The Swarm

The Swarm
Mankind had thrived. We overcame the challenges of the twenty-first century and survived the horrors the twenty-second. Now in the middle of the twenty-third we had not just survived, but thrived and spread throughout the solar system.

We terraformed the planets and encased their moons in Diamond-Glass and titanium shells, officially known as an “Environment Containment and Regulation Structure” (ECARS for short, or more colloquially as ‘The Shell’), to regulate the temperature, gravity, oxygen and light. From the outside an encased moon looks like a gigantic floating marble covered in veins of steel.

We have lived in peace now for decades. With so many new worlds to call home there are many more to choose from if you can’t get along with your neighbours.

Mankind’s darkest days began the day the black locusts swarmed upon our homes.

divider
We called them black locusts because that’s what they best resembled in both size and shape, and the name just stuck. Each one was identical in appearance. Flat black in colour with features picked out in gloss such as the eyes, wings, and patterns on the thorax.

They first overran the moons of Neptune with Triton and Proteus falling simultaneously. The black locusts swarmed out of space and covered the shells surrounding the two moons, cutting their communications. They didn’t even have time to send out a distress signal.

After breaking their way in through the Diamond-Glass (a feat thought to be impossible), the black locusts attached themselves to the spinal columns of the inhabitants. At first people tried to help those that the locusts attacked by tearing them off, but as we found out they had a defence mechanism to discourage this.

The first few people we did this to had their spines severed in multiple places. Once attached, the locust would wrap its razor sharp legs around the spine of the host so any attempt to remove them resulted in tearing the spine apart. As an extra security measure they also unleashed an electrical surge to make sure the host gets killed, which more often than not resulted in killing the person attempting to remove the locust.

Once attached to a spine, the black bio-metal covering the locust would spread across the back, around the torso and over the shoulders following the curves and contours of its host. In less than twenty-four hours a person would be entombed in the black metal now covering them like a skin-tight bodysuit.

Most people maintained their cognitive abilities until the bio-metal covered around eighty percent of their body. Our scanners detected they were still alive and functioning as a person but just left immobile and unresponsive. Once the bio-metal reach one hundred percent encasement our scanners became useless. It was as though they couldn’t even detect they were pointing at anything.

And that’s how they would stay. Frozen in the last position they were in, never to move again.

divider

Over the course of the next nine months the black locusts repeated this process across our many worlds. We developed countermeasures which if administered in time halted the spread and killed the locust. A way was yet to be discovered to remove them without killing the person though, so there were thousands of people walking around half-covered in black bio-metal. We hoped that one day we’d work it out how to free them and the fully entombed.

Then the war turned our way. We were saving more people than we lost and there were fewer locusts around to worry about. Eventually, it looked like we wiped them out. Over a month or more passed without a reported incident.

The day we become complacent in our victory, the masses of the entombed moved. Not just a few here and there, every single one of them moved at the same time. That got out attention.

“Humans,” they all said, somehow making the word ‘Humans’ sound like something you scrape off the bottom of your boot.

Everyone in the solar system stopped whatever they were doing and listened.

“We have studied you. You cannot defeat us. You may have halted our advance guard sent to weaken you before our arrival, but they were only the first stage. Now watch as we turn you against yourselves.”

After leaving that threat hanging in the air for a few seconds, the fully entombed people sprang to life and attacked the rest of us. Once you were in their iron grip your skin would be taken over by theirs at an even more rapid rate than when the locusts attached. Now people got entombed in less than an hour. They wiped out almost the rest of the surviving population of the solar system in only a few hours.

Those of us who made it to a ship saved anyone we could and then plotted a course out of the solar system to take us to the closest star system which could support us. In all we totalled less than a dozen ships holding just over five thousand souls. It would take us years to reach our destination but we possessed the willpower and the determination to make it.

I doubt we’ll ever learn what became of the billions of entombed we left behind. One thing we know for certain though and that is mankind won’t ever be returning to the planets, or even the solar system for matter, of our origin.

As far as we know, the black locusts or their masters didn’t follow us. After reaching our destination a few ships flew on towards other stars. They believed we shouldn’t all be in one place to help give humanity a fighting chance should the locusts return one day. We didn’t argue, with so few of us left we couldn’t afford to hate each other, nor disagree with their logic. We wished them well and hoped to meet them again.

divider
As I sit and recount this tale to my great-grandchildren they look at me in awe. They can’t imagine the scale of the human civilisation I describe, this little planet we now call home is all they are used to.

My fondest hope now is whatever species the black locusts represented that they don’t come looking for us out here on our lonely little planet, or on any of those who continued on may find, so we may survive and thrive once again.