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THE NEXT GENERATION
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- 1ˢᵗ place $200
- 2ⁿᵈ place $100
- 3ʳᵈ place $50
Chowzee saw it and knew it would be perfect. It was a shell of its former self on the outside, but what she wanted was the basement. Not just any basement, either. This was a basement that could withstand any pounding the military forces of the world could give it and survive. It wouldn’t be able to handle repeated strikes for long, but that was the reason for the second part of her criteria: That it be crossed off the list of potential threats. She couldn’t have them coming back and looking for any lost weapons or hiding guerilla forces. It had to look like a wreck, but still be protective, and it had to be abandoned.
Chowzee hefted the sack she was carrying onto her back and stood up. Her antennae cleared the bush first and she waited, sensing the wind for any disturbances. When she was satisfied there was nothing, her head came out and she looked about, searching for threats.
The underbrush she was hiding in was sparse, but for her it was good camouflage. She was nude, so it blended well with her brown colors and spindly limbs, allowing her to appear no different from the dying woods around her. She scanned the landscape for movement, and once she was satisfied there was nothing nearby, she leaned forward and scuttled across the ground on all fours. She stopped every so often to look around, antennae flicking about and mandibles clicking. She repeated the movement, making her way across the shattered crater until she had reached the building. She took one last look around to make sure she hadn’t been followed or spotted, then disappeared inside.
The interior of the building looked even worse than the outside. Where the outside had scattered stones littered about, the interior of the building was filled with fallen drywall, shattered glass, and charred concrete. The corridors within were filled with dangerous debris from top to bottom in places. Jagged edges poking out of piled concrete with jutting steel bars all over the place. Chowzee had experience with these outposts, however, and knew what she was looking for. She was hunting for an entrance to the underground portion of the building. Beneath every depot there were reinforced tunnels that criss-crossed the facility from front to back, providing protection from attacks that would destroy the upper façade. The ground forces that had followed the air strikes had cleared them out, and the orbital strike was cleanup, but one wouldn’t be sufficient to collapse the underground. The tunnels would likely still be standing beneath the rubble, she just had to find an entrance.
Chowzee had been stationed at one of these outposts during her time with the military. She had even helped construct a similar set of tunnels because of her talent with digging. She had never fired a weapon, despite being part of it, and had only done grunt work. Her kind were not allowed to serve as soldiers in the human’s military, ostensibly to avoid blame in case any of them died in combat. The ensuing diplomatic troubles those deaths may cause between their two species could escalate, given enough of them, so she was kept on staff as a simple worker. It suited her.
Chowzee was a Formican. They had arrived from another planet deep underground through a dark tunnel the humans called a Stargate. She had understood later that it was called that as a reference to something the humans called a “teeveeshow”. Chowzee had never understood it, but this thing that caused them to travel from their planet to Earth was a hole in space that had been buried underground, and the Formicans had passed through it to get here.
The beginning was rough. Chowzee’s people were considered an invasion force and there were many deaths before the humans realized they weren’t fighting back. Once communication had been established, the Formicans were locked up, the tunnel sealed, and they hadn’t been allowed back into it ever since. They were kept under careful surveillance for many years before being allowed to enjoy somewhat normal lives. None of them remembered where the Stargate was, so they had given up trying to get home, instead seeking happiness of a sort.
The Formicans enjoyed fame enough. They were prized for their strength and so were paid well to take part in manual labor, carrying many times the weight of a human. Others went on tour to see the new world and still others took to fighting, their strength giving them an edge in sports and underground competitions. Chowzee, however, wanted to get back home, so she had taken a job with the military in the hopes of getting access to the Stargate, wherever it was.
She had never gotten the chance. A war had broken out among the humans over something. It ostensibly hadn’t involved Formicans, though there were those who claimed so. Formicans were disturbing to humans, in looks and in temperament, so there were many who claimed they were invaders even if they seemed harmless. Either way, the war was started among humans, by humans, for human reasons Chowzee didn’t understand. The Formicans, as new citizens of the planet, could therefore not escape it.
Because they looked like Earth’s ant-creatures, humans thought the Formicans had a Queen hidden somewhere telling them what to do and how to behave. They were right, in a way. Formicans did answer to a Queen, but she had not come with them through the Stargate. A Formican could metamorphose into a queen (given time and the inclination to breed), but there hadn’t been one yet. The humans were wary, however, and had questioned many Formicans to find out more about their unusual biology.
Chowzee made a quiet clicking noise and waved her antennae as she walked about the building. She listened and felt the wind, searching for the entrance to the underground. She sensed the movement of the air around her and finally felt a slight breeze coming from a pile of rubble. She chittered in excitement: A breeze meant a hole, and a hole meant the tunnel!
Chowzee let out a triumphant clicking and began digging. Her arms appeared spindly to some, but every inch of them was sinewy muscle, meant for digging and lifting. She was a simple creature, frequently assumed to be stupid by her human comrades, but if there was anything she excelled at, it was digging. There were times she wondered if her enjoyment was instinctual or if she legitimately had fun doing it, but every time she pondered the subject she concluded that it didn’t matter, because if she was good at it she was probably going to end up doing it for fun or for work anyway.
Chowzee’s mind went blank while she dug. She let herself work automatically, removing debris and preparing a tunnel entrance. At some point she was aware she had set the sack off to the side to protect the cargo inside. It was in a safe place, protected from above and the sides, but within easy view. When she finally cleared the tunnel and set the rubble up in an elliptical pile over and around the entrance, night had fallen. She straightened, admired the neat hole she had burrowed into the debris, then stretched and went to fetch the sack from where she had left it. When she turned around, she was greeted by another Formican with a gun. He leveled his weapon at her and pushed the sack behind himself with a booted foot.
“Hello, Chowzee,” he said.
Chowzee raised her hands and tasted the air. She could tell he was male by the shape of his abdomen and size of his antennae, but besides that, his scent smelled human. He was wearing their clothes; a uniform she recognized as military, but one that was unfamiliar to her. Formicans weren’t usually allowed to have guns, though, and certainly weren’t sent to the front lines as soldiers. Who was he working for that he had a gun, and why were they allowing him to work alone? Among the human smells she smelled part of him, and learned his name from it, despite the covering scents.
“Borazoo,” she said. “What pleasure this for?” Her human was stilted and sloppy. She had never picked it up very well, hence her reputation for being stupid.
He laughed, but he did not sound happy. It was probably a cruel laugh. Ironic laughter, the humans called it. That was when someone laughed at something they did not truly find funny. Chowzee was never very good at identifying any of the human mannerisms. Others of her species had picked it up with ease, but Chowzee had quickly been left behind. That was one of the reasons she had never been given many responsibilities and never got near the Stargate.
“Chowzee, I see you’re still as stupid as ever. You don’t remember me, I imagine, but I remember you. My job was to observe, so I’m afraid I have you at a disadvantage. I’m disappointed that in all the time I watched you, you never learned the language. You gave us a bad name among your coworkers.” He scraped a booted foot along the ground. He had put holes in the heels so his rear claw could stick out the back, she noticed. The boots were not made for him. “You were so easy to follow, you know. Everyone knew you wanted to get near the gate, but no one ever knew why. Having been in charge of the Formican division with my employers, we came to the conclusion you were answering to someone else. Looks like I was right,” Borazoo said. His foot kicked backward, hitting the sack with his rear claw. Chowzee heard a crack, and she clicked angrily.
“Why you do?” Chowzee said, her hands lowering back down. Borazoo kept the gun trained on her and she didn’t move closer, but her hands stayed in fists at her sides.
“I do because of that,” he said, mocking her speech. He motioned the gun down at her fists. “See, the others took to Earth quite easily. We all picked up the language and the habits and everything real nice-like. We learned the lingo and the body language and all else, but you didn’t. Sure, there are others like you, but most of them didn’t disappear like you did. That’s why I’m here, you see. Came to the last facility you were seen at and followed your trail. I lost you for a bit, but, here we are.” He leaned forward and fired once, shooting the wall behind Chowzee. She didn’t flinch, neither at the noise nor at the bullet passing by her head. “Like that, yeah. You’re too focused on your precious cargo to worry about yourself. Nah, you’re acting like you are for a reason, and I’m here to find out why.”
“How am act?” Chowzee said, taking a single step closer. Her eyes moved down to the sack, then back up at Borazoo and his gun.
“More like a machine than the rest of us.” He tapped his mandibles with an antenna. “You smell different, too. Easy to follow, like there’s something familiar there I’ve been missing for years. Something that smells like home, as the humans say.”
Chowzee clicked curiously and tilted her head at him. Her eyes narrowed and she leaned forward, then took another step closer. “Numbers are come?”
Borazoo shook his head at her and shrugged in confusion. “I’m not rightly sure what you mean by that.”
“Others, they follow?”
“Nah, I didn’t call anyone. They can track me, though, so I wouldn’t get too comfy. You kill me, and you’ll have to move my whole body somewhere else. Won’t that be a waste of time?” He gave a cheeky wave of his antenna, mirth apparent in his eyes.
She leaned back but didn’t move away from him. “What you want?”
“I want to know what you’re doing and if it’s what I think it is, I want to help.”
“I—” Chowzee tilted her head. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was doing, now that she thought about it.
Chowzee put a hand to her mandibles in thought. She was looking for something underground. Something protected from outside that wasn’t likely to be invaded and that could withstand assaults. That was why she had picked this building, because the underground portion of the base would be perfect for… for…
“Chowzee?” Borazoo interrupted her thoughts.
She shook her head and looked at him. “I here to eggs,” she said and pointed at the sack behind him.
Borazoo nodded as if he had expected the answer. “Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.” He leaned down, keeping the gun pointed at her. He opened the sack to reveal scores of small, off-white eggs. He clicked in satisfaction. “You’re going to hatch them, yeah?”
She nodded and clicked in excitement. The Formican queen hadn’t come through the Stargate with them and they had been left to fend for themselves, which had ended with many of the Formicans adapting to human society. But despite there having been male and female Formicans in equal number, in all the years they’d been living here they had never reproduced. It was a big subject on the news, or so Chowzee had heard.
“Just one problem, Chowzee. I have one little question that springs to mind about this whole situation: Where’d you get the eggs?” Borazoo asked.
“I make,” Chowzee said, confusion plain on her face.
Borazoo shook his head and waved his antennae in dismissal. “No, you didn’t. These don’t smell like you, and you haven’t metamorphosed. These aren’t yours, so whose are they?”
Chowzee clicked and tilted her head. She tried to remember laying eggs, or even engaging with a male to make any. It was forbidden to create eggs of your own without the Queen’s approval, but without the Queen here females were left to make their own judgment call. No matter how hard she wracked her brain, though, Chowzee couldn’t remember ever laying any eggs or even being near a male Formican before Borazoo found her. He was right, though. Chowzee remained slim and the same size as him, meaning she hadn’t metamorphosed into a queen and couldn’t have lain those eggs.
“I don’t know,” she finally said.
Borazoo threw up a hand in anger. “Dammit, Chowzee! If there is a queen out there, and she gave you these eggs, we need to find her! We need to make sure she’s alive and will stay that way! I hate how stupid you are.”
Chowzee glared at him. She couldn’t speak the language well, and she came across as a bit single-minded, but she wasn’t stupid. She just didn’t know how to communicate in the human’s language. So, if he didn’t like her human speech, maybe he would listen to her Formican. She clicked angrily at him in the Formican language, “Why do you want to know so badly? Why does it matter where I got them and from whom? They’re a queen’s eggs and they need to be protected and raised in safety! You know the humans would want to study and dissect any eggs we laid to ensure they’re not a danger! They won’t allow us to breed without constant supervision! We’re machines to them! Tools!”
Borazoo just stared at her, mandibles swaying in confusion.
“You not speak,” Chowzee said as she looked him up and down in his human clothes, with his human weapon, hiding behind human strength.
“I haven’t had a need to speak anything but human for years, Chowzee. With so few of us on their planet, the occasions where I’d meet another Formican in any given year were so rare I could count them on one hand,” Borazoo said.
“Why want Queen, if so little caring?”
“I told you, it’s for her safety and our future.”
“Raise human.” Chowzee waved a hand up and down at him, taking in his clothes and weapon.
“Yes, they would be raised in a human environment to ensure their safety. Constant supervision, protection, and a guarantee that we would be given our own land to live on once this war is over.”
“Who promise?” Chowzee didn’t recognize the symbol on Borazoo’s clothes. She had been so busy looking at another Formican that she hadn’t really looked at the detailed markings on them. Now that she had, she realized she didn’t know the insignia. It wasn’t the same as the one she had seen at the facilities she’d been stationed at.
“The government,” was all he said.
“Which government?” she asked, tightening her hands into fists and crouching low.
Borazoo glared at her for a moment and raised his gun.
Chowzee dropped down to all fours just as Borazoo’s gun went off. The projectile glanced off her shoulder, leaving a crack in her carapace as she fell to the ground. She scuttled sideways and lashed out with a leg in a long, sweeping motion. Borazoo hopped and fired a series of wild shots at her as she skittered away. He followed after her, sprinting on two legs as she backed up. He fired short bursts, but couldn’t keep up with her erratic movements. Bullets bounced off the floor and wall near her, but none made contact. Chunks of concrete flew as Chowzee dug her claws into the wall, climbed up it and crawled along the ruined ceiling.
“What the hell?” Borazoo yelled in surprise. He backpedaled, firing in crazy, panicked arcs at her as she approached him from above. She was too close to him, and he was unbalanced. She felt a bullet tear into her abdomen but ignored it, single-mindedly focused on Borazoo.
She soon proved faster than him. Moving on all fours, she carried herself across the ceiling and got close enough to slap his antenna with her own. It was disorienting for them both, but she focused on his smell, not on what she was seeing, and dropped from the roof on top of him. A burst of bullets fired past her ear as she tore the gun out of his grip.
“No gun!” she yelled, then bent it in half.
“Jesus Christ!” Borazoo let her have the gun and pressed a hand to his microphone. “My position! Backup, now!”
Chowzee reached up and gripped Borazoo on either side of his head, then began pulling. “Backup, no!”
Borazoo clapped his own hands to her wrists, trying to ease the pressure on his neck. “Chowzee, stop! We can help you! We can raise them together, with human help! We can raise them right!”
“Yes, like” — he strained against her strength — “like humans! They’ll have jobs, they’ll have homes, they’ll have community!”
“Human job! Human home! Human community!” Chowzee shouted, then ripped his head clean off. Borazoo’s mandibles clicked in silent speech for a few moments after his head was torn away from the rest of him. It dripped blue ichor onto her hands and the floor. “We not human,” she said to the severed head, then tossed it to the side.
Chowzee left the body where it lay twitching and returned to the sack full of eggs. She opened it to check the cargo and was pleased to find most of them still intact. They were small, each one about the size of her thumb, and fragile. She was sure some had broken during all the excitement, not to mention Borazoo’s treatment of the sack’s contents, but she would have time to check later. For now, Borazoo had called for backup, and she needed to get to safety. She slung the sack over her shoulder and headed for the tunnel she had excavated.
Her antennae twitched and felt the disturbance before she heard it. A helicopter, if she remembered her machines correctly. The sound of it approaching came through the air soon after, the *fwupfwupfwup* of its blades a telltale signature. She knew helicopters from her time in the military and knew this one would be full of Soldiers intent on her death. Chowzee had suspected they might find her. She had hoped otherwise, but she had a plan just in case. That was yet another reason she had picked a location like this.
Chowzee entered the tunnel. She climbed down the stairs to a door that had been forced open during the original invasion of this outpost. She placed the eggs behind the intact half of the double doors then returned to the entrance. The sound of the helicopter was much louder, and beneath the sounds of the blades she could hear voices up above yelling orders in the human language. Booted feet stomped around, covering the grounds of the building. They had found the body and were following the blue ichor trail to her tunnel entrance. They were here for her and the eggs, but she wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction.
She tiptoed up the stairs to the arching pile of debris she had made and reached for a rock she had strategically built into it for support. There was a shout of alarm as she exposed herself, and then gunfire. Most shots missed, but one struck her already weakened shoulder just as the rock fell out of place. Chowzee allowed herself to fall backward, covering her head with her arms and tucking herself into a ball as she rolled back down the stairs. The roof collapsed in on itself behind her, burying the stairwell in a flood of rubble. It followed her, hot on her heels as she rolled. She hit the bottom of the stairs and flipped onto her front, running on all fours away from the collapsing pile. She passed the hiding place where she had placed the eggs and grabbed them on her way, skittering as fast as she could down the hall, away from danger.
She slowed when she was sure the pile had settled. Her shoulder ached and bled, but she ignored it. She passed through dark, unseen passages, using her antenna as a guide through enclosing walls of concrete and steel. She was looking for something very specific inside these walls. She didn’t know exactly what it was, but she knew she would recognize it when she found it.
While she wandered, her mind did the same. She tried to ignore the pain in her shoulder and abdomen, and thought about happier times. Times with laughter and fun. Times with… with friends… like the friend who had given her the eggs.
She knew the right word was given and not taken, because the smell she associated with it was pleasant. She had been given the eggs and orders to find a safe place to hatch them by someone she trusted. Someone she had been friends with before she had forgotten them. Her forgetfulness was caused by that someone, she was sure, because there were orders intertwined with the forgetfulness: Safety. Dig. Protect. Hatch. Chowzee understood why her friend would have done it, but the loss of their memory still made her sad.
She smelled something moist in the air and she followed it to a room deep in the facility. At the back of it there was a weaker wall that had cracked, through which she could smell soil. Delightful, earthy soil! She set the eggs down in an adjacent room, surrounded them with protective items of furniture and other detritus in the building, then returned to the room with the crack and began digging.
Chowzee’s injuries pained her, but she ignored them and dug her claws time and time again into the wall. Concrete cracked, steel bent, and earth gave way under her efforts. When she hit soil, the moisture in it refreshed her, giving her strength to continue. Formican physiology was built to absorb water, so she could work without needing to stop and hunt for a larger source. As she passed by roots and other things underground she would eat them to sustain herself, consuming certain minerals directly as needed. She instinctively knew what was necessary for survival, the faint memory of the scent of her friend telling her how to hide the eggs and care for them. The knowledge of it all had somehow been attached directly to the memory of her friend’s smell.
The smell of the Queen.
She stopped digging a moment as she realized that the friend that had entrusted her with this job had been the Queen! A Formican Queen had metamorphosed and given her eggs! They had even been friends! Chowzee dug with renewed strength, knowing that this was the most important thing she had ever done in her life. The eggs’ safety was paramount, entrusted to her by The Queen!
She burrowed into the wall of the building, claws scraping and mandibles digging until there was a spherical room behind it. She went back into the facility and dragged material over to the spherical room, lining the walls with concrete and steel. She shored up the dirt walls, reinforced the supports, then created a nest out of dirt, paper, and fabric. It was inside this room she placed the eggs, pouring them out of the sack into the nest. She sifted through them, looking for any broken ones, then took those out and set them aside in a small alcove, inside which she vomited up a gooey-black substance which would grow into a fungus the larva could eat.
There was a tremor, and Chowzee’s nest was tested as a low rumble shook through the facility causing thin lines of dirt to fall from above. Thankfully, the building didn’t collapse any further, but they would break through the rubble barrier eventually. They knew she was down here, they had seen her, and she was the loose end that would keep them coming back until she was dead. She cursed Borazoo for bringing them here, him and his foolish notions of human-raised Formicans. Despite his interference, however, she had a plan. If they wanted her dead, they would have her; dead.
Chowzee resolutely took hold of her left antenna and tore it off. She licked it, covering it in saliva from top to bottom, then left it on top of the eggs. Her scent would tell them everything they needed to know about her and give them her knowledge of the Formican language. They would unfortunately learn some of the human language as well, but only her level of proficiency. Her smell would tell them about her and her life, and they would — most importantly — know her name.
She made to leave the nest, but her stomach twisted, and she felt bile building in her gut. She instinctively leaned over the nest of eggs, felt a churning in her stomach and regurgitated strong-smelling goop, spreading it out over the eggs. It was painful, but the smell of it brought back memories of the Queen. Her friend, the Queen. Memories long-hidden of her and the Queen, hiding somewhere together, came back to her.
They were in a room not unlike this nest she had made, with a clutch of eggs in the center, waiting to hatch. In the memory, a rhythmic pounding hammered their shelter, trying to get in. Chowzee saw her friend, the Queen, giving her the sack full of eggs and ordering her to dig. They had shared a kiss, or something the humans would call a kiss, and the queen had fed her these fluids through it. Afterward, they had shared a quick hug, and Chowzee had dug away, leaving the Queen behind. She had shed her clothes as she had shed her memories of the Queen, the kiss wiping them away. In their place came the order: Hatch the eggs somewhere safe and free of humans.
The memories faded and Chowzee felt weakness fill her limbs. The Queen had taken the choice away from her, it would seem. The hatchlings would remember the Queen and her, and no one else, but they needed to grow up in safety. Safety that could only be assured with the delivery of Chowzee’s own body to the humans she had escaped from.
Chowzee dragged herself out of the nest. She covered the entrance with broken and fragmented concrete and filled it with dirt, hiding the entrance as best she could. She then moved down the myriad halls of the facility, destroying whatever she could on her way. She wanted to create as many blockades as she could, and make it seem like she hadn’t made it very far. Beams fell, dirt cascaded downward and chunks of concrete collapsed inward as she went. Chowzee’s leg got caught under a particularly nasty avalanche and she tore it off without a second thought. Hands powerful enough to dig through stone made short work of her own body. She left it behind her, trailing blue ichor.
She made her way, hobbling on three limbs, until she was back at the stairs. She could hear the humans drilling away at the concrete, even now unwilling to leave her alone. She knew it was only a matter of time until they broke through and found her, so she was going to make sure all they had to return home with was a corpse.
She ripped into the concrete walls, scraping away at the seams in it with her powerful limbs. She tore at the mortar and rivets that held it all together, pulling away chunks of it as her claws bled. The one thing Chowzee had always been good at was digging, and so she dug. The humans knew it, her queen knew it, and so with every ounce of failing strength she had, she dug.
Stone fell away at her touch, even weakened as she was. When a chunk of it finally came out from the wall, the rest followed easily. She exposed the reinforced bars underneath and yanked at them, tearing away still larger chunks of it until the roof began to give way. She stayed, waiting as it came down upon her, helping it along with her hands held high. Her nest was complete, the eggs were safe, and she welcomed the collapsing building with open arms.
Chowzee lay dying, buried underneath the crushing weight of an entire roof. She could see through the haze of pain and looming death the dust from the humans’ tools breaking into the facility. She coughed, and some of the Queen’s slime came up. The scent reached her, and memories of her friend filled her mind. She remembered her friend’s caring touch and her cheerful looks. She reached out with her only free hand for the phantom and felt the Queen’s touch. Chowzee clicked to her in the Formican tongue, telling her the eggs were safe, they would never be found. Her friend’s phantom antennae expressed their joy to her, and Chowzee’s hand dropped, too weak to stay aloft. She would never see them grow, but there would be a new generation of Formicans who remembered both her, and the Queen, and what they were. What they fought for. Who remembered what they were before. They would be Formicans who were untouched by human hands. Formicans who were free.
Neat little moment, between the two critters, but it was weird how the conversation was in English like that. Though, I suppose B-something ant was speaking for the benefit of whoever was on the other end of the line. There was plenty of telling, but it's a short story. Things felt a little too neatly wrapped up, this time.
I would have expected, with a messy and imminent end, that she'd be abandoning the eggs to whatever the future holds. Instead, we get some biological desu desu ex machina with passing on memories and things. And pretty sure the humans will keep looking for the eggos. No one likes loose ends; they lead to chestbursters and tears.
Still, neat to have a nonhuman perspective.
More to come, more thoughts to thunk.
It's about an alien who can't talk like us, whose body and offspring are different from us, and who lives in a world that's technically supposed to be like ours but is defined by the ways that it's different from ours. And even then, the setting itself is rather barren--it's a boring warehouse far removed from the political landscape you've described.
So while the story is written just fine, it doesn't create much of an impact for the reader. Everything on display here is clearly very important to Chowzee, but not to me. So for many people the tale likely entered their brain and left it without really saying much, and so they didn't feel like saying much either.
I would point to a lot of great stories about alien life and how they might react to humanity. Stories like E.T., or Matt Haig's The Humans. These stories aren't really good because the alien life is weird and different, but because that ugly meshing between alien and human brings about some deeper meaning or message. Something that we might have in common, or something about humanity that we like to pretend isn't a problem but the aliens expose. And in some cases the human perspective is used, to help bridge the connection between reader and alien.
So I would simply ask, what is the message in this story? What are you trying to get us to feel? And how better could that come across than solely through someone we've never met before that clearly hates us?
Either way, thanks for the read, Author. I hope this comment was helpful.
My biggest issue with this story is that I’m not sure how to feel about what Chowzee did. Is the Queen a baddie? Do they mind control their own kind? There seem to be implications of mind control here, and reasons why the humans (and indeed, the other Formicans) might not like the idea of a queen rising up again. By the end of the story, I’m not sure if Chowzee won, or if she lost, given that I’m not sure whether or not her task was even a good one.
That being said, I thought this was okay otherwise – the ideas here were decent, and it was nice seeing that the aliens weren’t just one-dimensionally good or bad. But I’m left uncertain of whether Chowzee’s loyalty to the queen was earned, or if Chowzee was a victim of something bad.