There was a new bug on the trail, and it had the most enticing smell.
The worker ant stopped, twitching her antennae, hesitating. Around her, her workmates bustled to and from the nest, each on her own little errand. Food was carried back – insects, crumbs dropped by humans, anything they could find. She should be helping them.
But there was that smell…
One of her fellows tapped her impatiently, brushing antennae with her, wondering why she had stopped. Obediently she began to move again but after only a few paces found herself hesitating once more, turning back. Surely investigating it couldn't hurt? She was only going to look.
Ants knew all about danger. The world was full of enemies, larger insects that could snatch you up without warning. The worker approached carefully, ready to race back to the nest at the least sign of trouble. Her antennae were extended, and she brushed the bug with the most tentative touch possible, nervous of sudden movement.
The bug didn't move.
She took a step closer and then closer again, still waiting for the moment the bug would snatch at her. Cautiously she set a foot against its back, and then snatched it away, ready for its reaction.
There was none.
The smell though – the smell persisted and was too much for her to resist. Again she set a foot against the bug, and then another, grasping at its shell until she was clambering over the bug, investigating it with excited curiosity, still searching for the source of that fascinating scent. The bug was alive – she could feel it shifting under her, moving just a little, but not enough to alarm.
Perhaps it was a friend – ready to give up whatever treasure it held in return for the ants' guardianship. There were such bugs, although she had never seen one quite like this before.
It was definitely moving now, raising itself up, opening its forearms wide. The ant froze in place, uncertain whether this was the attack it had been waiting for, but after a moment the bug was still again. And there – there was the scent she had been hunting so eagerly for. Something… something in the bug's chest. The ant might have hesitated again, but the scent was so strong, so tempting now. Eagerly she crawled over to the bug's front, and pressed her head into the other insect's chest. It tasted sweet – so sweet! – and she drank deeply, sucking eagerly at the gland that created the enticing liquid.
Gently, the bug's arms closed around her. It dipped its head down, its mouth – a wicked-seeming beak – coming to rest lightly on the back of her neck. She froze again, half-panicking, but there was no further move to attack. It seemed as though this were merely another friendly gesture, an embrace for the insect it was offering food to. She was not held tightly – when she wanted to she could easily slip away.
She would just drink a little more, the worker decided, and then she would do so. This was too good a feast to keep to herself – she should run back to the nest and fetch others to share it. But just a few more drops first… just a little and then she started to scurry away.
At least, she meant to. Her legs twitched as she tried to scramble up, over the bug's back, and yet couldn't seem to do more than that. She tried to wave her antennae and yet she couldn't even manage that. She could only watch from inside her own body, helpless, as her body curled up, drawing in its legs, no longer under her control.
Still she could feel the bug's legs around her, small hairs brushing against her back. The beak resting against her neck no longer seemed quite so friendly. Desperate now, the worker struggled to move, trying to call for help or to at least warn the other workers that this smell, however delicious, was bad.
She couldn't even do that. She was frozen into position, full conscious as the bug, still gentle, still careful, pressed its beak down, piercing its way into her body before it greedily began to drink her blood, sucking it down just as eagerly as the ant had sucked liquid from it only a few seconds before. This was repayment in a way, but the trade would be the worker's life.
A short time later, mercifully, the worker would never feel anything again. The assassin bug tossed the body aside, empty now of blood, and settled down again comfortably, focusing its attention once more of producing a certain fine-scented hormone.
A few seconds later, a worker stopped dead in her path, waving its antennae uncertainly, distracted from her errand. There was this fascinating smell…