Did you know that bees are the only insect common to each terraformed planet inside Alliance territory? Without them, the plants don’t pollinate effectively. Any terraforming endeavour becomes a slow and fatal failure. It’s true of the harvest-biomes too.
We learned all this the hard way.
If — all that time ago — they hadn’t taken any bees with them when they’d evacuated… Well, it’s a sobering thought, right?
We’ve tried artificial bees in the past. Tiny robots with plasti-wings fluttering around the flowers, spreading the pollen. They should have been able to do the job just as effectively as the real things. Better, even.
But they didn’t.
There’s something about living, breathing bees that we can’t understand and can’t replicate. Almost mystical, like it’s beyond the reach of science.
You want to hear about my apiaries next or are you going to tell me why you’re really here?
I knew this was a bullshit interview as soon as you stepped through the door. You look awful, to be quite honest. Like you haven’t slept in two weeks and are living on a diet of coffee and stale air. I doubt it’s been the thought of bees keeping you up.
I can’t talk about Warp Squad. And it’s not because of the Eth either — I make enough to get by without it coming in.
You’re an investigator, right? You ever looked into the death of Matteus Erickson?
Maybe that was a bit before your time.
They say he killed himself. He was found hanged. They must think we’re fools, expecting us to believe that.
Erickson was a former squad member. He was lined up to give an interview on the situation at the WSR. Uh, that’s the Warp Squad Reformatory — where potential new recruits are sent for their initial training. It’s where our identities are scraped away from us like plaque from a rotting tooth. Their analogy, not mine.
Erickson was set to go public about the abuse, said he had the proof to back it up. The abuse was absolutely real, and I believe his proof was, too.
Three days before the interview, Erickson is found hanged inside his home.
Any proof he had, it must’ve died right there with him.
Maybe they’re right — that we are fools. Because only a fool would stay quiet and let them get away with it.
But they keep you so damn scared. Losing your monthly Eth is the least of your worries.
When did I become such a coward?
There was a pilot I used to fly with. We were pretty close until he made a decision that, well, it got a lot of people killed. There’s no sugar coating that. But it saved way more lives in the long run — as he knew it would.
It was an admirable decision. At least, I admired it. He went against the grain because he knew it was the right thing to do.
And naturally it got him kicked out of the squad.
Up to that moment… This is going to sound a little whimsical, so forgive me in advance. Before that, I’d imagined we’d meet up one day outside of Warp Squad — as friends, you know, and just see where it led. I figured that together maybe we’d find out who we really are.
After he got dismissed, well, that little dream of mine was shattered. I was scared to death that if I even contacted him, they’d kill him.
Listen, I don’t know what happened to Warp Squad 16. I’ve not been on the team for some time — it’s impossible for me to say what happened after I left.
But I do know that there were forces within the Council — shadows, you could say — that wanted the entire Warp Squad programme dismantled.
See, Warp Squad was created to locate planets as potential new homes for the evacuation. They did that — their duty was fulfilled. But instead of being deactivated, their power and influence grew.
For some within the Council, it’s too much power in too few hands. It makes them uncomfortable.
It seems to me that they don’t realize Warp Squad are directly linked with their own survival. To all of ours. That if there was no Warp Squad, then we’d be at the mercy of everything outside of Alliance territory.
It’s a symbiosis, of a kind. Like us and bees.
Or maybe they do understand what’ll happen without Warp Squad. Which is a far more troubling thought.
I don’t know who these shadows are. At most you’d hear an echo of a whisper, you know? I can’t even say for sure they had anything to do with what happened to Warp Squad.
But let’s just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
You won’t ever be granted access to speak directly to an Elder. But… I do know someone in the Council who might feel compelled to help you.
Well, he’ll feel compelled once you show him the contents of this envelope. He sent these images to me a few years ago and I had them printed for posterity. I’m sure he’d prefer his family not to find out about his very little discretion.
Why am I helping you?
I’ve been afraid of death since I left Warp Squad. Of mine, of other's. It feels like it’s been chasing me every day of my life since.
Maybe I’m just fed up of being a coward.
Maybe it’s time I stopped running. That I turned around and looked right up at death’s face.