Misty Manages the Queen

Submitted into Contest #120 in response to: Start your story with the line ‘Back in my day…’... view prompt

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Science Fiction Adventure Fiction

 “Back in my day, I would have turned all of you into food pellets! Now, get me out of here!” demanded ‘The Queen’ over the private communication channel reserved for Commander Misty, her husband Sam, and the android warrant officer Hester. How the alien got access to their comms was a waste of time; it was obvious ‘The Queen’ of Phobos had some skills; they had been lucky to survive the assault on her rock.

There are plenty of dog-sized ants floating around them in airless free fall. The monstrous things, now dead to the last drone, had attacked without mercy. They sliced through the limbs and necks of the heavily armored android army. A third of the fighters were disabled, floating off into space through the destroyed oversized airlock of the Martian moon Phobos. Hester, missing both legs, was mustering the survivors and jetting back to support the humans, Misty and Sam. He heroically overrode his difficulties, without having the use of his leg jets. Misty looked at the large and solid hatch located in front of her on the far side of the mile-wide cavern.

“What?” said Sam.

“What?” said Hester.

Misty sighed. The short war seemed to be over it is already time for the confusion, she mused.

“It’s the Queen of this hill. She inserted herself into our private line, somehow. I’ll talk to her, OK?” said Misty. Her man and the android agreed while the being remained quiet, waiting for the answer.

“What’s your name?” Misty asked her.

“How dare you! I don’t answer questions from peasants! Get me out of here and take me to Joey!” she demanded, crackling the upper limits of the helmet speakers.

“How do you know about Joey?” Misty asked her. Joey is the artificial intelligence that inhabits this solar system and has been for millions of years, intertwined with the affairs of men and women. The speaker cracks with static but nothing legible emerges.

“I am Joey’s agent, its operative diplomat Misty Harte, recently brought into the AIs employ. Joey has placed the disposition of this misbehaving construct into my human hands. What is your name?” Misty repeated.

“Serf! Rustic!”

“Listen, you bitch! Misty is in charge and Joey isn’t around. You’re up to something; we take a look and you almost kill us! This moon weapon of yours’ threatens the Earth. If you don’t cooperate you’re gonna die! Soon!” Sam broke in with his threat. It was true enough. Joey didn’t like to kill sentients so when it came to protecting humans it assigned humans with fewer qualms. Misty couldn’t just leave this dangerous bug alone. If she had to, she would push its’ satellite Phobos into the planet's thin atmosphere. The hive mother should have realized it also, by now.

“What is your name?” Misty asked patiently.

“Annabelle Constance,” the monster replied.

“A pretty name. Are you in any immediate danger?”

“No. I do have limited resources.” Annabelle said. Misty’s sled moved in reference to the walls of the large room.

“What is happening?” Misty asked.

“The orbit is changing. This moon will fall into the atmosphere,” Hester informed her. Their sled pushed up against the wall as a slight gravity gripped them.

“This ship will fall into the atmosphere and burn up within a week,” Annabelle informed them.

“Why did you do that?” Misty barked.

“I am ready to do something different. You need to rescue me now.”

“What’s the gee force of the deceleration?” Misty demanded. Hester was the first to answer.

“One-tenth of a gee,” the android supplied.

“Will our ship maintain anchor?” Misty inquired nervously.

“No,” Hester replied. Even as he spoke they all felt the rumble as the massive monolith was lifted from the moon’s surface by the pull of the grapple attaching it to their large ship. The ship’s living quarters or the atomic pile weren’t that heavy and would have been pulled along. The two miles of the ionic thruster with its’ layers of ice fuel was.

“The ship is smart enough to follow you in case of emergency,” Hester said.

“Well, that will help, but we better get a step on it before we run out of air. Annabelle, do you have your suit on?” Misty said.

“We’re going to bring that thing onto our ship?” Sam asked. Misty nodded yes and Sam shrugged in compliance.

“Annabelle, do you have your suit on?” Misty asked the ant mother again.

“I have to pack a few things,” she said.

“Pack nothing! Get your suit on and open the lock! Now!” Misty cried out. Nothing happened for several minutes as they heard mumbling movements through the intercom.

“Open the lock now or we will!” Misty finally threatened.

“But those proton poppers of yours might cut me to pieces!”

“Open the door!” Sam demanded while Hester lined up his troops aiming at the locks’ hinges.

“All right! All right! Here I come.”

The large circular lock banged roughly open with the release of air pressure. Army ants tumbled out by the dozens but they weren’t fighting; they were thrashing about in agony as they died in cold, airless space. The gyne followed in her cumbersome suit floating toward the middle of the vast room without steering thrusters. Her black head with its’ large bug eyes was visible in the transparent helmet while the twelve-foot length of the abdomen was cased in flexible material.

“Hester! Get Annabelle and take it inside the ship. Get your men and retrieve the grapple. We’ll follow you through the airlock. Get her out of the suit and search her. Keep her suit and dispose of anything she brought along. Keep her guarded and get us under power!” Misty commanded.

She and Sam berthed the sled and retreated to their private quarters before stripping off their own suits. They waited and before long they were gentled to the floor and then forced down under one gee of acceleration. They would maintain the one gee, first accelerating then decelerating, for the five days it would take them to return. Now able to dress they did so then moved to the dining area of their large living space to order something to eat. Sam asked for a couple of Philly steak sandwiches from the ever-present serving bot when Misty had a thought.

“I wonder if Annabelle can handle one gee of gravity?” Misty asked Sam. He looked at her and, with a sigh, pushed his food aside.

“We’d better go see,” he said. They exited their private quarters to find Hester approaching in the common hall.

“How’s the bug?” Sam asked.

“I was just coming to get you. Not so well, really,” it told them.

The three hustled to the large and newly rigged containment area where they found her smashed against the floor and struggling to breathe. Her spiracles were open wide, frothing and wheezing. Several of the android soldiers surrounded her with their rifles at the ready.

“Can she talk?” Misty asked with concern.

“She never could actually talk. She has a sophisticated translater implant and comms that we missed when we undressed her,” Hester confessed.

“How could you have missed it?” Misty asked eyeing the equipment they had used on the monster to find these tricks.

“It’s a biological computer. We have no idea how it works,” Hester informed her.

“Joey’s not going to like this. How did it intrude on our private line?”

“The best we can conclude is that it has read and write ability over some distance. Because Joey designed us without writable chips it wasn’t able to overtake us. It seems it can read our data, however,” Hester said.

“So that’s how it knew about Joey,” Misty decided aloud.

“Hardly!” Annabelle said without moving her mouth. “Your nearby TV and radio transmissions alerted my sensors and alerted me out of suspended animation. I’ve been observing your civilization and anything with a brain can determine that humans have guidance!”

“As Joey says,” Misty replied, “aliens can come, do some genetic work, and go, but an AI’s forever!”

“Very funny,” Annabelle said.

“She doesn’t look so good,” Sam stated the obvious.

“Can we get some oxygen into her? How about some kind of tubes? Her chitin is sagging but not collapsed. Should be OK? Her legs are flat out but, well, some kind of bracing is in order?” Misty asked of Hester.

“Yes on the oxygen lines, already working it. No on the bracing as her exoskeleton should endure the trip. She doesn’t have the chewing muscle to eat in one gee so we need to install a feeding tube, She should last a couple of days,” Hester told her.

“Pfft!” Annabelle commented.

Hester relayed the orders to the troops then, oddly, stood quietly to the side. Sam went back and fetched the sandwiches so the pair could sit at a side table and oversee things. Even when the oxygen began to flow Annabelle seemed to be declining. The ommatidia eyes of the bug seemed to focus on them before they went dull.

“Hester! Is Annabelle OK?” Misty asked.

“We’ve anesthetized her,” Hester stated blandly.

“I didn’t order that!” Misty stated. She wasn’t worried about her status but was worried about how such a thing could happen.

“Joey ordered it.”

“But why? Has it been snooping on us?” she asked.

“Joey is worried and finding that Annabelle’s ability is part of her is a crucial development. He doesn’t have the capability to immunize himself, the moon, the Earth, or the rest of the solar system against her ability to take over machines,” Hester explained.

“So he spied on this mission in such a way that couldn’t be co-opted by the bug?”

“Yes, and he couldn’t cue you in, not knowing what we are facing.”

“All right, let’s get her to the moon and let Joey take over,” Misty stated.

“Well, Joey wants you to go back to Mars. He wants you to drop her into the atmosphere where she will burn up,” Hester informed her.

“What! I can’t do that! Tell Joey I quit!” Misty swore.

“Joey is back incommunicado. We’re already turned and headed back to Mars,” said Hester. Misty’s face turned red and stayed that way.

“Misty, I have an idea,” Sam said. He motioned for her to come in close and he began to whisper into her ear. When he finished Misty nodded, hope returning to her eyes.

“Wake her up,” Misty told Hester calmly.

“Joey ordered her destroyed,” the android replied.

“Do you see Joey? Am I the commander?” she reminded him. Hester moved, relaying her orders. Misty dragged a chair close to the big bug, directly in front of her. In just a few minutes Annabelle stirred.

“Are you alright?” Misty asked.

“I don’t feel well. You drugged me,” she stated without inflection.

“I’ll wait. When you feel better, we need to talk,” Misty said.

“We better talk now. I don’t think I am going to be able to withstand the gee forces all the way to the Earth,” Annabelle informed her.

“All right. You must know how dangerous you are. Joey has decided to make a sacrifice for the greater good. Do you understand?”

“When you discovered my biologic computer I felt my time might be drawing to a close.”

“Joey prepared this ship and crew against you but the entire world can’t be changed. He can’t allow you near. I have a plan in which you might live. Do you want to hear it?”

“I do,” Annabelle said and Misty felt she heard hope returning.

“Can you breathe Martian air and withstand the gravity?”

“The gravity isn’t even half that of Earth and I’ll quickly muscle up, so yes I can do it. It’s thin air but I can breathe it. I would have to slow down, though, slow my metabolism.”

“If I put you on the surface will you do something for me?”

“Maybe. There’s nothing to eat, there,” Annabelle said.

“I’ll send automated supply ships until you can build your own farms. I want you to build sustainable habitats for lots of humans. When they get there, live with them in harmony. Can you do that?” Misty inquired.

“I exude a fictile elastic ceramic suitable for building but I can’t machine. You’ll need to send them airlocks, cars, batteries, air-handlers,”

“So you’ll do it?”

“Now that you know my vulnerabilities you can kill me easily, so I would be stupid to refuse. I could hatch worker drones, of course, and maybe another queen or two to keep me company.”

“Within reason,” Misty advised.

“Agreed!” Annabelle chimed.

“Agreed. Hester! Get Annabelle back into her pressure suit and prepare to parachute her to the ground, wherever she wants, with as many supplies as we can provide. Order more food from Joey in an emergency picket, fill him in when he calls, and head us for home,” Misty rose then commanded.

Annabelle actually nodded her huge head.

“Aye Aye,” replied Hester, already commanding his troops. Misty said goodbye to Annabelle, promising to keep in touch, before returning to her quarters with Sam. Hester promised them some privacy, that if he didn’t call then everything was proceeding smoothly. Misty enjoyed her downtime with her husband in the comfortable accommodations; it wasn’t arduous traveling between these relatively close planets. It was the fourth day, almost home when Hester contacted them over the intercom.

“Feeling safe now, Joey has re-established communications. He has provided some information for you. He has deputized me to deliver it, avoiding the annoying time delays encountered over this distance. May I proceed?” Hester announced over the intercom.

“Come in,” Misty allowed. Although appearing calm, not ill at ease, Hester politely refused to join them at the table for a pretend bite and it refused their offer of a seat with them in the day room.

“May I proceed?” Hester asked again while standing at ease.

“Yes, please,” Sam said.

“Joey commends your application of diplomatic acumen while handling Annabelle Constance. Joey is sure, under your tutelage, that she will prove an asset to humanity.”

“So it isn’t mad about Misty changing its orders?” Sam asked.

“I can’t ask Joey just this minute but I can assure you that, if he was irritated, logically, you would not be receiving commendations.”

“Wiseguy,” Sam said without malice.

“Thank you, Hester. Is that it?” Misty asked.

“No. Joey would also like to congratulate you on your condition.”

“Yes, we were lucky to escape,” Misty replied. Hester smiled. Sam was the first to return the smile, automatically until something clicked. Then he smiled wider and then wider. Misty took in the grin of Hester but was agog at her husband’s silly face. He turned the beam on her and opened his arms, rising from the chair to give her a hug.

“I’m pregnant?” she squeaked. She accepted her husband’s hug now feeling a bit giddy herself.

November 18, 2021 02:36

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2 comments

10:20 Nov 22, 2021

Wonderful

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John Hanna
17:27 Nov 22, 2021

Hi Victoria, I'm quite pleased you liked it.

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