Hive of the Swarm
Raala was forced down on to her knees between Vicia and Consensus. She kept her gaze on the deck, avoiding eye contact with their captors. Several robed figures stood behind them armed to the teeth. Others still roamed around the deck. Raala risked a glance toward either side of her.
Everyone was forced on their knees, side by side. The only ones missing were Miru and Widow who were under heavy guard in the Medical Bay. Everyone else had been gathered to the deck. All of their weapons had been confiscated and placed in a large metal box forward of the ship.
Even Urz was restrained between two robed figures with chains around his neck. Vurtak, given his size, faced four guards wielding close range weapons. Consensus was given special treatment. Its guards carried some kind of EMP weapon. It was unclear if the charge would permanently disable the geth or simply shut it down temporarily. But the heavy geth unit wasn’t going to take that chance. Raala could only guess that the guards with Miru would have the same weapons.
The Traveler turned and started heading south-east. Another ship similar in build sailed behind it. It was safe to assume that the tailing ship belonged to the raiders.
Vicia spoke up, “Where are you taking us?” No one answered her. Instead of remaining quiet, she spoke louder, “Are you deaf? I asked you, ‘where you were taking us!’”
A robed figure turned and leaned over her, “Silence!”
“Finaly! Someone answers! I demand to know where you’re taking us and what you plan to do,” Vicia stared at the figure.
In a swift movement, the figure drew a kind of riffle and aimed it between Vicia’s eyes. The turian didn’t even flinch. She continued to stare defiantly at her captor. In that moment, Raala admired the turians military spirit.
Before the situation could escalate, the cabin door opened. Even with her form masked by her robe, her stride and confident demeanor said she was the leader. She spoke firmly, clear enough for all around her to hear and understand her.
“Xarot! What is going on here?” her voice was raised but not upset.
Xarot talked over his shoulder, “This one is causing trouble. She won’t shut up.”
“This one,” Vicia spoke up, “can speak for herself. And ‘this one’ wants to know where you are taking my crew!”
Without warning, Xarot raised his riffle and used the butt of the gun to hit Vicia across the face. He raised his gun to hit her again but the leader stopped him. Blue blood flowed from the new cut on Vicia’s face. She spat blood out of her mouth onto the deck.
With a killing glare, she sneered, “Is that all you’ve got? Barely felt a thing.”
Xarot struggled against his leaders’ grasp but she didn’t let him go. She made a strange clicking noise and sent him away. Reluctantly, Xarot walked off. He went below deck while the leader situated herself in front of them. She crouched in front of Vicia, slipping off the cowl of her hood hiding her face.
“My name is Nych,” she said. “Let’s talk about what you are doing with one of my ships.”
Nych’s face was thin and narrow. Her eyes were like black pools, a white ripple where the iris would be. The leaders skin was a light tan color. From the center of her forehead, a hardened dark brown horn curved up her head and came to a point before dropping down to the back of her neck. She had a small nub for a nose but no nostrils. On her neck were segments that looked similar to gills. They moved slightly as she breathed.
Vicia responded, “Well, Nych, maybe you shouldn’t just leave your ships in the middle of the desert half buried in sand.”
Nych smiled, revealing sharpened teeth, “You think you are so funny.”
Vicia shrugged, “No one’s really told me that before.”
“Pitty,” Nych stood up. “Maybe if you had stuck to telling jokes, you would not be in this position. You want to know where you are being taken? You will be facing judgment at the Hive. It will be determined who you are, where you came from, and what you want. After that, we will figure out what to do with you.”
“We just want to get back—” Vicia was cut off.
“Save it for later,” Nych walked toward the cabin door. “Try to get comfortable,” she called over her shoulder. “It will be a long night back.”
The Next Morning
The morning sun started to rise in the east painting the sky an array of pinks and oranges. In the distance of space, the glowing Mass Relay faded with the morning light. The coming day was a welcomed sight after being forced to spend the night out on the open deck.
Raala’s muscles were stiff from kneeling the entire night. Glancing to her left, she noticed Vicia with her eyes closed. Somehow the turian managed to get some sleep. Raised early on in the military, harsh situations like this must be second nature for her.
Unlike Vicia, Raala couldn’t sleep. She was exhausted and wanted the whole ordeal over with.
The cabin door opened and Xarot walked out. Unlike his leader, he had two smaller horns like the other males of his species. Behind him was Nych. She stepped out onto the deck.
“Prepare for reentry,” she called out.
The others on the deck started to spring into motion. The ship tilted to the starboard while the mast swung to the right. Raala looked around. Vicia casually opened her eyes as if she weren’t sleeping in the first place. She glanced over to the left side. On the left was a canyon. The ship sailed parallel to the edge of the canyon.
It looked like a large crater possibly caused by an impact from a meteor. In the center of the canyon was a tall mesa, a raised section of land. One section was higher than the rest of it. Look out towers were built on top, allowing a circular view for miles. On the lower flat section, it looked like several farms were thriving. Part of a drawbridge was drawn back, preventing access to the only entrance. On the other side was a makeshift bridge made of metal extending half way across the canyon. Two watch towers stood on either side of the bridge entrance.
Nych pulled a small device from her robe. She pressed a button with her thumb. Speaking into the device, she made a series of clicking noises. After a moment, there was a steady blast from a horn. As the ship circled around toward the bridge the drawbridge was lowered.
The ship sailed through the two watch towers and started up the bridge. Darkness fell over the deck as they entered the cave. The deck lights turned on including the headlight located high up in the mast.
The captives waited while they entered a room with a high celling. They sailed along the edge of the round room. Three separate halls that went off in their own directions. On the other free space in the circular room were several compartments. Each compartment contained several boats and ships. The room they had entered seemed like a storage area for their fleet.
Looking up, Raala took note of the large hole in the ceiling. An advanced system of pulleys and lifts ascended and descended to different floors. It looked like the mesa was divided into five levels, including the one that they were on.
The ship stopped. Nych nodded to the robed guards and headed off the ship. As she walked toward the edge, she took off her robes and tied them around her waist. Two sets of wings like a dragonfly’s fell over a brown shirt that she wore. Her wings extended and jumped off the railing of the ship. She flew to the ground while the robed guards forced their captors to stand.
Raala’s guard threw her over his shoulder. Instead of wings four insect like appendages came out from between his robes. He climbed over the railing, his appendages gripping effortlessly against the side of the ship. Without using his own hands, he climbed down to the floor.
Once on the ground, Raala was made to walk toward a central raised platform. As they walked towards the platform, a wooden lift descended from the hole in the ceiling right above it. The prisoners and their guards gathered on the platform. When everyone was situated, the edges of the platform folded up to about waist high before the whole thing rose into the air through rope and pulleys.
As they rose, Raala got a good look at the many levels of the mesa. The first one above the ship storage area looked poor and run down city. There were many structures that looked like houses made of metal. Near the hole was a gathering place similar to a town square. Several people retrieved water around a well, pouring it into metal buckets. The citizens all wore brown clothing, often torn and patched up with other fabric.
The third floor was slightly nicer. The buildings were built out of a combination of metal and clay. Residents were dressed better with less patchwork done on their brown clothing. The streets were swept and kept orderly. Instead of a manual well in the town square was a pump that spouted water. Many people carried clay jars to and from the pump.
The fourth floor was the most beautiful. It was smaller than the precious levels with a large cave opening that lead out to the fields. The buildings were larger and were carved out of the very stone of the mesa. Large fountains sprayed water over beautiful statues. Servants in brown clothes fetched water from the fountain wells and carried it back to their master’s homes in ornate vases. It was easy to tell lower class workers from the elite by their clothing. The elite wore white as everyday clothes while the farmers wore brown.
At the final level, the lift stopped. They stood in a kind of courtyard. Statues stood in elegant poses. Two of them poured water from ornate jars into a clear pool of water. Plants and flowers grew in force, some even glowing with a mystical aura. Ahead of them was a large set of stone steps. Two guards stood on either side of the stairs.
Nych started forward while the others followed her. The soldiers stood at attention as she ascended the steps. Xarot and the others followed. The guard behind Raala shoved her, forcing her to move.
They passed underneath an arced doorway into a long narrow room. Large pillars were carved out of the stone on either side. At the other end of the room was a raised throne atop of a raised platform of stairs. Sunlight fell from a hole in the ceiling, the only source of light in the whole room.
A figure stood in front of the throne. Her elegant figure was draped in white embroidered cloth. With the sunlight raining down from above, it was hard to make out her distinct features with her figure in shadows.
Nych walked briskly on a white carpet lain in the center of the room toward the throne. At the foot of the steps, Nych bowed slightly. Behind her Xarot dropped to one knee. Raala was pushed forward, falling to her knees. The others were forced to bow as well.
The tall elegant figure stepped forward. Closer now, Raala could see that the queen’s figures were smooth yet defined. A white scarf was wrapped around her neck. the ends fell over her half top and skirt. Gold jewelry hung from her neck, arms and ears. When she spoke, her voice was firm yet soft. She only raised her voice when it was absolutely necessary.
“I am Vaennua, Queen of the Zha,” she spoke, hands folded in front of her. “I have witnessed the fall and rise of our kind, the flourishing peace and the ravaging war. The history of my people lies before me like an opened book. However,” she looked down at the aliens in front of her. she spoke clearly, “I do not know you, where you come from or why you have fallen from the sky. Who speaks for your kind?”
Nych glanced at Vicia though the turian didn’t need an introduction. She spoke up for herself.
“I do,” Vicia said. “I’m Vicia and I’m the leader. We crash-landed on this planet when our ship was attacked by Reaper forces. If you have a way, we could contact someone to come pick us up and we would leave without any trouble.”
Vaennua’s jaw tightened. Something seemed to be upsetting her, “Reapers?”
Vicia nodded, “They are an advanced synthetic species invading the galaxy. They don’t usually invade pre-space flight species which makes the presence of the Collectors concerning.”
“You know of the Reapers?” Vaennua asked.
Vicia nodded, “Yes.”
“Yes,” Vicia narrowed her eyes, trying to determine the line of questioning. “How do you know about the Citadel and the Reapers? Do you have a way to contact the Citadel? I don’t remember a species like yours in our alien index.”
“Then you found it. The Reapers have come once again,” Vaennua ignored her questioning. “Did you attempt to make contact with your species?”
Nych spoke up, “We managed to catch up with them at the tower complex. Just before we arrived there was a strange beam of light that coming from the tower, shooting up toward the stars.”
Vaennua voice became low and threatening. Her gaze was cold as she looked at Vicia, “What have you done? You’ve told them that we’re here. They will come, raining down from the sky turning the sky black.”
“What are you talking about?” Vicia asked.
Vaennua grazed the back of her neck, “Before the Reapers our ancestors, the zha, embraced technology and developed symbiotic AI technology. It enhanced their minds, their bodies, their very DNA as our world became more and more inhospitable. When the Reapers arrived, they dominated the AIs who seized control of their masters’ bodies turning them into the zha’til; the metal swarm. The Reapers turned us against a race called the Protheans. In retaliation, the Protheans used their technology to send our star into supernova, destroying the zha’til entirely.
“However, a few of us not controlled by the Reapers escaped through the Mass Relay in the system. When the Relay was destroyed in the blast, it bounced us around the system before we crashed here. I witnessed the end of our kind. I witnessed the Reapers Harvest…and survived.”
“The last harvest? The Protheans?” Raala asked. She looked at Vicia, “They existed centuries ago. Their last documented existence was nearly 50,000 years ago. Is she talking about the extinction of the Protheans?”
“So they did end up falling,” Vaennua spoke softly. “I thought as much. The Reapers used us to fight for them but by then the Protheans were already loosing.”
“What planet is this?” Raala asked.
Vaennua turned to her, “The ancients of this planet called it Thadus. They died long before the zha crashed here. Maybe even by the Reapers.”
Consensus turned to Raala, “There is no recorded location by that name.”
Vaennua looked concerned, “You don’t know? I do not know the details of your trek here but the result was the same. There was a problem. You got lost between the Relays until one would take you. You’ve traveled far and long. Look into the night sky. The stars you see are not your own. You are no longer within your home galaxy.”
There was silence. No one spoke. The realization slowly began settle on Raala. The VI computer inside the escape pod was malfunctioning. It wasn’t able to correctly send information to the Mass Relay before the jump. There was still much people didn’t know about the Relays.
The idea that some could jump to other galaxies was thrown around as an unproven theory. Even if one were able to make that kind of a jump, there was then the question of how it would affect space and time. Would it be instantaneous with few consequent effects or would it take years between jumps? Their jump to this new planet, to this new galaxy, could have taken hundreds of years even if it felt like a few moments for them. Everyone they knew and loved could have been harvested and dead by then.
Vaennua she turned her back to them, “I understand what you are going through. However, I cannot allow you to leave the hive. You have already endangered my people by activating the old Prothean tower. Apparently the Protheans discovered this place and was experimenting in intergalactic travel. Who knows what kind of data or message that was sent. The Reapers might come to investigate. We can’t handle any more of them.”
The queen addressed the guards, “Take them to the empty villa. Keep them under house arrest. Do not let them out. They’ve caused enough trouble as it is. We need to prepare for the Reapers.”
Vicia stood up but was held back by the guards, “You can’t do that! You can’t just lock us up!”
Vaenuua looked over her shoulder, “I must do what is best for my people. Don’t worry, you will be taken well cared for. Welcome to the Hive of the Zha.”