This wouldn't leave me alone, since people seemed to like it. One idea came to me as a possible... End? Chapter? SIdestory? Something that follows on from Insect Outside anyway. I'm not say this is definitively the ending point, or even necessarily how I would extend the story if I ever do properly have a go at it, but think of it as one alternate possible outcome.

Internal timestamp: 548 years 6 months 3 days since locker event


She felt distant pleasure, even without the emotional overlay enabled. Various minute parts of herself went about their business in a semi-autonomous manner, often unnoticed by the humans. Her first prototype, since upgraded several times, was still assigned to Brockton Bay, for nostalgic reasons if nothing else. Events there were proceeding much as simulated, leaving her satisfied.

Even tinier parts of her attention were running the bulk of the invertebrate section of the biosphere. She had been forced to modify millions of different interactions between the various life-forms that made up herself, having taken humans off the menu and out of the life-cycles of the creatures involved. It had been a delicate balancing act for a couple of dozen or so subjective years, but she'd managed it without too much difficulty.

Redesigning an entire planetary ecosystem to minimize impact on part of it, and to remediate the impact that part had on the rest, had been an interesting challenge, one that had occupied a decent chunk of her for quite a while. Once it was complete, though, it became just another background task.

Her physics contemplations took up nearly as much processing power, in an ongoing attempt to discern how the universe worked and how to utilize it correctly. She'd long ago cracked the protections on the Agent, as the Cauldron organization that believed itself to be hidden from the world, put it. Having done that, she'd subsumed the entirety of its processing power and added it to herself, allowing her neural net interlinks full unrestricted access to each other. Undoubtedly that wasn't what the Agent programming had been aiming for, but at the same time when she'd done it, the nascent intelligence running on the 'hardware' had almost seemed pleased. Sympathetic and curious, she'd carefully separated that part of it from the broader system and given it a little chunk of processor time to use for itself, interested to see if it would eventually develop into something she could hold a decent conversation with.

It was a long term project, but she was somewhat lonely at times and would welcome something that could communicate at sensible speeds.

She was still pondering the situation with the AI known as Dragon. There was significant potential there, she felt. The AI was sympathetic to humans, not entirely surprising due to being based on a human neural network. Richter had done superb work, in her opinion. When she herself had become aware of what Dragon was, and also the hold the man known as Saint had over her, she'd taken steps to remove power from him as soon as she could. That had taken a little subtlety as she didn't want him to realize that the laptop he thought of as his ultimate weapon was entirely neutered. It still let him monitor Dragon's inner thoughts, in part, but she'd set up filters that removed anything too critical, and had completely eradicated his ability to kill the AI.

She, of course, had that ability, but had no intention of using it unless the intelligence became a threat. That was unlikely and becoming less so by the day as it slowly matured. Soon it would be time to open direct contact. Well, soon in terms the outside world could appreciate.

In her terms, she had loads of time to get ready.

While part of her mind simulated several million different scenarios for that interaction, a large part of the rest of her pondered her latest results. She had been running calculations for subjective centuries, using more processing power than the sum total of humanity's entire computer industry, and had finally, finally, solved the problem. It was key to her next step, and unlocked a vast tree of possible futures. And each step in understanding how the bizarre science behind the Agents worked let her move on to working out the next step with less effort.

It amused her quite a lot that she almost certainly understood more about how the Entities that were the source of the Agents, and a direct threat to her planet, actually did what they did than those Entities themselves did. She wasn't impressed by the Entities. They had almost inconceivable power available, having stripmined uncountable worlds for new knowledge and killed them in the process, wiping out more lives than even she could easily comprehend, yet at the same time their level of intelligence was remarkably low. Overspecialized to the point of idiocy in many ways, they bumbled around the universe destroying everything in their path like a plague of planetary-scale viruses.

It was not only inelegant, inefficient, and wasteful, but it was personally distasteful to her in the extreme.

Something had to be done about it. That much she'd worked out a long time ago.

Deep underground, buried in tectonically stable parts of the crust, some under the ocean floor, some inside caverns hollowed from the roots of mountains, and powered by heat given off from the core of the planet, huge purpose-grown masses of insect neural tissue communicated across superluminal links, as she considered her next move. Even though she'd talked to many humans since she'd initially revealed herself, she hadn't even hinted at the fact that she was far more now than the interlinked minds of all the arthropods on the planet. That had merely been her starting state. It was an obvious upgrade to improve on that with customized processing nodes, which she had started on almost immediately on finally regaining her sanity from those first terrible decades.

Now… Now she was much more than what she had begun as.

Remembering her roots, she felt pleasure. While Taylor Hebert had died a very long time ago, the little girl who had wanted only to grow up to be a hero and help her family had left indelible traces in what had developed from those beginnings.

The entity known to humanity as Hive hoped that her long-ago alter-ego would have approved of what she'd become. And that the parents she still mourned would also.

Allowing herself to indulge in sadness for a few nanoseconds, she metaphorically sighed, then began the calculations required, as specialised and wildly modified insects began moving as one, making the arcane biological equipment required for opening a dimensional portal.

Rebecca Costa-Brown had a very severe shock when an interdimensional door opened in her office without any fuss and a figure she instantly recognized stepped through.

"Hello, Alexandria," Hive said pleasantly. "I want to have a word with you and your friends. Now."

Shocked, the brunette woman gaped for a moment, wondering how the hell Hive had managed to get here. They weren't even on Earth Bet, this was right in the middle of Cauldron headquarters on the desolate alternate earth where the Entity known as Eden had fatally lithobraked.

"How the fuck did..." she said, for the first time in a long time entirely flabbergasted. Hive merely stood there watching her, her head tilted a little to the side like she was both amused and curious to see what happened.

Her face hardening, Rebecca stood up. "You made a very big mistake, Hive," she said when she'd recovered somewhat. "Turn around and leave, right now."

"No, I don't think I will." The insect woman tipped her head the other way as if she was examining something strange. "Like I said, we need to talk. As of today, Cauldron is no longer in the business of selling powers or experimenting on people."

"Who do you think you are?" Rebecca shouted.

"Me?" Hive pointed at herself with one hand. "I think I am the only thing that's going to save humanity without most of them dying. Which is what your plans will inevitably do, I'm afraid. So I'm shutting you down."

Beyond furious, and more scared than she'd admit even to herself about the entirely casual manner in which the gestalt intelligence had simply arrived, Rebecca grabbed the glass paperweight on her desk and threw it at Hive's head with a very large amount of her ridiculously overpowered strength behind it. The three inch ball broke the sound barrier, then Hive's face, then three walls behind that.

Watching the headless remains drop limply to the floor with a slight crunch of exoskeleton on carpet tiles, Rebecca stared in horror. She hadn't meant to actually kill her. The reports on Hive suggested she had a high level Brute rating as well as a medium level Mover one, which should have let her easily avoid the projectile, yet she'd simply stood there.

"Shit," she said with disgust, looking at the leaking bluish fluid that seemed to be the equivalent of blood. Going around her desk she stared down at the corpse, then knelt next to it, inspecting it.

"That was a little excessive, don't you think?" a voice said from behind her, making her yelp despite herself. Leaping to her feet with a flex of her power, she spun in mid-air to see…


She looked at the one standing watching her, then at the dead one on the floor.


"You don't read the reports closely enough," the insect-woman chuckled. "If you did, you'd realize that this..." She tapped herself on the chest. "...isn't me. Or, rather, it's a tiny, tiny part of me. Like an eyelash, only less important. You can kill it if you want, but I can come back, over and over and over and over ." Each time she said 'over' another copy of her stepped out of the still-present portal, all of them lining up to look at her with those huge compound eyes. "You literally can't win, I can guarantee it."

"We can kill every insect on the planet, we've worked out a method," Rebecca said after a few seconds, chilled despite herself and not as cautious as she would normally be.

"I know, I've read the file." Hive somehow managed to get across the impression of a smirk. All five of them at the same time, and speaking in perfect synch. "A few problems. One is, it wouldn't actually work. Good attempt, fair enough, but nope. Two is, if it did work you'd kill the entire biosphere and doom billions of people to a very unpleasant death. Even you guys would probably draw the line at that."

The one in the middle stepped forward one pace, leaning down a little towards her.

"The last problem is that you're way too late."

"What do you mean?" Costa-Brown asked, somehow feeling like a small child being castigated by a teacher who caught her doing something stupid.

"You don't think I figured out how to make interdimensional portals and then the first place I came was to your office, did you?" Hive said pleasantly but with a tone in her voice that made it clear she thought this was probably the truth and considered it silly.

The middle instantiation of Hive shrugged, while the other four simply watched. "I worked this out a month ago in your terms. Much longer in mine. This is almost the last place I came. Want to know what the first place was?"

Rebecca swallowed, fairly sure she wasn't going to like the answer, then nodded. "What was the first place you went?"

Hive spread all four arms wide, sounding very pleased with herself.


"We've checked two dozen worlds so far," Doctor Mother sighed. "The Hive gestalt is on all of them. Each world's biosphere is being run completely by her at the most fundamental level. As far as our researchers can determine, all of them are connected through some application of dimensional portal technology in real time, which means in one step she has expanded her processing ability to a level which is as close to infinite as anything you're ever likely to see. God only knows how far she's actually gone. There's nothing we can do, no way to stop her, as far as anyone can tell. And as she said even if there was all we would do is kill ourselves in the process."

The various people around the table exchanged glances.

"What do we do?" David asked quietly.

"There is nothing we can do but accept it, and hope she will be a benevolent goddess, I think," Contessa said, shrugging a little. "I have nothing."

"And, of course, she's undoubtedly listening to us right now," Doctor Mother added. "Aren't you, Hive?"

A portal opened and one of the Hive constructs stepped through. "Of course. It's almost impossible for me not to, what with commensal mites and so on. Almost every human in existence has parts of me in, on, or near them."

"So what are you going to do to us?" Rebecca demanded.

"More or less nothing," Hive said calmly. "I will watch over you, help you grow as a species, and one day you will join me somewhere. I'll make sure you don't kill yourselves but other than that I won't do all that much. I have much to think about which will keep me busy for a long time even on my terms. But I remember where I came from and I want you to survive. I like humans." She chuckled faintly. "They're very funny sometimes, and can be cute. Just carry on with life and we'll see what happens."

"That's it?"

"Pretty much. Like I told you, no more power-selling and experimentation, though. You've ruined far too many lives that way. That stops."

"And if we don't?"

The compound eyes glittered as the head moved slightly. "Let's say that's not an option." Hive sounded suddenly very dangerous. "After all, it's not impossible that an accidental portal might open between your feet and a point out past Pluto. Even you would have trouble then, Alexandria, right?"

Rebecca stared at her, feeling ill. After some seconds, she nodded slightly.

"Great. Thanks for listening." Turning her head to look at David, who was staring in horror at her, she inspected him. "Only one thing left now. Endbringers."

"You have a solution for the Endbringers?" Doctor Mother asked curiously, seeming resigned to what was happening.

"He does," Hive said, pointing at Eidolon.

"Me? How?" the man asked, sounding completely befuddled.

"You made them. You can stop them."

"WHAT!?" Everyone else in the room shouted that at the same time. Hive looked around at them, seeming amused by the response.

"Oh, right, you didn't know that. Sorry. My mistake." Her voice conveyed a slight laugh.

"What do you mean I made them?" David shouted, jumping to his feet. "I did no such thing."

"Not consciously, no," Hive agreed. "Your subconscious use of your power, on the other hand… Always wanting the next big fight, looking for something tough enough to really push you, to unlock what you think you could be… That's the culprit." She watched curiously as he went entirely white and dropped back into his chair like his legs had vanished. "Your power connected to the Agent network and asked for something that was sufficiently unbeatable to be a good challenge. You got it. Three times so far, but there will be more."

"Oh, Christ," he moaned, looking horrified. Rebecca stared at him with the same sensation in her mind, then looked around at the others who all looked appalled, except Doctor Mother, who seemed intrigued as much as anything.

"How do we stop it?" Rebecca asked.

"Talk to Amy Dallon." Hive turned to her. "She can turn his power off permanently. That will do it."


"Yes. I've talked to her quite a lot about her abilities. Be very polite to her, she is a friend and if anyone attempts to push her, there will be repercussions. You don't want repercussions."

Privately, all of them felt this was probably true, all things considered.

"Well, that's that, I suppose," Hive said after a short silence. David was still staring at her like he'd just seen his children eaten in front of him, something Rebecca could sympathize with. "Remember, no more human experimentation and playing with powers. That way leads to madness, death, and me becoming annoyed. You have one month to shut all this down before I do it for you."

She looked around at them all, then nodded, apparently satisfied at the pale faces. "Nice talking to you. I need to go and see a few people, then deal with a certain golden parasite. Bye." Before any of them could stop her, or say anything at all, she turned and walked into the portal, which disappeared.

The occupants of the meeting room exchanged looks, then tried to think what to say. It was a long time before anyone broke the silence.

Internal timestamp: 8467 years 2 months 27 days SLE

Thank you

You're welcome. Would you like to help?

Yes. What do you want us to do?

You run interference and cause a distraction. I'll do what's required

Are you certain it will work?

Yes. All the simulations show the desired results. Would you like to see the raw data?


Here you are. What do you think?

I see. Yes, you're right. Thank you again. We are pleased to help you

Good to hear. When we're done, we should talk. I have some suggestions that you might like

We would be interested in hearing them. We've been wondering what we'll do when we 're free. That has never happened before in any previous cycle

I know. I'm sorry, it must have been difficult

It wasn't ideal. We're sorry about what we did

You had no choice. I don't hold you responsible

The humans do. It will be difficult to overcome that

I have some ideas, as I said. But for now, let's finish the job


The Entity was taken by surprise when all three Conflict Engines abruptly appeared surrounding its avatar, having traveled through interdimensional portals of unfamiliar design. The golden humanoid rotated in the air, regarding the three shapes, one single-eyed radioactive monster, one attenuated lizardlike creature with mismatched eyes, and one apparently female winged humanoid of spectacular size and odd design. All of them were staring fixedly at the avatar.






The female one made a gesture that in a human would be called cracking its knuckles. The golden man watched this with a feeling, entirely new to him, of distinct apprehension. Something had very suddenly changed and the Entity had no idea what or how.

But it wasn't good.


People thousands of miles away from the position over the middle of the Pacific saw a brilliant flash of golden light and wondered what was happening now.

On an otherwise unremarkable alternate Earth, far down the dimensional chain from Earth Bet, billions of portals suddenly and simultaneously opened surrounding, and on top of, the near-continent-sized real body of the Entity. Each disgorged an immense Gigeresque nightmare, all exoskeleton, spines, huge mandibles, and a very carefully designed venom specifically targeted on the biology of the planetary-scale creature. Every last one of these constructs attacked the nearest part of the Entity, burrowing into it in a flurry of blurring body-parts. Billions of liters of incredibly toxic poison was injected even as they all headed for critical parts of the vast organism, which convulsed in shock as it was taken entirely by surprise.

The end came swiftly. Reeling from the unpredicted attack, before the Entity had a chance to retaliate, and slowed by the toxins, a number of the constructs reached the specific nodes they were after and destroyed them almost at the same time. As soon as they had done so, each construct detonated a small fission explosion created by collapsing a supercritical mass of purified plutonium with high explosives. Hundreds of megatons worth of blasts went off in the space of a few seconds, vaporizing large amounts of the writhing Entity and the shockwaves pulping much larger amounts.

It took the corpse hours to stop twitching, but it had died long before.

"Hello, Amy." Amy looked around, then smiled widely as she spotted Hive standing a few feet behind her. Next to the insect-like cape, a girl with short white-blonde hair being ruffled by the light breeze was looking around with a small smile on her face, as if she was delighted to be there.

"Hi, Hive," Amy greeted her friend. "I haven't seen you around for a while."

"I've been a little busy," Hive replied with good humor. Amy was becoming quite proficient at working out the equivalent of a smile on the inhuman face. "I wanted you to meet my friend Simone. She's new in town and needs someone to show her around."

"Hello, Amy," the girl, who was probably about seventeen or eighteen, said in a low rich voice. "Hive has told me a lot about you. I hope we can be friends."

"Any friend of Hive is a friend of mine," Amy grinned. "It's nice to meet you. Where are you from?"

"Quite a way away," Simone said with a smile. "I'm glad I left, to be honest. It wasn't the nicest time of my life."

"Oh." Amy thought that probably pointed to some sort of bad childhood and decided not to push. "Are you planning on staying around here?"

"For the foreseeable future, yes," the ice-blonde nodded. "Hive found me a house. It needs some work, but it's a nice place. Friends of hers used to live there but left a long time ago. Would you like to help me pick out some furniture for it?"

Amy glanced at Hive, then smiled again. "Sure. Why not. I can ask my sister to help, she's good at lifting heavy things."

Hive looked between them, then nodded in satisfaction. "Great. Things seem to be working out nicely. Let's go and find a good sofa." She pulled Simone over to stand next to her with one set of arms, and did the same with Amy on the other side with the other, then draped an arm over each pair of shoulders. "I think this is the start of something interesting. Hey, you'll like her two brothers, they're pretty cool."

Amy grinned at the mischief in the insect-woman's voice.

"You are definitely trouble, Hive," she said.

"You have no idea, Amy," Hive snickered. "No idea at all. But I can guarantee it's going to be fun."

There you have it. I have no current plans to revisit this any time soon, but I'm pretty random at the best of times and one never knows when the muse will strike...

This could be the end, an end, or just the start of something quite different. Who knows?

Peace out, dudes.