2431

Terraformed planet B-999

The air was thick and humid. The controlled atmosphere made beads of sweat drip down her neck and fall to the floor. Her footsteps were lithe and nearly silent as she made her way across the room leisurely. The two-dozen incubator tubes illuminated the room and cast a blue florescent glow upon the humans housed within. She deftly avoided the larger and most prominent overgrown lianas covering the ground.

"Shit." The whispered curse rolled off her tongue with a strange and barely recognizable accent. She rarely spoke in the human tongue and the act of speech was unpracticed.

Despite her stealth, a shadow hovered in the rafters above gazing down at her in interest. It hissed, and saliva dripped to the floor unnoticed. The hairs along the back of her neck prickled in warning and Mikki paused to listen. Sensing no danger, she relaxed slightly and set her spear aside on one of the consoles. The knife swayed with her movement tucked away in her belt but stayed secure at her waist.

Mikki stared crossly at the incubator hosting the human clone. Another human clone was dying before reaching full term. This male was not the only one failing. She tugged on her short blonde locks in frustration. Not only were the hosts failing, but the distress signal was still unanswered. How were any humans going to find this planet based on a signal? If this settlement were really important humans would have travelled here years ago. She possessed little hope for the humans to land on this planet and attempt any sort of rescue.

A subtle creek came from above. She slowed her breathing and reached for the spear slowly. Mikki scented the air and channeled her hearing listening attentively for any sound out of place. Her muscles tensed instinctively knowing she was not alone.

In an instant, a large black form dropped from the ceiling. The creature snarled viciously swinging its massive tail. Mikki spun on the balls of her feet avoiding the attack and swung the spear in retaliation. The creature hissed and eluded the attack. Consequently, it suffered a momentary loss of equilibrium allowing the human female to aid gravity in gracelessly dropping the creature to the floor.

Mikki trapped the tail and hit the creature in the head allowing it no time to gain its bearings. It thrashed restlessly against the pointed tip thrust against the vulnerable underside of its upper carapace. The inner mouth snapped angrily and she rolled her eyes.

The younger ones were prone to test their dominance.

"Be still." Mikki ordered the drone young male xenomorph ceased and remained still. "I dislike being interrupted. Do the others know you're missing?" The male hissed guiltily.

"The Queen might be interested to hear you've been skipping lessons again, Zippy."

The male panicked. "No! Please, Mother. I promise to obey."

Mikki released him shaking her head. "What am I going to do with you?" She smiled softly and caressed his face. He dropped his head submissively nuzzling her hand enjoying the attention.

His tail swung back and forth anxiously. "Will they be born soon? Will I have more brothers and sisters?"

"Is that why you followed me? Are you so anxious to have more siblings?" Zippy nodded excitedly. "You just want someone younger to boss around" she teased.

It was partly true. Zippy was one of the youngest drones in the nest and only a handful was below him in status. While he was technically two years old and physically mature enough to hunt on his own, he was still an adolescent. Life was abnormally peaceful, and normally he would not be coddled, but it was in their power to do so; within her power to do so. Truthfully, she enjoyed catering to the younger drones, and the Queen knew it.

Zippy paced to the host she had been observing earlier. "This one, will he be ready soon?"

"Hopefully," Mikki said softly grazing her fingers languidly along the glass of the incubator.

There were a total of 23 male and female human clones enclosed in incubator pods. She approached one of the consoles checking on the status on the others. Expectantly, 50% of the hosts were liable to reach full maturity for optimal breeding. Unfortunately, the hosts did not live up to the full potential as a regularly born human. This male before her, not yet developed to his tenth year, would perish in a matter of days. He would need to be propagated immediately before he expired. It was likely that the resulting offspring would not survive to full maturity, but it was a risk that the hive needed to take.

Marvels did occur. Zippy himself had been a risk; a risk that had flourished.

The Queen would not be pleased. Her last group of newborns was nearly a year ago. And very few of the brood remained. They simply couldn't produce enough healthy hosts for their hive to thrive. Mikki was the last of the natural born humans. The rest of the planets humans were used as hosts nearly nine years ago. Including her biological parents.

Well, that wasn't completely true. There had been Jimmy. She looked at Zippy remembering his particular host. There had also been that small trading vessel five years back. But even then, too much time had passed since the hive had fresh hosts available.

Zippy's head angled curiously. "He's younger than the others. Is he like my host?"

Mikki's hand dropped to her side. "Somewhat" she said after a moment of contemplative silence. "Although, I doubt his facehugger will be as fast as yours." The young male straightened under the praise.

A loud beep came from one of the consoles to her right. One of the yellow lights blinked in accordance with the sound.

"What is it?"

"I'm not sure." Mikki frowned walking to the station and pressing a few commands. "The signal." Her eyes widened in surprise. "A human vessel."

Zippy's head raised in excitement. "Humans? Really?"

"It's, no that can't be right." She shook her head checking the influx of data. "It's just malfunctioning again, or picking up space dust." It was surreal that after so many years of waiting, a ship had finally come to them.

Mikki couldn't find an error with the technology. "We need to let the other's know."

Her hand shook slightly. Humans. Here. She hadn't seen another real human being since her sister.

A scamper was heard beyond the doors. Sluggishly, the doors opened and a small ten-pound quadruped xenomorph rushed inside. It scuttled across the floor and hurriedly made it's way to her. Zippy hissed when it stepped on his tail before making its way up to lay claim atop Mikki's shoulder.

It was obviously distressed and she stroked the creature's sleek dark exterior hoping to calm it. Xenomorphs bred from non-humanoid life forms were incapable of telepathic speech, but were able to communicate emotions and often images to other members of the nest. While not useless, they were all well loved and vital to the nest, their purpose and abilities were vastly different from the other drones. They served similar roles as their hosts had, as serviceable pets.

The images were brief and out of sync, but Mikki was well versed in deciphering telepathic communication. After deciphering the message, she stood stock still, too shocked to move.

"Mother?" Zippy questioned.

Mikki blinked and opened her mouth. She began to speak in human, but corrected herself realizing her error. "Humans have landed in the outskirts of the south east border."

She licked her lips unable to discern if she was nervous or excited at the news. At least it meant that the human technology was still fully equipped, if a little delayed. Zippy was practically vibrating with energy. At least he was happy. He was one of the few that had never encountered a live human, other than her own person.

The Queen was excited. Mikki could feel her excitement thrumming through her veins as if it were her own. And she knew exactly what the Queen wished her do to.

"What do we do Mother?"

Her lips widened into a sinister smile across her scar-addled face. "Greet our visitors of course."