Queen Blix always took the deaths of her children hard. They were more than her offspring. They were a part of her. When they died, she died a little as well. A scout had just come in and reported that a human stepped on Drone 997754810 while she was out on food patrol.
“No!” the queen sobbed. “She was new to the job. She didn’t deserve that!”
“She certainly didn’t,” the scout concurred.
“Humans are a menace! I wish I could wipe them all out. All they do is lumber around without any regard for where they’re walking. We’re not invisible! Look down!”
“I couldn’t agree more, your highness.”
Queen Blix glared at her subordinate. Sometimes she hated it when they agreed with her without thinking for themselves, but it was part of their way of life. Colonies survived on drones following orders even when those orders got them killed. Nobody would feel what Blix felt when a drone died. Nobody would question her decisions when they got ants killed. They would go on doing what they were born to do, and the queen would wallow in her grief all alone among her thousands of daughters.
“I want to talk to Queen Aaq,” Queen Blix said.
“I’ll summon the transmitters,” the scout replied, turning to leave.
“Wait!” The scout stopped to listen to her queen and mother. “Thank you for bringing me this message. You are a valued member of this colony.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
The scout didn’t understand. Queen Blix wanted to express her gratitude for her subordinate’s excellent service, but the sentiment was wasted on someone unable to understand the concept or the emotion. It was so frustrating to love her children so much but for them to not know it. They followed her every order without question or delay, but they could not love her back. They were like machines.
A few seconds after the scout left, three communication drones entered single file. The opening to the queen’s chamber was too small to allow more than one drone to pass through it at a time, which meant that the much larger queen was trapped in there. She could have had them dig it larger, but why would she leave? The drones stood in front of the queen in a circle, touching their antennae to form a circuit. Queen Blix concentrated on sending a message to the queen of a neighboring colony with whom she was friends in her youth before she had children.
“Blix!” exclaimed Aaq mentally. “It’s so good to hear from you! It’s been too long. How are things?”
“The colony is running fine, Aaq,” Blix replied. “I just wanted to talk to somebody with thoughts of her own, you know? It gets lonely in here.”
“Whatever do you mean, dear Blixie? You have your children to keep you company.”
“It’s not the same. All they do is agree with me and do what I tell them.”
“What’s wrong with that? Colonies owe their survival to the willingness of the drones to blindly obey orders.”
“I just… I don’t know. 997754810 was stepped on today. She was one of my favorites.”
“Favorites? Blix, you never cease to perplex me. I think it’s what I love most about you. One drone is as good as another. They’re all the same – disposable.”
“My children are NOT disposable! I can’t believe you think that about yours!” Blix remembered why it had been so long since she last talked to Aaq. She severed the link be pulling her head back and breaking the circuit. “Thank you, 7898511, 7898510, and 7898508. I will call on you the next time I feel like talking to someone, though I don’t know who else is out there.”
“Would you like to send a scouting party?” asked drone 7898510.
“No!” Blix protested so strongly because she was still grieving for 997754810. 7898510 wasn’t taken aback by her reaction. She just stood there and accepted the answer. “I’m sorry,” Blix apologized uselessly. “You all did a fine job. You can go back to what you were doing.”
As the communication drones left, Blix’s antennae shook. That was how she cried. She mourned the loss of drone 997754810 the same way she dealt with everything else, completely alone.