Saturday, May 19, 2012
“So, we all know what we have to do, then?” asked the pit boss, Yellow Thirty-Nine.
“Yay!” everyone clapped their mandibles and stomped their feet in unison.
“Okay then, let’s take this place apart!’ said Yellow Thirty-Nine. “Who’s with me?”
And they all said, ‘yay’ again and went to work with a vengeance. To them, it was just another typical day in the mound.
“My lady, Lord Holo,” murmured the Major, Blue Seven.
“Ah, how gracious of you to come,” said the Queen, languidly brandishing an antennae for him to kiss.
“And what a privilege upon this fine morning,” Lord Holo said, bowing deeply.
“It is time,” she said with a worried frown evident upon her massively distended face.
“Yes,” said Lord Holo.
“They will show up before the day is far along,” she said.
“We’re sealing off this chamber even now,” reported Lord Holo. “As for the evacuation, we should be able to save twenty or even thirty percent.”
“Oh, for the little ones, they depend upon us so,” she cried. “They can never understand that their deaths have such meaning, and such promise.”
“Yes, well, the plan isn’t exactly foolproof, either,” he advised. “If it’s any comfort, I share your fate.”
“And my husband?”
“With the King to guide them,” he muttered. “Or even without, we have no braver troops in the world.”
Several little ones entered the chamber and scuttled about, gathering up the most recent batch of glistening, moist eggs. They would be sealed into a special capsule, airtight and with thick walls. Preparations had been extensive, with a surrogate queen growing nicely and a generous supply of food.
She was about to speak, but didn’t. She knew they didn’t need to be told, but this batch was especially vital, with the casualties the soldiers were predicting. Familiar with the ways of soldiers in general and males in particular, even if one discounted by half, it was still going to be a bloodbath.
“Thank you,” said Lord Holo.
“Yay,” said all the workers.
The last one, Yellow Thirty-Nine, stopped and turned, waiting with bowed head before exiting the chamber.
“Seal us in well, my friend,” said Lord Holo humbly.
“Yellow Thirty-Nine,” said the Queen. “Thank you. You may approach.”
Yellow Thirty-Nine approached her in a submissive posture and licked her mouthparts.
“Thank you, my Queen,” Yellow Thirty-Nine said. “I have always appreciated everything that you did for us. I die with dignity.”
“Good-bye, Yellow Thirty-Nine,” she said with a catch in her voice, and then he turned and was gone.
“He, at least, understands,” noted Holo.
Try as they might, as bravely as they resisted, the clouds of rolling gas killed them in their thousands, nay, in their millions. Workers, soldiers, young and immature queens, they died as equals before the gas.
It was a battle they knew they could not win, and so they fought it to survive. They fought to show the enemy their dead.
They had a long term plan all worked out, and in the meantime, they advanced in such small increments. The enemy seemed unable to cope with their long-term strategy.
“Honestly Mister Jackson, that’s about the best we can do,” reported Jake Saunders. “Call us in thirty days and we’ll do it again, it’s all paid for.”
“Yes, yes,” said Nick Jackson. “I really should have patched the cracks there…my fault really, but we’re moving in another year.”
“Patch up them holes in the sheet metal,” advised Saunders. “That’s where they’re getting in. Anyway, a home inspector will find them little critters, if he’s any good. Well, good luck to you.”
Either a philosopher or a slob where material things were concerned, Nick watched the man drive up the street to another nearby residence.
“We’re still moving in a year,” he noted glumly, and that was about it for this visit of Happy-Guy Pest Control.
Lord Holo, Blue Seven and several of her attendants broke open the seal and cool air, still smelling strongly of gas, rolled into the chamber.
“We’ll air the place out quickly,’ Blue Seven said, noting her discomfort.
“Ah! Here is one of my men,” noted the Major.
The soldier, Green Eleven, entered and made his report.
“Our secondary and tertiary locations remain secure, Major,” he said. “Twelve surrogate queens destroyed, but all of the others are safe and secure.”
“Good,” said Lord Holo.
He looked at the queen.
“Better than expected,” he said.
“Total kill, forty percent, maybe a bit less,” advised Green Eleven. “About normal for this type of operation.”
“Thank you, Green Eleven,” said the Queen, and allowed him to lick for a moment. “And you as well, Lord Holo.”
Lord Holo approached less submissively than Green Eleven and had a long and thorough nuzzle.
She let Blue Seven have a short sniff after them.
The King returned then, triumphant.
“Yay,” said the little ones, some of whom were crowding into the chamber to see if she was well, and unable to control their own discipline. “Yay. Yay. Yay.”
“Licks for everyone! You’ve all done very, very well,” she announced in joyous celebration as they all crowded around, her consort, the workers, soldiers, and nobility.
For a precious time, they were all equal together, feasting as one upon the royal substance exuding from her body.
Author's Note: This is an old story from the archives. It uses dialog tags, which I am eliminating as much as possible in my more mature literary style. It is 895 words, which puts it in the realm of flash fiction, and in terms of science, it's not too bad. Insects use pheremones and other forms of social communication. There is some social and political commentary here as well. Hopefully it isn't too preachy. I've also added the word 'BLOG' to the end of the file name, and that way I remember not to submit it around with the claim, 'This has never appeared anywhere before.'