Preamble: This the ninth chapter of a serialized science-fiction short story concerning animal control and an exterminator. (Previously: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 and Chapter 8)
by Cheeseburger Brown
Once on the surface I saw several satellites wink overhead in the bright blue sky, and felt their whispers inside my skull. The general had lofted an intelligence network to replace the global grid buggered by the infestation. Now I could see nine tenths of the planet at a resolution as fine as one centimetre per voxel, and I could see my fellow human beings where they stood and hear their status updates.
Most of us represented the ministry, but a smattering of other signals belang to people with unlisted affiliations or obfuscated credentials. "They're animal rights bozos," I reported. "Just shook loose one of them who thinks she's Queen of Space. It's the usual miracles and love malarkey."
"Where would we be without miracles and love?" asked the general.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm all for miracles and love. But that doesn't oblige me to worship a mammal."
Network laughed. The general said, "Well said, William." We pooled our observations about the density and scope of the underground warrens at each nesting site. Pods of pests could be clearly seen glowing like lighthouses in the infrared. What wasteful metabolisms!
The final group of signals were the human citizens of this world, huddled in safe rooms and community shelters throughout the planet's one small city. The fiercest fighting was happening at the city's walls, where ancestor guile had captured and murdered a number of our citizens, and put them under a perverse kind of exterior control, with apes madly working levers and switches to remote-pilot the corpses against their own kind. Grotesque beyond imagination.
"Have you ever seen the like?" whistled a major. "It's clumsy as hell but audacious, I'll grant them that!"
The general nodded her big helmet. "They really are human, on a certain level. They really are us, in a way."
"Furious homeostasis," the major named it. "So keen to stay alive."
The general turned to me. "Does it still move you, William, or has repeated exposure dulled the experience?"
I rolled my eyes. Soldiers! Such walking stereotypes. Poets every one of them.
Network reported a platoon of our scattered fighters assembling and striking at the heart of the siege. I wandered over to join them. My palette and I busted onto the scene. Walls fell. Settling rubble was my wake. Clouds of dust explored the air. "How's it going?" I asked.
"Pretty good," said the lieutenant. "Got any hydrogen cyanide?"
"Sure. Help yourself."
After the soldiers punched through with the hydrogen cyanide I mopped up behind them, laying down a diffuse, even misting of mustard gas mixed with a mutagenic catalyst of my own concoction. Heretofore hidden animals squirmed out of their hide-a-way holes, squealing behind giant clunky respiration masks, scampering away from the roiling yellow cloud even as their paws blistered and dissolved beneath them. They hit the ground spent.
Ancestors cannot neurally network in any meaningful sense, so any single instance of severe somatic disrepair pretty much means they're history. When they go down, they stay down. There's a satisfaction in that. With each toot of gas you feel like you're really accomplishing something concrete.
As I was summiting one of the fallen bodies my special telephone quizzled. I recognized the general's ring tone. "Sir?"
"William, your presence has been requested at the negotiations."
"By ancestors?" I exclaimed, incredulous.
"No," said the general tightly. "The hostage situation has gained complexity; arrive without delay."