Hornet's Nest

by Steve Zink


During his twenty-two years of service in the US Navy, the last
seventeen of which as a special operations SEAL, Ken Reynolds had done
just what many think of when envisioning a career in the Navy. He did
duty in so many countries that he gave up putting pins into the wall
map at home when the delineations of the map could no longer be seen
under all the pin heads. Many SEALs dreaded having to do their work
in locales such as the jungles of Viet Nam, but for Ken the dense
green foliage and abundance of life forms to be found in such
environments made him one of the odd men out. He did his best to make
sure he was assigned to whichever SEAL teams would be assigned tasks
in tropical jungles, much to the relief of his comrades who preferred
the more open and mechanized areas of the civilized world. So, when
the time came for his retirement and he could no longer make visits to
the dense forests of the tropics and be paid to do so, Ken put his
experience to good use and became a jungle research specialist for the
Botany Department of USC.

In his own mind, Ken was just a dedicated fan of Mother Nature in her
hottest and moistness. To the younger scientists and students who
accompanied him on his trips to the tropics, he became a sort of
Indiana Jones character. Ken never ceased to amaze his partners in
exploration with the ways he seemed to interact with all the flora and
fauna they encountered, as opposed to the way the majority of them did
their best to avoid interacting with the harsh environment. As if that
wasn't enough, the skills he'd attained as a SEAL gave Ken the edge he
needed to get the less careful people out of the jams in which they
found themselves. It seemed like nothing could stop their Indiana
Jones of the jungle from having fun while everyone else seemed to

Then, the unthinkable happened.

During one of the short trips into the Amazon rain forests of Brazil
to continue the documentation of remaining life forms while the forests
were being decimated, those in the working party found their
indestructible mate to be missing. Searching for a lone person in
those jungles was nearly impossible, and all they could do was hope to
see Ken reappearing in their midst to ask where they'd all been. But
alas, after a four week wait, no sign of Ken was seen. Two of the more
experienced explorers stayed at the camp while the rest left to go
home, just in case the man both knew could live in the jungle easily
came walking out of the greenery. However, as long as they kept
watching at ground level, they would never spot Ken.

Of course, even if they had looked up, they wouldn't have spotted Ken,

For Ken was no longer the forty-six-year-old man who had started the
trip with them. On the day in which he had disappeared, Ken had
stumbled onto something the likes of which he had never before seen in
all his trips into tropical forests. In a clearing devoid of other
plant life at the base of a thick boled tree was what looked like some
kind of amalgam of insect and man, or maybe woman since there were orbs
on what could be its chest. It appeared to be carved and covered with,
or molded from, some kind of copper-like metal. It was so odd looking,
though, that Ken wondered if he had stumbled upon some kind of evidence
of alien contact. He found out as soon as he approached the figure and
touched it.

Ken nearly blacked out from the massive amount of changes that started
to take place in his body. Nothing he had ever heard of, seen or even
read about in fact or fiction could have prepared him for the fact that
every molecule of his body was being altered in what seemed like only
seconds. One moment he had been a forty-six-year-old male in thick,
tan jungle garb, and only two or three blinks of the eye, all had been


The person who had been Ken Reynolds was now a female appearing to be
half as old or maybe even younger, completely nude and feeling no
discomfort in the intense heat and humidity. Whereas Ken had boasted
of still tight and short black hair, the female now had reddish brown
hair going a bit down past her shoulders. But her hair was by no means
her most striking point. From the midpoint of her back, just below
the point where her hair stopped, sprang a set of nearly clear
insect-like wings, two to each side. Each wing appeared to span four
feet or so, and without thinking, she folded her wings back so they
hung straight down her back.

As totally different as the female body was, the mind inside her head
still seemed to belong to Ken. All the years of training and
experience had prepared Ken to handle nearly anything, and while this
metamorphosis came close to being totally beyond his ken, sorting it
out quickly gave her a stability totally unexpected. Something gave
her the inclination to sit astride the figure's back and place her
hands upon its head. Suddenly, even quicker than the near
instantaneous body change, a flood of information came from the figure
and nearly overwhelmed her.

Now she knew that this was indeed an alien artifact. It had been left
behind an unknown number of eons ago by ancient intergalactic
explorers when they'd noted the beginnings of human intelligence on the
globe they'd been exploring. The explorers knew that someday another
explorer would find their emissary, and in so doing, become altered
into the person who could bring order to a disorderly world. They had
energized the figure to give the discovering explorer all the powers
of their own more insect-like forms in her own human body. The only
thing they hadn't counted upon was that while every member of their
race was what could be considered female, human beings were nearly
evenly divided and more males than females would be explorers.

Had the remaining members of the exploration team looked up while they'd
been watch the ground for Ken, they may have spotted Kira as she
practiced flying amongst and over the tree tops of the rain forest.
Yes, she had used all her newly acquired knowledge to become very much
at ease with the very much super powered person she'd become, and
decided that since Ken hardly fit as a name anymore she would take on
the name Kira, Kira Reynolds. Or, when she would be on patrol to watch
for wrong doing to halt, she would be The Hornet. She had toyed with
the ideas of using names like Wasp or Yellow Jacket, but they were well
known already, and since one of the Navy's best known aircraft carriers
during World War Two was the USS Hornet, that's who she would be. With
the much younger age she found herself at, along with the stinging and
flying powers with which the aliens had empowered her, Kira knew she
was in for another life full of adventure and daring. She picked up
the figurine using her ant-like super strength once she was ready to
move on get back to civilization, and moved it to a cave in the Andes
which she then sealed so no one else could find it.

It wouldn't do for a nude Kira to show up in civilization, however, so
while flitting about she collected all the fibers she would need to
make The Hornet's costume. The material would be the right colors of
black and yellow to show her derivation, but to show off she made it so
thin and stretchy that nothing at all of her body shape could be left
to the imagination. The top looked like a very short sleeved leotard
of black with yellow bands, and her thigh high boots were jet black
with a thin yellow band a bit below the top of each. Besides her
Hornet costume, she also fashioned a dress so she could appear in
public without drawing too much attention. Kira knew there was no way
to let everyone know that she used to be Ken, so she let his demise go
ahead. Ken's parents had both passed away many years before, and since
he had been single, nobody would be affected by his loss. She did have
to work fast, though, to get her hands on some of Ken's funds so she'd
having something with which to make a new start as the world's new

The house she moved into had a small shed in the back yard for the lawn
mower and such, so she put her powers to work in digging a chamber
below it. Once it had been fitted out with her costume parts and other
things needed for operations, she figured if there could be a Bat Cave
or a Fortress of Solitude in the comics, she could have her Hornet's

Soon, the world would meet its newest heroine, The Hornet!


Total Score: 35.5 out of 50

Raven's Comments:

You've got some potential here, Steve, but the story lacks detail, characterization and pacing. You spend a lot of time "telling" and little time "showing" -- everything that happens to Ken is conveyed to us in the relatively sterile tone of the narrator. Your technical skills aren't bad, but you need to take the reader by the hand and let her walk with you through Ken's discoveries -- to see what he sees, as he sees it, and to feel what he feels. Looking "over the hero's shoulder" as the story unfolds puts us in the action, makes it more real and exciting.

Consider the following possibility: Instead of opening with Ken's back-story, start in the thick of the action as he leads his band of fellow researchers through some daring, risky adventure -- maybe rapelling down a steep cliff in the Andes to retrieve a sample of pollen from a rare species of flower. The exact details of the action aren't important, as long as it gives us the impression that this is an extremely skilled, but probably a little bit crazy, field guide who is willing to brave any challenge in order to accomplish his mission. Along the way you can drop bits and pieces of his story in hints and allusions, and reveal other aspects of his personality in the way he relates to his partners. Consider how we're introduced to Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark; nobody has to tell us that he is supremely confident, intelligent, educated, or afraid of snakes. Nobody has to tell us that he is an archaeologist, an explorer, or a "Doctor". All of these things come out in the first twenty minutes of the film, through the action and the dialogue. That's the way to introduce the star of an adventure story -- by throwing us straight into the middle of the adventure. (And notice that the opening sequence of Raiders has nothing to do with the plot; it's a set piece that introduces us to the kind of life that Indy leads, and once it's established the story can move on. You could do the same here, if you liked.)

The story also ends a bit awkwardly -- it would be better to either end with Kira "flying off into the sunset", just about to embark on her new life, or else with a vignette that shows the new superhero in action. In adventure stories you have to start strong, but you also have to finish strong. Give the reader one last climactic action sequence that shows that there's a new hero in town, and she means business.

This story reads like a plot overview for a screenplay -- there's a lot of potential for action here, but it isn't realized. Next time, don't just give us the screenplay -- make it bigger than life, and give us the movie!


Copyright 2004 by Steve Zink. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.

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