‘Impossible. An obscenity!’ Commander Chahr exclaims as he and the King of the Vray stand in the room set aside for Rogue, which is now in disarray. ‘A squadron of Swarm warriors infiltrated our camp? Under our very noses? How does such a thing happen?’ Chahr wonders. The King looks unhappy, and reminds Chahr that the Swarm move as one both in battle and in stealth. It’s not as if they went unchallenged’ he points out, adding that they slew several of their bravest warriors. ‘Or are you so bereft by the loss of your precious outwardly that it’s escaped your notice?’ the King asks. Chahr crouches down beside a fallen member of the Vray warriors and replies that it has not. ‘I assigned them guard duty, my King. Their deaths are on my head’ he acknowledges.
‘I do not condemn you, Chahr. You miss the larger point. This alien -’ the King begins. ‘Rogue’ Chahr tells him - ‘You anointed her the Alpha. The key to victory in the coming battle. The catalyst of a return to our people’s past glory. Yet she was taken. Easily’ the King points out. Chahr suggests that the Swarm must have assimilated her, forced her into their cured hive-mind, to which the King points out then she is doubly lost, for once absorbed into the hive-mind of the Swarm, none have ever escaped - not with their sanity intact. The King reminds his friend that they have fought this damnable war for longer than both their lifetimes and seen their people’s numbers dwindle, seen too much death. ‘I am tired as well. But we will not be delivered by some savior from another world. This war will be won - or lost - by soldiers such as we. Forget your “Rogue”, Chahr. She is one of them now’ the King declares as he walks away.
At that moment, the night sky on this alien world looks like Earth’s night sky, as Rogue trudges across the landscape, the Swarm, insect-like aliens with armor and large teeth, walk in front and behind her. ‘G-gg -’ Rogue begins, before growling as she spins around and kicks one of the Swarm. ‘Again?’ the Swarm exclaims. ‘Hush now, mammal. All your fussing and fighting is for naught’ the alien declares as he shoves a small spike into the back of her head, ‘Let me…go, damn you…’ Rogue utters. Rogue falls to her knees, ‘There, now. Isn’t that better? No pain…no confusion. Only the peace and unity of the hive-mind’ the alien declares. ‘Commander Tritt, this is the second time the outworlder has broken your control…rejected the hive-mind. We must kill it!’ one of the Swarm exclaims.
Commander Tritt overrules the soldier’s suggestion, pointing out that the very act she can do this shows that she is something special. ‘The Queen will want to see this for herself. If she can be subsumed to the hive-mind, the Queen can surely do it’ Tritt points out, adding that if not, it is her majesty’s decision how to proceed. ‘Regardless…the decision is now out of our hands’, Commander Tritt declares as they arrive at their hive fortresses. ‘Tritt’ a guard calls out as Tritt approaches a chamber, with Rogue at his side. ‘Brax, the Queen -’ Tritt begins. ‘Is expecting you. Enter’ Brax replies, and as Tritt and Rogue enter the Queen’s chamber, they both fall to their knees, bowing before her. ‘My Queen’ Tritt calls out. ‘So this is the mammal the hive-mind’s been buzzing about. The one who shattered our colossus’ the Queen declares.
Commander Tritt explains that she is called “Rogue” and that she is most unusual. ‘If she fought on our side, she could make the difference in the battle to come. The Queen gets down off her throne and goes over to Rogue, while asking Tritt if it is true that this Rogue has thrown off the chem-bonds twice. ‘Yes, my Queen. I am shamed’ Tritt replies. ‘Not necessarily. It has been many cycles since we have encountered outworlders. Their physiology can be…odd’ the Queen points out, before announcing that she may need to personally induct this one. ‘I’ll pass’ Rogue exclaims as she suddenly gets off the ground and grabs the Queen by her wrist. ‘Intolerable!’ the Queen booms, but Rogue smacks her in her abdomen. ‘Yeah, reckon Ah ain’t gonna be invited to your Diamond Jubilee’ Rogue exclaims.
Rogue tells Tritt that thanks to the hive-mind, she knows what their weapons do, and grabbing one, shoves it into one of the Swarm. ‘Better you than me’ Rogue points out, before telling them that it has been fun, but that she has got a home to get back to. More of the Swarm enter the chamber, and Rogue tells them that they fight like Roman soldiers, that every move is orchestrated. Taking one of the weapons, Rogue leaps upwards and tells the Swarm that they don’t do well with imrpov. ‘Well, Ah trained with a Cajun…who’s all improv’ Rogue declares as she leaps through an opening in the hive. ‘Daylight. If Ah can make it outta camp…’ Rogue tells herself, but as she lands on the ground, ‘Ah, hell’ she mutters as she is set upon by a large army of the Swarm. ‘You forget, mammal…we are the camp. And the camp is us!’ the Swarm declare as they overwhelm her, and bring her down.
The Queen lurches forward to where the Swarm hold Rogue down. ‘She is an interesting specimen. But I am Queen of the Swarm. The heart of the hive-mind. My chem-bonds are unparalleled’ the Queen boasts, before putting her claw-like fingers to Rogue’s head, and a small spike pokes out from one of them into Rogue’s head. ‘You are no more, little thing. Now there is only the Swarm!’ the Queen declares. Rogue looks up, ‘Wha - what is this place?’ she calls out. Commander Tritt goes over to her, and tells her that there is nothing to fear. He adds that he comes not as her captor, but as her guide to the hive-mind. ‘You are not a prisoner. There is no need to fight. Only open yourself…to a new way of being’ he tells her. ‘Get bent. Ah ain’t gonna lose mahself. Not ever again’ Rogue replies. The Queen steps forward and points out that Rogue isn’t listening. ‘Foolish child. We do not lose ourselves in the hive-mind. It is where we find ourselves’ she exclaims.
‘Sounds funny…coming from a Queen who sets herself above everyone’ Rogue points out. The Queen replies that she performs her duties for the good of the hive, as do they all. ‘some fight. Others build. Some nurture. One leads’ she states, adding that it is not compulsion, it is done willingly, for it is their way. ‘If we need shelter, the hive makes a shelter of themselves. Those who tire are replaced by those who are fresh. The hive endures. And, if we make war, the hive forms warriors, gigantic colossi, to crush our enemies’ the Queen announces. She adds that she sees the power Rogue used to defeat their colossus is gone, that it had been borrowed from another and has faded. The queen continues, announcing that the Vray would have rejected Rogue as useless, but the Swarm have a place for her, that the hive welcomes all. ‘If they will only understand. Open your mind, mammal…and know!’ the Queen exclaims.
The Queen informs Rogue that the Swarm have thrived for ages untold, and in their prime, the hive spanned half this world, working together, pooling their strength, creating infinite marvels. ‘After the cataclysm, when resources became scarce and Vray aggression sought to claim them all, the endless war began. Like the enemy, our numbers have dwindled’ the Queen reveals, stating that unlike the Vray, the Swarm endure, they number far, far more, because the Vray are a swirl of chaos, misdirected individuals, yet the Swarm act as one. The Queen continues, explaining that their young know their parents, but that their family is the entire hive, and their elders are protected by the youthful and strong, valued for their wisdom, never left to fend for themselves. She adds that unlike the Vray, who slay the Swarm indiscriminately, the Swarm welcome them into their hive, that they become one. ‘So much so that if they are separated from the hive-mind through injury or shock, and make no mistake, Vray attacks seek to do just that - they go mad’.
The Queen asks Rogue if she understands now, and Rogue replies ‘Y-yes…Ah understand everything. Ah’ve had other minds melded with may own all mah life. So Ah see the whole picture. Not just your spin on it’. Rogue tells the Queen that the Swarm discourage independent thought, individual achievement, but that it wasn’t always so, for in the old days, those things were valued because they made the hive stronger. Rogue points out that the Swarm haven’t developed new tech or strategies in ages, that their ancestors came up with it all. ‘Now you got no ability to adapt’ she explains. ‘That’s why the Vray try to cut you off from the hive-mind in a fight, because you melt down, can’t do nothing on your own. Easy prey’ Rogue tells them.
‘You still want me cause you’re desperate. Cause you think maybe I’ll bring new ideas. Ideas you ain’t got!’ Rogue exclaims, adding that if they think forcing the hive-mind on folks is saving them, then they have never been on the receiving end. ‘Ah see, all right. Ah see the whole truth. You’re headed for extinction, too. Maybe a little slower…but you can’t survive like this’ Rogue tells the Swarm. ‘You know that, don’t you? Is that what you’re keeping locked away from the rest of the hive-mind?’ she asks the Queen. ‘Ah thought that wasn’t how you operate. Everybody shares everything, right? So what secret’s sealed up in here? Let’s take a look, whaddaya say?’ Rogue suggests. Tritti s contused and asks his Queen what this means. ‘STOP!’ the Queen shouts, announcing to her warriors that the outsider corrupts the hive-mind, and that she has corrupted Tritt as well.
‘W-what?’ Tritt begins. ‘Quickly! Before they poison the hive any more!’ the Queen calls out, shouting: ‘They must DIE!’, while Rogue grabs Tritt and tells him to come on, as they start to run away. ‘The Queen has severed my tie to the hive-mind. But…but why?’ Tritt asks Rogue, adding that he can’t feel them, that he can’t feel anything. Rogue tells Tritt that he will feel plenty if he doesn’t keep running, and touches her bare hand to his, telling him to link to her mind, that it is okay, and it won’t seem so isolating. ‘Do you know anything about this area -’ Rogue begins, before they reach the edge of a cliff, with nothing in front of them save for a deep, deep drop. ‘Ah don’t suppose you got “Thelma and Louise” here’ Rogue mutters. ‘What is -’ Tritt begins, but Rogue tells him to never mind, and that it looks like they go down fighting.
The Queen and several Swarm warriors close in on Rogue and Tritt, as the Queen tells them not to get close, as the outwardly touch can infect them. ‘Concentrate bio-electric fire! At my command!’ the Queen exclaims, as the warriors fire their weapons towards Rogue and Tritt. ‘Oh, man. Thelma and Louise it is. Hold tight…’ Rogue tells Tritt, as the ground breaks up around them, and they begin to fall backwards off the cliffside. A large amount of rock and earth falls downwards with Rogue and Tritt, crashing to the land many feet below. Dust rises, and the Queen gathers at the edge of the cliff and looks downwards. She congratulates her warriors for eliminating a grave threat to the hive-mind. ‘Clearly she had infected Tritt with her madness. As if an outwardly could be the difference in our decisive battle with the Vray’. The Queen tells her warriors that this conflict will be won - or lost - by soldiers such as they. ‘Come, we march to war’ she declares.
When night falls, Rogue and Tritt suddenly emerge from the rubble. Rogue thanks Tritt for the save and tells him that without him she would have been crushed. ‘We nearly were. But my carapace is strong. There is no need for your thanks. You are my hive now’ Tritt replies. Rogue asks Tritt if he is going to be all right, to which he replies that he he has never felt so alone, so lost. ‘But if I have your mind linked to mine, I believe I can endure’ he tells her, adding that he must, for his people depend on it. ‘That…vision we saw. Could it have been a mistake?’ Tritt asks. Rogue tells him that she is sorry, and reminds him that she has spent her entire life sorting through other people’s psyches, and that there is no one here good at keeping their independence in a mass of minds, not even the Queen. ‘What we saw…was a memory she was keeping from you. Her darkest secret’ Rogue declares as she reveals it to Tritt:
Flashback / Memory:
‘We must be quick. My warriors will notice an extended absence’ the King of the Vray tells the Queen of the Swarm, who replies ‘Another failing of the Vray’s individual minds’ and reveals that her warriors notice only what she wants them to. The King tells the Queen that he is not here to trade insults with her, but because it is in the best interest of his people. ‘As am I. I sense the resolve of the Swarm weakening. They tire of war’ the Queen reveals. ‘So do we all’ the King replies, pointing out that this world’s resources cannot support peace, that there is not enough for both of them if their populations grow. ‘They are already too large’ he adds. The Queen agrees, and states that only the conflicts keep their numbers manageable and makes them strong enough to endure, and announces that it is time for a great battle with attendant casualties.
‘Inflaming the hunger for vengeance. Leaving more resources for the survivors’ the King declares. The Queen remarks that any questions will be silenced and harmony restored to the hive-mind. ‘And to your rule’ the King tells her. ‘Do not paint me with your individualist ambitions’ the Queen tells him. The King states that he is the only one with the experience and wisdom to lead his people, and tells the Queen that by the very way of her people, she is one of many, easily replaced. ‘One such as you cannot understand the Swarm’ the Queen tells him. ‘I believe I understand you. More than either of us would care to admit’ the King declares. The Queen replies that once the battle is over, they are enemies once again, she will do all in her power to exterminate the King’s kind, that no meeting like this need ever take place again. They turn and take their leave, with the King pointing out that then they have something in common after all.
Tritt clutches his head: ‘A Queen of the Swarm…colluding with the enemy. Speaking of mass murder against our people. Everything that anchored me is gone…’ he exclaims. Rogue tells him that she has been to a lot of worlds, and that there ain’t many constants, but one seems to be that power corrupts. ‘Another is that for everyone one like your Queen…there’s one like you’ she tells him. ‘Someone who’ll stand up for their people. For what’s right’. They begin to climb up the side of the cliff thanks to the large amount of rocks that fell, providing a terrain they can climb. Tritt tells Rogue that he will not have the opportunity, as the Queen was preparing to march to the battlefield, so the Swarm is likely gone. ‘We cannot hope to catch them’ he remarks.
‘Why not? We’re two people. They’re an army. They’ll move slower’ Rogue points out, adding that the one thing she knows rom being part of a hive mind is that the Swarm ain’t quitters. ‘And neither am Ah’ Rogue declares as they reach the higher ground, and begin their journey. ‘Then let us away. Let us stop this war if we can. But I fear…we may already be too late’ Tritt exclaims, and at that moment, on the battlefield, two suns gleam down as the Swarm and the Vray prepare to fight….