Author’s Note: A stubborn alien with a need to travel and understand, searching for the meaning behind friendship in the wrong place, still manages to find something wherever he goes, even if it’s not what he expected.
“So, what’s your name, friend?”
“Tynan is what Luna calls me, but you are not my friend,” he said, not looking up from the sculpture. If he had found human art perplexing, this was worse. The art of advanced species lacked any semblance of what made Luna’s art so compelling. She let that human need for self-expression and intense emotion out into everything that she did. The lines betrayed her feelings even when they were just lines. He now understood the lines on the canvas, her way of expressing her grief and anger as her mother’s illness progressed.
He might know art now. Luna’s art, at least.
“We are all friends.”
“Yes, you possess a hive mind, but you cannot call me your friend as I am not a part of your hive. I am here to… to understand friendship.”
“Then you come to the right place. We are all friends.”
He shook his head as he forced his eyes from the sculpture. The humans would call them bees, though they lacked the distinctive colors of the insects on that world. They were much larger winged beings, with four legs, not six, in shades of blue and green, and their jungle world housed many hives, so many that there was no place for others, yet all were friends. He had gone there before, trying to learn more, but the hive mind was not one that he found fascinating. They were too unified, not fractured or unique. He could not use them to keep his curiosity counterbalancing his hunger.
“This is not your world. You are far from your hive.”
The hands clapped together, and the two sets of eyes blinked in unison. “Hive, yes, always hive. We are friends in hive. We are friends outside of hive. In hive, all same. Out of hive, different. Must see outside of hive. You have left your hive, yes, Tynan? Or is Luna your hive?”
He found himself smiling. This one was unique. “Do you have a name?”
“We are all same.”
“You’re not. You left the hive. Most of your species never leaves your planet unless you’ve been taken by slavers, but that hasn’t happened in many centuries, not since the other planets in your solar system were settled and you—I should not have lectured you on history—your history.”
“We all like. No. We do not all like. This one likes hearing history. Not used to one. Used to all.”
He frowned, considering the bluebelly with a frown. He should not call them that. The word was derogatory, an insult, but most of the hive mind never knew of it. He could not remember what their species’ real name was, though. “Why did you leave the hive?”
The bluebelly held out its hands. “Am different. Not same. No place in hive. You… you are same. You have no hive.”
“No, we don’t come from hives.”
“You have names.”
“How do you get… a name?”
He did not know, not for most people. He doubted any of the hive cared if they had a name or not. This one must be damaged somehow, genetically flawed so as not to fit with the hive. “I told you—Luna gave me mine. She is the only one who uses it.”
“We will call you Tynan. No, false. This one will call you Tynan. Will your Luna give this one a name? We cannot think of one. We do not like the ‘bluebelly’ some call us.”
“Forgive me. I called you that.”
“We did not hear it.”
“Not everything is spoken.”