â€œHow will the hive work while you are at Aletheia?â€ Amanpreet asked.
â€œIt will be alright,â€ Prima said. â€œThe others know what to do and one of the diplomats will be coming with me to help even though this is a bit outside the norm for them. It’s a bit out of the norm for everyoneâ€ She entwined two of her arms around Amanpreet’s again. â€œI’m so excited for this trip. There’s so much to learn!â€ She span around on her stumpy legs with surprising agility dragging Amanpreet into a joyous dance. â€œIt’s so good to be alive!â€ The other members of her hive joined in spinning sinuously in a circle around them.
Amanpreet couldn’t help grinning as she remembered the images from the temple walls. Simple joy at being alive was, it seemed, on of the defining traits of Prima’s species. And she remained certain the building was a temple. Indeed someone had started painting similar images of the prefabricated walls. As Prima stopped spinning Amanpreet waked over and looked at the dancing figure on the mural.
â€œMay I ask what you believe in?â€
â€œWhat? Oh! That’s the Queen of all Hives. Our myths say she alone existed first and laid a single egg from which hatched the universe and she later created individual intelligence because she possessed it and was lonely. There are other origin stories as well that different hives believed. Some hives believed in a whole hive of divinities who created the universe in their image. We dance for her because she taught us to dance.â€
â€œDid that cause conflict?â€ Niobe asked.
â€œNo, why would it? The stories themselves are metaphor anyway and who knows who’s right when it comes to things like the divine. It’s not worth fighting over.â€ She paused as she took in Amanpreet and Niobe’s expressions. â€œAh, yes, humans fight over religion don’t they? I heard about your friend Kayla.â€
â€œNot so much as we used to,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œBut it still happens.â€
â€œThe Queen of All Hives loves all life and wouldn’t want us fighting over whether she exists or not,â€ Prima said. â€œMei says many Ishtari believe in her though they call her something else.â€
â€œI agree with that,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œMost Kska religions have a similar figure even when they have other deities. The Tkin have a similar figure but its not female which is probably down to their biology.â€
â€œYes, Mei told me that as well,â€ Prima said. â€œAnd of course that is how they would see her.â€ She bobbed slightly in front of the image. â€œOne of the Kska scientists is supposed to be showing me where they have started work on the bioformng later. Would you like to come?â€
â€œWe’d be honoured,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œThough I doubt there will be much to see yet. Bioforming is a very long project.â€
â€œI know,â€ Prima said. â€œBut I want to see the start anyway.â€
â€œBeginnings are exciting,â€ Amanpreet agreed. â€œThey are starting in the sea right?â€
â€œWe are indeed.â€ The Kska scientist who had entered building had iridescent turquoise plumage on her tentacles and bright yellow feathers on her head. Visible through her environment suit Kska colouring was always garish but this one was exceptional. Given that it wasn’t a mating display and must have inconvenienced their ancestors when they were hunting Amanpreet often wondered at why they had evolved such colours but even the Kska were unsure of that though there were many hypotheses.
â€œMsta!â€ Prima hurried over to her. â€œIs it time for our trip?â€
â€œIt is,â€ she replied. â€œI thought you might bring your human friends so we’ll be using a human ship as their environment suits your species almost as well as it does yours.â€
The shuttle flew over the clear blue waters of the sea towards the shallows where the scientists had started their work.
â€œThe fact that we’re not going to have to deal with the single celled life interfering with the bioforming process is useful,â€ Msta said. â€œIndeed we’ve selected an area where blooms are common as the small organisms that grow on the purple spaghetti weed are filter–â€ She paused as Amanpreet giggled. â€œWhat?â€
â€œYou’re calling it the purple spaghetti weed? I never imagined that would stick.â€
â€œAh yes, you were the one who first said it looked purple spaghetti weren’t you? Well we had to call it something and it turned out to be more popular than the scientific name we gave it. Anyway it fills a role similar to giant kelp does on your species’ worlds and will be important in starting to raise the oxygen levels.â€ The shuttle started descending two where two floating platforms were oxygenating the sparkling waves around the nursery beds. â€œWe’ll dive in and look at how the plants are developing. They grow extremely fast so I think you’ll be plesantly surprised.â€
â€œCool,â€ Amanpreet said.
â€œYou’re already oxygenating,â€ Niobe said. â€œSo you’re planning to introduce other marine life soon?â€
â€œWe’ve already introduced the small filter feeders that live on the weed and some invertebrate grazers to eat both the weed and the filter feeders. Next we need to introduce the predators to eat them. We’re close to getting it to work as a miniature ecosystem. Though we’ll have to simulate the air breathing parts of the ecosystem for several years. We’re already looking for other suitable nurseries.â€
The shuttle reached the sea and descended below the waves to reveal an absolute forest of the purple spaghetti growing from the seabed to the surface a hundred meters above, and as Amanpreet starred at it she noticed the tiny yellow scales on some of the fronds and the small, white swimming tubes that were grazing on them.
â€œOh! It’s beautiful!â€ Prima said. â€œThis is a wonderful start. Thank you so much.â€
â€œIt’s only a tiny patch so far,â€ Msta said. â€œBut the rate it’s growing and spreading at it will only take two or three years to expand into its former range. We’re looking at re-establishing some of the other coastal ecosystems sooner than we thought we would be able to and we’re already working on the deep sea ones around thermal vents and cold seeps as well.â€
â€œCan we go and see those as well?â€ Prima asked.
â€œMaybe another time,â€ Msta said. â€œThere’s very little to see yet. Give the worms time to get established and it will be much more interesting.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Prima said. She stared out of the windows some more. â€œHow long do you think it will be before the oxygen levels are high enough to start reintroducing plants on land?â€
â€œSeveral years at least,â€ Msta said. â€œAnd that’s with artificial intevention.â€ She paused as the communication console chimed before Midori’s voice came over it.
â€œCould you come back to the station, please, we’ve heard from the council.â€