Adam had forgotten one of the most important lessons that the bees teach: only sting when necessary, for it can do more damage to you than your target.
His bees were gone. He had been imprisoned for years. All because of his rage.
Now he was free, but still alone.
He could go home. They would forgive and accept him.
Tempting as it was, he didn’t belong there. He had gone rogue, and a rogue beekeeper he would remain. He would make up for his mistake.
But he needed allies.
He needed bees.
He walked into the woods.
If a honeybee can be said to be frightened, this bee is.
The swarm needs a new home.
After a morning of searching, the bee found a suitable hollow tree, but with a complication.
It sits by the tree, perfectly still.
The tree is ideal.
The human seems no threat.
In fact… the human’s very thoughts radiate outward, visible to the bee.
“We would be stronger together.”
The meaning is clear: if the swarm chooses this tree, the man comes with it.
The bee will return to the swarm and dance to the others about this find.
Adam maintained his vigil by the tree.
One at a time, bees visited and examined him. Some were brave enough to land directly on him. Others just buzzed about. Through it all, Adam focused on his message of mutual help.
Between visitors, his inner worries bubbled up. These bees had never seen his like. Could they trust him? Similarly, could he trust his humanoid allies? Everything was so uncertain.
He did the only thing he could. He cleared his mind again. “We would be stronger together.”
And he waited.
After a time, he heard the buzzing of the approaching swarm.
The hive was not to be within the tree.
The ritual was retained from ancient times, passed down among the secret Beekeeper communities in Africa.
Adam traced patterns onto the tree’s bark and onto his skin.
He remembered his training. Mother had always been impressed how easily he picked up the secret methods. They had simply made sense to him.
He lit a candle made of sacred wax.
The bees entered the hole in the tree, but it now led to the hive’s true location, beyond mere space and time.
The hive existed within the very space of Adam’s soul.
Bees worked. Adam slept.
He dreamed of Aaron and Isaac. They had not been his closest friends, but had died fighting by his side. Killed by mysterious enemies intent on driving the Beekeepers to war. The Elders had wisely declined the bait, but Adam had struck out on his own.
It had been a mistake. Even if he had known the correct targets, it was the always wrong choice.
He had used dead friends as an excuse to destroy.
He would no longer be destructive in their memory.
He would keep them in mind as he made the world better.
Adam watched bees fly into an out of the tree that represented the entrance to their hive. Already so busy. He smiled.
This was a good forest. With the hive now safe from bears and winters, any Beekeeper would thrive here. But Adam had further plans.
The first thing he needed to do was return to the two he’d left in the motel. The human, Jason, would probably have left if he’d been alone, but Adam suspected that the robot, Gladys, would have kept him there.
After drinking from a nearby stream, Adam began marching back out of the woods.
“This could actually turn out pretty good for us,” said Jason Dante, lying on one of the motel beds, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. “Beekeepers are pretty tough. And he’s young, so we can control him.”
Gladys Blue, sitting on a wooden chair, had been peering outside through the blinds, but now turned. “Sounds like he plans on being the one in control.”
“We’ll let him think he is. Then sic him on our enemies.”
“Yeah, you know. The bad guys.”
Gladys had nothing to say.
A buzzing noise. Footsteps came up the stairs outside.
Adam came into the room and it was clear that he was relieved.
Gladys watched him. He looked young. He looked close to his actual age. Probably this was how he looked when actually happy.
He reported success at finding bees.
Dante replied with cynicism.
Gladys thought, “Is this just me all over again?”
Years ago Dante had taken her and directed her anger at his enemies. She did feel they were valid targets, but were they just doing the same thing to Adam now?
“No,” she thought. “This is different. Dante never let me think I was in charge.”
“So now what?” Dante asked. “You still want to go after the escaped superhuman criminals?”
Adam turned to look at him. “Of course. If we are to atone for our mistakes, we must first clean up our mess. Have you learned anything about their whereabouts?”
“Still chaotic reports. Technolocorp estimates about twelve prisoners still not accounted for. Not counting you.”
“Some might be dead. One is apparently trapped in another dimension.”
“Ah. Paul. Perhaps we should add his rescue to our list of goals.”
“Sure,” said Dante. “How hard can it be to rescue someone from another dimension?”
“So, Adam,” said Dante, “which of these criminals are we hunting first?”
“Which is the most immediate threat?”
“Well, I gotta say, some aren’t so bad. Some even I wouldn’t kill. Cocobutters is practically a superhero. Cletus Silver is just an embezzler.”
“Very well. List the worst.”
“The Malison Sisters are bad news. The Clownsassin is probably already working again. The Master of Trepanning is probably the deadliest escapee…”
“The Master. I recall him from the prison. A bad fellow.”
“Online chatter suggests he’s hiding in Port Nadine. I have a place there.”
“Very well. We go to Port Nadine.”