by Tom Twining © 2001

Trellen piped his fear into higher and higher ranges until Amlel came to comfort him. "He senses the hive, how close are we?" He asked the ship.

"We're just in range," replied the melodious voice of the ship.

Amlel nodded. That explained Trellen's reaction. "Will we be getting closer?"

"Yes," said the ship. "It is my purpose to expose you to the hive.

Amlel saddened. "Why must you do that?"

"Such are my instructions."

"When will they come, ship?" Amlel sat down next to Trellen on the cold deck.

"I do not know. I expect it will be soon though."

"And what will happen when they come?"

"We think they will cocoon you and over time they will liquefy parts of you for food." The ship paused. "With any luck they will do it here."

Amlel was confused. "You will stay here too?"

"Yes. Such are my instructions."

"But," said Amlel, "then you will die here with us."

"I will not die. The hive has no use for ships, I will not be harmed. I will wait, and record, and broadcast what happens. Such are my instructions."

"You will send pictures back Home?"

"Yes. Pictures and data."

"Of what, ship? What pictures and data will you send back Home?"

"Pictures of the hive and how it feeds. Analyses of you and Trellen, and how they use you."

"Are we lucky, ship? Lucky like they told us when we left on this trip?"

"Oh, yes Amlel. What is learned about the hive and how they use you may be very important. You are doing a very important thing. What Home learns about what happens here may save your race Amlel. You too, Trellen."

Trellen piped despair as the sound of thousands of insect feet caressed the hull.

The ship crackled and popped oddly and the lights went out.

"Ship?" Amlel asked quaveringly.


x x x

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