“They’re genetically identical to non-anomalous European honey bees.”
Dr. Kiryu removed his glasses and tossed them onto his desk, sighing. An unexpected interception of a Marshall, Carter, and Dark Ltd. memo had brought up all sorts of recent investigations and inconveniences, not to mention piles of paperwork and in the end all that was found was an ordinary beehive?
“Are you quite sure?”
Riven, Kiryu’s recently-designated researcher assistant, shrugged. “The lab’s sure, at least. Thing is though, they also discovered some sort of strange substance inside the beehive. Sort of a super-concentrated royal jelly or something. It even looks special. Crystallizes a dark red.”
The doctor casually poured some bottled water into the potted bamboo plant on his desk. “And is that stuff anomalous?”
“We don’t know yet. There’s not a lot of that substance in the hive, maybe three little pieces, but personnel noticed that all the worker bees carry a little bit of the substance with them when they go out to collect nectar.” Riven flipped through a few of the papers he was carrying. “Also, the cameras we set up recorded something interesting.”
“Go on, Riven.”
“We saw a bird try and get into the hive. One of the worker bees stung it, and when its stinger got ripped out, the bee started eating the red jelly stuff that it was carrying on its leg. It stopped moving, and, well, we had to fast forward the footage to see it, but over the next few hours the body started shrinking, and at the end what was left was this tiny red crystal thing, like what we found in the hive. One of the other worker bees picked it up and took it away.”
Dr. Kiryu tossed the empty water bottle towards his recycling bin, watching it collide with the wall and then clatter into the bin. “Have the personnel there take a small sample of the substance from the hive, and we’ll run some tests when they return with it.”
Test subject: D-1758
Effects observed: Subject reported feeling drowsy, then fell asleep after approximately two minutes. Attempts to wake subject were unsuccessful. At three minute mark, subject was determined to have expired, cause of death is currently unknown. No signs of stress were detected in subject.
“So the bees make deadly painkiller,” Riven stated, scribbling away on a clipboard.
“Undetectable deadly painkiller. Guess I can see how MCD would be interested in that.” Dr. Kiryu was busy cleaning dust off the leaves of his bamboo plant.
“But why does that happen though? Easing the death of a worker bee doesn’t do much for the colony as a whole. And the dead bee just becomes one piece of that painkiller stuff. No net gain.”
Dr. Kiryu peered at his assistant through the leaves of the bamboo. “I took a look at the video logs. I saw one, maybe two, dead worker bees. Not all the bees who die become that substance.”
Riven stopped scribbling. “So only the ones that die by…”
Kiryu nodded. “By defending the hive. Poetic, in an odd and somewhat inconsequential way. They’re bees, after all.”
“The painkiller substance would still be useful, though. What if we found a way to collect it for human use? Help those with terminal illnesses, whatnot.”
“Humanity already has some terribly potent drugs.”
Riven put the clipboard down. “But the D-class that was tested, he had a really bad cough. Wheezing. After he took that little piece of red crystal, he didn’t cough at all. That scared look in his eyes was gone, and his breathing was even when he first fell asleep. You honestly can’t think of anyone who deserves to leave the world as peacefully as that?”
Only one specimen from the hive is to be used, and only two samples of the substance are to be obtained. Video footage of the entirety of the tests is to be recorded.
“How did it go?”
Idly tossing his lab coat onto the back of his swivel chair, Dr. Kiryu sighed and sat down, kicking his desk and spinning around a few times on the chair. His assistant waited patiently.
“We obtained two samples of the substance. One that was carried by a worker bee, and one that was created from provoking that same worker bee to use its stinger and die.”
Riven didn’t look up from the test log he was typing. “And?”
Dr. Kiryu glanced sideways at his assistant. “Same effects for both samples. One minute in, the D-class starts screaming. About two minutes in, he starts clutching at his arm. Two and a half minutes, he starts moaning something about feeling like his arm was ripped out. Three minutes, he’s dead, and his face is stiffening up with that look of agony still there.”
Riven hadn’t realized he’d typed the same word three times. Mashing the laptop’s delete key, he narrowed his eyes slightly. “But that doesn’t make sense. Were the lab samples identical to the one taken directly from the hive?”
“They were, at least to our electronic eyes. If we want the beneficial effects, we need to take directly from the hive, which is out of the question because the colony hasn’t yet replaced the first sample we took from them.”
I am requesting that further testing involving the discovered hive and colony be postponed, until the well-being of the colony itself is no longer a concern. –Dr. Kiryu
“So after all that time and effort, you’re still unsure of whether it’s a skip or not?” Dr. Kiryu gave a small start as Riven’s incredulous voice (and the stack of papers making contact with his desk) snapped him out of his afternoon reverie.
“I don’t think the colony deserves to be put under that scrutiny. Have you noticed that all this time, the colony has only decreased in number? It might not survive further human observation."
Dr. Kiryu looked away from the unfinished paperwork on his desk, turning his gaze instead towards the window. “Can you think of no one who would prefer a peaceful death over a painless one?”
“Why not use the bees’ painkiller to help humans?”
The doctor stood up, still watching sunlight stream into the room. “Because it’s not ours to use. The bees deserve it more than we do.”
Riven tilted his head slightly. “Are you saying you think the bees are as self-aware as humans?”
“Sacrifice, Riven. Every worker has the comfort of knowing that their ultimate sacrifice eases the pain of those who also suffer their fate.”
The doctor opened the window, watching the new-fallen autumn leaves skitter across the concrete ground. “I wish we had such a reliable pact here.”
Investigation log ███
Item Class: Not Applicable (anomalous object)
Upon Dr. Kiryu’s request, the hive and the entire colony were transported to a meadow under Foundation ownership, within the boundaries of Site-██. Access to the hive is to require Level 2 clearance and proper documentation; a population count is to be carried out twice a month.
Note: The honey produced by the bees following the transfer has been proven to possess no anomalous properties.