Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


How to Build the Perfect Woman
by Timothy Mudie

Sound of Chartreuse
by Nancy S.M. Waldman

Finding New Roads
by Allen Demir

Smart Home Blues
by Mark Ayling

Drone Dreams
by Hayden Trenholm

Game Changer
by Iain Ishbel

Safe Bet to Appelane
by Derrick Boden

Aquilonia, My Zelky
by Barton Paul Levenson

Shorter Stories

Princess Zenla and the Encyclopedia on Mars
by George S. Walker

See No Evil
by K.S. O’Neill

QSFT7mk2.7853 Has a Name
by Kurt Hunt


God From the Machine
by KJ Hannah Greenberg

And Bugs on the Menu
by Carol Kean



Comic Strips




Drone Dreams

By Hayden Trenholm

THE SHIP BURST FROM THE GATE in a flicker of light, proton guns pulsing, but the promised X’iil outpost was already a blackened ember. A million terawatts raised gouts of molten stone but no X’iil tach-ships. Mother ordered the drones back into stasis but I slipped the needle. The irising doors scraped across my armoured carapace as I squirmed free.

Disappointment washed blue across my forelegs. No glorious battle; no roasted X’iil fuelled debauchery with my pod mates. One of ours or a T’hrann ship was there first. The T’hrann had been at the X’iil’s thorax long before the People knew the ways of null-space. We were a stronger race but few in numbers, our breeding cycles, slow. But time was on our side. Soon, both T’hrann and X’iil would know the bitterness of our digestive fluids.

These passions were only dreams Mother muttered in our pods as we twisted between stars but they were fierce and strong and I burned to make them true.

An aberrant thought: X’iil might still lurk in the dark. Mother assured us her scans were flawless but sometimes I had my doubts. Doubts were dangerous and I must avoid the stasis chamber until I can expunge them.

Others had their doubts, too, or further reasons to roam the darkened tubes between the fractured asteroid that served as our forward shield and the massive engines that drove the ship from gate to gate. During jump preparation, crew were ordered to remain at station but they were as likely to stray as any drone. More so, if rumours of forbidden ceremonies were true. I had no wish to feel the strength of their superior mandibles; I scurried into a side passage until the sound of scrabbling claws faded in the distance.

I do not recall when I first discovered the secret pleasures of the observation lounges, where the spin of the ship granted the comfort of the home-world’s pull. Each jump revealed a fresh array of glittering stars and tumbled planets, endless possibilities that both humbled and excited me. Basking in the glow of strange suns seemed harmless enough but I sometimes wondered if it were those aberrant rays that powered my growing disaffection with our way of life. As it says in the Book of H’ptil: Light dawns in the darkest mind.

Words to live by. Words to die by, too, if I were discovered and the secret compartment gouged in my standard issue carry-all discovered. I fear dissolution as much as the next drone but somehow the risk seemed worth the reward. Its contents promised: I was destined for better things.


I lounge in the warm sands as drones scurry to tend to my needs and whims. I discuss philosophy in desultory tones while junior officers make notes of my every thought. I mention H’ptil and silence descends. I clack my claws in laughter and the others join in.


The X’iil outpost still glowed in ruby hues, brighter than the brown dwarf which it orbited. No one knew the star their home world circled but the drones speculated endlessly in the feast halls and the weapon ranges. “Old and wizened” was the general consensus but I was not so sure. The X’iil were an old race, trolling null-space when the Thr’aan yet burrowed in the swamps of their home planet and the People were naught but mound builders and growers of zast. The lives of stars far exceeded those of the races they spawned.

H’ptil had claimed it was the X’iil who had lifted the Thr’aan and the People to the stars. His darker musings hinted at even closer ties. That was one of the reasons its limbs had been torn from its still living thorax and its head stuffed for display in the Hall of Traitors. To read the Book of H’ptil was to invite a similar fate. It was not normal fare for a drone.

But then, like H’ptil, I was not content to be a normal drone.

I had only meant to spend a moment lounging in the fading light, letting the energy warm the fluids of my core. I was not so abnormal as to risk the twisting energies of a gate mouth; the thought of those distortions sent tingles of fear through my nether legs. Mother had warned that the jump would come quickly. Quick and slow are the same to a drone in a stasis chamber.

I had started for my berth when I heard the scrabble of claws once more in the outer corridor. I paused, waiting for the sound to pass, felt the twitch of anticipation in my abdomen when it did not.

Hesitant clicks, tentative scratches, the whisper of antennae scraping across the iris of the entranceway. It was ... wrong.

An intimation of something dreadful stirred in my sense array before my forebrain was aware of the dissonance. No crew made these sounds, nor any drone. Mother? I dismissed the idea as soon as it emerged. Mother could no more leave her nest than a drone could hope to fly.

An intruder.

A X’iil.


I followed the creature at a discrete distance. His course was meandering, carrying him past engine rooms and stasis pods, up toward the bridge and the crews’ quarters. I had trained my mind to discern the patterns inherent in travel between the gates—yes, I admit I had ambitions to rise above my caste—and recognized the slow spiral for what it was. A surreptitious path to the heart of the ship. Mother’s nest.

The intruder meant Her harm.

The realization came to me too late—when the distance forward was shorter than the path back. The crew could not intercede. But I could.

My instincts drove me on, even while every conscious thought begged a stop. We were bred to protect our Mother. Even now, when drones no longer had their forebrain excised at birth, when the New Order promised much (and delivered so little) to the drone who worked hard and displayed independent thought, the programming ran deep.

I would die—I would most certainly die—rather than let this monster reach the Nest. Yet, perhaps, if I lived, choosing to make that sacrifice would be what let me transcend my neuter state.

I dropped down for greater traction, my feet exuding sap to better grip the ridged surface of the deck. I hesitated only long enough to release the scent of danger into the ship’s communication ducts.

Now I knew his destination, I could cut across his spiral, arriving at the holy gate ahead of the assassin. I need only delay his entry, not stop it. The alarm had been given; crewmen and drones would swarm to the nest and Mother’s defence.


My mutilated body is lifted upon the carapaces of the victors, the clicking of the hero’s anthem echo off the corridor walls. They inscribe my name in the books of honour. I am no H’ptil but I will be remembered.


I had visited the holy gate only once before and then in the presence of my twelve-times-twelve pod mates. It seemed larger than I remembered, the iris towering over me like a sleeping mouth. Beyond it, Mother lay enwrapped in the harness that supported her vast bulk, surrounded by the piles of white capsules that might one day become my pod mates. Scattered among the piles were a few of emerald that marked the future crew. All that separated them were the drops of Mother’s sacred tears.

Deep within the heart of the ship, the pull of gravity was light. A charging X’iil could run along the sides of the corridor, grasping at stanchions that supported the widening tunnel or sliding on cables that held the nest in place. It might simply leap over me to avoid my challenge. He was not bound by the honour of the People to meet mandible with mandible.

Desperate problems called for radical solutions, according to the fourth tenet of H’ptil. If I drained my reservoirs of sap I could tether myself by three sticky strands in the middle of the corridor. Pulling on one or another I could bounce in any direction to block the intruders’ approach. I would be helpless should a strand break but I could see no alternative to my plan. Already I could hear the distant clattering of claws against metal as I hurried to put it into action.

My thorax quivered in anticipation of the fight to come. My combat experience was limited to drills with my fellow drones; after four missions, I yearned for real battle. Tactics whirled in my forebrain and my forelegs flushed pale green.


The monster—the X’iil, and the Thr’aan, too, were all described as monsters—rounds the bend, his pitiful disguise shed to reveal his true nature. With grotesquely enlarged claws and mandibles dripping with bilious ichor, the X’iil lurches toward me, eyes sparking and flashing with a million points of hate.

I dodge the initial lunges, my goal to delay and confuse. In his eagerness to reach the target, the monstrosity grows over-aggressive. An opening appears and, in a brilliant and courageous thrust, I slip his defences and pierce his forebrain.

I could already taste the envy of my podmates as I was gendered into crew—no, to the command ranks!


The reality was less glorious. The monster was no larger than a junior crew, cloaked in standard-issue dun armour. He skidded to a halt, clacked in surprise and in what sounded suspiciously like derision. I launched, both claws extended and mandibles wide. The mouth of a stunner grew large in my vision.

The X’iil have no honour.


I was not dead. I should be. I failed our Mother.

Or maybe not. Three crew stood before the closed iris, their posture relaxed as they passed a zast gourd around. The largest, a subaltern, approached.

“Drone,” he said, even though he must have already learned my name. “You are out past curfew.”

“There was an intruder. A X’iil.”

“When will you people learn that zast is too strong a nectar for you?” The way he said people would have provoked a fight in the pods. The other crew made derisive clicks. “Return to stasis. The starlight is too strong for your thin chitin.”

“Is it zast or radiation that addles my thoughts? There was a X’iil intruder. Mother is in danger.”

“It dares?” The subaltern reared up. “You are fortunate the New Order forbids the waste of resources. There was no X’iil. Mother is secure. Now return to stasis—for reassignment.”

For reprogramming he meant; for the end of the me I call “I.” Nothing to lose in risking death. “The X’iil intruder was ...”

“There was no X’iil!” The aroma of truth flooded the chamber; it did not quite mask the stench of prevarication.

When is the truth also a lie?


Drones are born to obey. Yet the New Order claimed that all People were created equal. Most drones clacked their mandibles and did as they were told. Some—like H’ptil—took it at thorax value and wound up famously dead. Yet, I chose to believe both the promises of the state and the more subversive suggestions of my idol; I had worked hard and studied long at subjects neither forbidden nor expected of a drone. I had gained the trust of officers and even been granted certain passwords and security codes to aid my assignments.

I should return to the stasis chamber. Reassignment didn’t hurt; reassigned drones remembered nothing of their previous life nor the hormonal wash that erased it. But in the memory downloads Mother used to distract us while we slept, reassigned drones were always happy, born fully mature without the agony and trauma of surviving larvahood.

I didn’t care. H’ptil preached the value of every personality and equated reassignment with shameful death. It was sometimes done as a necessity but never as a reward.

In my present agitated state, I tended to agree. To lose everything—my work, my desires, even my memory of having desires—in a chemical wash filled me with shame and sadness. It filled me with anger.

I had risked my life to save Mother. I was the epitome of a faithful drone. It was not my fault there had been no X’ill intruder. That Mother had never been at risk.

Who, then, had stunned me and left me for ... not dead?

For the second time in less than a rotation, I wondered at my continued survival.


Dronemaster Xchor’p kept meticulous records. He was legendary in his diligence. It was said that no drone had ever died—unrecorded—under his watch. A dead drone might have raised questions. Had someone determined that it was better to let me live and order my personality destroyed than to raise the ire of a crusty old sergeant?

It seemed doubtful. I know if I had been part of a X’iil conspiracy, I would have scrubbed away every trace with acid and thrown the ashes from the airlock.

X’iil conspiracy? From where had that deviant thought emerged? The observation deck was only a few corridors over; this close to jump it would be empty and dark, shutters drawn against the turmoil of null-space. I fumbled with the code that would grant me entrance and then lock the iris behind me. All those hours in the archives hadn’t been wasted on contemplating dead philosophers and reading tales of adventure. I had used the passwords I’d been granted to steal a host of others. H’pitl’s seventh tenet proclaimed: Subterfuge in service of the People was both a duty and a virtue.

A conspiracy required conspirators. The X’iil operative, for sure, but who else? The subaltern and his zast-swilling flunkies lacked the initiative—let alone the authorities and passcodes—necessary to open the ship’s outer doors and bypass security screening. One of the command crew at the very least.

Not the Captain, surely? He had been raised from the Mother’s own pod; His loyalty surpassed training, it was genetic. Unless ...

Mother was dying. I felt the decks beneath my claws tremble—though I am sure it was naught but my imagination. It would be the duty of the Captain or his designate to release his vital fluids into the Nest, to grow a single emerald egg into the golden cyst of a Potential. A ship could not function long without the emanations of our Mother. Yet, this was a secret too great to keep; even the lowliest drone would have caught whiff of such a momentous event. Mother could not be dying.

Mothers died, it was true. All of the People were mortal. But some were less mortal than others. A ship might make a thousand jumps in the life of a single Mother. Two thousand was not unheard of. Our Mother was barely past middle age. She had suffered no wound; could suffer no disease save the final one that took all of her kind.

I risked touching a breathing orifice to the sensor pads. There was no odour of succession, no disturbance in the steady flow of hormones and endorphins that kept the ship functioning and crew on task.

Yet ...

I had either taken leave of my senses—not impossible given my tendency to deviance—or I had seen what I had seen: an interloper (X’iil or otherwise he was not of this ship; his movements, his gestures, the very posture of his thorax was wrong) creeping toward the Nest.

If this were a dramatic sense-cast, I would rush to the command deck, to warn the Captain or confront him.


The Captain is shocked by the news. A treason plot beneath His very mandibles. Together, we rush to the Nest, arriving even as the conspirators—aided by the X’iil operative—make their attempt on Mother’s life. She lies helpless in her birthing harness. Against one wall, a new-hatched Potential waits to take Her place (it is the only explanation). The Captain’s claws vibrate teal with rage as He rips apart the Second Mate. I bite and claw the X’iil until his death cries echo from the chamber walls.


It was death for a drone to approach the bridge or enter Mother’s nest unbidden. Not that being summoned promised a better fate. Still a drone must dream—so claimed the second tenet of H’ptil.

My continued existence troubled me. Why had the subaltern left me alive? Surely his job was to guard the entrance to the Nest while the X’iil operative carried out his nefarious scheme. He would want no witness to his duplicity; why risk mere reassignment? Why allow me to return unescorted to the stasis chambers? A mix of curiosity at his strange behavior and deepest outrage at his betrayal held me immobile while hot flushes of amber swept across my tergum.

The warning klaxon sounded. A single cycle before the jump to null-space. My questions would have to wait. I must seek shelter. It was a long run to the safety of the pods and I had no sap to speed my journey. While I dithered at the iris, the second warning burred.

No time for anything but improvisation. They say null-space is everywhere and nowhere at the same time but I can’t help but think of it as coming from outside the ship. I pulled down the light shades over the observation ports; the thin gossamer added little to the thick shutters but even a little had to help. Against the far wall, cabinets were filled with cushions; others, crammed with food bulbs.

I stuffed a dozen bulbs into my carry-all, then stuffed myself in among the cushions. I forced the door closed, its runners grinding ominously.

The third klaxon sounded and I counted down the moments.

The ship shuddered like a larva fleeing a nestworm, then slipped sideways, as streaks of bilious light oozed through my tightly lidded eyes. I felt stretched, joints creaking against unrealized movement.

This was not the jump; this was the approach to the gate. A sharp flicker of light and everything changed. Euphoria, far beyond my few tepid experiences of zast, gushed from my core to the farthest tips of cercus and tarsus. My mandibles clacked involuntarily as emotions I could not name writhed through my consciousness like tendrils of revelatory light. These thoughts and feelings were swept aside in the tidal flood of transition.

The adventures never described the passage through null-space in any detail. Our language lacks the words to do the job. Imagine that everything you knew was stripped away. Memory remained, self remained, everything remained, but the facts of the universe simply vanished. Meaning left, or, rather, it relocated. I was nothing; I was everything; everything and nothing were me. Patterns emerged but contained too many dimensions to be understood. For an instant (or was it an age?) I grasped the Truth. Like one of the Nameless Gods.


I look at my realm and it is good. The dreams of these creatures—X’ill, Thr’ann and a million other races—are so small, their plans so puny. To be ruler of them all is still to be nothing. I reach out my claw ...


The all clear sounded. I have shredded the cushions around me. Bits of foam clogged my mandibles and my breathing apertures. I expanded my thorax to blow them clear. My larger thoughts seemed to exit from the same six holes. I was ravenous, rummaging through my carry-all to jam one bulb after another in my mouth. Yet bitterness tinged each swallow; an overwhelming sense of loss left my digestive chambers empty even as I struggled to stuff them to overflowing.

I crawled out of my shelter—unharmed, it seemed, from my experience in null-space, yet changed, too. I felt strange stirrings in my thorax, not painful but odd nonetheless. Everything felt three sizes too large.

The shutters retracted even as I pulled the light shields away. The sight pumped nutrient fluids to all my extremities; the flush more than stiffened my resolve. Even from the comet cloud, the distinctive amber light of the sun was unmistakable. Mother had taken us home. Every drone dreams of basking in the light of Kr’nth, but I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.

A flickering light hovered at the edge of perception. Then a second and a third. This was outside my admittedly limited experience but strangely familiar, too. It was the flicker of gate transition. No matter. I had larger grubs to skewer.

I was less a drone than I was during my passage through null-space but greater than when I entered it. My instincts had become insights. If any were to stop the unfolding conspiracy—and there was a conspiracy aboard this ship, indeed, beyond this ship, that much my memories from nullity confirmed—I would have to do it. If what I feared was true, the Captain, by his nature, was powerless to intervene; the crew would follow his lead. The drones would do as they were told. Only a follower of H’ptil could succeed.


I leap upon the thorax of the arrogant subaltern and in one swift motion, sever his head from his thrashing body. His team dance around me, their chitin flushed coral with alarm. I whirl through them like an Arms-master in a zast-frenzy. Limbs fly through the air; fluids splatter the corridor walls.

I wouldn’t last an instant against a subaltern, much less one surrounded by crew, no matter how lowly their station. I was a dreamer but I wasn’t a fool. I must use the brains nature granted me and that H’ptil honed. Breathe deep from the well of Life; learn to know true scents from false.

It was a lesson few of the People grasped; fewer still knew how to use it for their own advantage. I made my way to the science labs. I trusted the crew would be busy with other duties.

Every drone is taught that its duty lay first and foremost to its Mother. H’ptil’s last tenet—the one that led to its execution—disagreed. Every Mother, every warrior, even the lowliest drone owes its loyalty to the People before all else. As we are birthed together so we only reach our destiny together. Biology is only the beginning.

The hallways were flooded with the aromas of command. I squeezed the apertures on my thorax tight but still I felt the tug of orders calling me to battle stations. Before the experience of nullity, I would have had no choice but to obey. Now, I was fresh-hatched; I had achieved H’ptil’s dream of transcendent authenticity. I felt it even if I didn’t understand it.

I had volunteered in the labs on many occasions; read deeply from the archives in my determined, but barely acknowledged, efforts at self-improvement. Now, my deviations—and my duplicity—served me well. My mind was crackling with unexpressed thoughts. Using my stolen passwords, or, where they failed, intuitive workarounds, I cracked open the coded vaults that held the preparations meant only for the highest ranks. I filled my carry-all with vials and tightly-sealed tubes, spread aromatic unguents across my head and thorax. My mandibles dripped with pheromones. I was ready for battle.

I touched my face to the ducts and let the torrent of odors stream into and through me. There, the subaltern I sought was commanding a gunnery station not far from my final destination. I would need reenforcements. But first I needed information.

Why was I still alive?

Subaltern Tc’pch reared up at my approach; his crew bristled with outrage. I cracked a vial in my nether claw. The crews’ eyes glazed over; the subaltern dipped his mandibles in submission.

“Do you know me?” I asked.

“You are Korch.” He made my unaccented name sound majestic.

“Why am I still alive?”

His antennae twitched in confusion. I had asked the wrong question.

“Tell me of our last encounter.”

The subaltern and his crew had left their posts unattended to drink zast and gamble in the least visited place on the ship: the entrance to Mother’s Nest. They had found me there, unconscious and entangled in my own sap. They had made illicit use of me (I flushed yellow with humiliation) until I began to recover. The rest I knew. I had been sent for reprogramming to hide their shameful behavior.

I had scents in my pouch that would send them into berserk frenzy, ripping each other to bits before my eyes. I refrained; I might need them later. I rubbed the pheromones on my claws across their faces and along the scent apertures on their thoraxes. They were now loyal to me and me alone.

I left the subaltern and half his crew to man their stations; I needed no inquiries from curious officers. The rest I took with me to the entrance to the Nest. It was not abandoned now.

It was one thing to subvert a subaltern and a few simple crew; the iris was guarded by none other than the Second Mate himself. For a moment my courage wavered but I inhaled deeply of the chemicals that painted my thorax and felt revived. The Mate stank of indecision and doubt; the officers around him shaded from pale rose to deep blue—the hues of loyalty and confusion.

This was no simple succession scheme, the replacement of a single ship’s Mother with another. They were not driven by instinct or the seductive smells of a Potential’s yearning for power. They, like me, were being driven by something else—ideas and dreams. The raw truth of nothingness had infected more than the simple mind of a single drone. New scents were being formed, new patterns created. Change looms.

The Mate scuttled forward, his outsized foreclaws reaching for me, while his nether ones scrabbled at his holster. Blasted or torn to bits seemed to be the two options he offered. I had hoped to save my most potent weapons for the final confrontation but need seldom served desire. I would have to rely on cruder tools, then.

Even as his claw tips reached me I unsnapped the most precious tube and splattered the thick balm on the Mate’s head. He shuddered to a stop as I massaged it into his eyes, mouth and along his sides to his breathing tubes. Tremors took him and waves of electric green and rich brown washed him from head to stinger. The changes that followed both revolted and titillated me. The officers twittered their objections or turned away—shocked to see transformations that should only be witnessed by the sacred few.

The Mate grew from he to Him; became Captain. A ship could have—briefly—two Mothers but two Captains were unheard of.

The new Captain gazed at me with glittering eyes. Something twisted in me, a sudden cramping pain that passed as quick as it began. Heaviness dragged on me but also infused me with unfamiliar strength. I raised my head even as the Captain—my Captain—dipped his mandibles in submission.

The door irised open. The Ship’s commander towered on the other side; His body bristled with augmented claws, sheened with sleek layers of ceramic armour. His chitin shone a uniform glowing teal. His mandibles clacked like thunder and he leapt to the attack. My Captain reared up and thrust to meet Him. Perhaps, for once, enthusiasm and youth would defeat age and trickery.

I slipped past the combatants, my body more gravid by the moment. Mother hung in the birthing harness. On the Home-world—now mere millions of spans away—the Queen Mother floats in a lake of thick fluids, excreted by a million drones bred for the purpose. Here, this Mother’s vast body swayed in the virtual weightlessness at the centre of the ship. Her head seemed tiny by comparison; an illusion, it was half the size of the X’iil who communed with her.

I twitched in disgust. The X’iil was feeding Her, his mandibles touching Hers as he smeared sticky paste against Her mouth. What lies was he filling Her with. Mother turned one vast faceted eye in my direction.

“What’s this?” Her voice rumbled beneath layers of vibrant scent. “An Usurper?”

The X’ill scuttled back, its postures, colors and sputtering pheromones an unreadable alien mess and yet, in my enlightened state, not entirely incomprehensible. Perhaps H’ptil was right—the People were not as mothers made them dream. Beyond the iris, the sounds of battle raged, as officers loyal to my Captain battled those still bound to Mother.

I reached into my carry-all for my most sacred treasure, the razor tip of H’pitl’s nether claw. I could not swear to its authenticity but I placed all my faith within it. That must suffice.


Mother loosed herself from the binding straps of the harness and lurched toward me. Her mandibles grasped me, acid splashed from Her mouth burning my eyes and thinning my chitin. Her great mass twisted in space separating my head from my body. A fitting death for an upstart drone…


Mother flooded the room with Her Love. I should have been frozen with rapture. Waves of pain and pleasure raced each other around my thorax. I lurched and skittered until I stood beneath her glittering eyes. The fighting outside the Nest receded, grew insubstantial. Even the X’iil twirled languorously, its claws clacking an erotic rhythm against the deck. Mother’s chittering commands played in counterpoint.

Nullity loomed.


I drove H’pitl’s claw into the seam that ran between her eyes, where the pieces of her transmogrified skull had been sutured when the Potential’s brain had expanded as she became Her so many cycles ago. It was not large enough, I was not strong enough to end Her life, but the attack was more than a gesture. H’pitl would become part of Her; whether She willed it or not, it would change Her.



An odd word, but it froze me as her hormones had not, as the harmonies of her voice had not.

My body shuddered again. Changed. Grew. H’pitl’s claw spun from my listless grasp.

“Even now the X’iil fleet is liberating the Home-world.”

Mother had betrayed us all. She had given the X’iil the secret codes that unlocked the Home-world’s gates. I had seen it in the twisting ever-when of null-space but I had not understood. Until now. I reached a nether limb to retrieve the icon of my belief and pull it close.

“Soon this harness will be empty. Soon the People and,” she gestured a claw at the now frozen X’iil ambassador, “Our brothers, the X’iil, will crush the Thr’aan, crush all who stand in our way. Have patience, little Sister, there can be a place for you in the pattern We create.”

The pattern shifted. The old Queen gone; this Mother in Her place. And on this ship ... H’ptil’s head must be bouncing on its pole to see what was becoming of its closest disciple.

I gazed down the length of my rapidly changing body, the chitin of my thorax shifting to accommodate the egg sacks growing beneath. I drew a deep breath, the miasma of Mother’s transformation filling me, threatening to overwhelm all my prior thoughts, making me into that which I had come to despise. Biology is only the beginning; it is not destiny.

I would rather die. I thrust H’ptil’s claw through the thinning chitin of my expanding abdomen. I would slice away this burgeoning life before it could emerge. The agony of contradiction shuddered the length of my body, waves of color flashing to match the new thoughts that vibrated through me, changing glands and endocrinal nodes to new formations. The icon dissolved. H’ptil was no more; K’rch was born.

H’ptil’s first tenet claimed: all things are possible to those who believe. But even it could not have imagined that a drone could become a Mother.

Or, perhaps, someday, a Queen. Not of the People but for Them.

As H’ptil would acknowledge: A drone can dream. END

Hayden Trenholm is a playwright and author from Ottawa. His short fiction has appeared in “On Spec,” “Neo-Opsis,” “Perihelion,” “Talebones,” and numerous other publications. He was nominated for an Aurora Award five times, winning twice.




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