Chapter 42: Drone
“Y’mind telling me what’s going on?” asked 625, visibly upset despite the fact that he was obscured by a rather large sandwich, upon which he was dumping generous amounts of mayonnaise.
“We’ve… er… well, we’ve got to catch up with the little girl,” replied Gantu, tapping in some co-ordinates with his hefty fingers.
“Yeah, but why ya gotta drag me along? I was going for the world record in sandwich stacking!”
“Er… I thought you’d be useful…” Gantu started to stammer, but 625 interrupted him.
“Useful? You said it yourself, fishface: all I do is eat, sleep and make sandwiches!”
“I didn’t mean it like that….”
“Whatever,” muttered 625, topping his sandwich with a slice of wholemeal bread.
Nothing but silence passed between them for a few moments as Gantu monitored the ships’ status.
625 did not reply; whether it was out of annoyance or because he was now stuffing the sandwich in his mouth was not obvious.
“Do you play… any type of instrument?”
His ears lifted; otherwise, there was no acknowledgement of what Gantu had said.
“It’s just…” Gantu hesitated, then sighed. “I’ve had a offer for a band, drums, you know, as a side thing, and they need a saxophone player.”
625 gulped the remnants of his meal, then, standing to full height, surveyed Gantu’s expression.
“Sounds interesting… perhaps I could give it a go.”
“Lilo, it’s time to wake up now…”
Lilo blinked. For a minuscule moment she thought that it had all been a dream and she’d open her eyes to see the bright sunshine of Hawai’i… and then she saw the many-layered floors reaching above her to infinity.
This was really happening to her.
She tried to lift her arm. It would not budge, despite not being held down by any force.
And then Lilo saw the Queen.
“What do you want?” she half-shouted at her, wanting her words to pierce her soul, her cold, uncaring heart…
“Why, Lilo,” the Queen replied, “what a temper! Is this any way to treat an old friend?”
“You were never my friend,” Lilo told her.
“Why can’t we be? I simply come here to offer you a chance to retain your free will. Join me willingly, and we can rule as sisters.”
Sisters. To Lilo, the way the Queen said it felt like a bad taste, only to the ears instead.
“I will never join you.”
Lilo almost whispered these words, in the lowest voice she could muster, but with the most conviction one could put in a single statement. The Queen frowned, and when she next spoke, her voice was riddled with disappointment.
“I’m really sorry to hear that. I would have hoped… but none of that matters now.”
The Queen swooped down on the table holding Lilo prisoner; she tried squirming around but her body remained stationary; she could feel her breath in her face…
“You belong to me.”
Smiling a deadly evil smile, the Queen whispered back:
Now, we, as humans, may think two simple words would be insignificant. Chances are, two words picked at random would be rather unimportant to us; the majority of chance selections wouldn’t even make sense.
But in the tiny nanosecond after the Queen uttered those words, something happened in Lilo’s brain. Something almost unbearable to suffer; indeed, she almost passed out. But, with all her strength, she tried to stay conscious.
Imagine everyone in the city of Tokyo packed into a large building of some kind. Now, eight million people aren’t just going to stand around doing nothing, so chances are they’re going to chat with each other. Various topics may be presented in these conversations, such as the weather, ice-cream, whether Diamond and Pearl is any good, and chilli-cheese dogs.
Now, imagine that all eight million people were all talking at once. And although normally you can’t make heads or tails of what anyone says in giant crowds such as these, suppose just for a moment that you could hear and understand what each individual person was saying.
Now, this only gives one a very rough picture of what Lilo was going through; in fact, vast volumes of text would probably be inadequate at describing the feeling. But what was worse was she still couldn’t move.
She couldn’t curl up into a ball and wait for the voices to go away, she couldn’t run until she heard them no more. She couldn’t even put her hands over her ears, or try and do something, anything to stop the soundless stream of speech…
And then she stood up.
She tried to move her feet. Nothing.
Suddenly, her feet started carrying her away, towards a nearby console. Her hand lifted itself up, and started tapping out commands. And thoughts started to form in her mind, thoughts that were not, could not be her own, thoughts of assimilation, of conquest.
It was if she was another person, and the part of her mind that was still intact had receded into an abyss, just a minor personality to a much more powerful individual.