Amelia sat back against a locker three hours after laying curled on the floor.
Her mind palpated the edge of clarity, fighting an exclusive spending of effort on mundane function. She stared ahead at one side of the white hive. The plastic of the air-filled cover allowed view of bees crawling along the inside surface, looking for escape. How could she come to terms with the little devils?
“Ma’am, we need a plan.” Stark’s voice held a different message behind it, and standing with arms folded, eyes focused on the colony, he appeared to have contemplated an idea and wanted to take action. The downcast shadow across his face, a result of her terrible episode.
She had lost it, and now battled to find it.
Humanity’s last chance to rehabilitate old Mother Earth to its former life-sustaining beauty buzzed around in a white box covered in plastic and locked up in a tomb surrounded by unidentified creatures. Creatures Amelia suspected played a part in the abandonment of this bio-dome.
“Ya, I know…” cracking her neck, wishing for the ability to rub her temples through the helmet. “I just need some time to find my head.”
“What happened to you?” He stared into her visor. “Why’d you try to destroy the hive?”
“I really don’t want to-”
“Ya, you’re not getting a choice, ma’am.” A sigh and shake of his head as if trying to clear the ears. His back straightened, and he looked into her visor with an expression of ‘don’t-push-me’. “They will save us all,” waving a gloved hand at the hive. “They’ll ensure our children have a future outside the domes.”
Amelia scowled. “Ya, what children… mine’s garden fertilizer.”
His gaze dropped to the floor. “So, that’s what this is all about, eh?”
“Wouldn’t it be for you?” She wanted him to experience the pain. Shoot it from her eyes into his chest. How could he understand suffering from the loss of a child? “My daughter would be alive if it wasn’t for those,” pointing a stiff finger at the buzzing box.
“What about our sins? We must redeem humanity.” His face turned to solemn regret etched in a sour grimace.
Agitation erupted, and heat crackled in her chest and under the skin. “The sins can suck a stinger. Why do we pay for them? We didn’t commit them, yet sacrifice to redeem the sinners. Who are long dead, by the way.”
Stark kept silent and sat on the floor, leaning back on the wall, eyes closed. What a self-righteous bastard.
The beasts gave up the attempt to breach the door. But did they stick around waiting for the food to make an escape? No way to see. The silence felt more tortuous than the screech of claws scraping grooves in the metal.
Amelia planned as if the beasts waited on their departure. And the airlock? Would it open and allow exit; exhausting strength against the manual hydraulic-pump lever left another question.
Who would operate it?
“Look, ma’am. If you don’t give a damn about the bees, then give a damn about the people. Niko’s kids. Jacob and Sammy both have love-partners with children.”
“You don’t think I realize that.” What an asshole.
“Did you know Niko and I love each other?”
Oh. What? When? This was too much… “What?”
“Ya. Been seeing each other for a few months now.” Stark’s eyes glistened with rapid blinks. Although trying to hide his face by keeping the visor pointed at the floor, the angle from the helmet’s interior lights magnified the tear’s reflection.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Who else knew?” Amelia felt like a piece of shit. And both Stark and Niko made the unwavering decision to abandon Niko, so the hive could escape. So much they believed in humanity’s redemption, in the power of the bees, their lives held less value than the little saviours.
“Sammy knew. Wasn’t going to keep it from the team forever. Wanted to make sure we got through the mission first. Both our program mates knew.”
“Of course. Just, you both pushed for the hive’s escape?” Sympathy and regret exuded strength in Amelia’s voice. If they’d just left and put the colony above themselves, they’d be long toward their own dome with the gift of life.
“We’ve all sacrificed for the bees. Let’s get them home, okay?”
Well… “I believe the bees will require more sacrifice before this is over, Stark.”