Monday, July 06, 2015

Wild Honey

Mel was in the warm dim crawlspace under the hive’s chimneys and stalactite combs, installing new harvesting frames, when the bees began to signal the presence of intruders. Irregular pulses of alarm code flashing through the net; older workers hustling towards the entrances to augment the guards; an urgent bass drone building.

Mel’s blood thrummed in sympathy. She went outside and with field glasses scanned the dun grassland. A witchy old woman  in a faded patched sundress standing in the shade of the nest’s spires, a few ride-along bees clinging in her long white hair. It was late in the afternoon, very hot. Sunlight lanced low out of a flawless blue sky. Trees and stubs of broken wall cast long shadows, and something twinkled in the far distance, a star of reflected light moving out on the old highway.

After a minute or so, the star resolved into Odd Sanders’s battered pickup, driving in a caul of dust ahead of an old army truck and a pod of trikes. Odd sometimes brought petitioners out into the city wilds, charging them for an introduction to the crazy old bee queen whose balm could cure all kinds of sickness. But petitioners usually didn’t ride trikes, and as the little convoy drew closer Mel glimpsed bandoleers across the chests of the trike riders, and rifles and ballistas strapped to their backs.

Foragers were already out, shuttling between the hive and a stand of black locust trees half a mile to the north. Mel could see in her mind’s eye the shape of their traffic laid across the landscape, could see a frail spike of scouts bending towards the highway, and yet again wished that she could use the hive’s network to send the bees where she wanted, and peer through their faceted eyes. She watched as the convoy stopped about a mile away, near the fieldstone chimney that marked where the house of an abandoned homestead had once stood. Almost at once, something lofted from the army truck and curved towards Mel, gathering a smoky comet-tail of bees as it approached.

'Wild Honey', Asimov's Science Fiction August 2015


Blogger Mark Pontin said...

Good story.

July 06, 2015 10:32 pm  

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