A/N: SorryÂ thisÂ is late this week.
â€œThese stories are very disturbing,â€ Prima said after she had read through a few from Amanpreet’s books. â€œThe callous casualness of the way they treated their subjects. I know they are horrible but you think they’d treat their own kin with more respect. I didn’t think I could detest them more than I already did, but this does that. I mean I can understand why they were doing the experiments given the genetic number that has apparently been done on them but the sheer cruelty of this was completely unnecessary.â€
â€œIt certainly doesn’t fill me with much hope that they’ll respond to a peaceful overture, even from humanity,â€ Amanpreet agreed. â€œBut I think we’ll have to try.â€
â€œOf course we will,â€ Prima said. â€œWar should always be avoided if possible. I hope it works.â€
â€œYou’re very forgiving,â€ Amanpreet said.
â€œForgiveness has nothing to do with it,â€ Prima said. â€œWar is dangerous and we might lose again. We can’t afford to lose again. Peace might mean leaving them alone regardless of what they deserve but it’s safer.â€
â€œI wouldn’t worry about that,â€ Umi said. â€œThey may be longer lived relatives of humans but they are much more fragile in other ways. Humans are scarily tough, comes from evolving a pursuit predator.â€ She made a thoughtful whistle. â€œThey must have been engineered to be fragile as well as the toughness comes from earlier in the evolutionary line.â€
â€œWe’re really not that tough,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œIt’s not like we regrow limbs or similar.â€ She gave Uni a meaningful look since the Mez did.
â€œHumans! Always focused on the thing they don’t have.â€ Umi squeaked in the Mez equivalent of laughter. â€œYou forget that your species routinely survives wounds that would kill us without the chance to regrow anything. The main reason you don’t realise how tough you are is that you got so good at making weapons that are lethal for your kind. You’d walk all over us if it ever came to a war because our weapons wouldn’t scratch you.â€
â€œAnd you’re good at making armor to resist even those weapons,â€ Prima agreed. â€œI hope the enemy didn’t steal any of your weapon designs while they were experimenting on you.â€
â€œWe didn’t really have any space weapons back then,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œThough yeah, some of the weapons we did have were nasty enough I suppose.â€ She chewed her lip. â€œYeah, I hope they didn’t too.â€
â€œI don’t think I want to read any more of these stories. They aren’t nice at all.â€ She pulled on Amanpreet’s hand. â€œLet’s go down to the planet and meet the rest of my hive. They all want to meet you.â€
The domes in which the eggs had been hatched were a few kilometers from the excavation site and had been filled with a set of buildings obvious based on the ones in the underground city. Prima grabbed Amanpreet’s hand again and dragged her towards one of the central domes. â€œEveryone is still in the nursery.â€
â€œI’ve been wondering how your species blended eusociality and individual intelligence,â€ Niobe said.
â€œNot easily,â€ Prima admitted. â€œWe’re an evolutionary fluke really. We were eusocial before we developed individual intelligence and initially it would crop up from time to time and generally cause a hive to fall apart or sometimes just not work as well but then a plague swept through the hives and the genes that allowed individual intelligence were linked to those that cause immunity. It took centuries for our ancestors to find a way through a biology that requires hive behaviour to survive and minds that think for themselves but we made it, mainly because we still have our collective mind as well, and we know when to sublimate one to the other depending on the circumstances.â€ She paused as the dome airlock refilled. â€œIt’s really strange though because we remember what it was like when our only intelligence was collective. The hive’s memory is wired into us.â€ The door slid open and she dragged them into the dome. â€œHere we are.â€ She led them to a the only building in the dome, a prefabricated emulation of the central building of the underground city, and ushered them inside.
Almost immediately they were mobbed by a dozen Talisians all of whom seemed excited to see them. Prima calmed them down and organised them into groups.
â€œThese are the core of my new hive,â€ she said. â€œWe’ll hatch more as we need them. Everyone this is Amanpreet and Niobe.â€ She gestured the first group of three who looked similar to her but smaller. â€œThese are my worker sisters. They’ll care for the eggs, the health of the hive and look after me on those occasions when I’m too egg heavy to move. If anything happens to me one of them will spontaneously transform into a queen in my place, or if I live long enough to want to retire we’ll trigger the transformation artificially instead. Our inventors and scientists also mostly come from this caste though that’s more cultural than biological and there have been great scientists from all castes.â€ She turned to another group of three, which even though still small were taller and heavier set. â€œThese are warrior caste and will form my honour guard. Our best engineers tended to come from this caste but again that’s cultural.â€
â€œIronically for all we were warriors and defenders of the hive we proved pretty awful soldiers in a war in space,â€ one of them said. â€œThe workers proved better pilots and the builders better gunners. We’re the most useless of castes.â€
Prima made a noise that Amanpreet interpreted as a tut. â€œYou are not useless. It was just a different situation to that nature designed you for. When it came to hand to hand fighting you were great.â€ She turned to the next group. â€œThese are our builders. They actually excrete our main building materials.â€
â€œAre they culturally your best architects?â€ Niobe asked.
â€œYou’d think so, wouldn’t you?â€ one of them said. â€œBut along with art that’s the diplomats. We were writers and philosophers.â€ He gestured to the final group. They were the tallest but also the thinnest of the groups. â€œThey are the diplomats and also the breeding males. When they are mature and the other queens have hatched they’ll go to new hives both as representatives of this hive and mates for the queens. It keeps our genetics diverse.â€
â€œWe’re not a fully functioning hive yet,â€ Prima said. â€œBut we’re getting there. Individual intelligence also helps with surviving when the hive is incomplete.â€ She looked back at the others. â€œYou’re going to need to choose names to interact with our allies. Think about names you like.â€