"The Collective?" Tais said, still confused.

"Yes," Huna replied. "The longer name is the Collective of Independent Minds, but they are far from that."

Tais shook his head in an effort to clear it up. Inevitably, he failed.

"But why does that matter? And what is this Collective?"

"Think of it as a hive," she started to explain.

"A hive?" Tais asked, unsure. Leading a life in the mines, he had no way to know what she meant. So she sent pictures into his mind.

"Correct. A hive with many, many members. Each member has an assigned duty to carry out, and each is more or less 'fit' for that job," she continued. "Everyone is a part of this hive, at least all Delko are. The vast majority of Delko, those of a lower birth, though still above you," she paused, then caught herself, "I-I mean, the miners, have only simple tasks, and little or no power. As we work up and up the birth ranks, the numbers dwindle, but the power climbs."

"Alright, but where do I fit in, Huna?" Tais asked expectantly.

"I..." her voice faltered, "I am not sure. You are not Klendo, though you are also not Delko. So I am in the mind that you are not part of the Collective, but rather, outside of it."

Both were silent for a few moments, neither words nor thoughts passing between them.

"But then," Tais started, "doesn't that mean that Salla should be outside, too?"

"Yes, Tais," Huna replied, almost mournfully. "But you said she had the Operation. That means that the Surgeon has had his way with her."

Tais opened his mouth to speak, but Huna kept going.

"He is near the top of the Collective, one of high birth and high power. However, there are still those above him, though they are few."

Looking down, tears filled Tais' eyes for the second time.

I wanted it all to be different, but not like this.

"You have no time for those thoughts, Tais," came the concerned voice of Huna. "We must leave, though I know not where, but quickly, still. We cannot stay in one place for too long."

"But why? Why can't we just hide ourselves forever?" Tais managed between dying sobs.

A sigh accompanied Huna's quick response.

"Because I am a part of the Collective, Tais. They can track me."

Almost in an answer to her concerns, a black shadow overtook them. Both looked up from the garden; neither saw the sun. Above them hovered a cloud of bodies, a myriad of tiny machines. Polished bodies, sharp wings, barbed on their edges.

Servants to their masters, bees from the hive.


The End

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