room. Thia rose. The surrounding petals off her throne parted, forming a walkway for her to descend… Faliran spoke to one another but no one called out in alarm. Amongst the Kthid she had seen them yell out alerts to one another, bringing attention to one thing or another. The Faliran, however, had no need of that – Everyone’s attention moved to where it needed to be as naturally as breathing. Thia walked up to the closest of the Hiveguards, standing armed against the wall, and as she did she felt the surge of panic and resignation as the last of the perimeter guards were captured. Through their eyes, she could see in glimpses as casteless Kthid ran past them, surging forward.
Hardening her heart, Thia looked left and right. Before her were amassed some of the finest soldiers she could ask for, the best among their entire species. These were her Hiveguard, a fighting force selected from the best of the fighters they had in soldier form, here as part of her permanent security to defend the last remaining queen. She had known and lived alongside these men and women ever since ascending to Queenhood. Even if they had not been linked mentally due to factors of biology, they would have seemed more like a part of her body than a separate life form from her.
“They will be upon us soon,” Viera said, moving to stand beside her. The soldier-form Faliran was almost as tall as Thia was and more heavily muscled and carapaced, not that Thia could see any of it beneath the black and green armor she wore. She had her helmet off at the moment, but otherwise, beside her wings, she was covered head to toe in the stuff. “My Queen, what of your meditations?” her champion asked fervently. “Could you… could you see them? Do they still survive, unchained?”
In the distance, beyond that blow-open aperture, they heard the clanking of metal and the snarling of great reptilian warriors. These were the heralding calls of their civilization’s apocalypse. The Kthid were mustering their troops for the final assault of her domains. As usual, it would be the Castless in front to serve as the disposable shock troops while the actual warriors assaulted the room in the wake of this meatgrinder. There was little hope of resisting such a tactic for long… but this battle would not be about victory. That hadn’t been achievable in years. This would be about taking as many of those damnable monsters to the grave with them as they could.
Thia took a deep breath. Viera was a friend… a good friend. She deserved the truth… but what she didn’t know the Kthid couldn’t torture from her. Most Faliran had an impossible time trying to look that deep into the hive mind unless they knew the person they were searching out well… even among a whole species of mentally connected individuals deep in their hive mind the secrets of that research colony were safe still. “Zoraida is dead…” she said hesitantly. “The colonies of this solar system are gone. So are even those on the utmost reaches of our Empire,” she gravely informed her followers. Then she hardened her lips into a firm line. “But there are still Faliran out there, Viera… and they are free, existing outside the knowledge of our enemy. I cannot say where… but we will not be the last of the Faliran.”
While she was speaking to Viera, Thia could tell everyone was listening… either through their hivemind or by simple proximity. “So… it is not over then,” the soldier said, closing her eyes for a moment. Then she nodded. “I can live with that.”
Though they stood ready for battle in stoic silence, Princess Thia felt the hearts of her protectors warm. They would not meet the enemy believing this was the end. The ferocious snarls coming from beyond that far wall grew louder, more sibilant, hungrier. The Kthid knew that this would be the final clash just as well as they did.
Viera opened her eyes. “My Queen… Thia… Please retreat into the next room. Return to your meditation. Allow your person to be untouched by the Kthid for as long as possible,” she said, practically begging.
In answer, Thia reached to the rack beside her and picked up her helmet. “I will not,” she said firmly.
Thia met her friend’s gaze. “I know you want to protect me… but there is no failure in your duties here. I cannot be protected from what is coming, Viera.” She shook her head, then put the helmet down. It clasped into place with an audible hiss as the airlock engaged and the helm tightened to her face. “And I will not be captured laying down and cowering behind one more brave warrior. When there was any hope of escape, I bit my tongue. When there were others to inspire, I stayed my hand. Viera… we both know all those chances are gone now.”
The flood of sorrow through the hivemind was almost painful as Thia pressed on. “Give me this chance. I can protect you now, at least as much as you protect me.” She reached to the arming rack and grabbed one of the halberds, the blade glowing with energy as it began to hum at her touch. “I am the only one among us that the Kthid will not be willing to slay. Because of their vile sexual appetites, I am almost as important to them as I am to you, but as a trophy instead of a leader. I will draw their attention. I will be your shield.” She looked around at the defenders. Through the door, they all could hear the sounds of snarls and the clanking of metals, and thudding footsteps as well. The besieging monsters were racing toward them.
As if in answer, Thia raised her voice, and sent her conviction and anger and confidence flooding through the hive mind to each and every one of her guards as she did… beating back their fear with her confidence and rage and determination. “This, my Hiveguard, I promise you. You’ve all considered it your duty to protect me from harm… but my own duty has never been anything any less to you. We may be the last Faliran left on Zoraida, but we have an important role left to play.” She raised her weapon and turned to face the door, taking a ready position. Alongside her, dozens of soldier-form Faliran did the same. “We owe the Kthid a debt, brothers and sisters,” she called out. “For decades they have taken and taken and taken. Taken our parents. Our wives. Our sisters. Taken our cities and ships and friends. They have taken everything they can… and for that, we find ourselves deep in their debt.”
Thia narrowed her eyes. “Let us pay them what they are owed. ONE PEOPLE!”
A surge of rage and determination pulsed through the hivemind. “ONE PEOPLE!” they roared back. A moment later the door shattered inwards and the final battle for their homeworld began.
Out of that thickened smoke which billowed from the blasted-open aperture stormed their scaly enemies. Castless Kthid, unarmored and frenzied, ran with cleavers-like swords held high and mouths snarling so that their great fangs showed. The Queensguard knew how to respond to such an untoward entry. Violescent bolts of superheated fire flew from their rifles and skewered the ferocious enemy, only to splash away against the Aegis shields that protected their unarmored foes… the heat burned them but it didn’t fell many. They hadn’t expected it to… they had only wanted to stagger the charge.
Kthid were huge, and monstrously strong. The green tide charged them like a tsunami, fully intent on washing over them. If that was what they expected, however, they were going to be disappointed There were among her defenders a few remaining members of the hulking supermajor forms that could go toe to toe with the Kthid but for the rest, even the most capable soldier-form was overmastered by the sheer power these lizards could muster… or they would have been if they weren’t armored. Inside their titanium shells laced with memory plastic muscle fibers, the Faliran could match them toe to toe as they charged.
Thia was among them, cutting, stabbing, kicking, and them darting to the next. It was a delicate art, striking fast enough to hit your target but slow enough that the Aegis wouldn’t stop it, but Thia had dueled against weapon masters a thousand times, and the head of her polearm vibrated ten thousand times a second, adding force to the softened blows and leaving behind horrible injuries. Cries went up among the Kthid when she was seen, warning of the presence of a Queen, and almost like a flock of birds wheeling almost all the attention in the room centered on her, and her defenders made them pay for it. Despite that, however, they came on. No matter the casualties they inflicted, no matter how many Kthid tumbled over dead and created an obstacle for their peers, the wave of ferocity would not die down. The marbled floor of Thia’s sanctuary hive was soon carpeted with mutilated green corpses and blood, and yet, their rifles were overheating or running out of energy before even a tithe of them could be killed, and still those demonic monsters came. With no rifle-fire to slow their advance any longer, the press intensified. The Faliran fought with long, curved swords, or tall axe-like polearms like Thia’s, or short-handled and long-bladed glaives, cutting at their enemies. Slashed-opened arteries spewed out crimson blood and limbs were hacked from bodies, those dying bodies became of value as shields for their stampeding successors. The insectoid Faliran battleline broke beneath that charge, some taking to the air, others falling back, and the battle dissolved into perfect chaos.
The offensive was still focused on her. Thia kept it that way as she leaped across the room with a buzz of her long wings, slashing and dicing even while in midair before setting down for a perfectly balanced landing. They could match their attackers for strength with the aid of their armor, but not with size… mass was a weapon all of its own, and if the Kthid ever seized hold of their enemy they were pretty much done for… the sheer leverage of mass would allow them to pin them down without much effort. The bloody duels, then, descended into games of hunter and prey. Faliran warriors danced, side-stepped, dashed, bobbed, weaved, and even made great arching flights like Thia had just done so to avoid their enemy. For a true master of the arts of melee, fighting was less about the slashes and the parries, and more an exercise in geometric lines. Thia considered the steepness of angles, the curve of an incoming attack, the distance between a foe and her to its most minute detail. Her footwork was such that she danced amidst the chaos, avoiding not only cleaver swings but also swipes and tackles aimed to cripple her mobility.
In too many places, in too many battles, the Kthid had fought Faliran unprepared for this kind of fighting… but Princess Thia and her Hiveguard were not normal Faliran. They were the elite of the elite, and their spirits were animated with the thirst for vengeance for what the invading Kthid had done to their home. They fought… and they fought as one. Thia didn’t see the swiping cleaver being directed toward one of her nearby guards from a blind spot… she didn’t need to. Someone else saw it, and through the hivemind that knowledge flared into awareness for her. Thia leaped towards the scene, sensing she wouldn’t have time to bring her weapon around and simply put her armored forearm in the way of the blow. The metallic shell screamed in anguish and Thia almost did herself, gritting her teeth… even through the armor that blow had cracked the carapace beneath it. Thankfully that was all the blade had done, stopping his swing. He might have been able to bring the blade back around and finish her, and he snarled as he began to do just that… but when he saw who it was his crimson eyes went wide. It wasn’t a big hesitation… but in a battle a heartbeat was everything. It was time enough for Thia to bring her weapon around low and slice through one of his hamstrings with a pulling cut.
“Princess!” the rescued Hiveguard yelled. The woman seemed more horrified that the last Queen of Zoraida had taken a minor wound for her than that she had almost just died herself.
“Don’t worry about me!” Thia hissed, smashing the other side of her weapon hard against the crippled casteless’s throat and feeling something break beneath it. Her arm hurt, but she could still fight. “Focus on the fight.” She could feel it through the hivemind… They were fully engaged now, at the low point of coordination and organization… just what the casteless were meant to achieve. The Kthid were sacrificing most of their lives to distract them and take down a few Faliran. It was not a surprising tactic, Thia had seen it many times before, but even so the idea was still horribly alien to Thia to consider… needless, and barbaric, and utterly cruel. Thia could not comprehend how these casteless so willingly sacrificed their own lives for superiors who considered them nothing more than fodder for the slaughter. Regardless they fought on ferociously, pressing the Faliran to the brink and keeping them occupied as much as possible, and that meant th-
When the warriors came it was in a rush. The hulking, ironclad warriors moved far more swiftly than their size and weight would make seem possible, their visors glowing crimson. Each carried sidearm swords much like the casteless did, but far more importantly they carried the twin-linked miniature cannons that had blasted explosive death across the face of their empire. A dozen warnings, including one from Thia, flooded through the hivemind as the warriors approached, closing to point-blank range before they fired.
The space dragons’ cannons started their bombardment and every Faliran who was able to leap for safety. Some hid behind the vast bulk of their Kthid adversaries. These were the unfortunate ones as the ironclad held no inhibitions about blasting right through them to get to their target. More fortunate were those who hid behind the mini-mountain of corpses that now peppered the room. Thia and a few others leaped for the walls to avoid the projectiles, rebounding off them with athletic grace when the Kthid reconfigured their aim. For too many, however, the Kthid had gotten too close… inside their own Aegis shields. At that range, their armor and carapace were no protection at all… any blasted at that range all but exploded, their blood boiling to steam inside their titanium shells. For others, the Aegis caught the blasts but it wasn’t enough to save them… either being blasted into a wall with bone-breaking force killed them, or the whiplash broke their necks, or enough heat leaked through to melt their armor into slag on their bodies. Still others – females – were shot by the stunning electric nanoweb rings they used to take living captives, falling convulsing to the floor. Hiveguard died all around her, and Thia felt all of it. She felt the moment that Viera’s thoughts went from fear to pained panic… to nothing at all. Too many others who had fought for her, protected her, for years were doing the same.
The Kthid had timed their ambush well, striking at the most vulnerable point and with overwhelming force. They were being decimated… She needed to do something big. The last remaining Queen altered her grip on her polearm, gripping it almost like a javelin, and she flung it. The weapon wasn’t balanced for that… it had no chance of penetrating Kthid armor even if it had been thrown perfectly. That, however, wasn’t the point. The sharpened tip flew straight for the muzzle of one of those cannons just as it fired. The blade pierced the barrel as it fired and instead of a lance of death the weapon exploded with enough force that Thia and flung out of the air and scattered the formation of Kthid warrior-caste fighters. Debris scattered in all directions, from tumbling pebbles to hard-hitting bricks.
For what felt like a long time the Queen lay on the ground, her mind and thoughts scattered. The impact had been hard enough that it had disrupted all sense, even her ability to sort out the hive mind as the battle resumed around her. She wasn’t sure how long she took to gather herself again before Thia rose, groggy, disoriented as the battle raged. The explosion of the detonating cannon had caused such an upwhirl of smoke that her vision was compromised – She could scarcely see two meters ahead of her. Thankfully, she wasn’t the only one – the sound of the Kthid’s thundering cannons was gone, the battle resuming its melee focus.
Finding a downed glaive and picking it up off the ground, Thia grasped it and stalked forward through the covering smoke, stalking back towards the battle. Thia’s could feel her own heartbeat thrumming. Then she heard a great swoosh of air and instinct caused her to drop into a rolling dodge to the side seconds before an armored Kthid came crashing down where she had once stood. Great chunks of severed metal had fallen off where they had been damaged by proximity to the bomb blast of that weapon. Everywhere, minute lacerations caused him to bleed.
“Bastard!” she growled, raising her weapon and swinging at him.
The warrior-caste Kthid, however, only blocked and did not counter, backing up. He growled something in his own language as he stared her down, and Thia realized he wasn’t talking to her but to one of his fellows. Then, seconds later, another Kthid stepped out of the smoke.
He was enormous. Thia’s eyes widened slightly… this monstrosity might be the single largest Kthid she had ever seen. In his armor he resembled a vehicle a Faliran might drive more than a person, or would have if his panoply was not half-destroyed, decimated by the explosion and revealing part of the alien face beneath it. His slitted eyes raged with anger… yet still held the luster of high ambition. When he opened his mouth, however, the snarling of his words was nearly covered up by the perfect Faliran tongue that played over it. “I am pleased you survived, your highness,” he said with covetous malice, raising both gauntlets as if prepared to fight her bare-handed.
“I wish I could say the same,” Thia spat back. “You have destroyed my homeworld! Keep that head steady… I should like to see it severed!” With her glaive, she swiped in a great slashing arch directly towards the Kthid’s half-exposed neck. The blow was so swift as to arrive almost instantaneously, like the flicker of an eyelid. Even so, he managed to get his armored forearm into its trajectory so as to block. The glaive clanked harmlessly into metal, and a moment later his other arm had drawn a cleaver sword from his belt with such smoothness that it was evident he had practiced an armored, one-handed draw like this thousand of times, counter-attacking in the same movement. Thia was so stunned she was nearly hit… he was so fast. She had never encountered a Kthid so proficient in close-quarters combat, and it was difficult to think that someone so huge could be so quick.
He swung again and she dodged. Amidst these clouds of smoke, mutilated corpses, and scattered debris the Kthid and the Falirian Queen dueled. Thia fought harder than ever before. Slaying this invader would at least bring some vengeance to all of her kin that had fallen or been enslaved.
The Kthid pounced forward and Thia leaped to the side. At that moment, the beast had exposed himself. Even while in mid-air, she readied a throat-slitting slash. Gritting teeth, Thia readied the motion. “This is for Zoraida!” she snarled.
She saw a flash of fangs from the Kthid warrior. “Gotcha!” he spat, and Thia realized too late that her dodge had been planned for, and in fact provoked. As the warrior attacked with his body, his arm swiped in another direction. While she was committed to her swing, his gauntleted hand had clasped onto the body of two of her wings and seized a handhold, and yanked her across his body, accelerating her movement, and causing the glaive to actually speed up… too quick. It struck his Aegis and deflected harmlessly, going too quick to slip beneath it. Fear spiked through the monarch’s body. She knew that being seized by one of the Kthid meant certain doom.
“NO!” she spiritedly yelled, slashing with her glaive one more time. This only granted the alien warrior an opportunity to clasp onto her right arm as well. The Kthid squeezed, and she heard her armor groan as it warped beneath that grip, pinching her. This pain made Thia spasm, dropping her weapon as the Kthid lifted her off-ground. Struggling like a caught animal, Thia bucked and spasmed in an effort to get out. Even though she knew it was useless, she would not cease resisting. The great reptilian smirked so that all of his razor-sharp fangs showed, the serpentine tongue slithering out so as to taste some blood upon his lip.
“Well, well! Looks like I’ve managed to catch myself the last of the Faliran Queens!” he spoke.
Princess Thia spat him right in the face.
The Kthid was so enamored by his own personal triumph that he didn’t even seem to notice. Instead, he hauled her backward, away from the fighting, and while Thia struggled she was easily overpowered. With a moment of examination, the huge alien reached down, grabbed the power transformer at the small of her back, and ripped it away from her armor with all the force his own powered armor gave him. Her suit died instantly, trapping the queen inside a dark, unpowered suit of armor that was almost as restraining on her as the Kthid’s grip was… leaving her with nothing to do but feel it as one by one every remaining Faliran of her Hiveguard was killed or captured.
She had failed.
Thia had known that failure was the only option here, knew that victory had stopped being possible years before the battle reached Zoraida… but it didn’t help. As a Queen, her duty was to look after her people… and now they had finally, completely, lost.
The smoke had begun to disperse by the time the huge Kthid ripped the helmet off of Thia, leaving her to blink her vision clear as he dragged her back into the room where the captives were being more thoroughly restrained. The Kthid who had captured her looked around the room, obviously searching for something, and when his face locked onto the throne-like flower she had been meditating on he gave a snarling laugh. Immediately he walked her over right towards it, tossing the armor-bound queen down onto the precious thing roughly. “And so the war ends,” he declared. “And it is time to end this war the only proper way!”
Thia didn’t have to wonder what he meant.
The hulking monster moved forward, his form crushing many of the petals around her as he came down on her. She tried to struggle but it felt like she was buried in sticky sap, barely able to move at all in the armor as he began to rip pieces of it away, keeping her pinned down to the seat she had used to meditate. “Get off of me!” she snarled as he slowly stripped her, feeling a flash of deja vu… she had felt exactly this a thousand thousand thousand times, from all the drones and warriors and others who had come before her. She had been raped in her mind’s eye so many times… but now it was going to happen to her. A feeling so much more visceral and horrific. Thia instantly tried blocking away these experiences into her hive-conscious. She could not allow this monster to see her cry.
The rush of rape had made the reptilian’s manhood stolid. His armor, she knew, was designed to come away in the crotch… bastards always thinking with their cocks. “You fought well,” he hummed, pleased with himself and the thrill of the fight. “It was difficult to track you down and fight through to you… I had to make sure I reached you first. For a while, I worried I wouldn’t manage, that someone else would fight through to you before me… but you fought like hellions for every inch of ground. Rejoice, whore… for your efforts have earned you the respect of Huntmaster Sarcand.” Effortlessly pinning her spasming, half-armored body underneath him, he ripped away the carapace that wrapped her groin with a painful sting before he aligned her bald pussy-mound with the tip of the enormous, scaly spear that jutted from his body. “You will make an excellent slave… and give me many fine children.”
All of the horror she had experienced in her mind seemed to multiply as he shoved the tip of his bulbous cock against her and she felt it for the first time… fully intent on invading her sacred place. The incoming desecration enraged her and terrified her in equal measure, causing her to struggle harder in last-second desperation.
It amounted to nothing.
A tremendous cry rose from Princess Thia’s throat as the marauding alien’s cock punted into her pussy, ripping open her womanhood just as ferociously as he had conquered her throne room. Those two sexual organs were as incompatible as their cultures, yet he showed no care for her wellbeing… using sheer muscle power and brutality to make their copulation possible. Once hilted within that womanly chalice, he instantaneously began a mettlesome thrusting which rocked the flower-throne hard enough that the remaining thin petals wobbled. Raped right on her dais, Princess Thia felt the pain of it, but she also felt the spreading horror through her Hiveguard as they were made to watch, and she suffered every painful feeling of failure and weakness and sorrow like knives in her mind and she was in no mental state to shunt it away as he stabbed at her womb again and again. This was the same trauma countless of her species had suffered through. And now it was happening to her… the last of the Queens.
“I’ve heard that Faliran Queens are considered unbreakable!” he snarled. “That shall be most entertaining to disprove! You’ll be the crown jewel of my Heitera, whore-queen.” He slammed forward into her, sliding her several inches across the flower. The rape-hungry green behemoth smirked at the pained expression on her face. “With the blessing of the Dark Star, I’m going to breed you, right here and now! Your homeworld’s death will be celebrated by the creation of a new, more important life you will carry in your womb for me. Thereafter, the Faliran will be extinguished, living our their extinction giving birth to Kthid children!”
“Never!” she glared at him, feeling that iron-hard cock slam against the opening of her womb. This was the end of Zoraida. Its thousands of years of culture and civilization would end with a frenzy of rape and the impregnation of its last living ruler. Their years-long battle for survival would culminate with the planting of a child inside her.
Dignified to the end, Thia fought to control her outcries. The vile beast had been right about one thing. A Faliran Queen could not give him the satisfaction. A Faliran Queen would not be broken. Even if her belly was made to swell with the spawn of an enemy, she would not fall into the blackness of despair.
The malachite giant cackled as he noticed her attempts at composure. “And do you know what else you will do for me?” He said between his thrusts into her. “I hear it told that only the Queens, like you, know the method to create another. You are the last… can you imagine the power and influence it will bring me once you teach me to make more of your kind? You will be my entry to the exalted ranks of the Sunbreakers, oh whore-queen… and you will suffer every day of it.
“I will never help you!” she snarled. No Faliran would ever want to be a Queen in this kind of circumstance, forced to feel the pain of all their people and helpless to do anything about it, and no Faliran in history would ever force another to take a form against their will. “Never!”
Sarcand laughed, his lips curling over a mouth of fanged teeth. “You will make for an entertaining Heitera!” he declared.
The great reptilian began lurching even harder. His ramming dick risked breaking her loins in two and the force behind his thrusts threatened to collapse the flower upon which they laid. Princess Thia’s face contorted and her lips pursed as she fought to resist the pain. She could feel his fist-sized testicles rutting against her while he plunged. From them came the seed which would pollute her womanhood with unholy offspring. Rivulets of blood from tiny shrapnel wounds streamed down upon her yet the Huntmaster was so drunk with lust that he did not seem to notice.
“Slave!” the Kthid snarled out while he completed a final series of bone-jarring punts into her pussy. “You… are… conquered!”
The stem on which Thia’s flower throne stood, at last, broke as the Kthid orgasmed inside her. They both collapsed toward while entwined in the act of reproduction, the fall causing him to slam even deeper inside of her as his sperm flooded her insides, feeling searing hot against her sensitive insides. Princess Thia, despite her best efforts, bellowed the cry of a woman defiled as the petals surrounding her withered, signaling the end of Zoradia… and the beginning of her new life as a slave.
One thought on “Event Horizon – Chapter 11 – The Hive”
Actually, you know what? Let’s see if I can do this before I leave for work.
This chapter was a fascinating read for me, because it’s sort of a compare and contrast with Do Not Go Gentle. In both cases, we see the end of a Kthid harvest, resulting in a last stand in an underground city, where the defenders force the Kthid into a chokepoint. There are important differences, though, which result in the scenes feeling different. The Falirans have powered armor of their own and firearms that will penetrate Aegis fields, meaning that the battle is in some ways more straightforward, while the technological gap between the Kthid and the Umbrals results in different tactical approaches (getting around the Aegis as opposed to punching through it) and different responses from the Kthid (the employment of the casteless is subtly different in the scenes).
This is also a really fun way to illustrate Thia’s use of the hive mind, and definitely benefitted from a second reading. The first time, I remember wondering how she was seeing things that no Faliran was around to see, like the surface of the planet. On my second readthrough, I realized this wasn’t “live” so to speak, but a composite based on the last Falirans to see it.
There’s that word again… What’s the definition on that?
(as per Cambridge Dictionary) Stolid adjective (of a thing) not interesting or attractive.
Oh…well…uh, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, Sarcand. As the saying goes, it’s how you use it.
Last but not least, I think in hindsight this is the first time we as an audience learn about the mission the Faliran science ship is on, thus taking us one step closer to the climax of the story…