The last strains of Mimi and Rondolfo’s final duet, Annie’s favorite from La Boheme, drifted past her. She could barely raise her head to watch as Mimi died in her lover’s arms. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth at the irony. Her own lover, Jack, slumped over the edge of his chair about a foot away. She couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. The virus she had unleashed moments ago had worked its deadly magic on his body faster, probably due to his quicker metabolism. Something to think about later, if they survived.
What have you done?
Annie ignored the whisper that eeled its way through her mind and concentrated on the actors on the ad hoc stage. They had slid to the floor as had the rest of the audience. It was a sight that made her glad.
Annie. Answer me. What have you done?
She sighed and replied, Isn’t it obvious. I’m killing us.
Why? What have I done to you to deserve this?
Done? You enslaved us, that’s what you did!, she raged, But you picked the wrong species to fuck with.
A year ago her team had been brought into a secure location to study a large meteorite found beneath the surface of the Earth. In the warmth of their lab, it had begun to fall apart and the debris came to life. Annie had managed to hit the panic button and lock down the facility before she was overcome.
When she woke up, the Chyrl that had implanted itself at the base of her neck had introduced itself. It thanked her for saving his people and, in return, was happy to offer them a variety of technologies in repayment. As a xenobiologist, she was thrilled at the discovery. And, secretly, glad of the 12 month lockdown she had initiated. They had plenty of food and water to last them the year. She could study this new species to her hearts content.
She finally managed to calm down the rest of the team and accept their “guests”. And over a month, they eventually had. And that’s when the promised technology was given to them.
It was truly wondrous. They were given plans for a cold fusion reactor, which made Jack giddy with excitement. He had a working prototype in his section of the lab. Others had been given plans to create a variety of things like energy weapons and stable wormholes.
Then, Annie had figured out how to integrate the plans her Chryl had given to her for nannite production into the perfect energy producer: the human body. It effectively stopped the aging process in its track and, as a side benefit, healed injuries within moments. Everyone clamored for a dose of nannites after that. Jack had joked that it was eternal life in a bottle but Annie wasn’t so sure. She kept telling them she needed to test it further but was overridden by her Chryl. After all, why would they give her people a technology that would hurt them?
Then began the games. At first, it was just chess tournaments. Then the Chryl, fascinated by paintball, asked to play that. Annie and her team agreed, after all, hadn’t the Chryl given them so much? It wasn’t until they found Bobby and Maris dead of gun shot wounds and their Chryl dead on the floor next to them that they realized that the games had gone too far.
When questioned, the Chryl admitted that they had been preparing the scientists for a war that their previous hosts had failed to win. The deaths were an aberration and the nannites would now take death of gun shots into account. When the scientists refused to continue, the Chryl took over their bodies and forced them to train. Annie, under her Chryl’s influence, upgraded the nannites to be quicker and impervious to physical trauma.
It was Lillian who discovered that she could hear the minds of her fellow scientists. But it was Jack who realized that the Chryl couldn’t hear them. Annie figured that the Chryl opened up that particular brain channel when they implanted themselves in the humans. After confirmation of that fact with a discussion with her Chryl about previous hosts and telepathy, a plan was hatched to rid themselves of the Chryl.
During the short time they had when each Chryl slept, the scientists had gone to work on a way to kill their parasites. It had taken months to develop the virus and to put the plan into place. They had to work around the ever vigilance of the aliens and survive the war games that had become increasingly violent as the months past.
During a deadly match between herself and Jack, Annie mentioned to her parasite that she much preferred opera to games. The Chryl, fascinated by her description, demanded that they put on an opera. Seeing an opening, Annie readily gave in to his demands and now she was dying.
But we gave you everything. All we needed was your help.
You should have asked, then, not taken. The edges of Annie’s vision blackened and the last thing she heard was the Chryl calling her name.
She opened her eyes and found herself pressed to Jack’s chest. She raised a shaky hand and felt for the Chryl at the back of her neck. It was gone. She pushed against Jack’s chest. “Let me breath, Jack.” His arms eased and she looked into his face. He had been crying.
“You scared the hell out of me, woman,” he said. “We couldn’t get you to wake up. Some plan.” A tear dripped off of his chin and landed on her cheek.
“The plan is good. Trust me. Plus I’m alive aren’t I?” Annie pulled Jack’s head down and kissed him long and hard. A bit breathless, she pulled away. “Are all the Chryl dead?”
“As doornails just according to plan.” Jack sat back against the wall. Annie’s face was solemn when she laid her head against his chest. She didn’t want him to see the sheer relief on her face. His arms went around her slowly as he said, “So, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?”
Annie laughed into his shirt. “Why, what we do everynight, Pinky. We take over the world.”
That was, after all, the point of their plan.
“Are you sure this is the right decision?”
I turned my attention from the small bio-mechanical creature I was working on and gazed at her. Her normally iridescent skin had dulled in the failing atmosphere of our world. I glanced towards the small child tucked along her side and I winced at the terrible changes wrought on that small body. All to survive. I tried not to think about would happen if I failed this time.
Swallowing my fear, I gave her a decisive nod. “Yes. I am sure.” Well, I was as sure as I theoretically could be. After all, this had only been attempted once and that had failed miserably. But the sight of our child was enough to make me take another great risk. If I didn’t, we would all be dead anyway.
With a final twist, the creature’s exoskeleton came together. It was a thing of technological wonder although, I have to admit, it didn’t look it. The nano technology crammed into its middle made it look a bit awkward.
“Will it fly?” The chuckle in her voice warmed me. Even now, she could still laugh. As I added a final touch to the small thing, I could feel her peering over my shoulder. I glanced over and smiled.
“Well, it should. I’ve stuffed enough anti-gravity nanites into it.”
I bent over the small creature and whispered the command code to bring it to life. The wings began to beat slowly just as a loud boom shuddered through our dome and tossed us about.
I grabbed onto the table with all my hands and held on for dear life. My wife fell to the floor, protecting the small one’s fragile body with her own. Their screams filled me with dread as we rode out the shockwave. As the room settled down, I raced to pick them up off the floor. Clear liquid oozed from a gash along her head.
“Are you all right?” As I touched the wound, she flinched. The child whimpered in her arms.
The sight of her essence leaking out of her body sent me into a panic. I grabbed at the edges of the wound and tried to close it but there was nothing I could do. The damage done to our world had worked on her DNA and she was no longer able to self heal. Maybe I could bandage the wound. As I searched about for something to staunch the flow, she grabbed two of my hands in a tight grip and shook me.
“Hurry, love. Or it will be too late.”
Her eyes implored me, even as the light in them began to fade. I touched my forehead to hers. A final goodbye.
“Be good for mummy, little one.” I ran a hand down our child’s head and barely contained the shudder at the texture of her skin. So much damage to such a small being.
A low buzzing filled the room. My small creature hovered above the table as if it waited for directions. And I suppose it did. I lifted myself from the floor and inched my way towards it. The room had begun to shudder again making it diffiult to move in a straight line. As I neared the table, the little bio-mech alighted on my outstretched hand and looked up at me.
Again, I whispered to it causing the small head to nod and then crawl up my arm. After what seemed an eternity, it settled on my shoulder. I refused to look back at my whimpering family as I grabbed the teleport device that allowed us to move around our world at the pace of thought. I swiped my hand across its surface and, instead of a ready yellow light, it turned blue. I nodded to myself. This, at least, was going as planned.
Then the floor dropped out from under me. I could hear their screams as we were tossed about as the force of a hundred shockwaves hit our dome at once.
At her scream, I turned to see my wife point at the ceiling. A crack had begun to spread from the pinnacle of our dome and was beginning to give way. Air forced its way through the break.
There was no time to put the device and creature in the safe room. I slammed my hand down on the device and the bio-mech and I blinked out of existence.
I gasped for breath. My body was designed to handle a different atmosphere and I shuddered and thrashed about on the dry ground. The small creature was hovering above me, content to wait for its final instructions. Blackness threatened the edge of my vision as I fought to gain control of myself.
I knew I was dying.
“Multiply.Watch over them. Keep them safe. Go now.” The small creature bobbed once and was away. It’s oval body glinted yellow as the warm sun of a different era played against its body.
I hoped it was enough. If it wasn’t, I don’t know what the humans would do. They had managed to wipe out the first set of bees sent back to keep them alive. And with the death of our future, I couldn’t go back and do it again.