Sunday, April 24, 2016

METAINSECT

Sometimes I write fiction, I suppose? Prompt based on Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge.

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    There was something growing.
   
    She knew her mistake as soon as she took two steps. Shouldn’t have done that, Green. Shouldn’t have trusted the filter to still work out here. Should have checked for corrosion. What would Harris say? Thomas would snort and roll her eyes, her whole helmet tipped back in one single laugh that rocked her armor. Then Thomas would forgive her before Green died.

    Green’s throat was tingling.
       
    She tugged her helmet off, hating the click of the back against the now-dead neural port. With what had once been a functioning network array now turned into five grams of metal at the back of her skull, the port just felt like an invasion, a scab she needed to peel off.

    (Not yet, Green. You’re not that far gone yet.)

    The armies had scoured themselves: with all of it burned there was nothing left to devour. Silver mouths scraped at silver stone. Early in her survival, Green would hit the rocks with her armored fist and curse any translucent silver she could find, whether cause or result.
   
    Most of all she hated that last transmission that had beamed down to her while her neural array still functioned: “We haven’t confirmed that this planet is dead yet.”

    The parasite had been in the water, then. Some new kind, or just one she had forgotten in her desperation for the little silver pool sitting wetly in the hollow between stones.

    Another wave of nausea, of strange impressions, of priorities that did not feel like her own. A wound in her brain, too slick too deep. The grasp like talons, predator-sharp, food-chained to the rock and the strata and the needles of the trees, season-endless. She was the planet and it was Green, and the alien was reading infecting colonizing both of them -
   
    The terrible tug, impossible. Filaments clung.

    There had definitely been something in the water.

    (The parasite remembers war. It is a tiny thing now, because it is early in its life cycle and because seeders are tiny. It was made for dropping onto grass, not glass, but it survived. The parasite remembers waiting in a net in a silver ship for its deployment. It remembers dropping, watching the other ships from the other armies lancing across the black-orange and then blue-orange of the contested space.

    The parasite remembers seeing its enemy in their armor. The enemy was bigger than some of the parasite’s species and smaller than others. The enemy spoke through neural waves which were like and unlike the chiaroscuro language it knew. The parasite had been briefed on the stories of the enemy, and it told Green one.

    There are always soldiers.

    There are always people who fight to hold the territory they have been told to keep. They wear armor or show skin, they make the threat display of their and their culture’s choosing.

    In the stories, they learn things. Sometimes these things end when they take off their masks or cover their shoulders with fur cloaks. There is always change, in a story.

    Green,
said the parasite, kindly. It meant this kindly, since it believed in the story, if not in the goodness of its enemy.
   
    Green. It is time to change.)

    Tug.

    Maybe that would be the last one. She had some clarity again, some vision of the leave poking out from between the snotty chunks of glass. Even burning it all couldn’t make the ground perfectly level. At the same time, she remembered the shape of the ground like an overlay. There had been hillocks here. There had been a fuel station over there, now a pile of glass with the remains of the building jutting out, the near side blackened so that it looked like rock.

    What is that? asked a voice in her head that was not the communications array.

    The fuel station, Green thought. As soon as she realized that the thought had transmitted she tried to tug it back, but it had already been read. This is how they learned that they needed to time things for one another. Her breath caught, labored, and she tried to wrest it back.

    Do we need it?

    Maybe.


    She tried not to project her thoughts again, but the parasite was so close, was right on top of her, and the tactical thing to do was to keep calm and give it the information that would solve this problem. Not lies, no, just choices —

    Can I remove you? said Green.

    You would die.

    Green tried to think nothing. Then, we need what might be left at the fuel station. Clean water, maybe, as if that mattered any more. Shelter.

    The parasite agreed quietly. The wordless agreement took just a fraction of a time longer to travel from one part of the new, dual brain than the spoken word did. It was becoming more ingrained, less traumatized, more flexible. All of the things that Green became when she was given the armor and the neural array, all of it happening again, more slowly and less precisely, all of it happening upright while she walked, one heavy-sheathed foot in front of the other, instead of while she was laying down in a hospital bed.

    Growing still, extruding new antennae.  

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