I wrote this during the last draft of Rights of Use, when I was trying to understand the Doppelgaenger’s motivation and state of mind.
The queens killed me like they did every little thing: artistically. Six incisions on each arm. One coiled around my wrist like a bracelet. Five more radiated away and up my arm, as if a charm on said bracelet glowed. They were arranged, of course, by size of Itavian heartworm, which is the only known vascular parasite to infect humans. Normally, these kind of parasites require mosquitoes to incubate larvae, I’m told, and normally, heartworms don’t infect humans. But these ones are special. They’re older than the Kemtewet species, having not been made by humans, as the Kem were, but coming from Earth, like all the humans, hence their name.
Some time after civilization left Earth, the Itavian heartworm mutated to infect humans. They weren’t a huge nuisance and were easily addressed by our ancient (post-Earth) medicine. They were almost wiped out.
Neith cultivates them, because Kem can serve the same role as the mosquito. And they clog up the symbiont’s vascular system, too. It’s a slow, painful, self-sustaining death for both host and tewet.
Unless somebody finds a teleporter.
That’s why it’s still not a big deal anywhere but here in the Central Palace, where there are both prisoners and queens—those who can be banned from teleport access.
The incisions where they implanted the adult worms were artistic in their prickly, seeping way. The injection sites for the larvae, less so, although they were geometric. A ring of five and a center. Five queens and the Empress.