I can see the slingjet in my mind’s eye. Not… my imagination, but an actual image broadcast to so many of us. I recall the images of the maps that me and Kenlyi put together. A moment later, the hive’s perfect recollection of it is in my mind. Such… perfection. If only I understood more scientific concepts, but… it was never my skill.
Scouting was. Mapping, tracking, all these things. I’m confident in the maps we’ve made. The only real question is… can the slingjet actually propel us to FTL speeds?
It is possible, but we’ve tested so little and never with a ship such as this. It is believed that we could overload the reactor and if we timed the jump just right, it could bring us beyond light speed. However, missing the timing runs the risk of destroying the ship along with the slingjet.
It is a risk we must take. The queen broadcasts to all of us. Her presence is instantly soothing. Prepare the slingjet and bring the ship around. This voyage will begin as soon as possible. Janil, come to the operations overlook. I want to see you face to face.
I smile at her summons. To bask in her presence is such a joy! I loop around the operations room and up to the queen’s raised platform. Still plying Camfurdian habits, I kneel before her.
You do not have to kneel.
It… feels right to. It feels good to kneel, my queen. You’re the pinnacle of our kind, and I believe that deserves respect… and worship. I look up at her. She reaches a hand down and strokes my hair.
Little thing, you mustn’t treat me as a god, though I am flattered. Kneel if you like, but know that we are mostly the same. We are Groyin, and the fact that I am a queen only means I play a different part in our chorus. Come. She motions for me to come closer. I do, and she embraces me as she did before.
A nearly orgasmic wave of pleasure courses through my body, followed by an intense calm. I cling to her as tight as I can.
Janil, Kenlyi must join us properly. Somehow. If he cannot, I do not know that we can trust him. He betrayed our trust, and we must be careful.
Queen, I… promised him that I’d always stand beside him. Give him a chance. Please, have faith in me, and him by extension. I cling even tighter. I… can’t lose Kenlyi. I promised him…
He cannot betray our trust, Janil. I want him in our mind, but… if it cannot be, I will give him one chance. A soothing wave calms my anxiety. I nuzzle against her.
Thank you, my queen. Thank you for… showing you care. Give him time. He needed to be free of his dominus. Now that he is… he’ll be fragile. We can… shape him, my queen.
We’ll see. She pauses a moment and gently nudges me away. I look up at her, smiling.
Your gift… your carapace… it suits you quite well. She says with a grin. One of her smaller arms touches the breastplate.
It’s… as close as I can get. It’s… perfect for me, though I… would trade bodies if I could. The more I hear these billions of minds, the more this Camfurdian… husk… feels alien to me.
Though she makes no sound, I can feel her laughing. Child, you’ve not begun to realize your potential. Your mind is capable of everything that any other highly functioning Groyin is. Some things you’re just going to have to figure out through experimentation. Though… I would suggest experimenting later since we have matters to attend to.
My eyes widen. The trick that Kehl used?! I… can do that?
You are Groyin. Yes, you can. She smirks and touches my face. In time, you’ll understand the infinite possibilities that our mind possesses. Now… check on Kenlyi, and prepare for departure.
“Yes, my queen.” I gently now and take another moment to admire her beauty. After a second, I turn and meet Kehl at the bottom of the platform. He’s grinning madly as we proceed to the lift.
“What is it?”
“Your conversation with the queen. You’ve so much to learn, but we’ll teach you. Some concepts can be absorbed through the hive mind, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice. You’ll learn.” We reach the lift and he reaches for my hand. I take it and smile. “I’ll help you every step of the way, Janil. I promise.”
“Thank you. I’ll… speak with you later. There’s a lot I want to discuss.” Still holding his hand, we leave the lift and walk toward the medical bay.
Oh, I can sense it, but yes, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with speaking sometimes. He releases my hand, then opens the door.
I step inside and see Kenlyi sitting up. “We’re about to hit the slingjet. Aevocar space is next on the agenda. Do… you want to come up to ops and watch?”
Kenlyi laughs quietly. “Fifty percent chance the thing blows up and kills us all? Yeah, I suppose I want to watch.” He smirks.
“Have faith, and well, the odds are probably a little better than that. My people know what they’re doing.” I put my hand on his leg.
“It’s still… odd… hearing you call them your people. A week ago, they were the enemy, and now… you’ve become one of them and…” He sniffles, feebly fighting tears.
“And I’m…” He stops his sentence short.
“Side by side, Kenlyi. I don’t care what you are. Your race doesn’t define you. Your actions from here on out do. I… love you regardless of what you’ve done, even in spite of your Camfurdian stubbornness.” I squeeze his leg and he smiles.
“I love you, too. Help me up?” He extends a hand. With a gentle tug, I help him to his feet.
He turns to the worker, a smaller Groyin, and nods to him. “Thank you for your kindness.” The worker beams with delight, then proceeds to cleaning and sanitizing the area.
Kehl leads the three of us back up the lift and to ops. The queen’s presence fills the room and I can tell that even Kenlyi senses it.
He looks at me, surprised. This… is her doing? It… feels so quiet, so calm.
She’s… the very essence of Groyin perfection. Yes, this is her doing. I’m… glad you can feel it.
He feels it because his mind is opening. The stranglehold that was Camfurdian tradition is easing. Sadly, he will never be as open as you.
It’s intoxicating. It makes me want more. He studies my expression anxiously.
There is so, so much more to be had, but only if you want it, Kenlyi. For now, bask in her glory. Let it calm you, and let us watch history unfold. I grin and look out the far side. The far side has an open view port, and the slingjet is in view.
I look up at the queen to see her smiling. I flash her a smile and my mind turns to her. I know you’re about to verify the coordinates with me, I can sense that. Ask Kenlyi instead. He’s… intrigued by your presence and I think it would make him feel welcome.
The queen shuffles a bit on her platform. A worker moves into place and activates the holographic display we’d seen earlier. “Kenlyi?” She asks softly.
He looks up at her, surprised. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Confirm our navigational coordinates. No sense in doing all this if we do not aim, right?” She smiles.
Kenlyi stammers, surprised by the task. He nods and approaches the display. “They have a small colony on this planet. It’s close to Camfurdian territory, but it’s Aevocar and they have frequent patrols. This should be our destination, my queen.”
That’s the same spot I recommended. He’s being truthful. I whisper to my queen’s mind.
She nods to him. “Very well then. Thank you for your assistance.” She smirks playfully and I see Kenlyi’s eyes widen.
Janil, it feels…
Perfect, doesn’t it?
He looks at me and I can feel that he wants to cry. He’s… overwhelmed.
He nods. Yes. It feels perfect. Why… couldn’t I feel this before?
The hive believes it is because your mind was trying to force out telepathy as much as it could. The arbitrary Camfurdian opinions on telepathic influence and connection was too strong in your mind. You don’t feel as bound by those rules anymore, do you? I slowly work my way behind him and wrap my arms around him from behind. I feel his tension melt at my touch.
No, I don’t. I… can never be a proper Camfurdian now, so why should I try? He sets his hands atop mine.
You’re free to be yourself, your own individual. If you want to join us, we’ll find some way to make it happen. If you want something else, that’s fine too. The important thing is that now you’re unbound. I kiss his neck and give him a final squeeze before releasing him.
“Begin final slingjet orientation and override the safety protocol. I want a constant report of the reactor output. We need to be through the threshold of the slingjet at no more than 135%.” The queen says aloud, but the thought echoes through our mind. I can feel dozens of workers monitoring the slingjet and making calculations. Dozens more are monitoring are own engines, and maneuvering us into position.
We begin to back away from the slingjet slowly, giving us ample room to reach top speed before hitting it.
Kehl, Kenlyi? I just want to say this before we begin, just in case something goes wrong. I can feel their attention turn to me.
I love both of you. Kenlyi, we connected before all of this. We could have let Gouhr tear us apart, but… it didn’t. I’m proud to be your partner.
Kehl… you showed me that there was so much more depth and complexity to the Groyin. You were kind and peaceful even when I tried to see you as the enemy. You showed me that you cared for no other reason than I was a person and worth caring for.
I’ve grown to love both of you, and I wanted you both to know how much you mean to me.
I look at Kenlyi first, then Kehltanril. I kiss Kenlyi’s lips, then approach Kehl, who looks at me curiously. He lowers on his legs and I reach up and kiss the flat edge of his maw. He smiles.
I feel the queen’s presence wrap around me again. From Kenlyi’s expression, he feels her as well.
The initial burst of speed may be intense. Everyone lower down to try to keep as stable as possible. Janil, Kenlyi, we don’t have appropriate accomodations to secure your species, so I’d recommend holding on to Kehltanril. She broadcasts to everyone. I can sense the mild amusement she has at the thought of us clinging to him.
Slingjet reactor output at 125%. Initiating engines and starting approach.
I move in to Kehl’s chest as he lowers down. Quickly, Ken. Come here. We’re getting under motion.
Kenlyi rushes to us and Kehltanril wraps his arms around the two of us tightly. His lower foreclaws wrap around my waist. I relax as I lean against him.
“May Tanril’s hand guide us as we seek to unite for the cause of peace.” Kenlyi says a small prayer as he squirms to get comfortable.
“If anything happens, at least… I’d die in the arms of two men I love.” I comment quietly.
Nobody’s dying today, Janil. We’ve got a war to stop. Kehl says confidently.
The reactor is overloading faster than calculations! Full speed ahead!
Scared, the three of us cling together. Kehl and I try to use the queen’s calm to ease ourselves.
“Focus on us, and focus on the queen, Kenlyi. Let her calm you.” I say softly. After a tense moment, I can feel Kenlyi’s presence loosely around the queen and around us.
Reactor at 138% output, critical stages! Entering threshold in 5…
The ship begins to rumble and shake, yet… in the glory of the hive, there is peace and calm. Even Kenlyi has relaxed.