The Little Lost Ones
by Glenn M.
Sneering, the brash young CEO Payne Greyson turned to his raven-haired
publicity director Ashley Riddle and snapped “bring them in.” She
nodded grimly, rose, then glided expertly on spike heels to the massive
wooden door which she opened while forcing a thin smile across her
glossy red lips.
To the nervously assembled cadre of environmental reporters and
bloggers, she dispensed perfunctory greetings and firm handshakes,
welcoming them to the executive boardroom of Dominion AgriSciences.
Like wary street dogs, they stepped cautiously into this alien world of
the enemy’s camp. The scent of polished wood, fine leather, and
biological sorcery hung in the air like a malevolent vapor. None failed
to observe the thick-necked men with military haircuts seated in the
corners of the room with their earpieces and granite expressions.
Greyson, standing at the far end of the long dark glass table, waited
for the group to be seated, introduced himself curtly, and commenced
“Good afternoon. We all know why we’re here, so I’ll skip the
formalities and get right to the point. I have a prepared statement...”
Less than three minutes later he was finished and the only thing
newsworthy was the arrogant defiance with which Dominion chose to
handle its mounting PR disaster. The concerned gathering could only
shake their heads in disbelief at the callous recklessness Greyson
showed for the human role in the interdependency of nature.
Dominion wouldn’t even bother to deny that “Formula 114”, their
flagship systemic fertilizer & pesticide, was responsible for the
shocking decline in the population of pollinating insects vital to the
very crops it was sprayed on, not to mention the entire mammalian food
Everything from bees to butterflies to beetles were dying in vast
numbers, but as Greyson petulantly reminded the audience, the insect
losses were “within government approved limits” and “didn’t outweigh
the benefits gained by farmers and consumers in the form of produce
that competed economically in the marketplace and were cosmetically
superior to those grown with legacy techniques.”
A short Q&A followed, including a question to Riddle that she and
Greyson had anticipated. Walker Travis from one of the biggest natural
news websites wasn’t shy. “We know 114 can destroy the insect’s ability
to navigate. They can’t return to the nest or the hive, and just wander
around aimlessly until they die.”
“And regarding the new allegations the powder can easily be weaponized
into a fast-acting airborne respiratory nerve agent deadly to humans --
with Formula 114 being shipped worldwide, how do you respond to the
potential for terrorism?”
Greyson huffed audibly. “Frankly Mr. Travis, the nerve agent story is
ridiculous, and we categorically reject it. As for the insects,
Dominion is putting millions of dollars into research at the non-profit
Strand Institute -- right down the street from here. They use common
cockroaches with state-of-the-art implantable sensors to completely map
out their motor processes and analyze the effects of 114. We’re
confident the current performance can be improved.”
As the press group was leaving, Travis split off from the others and
asked to use the restroom. Once inside the stall, he quickly located
the air vent just as Professor Strand promised. Standing on the toilet
seat he fumbled briefly but managed to open it sufficiently.
From inside his shirt Travis extracted the plastic sandwich bag
followed by the moist envelope inside it. He began to sweat and felt
briefly nauseated. Focus.
It was crude but got him through the metal detectors. He hoped Strand
knew what he was doing. He carefully opened the end of the envelope,
pushed it into the vent and dumped the contents. Don’t look...
Time was a factor. Outside he stepped into a waiting taxi and headed to the Institute.
Minutes later he was inside a locked meeting room with Strand, his top
research assistant, and the head of IT. He looked Strand squarely in
“Are you sure about this?”
“No. But we’re going ahead nonetheless. My team insisted.”
The others nodded soberly. The IT expert launched a flurry on his
keyboard. A large wall monitor began showing the tactical details of
the operation, which resembled a military exercise. He confirmed from
cellphone tracking that Greyson and Riddle were still in the conference
“We won’t have video,” Strand told Travis, “But once we got past the
firewall, we had access to their wi-fi. Our tiny little soldiers have
the Strand interface and ultra-micro GPS, so the rest was software.”
“And... the weaponized 114?” Walker asked.
Strand smiled. “Safely contained within a coating on their legs -- until we tell them to rub it off.”
Inside the ventilation duct, one by one the pathetic creatures began to
move. They looked spastic and horrible in the dim light filtering in
from vents and reflecting down the galvanized tunnels of the system.
A doomed and macabre parade of ten lost cockroaches were wandering, but
for some reason they were all wandering in the same direction and
moving their rickety joints in strange unison. And when this grim
procession arrived at the correct ceiling vent, they all had a sudden
urge to rub their legs together so violently that tiny bits began to
float down in the air.
“...the funniest part,” Greyson told Riddle, is this bug neurology
research. It’s just a smokescreen to launch the farming effort. This
world faces a protein crisis and with your PR talent we’ll have people
feeding their dogs roach biscuits in no time. That do-gooder Strand
will probably keel over when he figures out what this is all about.”
She laughed, then he laughed, then they both laughed.
Until they both began to cough...
© 2017 Glenn Diamond
Bio: Mr. Diamond has a background in electrical
engineering and currently lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and
daughter. His first published short story "The Cleansing" appeared in
the Huffington Post in 2014. His last Aphelion appearance was “The
Machines at Ellison” in our February, 2017 issue.
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