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The Alien Battery
“March, march, march, my minions! To battle! Kill the intruder. Kill the intruder. Kill her!”
Jon was god of the ants. He dawned over their generous enclosure with his Hive-Relay headset, insane with dominion. Jon allowed the fact that literally anyone could purchase this kind of power to evaporate from the pool of thoughts that was his sickly mind. Three-hundred and fifty credits from the tech company’s online catalogue; fifty credits for express air-shipping.
Jon called upon his hero ant, Duncan Warchild: “Make way, peasants! Your valiant Warchild has arrived! Fear not, you tiny, tiny, tiny things.”
From a trap door, formerly hidden beneath a littering of dried leaves atop the elevated side of the glass enclosure, crawled a much greater ant: a different species. It was a brown ant, with formidable serrated pincers and sizeable eyes. This ant was perhaps twenty times the size of the black ants that held vast numbers within the enclosure. Jon had broken the laws of nature to summon his powerful hero. In nature, the black ant swarm would have eradicated Duncan Warchild. In nature, an ant would not be named Duncan Warchild.
The brown ant, under Jon’s mind-spell, charged into the thick of the battle. Hundreds of black ants were at work, nipping and weighing down the terrible intruder — a green and fat praying mantis Jon had thrown into the enclosure a few minutes back. Duncan Warchild latched his battle-worn pincers upon the intruder’s abdomen, eviscerating her with not a figment of compassion. The haemolymph-thirsty hero disfigured several of his allies in the process.
Another brainwashed entity had also failed to feel compassion: Jon Huggins. This human boy would merrily spend his school holidays sacrificing insects to his enchanted minions. He was rewarded with consistent solace each time he performed the perverted ritual.
Jon was nothing without the ants, but the ants were nothing without Jon: they would be in stasis still at the store, awaiting the next twelve-year-old boy to activate them with their parent’s credit card.
Stupid bugs, thought Jon. Your lives are nothing. Without me you would be nothing. Nothing, nothing — “Nothing!”
“Jon, bed-time voice, honey,” came the defeated voice of a defeated mother.
Twice divorced, stuck with a questionably disturbed child. Her latest husband — who was near old enough to be her father — was the buoy to which her painted claws were clinging. And if Liam was the buoy, Jon was undisputedly the sea. The boy was the flat expanse followed by the unforeseen swell, the king wave taking the shore by surprise.
Jon knew he could easily push his mother: it was school holidays, he deserved this.
“I’m busy! Why buy me a Hive-Relay kit if you won’t let me use it? Just turn up your bull-shit reality show and mind your own business.”
Jon’s mother turned a semi-tangible dial before her face clockwise, defeated, and the volume rose, permeating through her compressed and sterile living room.
What trials would the ant god next inflict upon his creations? A flood? Fire? Actually, Jon would remove the Hive-Relay headset to pause his tormenting scenario and move to his computer. While on pause, the hearts of the ants would still beat. They were alive, real — just frozen, paralysed. The kit’s instructions were clear: “Pause for no longer than two hours”. Perhaps the ants would have preferred the flood?
As it had happened ten-thousand local orbits ago, the capsule’s waking sequence triggered, prompting the destabilisation of its null-entropic chambers. The capsule’s two harvest-scientists reanimated gently within their individual chambers — each leaving the tomb-like structures when their pale-pink flesh became wet, loose and bubbly with movement. No time was wasted on reacquaintance: the Seeder species functioned as a single entity — each individual Seeder was a neuron collating to a brain.
The culture to which the capsule and its scientists were posted would now be harvested for its creative potential through non-invasive observation. Near to the end of one local orbit, findings from the harvest would be refined and, if deemed significant, relayed to the Seeding Fleet within a single compacted data bundle via Ether Thread. Only a fraction of the total observational data collected could pass coherently through the Ether, and the catalysts used to harness it were rationed stringently. Hence, the scientists must be precise and confident in their analysis of this multifarious planet. Their report must include only vital thought and invention: creation that may promote longevity for their own space-faring species.
The methodical duo had been focusing their harvest on the advances of a bipedal primate expression at temporal intervals over the past two-hundred thousand local orbits. This focal expression was the fourth promising candidate to arise from the planets cultivation, and still nothing had yet been learnt — nothing that the Seeders had not already conceived themselves, or interpreted through harvesting the creative potential of other prosperous cultures.
Conclusive to the last scheduled harvest, the focal expression of this planet’s culture remained in a pseudo-natural evolutionary chapter with minimal technological advancement. The expression was simple in mind, and grew slowly, akin to the failed foci before — destined, it would seem, to follow the same fruitless path.
However, with the present harvest, the pair of astute scientists had ascertained that the focal expression had far exceeded its former constraints, thus allowing itself to deviate from the beaten path of extinction.
The expression now smelted the elements of its planet, using the produce to create technologies and facilitate activities typical of a natural stage-one civilisation: intersystem satellitic photosynthetics; intra-system resource gathering drones with cargo slipstreams; primitive, but sustainable intra-system colonies; and in-situ terraforming and climatic stabilisation.
It was also evident that the expression had proficiency with biological manipulation and synthetic augmentation — these traits too, being typical of, and even superseding, a stage-one civilisation: self-perpetuating immunology; climate adaptive genealogy and phenology; alteration of lower forms of expression for consumptive efficiency; and transference of neurological networks to exterior hosts.
Initial harvest suggests that the bipedal primate expression had even surpassed the universal suffocation: overpopulation. Overcoming this most threatening non-acute catastrophe was evidence reassuring of a sustainable and fertile trajectory.
And such apparent feats all within the time between harvests. Rapid growth as this had not before been recorded. Very, very promising, and a much-needed breath of optimism for the Seeding Fleet.
The capsules life support function initiated a perpetual secretion of stimulant into its venting network, forcing the moist and porous epidermides of the many-limbed scientists into diffusion. Rest would come only to these spongy space-faring beings through means of null-entropic chamber. For now, they had work to do.
Jon awoke early into the afternoon. His first thoughts were destructive.
“Crawling, itching, biting bastards. Your king is here. Your god is here.” The boy stretched and rolled toward the ant enclosure to the side of his single mattress.
“What? Dead! Dead! Dead! The lot of you! Duncan Warchild, no! Not you too!”
Jon Huggins was nothing without the ants. And he had killed them all with his inaction: his inability to allow them to fend for themselves.
In disbelief, he scrammed for the Hive-Relay headset, forcing it awkwardly onto his blonde head.
Move, move, move! Get up, Duncan! Up, Warchild! he screamed from his flustered mind into the fried mind of his prized brown ant. Nothing. Not a twitch of an antenna, nor a kick of a leg.
By now, Jon’s defeated mother had made it up the stairs to try and quelle her flaming child.
“Honey, what happened?” She was so weak, and quick to provide affection to a boy that accounted for one-hundred percent of her crying.
“I need a new ant farm: this one is broken. Give me your credit card.” Jon was red and fuming, and really trying his best to be polite.
“Your ants are dead again?”
“Jon, they are living creatures.” The woman’s plea was bland.
“Grrr! They are ants. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Nothing!”
Jon sat across from his mother in their automatic vehicle, glaring at her. The woman’s face was painted in blue light from the peripheries of her primitive VR glass.
Probably looking for another husband, Jon surmised.
Closing in now on the shopping mall, Jon’s heart fluttered. Social anxiety tore his nervous system and forced him to swallow it. He wouldn’t wait two days for air-shipping, no way. So, he had no choice.
The boy huddled close to his exhausted mother as they walked briskly down the toy section to the telepath insect kits. The shelves were full, and this store had all the different types of kits. Mmm, but there in the middle was Jon’s favourite — the kit he had now been gifted on three separate occasions by the grace of three separate bank accounts.
“Ants again, honey? Don’t you want to try a spider? One bug might be easier.” She regretted her suggestion instantly. The damaged mother was trying only for conversation.
Jon had a look upon his face — as if a sewerage plant had exploded. I always get the black ants, and a commander. Stupid woman knows this.
Jon was red and sweaty, and really trying his best to be polite. “The black ants, up the top.” Jon extended out an eager finger. “That one!”
“I can’t reach that, honey.” Stretching, struggling. “May… maybe we can ask someone from the store.”
Over the rows of shelving a tall employee hears the struggle.
“Let me get that down for you, young man.” He reaches the kit with ease, lowering it into the shopping trolley with surgical carefulness. “Wouldn’t want to wake the little guys!”
Jon wouldn’t allow his anxiety to stop him from showing off. “Ants don’t feel. Ants don’t need sleep. And those ants are frozen. Soon they will be under my control and I will make them fight. Sometimes I make them fight real ants from the crack in the curb outside my house.”
Hmmm. Jon was smug now. This guy knows nothing. I am god of the ants.
“Son, you can’t just torture the things. You have to leave them be from time-to-time. Turn off the Hive-Relay when you are not using it. Pausing it can kill them.”
This guy was pushing Jon further toward a sweaty tantrum, and his mother could sense the impending suffering in the conditioned air of this giant mall. Maybe this time she would just do and say nothing, and save herself the migraine and wrinkles.
“I know ants. I bring them to life. I am in control!”, Jon blurted with spit.
“Look, son. Why have you got to torture the poor things? Let them be. Watch them as ants, not reflections of your anger. Watch the ants be ants. You might just learn something.”
Jon’s rage fired in a chain reaction through his red and sweaty body. “Learn something? They’re fucking ants!”
The planet hosting the bipedal primate expression would soon complete its elliptical circuit.
Within a capsule suspended in a space-time fissure, the harvest scientists fondled a scattered array of bulbous controls with each of their retractable limbs. The older of the semi-transparent creatures raised its segmented appendages to a smooth dial above its pulpous head, coating it in a film of luminescent mucous, and cropping the harvest for Ether Thread transfer.
Initial assumption following the waking sequence hypothesised that the culture had evolved an expression that had attained stage-one status far quicker than any previously harvested. This hypothesis had been tested, and the mechanism elucidated:
The focal expression refers to itself as human. It consists of approximately three-billion individual components, all of which suffer the illusion of self and self-worth. Individual components comprising the human expression do not behave for the betterment of their species: priority hinges unconsciously on self-preservation. Few individuals in the span of the human expression have come to comprehending a hive mentality akin to that of the Seeders. The bulk of the expression quickly arrests these figureheads along with their innovative solutions. This is due to an illogical and entirely alien morality profile that serves to further bolster individual value within the expression.
Conquests of the individual result in human intra-species tension which repeatedly births physical violence at both intimate and extreme scales. Violent outbursts, at germane intervals, force rival portions of the human expression into technology races pitted against one another. It is evident that the diagnosed strategy is not an evolutionary strategy that the human expression has consciously adopted or created.
Whilst the human expression persists under the illusion of individuality, true dimensional consciousness and volition will remain beyond attainment to it.
It was found that the human expression overcame the universal suffocation by self-induced global catastrophe. The intention of which was not for longevity via population control, but violence for its own sake, incited by trivial differences in fantastical delusions of the expression’s own genesis. This mass extinction event resulted in the loss of seventy-five percent of the entire culture’s biomass. Evolutionary resilience inspired by the occurrence is ten-fold the strength that it was prior, and technologies arising after the occurrence far exceed the capabilities of those formerly.
The Seeder species was thinning, dying. Ether accessibility was diminishing, and with it, the hive neural network. They needed fresh catalyst, but were fresh out of ideas. Countless planets they had seeded with life, hoping to harness the innovation from the expressions that arise to solve their Ether dilemma. Never had a culture shown such promise as it had on Earth. Such rapid progression would surely provide a timely solution. No further planets could afford to be seeded; no further scientists would be posted.
Destruction now respected as a fashion of creation, the Seeders would adopt this high-pressure evolution strategy — coined the Human Strategy — amid their next Seeding Fleet colonisation procedure. The habitual strategy of non-invasive colonisation of dormant planets (absent of non-seeded life and seeded culture) will be revoked and replaced with aggressive invasion of planets hosting existing seeded cultures. With this approach, the Human Strategy can be tested in such a way that avoids entirely Seeder intra-species tension — which they can also not afford. The harvest report went further to suggest that Earth itself be the trial candidate, as the focal culture upon it, given sufficient quantity of local orbits, may unconsciously oppose the will of the Seeders.
Violence is most rewarding.
Jon simmered in hatred for the remainder of his school holidays.
On the morning of his first day at a new school he dawned once more over the generous ant enclosure. The boy thought about that day at the mall, about what the employee had said to him. He thought real hard, enthused for the turning of a new page.
Jon picked up the Hive-Relay headset, examined it in his pink hands. Then he turned it off, threw it to the ground and planted a heavy foot hard onto it. The devices fragile nodes and sensors were crushed irreparably.
Jon dawned over the enclose to watch ants be ants.
It was all just too late.
Image edited from Google Earth.