The air is so thick with the smell of honey that Anave can hardly breathe. The walls are sticky with it. She hurries through the twisting corridors, barely keeping sight of the worker escorting her to the center of the Hive, where she will be introduced and begin her mission.
She knows that if she could hear, the constant droning of the colony's workers as they fly above her would drive her into madness. But her deafness is one of the reasons she was selected to work with the Hive: physiological differences make it impossible for the beings here to speak human languages. Anave signs in FSL, which the Hive has chosen to learn in order to communicate with outsiders.
But the primary factor in her appointment, she thinks privately, was luck.
Few humans have ever visited the Hive. It is a maze of honeycomb nestled at the center of an asteroid, far from most habited planets, and its residents have traditionally avoided contact with the Union. But the new Queen has expressed interest in making contact, and the council hopes this mission will lead to further trade relations.
This is Anave's first time out as an ambassador since she began work for the Union, and she knows she is very lucky to have been given such an important duty to fufill. Of course she's a little bit nervous, and eager to make a good impression, but not scared. Never that.
As she rounds yet another corner, the tunnel she is walking through begins to widen. Anave realizes that they are approaching the royal chambers which make up the centre of the Hive.
Slightly out of breath, she manages to catch up with the worker just as she flits through an elegantly curved doorway. It opens into the largest open space Anave has seen in the Hive - a cavernous chamber with walls of honeycomb, decorated with massive, intricately carved gemstones. She thinks they may be the source of light. But it's impossible to know for sure, as any shadows are thin and fleeting.
Flowers carpet the floor of the chamber. Anave recognizes some vaguely as the native flora which somehow grow inside the Hive, but others seem imported from other worlds, perhaps traded to the colony as gifts. The mixed scents of the flowers is fresh and strong, but beneath it, she can still smell honey.
She feels guilty for stepping on the flowers as the worker leads her across the room. But there is no pathway for her to follow; the other workers around them are simply flying around.
As they approach the centre of the chamber she can see a raised platform. On it there is a massive red flower - possibly real, or else made of some precious stone, Anave can't tell for certain. In the broad cup of the flower sits the Queen of the Hive. She seems to notice their approach and rises from the flower to alight on the ground before them.
The worker drops to one knee. Anave does likewise.
She has studied the Hive carefully for at least a year, but nothing could have prepared her for this. The Queen stands almost seven feet tall, not counting her long, black antennae. Her thorax curves in a way almost suggestive of breasts, but the transparent wings on her back and the sharp stinger at the tip of her abdomen make her unmistakably unhuman. Her legs and four arms are hairless and brown in colour. Each has three elegantly tapered digits. The rest of her body is covered in short gold and black fur. Her bare head is crowned with a circlet of onyx. Her eyes are multifaceted and seem to twinkle in the gold light of the chamber. To Anave she seems almost too lovely to be real.
/Welcome to our Hive,/ signs the Queen, her proboscis curling in what Anave remembers to be a smile. /It is a pleasure to meet you. Your name?/
Anave rises to her feet. /I am Anave Tendi,/ she spells out her name, then gives the sign for it, /ambassador of the Intergalactic Union. We are honoured by your hospitality, Your Majesty./
The Queen rises from her seat and half-walks, half-hovers down the stairs to where Anave stands. /We are happy to give it, Anave Tendi./ She holds out her top right hand. /I believe this is how you greet?/
/It is, Your Majesty./ Anave shakes her hand. It is warm and slightly sticky.
/We are still unused to the ways of outsiders. You will have much to teach us./ The Queen's antennae perk up. /Of course, I cannot forget, you must be tired from your journey. This one,/ and she gestures to the same worker who brought Anave to the chamber, /will escort you to your cell, where you may rest./
Anave smiles. /Your Majesty is too kind./ She bows, slightly dazed, and follows the worker out of the chamber through another set of tunnels.
Her cell is small but comfortable, with specially-built human conviniences. She changes out of her regulation jumpsuit, which is now slightly damp, and into a long satin robe hanging in the closet. Briefly she considers taking a shower, but decides that sleep is the more pressing concern.
The bed is very comfortable. She pulls the covers over herself and relaxes. But before she falls asleep, she brings her right hand, still sticky, up to her face and gazes at it for a moment. When she licks it it tastes like honey.
She awakens with a start to find the Queen sitting in the chair beside her bed, watching her. /Ah, Your Majesty,/ she signs quickly, /please forgive my rudeness.../
/There is nothing to forgive,/ replies the Queen.
Anave's robe is beautifully made, but it clings closely to the contours of her body, and the neck reveals the tops of her breasts. She blushes and holds onto the sheet as she sits up, until she realizes that no-one she has seen in the Hive has worn any clothing; clearly the robe is for her own modesty, not theirs.
The Queen's proboscis curls. /Was your sleep pleasant?/
/Yes, thank you, Your Majesty./
/There is no need to be so formal./ The Queen spreads her arms in a gesture of wistfulness. /Unfortunately, my given name is chemical and impossible for humans to recreate. But I wish for us to be friendly with one another./
Anave smiles. /Of course. You can just call me Anave./
/Well then, Anave. I had thought you might like a tour of the Hive once you awoke. And since I am the most accomplished signer avaliable at the moment, I shall be your guide./
/I don't want to impose on your time.../
/Not at all. It would be my pleasure. And I know how excited everyone is to finally see you./
It does sound like fun. And it would be rude to protest any further. /If that's the case, I would love to./
The Queen offers her hand and Anave takes it gladly. /Shall we?/
There are slippers waiting for her at the bedside. Anave slips her feet into them. /Yes, of course,/ she signs, and together they head out the door of her cell.
First the Queen takes her to the larval chamber at the top of the Hive. Here the babies lie in wait for the day they will pupate. Anave sees a number of them sleeping in their cells, chubby white bodies curled into a ball. One wakes as they approach. Eagerly she pops her head out of her cell, mouth open wide.
The Queen flits to her side and strokes her segmented body very gently. In return, the baby nuzzles against her hand. /This one is almost ready,/ she signs to Anave. /You can see the strands of the cocoon beginning to form./
Anave moves in closer. The larva's back is laced with cottony yellow threads. She thinks she can actually see them forming as she watches.
/She will lie sleeping in her cocoon, dreaming of her future, until she awakens to find herself transformed into an adult./
/And when she pupates, she will be given her name?/
/You have studied well./ The Queen nods and indicates that she is impressed. /Yes, her Ceremony will take place when she gains sentience. Soon after that she will be trained in her calling./
A worker appears with a wide bowl of honey in two of her hands. When she sees Anave she hesitates for a moment, then slowly continues forward. She communicates something to the Queen, who in turn signs to Anave. /This is one of the larval caretakers. She is asking if you would like to try feeding./
Anave smiles at the worker and hopes she can understand it. /Of course,/ she signs, and holds her hands out for the bowl, which the worker then gives her very carefully.
/Just pour it into her mouth.../
The baby, apparently able to sense the presence of food, opens her toothless mouth wide. Anave tilts the bowl and watches in fascination as she sucks up the honey. When the last drop is gone, she opens and closes her mouth several times in a way that reminds Anave of someone smacking their lips.
The worker takes the empty bowl back from her. /What a good girl she is,/ Anave signs to the Queen, laughing silently.
The Queen nods. /Of course! They're all good girls./ She gives the larva one last affectionate pat. /Now, if you would like, we can see the genetics lab... or would you prefer to watch a rehearsal for the opera?/
Up until a short time ago, the traditional arts of the Hive were unknown to those outside of it, and they are still mysterious. /That would be amazing,/ signs Anave. /We can do that?/
They bid farewell to the caretaker. As they leave, Anave glances back one last time at the larva, but she has retreated into her cell again.
The theatre is a cavern not quite so massive as the royal chambers, encrusted with pillowed combs for sitting to watch the stage. A group of dancers bow gracefully to the Queen as they enter. /Hold on to me,/ signs the Queen, and Anave puts her arms around her obediently. She is so overwhelmed by the Queen's embrace she barely notices when her feet leave the ground.
And then they are flying, and Anave is overcome by a combination of nervousness and delight. She holds tighter to the Queen and takes deep breaths until they reach a luxurious comb just below the ceiling.
/This is my opera box./
/It's... very high./ Anave gazes down at the dancers, far enough below to make her dizzy.
/You know I won't let you fall./
/Of course./ Anave smiles, shyly, and lets her feet dangle over the edge of the honeycomb as she strains to watch the performance below.
The dancing is beautiful, although she can't really understand what's going on, only that there is some story that seems just out of reach. When the group finishes a synchronized section of the performance, almost everyone leaves the stage. The two that remain twitch their antennae and fly around each other in lovely intricate patterns. At times they come together and entwine probosci.
The Queen touches her shoulder to get her attention. /It's difficult to understand without the proper senses,/ she signs. /Right now their pitch has gone up by a full two-steps and they are emitting pheremones signifying great emotion./
/And it's a love story, of course./ But Anave didn't need a translation to know that, and she feels herself flushing.
Finally the dancers return to the stage. They seem to be going over some of their wingwork. /I've never seen anything like that,/ signs Anave, /it's so beautiful. I hope I'll have a chance to see the show when it opens./
/Naturally,/ and the Queen looks almost surprised. /Everyone in the Hive comes to see the shows when they are performed. A new opera is one of our most celebrated events./
Anave smiles. /I can't wait, then./ She turns back to her observation of the dancers. /Do they work in other areas as well?/
/No, this is their life's work. Everyone in the Hive is born knowing their purpose in the order of things: to be a dancer, a scientist, an attendant, or.../ The Queen points to herself. /Well, you see. But I understand that it is not that way for your kind. Did you always know you were going to be a diplomat, Anave?/
Watching one partner execute a particularly complicated-looking midair somersault, Anave thinks back to her childhood. /I didn't know for sure, but it was my dream. I was always interesting in exploring, and I wanted so badly to travel the galaxy, visiting worlds and meeting people.../
The Queen touches her shoulder once more. This time her hand lingers. /And now you have your dream. Is it what you had hoped?/
The trip down is more relaxed. Anave knows it is coming, so she takes it in stride, treasuring the feeling of the Queen's arms around her and the rapid beating of her wings. When they reach the ground again she is almost sorry. The dancers wave to them as they leave the theatre.
/There is one more thing I would show you,/ signs the Queen.
She takes Anave to a tunnel where a gutter-like dip in the floor allows a stream of thick golden honey to run by. They follow the stream down until they reach the end of the corridor and it empties out into...
Anave usually hates to make noises, but she is sure she gasps. They are standing on a ledge above a seemingly bottomless lake of honey so wide she can barely see the walls at the other side of the chamber. Around the edges that she can see are other little streams, twisting as they melt into the lake.
/I'm sure you know that honey is our main export. From the combs and the quality checking stations, it comes here, where it is stored until emptied into the processing plant./ Every gesture the Queen makes radiates pride. /My workers produce the finest honey in the galaxy./
Anave kneels down to gaze at the pool. /Can I...?/
So she dips her fingers into the honey. It's thick and sticky, of course, and when she lifts them out she has to twirl her fingers to keep most of it from dripping off. Rising to her feet again, she licks her fingers tentatively. The honey is the best she's ever had. It tastes like a rich, sweet, open flame, and she can feel it warming her as it slides down her throat. She puts both fingers in her mouth and sucks them clean.
The Queen watches her with her lovely black eyes. /You've got some on your face./ And she leans down and presses her proboscis to the corner of Anave's mouth.
Anave has thought - has hoped, in fact - that something like this might happen. She opens her lips and stays very still, allowing the Queen to sip the honey from inside her mouth. Her blood pounds in her ears.
/Anave,/ signs the Queen. /Shall we...?/
/Yes. Yes, of course, please./
They return to Anave's room. She is keenly aware that in this the Queen is trying to make her more comfortable with the turn of events. Not that she is by any means uncomfortable - the moment the door is closed she slips her robe off and lets it puddle at her feet.
/What a lovely form you have,/ signs the Queen. Then she takes Anave in her arms and holds her until she shivers.
Tentatively Anave presses her head to the Queen's chest, the fur there tickling her cheek. The Queen's heartbeat is naturally faster than hers. When she identifies the place where the Queen's heartbeat comes from she kisses it.
/Same to you,/ she answers, shyly, although she hates to pull away to do so.
The Queen uses her free arms to motion to the bed. /Care to lie down? Or shall we stay here?/
/The... the bed, please,/ signs Anave in response, the idea of doing it right here making her knees rather weak. She crosses the room as best she can.
The Queen's body is surprisingly light on top of her. She touches Anave's body with almost detatched, though warm, curiousity. As one pair of hands tangles in her hair, the other cups and massages her breasts, slim fingers rubbing her nipples. Anave herself reaches up to stroke the Queen's chest again, but her arms are pushed gently down.
/Just relax for today,/ signs the Queen. /I'll take care of you./
So Anave contents herself with being still and taking the pleasure into her body. She yearns up into the Queen's hands as they stray lower, brushing the curve of her abdomen, caressing her hips and her thighs, but avoiding her mons pubis entirely.
For a moment Anave wonders she needs some direction... but no. The Queen is very precise in her teasing. Clearly she knows exactly what she is doing. She rests her head on Anave's breastbone for a moment, then begins once again to move down her body.
Anave makes a very small gesture onto her shoulder. /Please./
It's hard to wait for this, but she manages, although she feels more aroused with every moment that passes. Finally the Queen reaches her vulva. She nuzzles her face there for a moment, then stops. Her feelers stroke Anave at the very highest point of her thighs, leaving her breathless in anticipation.
Her clit is throbbing as fast as her heart. Don't tease me, she thinks, as if from a great distance. She clenches and unclenches her fists in lieu of clenching her legs, which the Queen has spread open. She feels the barest touch of the Queen's antennae on her bare abdomen and shudders.
The Queen raises her head. /Is this what you want?/ she signs, pressing just one finger of her lower right hand into Anave's clit.
Anave hisses. /Yes,/ she signs, over and over. /Yes, yes, yes.../
/Alright, then./ And the Queen lowers her face once more into the folds of her labia, and begins to rub her proboscis across her clit as her feelers stroke her thighs.
It feels so impossibly good. Anave trembles with want as the Queen gets her off, forgetting how strange this might seem, just eager for more. And then the Queen begins to sip at her clit very gently through her proboscis, and the desire she thought couldn't get any more pressing expands like a supernova.
Dimly at the back of her mind she notes that the Queen is stroking herself, and oh, later she would love nothing more than to explore the Queen's body, to please her as she herself is being pleased. Right now, though, she is overcome, she can do little but rock her hips and curl her toes as she feels herself melting, becoming thick and sweet as honey...
/Delicious,/ signs the Queen onto her thigh, and that more than anything sends her over the edge. She grinds herself on the Queen's proboscis as she comes, too overwhelmed with pleasure to care about the moans she must be making.
After that she is dazed for several minutes. But the Queen must come soon after her, because in some way she summons a worker who removes Anave's robe from the floor. She comes back moments later with a new satin robe in one hand and a pot of mead in the other.
When Anave finally finds it in herself to sit up, she sees the Queen sitting in her bedside chair almost exactly as she was earlier in the day. The only difference, other than the mead, is that now she exudes a rather self-satisfied air.
/That was amazing,/ signs Anave, although she's sure the Queen is aware of this already.
/Yes, it was,/ signs the Queen, her proboscis curling as it sucks the mead from her glass. /You know, I think that this could be the start of an excellent working relationship./
Anave gives her a rather shaky grin. /No complaints here./