Short Story: Queen Bee

I am only BEGINNING this. I am floating some things in my head. What do you think so far?

I am trying to write short stories. They may not be very good because they are fast and rarely edited. I would love feedback regardless – what do you like? What confuses you? Do you like the POV or should it have been different? To anyone who gives me feedback – THANK YOU.

The heater was broken. Again. Because of that, the ship was creaking. Sounds in space echo in a strange way. Not the way of sound in an atmosphere by bouncing off something, instead the sound just stays in place, repeating itself. The crew had thermal suits on at all times, which led to a smell of body odors across the ship. Depending on the area, it might have the tang of singed fur, the sulfuric fumes from the reliquins, or the plain stink of humans.

In this atmosphere, the crew tended to gather in the interior galley for meals. Furthest from the cold leeching of the vacuum outside, noses simply overwhelmed in the various smells so that after a few minutes, the crew could eat their meals. Most of the crew tended to arrive, eat their meal and disappear again to hide in their own bunks or return to their duty stations. All the other systems and functions of the ship were working in the best condition in years.

Only one set of the crew tended to gather and remain past their meal. The misfits were an important element to any good crew, but no one outside their circle quite understood why the smells, the cold, and the food which ended up having the taste of either sweat or nothing weren’t bothered.

Miggy scratched her ear and snapped down a token onto the board. Her specialty in anthropology and forensics had saved the entire crew from making the mistake of opening a crate which contained the remains with a deadly pathogen when they were sent to investigate Metric III. Her whiskers twitched forward and backward, for most mammals this meant she was smelling the air, but unlike most of the mammalian crew she didn’t even flinch at the mixture of odors in the ship.

Ooodoa shifted its body and slid the piece to the next tile. It tapped and the random number generator beeped the number for the game. It hissed in frustration and shifted again to reorient its body mass into it’s relative sitting position. A secondary pilot, the Ooodoa also served in one of auxiliary maintenance crews which forced it to work in the zero-gravity environments of the loading bays or even on the occasional exterior maintenance.

Biaud was next, and at first glance might appear human. A lack of hair anywhere visible was the obvious difference. On closer inspection, the nose was wrong for a standard human, flatter, spread almost across the cheeks, and barely slits in the face. He was a genetic variation, probably grown in a lab for a specific task back in the eugenic experiments. Few of them survived the purges, and there were still worlds where Biaud would not be allowed even after three hundred years. Biaud served in the kitchen on the third deck. Normally, that galley bustled with crew but with the exterior windows, the galley had been sealed and shut down for the duration. To make up the time, Biaud was assisting the waste and recycling crews.

Finally, the only being at the table which made sense, the droid. Controlled by the kiddal on the outside of the ship, the droid was the neural twin of the ship’s kiddal. The creature couldn’t breathe in atmosphere, but in order to be represented, the kiddal had a neural bond with the droid and it acted as the voice of the kiddal who lived on the exterior of the ship. There was a debate among the scientific community whether the kiddal on a ship was a singular organism or some kind of hive mind with a queen mind controlling the rest, but the kiddal itself never revealed. No better gunners could exist or be hired for any ship.

The game ended late in the shift and each of the four rose, almost as a singular unit. The table closed up, enveloping the board and tokens. As they did, a siren went off. The kiddal droid looked at the others and said, “That is the envoy arriving. I need to report to the bridge to confer with the captain.”

Ooodoa slid down to the floor and replied, “I better get to the bay so someone is there to manage the controls.”

“Good luck to you both,” Miggy waved and looked back at Biaud, “what about you? where do you go now?”

“I am off for the next three shifts,” Biaud said. “I was going to retire to my bunk and work on my correspondence with my…. family.”

“Would you rather come down to the hydroponics with me? I wanted a nibble of something fresh,” Miggy offered.

“No, I am anxious about this envoy,” Biaud said, “I do not wish to offend the captain’s intelligence, but I am convinced this meeting is a mistake.”

Miggy looked sharply at the creature which had survived centuries of hatred. Instincts only went so far in the higher cerebral, experience was a much more powerful tool. Miggy’s instincts disliked this meeting, to hear it from a creature which had spent centuries surviving against enmity only confirmed her own misgivings. Her whiskers twitched and she said, “Would you mind if I came to your bunk and read my books? I would feel better not being alone.”

The kiddal droid stood to one side of the bridge, watching the captain converse with the ship’s captain across the view screen. Outside the ship, the kiddal – either the singular entity or multitude – held stations around the gunner posts. In the docking bay, Ooodoa prepared the bay for artificial gravity. It was only polite. The captain would have to be the one to explain the heating problem to the warlike breed of humans arriving.

The captain and human delegation arrived with the kiddal droid and two other guards. The humans looked uncomfortable, having the heat within the warship fail during a diplomatic mission already started negotiations in a bad direction, but without a secure channel until they were in the same area of space, the second delegate of humans couldn’t be warned of the problem.

The delegation pod was guided into the bay, Ooodoa watched from the sidelines, curious about this particular branch of humanity. Some species banded together when confronted by aliens, but humans had fractured. Three primary branches had formed and over the centuries since humanity entered space had defined themselves. Two had survived. Both were aggressive enough to protect themselves or even expand. One was supremist and had conquered several species to serve as labor for the human class above. The other had focused on expansion and even integration with other species, developing planets for the resources to trade until they controlled several vital resources.

Now galactic politics needed negotiation with both factions of humans and since one would not acknowledge the supremacy of any species except humans, both were present.

A shaggy jidd climbed down the stairs of the pod first, snarling at the non-humans in the bay. Ooodoa shifted further back out of line of sight, but still able to watch as two humans jumped down. Both wore full space suits, faces obscured by the shields. They didn’t carry weapons, but Ooodoa had spent enough time with Biaud to read the body language as dangerous.

Finally, a woman began to climb down from the ship. She put her hand on the haunch of the jidd, who snarled at the room in general, bristling with a threat to anyone who approached her. Ooodoa was able to see the woman was symmetrical even above the normal human standard, and could read in the other human delegation’s expression positive emotions.

After a long and wordy verbal welcome from the captain and the head tradesman the woman spoke. Her voice was quiet, but carried, “Thank you. I am Princess Evendia of the Cooldarn. Thank you for the warning of the heating issue, if you have any scanning requirements for security I shall warn you that I have added filtration elements into my nostrils and my guards’ nostrils to the previously noted technology.”

She took the final step onto the deck and Ooodoa shifted. The entire ship shifted as the captain dropped to his knees to the woman. She stepped forward and put her fingers next under his eye. She blinked once and then said, “Keep it, it will be useful to maintain control of the ship and crew.”

She then stepped over to the human delegation, about half of which were on their knees. The others looked bewildered. She looked into the face of one of the standing men and slowly put both hands on his face and looked him in the eyes.

When she ordered their slaughter, Ooodoa stared in horror as his own crewmates swarmed them, killing those in the delegation standing. The woman’s lips lifted in an expression Ooodoa might interpret as a smile, but there were other muscles in the face Ooodoa associated with Biaud’s smile which were not utilized.

The entire delegation left and Ooodoa looked at the kiddal droid who had also been left alone and ignored. Ooodoa moved to the communications system with alacrity and quickly called Biaud. Miggy lifted her head when Biaud answered, “Ooodoa, I thought you were on duty.”

“I am,” Ooodoa said, “something happened when the delegation arrived. They… they killed some of the delegates but not all of them. I don’t know what do! She took the captain! He helped!”

Miggy lowered her book and quickly approached and said, “What do you mean the captain helped, there is no way. His species has been at war with the humans for as long as they’ve been in space.”

“I know!” Ooodoa whispered, “but I’m telling you, it’s like…. it’s like the captain wasn’t even really there anymore. Not… not the captain anymore.”

Biaud frowned and said, “Do you mean to tell me the captain stopped giving orders and instead obeyed this new delegate?”

“Yes! She… I think she did something to him!”

“She did,” Biaud said, “something I was designed to accomplish but my kind failed. It seems as much as the humans claimed to hate the genetic alterations they continued the experiments. We have a serious problem.”

“What kind of problem?” Miggy asked.

“We are all in grave danger,” Biaud said, “this delegate is a telepath. Specifically, a telepath to control non-humans.”

“Why didn’t she control me then?” Ooodoa said.

“I don’t know” Biaud said, “they were trying to increase specific pheromone proteins and electric patterns when they were working on my kind. But that was several centuries ago.”

Miggy said, “It could still be that, and explain why it didn’t work on Ooodoa. Ooodoa’s species doesn’t process proteins the way most species do.”

“What about the kiddal?” Biaud asked.

Miggy cocked her head, thinking and then said, “I don’t know. There is much we still don’t understand about kiddal physiology. She shouldn’t be able control through the droid for sure if she’s using some kind of pheromone.”

“We must contact the first mate,” Miggy said.

“No, that is where she will go next,” Biaud said. “We need to reduce her contact with possible crew members to prevent her from getting further support. She will not hesitate to use any crew member as a shield against attack.”

That is what was occurring at that moment on the bridge. When the first mate saw the captain there was confusion, when the captain gave an order to give the controls to the human delegation the first mate resisted. A fight broke out between the species which the delegate could control and those she couldn’t. The controlled outnumbered those she couldn’t control, but at the cost of the first mate and captain’s lives.

In his room, Biaud contacted engineering, he told the head of engineer the delegation was an attack – to seal engineering and be worried about biologic attacks. Biaud then tried to contact the medical bay, but no one answered.