ATOMIC TALES – Strange Invaders #38: Flying Ant Attack

Agent One, Raymond “Ray” Tyler

The time between capturing the mutant spiders and getting the planes to fly them to U.S. Science Bureau HQ in Washington, D.C., were the longest two days of my life.

Agent Six, “Roughhouse” Rick Donlevy, and I had caught the things in the back end of nowhere.  Transporting the dangerous, rapidly growing bugs to Reno and Portland, about 300 miles away, didn’t seem worth the risk.

So, we drove to our closest option: an out-of-the-way motel in Lakeview, Oregon, near a single-strip airport built as a World War II training base.  But babysitting the spiders in their heavy, wire-mesh cages until air support arrived still proved a nerve-wracking job.

“Those must be some mighty big arachnids,” Agent Two, Buster “Ace” Freeman, observed as we wrestled the pet containers into the cargo hold of the agency’s big C-119 “Flying Boxcar.”

Roughhouse’s eyes widened as the blanket covering one cage slipped, revealing the hairy predator within.  The monster’s four black eyes regarded him hungrily, and its fangs drooled black venom.  “Jeeze Louise!  They’re bigger than yesterday—almost busting out of the cages!”

“Stop yapping and strap ’em down,” Agent Thirteen, “Lucky” Lucy Ryan commanded.  “The sooner we’re in the air, the better.”

Technically, I outranked her, but since she’d be flying the Boxcar, I wasn’t about to argue.  “Soon, they’ll be the Teragons’ problem, not ours.  Hey, Ace…  Your Mustang flying solo support on this mission?”

Agent Two shook his head.  “Spider Squadron’s got a couple more P-51’s mopping up where you found those babies.  They’ll join us en route.”

Lucy finished checking the straps, but she didn’t look too pleased about our cargo.  Neither did Agent Eight, William “Wild Bill” Hayes, who’d flown down with her group from our Reno office.

He clutched his M3 “greaser” submachine gun tight.  “I never thought I’d need Donna to step on a spider.”  He laughed, and so did the Spider Squadron guards with him—Corporal Casey and Private George.

Bill’s wife, Donna, had been transformed into a 50-foot-tall giant last year.  So far, our best scientists couldn’t figure out how or why.

I waved everyone to board their planes.  “Let’s get this show on the road!”

A couple minutes later, Ace’s escorting Mustang and Lucy’s Flying Boxcar—with us and the spiders inside—took to the air.

With a brief refueling stop in Chicago, it’d take us twelve hours to fly to Washington, D.C.  In my opinion, we couldn’t get there soon enough.

Since their capture, the weird spiders had grown from the size of toy poodles to as big as German shepherds.  Already, their spiky black- and brown-striped fur was poking out between the sturdy wire mesh of their cages.  Thank heaven we hadn’t fed them!  They stank like burnt hair and rotten meat.

My left arm still ached where one of the monsters had bitten me. I hoped we could keep ’em quiet until we got to HQ, and I hoped these specimens would help the Teragons end this strange invasion.

As all of us grunts sat in the C-119’s hold, weapons at the ready, watching our cargo like hawks, Wild Bill seemed to read my thoughts: “What do we do if these suckers bust out of those cages, Ray?”

“Try to contain them somehow.”

“And if that doesn’t work?” Roughhouse asked.

“Getting these babies to D.C. is top priority.  We’re just along for the ride.”

My agents and the Spider Squadron boys nodded grimly.

About an hour into the flight, we picked up the other two Mustangs in our escort, and

four tense hours later, Lucy’s voice crackled over our headsets.  “How you boys doing back there, Agent One?”

“A-okay,” I replied.  “What’s up?”

“We’re about halfway to Chicago.  Figured you’d want to know.  We’ve got some radio interference, but Ace is still giving me the thumbs up, so maybe it’s just in our set.  Weather report has clear skies between here and the Windy City.  Anything you need?”

“Have the stewardess bring back some coffee, would you, Lucy?”  Roughhouse joked.

She laughed.  “I’m afraid you’ll have to fetch your own on this fight.  Wait a minute… Something on radar… Almost on top of us… Hang on!”

Suddenly, the C-119 banked sharply to the right.

Most of us were fastened into our jump seats, but not Bill.  He barely grabbed the straps and buckled in, as the sudden maneuver swept his feet up into the air.  “What the heck?!  What’s going on?!”

For a moment, Ace’s voice buzzed over our headsets.  “Bogeys out of nowhere… Six… No eight…”  Static cut him off.

Lucy swore.  “I count a dozen.  Ace, do you read me…?”

I gestured toward our cargo.  “Roughhouse… Bill… Make sure those cages don’t break free.”  Six and Eight unstrapped and awkwardly careened to the blanket-covered spider cages while the Flying Boxcar dipped and swerved.

As they checked the tie downs, I shouted: “Lucy…  What’s going on?”

Her voice came back tense and curt.  “We’re under attack.  Some kind of…  UFOs…”

Ace cut in, his radio hissing and crackling  “…Mustangs… Engage the enemy…  Thirteen, Stay on course…”

“Easy for you to say!” Lucy responded.  The Boxcar’s engines roared as she swooped into a series of evasive maneuvers.

Bill paled.  “We’re being attacked by flying saucers?!”

“She said UFOs,” Roughhouse growled.  “Keep your pants on… UFOs could mean anything.”

The chatter of machine gun fire from the Mustangs rattled our C-119’s fuselage as the three escort planes opened up on our enemy.

“Lucy,” I called, “what can we do?”

“Keep those bugs tied down.  I got this, Ray, and… Oh my God…”

My heart beat so loudly I heard it over the roar of plane’s engines.  “What…?”

“Ray… Those UFOs… They’re ants!”


“Flying giant ants… a whole swarm.  Strap yourselves in and hold on!”

Roughhouse and Bill returned to their seats, and we all tightened our restraints.  I’d swear I heard the buzz of enormous insect wings even above the din of battle.

“Not saucers… Ants.”  Bill tried to sound casual, but he was sweating.

“Yeah,” Roughhouse added.  “We’ve killed ants before… Plenty of times.”

The two Spider Squadron guys shouted “Right!”, but nobody looked happy.  Fighting huge insects on the ground was one thing, but in the air…!

For long, gut-wrenching moments, we just held on, listening to the buzz and machine gun chatter of the dogfight and praying silently.  Infrequent communications from Ace and his wingmen sounded encouraging:

“…Three down…  Splash another…”


“Just a few left… Lucy, on your six!”

Lucy swore again.  “I see ’em, I…”

Then our whole plane shuddered.  The screech of rending metal filled the cargo bay as a giant winged ant tore open our fuselage.  Fortunately, our altitude was low, and the aircraft didn’t decompress, but it still wasn’t a feeling I want to repeat—ever.

The drone thrust its hideous, black-armored head through the hole.  Its yard-long antennae twitched, and its serrated, scythe-like mandibles clacked eagerly.

The spider-carrying crates stood between us and the monster, but that was cold comfort.

All five of us scrambled to unbuckle.  Strapped in, we were just a giant bug lunch buffet.

It took a few excruciating moments for the ant to squeeze its hippo-sized body into the C-119’s rear compartment.  It faced us, green eyes glowing, chitinous body bristling with thorny hairs, deadly jaws snapping.

Fortunately, by then we’d gotten free and unlimbered our M3 submachine guns.

“Don’t hit the spider cages!” I commanded, though I’m not sure the rest were listening.

The ant was an easy target in such close quarters, but ricochets could kill us just as quick as our gigantic foe.

The ant shambled toward us from the middle of the plane, but concentrated fire from our grease guns forced it toward the Boxcar’s big rear doors.

The mutant bug hissed and flailed, but neither its jaws nor its thorny legs connected with my team.

Our enemy slumped back, twitching and dripping glowing green ichor from dozens of bullet holes.

“Hold fire!” I called  “It’s finished!”

Either the Spider Squadron grunts didn’t hear me, or they were just too focused finishing the job.  They advanced as the dying creature thrashed aimlessly.  Then…


The bulk of the ant fell against the rear cargo doors and popped them open.  The sudden rush of air dragged the mutant corpse out into the open sky and swept the rest of us off our feet.

Roughhouse, Bill, and I managed to grab our flight restraints, and Corporal Casey wrapped one arm around a support.  But Private George only caught his fingertips on the edge of the rear deck.

Before he could even cry for help, another flying ant landed on top of him.

I blasted the new ant in the face, but when it toppled off the aircraft, it dragged Private George with it.

He didn’t stand a chance.

Roughhouse located the controls and closed the cargo doors.

Shortly after that, our C-119s flight path straightened out and Lucy’s much-relieved voice came over the com.  “Well, that was something…!  Looks like Ace and his buddies took down the whole swarm.  You boys okay back there?”

I shook my head, though I knew Lucy couldn’t see it from the cockpit.  “We lost Private George.  Your plane’s pretty ripped up, too.”

“What about our cargo?”

“Safe and sound,” Roughhouse replied.  “I hope these spiders are worth it.”

“If the Teragons can use them to figure out how to stop the bugs, it will be.”  I tried to sound confident, but it had been a long time since I’d lost anyone under my command.

“Ray,” Bill said, “did this attack seem planned to you?  Like the bugs knew where we are and tried to stop us?  Could they come at us again?”

I felt a headache building behind my eyes.  “I dunno.  Everybody strap in, just in case.  Next stop, Chicago… And it’s still a long way to Washington.”


About “Flying Ant Attack”

Ants in the air!  Attacking WWII vintage aircraft!  (Well, Korean-era, technically.)  What fun!  Who wouldn’t want to see a dogfight with flying ants?

Not this boy!  So, I wrote this Atomic Tales: Strange Invaders around the idea.

I’ve done quite a lot of research for this series, trying to keep the equipment era-appropriate.  Sometimes that’s easy, and I find what I want right off the bat.  Choosing planes for our heroes wasn’t quite that simple, though eventually I decided that both the Mustang and the Banshee had the combination of fighter-bomber capabilities that I wanted.

And then, there’s the Flying Boxcar…  I love this crazy-looking troop and cargo transport plane.  Its bulbous shape, rear loading doors and crazy tail wings remind me of Thunderbird 2—which I’m sure was the intention in designing that fantastic airship for Gerry Anderson’s classic Supermarionation show.

There’s also enough room inside a Flying Boxcar that you can tear a hole in the fuselage and have a giant ant battle in the plane.  That kind of detail’s important, you know!

That combat sequence plays out in my head like the shipboard battle against the ants in THEM!—an often-overlooked super-cool touch in that classic film.  Just the concept of being trapped in a ship at sea with giant ants aboard is terrifying.  And how did the ants get there?  They flew in to make a new nest.

Flying ants rock, baby!

Speaking of flyers, I got to include Agents Two and Thirteen in this story; it’s always nice to have our aerial aces in an episode.

I also wanted at least one casualty, on screen (as it were), to remind us that these giant insect skirmishes aren’t all just fun and games.

And while I tried to build up some suspense as to the identity of the enemies pursuing our heroes in this tale, I suppose I gave it all away with the title, anyway.

Oh, well!

Hope you still enjoyed the ride!

You can listen to this story produced by Christopher R. Mihm from!

Click here to listen.  (MME11x) Story begins about 51:30 from the start.

Click here to read and listen to more ATOMIC TALES!


About Steve Sullivan 421 Articles
Stephen D. Sullivan is an award-winning author, artist, and editor. Since 1980, he has worked on a wide variety of properties, including well-known licenses and original work. Some of his best know projects include Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonlance, Iron Man, Legend of the Five Rings, Speed Racer, the Tolkien RPG, Disney Afternoons, Star Wars, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Uncanny Radio, Martian Knights, Tournament of Death, and The Blue Kingdoms (with his friend Jean Rabe).