“We’ve seen you in our scopes and on our boards. We don’t like you.”
Vishi, standing in the center of a circle of tall, thin, bug-like creatures, made no reply. Instead, he stared at the toes of his shoes and waited for it to be over.
From behind him, there was a rustling of chitinous carapise as the Chief Radshhi folded her wings and tucked them away. “Then we are agreed?” she asked, looking around. The other Radshhi made the movement that, for them, meant agreement. This consisted of a waving of their respective lower mouthparts, accompanied by a low frequency clacking produced by stiff hairs in their respective thoraxi. She made note of the speed and character of the clacking, satisfying herself that the members’ agreement was sufficiently beyond hive loyalty and was satisfied–except in the case of Radshhi Seemeseese, who was her brother, standing to her immediate left, facing the human prisoner, as they all did.
Of course Seemeseese was her brother–all the Radshhi in the circle were technically half-siblings, having had the same queen. But Radshhi Seemedalshi and Radshhi Seemeseese were full brothers, having been egged in the same brood. The Chief Radshhi and her sole circle objector in the matter of the disposition of the human trader Vishi were both adherents of the Radshhi religion of The Good Workings, and their commitment to these beliefs, symbolized by the green markings on their brown wingcaps, made them siblings on a level apart from queen and sire and brood.
“Mireclasi,” the chief began, using the honorific reserved for addressing a Good Workings, “you do not share the circles views?” By asking, and by using the honorific, she demonstrated that she wished for further discussion in the matter. The other circle members bent their sensitive vibratory antennae demurely as the Mireclasi Radshhi Seemeseese prepared a response.
Finally, he spoke. “A long time have I been a guest on this blessed planet, home of Hive Seeme and location from among all the worlds of the Radshhi of She Who Breeds Us,” he began, using the old way of speaking. The other circle members, understanding the significance, relaxed; Vishi, also understanding the significance, tensed and braced himself for the painful and deadly spike that would, in all likelihood impale him at any moment. But instead of the spike, the Radshhi kept speaking. “When I look with my manyfaceted eye at this soft human, I see as you see, and I poise to strike him,” he continued. “But when I look with my Inner Eye, with the eye that The Good Workings opens, then I see a creature not unlike ourselves.” The circle members expressed their shock in their way at their mate’s rash sentimentalization of what was clearly a hive matter, but they continued to listen. “I see him not as a violator of our code, not as transgressor against the hive, but rather as a creature alone without brood, alone without queen, eager to warm himself in the light of Blason, and hungry for the golden milk of his queen.”
Seemeseese was building to a fever pitch, but one of the circle members interrupted him. “Humans don’t have queens,” he said flatly.
Another circle member agreed. “They’re not alive as we are, Mireclasi,” he said, using the honorific to soften the blow of his criticism. As he did so the others were nodding, and the Chief Radshhi was unfurling her spike. If she unfurled it, they all knew–Vishi knew too–that she would have to use it. Once more, he tensed for the killing blow.
“What is life?” the objector continued. Then, turning, he spoke to his sister the chief. “Our scientist-workers now believe the structure in the human head serves for them some small ability to discern right and wrong, as our own hindquarters serves us,” he said.
Many of the circle members clicked their disapproval, and the Chief Radshhi continued unfurling her spike. “They’re not like us,” she said softly, and then her spike was out, and it was over. Without a word, she thrust it through the trembling human, whose body spasmed and spilled its strange red fluids on the ground. She held her spike in him until he stopped moving, and then she dropped him into his gore.