It was the sound of cloth on air, an almost imperceptible lift as Juan Esteban coaxed the giant moth upwards. It’s multi-limbed grip was surprisingly snug; although the arms were chitinous and uncomfortable, the body (once you got used to the fact that it was a giant insect) was soft and somewhat pliable. Like an insistent memory foam mattress. Or a yet-broken-in pillow.
“I-h, uuh, w-wow.” Juan stuttered, as the mind-numbing fear that had gripped him poured from his body, replaced with wonder. He was flying, like in some of those dreams he remembered – except he was still smaller than his brothers, and his dad hadn’t let him drive the car by himself yet. There was another sound of a gentle wingbeat, and Juan was moved both forward and up, slightly. The beast on his back apparently was content to ride the thermals from the city below; it didn’t know exactly what was going on other than it got the shiny thing, and that was all it’s primitive brain wanted.
Juan looked at the world that extended still far below him; little jewels of light flickering in the night. Part of him really wanted to just stay here in the relative quiet of the summer night, letting the world below him stretch out, watching the living while not participating. Somewhere, he felt, there was a lo-fi hip hop beat he could chill to while doing this.
The other, more rational part of his entire being pointed out that you’re still fuck-off high being saved by a wild animal you can’t really control.
“Y-yeah. Ok. Ok, umm…” Juan tilted his arms up and to the left, starting a purposeful and gentle corkscrew up into the sky. Slowly, he climbed the height he had fallen, each wingbeat pushing him up another 7, 10 feet in the air. As he circled, other giant moths would come to investigate, but would ultimately leave him alone – apparently the lure of the light wasn’t enough to overcome their inherent flight right-of-way.
“No arguing you two!” Juan interjected, trying his best to “steer” the animal back towards safety and family. Well. “Safety”. I mean, there was still a giant moth, a blazing inferno, thousands of the little bastards aimlessly roaming around the night and active gunfire. So like Detroit, but with a better housing market.
It took a few more minutes, a few more perilous bumps into other moths, the building, and falling hard-light debris, but eventually Juan crested the tarmac.
It was just as bad as he remembered.
SHE was sovereign.
For a million million dawns had SHE lain dormant; for a million million nights SHE had awoken. If not HER, then the queen before HER, and the queen before that, stretching unbroken throughout HER world’s history.
SHE was sovereign.
This was HER territory, and as such, SHE would fear no thing. The memories of ancient times, of smoke and ice, of other monsters that threatened HER sovereignty now long-dead stirred in HER genetic memory and just as quickly dissipated.
Fire came rarely now, so rarely, and each and every blaze worthy enough for HER presence demanded such. The fire opened parts of HER that would usually remain dormant through processes SHE knew not, but instinctually followed regardless. There would be an opening, a dance, a conjugation and soon, spawning. The flood that would hatch from HER body would darken the very skies itself with children, scattering to the nine winds unto the end of this world. Some would find other queens, some would stay, and some would die; this was the way things always have been and always would be for another million million days and nights, stretching unbroken unto the ending of all things.
So then. With all of this instinctually known, with all of this as fact and feeling, with HER own form reigning sovereign over this whole world –
With all this allied with HER, what the fuck was this thing doing?
The thing – the small, insignificant, probably inedible thing – stood? defiant before HER. It was not the loud, burning thing that was an enemy but was now defeated. It was not the other, flat thing that was not HER and not food and yet flew. It was also not the other smaller things that made noises and were probably not edible as well. But this thing stood defiant, and more importantly, reached out and struck HER. It struck HER, but not with fire and not with smoke or ice or any of the ancient things. It was not such beasts; it was new.
The thing moved again, insignificant and small. SHE watched, with interest, as HER children continued to claim the sky, as the heat began to open HER, as SHE pressed down against the burning enemy, taking no small satisfaction in the irony (if SHE knew what irony really was) that that it kept HER from fire with heat and yet was, itself, very warm. SHE settled in, and watched as the thing let out a noise and waved a part of itself in some-
…that was twice now. Once was an aberration; twice was UNACCEPTABLE.
SHE saw everything; SHE was aware of all, and SHE was going to imminently establish HER dominance –
and then one of HER children rose, ascendant.
Juan’s arms were crossed and raised high above his head, in a glorious picture of Humanity rising that would be shared for generations to come – as all eyes, both physical and digital, were upon him.
This, of course, was not because the child understood maximum a e s t h e t i c s but instead was born completely out of necessity; the beast on his back was following the light, the hard-light disk had wrapped it’s metal talons tightly around his forearms, and he was refusing to let the animal that he loved – a chicken, which is a bird and can at least fucking glide – out of his hands. Hence, the crossed arms, the wrist-grip on the bird, and the pose.
Eggsmerelda, for her part, had her own wings spread in actual triumph. Now was her moment – now was the time.
She let out a keening call, and her flock heard. As one, they turned to pay attention, for she had brought them to the final point of all things, to the culmination of ten thousand years of work and gentle nudging. The other, it’s species half-dumb, tensed. Could it sense the energy? Did it know?
No. Surely not. The half-dumb other screeched something nonsensical at the flock, spreading it’s limbs out in a human dominance pose.
Intimidation would not work. Not now. Not when they were so close.
As her flock called out as one, Eggsmerelda began to sing.
“Bok-Bagokoku na tenshi no you ni, Shounen yo-”
“Eggsmerelda!” Juan protested, pulling his arms in tight. “Now is not the time for the Human Instrumentality Project!”
“Bok!” she protested, trying to wiggle out of her humans’ grip. If she could just get back into the nexus of energy, if she could just be free to channel once more-
“Wh-OH~!” Juan said, as his perspective shifted. With the new positioning of his arms, the hard-light beacon now pointed straight down. The terror-beast, the dumb animal that it was, beat it’s wings with purpose, upending the trio and pointing them straight at the tarmac.
“Well bok.” Eggsmerelda stated, matter-of-factly, as the trio of them faceplanted into the pavement below with enough force that Juan’s remaining shoe flew off his foot as he full-on scorpion’d.
Isabella was absolutely determined to get this moth out of her kitchen. The problem was, somehow, the moth was shrinking all the shoes that she threw at it. If she could find one of her fly swatters, or better, a pan, this little bastard would be gone already. Once she got rid of the insect, she could work on the portal to hell in the living room and all these flying puppies that Juan adopted and isn’t training at all-
As if on answer to her prayers, a smaller shoe – one that would fit a child – sailed through her vision. In that instant, she knew.
The Lord had heard her prayer, and provided.
If a normal shoe would be shrunk, then a smaller shoe-
Isabella gripped the smaller shoe in her fist, wound her arm back and, I cannot stress this enough, yeeted the even smaller speck of rubber into the night.
Time stood still. All eyes turned towards the giant insect, but the beast looked only at the hunched over abuela that stood before it.
Without breaking it’s gaze, the Mother stood up, gripped the mecha that had caused it so much pain – if they were going to take one of her children, she would do the same – and spread it’s wings once more-
-and took off.
“CHICKPEA TALK TO ME-” HUMMUS said, trying to figure out what exactly the fuck was happening. There was a minor delay in the telemetry – yes, the visuals on her screen refreshed at the speed of light, but there was so much visual and EM noise that onboard processing had to “clean” everything before it refreshed on her console. Some of it was melding together the same image from multiple viewpoints, some of it was the computer “filling in the blanks” to give the most statistically-significant possible next frame, but none of it made a goddamn lick of sense.
The giant moth thing that was, by all known zoological standards too large to exist, shrugged off a couple million rounds of the best ammunition mankind had developed, landed in a jet fuel fire hot enough to melt steel beams and was about to do something, but…
…just stared at a civilian and flew off.
The issue wasn’t any of those things – I mean, yes it was but right now, no it wasn’t – the issue was that CHICKPEA’S stream of data streamed unbroken from the ground to the ship, was cut off in an instant, and now…
…now it was moving North by Northwest at roughly 250Km/hr. About 2 miles up. Somehow.
“CHICKPEA I’M REALLY GETTING CONCERNED-”
HUMMUS adjusted for variance, and a stream of curses came into sharp focus.
“FUCK. Finally!” Lt. Heinz yelled, something sounding like the rythmic pounding of fiberglass-on-metal echoing in the background. “I have absolutely no fucking clue on what to do-”
“CHICKPEA what’s going on? Talk to me.”
“In that rig? It’s called falling with style-”
“No you cunt I mean the fucking thing picked me up and now I’m flying. It landed, smothered me, and now I’m uh… where am I even going?”
“North by Northwest, 250 clicks every hour. Possibly the mountain range?”
“Ok. Am I getting support?”
“CHICKPEA, I mean, yes? Eventually? We’re still co-ordinating…”
“So what do I do now?”
“Hang tight. Admiral Smalls says he’s put his top men on it.”
HUMMUS turned to look at the stone-faced admiral, who was very much either (1) answering multiple overlapping distress signals or (2) off in his own little world, hoping that this absolute clusterfuck wouldn’t land at his feet.
“Uh… Top. Men.”
There was a brief, but heavy pause.
“Sure. Thanks.” Lt. Heinz said, muting his mic. On the vidscreen all around him were familiar faces, the smaller moths bonking into him, the giant one, and each other as they moved with some alien purpose into the inky black night.
“How the fuck could this happen to me.” Lt. Heinz said, as he reflected on his mistakes.
“Dios Mia.” Ricardo murmured, as the moths just… left. He and his sons had formed a barrier of humanity around his wife and daughter – well. The sons that had made it into the ship. Juan, Juan and Juan had run to take care of the livestock – at first to calm them down, but quickly soon after to join them in their pens for some added safety, and were slowly crawling out. The horses were still spooked, the alpacas were having a conference, and the pigs were…
…well they were covered in shit, but that’s par for the course.
“What the absolute fuck.” Andres sighed, exasperated at the night’s events.
“I just wanted to cook some chorizo. Is that so much to ask, Lord?” Tomas said, rubbing his face a little too roughly. “Nnnnngh. I wanna go home-”
“Is everyone here? Is everyone accounted for?” Luciana said from the back, standing on her tiptoes to see beyond the protective barrier. “Is mema ok?”
“[Please. Get off of me.]”
Szreshnstrst lay on the floor of the dropship, splayed out, defeated and slightly dazed. One moment he was getting a lecture in sovereign citizen rights, the next he was being attacked by some very warm and very tiny fists. It wasn’t that they were stronger than him, just, there were so many. Then the ship was rocked and there were explosions and suddenly, somehow, he found himself being stepped on.
Something deep inside him disagreed with this turn of events. Something even deeper inside him was awoken, but that would be worked out through therapy. And a subscription to Lewdhub.galnet.node
As the humans got off of the Jornissian he stood, wobbling slightly. “[What happened. Why. Just.]” As he turned to admonish the now sheepish-looking humans, he was interrupted by a yell.
“[Is everyone ok?]” His partner, Zngrer-of-Drgrabgh called, poking her head into the ship from the side of the loading bay ramp. “[We’re gonna sweep the pad once the terror-beasts thin out.]”
“Yeah, we’re fine – we have family out there though-”
“[We know, we’ll get them.]” Zngrer said, tilting her head slightly in confirmation.
Zngrer turned and caught the deep, pure eyes of Ngruzren piercing deep into her core once more. Wordlessly she reached up to cup his jaw, and he leaned into her touch.
“[For you… yes. I promise.]”
“Can I go now?” Tomas said, still limp in Tipo’s arms.
“[Good… I…]” Ngruzren started, but a claw was pressed against his lips.
“[Hush. I know.]” Zngrer said, smiling. “[And I-]”
“STAND TALL FOR TURTLEFALL-”
The group outside jumped as multiple impacts hit the landing pad they were on, the ones around them, and a few other completely-innocent buildings. UNIT ZERO TWO through ZERO FIVE stood proudly in the night air, weapons spinning with deadly intent.
“CITIZEN!” the nearest one boomed, it’s hoversled crackling to life. “WE HAVE COME TO-”
“Ai! What did I say about leaving the windows open-”