By Alexandra Erin
First Publication: September 29th, 2015
Word Count: ~500
The wind carried the strange chemical signals away from the crater. The signal-cloud was too light and dispersed to be sensed through the visible spectrum. The molecules it contained were heavy enough to fall like a soft rain in its wake, though, creating a trail that the hive’s scouts discovered.
An individual ant was not equipped to make sense of what it was detecting, any more than an individual rod or cone in a retina can read a book. The first scouts who found the alien scent-trail stopped in their tracks. If they had been people, their reactions would have been as though they’d just read a sentence in which all the words were correct and in the right order but it still didn’t make sense, or as though they’d just heard something that had the tone and cadence of speech but wasn’t.
An ant is not a person, though. An ant isn’t even a mind. It’s more like a slow moving set of impulses in a larger neural network. The ones who found the trail retreated to the hive, where the information could circulate amongst the All. None of the individual ants knew what the signals were. No one could make sense of it.
The All could, though. The All knew what it was looking at.
Ah, the All thought. Chemical formulae. Interesting.”
The hive reached itself out to follow the trail to its source. By the time they reached the crater, the source of the trail had been packed up and carted away by the pesky bipedal monominds who got in everywhere and poisoned everything. The hive did not care. It trusted that if they even noticed the signals, they would have no clue how to read them. All the important information had suffused the soil around the object.
Instructions. Recipes. Technology.
The hive was cautious, but curious. It was always interested in improving itself, and all the necessary ingredients could be harvested or refined easily enough. There were enough young that some could be fed a formula from the stars to see how it would affect their growth. This sort of applied biochemistry was the colony’s stock in trade.
Scouts from other hives began to arrive at the crater. The All of the first hive briefly considered the merits of combat, but discarded it as an option. The markers had dispersed too widely to keep them a secret and there was no hope of defending so wide a territory as the landing site. Better to withdraw and begin applying the new knowledge. If it provided any advantage, then the first hive to develop it would have an edge over the others.
Among the monominds, the message eventually went out that the meteorite had shown traces of an interesting organic compound. This sort of thing was reported often enough that it provoked more debate over the likelihood of terrestrial contamination than it did excitement over the potential implications.
While the monominds bickered, the hives decoded the recipes and synthesized new compounds. The next generation of queens were showing some fascinating potential, and that was saying nothing about the warriors…