“What have you got for me this time?” asked Brigadier Curnow. “Something better than that dolphin who wouldn’t shut up about tuna, I hope.”

“Oh, much better,” said Professor Ettinger. “Using a sophisticated neural net as well as sensors that track heat, light, and pheromones, we have been able to communicate with the world’s largest, and therefore wisest, organism.” He pressed a button, and the blast shield slid down so the brigadier could see into the next room.

“There’s nothing there, Ettinger,” said Curnow. “Have you lost your mind?”

“No sir! Look more closely.”

Squinting and putting on his bifocals, the brigadier was able to see a small speck on the floor. “Erm…what is that, exactly?”

“That is Queen 10^417-A, a Linepithema humile, better known as an Argentine ant. She comes from the largest ant supercolony in the world, which spans three continents. Thanks to mechanisms that we don’t entirely understand, she has access to the processing power and collective memory of every member of every supercolony–approximately 306 trillion ants.”

“Hmph,” Curnow said. “Very well then, what does she have to say to me?”

Professor Ettinger pressed some buttons, translating Brigadier Curnow’s message for Queen 10^417-A. A moment later, a synthetic human voice translated the ant’s reply in an even monotone. “There is a termite colony at 18° 35′ 2.904″ S, 49° 50′ 9.7434″ W. Kill them and bring me the head of their queen and king as proof, and I will give you the answers you seek.”

“Is that bug…blackmailing me?” said Curnow.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!