Zorell woke to the sound of buzzing in her ear. It was light but after a glance at her watch she found it was a still before six in the morning.
“Everything is arranged but you need to come immediately.” Bee Rahis’s voice sounded urgent.
She slipped into her nearest clothes consisting of a top and shorts but never even had time and climbed off the hovercraft. The hanger door was open. Outside were the long shadows from the rising sun. It was cool but by the look of the sky, going to be another hot day. On the tree branches nearby were bees, hundreds of them.
“This is the third and fourth flights from our home hive,” Rahis said from Zorell’s shoulder. “With me is Flight Commander Laru. I’ll let her explain.”
“We need you to see something and the only way is to take you over it,” the second bee said. “Our kind are far stronger in relation to our mass than humans. You will be perfectly safe.”
“Perfectly safe?” Zorell said using her ordinary voice. “What do you mean?”
“We will fly you out over the desert,” Laru said.
“Fly! I can’t fly!”
“Come,” the bee said.
She saw Laru fly out before her and along the track. They went around a corner where net about three by two metres in size lay on the ground. More unusual though, were the two lines of bees sitting on each side of this net. No, they weren’t sitting but hovering for their wings were a blur. The net rose on each side but still touched the ground in the middle like a giant hammock she had once played on when she was a child.
Zorell felt her heart race. “You want me to lie on the net and be lifted above the trees?”
“Yes. Lie on your stomach so you can see the ground below with greater ease.”
She gulped. Perhaps it would be fun!
It was terrifying as she shot straight up in the swaying net with the buzz of the eighteen bees being the one reassuring thing between her and certain death as the ground and trees shrank beneath her. She was on her tummy with straps across her back, butt, and knees to hold her to the net. Her arms and lower legs were free but she dare not move them.
They continued higher until the trees looked like toys and the valley track that led to the cave disappeared beneath the foliage.
“Relax. You’re too tense,” said Bee Rahis after she landed on the net just above her eyes and folded her wings as she scurried along one strand. “Turn your head to the right.”
The net dug into her neck and chin so it was a relief to turn, Once achieved she did relax a little as she lay back so her hair cushioned her left ear from the net. She could now see over the adjacent hilltop and further out the brown desert that stretched into the distance to rolling parched hills that were completely different from the green ones beneath her. The whole net swayed and dipped as they turned out towards the desert. She stifled a scream and held the netting so hard the rope cut into her hands.
“Okay we are way above our valley and heading out into the desert, but why?” Above the buzz of flapping wings and the hiss or the wind it was easier to just think the words now.
“See the base of that far hill shaped like a wave in the ocean? What do you see there?”
Zorell squinted in the morning sunlight. There were long shadows that played patterns on the ground but nothing more. Perhaps the bees had keener eyesight than herself!
But what was that! At the edge of one shadow several thin lines of white curled into the air.
“Smoke!” she cried out loud.
“More than that Zorell. It’s an army and it is heading straight towards our valley.”
“That is what we need you here for. We are from the village where Anneke was enslaved and have not encountered human armies before. We need you to determine whether it is your Pioneer Mounted Constabulary or the Theist Parishioner Co-ordinators from Anneke’s homeland.”
“How will I do that?”
“We will fly closer. There is a risk we will be seen but I doubt if either side has weapons capable of hitting us. If they try the third flight are under orders to attack. “It was Bee Laru now talking.
Zorell shifted her head slightly and saw a balloon shaped swarm of bees about a hundred metres away. She thought back. She had seen this army before. They were the line of lights she had seen out in the desert when they had spent the night on the hilltop. An ominous feeling hit the base of her stomach. These were the forbidden lands but they were far closer to Theist territory than their own. Huang may have sent a military force out to help her but if he was going to do that, surely he would have told her.
“Take me in!” she said.
The excerpt above is from The Truth About Terra. Also available is Terra Incognita,