TITLE: Bee Saved Chapter II
By Mike Ackerman
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
SEND ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
Bee Saved, Chapter II
They drew closer and closer still. Then, when they were nearly upon us, Captain Wolfstein snarled and said, “Now!”
The Air Guard took flight in a trident formation, but right before the wasps collided with our bees, the enemy broke up and scattered. It was obvious that the wasps were trying to create chaos in the Air Guard’s ranks, but Captain Wolfstein’s battle plan was well thought out. He signaled to General York from the rears of the trident, and the Air Guard put on a show of confusion, intentionally letting the majority of wasps break through.
In that moment, I heard Jim begin to pray from within the confines of his honeycomb. I sincerely considered joining in with him, but I could see Rory poking his head above his chamber near General York, and my pride wouldn’t allow me to be seen crying out to God with my agnostic friend so plainly in sight.
In the midst of Jim’s fervent prayers, the wasps thudded down upon our hive. Our ground troops swarmed them, but the wasps were valiant fighters. For every sting the wasps took, they delivered three.
Several of the wasps gathered into a dense circle to fend off the troops. This done, the wasps began slowly inching their way toward Queen Elizabeth and Pastor Mark. The ground troops rolled against the wasps like tidal waves, but the prowess of the wasps’ circular formation was quite effective. It was an uphill battle for the warrior bees, and kill at will for the enemy.
But not all of the wasps had been sent to the circular formation to take Queen Elizabeth out. Some functioned in pairs or groups of three as messengers, their only task being to study our tactics so as to make an escape and give a report.
But Captain Wolfstein had taken part in our colony’s defense many times prior, (from what I’d been told) and he knew the most likely strategy the wasps would use. Of course, in bee colonies with less experienced commanders, this exact same strategy often did succeed, but thanks to my military schooling, even I knew what the wasps were trying to do.
Captain Wolfstein ordered a large portion of the Air Guard to land and take up positions surrounding the Home Guard to create a secondary buffer. Also, he ordered another regiment to form a third buffer outside the fringes of the queen’s attackers. In this manner, a frontal and a rear assault could be made. This plan is what we military geeks refer to as “The Vice.” The final action in The Vice is taken by the Air Guard.
The wasp messengers saw that their effort was failing and sought to make an escape. Some of the wasps had fallen in the battle, of course, and a few were so caught up in fending off attackers that they couldn’t manage to take flight, but most of the enemy messengers made it into the air.
The Air Guard made its move and took to a “parachute formation,” the final stage in The Vice. The wasps flew into the concaved shape of the entrapment, trying to breach the “walls” of the formation, which was their only hope of escape.
On the ground, General York stood by his queen, surveying the ground troops and the effectiveness of their attack on the advancing formation of wasps. Many warrior bees lay dead amongst the honeycombs, their stingers missing and their bodies ravaged with multiple wounds, glistening with the bloody remnants of close combat.
I glanced at Queen Elizabeth. She was weeping over the fallen warriors. I couldn’t bear to look at her as she exposed the depths of her sorrow, so I quickly cast my gaze away. The casualties were high, as were the emotions of the colony. Many of the larvae were weeping as well, and a good number of them had joined Jim in his fervent praying. Pastor Mark was so unabashed in his prayers that he was prostrate on his face, tears streaming down his cheeks as he cried out to God.
What could it hurt, I reasoned, if I prayed just this once?
And so I did. I’ve never prayed before, so it didn’t come naturally, but it was easier than I thought it would be. This was probably because our situation was so dire. Perhaps we only cry out to God with earnestness when we are truly desperate. When there is nothing we can do ourselves. And as a helpless larva hiding in the honeycombs from a murderous enemy, I had come to the end of my own strength. My prayer was quite simple. To paraphrase, one might have conveyed what I said as this: God save our queen.
Shortly after my prayer, Senator Levante approached General York. Senator Levante was pointing toward a hole in the wall of the parachute formation.
General York, who had been focused almost entirely on the ground invasion, scream-danced a string of obscenities as he scanned the sky for Captain Wolfstein. No one seemed to know if one of the enemies had made an escape or not.
The ground attack was still a threat, so General York couldn’t send any of his troops after a potential escapee. But just then, Senator Levante did a subtle dance used primarily in wartime efforts to pass along top-secret messages. I was able to pick up most of what he said only because of my close proximity.
“We were watching the parachute formation, and a wasp messenger did indeed escape. Let me send my assassins for him. We must use every measure we have to nip this in the bud.”
General York didn’t hesitate. “Do it.”
And so Senator Levante’s seven Death Angel assassins were unleashed.
A short time after the Death Angels departed, a messenger from the Air Guard closed in on General York and Senator Levante. He flew in an odd, lopsided manner. Once on the ground, I could see why. One of his wings had nearly been torn off, likely an injury acquired from the enemy.
“Report, airmen!” General York barked.
“Yes sir! Sir, Captain Wolfstein wishes to inform you that he and two other Death Angels have taken after an escaped enemy messenger.”
General York bore a blank, numbed expression on his face for a moment. Suddenly, he went into a tirade.
“What!? I can’t believe the audacity of him! We need him available to command the Air Guard if something—“
“Sir, with all due respect,” began the messenger, “Commander Wiersbe has assumed command, and Captain Wolfstein has the greatest chance of capturing the escaped wasp. He has yet to lose a race against any member of the Death Angels.”
Senator Levante offered up a blood curdling smile, and said, “Really, General, I understand your concern too. You may be thinking,” and here, Senator Levante paused to scratch his chin, “that we can’t afford to send Captain Wolfstein on a mission like this, but I implore you to think of the deeper consequences if we don’t send him on this mission. In all reality, we can’t afford not to send him.”
What Senator Levante had said made sense, but there was something strange about his mannerisms. An odd tick, a subtle nuance that perhaps only I noticed, a tell that might have cost him a bluff on a gambling whim.
In the midst of my suspicions, Senator Levante looked right into my honeycomb with some nightmarish understanding of what I was thinking. He stared at me for an uncomfortably long second, and finally averted his eyes back to General York’s.
My hairs stood on end as a shudder passed me by.
The aftermath of the battle scene was a travesty. The wails of those in my colony surged throughout for the fallen, bodies lying about in pathetic heaps. I wanted to crawl deep into my honeycomb and hide my face, to pretend it had never happened, to deny the cold reality.
And so I did.
My thoughts turned inward, I sailed into the fantasy lands of my earliest larval stages. I recollected things that should have been mere split second flashbacks upon my death. I reverted. I regressed.
What gives you the right, you might say? You weren’t on the frontlines doing any fighting. You will receive no medal of honor for your valiancy. You. You. You. Ewe. Ewe. Ewe.
And that is my point. When you think about you, you get to a deeper understanding, and isn’t that what the Lamb of God would want? For us to truly know who we are? Or perhaps I have it backwards. Perhaps rather than looking inward, we are to look upward. I really don’t know. I don’t know.
I hear a thunk! at the top of my honeycomb chamber. I look up. It is one of the nursing bees. An unfamiliar face.
“We get no rest, cadet. It’s time to feed, and then business as usual,” the nurse said.
I shuddered, the universal affirmation to show sickness, but not because of any physical ailment related to the CCD. Rather, I felt an immense mental and emotional trauma for the sake of the casualties taken in battle.
A brief, flitting look of sympathy crossed the nurse’s face, but that look was quickly replaced with terror.
“Aye, if you have the queen’s sickness, you’ll need to be quarantined…” She had completely misunderstood what I was trying to say.
“It’s a shame,” she continued, “but we have done the same with Queen Elizabeth. So sad. So sad indeed.”
Now I was terror stricken. What chance had I in the face of this?
Rory tried to come to my aid. His exuberant, cocksure voice looming large, he said, “He ain’t sick. Just a bit touched by the battle scene here, I’d be willin’ to bet. Really, I implore you: send Dr. Bernhagen this way to confirm that he isn’t sick.”
“Dr. Bernhagen is extremely busy right now. Too many wounded warriors to take care of. For now, Joseph will have to be quarantined,” the nurse said.
“But if I’m quarantined,” I began, desperately pleading my case, “I’ll get behind in my studies. Not to mention that I may legitimately get CCD if I’m placed with those who are sick!”
Indeed, a bee’s life is a savage one.
“Well, my friend, have you heard of the base philosophy of utilitarianism?” the nurse inquired.
I shook my head.
Rory grimaced at what the nurse said. He apparently knew the direction that she was taking.
The nurse continued: “Simply put, it’s the belief in sacrificing a few for the greater good of many. I think you understand what I’m saying now, don’t you?”
I shuddered. I understood her point, though. If there was even a possibility that I was sick, the expectation was that I would sacrifice my opportunity in life for the greater good of the colony.
“If he is quarantined, I wish the same for myself,” Rory said.
“You think you can bluff me, cadet?” the nurse asked. Belatedly, she added, “I’ll just as readily see that you’re cut off too. If you’ve no mind to see the citizens of the colony serve for the greater good, what value do you have?”
And so it was. Rory, perhaps the most promising cadet in the whole school, agreed to be quarantined with me.
The nurse bee long gone, we were held in check by a perimeter of burly warrior bees on a Death Watch. The only reason they didn’t just kill us is that our spattered blood could have infected them.
Once great bees held in high esteem, fine, rigorous and upstanding citizens of the colony, covered the landscape in a shameful state. I was reminded of the biblical tales of leper colonies. Of how they had to walk the streets and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” to ensure no one came too close.
The sickest of all the infected, those whose every breath might be their last, were kept in the upper region of the quarantine area. The lower portion was reserved for those with some semblance of hope. In the upper regions, I saw bees with limbs rotting off, with wings decaying, blinded and lying on the deck of the hive with pained, destitute expressions. Many of the bees there bore the same pockmarks and sores that had become the hallmark of Queen Elizabeth.
The queen lie huddled in the corner of the lower portion of the outcast colony, a separate contingent of the Death Watch standing guard over her. This was likely because would be assassins within the colony might take revenge upon her for leading to their demise.
According to some of the circulating rumors, though the queen had had the disease the longest of anyone, she was beginning to recover because she was developing antibodies. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those afflicted didn’t seem to have an immune system with the same capacity as hers.
The head of the queen’s Death Watch was a massively built veteran of the ground troops named Rhett. An enlisted warrior, he was a former drill sergeant renowned for his boldness. He would be the sort to either kill a wasp of his own volition or die valiantly in the effort, but it was readily evident that he wasn’t just a brute who had muscled his way into the upper ranks. He had an aura of extreme intelligence, a fiery inquisitiveness in his eyes which spoke of a subtle, rebellious nature and an unassuming confidence.
It had been mine and Rory’s intention to petition Queen Elizabeth to see about being relieved of our quarantine since we hadn’t actually contracted the illness, but we realized that she would not likely agree to let us go. As the final authority on the school curriculum, she had probably been the one to approve the very text from which the nurse bee had obtained her stance on utilitarianism. We might rather have been Jews seeking asylum in Hitler’s basement. And though Rhett was quite the gentleman, he had no intention of letting us petition the queen.
“We’re under strict orders. No one is to be taken through the ranks of the Death Watch,” he said.
“God help us,” Jim said.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.