Leave it to Martialla to be unremittingly (not totally sure what that word means honestly) hostile to the only person we meet that I want to befriend. Whenever we meet some scabby dusty ugly future goblin man with a rusty sharpened piece of bloody metal clenched in their gnarled fist wearing a necklace of fingerbones, she wants to make friends, but when we encounter a normal human doctor from our time she loses her God damn mind. I tried to talk her down, explain that maybe, just maybe a woman in a functioning hazmat suit with medical training and an underground facility of some kind could be helpful to us but she was having none of it.
The doctor and her leech-men drove away on their contraption, leaving us with Stabby and the Horseman. Stabby had been willing to chat before, but Martialla’s attitude towards his doctor-lord must have offended him because he clammed up after that, watching us suspiciously and ignoring my witty remarks. While Martialla stood there sullenly and returned their suspicious glares with some of her own, I occupied myself examining the horse. Since everything is horrible now I expected to find something strange and off-putting about it, like spikes on the knees or an extra set of eyes on the rump, but it was a normal horse seemingly. Its mane and tail were both full of tangles but other than that it was just a horse.
I asked the Horseman if I could pet it and he laughed and said “sure” in a way that made me think that it would bite and or/kick me. So I didn’t. But I wanted to. I wanted to feed it an apple and comb those tangles out of its hair. Although if I had an apple I would eat it myself. Or better yet make some hard cider out of it. I think you need more than one apple for hard cider though. And brown sugar? And probably like a jug or something. I’m not really sure how you make hard cider. And what makes it hard cider instead of just cider?
Maybe twenty minutes later another pair of brutes came our way, one on a little scooter and one on horseback to match their buddies, and riding on the back of the tiny scooter (instead of the giant horse) was one of the bee people. This one was bigger than the field workers, maybe as much as four feet tall, and she was wearing a blindingly white speedsuit type thing only without a helmet. That suit was by a wide margin the cleanest looking thing I have seen to date here in the future/present.
She was carrying a machine (?) that looked like a cross between a tackle box and a charging station for a bunch of D batteries with a riotous explosion of tubes and wires coming out of it. It kind of looked like what a nurse might have to work in a bloodmobile in our time but it also looked like something that a prop master would knock together on a Sci-Fi channel original movie. Martialla shook her head at the sight.
“I don’t like this. How do we even know they have the filters?”
At this the new horseman, who I shall call imaginatively Horseman #2, held up two big canvas bags tied together and kind of shook them around so we could see that they were filled black canisters that kind of looked like those little propane tanks that caterers have for their chafing dishes. Why are they called that? Whenever I heard chafing dish it made me think of a dish that they rake across your nipples as a form of torture. It’s probably French or some bullshit.
Martialla looked over at me “Is that enough?”
I shrugged “How the fuck should I know? We’re didn’t go into this mission with a lot of details on what we needed. Truth be told I was expecting a bunch of little white coffee filter things. If this isn’t enough we’ll just have to come back.”
Martialla eyed the four men eyeing us back “I don’t think we’re going to be welcome back here a second time.”
“Oh pish, I have the feeling this is the start of a wonderful friendship. Soon enough the three of us will be having slumber parties and braiding each other’s hair. I love Indian food you know, maybe she has some good recipes she can make.”
Martialla scratched at her scalp “That reminds me, we should both shave our heads if we find a sharp enough knife, these lice are driving me crazy.”
“Fleas Martialla, we have fleas not lice, get it right. You can Uncle Fester yourself if you want but I’ll die before I cut my hair.”
“I mean probably, yeah.”
I turned to the little bug-woman who had been standing there uncertainly “So are you like the lab assistant then?”
She started like no one had ever spoken to her before, and surprised me almost as much by answering in a tiny piping voice “Y-yes . . . we help Doctor Baidyabhusan.”
“Oh shit, you can talk?! Sorry, I didn’t mean . . .” I gestured at the even smaller bee-people tending to the fields “I just mean that I tried to talk to them and it seemed like they weren’t capable of answering me.”
She licked her lips nervously, which was such a commonplace thing that it became super freaky happening under two giant fly-eyes “I’m not like them. I need . . . to get the samples.”
I knelt down and held my arm out to her “Sure thing. So a few days ago I was at a swap meet and there was a guy there who looked somewhat like you only he was bigger. A friend told me that he was a ‘splice’ is that what you are? Like gene splicing?”
She produced a thing that looked mostly like a butterfly needle set-up but there didn’t seem to be an actual needle, just a tiny black nozzle type thing at the end “You’d have to ask Doctor Baidyabhusan about that, I don’t know about anything. We’re helpers . . . with the research.”
“Did she make you?”
She stopped her work for a moment “Of course, where else would I have come from?”
Martialla snorted “Impossible.”
At this the four warrior types grumbled and started mad dogging us even more if that’s possible and even the little bee girl’s voice took on the tiniest bit of flint.
“Doctor Baidyabhusan is intelligent. She’s working on a cure and we help her.”
Martilla all but rolled her eyes “A cure for what?”
The tiny woman’s voice took on a hint of awe “For everything, for all of it, for the world.”
Before I could say anything we heard a bell clanging loudly in the distance and the two horsemen quickly mounted back up and spurred their mounts up the path between the fields towards the northwest. The second scooter-man grabbed the little bee girl bodily like a piece of luggage and kicked off on his comically small machine back towards the northeast as she hugged her little bloodwork kit and protected it with her body. I turned to the original scooter-rider with his very interesting codpiece.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re under attack. Interesting timing huh?”