Adam was in the shower.
Gladys asked “Is the Master of Trepanning really in Port Nadine?”
“I dunno. Could be.”
“So no matter which escapee he picked, you would have said we go there.”
“Look, there’s definitely bad superhumans there. Something is up. Adam wants to make up for mistakes by doing good, right? We can do good there.”
“Why not tell him that?”
“We want to earn the kid’s trust. That means we gotta lie enough that he thinks he’s choosing.”
Gladys sighed. “Sometimes I hate that you’re the person who makes the most sense to me.”
After his vigil in the woods, Adam welcomed the warm shower.
Things were going well.
His rash actions that brought so much destruction could never be undone, but he could balance the scales. Balancing the scales of his companions was a part of his plan.
Gladys Blue feels lost and frightened by the bad she sees in the world, so she lashed out. “I can give her direction and assistance,” Adam thought.
Jason Dante is a remorseless assassin who can only think to solve problems with violence. “I can show him there are more effective ways,” Adam thought.
“We’ve got more than a day of driving ahead,” said Dante. “The car isn’t in great shape, but I think we can make it. We’ll take turns driving.”
“I can’t drive,” said Gladys. “They didn’t teach us that in SecGov.”
Dante sighed. He looked at Adam. “And I suppose your Beekeepers are too down to nature to bother driving?”
“On the contrary. The leisurely pace of Beekeeping encourages the learning of a multitude of skills. I drive well.”
“Well good. Your turn first. Let’s get going.”
“What about the bees?” Gladys asked.
“The bees are always with me,” Adam said.
Dante’s place in Port Nadine was a shuttered souvenir store between a storage centre and a warehouse. Not ideal for bees, but it would have to do.
Adam constructed a wooden hive on the roof, again tracing occult symbols, as he had done with the tree in the woods.
This new hive entrance now connected to the same hive as the tree, beyond space and time. The bees could access either exit. Adam could access it from here.
So this was urban beekeeping. It would be good to add some flowers around the city. Another way to improve the world.
Gladys asked Dante, “How the hell did you wind up owning a souvenir store anyway?”
“Killed the owners,” Dante said without looking up from the television.
“You’re proud of this,” said Adam. “You are delighted that you killed them.”
“Sure,” said Dante. “The guy was a cyborg fascist and this place was a front for a terror cell. The world is better without them.”
Adam said nothing.
“Anyway,” Dante continued, “last time I lived somewhere that I didn’t kill the previous occupant, it was haunted. This way I know the ghosts will be too scared of me to come back.”
Adam said, “Jason, tell me-”
“Don’t call me Jason.”
“Dante then. Tell me of your first kill.”
“Back in training at the army. A cadet got pushed too far and tried to shoot a drill sergeant. I snapped his neck before he could do it.”
“I see. And you were probably rewarded for this action.”
“You know it. Highly commended for my quick thinking. If it hadn’t been for my sexuality, that alone could have carried me several promotions upward.”
“And do you ever regret it?”
“I do occasionally wish that I had waited until after he’d taken his shot.”
“Gladys. What about your first kill?”
“Uh,” she said. “Well, I killed some otherdimensional monsters on my first mission. I don’t know if they count. I’m told they were sub-animal level of intellect.”
“Still. Monsters. That’s a cool kill,” said Dante.
“My first actual person kill was a SERPENT Agent back on Stanislav Day. Right before killing the Secret President.”
“Also good,” said Dante. “All SERPENT Agents are dicks.”
“And do you have any regrets about any of them?”
Gladys sighed. “Man, if I ever do something that I don’t find some way to regret, I will let you know.”
Dante cracked his knuckles. “What about you, almighty Beekeeper? What’s your first kill?”
“The robot who attacked me and killed my friends,” Adam said. “And no, I feel no regret.”
“After that were the SecGov ambassadors, even if I did not directly kill them. I do regret their deaths.”
“Not directly?” asked Gladys. “How so?”
“I captured them. Some self-destructed as part of their escape plan. Others, I believe, were killed by SecGov agents to help foment the war.”
Gladys looked quizzically at Dante.
“Oh, did I never mention that? Yeah, the Defense Department totally killed those ambassadors.”
“So,” said Dante. “Why all this talk about killing and regret? You’re gonna try to tell us we shouldn’t kill the criminals we’re after, right?”
Adam, leaning against the wall by the door, lowered his head. His beekeeping hat obscured his eyes. “I am.”
Dante laughed. “If you’re looking for the moral high ground, I think you gathered the wrong crew.”
“It is not morality which concerns me. It is practicality. We simply have too many enemies. We cannot afford to kill any of them.” Adam left the room.
Dante turned to Gladys. “Did that make any sense to you?”
Weeks passed while Dante continued to follow his leads. Gladys assured Adam that Dante’s process was always slow and steady.
Adam started a small garden on the roof, including several kinds of flowers and a water feature. The bees seemed to like it. Still, they were not thriving. Adam worried.
“My bees are sick,” Adam said to Dante. He handed him a list. “I need these items.”
Dante read the paper. “They should have all this at the store up the road.”
“I have no money.”
“Yup. Neither do I.”
Adam thought. “Does that not complicate our plan?”