‘Adaptation’* * *
Lirra’s family had only been gone a few hours when she had her first crisis. She was out in the southwest pasture, checking on the cows, when she happened to notice one of them behaving strangely. Hopping the fence, she walked over to it. The cow was grazing, same as the other twenty cows in the pasture, but it kept tossing its head, like there was a fly bothering it.
Since flies were one of the many things humans hadn’t brought with them to Fenson’s World, Lirra decided she should check it out. She’d never seen a fly, but they were shown in the animal husbandry vids that comprised almost the entirety of the vids on the farm. The cows, she remembered, had reacted to them much like this one was doing.
So she strode through the tufts of Earth grass, which despite the cows was slowly driving out the native grass all through the valley their farm was in. Of course, the xenocides that had been bombed planetwide before they settled had given Earth plants a more level playing field.
But there were only a few hundred thousand settlers, and it would have taken tens if not hundreds of millions to totally clear the planet of its native life forms. And anyways, Fenson’s World was a Hansonite colony. They weren’t interested in spreading their own ecosystem across the cosmos. They just wanted to farm, to avoid the temptations of “civilized” life, and to pray.
Which was why Lirra’s parents had hitched up the wagon for the two-week journey to Nabokov City that morning. Her cousin Hildra was getting married, and the clan had to be represented at the cathedral. As the youngest unmarried adult, Lirra got to stay home and tend the farm for a month.
As she got near the cow, it seemed to have calmed back down, but she walked up to it anyways. It raised its head to look at her with its large brown eyes, then went back to grazing. All of the farm’s two hundred cows knew Lirra. She talked to it softly, then stroked its head.
And found something odd. Puzzled, she stepped to its side and pushed through the shaggier hair between its ears.
Between its ears, glued to the top of its head with a rubbery substance, was a pale green sphere about the size of an egg.
Lirra stepped back from it. Lyrkan wasps. One of the native fauna that had been able to deal with Earth life, Lyrkan wasps were large, wasp-like creatures that sometimes nested in human buildings. Worse, they laid eggs on farm animals which if not removed would hatch in a few days and burrow into the animal.
Rather than killing it, though, the Lyrkan wasp larvae would root into the brain of whatever animal it had been laid on. Once that happened, the animal would hang around the hive, serving as a food source for the primary type of larvae, which would later form cocoons and become actual wasps. The larvae in the animal’s brain would never come out.
Infected animals would actually attempt to defend the hive of the wasp that infected them. There were no vids of it, since the Hansonites didn’t allow recording equipment, but there were discussions of Lyrkan wasp infestations in the various radio bulletins that kept the widely-flung farms in touch with each other.
Luckily, the wasps were easy enough to deal with. Although the glue that bound the egg to the wasp’s victim was tenacious, and the rubbery egg hard to destroy, it was not exceedingly difficult to remove. If the egg was removed before it had hatched, no harm done. Find and destroy the nest, and that was that. Since the eggs took almost a week to hatch, farmers who kept their eyes open usually didn’t have any problems.
Those who didn’t watch their stock carefully, well, they’d have to destroy a few animals. The jury was still out on whether meat from a Lyrkan wasp host was safe or not—by all rights it should be, but no one was in enough need to want to find out.
Lirra stared at the egg. It was greenish, opaque, and looked a bit like a soap bubble because of the rubbery glue attaching it to the cow’s head. The cow was behaving like it didn’t notice. Lirra reached towards the egg, hesitated, then squeezed the egg gently—it bent only slightly, like it was made of hard rubber.
She should remove it. Lead the cow to the barn, shave its head and pry off the egg.
Some part of Lirra, nearer her belly than her brain, wanted to see what the egg would do. It actually would take over the cow, make the cow feed and defend the wasp’s hive. Enslave it to bugs.
Somehow, it gave Lirra a dangerous thrill to think about it.
No, that was stupid. And dangerous. Papa would be so angry if one of the cows had to be killed.
Anyways, she had plenty of time.
The hive. She should find the hive. This egg had only been laid within the last day or two. It would become almost see-through as it ripened, compared to the greenish opaque color it was now. She needed to find the hive. Then she’d come back and remove the egg.
It took all morning. She checked the trees all around the meadow, the surrounding stands of big brittle fern-like things that had the place of trees in the native ecosystem, and all the sheds and outbuildings. It had to be somewhere.
Lyrkan wasps made big, open nests, which they adhered to an overhang and built down like a cylindrical tower. Since the wasps themselves grew to be as large as a farm cat, and folded up were still big as three fists, the nest had to be somewhere it could grow. And it had to be somewhere near to the cows. Lyrkan wasps only went after large animals.
As she searched, Lirra was getting more and more excited. Lyrkan wasps! Not dangerous, not really, unless... unless they got you, somehow, in a place where you couldn’t get the egg off. For days.
Of course, no human had ever been actually infected. A few had had eggs laid on them, often in their sleep, but nobody had ever had one hatch. Had one burrow into their brain.
Only cows had been victimized. They didn’t have hands, couldn’t complain about this thing that had been laid on their heads. Probably forgot about it. Until it hatched, and took them over.
God, what would a human host do? Would they just go feral, hang around the hive and let the larvae suck their blood? Or would they still think like a human? And if so, would they try to get help? Or would they truly be a slave, protecting their new species to the best of their ability?
Lirra walked out of the woods and leaned on the split-rail fence. The cow—that cow—grazed among all the others like it didn’t have a time bomb ticking just above its brain. Beyond it was the ranch house, the chicken sheds, the barn...
Of course. Dry, protected, and the cows were in it. Lirra raced across the field.
Their barn was large, easily three stories and covering a substantial floor area. Still, it only took Lirra a few minutes to check the outside eaves and all the interior roof visible from the ground floor. Chickens pecked idly around the interior floor. Wasps never went after birds. Not enough brain, or enough meat.
She looked up at the high ceiling. It had to be in the hayloft. Lirra paused as she took hold of the bottom rungs. What was she going to do? She should destroy the nest, but that would take an axe or at least a shovel. How would she climb the ladder with a big weapon?
Well, she should just find it first. No rush. Silly to carry something up there to find that the nest wasn’t there.
And anyways, Lyrkan wasps weren’t very aggressive, even around their nest. Few of the native life forms were, and those that were had been eliminated. Pauly’s wasps showed up occasionally—for some reason, the life on Fenson’s World tended towards insects—and had to be destroyed before they killed anyone with their vicious mandibles or potent venom. Hyrrathi, which were bred as a fur animal, still existed in the wild in a few places. But that was about it. Lyrkan wasps didn’t rate as dangerous.
Anyways, if it was there, she could just back down the ladder. If not, and the nest was up there, she could fetch a shovel and destroy it. They had a shotgun around, so when the wasp did return, she could get it too.
Lirra climbed the tall ladder to the hayloft. No buzzing, so if the nest was up here, the wasp wasn’t home. The loft was half full of last year’s hay—it had been a mild winter. Lirra stepped off the ladder and walked around the bales, breath short in anticipation.
There it was. New, just like she had suspected, hanging from the low ceiling where the roof came down towards the wall. A cord of chewed brittlewood was stuck to the ceiling of the loft, and beneath it the cylindrical hive was just getting started. The top row of hexagonal cells was finished, and the next row was halfway around. No wasps in sight.
Lirra walked a little closer. Little greenish white eggs were visible at the rear of the cells. They were the same as the egg that had been fastened to the cow outside—somehow, Lyrkan wasp larvae knew where they were and grew into very different adult forms, depending. Lirra knelt down by a hay bale, looking at the little round things and wondered how they could tell. For some reason, she didn’t want to get too close.
Then she realized there was buzzing behind her.
She froze. It had been out somewhere, just the one wasp. Of course it was just one—it had to be—people had been actively exterminating them for years now. She wondered where it had survived, and how it had come to their farm. She didn’t move. She was still over nearer the hay bales than the hive. It probably wouldn’t bother her if she didn’t move.
The buzzing resumed, got louder. Sure enough, it was heading for the hive. Lirra tried to breathe quietly. It hadn’t noticed her-
It landed on her back.
Lirra swallowed her panic. Lyrkan wasps had stingers long as your thumb, although their venom wasn’t particularly dangerous. Her pulse raced as it walked forward on her back. If she held still, maybe it wouldn’t sting her.
Then she realized. Of course it would sting her. She was a big animal.
It stung her, low on her back, right through her shirt. It hurt like hell, but Lirra managed to not cry out. Tears welled up in her eyes and rolled hot streaks down her cheeks.
She could feel the venom pump into her. Suddenly her back went numb. She could feel the stinger, now, but it didn’t hurt any more. It was just stuck in her. There was a strange sensation as more venom was squeezed into her, then the stinger slid out.
Her back was now entirely numb, and her elbows were beginning to shake uncontrollably. Slowly, she slumped down onto her face, arms sliding to either side. Her knees remained under her, but she couldn’t feel them any more.
She could feel the wasp, though. Its weight shifted on her back, and she realized it was turning around.
Then there was a damp sensation at the back of her neck. Her eyes had gone blurry, and her face was pressed into the dirty wood of the hayloft, but in her mind she saw the pale white ovipositor slide out of the wasp’s rear.
It pushed along her neck and into her hair. Lirra’s vision darkened and stretched away. Dimly, she felt wetness spurt onto the back of her head.
Then she passed out.
When she woke up, she felt stiff all over. She was still slumped over, face pressed into the hayloft floor, rump in the air. Slowly, blurrily, she tried to put her wits together. Then she remembered.
Somehow, her recollection of what had just happened to her failed to inspire panic. It should have, but she just felt dopey. Her whole body ached. All Lirra wanted to do was crawl away and rest for a while.
With effort, she slid her arms back to her body, and pushed herself up to her hands and knees. Her head swam, so she rested a moment until it cleared. As the thumping of her blood quieted, she looked up.
The wasp was there, hanging on the bottom of the nest. It was looking back at her. Again, panic tried to flare but went off like a damp squib. Lirra stared back.
It was really quite beautiful. Four sets of glossy wings, like a dragonfly only spaced apart further. Six sets of legs. Big black eyes like marbles, set on either side of glossy mandibles. The body was very like that of a wasp, only thicker through the waist. It was a dull lacquered green except for the large tail, which was just translucent enough to show the dozens and dozens of eggs inside.
With effort, Lirra leaned to one side and reached up toward the back of her head. Her joints complained with shooting pain, and Lirra gave up, unable to bend either her shoulder or elbow far enough to reach above her head.
She had to go lie down.
Slowly, stiffly, Lirra crawled backwards towards the ladder.
The wasp watched her go.
She made it into the house before collapsing. She hurt all over, especially her joints, and a throbbing bulge on her lower back marked the spot where the stinger had jabbed her. Her shirt had a neat hole and a smallish blood stain on it.
Lirra fell onto the sofa.
She drifted in and out of consciousness. In her dreams, she saw wasps large as horses, carrying her off to distant hives that squatted on hilltops. Dropping her into papery cells, where she started to change into a bug. Her eyes became black marbles, her skin flaked off revealing glistening green hardness.
She woke with a start. It was dark outside. Gingerly, she leaned on the sofa’s armrest, then tried to stand up. It was difficult, but not particularly painful. Reaching behind herself, she found the lump on her back was already going down.
Then she reached up behind her neck.
There, attached to the back of her head, was the egg, smaller than a fist and cool. It felt like hard rubber. The glue was still gooey, adhering to her fingertips in long streamers as she pulled her hand back.
She had to see it.
Lirra staggered from the sofa, across the living room, towards the main hall. As she reached it, a head rush washed over her, and she slumped against the wall. Using her arm as a balance, she shuffled down the hall to the bathroom.
After flipping on the lights, she closed the door. The room had three mirrors, a large one over the sink, a medicine cabinet on the side wall, and one on the back of the door. Lirra leaned heavily on the sink counter. She could see her reflection in the door mirror. Taking her long straw-colored hair in hand, she lifted it up.
There it was.
It was green, just like the egg on the cow. Only now the egg was on her head. She dropped her hair, reached back to feel it again. Cool, sticky, rubbery. In her mind it pulsed with evil life, hurrying to claim her...
Her pussy clenched.
Oh, God. She was excited. Lirra realized with a start that she was incredibly horny, hornier than she’d ever been. The venom? Whatever. She slipped a hand into her pants and found that her underwear were wet almost to the waistband. When her fingers slid lightly inside and brushed her slit, she almost came leaning on the sink counter.
God, I’ve got a dangerous egg on me and it’s making me horny. I’ve got to get off. No, get it off. Otherwise it will hatch, tremble and hatch into my brain and take me over, turn me into a zombie eagerly returning to the hive to let the larvae feed on my blood, to let them attach to me and I’ll protect them because I’ll be their slave, a slave of the larvae living in my head-
Lirra came, slumping dizzily to the bathroom floor, one hand slowing her descent, the other pumping three slick fingers into her cunt.
I’m such a pervert thinking of it taking me over gets me hot enslaving me turning me into a host a thing a slave
She came again.
Worn out, Lirra sat on the bathroom floor. Her pants and panties had made it to just above her knees, and she sat in the wet spot she’d made in the bathroom rug. Her whole body still tingled.
At one point, she’d thrown her head back in ecstacy, and hit the egg against the counter—and it had scared her, and she’d felt back to see if it was okay.
If it was okay.
She had to get it off. It was dangerous. Regardless of the fact that she was a pervert, it had to come off.
She had a few days, right? She’d watch the cow. When the egg on the cow was ready to hatch, she’d know that she had to remove her egg.
She shivered again, and her pussy twitched uncontrollably.
The egg that was assigned to her. The egg that was put on her, to take over her mind. To hatch into her.
Lirra’s hands slid back to her slit again.
Somehow, she’d done her chores. She’d spent all night masturbating, and then it was four, and she had things to do.
It felt so kinky and wrong, acting like she did every day, like she didn’t have a time bomb on her own head, poised to hatch into her and take over. Every time she thought of that, her pussy twitched.
But she got through her chores, in a vague erotic haze.
It was so wrong, but every time she thought that she got more excited.
After lunch, she went looking through the vids. It took a while, since most of them were merely copies of weekly farm reports, but she found one that had the Lyrkan wasp information.
As it opened, showing the little green eggs on a variety of farm animals, Lirra couldn’t help but reach up behind her head to touch it. And tingle.
Five days, it said. It would develop for between five and seven days. Then it would burrow a root-like growth into the skull of the animal, which would expand over the course of several hours into a small tube.
Then the larvae would inject itself into the skull of its host.
According to the vid, the mental takeover happened pretty quickly. Of course, no Hansonite would conduct any sort of experiment—if you saw an egg, you scraped it off—but infected animals seemed to start hanging around the nest the same day that the egg hatched.
That was quick. Lirra touched her egg again.
And that was it. Seven minutes of vague information. But with a clear warning for her.
She still had at least two, before she had to worry.
Lirra rewound the vid, turned off the sound, and watched the infected animals again.
Then she rewound again, and pulled down her pants.
The next day, she was even dopier. She’d tried to sleep, but it came fitfully at best. Every time she drifted off she dreamt of being carried off to that hive on the mountain. Now when she was dropped into her little paper cell, there was a larvae there, and she would bend her legs and lower herself onto it, allowing it to pulse its way into her pussy and bond with her.
Normally, she woke coming, but sometimes she only came in her dream, and remained dreaming, watching the larvae take over her dream self and slowly transform her into an insect, glossy black eyes, antennae sprouting from her head, beautiful wasp wings hatching from her shoulders.
Then she woke coming.
While milking the cows, she found herself fumbling more often than usual, and at one point hooked up one cow twice. She hooked it up, milked it, unhooked it, hooked it up again, and wondered why it mooed at her in confusion.
It took until noon before she was done with everything.
She realized that, since she hadn’t destroyed the nest—and when was she going to do that?—she’d better check the rest of the animals for eggs.
And remove them.
It took almost an hour. Seven of the cows had eggs on them. The horses, which had their own barn on the other side of the farm, hadn’t been bothered. And it appeared that the cow that she had found originally had indeed been the first. All the other eggs were still rubbery green spheres, like hers.
Like hers. She touched it again.
The glue had totally hardened, bonding it to her hair and to her head. She’d showered that morning, and the water hadn’t softened the glue at all. When she removed it, she’d have to cut out a good part of her hair.
That would be tough to explain.
She’d better check on that first cow, though. Didn’t want the egg to actually hatch. Papa would be so angry.
It was out in the pasture, over by a small cluster of brittlewood ferns. As Lirra approached, it swung its neck around to look at her, then went back to grazing. Normally she would have slowed down, talked to it, petted it. But she was a girl on a mission. Running a hand along its flank, she walked right to its head.
The egg was clear, a dark shadow floating inside it.
She should have checked yesterday. She should have. She stared at the little egg, the same size as before but now a transparent green, obviously filled with liquid. And floating inside was a little black larvae, the size of two fingers, with lots of little strings floating around it.
Hesitantly, she touched it. It was soft, now, like a plastic bag filled with gelatin. Swallowing, she leaned towards it, to look at the little black thing that was preparing to take over the cow.
One hand drifted up to the egg on the back of her own head, and she stroked it, softly, as she examined the unhatched parasite.
Then the cow’s egg twitched.
Lirra squeaked, and the cow swiveled its head up to look at her, moving the egg out of reach.
God, it was alive!
Of course it was alive... but it moved! Lirra felt like she’d eaten cold jelly. Okay, time to get it off.
But she didn’t move.
A knife. She needed to get a knife. It had felt soft, not like the hard rubber it used to be. The way her egg still felt. She should be able to just break it, pop it.
She had to see it again, first. To be sure.
Obligingly, the cow decided nothing was amiss, and resumed grazing. The egg swung back towards Lirra.
Gingerly, she reached out to it again. It was soft, breakable. Just a liquid filled sack. Her hand slid around it, cupping it.
It twitched again, and Lirra inhaled sharply.
Was it getting ready to hatch? What was she doing standing here? She had to fetch a knife, destroy it. Otherwise...
Her legs were trembling, but finally the logical part of her mind defeated the part that was perversely rooting for the parasite. She let go of the egg, and stepped away.
Time to get that knife. But she didn’t want to stop watching it, just in case something happened. She wanted to see...
No. Lirra clenched her fists, and turned to go. Looked over her shoulder, just once.
The egg deflated.
Lirra stopped and stared as the cow’s head shot up, and it looked around in confusion.
On top of its head, the egg was now a thin, wrinkled column.
Oh God. It had injected itself.
It was in the cow’s skull.
Lirra came, dropping to her knees, then falling to her side in the damp grass. The cow looked at her, then shook its head as though to dislodge a fly.
This time, it was never coming off.
Lirra moaned, both hands between her legs, and came again.
When it grew dark, she went inside.
The cow had just gone back to grazing. She’d watched it for hours. Eventually, it had drifted back towards the barn, but gave no sign that it was anything other than a normal cow. Except, of course, for the shriveled remains of the egg sac between its ears.
Boy, she was in trouble now. When her parents returned, she’d have to tell them about it. And they’d have to kill the cow. How could she have let it happen?
Of course, just thinking about it...
The first thing she did when she got back into the house was to go to the bathroom and check on the egg that she was carrying around. Still opaque, still hard. She could take it off tonight, and there’d be no trouble.
Or tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning should be okay.
Lirra yawned. She was so tired.
A beeping sounded throughout the house.
When it happened again, Lirra recognized it as the tone of the vidphone. Of course, using the vidphone was strongly frowned upon among Hansonites, but on a farm as remote as theirs it would have been foolish not to have one.
Lirra sat down in front of it. It had to be her parents. What was she going to tell them?
It beeped again, and she hit the ‘open channel’ button.
Her father appeared on the screen.
“Lirra,” he said. He was frowning, but then he was always frowning. “How is the farm?”
She opened her mouth, and paused.
“It... Everything’s fine,” she said.
“Good. Good. Ah,” he said, obviously uncomfortable using technology for something as frivolous as a check-up, “we are also fine. Your relatives send you their love.”
“Thank them,” Lirra replied.
God, she wasn’t telling him!
They looked at each other a moment. Then papa nodded, said “Very well,” and switched off the vidphone.
She didn’t tell him! Would he know? If she cleaned off the other animals, and destroyed the nest, but said that one cow had been infected, could he tell that it happened before he called? That she had as much as lied to him?
He couldn’t know. It would be okay. They wouldn’t be back for weeks. No one could tell exactly when the cow was infected.
Infected. God, it was infected now, wasn’t it? Soon it would be guarding the hive, wasp larvae drinking its blood. That little black thing was even now taking control, burrowing in, subverting what little mind the cow started with. One of Lirra’s hands drifted up to the egg, fingertips stroking its cool surface. God, it was so dangerous...
Her other hand slid into her pants.
She was awake when the cock crowed, and muzzily shrugged out of her nightgown and into some clean clothes. She smelled like sex, but there was no sense taking a bath before chores. There was mucking to be done today she realized with resignation, as she wandered downstairs.
Lirra sat down to eat, and yawned. She’d been up for three days, now. Masturbating every second she wasn’t actually doing chores.
She poured the cereal from the jar into her bowl, yawned again, and poured milk over it. Outside, it was still dark, but with the quiet that told her dawn was not far off. Like any good farm girl, she ate breakfast before the sun was up.
She had to get the egg off. It was ripening, no doubt about it. When she looked into the mirrors, she could just barely see the darker form of the parasite inside the casing, like an embryo. If she didn’t take it off soon...
Her tired pussy thrilled again.
Lirra reckoned she had about a day. There’d been no sign of the burrowing root that was supposed to herald the start of the egg’s hatching. Still, she didn’t want any of it actually getting into her. God, what she was doing was so crazy. Insane. Insane and hotter than hell. Lirra realized she was touching herself again under the table.
With an effort, she put both hands on the table, and picked up her spoon. She yawned again. Yeah, she had to get it off. Right after breakfast.
Without her even realizing it, Lirra’s head slowly came to rest on the table, and she slept.
When she woke up, her face hurt.
Then she jolted awake. Oh God! She’d fallen asleep! She looked outside—still dark. Gingerly, she reached up to touch the egg. Still there. Lirra started breathing again.
It had to come off now, before that happened again! Otherwise she’d wake up to find herself already a braindead drone. Shut up, she told her pussy, as it tingled at the thought. This is dangerous.
Then she felt the egg twitch.
Her hand flew back up to the egg. It was softer than it had been—oh God! Lirra stood up, panicking. Gingerly, she squeezed it, and could feel the contours of the parasite inside, distinct now from the liquid surrounding it.
Then it spasmed again, twitching inside the case.
She had to get it off. A kitchen knife ought to do—she stumbled to the drawer and took one out.
She was breathing hard, now. She looked at the knife, then sat down at the table again. Needed to be careful—didn’t want to cut herself. Her hands were shaking.
Calm down, she told herself. Focus. It’s only been a few hours. She looked into her cereal bowl.
The milk was curdled.
Panic rose again. God, it was tomorrow! She’d slept a whole day!
The egg twitched again.
She picked up the knife, but now her hands were really shaking. She had to calm down. Relax. Calm down. Sure, it’s moving, but it hasn’t sent any roots through your skull. You’d feel that. Slowing her breathing, she concentrated on the back of her head. The egg was there, she could feel it, but she couldn’t feel any soreness or anything to indicate that it had sent anything burrowing into her yet. She had hours at least. She put the knife down, pressed her hands against the table.
Then it squirted into her brain.
Lirra blinked, and fainted.
A little while later, she was on the sofa, snuffling. Tears tracked her cheeks.
It was in her! It was going to take her over! Oh God, it wasn’t naughty anymore! Please, God, get it out!
She could feel it, an area of pressure inside her skull that twitched now and then. When it did, she sobbed.
What was it doing? Yet again she reached back and felt the empty egg casing, deflated into a little spire indicating the point where the parasite now lived inside her.
She couldn’t stop it, now. Nothing could.
God, how long would it take? Would she notice?
Of course she’d notice. But what? She couldn’t feel anything, no pain, not even prickling. Just the parasite moving around. Was it doing anything to her?
God, it was inside her. She couldn’t get over that.
She still smelled like sex, and the thought made her sob again. Maybe she deserved this. Playing around—letting it stay on her!—like she wanted it to take her. Make her a slave.
Lirra shook her head. Stop it! It wasn’t a game any more!
She wondered if shaking her head disturbed it. Whatever it was doing.
She should call someone. Get help, get an operation.
Who was she kidding? The closest medical hovercar was at Mullman Station, three hours away by air. Did she have three hours? What was it doing to her? How long would it take?
And, if they got here and it was too late, what would they do?
Infected animals had to be killed.
She had to calm down. Maybe it couldn’t deal with a human brain. She wasn’t a cow, after all. Maybe it would just die. (Please, God.)
Even if not, maybe she could deal with it. See what happens, and deal with it. Maybe she’d still be her—surely it couldn’t just erase her? Oh, please, let it be unable to take over her mind. If it couldn’t, maybe no one would need to know. She just had to relax, and see what happened. It would be obvious soon enough, anyway.
There was approval.
Lirra’s eyes widened. Self-consciously, she thought ‘I’ll just wait calmly and see what happens to me’ again.
Approval. She liked the idea.
No, she was being made to like the idea.
Lirra gasped. Oh God. It was taking control.
Then she sort of liked that idea, too.
God. It was changing her thoughts. Lirra knew that a moment ago, she was on the verge of getting up and calling for help (bad), but now she found that she really didn’t want to do that. She wanted to sit here and let events take their course (good). Yes, let things happen (good). Let the parasite take control (good).
She started to relax, sitting back in the chair. It was tweaking her, that’s what it was doing. Somehow it was reading her conscious thoughts and adjusting her attitude about them (good). And she liked it. She liked it enough that she considered helping the process (good).
Yes, she wanted to think so that it could direct her properly (good). Think about obedience (good). Think about being its slave (good). About happily letting it grow into her mind (good). About not telling anyone that it was inside her (bad). About relaxing, and letting it take over her mind (good), and becoming its host (good).
Lirra sighed softly, and smiled. She was really quite eager to begin her new life as a slave (good). After all, she was just an animal (good). Now she had direction. She would serve the hive (good). Serve the species that now owned her (good).
It wasn’t intelligent. It was just a bug (bad). No, it was more than a bug, it was her master species (good). But it wasn’t sapient. It was just bending her own thoughts (good). She knew what it wanted, and it was using that to adjust her thinking (good) so that her thoughts were in line with what it wanted (good).
And she really liked that.
God, how badly she wanted to be its slave (good)! How long would the process take? She was so eager to obey (good). But when would she know what to do? Would it install new instincts in her? Would it simply turn off her mind—no, it wanted her mind. Wanted to use it, and Lirra wanted her mind to be used (good). Used for the good of its species (good).
Lirra reflected, calm and happy. What should she do? Should she just relax and allow the transformation to take place (good)? She smiled. Yes, apparently she should. She snuggled into the sofa cushions.
It was a natural process, the enslavement of animals. And she was just an animal (good). Everything was happening the way it was supposed to. She just had to let the larvae send its roots throughout her brain (good), until something else cropped up.
Peacefully, Lirra waited. Occasionally she would consider her enslavement, be awarded with happiness, and smile.
It awakened her.
At some point, it must have put her to sleep. It was an interesting thought, but of course not one that disturbed her. Obviously, it was extending its control over her mind (good). As soon as she thought about it, Lirra liked it.
She could still feel it in her brain. In fact, she could feel it more. All the little tendrils, the roots she had seen when it floated in its egg, had burrowed in to the flesh of her mind (good). Her brain was riddled with its roots (good). It would be impossible to remove (good). It had grown into her (good), was becoming part of her (good).
Lirra thought briefly how wonderfully good she had been, wearing it around and letting it hatch into her like an obedient host.
Then it put her back to sleep.
She was awakened again. Obediently, she waited. She liked being infected (good). Everything was so clear.
A thought came to her, that she should stand up. She hadn’t thought it. Was it the larvae? Should she do it (good)? She smiled. Yes, the thought must have come from the larvae. So it was definitely extending its control over her (good). She so badly wanted to help it (good).
Deliberately, she thought about obeying it (good). When she received thoughts, she should obey them (good). She would obey them (good).
Of course, she stood up.
She received a water thought. Slowly, she started walking to the kitchen. In her mind, she was creating a mantra. “I will obey the thoughts it gives me. I will obey the thoughts it gives me. I will obey. I will obey.”
Each thought was accompanied with a sense of correctness. She was helping it to take complete control of her mind (good), thinking the thoughts that it could then brand into her consciousness. It was the best possible thing she could do.
By the time she had the glass of water in her hand, she was beginning to lose the distinction between the thoughts it generated and the thoughts she did. After all, she would obey its thoughts without consideration (good). So what was the difference? They were all thoughts that would direct her equally.
Then she wanted to go to the hive. Without hesitation, she put down the glass, and turned for the barn.
Again, as she walked, she repeated a mantra of obedience, to aid in extending the larvae’s control of her as deeply and powerfully as possible.
“I will obey. I will obey. The larvae is my master. The larvae is my master. I serve the wasps. I serve the wasps.” By the time she entered the barn, she was making her declarations out loud. “I am a host. I am a host. I serve the wasps. I obey the larvae. I obey the larvae.”
Despite her new status as a host, part of the wasp’s family, Lirra was nervous as she walked into the barn. The last time she had been here, the wasp (broodmother) broodmother had stung her.
Not that her worry mattered at all. Unhesitatingly, she climbed the ladder. “The larvae is my master. I serve the wasps,” she repeated, reassuring herself. “I obey.”
When she walked around the hay bales, and saw the nest, a sense of love and oneness washed over her. Yes, this was her master species. She was a host. How she loved the wasps.
Broodmother was there.
Lirra walked towards the nest, and broodmother. Broodmother, sensing her, had stopped adhering new material to the nest, and was watching her approach.
She was a host. She wanted so badly to serve... but what should she do?
Lirra paused a moment to comprehend. Then she pulled down her pants and underwear together, stepping out of them. She hadn’t thought to take off her shoes, but managed to get the clothes off without too much difficulty.
Then she dropped to her knees.
She still smelled like sex, which made her think of her erotic fantasies of the egg hatching into her, which made her happy. Even before she had been a host, she had been obedient.
She crawled towards broodmother.
When she was almost under the nest, she stopped. She arched her back a little, spread her legs, and waited.
Lirra wasn’t sure for what, but she could guess. Thoughts of what was about to happen pushed aside her mantra of slavery.
“God, it’s going to lay eggs inside me (good)! It wants to use me as some sort of carrier for its larvae (good). I thought I already was a host, but now it’s going to put a lot more larvae in me (good).” As she considered the idea, she liked it more and more. “I’m going to be a surrogate mother, to larvae (good).” She looked up at the wasp, addressing it in her mind. “Oh, please, broodmother, I’m ready for your eggs. I’m ready for you to lay them in me (good). Please fill me with your eggs. I’ll be the best host possible (good)!”
Antennae twitching, broodmother considered. Then her wings began to beat, and a moment later she landed on Lirra’s back.
The tip of her ovipositor slid down between the cheeks of Lirra’s ass. It pushed around a bit, broodmother stepping forward and backward on Lirra’s back, but the tip hung too low to insert itself.
So Lirra reached back, took gentle hold of it, and slid it into her wet snatch.
Broodmother sensed that she had achieved her objective, and arched her abdomen, driving the ovipositor in. Lirra’s pussy, wet all over again, offered no resistance, and it slid easily into Lirra’s body, the tip shoving up against her cervix.
Lirra remained still, enjoying both the sexual feeling of the penetration and the mental reward of obeying the wasps.
There was a sudden sting, and Lirra gasped, but remained still. Warmth, and something inside her went slack. A moment later, she felt the ovipositor push forward further, then halt.
Then the eggs started coming, single file, each a little rubbery ball pushing into her vagina and up through into her womb, where it would pop free of the ovipositor mouth and come to rest.
As the eggs made their pulsing way into her, Lirra came once, then again. Her arms began to shake uncontrollably, and slowly, focused on not disturbing broodmother, she lowered her chest to the floor. More eggs pumped into her, one after another, each one riding a contraction from the wasp and generating a pleasure spike in Lirra.
Lirra began to drift. She remembered her first time like this, slumped to the wooden floor, broodmother on her back and venom pumping through her system, and felt deliriously happy that she’d been chosen then to become a carrier of broodmother’s young now.
Then broodmother was done, and her ovipositor slid out of Lirra’s cunt with a wet slurp.
Lirrahost opened her eyes. She could feel the eggs inside her womb, heavy and alien. She stared at the barn wall as broodmother started her wings, and flew back to the nest.
She should rise, so she pushed herself up from the floor. Whether that was the larvae’s thought, or hers, was no longer clear.
Lirrahost put a hand on her belly. She thought of the eggs inside, ripening, and was filled with love. She pictured herself, squatting, giving birth to protectors, their insectoid bodies crawling from her fleshy body, ready to bite and sting to protect the nest. They weren’t a seperate species at all, Pauly’s wasps. No, they were Protectors. Eggs laid within the reproductive tracts of Hosts became Protectors. Fierce, they lived only to guard the nest. That was their function.
She was Lirrahost. Birthing them was her function.
A little while later and elsewhere in her mind, Lirrahost recognized that the farm needed tending. With a loving glance at broodmother, she walked to the ladder, and climbed down.
Lirrahost was milking the cows when she noticed a strange sensation. There was something faint, like a distant sound, or a passing smell. But it wasn’t with her human senses that she detected it.
It was... hunger.
The larvae were calling to her.
Lirrahost put down the milking pail, and walked towards the nest. She still saw the need to maintain the farm, but of course wasp needs came first. And she could sense that the larvae needed her.
Inside the barn, the cow that was also a Host was milling around the base of the ladder. She could sense its frustration at being unable to reach the nest. Lirrahost smiled at it, reassuringly running a hand along its flank, and then began to climb.
Broodmother was on the nest, chewing brittletree pieces and adhering them to the bottom of the nest. Broodmother’s antennae twitched as Lirrahost approached, but then she sensed that this human was no threat, was part of her family, and she returned to her task.
Lirrahost happily walked up to the nest. The first half-dozen eggs had hatched, and in their cells the little white larvae were pulsing softly. Laid with no relationship to a host, these larvae were already becoming Workers. But they were no less part of Lirrahost’s family for that.
Gingerly, Lirrahost reached into the first cell, and pulled the pallid six-inch grub out. As she cupped it in her hands, Lirra felt love wash over her again.
Her masters’ children.
Slowly, Lirrahost transferred it to one hand, and lifted her shirt with the other. Gently, she held the larvae’s thumbnail-sized mouthpiece to her side, feeling it bite into her, driving its small mouthhooks into her soft flesh. Then it began to drink her warm blood.
Lirrahost could sense its gratification, and she smiled lovingly at it.
She attached a second larvae next to it, and then another two on the opposite side. As they fed on her, their hunger diminished.
Host lowered its shirt. The presence of the larvae attached to it filled Host with a maternal sense of correctness.
The two other hatchlings, it placed into its shirt pockets.
Then it descended the ladder, to give them to its sister Host, who waited eagerly at the bottom.
Host walked back from the horse barn towards the hive.
The horses were not needed to join the Hive. A hive had a certain stable population, and Host and the cows Host was carefully selecting and bringing to the barn for infestation would make a sufficiency of hosts for one nest. Several cows had already joined it as hosts. By the time the other humans returned, the nest would be nearly complete.
Once the nest was complete, broodmother would consider birthing other Queens.
Host spent its days in a servile euphoria. It enjoyed but no longer needed the positive reinforcement from the larvae, which had largely integrated with its brain anyways. It had ripened and was now a full-fledged host, eagerly embracing its new status as slave to the species that had infected it. All its actions were and would forever be directed to their ends.
Thinking of the completeness of its obedience made Host happy. Its mind was entirely converted, and the old ‘Lirra’ personality had gone happily dormant.
Inside its womb, one of the growing Protectors twitched, and that made Host happy too.
It could feel the brood, its sisters, around it. Host was part of them, one of them. It was not so much a hive-mind as a hive-feel; it sensed the status of its sisters, a complex cloud of emotional nuances. Hunger, alarm, anger... all these things were radiated to all members of the brood, and received from all of them. It cradled Host in a constant sense of belonging and purpose.
Suddenly, Host found itself radiating its own emotion to its brood.
Host stopped walking, and stood quivering. It had seen a human male, knocking on the farmhouse door. The intruder had seen Host as well, and was approaching it.
“Lirra!” the intruder called, walking quickly towards Host.
It took a moment for Host to transition to Lirrathought. By the time Host was ready to behave properly, the intruder had reached it and come to a stop. However, the intruder seemed agitated, and had not noticed any discrepancies in “Lirra’s” behavior.
“Lirra, what the Dickens have you been doing? I walked in through the south forty, and almost half the cows have those damn wasp eggs on them! Haven’t you been checking on them?”
Host had actually been checking on the developing eggs quite frequently, but obviously the intruder should not learn that. So Host blinked at the intruder. “Uh,” it said, “wasp eggs? Those little green things?”
The intruder stared at her, then stomped a foot on the ground. “By the Prophet, they never told you? I don’t know how you got this old without knowing. Lirra, those little green things are parasite eggs. They’ll hatch and kill your cows. We have to get them all off, as soon as possible.”
Host managed not to stiffen at the threat to its brood.
“Look, somewhere there’s a nest, where the wasp that’s been laying these things is living. We have to destroy it, and kill the wasp. Have you seen anything that looks like a nest? It’s about yay big,” the intruder gestured, “has a bunch of cells like in a bee hive only on the outside.”
“Yes,” Host replied, trying to put surprise into its voice, “I have! It’s in the barn, up in the hayloft.”
“Okay, we need to destroy it. And kill the wasp.” Host’s jaw twitched, but the intruder didn’t notice. “You guys have a shotgun?”
“Yes,” Host replied. “Come with me and I’ll get it.” It began to walk towards the house, where the guns were kept.
“Sweet Lord, Lirra,” the intruder said, following her, “I’m glad I came over to check on you. Your folks won’t be back for another week, and that thing could have wiped out a quarter of the herd by then!”
“Yes,” Host replied. “I’m so glad you showed up. I was wondering what those were.”
“You should have asked your folks,” the intruder said, holding the door open as Host entered the house. “I know there’s not much that’s dangerous around here, but you should have asked.”
“Yes,” Host replied, “I should have. Thank you,” it paused, remembering, “Ryan.”
The intruder followed Host as it walked to the gun closet, removed a shotgun and some shells, and loaded it. Then Host walked back out of the house. The intruder had begun looking at her curiously.
“Lirra? Are you feeling okay? You’ve been alone for a while, and you seem... I don’t know, taciturn or something.”
“I am fine,” Host replied, stopping outside the house. “I am really great.” It raised the shotgun, pointed it at the intruder’s head, and pulled the trigger.
The body flopped backwards, thrashing around on the ground and making a loud gurgling noise.
Host shot it again, in the chest.
The cows had to become hosts. Killing the human was regrettable, but necessary. Host knew other humans would become upset—and inquisitive—by this human’s absence, but Host would figure out how to deal with that later. Protecting the hive was paramount.
Host activated the vidphone. It entered the code for... Ryan Sandrton’s family, and waited.
After a few minutes, Keli Sandrton answered. “Hello Lirra,” she said in a cheerful voice. “What can I do for you?”
“Have you seen Ryan recently?” Host asked.
“No,” Keli said, frowning. “He left a few days ago to ride the edges of the property, hunt some wild deer. Why, is he there?”
“No,” Host replied, mirroring the human’s frown. “My... father told me that Ryan might come to check up on me, but I have not seen him.”
“Oh,” Keli said. “Well, he should be back in a few days, and I’ll talk to him. If you see him, please tell him that Jheni’s horse has gone lame.”
“I will,” Host replied. “Thank you.”
“Bye!” Keli said, and the screen went blank.
Host stared at the screen, thinking. This was quite fortunate—the human could have disappeared anywhere. Once Broodmother and the Workers had eaten the flesh, Host would destroy the bones of both the human and his horse in the grain mill. If it rained, any tracks leading to this farm would be almost impossible to follow.
Under its breasts, a larvae wriggled, and Host smiled. Then it got up to return to the nest.
The wagon came over the ridge. Lirra’s father Poul was on the board, along with his eldest son Yared. His wife, the two younger daughters, and the younger son Thoma were in the back. Poul, Yared, and Emily looked tired from the journey, but the three children were beginning to perk up at the prospect of being home.
Host sighted carefully, and shot the older male.
The younger male next to him on the bench heard the loud sound of the gun firing, but did not panic until the human next to him stared at its own chest and toppled back into the wagon. Of course, this gave Host time to reload, and a second tranquilizer dart caught the younger male in the center of its chest.
Host reloaded as the second male fell backwards, into the wagon. The humans in the back were starting to scream, but the horses merely trotted to a stop and looked around.
One of the younger females looked over the bench, and Host’s next dart caught her in the neck. As it reloaded, the older female managed to grab the other immature ones, and keep them down in the back of the wagon.
It was time for the second part of the plan.
A moment passed, then another. The humans hiding in the back had to be getting curious, despite their fear. The tranquilizer that Host had used should keep the others unconscious for over an hour.
In the background, Host could feel its tension radiating and reflecting in the rest of the brood. It had not yet birthed any Protectors, although the clutch currently in its womb was within days of readiness. The other hosts, with their lower intelligence, would be of little help against the humans.
Luckily, Host was clever enough for all of them.
It stood up. None of the humans was looking out of the back of the wagon. Host began to run towards the wagon.
“Mom!” It yelled. “Mom! Dad! I got him! I got him!”
The older female stood up.
Host ran closer.
“Lirra,” the older female gasped. “What in the Name is going on?”
Host shot the female in the stomach. With a look of shock, it fell to its knees, then collapsed sideways into the wagon.
As Host walked up to the wagon, it could hear the young ones sobbing in the back of the wagon. They were no threat. Quickly, it unlocked the back of the wagon, and let down the tailgate.
The two conscious young ones cowered amongst their fallen elders. Host shot the male, reloaded, and shot the female. They didn’t even try to run.
Then Host got up in the wagon, took the reins, and guided the wagon towards the nest.
Emily blurred awake with a wave of nausea.
As her stomach flopped, she realized that her mouth was full of cloth, and she fought down the bile that rose in her throat.
Recognition that she was gagged came at the same time she realized she was tied to a chair.
Whatever sickness had assailed her was leaving quickly, replaced by panic. She tried to rock the chair, but it seemed to be held fast.
Light bloomed, and she squinted at the opening door. She was in the toolshed, tied to a chair that had to be secured to one of the shelves. Poul had made them sturdy.
Framed in the doorway was Lirra. Emily stared at her with a mixture of confusion and fear.
“I have come to check on you,” Lirra said.
Emily shouted into the cloth filling her mouth.
“Be silent,” Lirra said, stepping towards her and looking into her eyes. “I see that it has not yet happened.”
Realizing the futility of yelling, Emily settled for an angry stare.
“You should be happy that you are getting such immediate gratification,” Lirra said, testing the ropes. “I cannot hold you all here for a week... luckily, I do not have to. The bovines have been transforming into hosts for weeks. One of them will not care that I delayed its imminent infection, to ensure yours.” Lirra stared at her mother dispassionately. “And that of the other humans.”
Emily made confused noises through her gag.
Lirra leaned around Emily’s side, examining the back of her head. When she looked back at her mother, her eyes were eerily wide. Mad. For a moment, Emily was afraid of her daughter. But she stepped away.
Then something twitched in Emily’s hair. She turned her head to see it, but it seemed to be attached to the back of her head. It twitched again.
Her eyes widened, and she screamed.
Something wet shot into her skull.
“Ah...” Lirra smiled, and unabashedly slid a hand to her crotch. “I see it has hatched. Wonderful. Nothing can stop it now.” She reached out and petted the top of her mother’s head. “Soon, sister, this animal will be yours. And a fine host it will make.”
Emily sobbed into her gag as Lirra turned and left the shed.
Leaving behind the now irrevocably infected older female, Host walked out of and around the barn, to the shed that held the younger females. It entered, picking its way around the ripper attachment for the plow, to where the young ones were tied to chairs of their own.
One of them was sobbing quietly. The other one simply stared at Host with defiance.
Host checked on the sobbing one, and was gratified to find the shriveled remains of the egg sac on the back of its head. Host put a hand along the human’s cheek, and looked into its eyes.
“Lirra?” the human asked, sniffling.
Host saw no need to reply.
“Lirra, it’s talking to me,” the human child said.
“Good,” Host said. “It wants you to be its slave. You should want to be its slave.”
“What? Oh!” The human looked mystified. “When I thought that, I felt... it made me feel good!” Its look changed to panic. “It wants me to think that!”
“Yes,” Host replied. “You must think what it wants.”
“No!,” the human said, “It’s trying to make me want that! I don’t want to want that! I won’t think that!”
“You are its slave,” Host said.
“Stop it! Don’t make me think that! Don’t! Shut up! Shut up!”
“You like when it alters your thoughts.”
“No! Don’t say it! I don’t want to think about that!”
“You want it to change your mind.”
“I don’t! I don’t... I....”
“You want to be its slave,” Host continued relentlessly, forcing the human to hear—and thus consider—thoughts that its new inhabitant could alter. “You want to think slave thoughts for it.”
“You are its slave. You want to be its slave. You want it to adjust your mind.”
“You want it to change you. You like when it changes you. You want to help it change you.”
“I... want to help it...”
“You are its slave. You want to be its slave. You want it to adjust your mind.”
“I do... I do want it to adjust my mind. I like it when it adjusts my mind.”
“Yes. Think thoughts of becoming its slave,” Host paused, remembering, “Uyill. Think about it taking over your mind. Think about it growing into your brain, and changing you entirely.”
“Yes,” Uyill replied, blinking. “Yes, I must help it. I want to help it. I want to become its slave. To become its... host.”
“Yes,” Host replied, and turned to the other human. The first could now abet its own transformation.
The egg sac was still intact on the other human, although Host could make out the larvae’s form inside. It should hatch within hours.
“Uyill,” Host said to the smaller human, “when this one hatches, you will force this human to think correct thoughts.”
“Yes,” the little human replied, “I will. I will obey. I will think about obedience. I will make Jana think about obedience, too.”
“Good,” Host replied.
As it left the equipment shed, the larger of the two immature humans began to cry.
Host was in the vegetable garden when it felt the twitching in its stomach.
The protectors were hatching.
Host quickly pulled off its pants, and knelt, spreading its legs. Host(jana), also in the garden, paused in its weeding to watch. It could sense Host’s joyous emotion, and reflected it, as Host watched a black leg slide out of its pussy and bend back against its stomach. That first leg was followed by another, then the Protector’s head emerged.
Host(jana) walked over to watch the birthing. Host was in ecstasy, fulfilling its purpose. The first Protector, covered in fluid, dropped to the ground. When it dried, it would fly to the nest, to bond with Broodmother.
Another leg pushed its way out of Host’s vagina.
All told, Host birthed a dozen Protectors. Two of the eggs had not developed, and were expelled after the last of the Protectors had emerged. Host remained kneeling for a while, gasping and shaking. Feelings of comfort emanated to it from Host(jana).
They sensed the approach of Host(yared), and met its gaze as it entered the garden.
“The Sandrton humans will be coming this evening. Eight of them.”
Host and Host(jana) nodded, and Host(yared) left. Broodmother had almost finished the nest. The Sandrton humans would make excellent hosts to accompany the new Queen, ripening inside Host(emily), to her own new nest.
Shakily, Host got to its feet. It stared at Host(jana) for a moment, returning its blank gaze. Facial expression was irrelevant, when either Host could sense the mental state of the other.
Then Host(jana) returned to weeding, and Host went to get a wheelbarrow. It would collect the newly-born Protectors, and take them to the barn. Broodmother might desire another clutch.
Host hoped so.