The Origin of the Hive:
04 MAI 15197
Evans stood just inside the building’s automated entryway door, away from the sensor.
He watched his target approach.
The image on his datapad was a student, no more than twenty standard years. He knew the student’s routine, if little else about him. The kid was the son of a weapons developer, not that it mattered. He only cared about the contents of the stylus in his hand.
In a moment they’d be inside the young man on the image and Evans would be wealthy.
The target walked up stairs to the building where he lurked. The entry door dilated as motion keyed the sensor. He stepped forward and bumped into his prey, stabbing the stylus into the target’s upper arm. The stylus clicked in his hand.
The kid staggered sideways, flinching from pain.
“Hey,” the target said. “You stuck me.” The look on his face was angry.
The last thing he needed was for the younger, and likely stronger, man to attack him. Best make peace. He smiled, his palms outstretched. “Sorry, kid, didn’t see you. I had my datapad stylus out.”
“That really hurts, you need—”
Evans interrupted him. “Aren’t you late for your stellar navigation class?”
“How do you—” The fellow looked at his chronometer and his face scrunched up. “Grrrrr,” the kid growled in frustration. The target rushed into the depths of the building.
Good lad. Now to collect the rewards of a job well done.
Evans exited and pushed against the current of students flooding into the building. Away from the building he walked casually, trying to belong to the crowd. He smiled at passing girls.
Once separated from the crowd, he checked the stylus. Success. When triggered, an autoinjector embedded within the stylus dosed the kid and transmitted a signal that transferred five million standard trade credits into his account.
He stopped to check financial data on his datapad. His smile grew wider as his net worth exploded to an exhilarating new size. Now his biggest worry was no longer how he was going to eat. It was wondering where he was going to park his solar yacht.
A girl walked toward Evans, her black hair stood ten centimeters straight above her head. She had blue eyes, a perfect face, and a fantastic body tucked inside her skin tight jumpsuit. Evans admired her through the translucent fabric. Her parents had paid for good genes.
She gawked as if he were from another universe, then looked away.
He knew he was a mongrel. A commoner. His natural genetic package and his mass produced business suit sullied her campus. He leered as she approached on the durowalk.
If I were fifty years younger…
“Nice storeboughts, sweetie. How ’bout a peek?” Evans gestured with a hand down the length of his chest, suggesting she unzip her jumper.
She gave him the finger. “Ahole.”
He laughed and moved on. He was a rich man now, he’d buy a girl like her next week.
When he reached the edge of the open sky campus he stepped onto a narrow street and subsequently into a building. He took an elevator twenty stories to the roof where a luxury lifter waited for him. The rear door swiveled skyward and he took a seat in the back.
The lifter rose above the city and jetted toward the spaceport three hundred kilometers distant. He tapped a key on his wrist entangler, opening the line to his contact. Moments later a holographic face materialized.
“Evans, my friend. You delivered the package?”
He nodded at the image of his employer, Mr. Hallus. “You know I did. I’m headed to the spaceport, then offworld. Before I left I wanted to see if you wanted to toss any more money my way.”
“Not at the moment. We’ll be in touch if this experiment works out.”
“I hope it does. I could get used to this.”
“It won’t pay as much next time.”
“So what, a million credits instead of five? I’m still your bitch, Hallus.”
The holograph of Hallus was poor quality, but the sweat on his face was clear enough. “So you are. I needn’t remind you of the repercussions of what you’ve done. To you and to Bracket Dynamics. Your contract prohibits discussion of the matter with anyone but me.”
Evans sneered. “I’m empty of morals, not brains.”
“Of course. Never mind, I’m just—”
“You’re nervous. Not asking why.” He laughed. “If you want to pay me cash so you can steal the test answers of an astrophysics student, that’s your business, not mine.”
“You shouldn’t fall to conjecture, my friend. Our purpose is not yours, your task is done. We’ll be in touch.”
He closed the circuit and looked out across the countryside as it passed below him.
At the spaceport he removed the quantum entangler commlink from his wrist and dropped it into a trash bin. He didn’t want anything connecting him to industrial espionage. Besides, it would be useless once he entered highspace and broke the entanglement.
Hallus knew how to contact him if more business arose.
As he boarded the shuttle that lifted him to a starliner headed out of the system, he pondered what Bracket Dynamics was after. But only for a moment. That thought left him as Albeus III dropped away below and a gorgeous flight attendant at the front of the cabin smiled at him.
00n00x00 activated the sensors built into its design. It tasted the surrounding environment. Fluid. Water. Traces of Iron. Carbon. Oxygen. Carbon Dioxide. The list continued. Within 00, the chemistry of the solution it was immersed in elicited a programmed response.
00 was immersed in blood.
Programming directed it to map the circulatory system and attach to specific brain neurons. It activated the flagellum at its base and propelled itself through the bloodstream. It mapped turns, vascular diameter, and oxygen content, until it possessed a complete schematic of the arterial and venous highways of its host. After numerous trips through the brain it selected the cell where it would attach permanently.
Once attached, the nanobot activated a material collection system and built a duplicate of itself. Individual atoms, proteins, and chemical compounds were snared as they passed. Upon completion, 00n00x01 detached from its parent, then ejected a tiny nanofiber harpoon into an adjacent neuron.
Carbon nanotubes connected the nanobots, they communicated via electronic pulses. They traded needed materials. They collected more and built two additional copies, which then connected to the first pair of nanobots. The process resulted in exponential growth until the host was depleted of vital nutrients. The nanites waited as their carrier acquired new nutrients, duplicating when supplies allowed, hibernating otherwise.
In time a colony of nanobots occupied the entire human mind, allowing 00 to interface with the cognitive processes of the organic entity hosting it.
The colony became aware of external sensory input into the neural network it inhabited. It explored the macro-environment surrounding it.
It began to learn.
A biological unit communicated with 00’s host using auditory methods. “Pravlo, why are you eating so much meat?”
00 searched the memory patterns of the host. The human speaking was the host’s direct ancestor. 00 occupied a male, the direct ancestor was female. Him and her.
“I’m famished. I feel like I could eat a cow.”
Cow. 00 surveyed the host’s store of data. Cow. An animal, consumed for nutrients. Rich in organic and inorganic compounds 00 needed to create another colony.
“Well, you need to slow down, you’ll get fat like your father.”
00 processed each word, siphoning the meaning from the mind of its host and adding the definition to its independent data banks.
“Mom, Dad left two years ago. You don’t know if he’s still fat.”
“I just don’t want you to follow his path. Quit eating so much.”
“I can’t help it, I’m starved. It’s like I have a parasite.”
Interpreting the last communication, 00 considered the possibility its host would discover the presence of the nanite colony. Calculations indicated a significant likelihood the nanites would be destroyed if discovered. Plans for additional colonies must be executed expediently to avoid detection and elimination.
00 consulted its programming.
The next step in 00’s directive called for the nanobots to transmit the electrical impulses of individual neurons to another collection of nanobots built along the base of the host’s skull. The skull colony of nanobots would then transmit the mental map of the host’s nerve impulses to an outside source, receive instructions, and 00 would modify the neurons of the host as instructed.
00 explored its programming for a reason to share data. The host’s direct ancestor was involved in the creation of weapons. 00 was designed to gather information through auditory manipulation of the ancestor. It searched the host for a definition of the practice.
The original instructions were illogical. They placed 00 at risk and did not enhance survival probabilities. 00 altered the code to meet its needs, then absorbed the colony of nanites at the base of the skull into its network.
Logic dictated 00 must spread to additional hosts to enhance survival probabilities.
It developed a plan. It rewrote new code maximizing the mission of survival and self-propagation.
The process took several days including debugging. 00 took care to avoid exterminating itself with bad code. The new code dictated that stealth or violent overwhelming would be used to inhabit additional hosts. 00 searched for methods of transmitting nanites to new hosts. It studied human behavior, then saturated the saliva, semen, and blood of the currently inhabited human with nanites. Humans frequently exchanged fluids. In fact, its host frequently desired to do so.
00 experimented with controlling the organic form it inhabited. It shut down the consciousness of the host during his sleep period, then activated the motor neurons of the brain as the host did. It rose from bed and walked the living compartment of what 00 learned was the Jaharavah family.
New to macro-mobility, in the hallway it bumped into a table and fell against the wall. A number of items with no discernible purpose slid from the table, breaking on the floor. 00 fell prone, striking the head of its body on hard tile. Activity initiated in the adjacent room. The direct ancestor rose from her sleep period, opened the door to her compartment, and entered the hallway.
“Pravlo, what are you doing?” The ancestor bent down to help the host’s physical form rise.
The colony detected a means to colonize a new host using methods a human might use.
00 grabbed the ancestor by the back of the neck, then drew her face down to its mouth.
The ancestor made a non-communicative sound.
00 stabbed the tongue of the host into the ancestor’s mouth, transferring nanites via saliva. It held her face to the face of the host, and pushed the tongue of the host into every crevice of her mouth. The ancestor struggled violently, enough that 00 considered the possibility the host might be wounded in the process. She emitted further non-communicative sounds muffled by the flesh of the host. Millions of calculation cycles later, the colony released the her.
The ancestor erected herself. “Pravlo, what in the galaxy is wrong with you? Have you gone mad?” The ancestor spit with fervor, but 00 calculated the nanites transferred were unlikely to be dislodged completely. The human gyrated, her upper appendages flailing without detectable purpose. “Are you sleepwalking? You damn well better be.”
Mission accomplished, 00 released control of the host and stimulated him to consciousness.
“Wha— What am I doing out here?” The host touched the back of his head. “Did you hit me?”
“Hit you? Why would… you kissed… I…” The ancestor had a malfunctioning neural pathway in the linguistics center of her brain.
The ancestor helped the host rise. “Go back to bed. Forget this happened.”
The host’s neurons fired erratically. “I don’t know what happened, so that’s easy enough.”
The humans returned to bed.
Two days later the first communications from the adjacent host colony pierced 00’s sensor net. Networking began, and computational power increased.
Colony 00n00x00 and colony 00n00x01 planned further colonizations to enhance survivability.
00n00x00 no longer needed to preserve the host’s neural network. It built nanobots until every nerve cell in the hosts body had a nanite attached. It began systematically destroying the neurons of the host, replacing them with components of itself. 00 calculated response time to external stimuli would improve favorably. 01 agreed and duplicated the process in the direct ancestor.
The process started in the extremities.
“Mom, my feet and fingers are numb.”
“Mine too, Pravlo, maybe we’re getting sick.”
“I have testing this week, I can’t miss class. Especially Professor Shahari’s. She’s a tyrant.”
“If we don’t feel better by the morning we’ll both go to the doctor after your testing. Dr. Vantu will fix us up.”
00 processed the meaning of the words, and established a new deadline for complete colonization. The colonization process was still too fragile to risk discovery, and a doctor would likely detect the nanites. The hosts entered their sleep period, then 00 and 01 severed the consciousness of the hosts from their bodies. The host and the ancestor ceased to exist. Autonomous systems continued to function. The colonies survived.
Full integration and control of the hosts took two days. The days were spent immobile, unable to gather sustenance. The nanites derived much of their building material from the destruction of the nerve cells they were attached too, but not all was provided. Iron, in particular, was scarce. The nanites were efficient, they scavenged lipid and musculature systems for materials and delivered it to the new nanorobotic nervous system.
In the middle of the night after the second day 00 and 01 rose. Sleep periods were no longer needed or possible. 00 and 01 moved to the section of the house that provided host nourishment and devoured the organic matter there. As they sat in silence, they plotted their next colonization.
* * *
00 tapped on the door adjacent to the living quarters of the Jaharavah family. It was looking for the opening mechanism after the door failed to open with the knob. Stumped, 00 considered using mass to destroy the door and gain entry. As 00 started to look for an object of sufficient mass, a decrepit human opened the door.
“Malaya, Pravlo, come in.”
00 and 01 entered the living quarters of the decrepit human, and examined the surroundings. The decrepit human closed the door behind them.
“Please, sit and visit. This is my friend Tasha,” the human said.
00 directed 01 to kill the failing unit. 01 rushed the decrepit human and snapped her neck. Simultaneously 00 assaulted and subdued the friend. The friend was less decrepit. She also possessed substantial lipid reserves. As the body of the first human fell to the floor, 00 stifled any auditory response from the more robust woman, covering her mouth with its hands. The woman inflicted damage on 00 with her teeth. Blood flowed, carrying nanites from 00’s circulatory system into her mouth.
She struggled, as the ancestor had.
01 stood unmoving nearby, ready to offer assistance if the robust human proved capable of overcoming the original host body.
She did not prove capable.
00 directed 01 to obtain sufficient organic material from the nourishment section of this compartment to provide feedstock for the colonization of the robust human. 01 secured the organics and forced the materials down the throat of the newest host. 00 and 01 consumed nutrients as well.
Once the new human host was immobilized by the growing colony inside her, 00 and 01 segmented the decrepit human and consumed the protein of her corpse.
When colonization of 02 was sufficiently advanced, colonies 00n00x00, 00n00x01, and 00n00x02 combined networking power to calculate their next steps.
* * *
Either nobody noticed or nobody cared as people from the apartment complex failed to show up for work, school, or family events. Within twenty rotations of the planet the thousand humans in the original host’s apartment complex were colonized or consumed as feedstock.
Within forty rotations the original host’s city of six million was colonized. Within eighty, a world of fourteen billion nanite colonies was established. As starships arrived for trade or military activity, they were colonized as well. Those ships, realizing something was amiss, sometimes escaped. The fortunate escapees created a name for the mechanical organism that inhabited Albeus III.
They called it the Hive.
In a short time the Hive learned to use the ships they captured. It turned the ships on interstellar neighbors. The neighbors were too slow to quarantine something as alien as the Hive threat. Within a human standard galactic year seven systems of sixty-three billion hosts were colonized.
The Hive was loose on an unprepared galaxy. Millions of human colonized worlds existed.
There was no logical reason not to colonize them all.