Author: Thomas Desrochers
“I give this gift to the people of tomorrow. On the precipice of this great twilight I take comfort in knowing that as our ports run dry and our rails rust the people of the world will always have access to the materials needed to shape the world around them and, by extension, themselves. We no longer march toward the grave; the future of the world is open to those who would be its stewards.”
Foreword to Apis ferrum
Edward Fuller, 2073
Jason’s hives were just below the top of Janacek’s dome, set in a shelf cut into the earth, exposed to the southern sun but protected from the biting evening winds. The hundred of them were lined up in a single dizzying row, fuzzy with activity as foragers returned before sunset. Fullers’ bees were different from the old world’s honey bees – half the size, with a kaleidoscopic metal carapace, and longer lived by a factor of twenty.
So The Book said. Jason had read The Book, of course – all Fuller beekeepers were required to – but he had no way to verify the claims. After seven hundred years, who was to say?
Below the edge of the shelf the dome sloped three hundred feet down to the plain below. It was late spring and the flowers were in full bloom. Fuller’s flowers, all of them, chest high perennials with extraordinarily deep roots.
In the three weeks that the iron flowers bloomed each hive would produce fifty kilograms of high-grade blud, the thick resin-like honey typical of fuller’s bees. The five thousand kilograms that Jason’s hives produced would bake down into two tonnes of ore that was nine parts iron, one part copper.
Jason looked out over the valley, at the growing evening shadows. It was a single rusty carpet punctuated by the stubborn green dots of lonely gardens and underlain by the deep black of Fuller’s foliage. Apiaries here and there. The Book said that an area rich in Fuller’s flowers could support ten hives per acre, and Janacek’s dome and the valleys around it were nearly seven hundred acres. Three hundred and fifty tonnes of superior iron blud a year: Janacek’s dome was the most productive apiary within a fortnight.
The Book said the flowers consumed the bones of old buildings and machines that had been left to rot, a point often debated around winter fires and festival tables. What sort of place could give up so much metal and never tire? And yet a year before a boy on the coast had unearthed the bones of a great ship a kilometer long, made of steel. The ship was poisonous, killing those that spent too long there, but it raised questions. What kind of men had come before? And what power they must have had to build ships of steel!
No matter. Even if he fed off the bones of his ancestors, Jason took pride in harvesting Janacek dome, in being the latest in a line of Fuller bee keepers that stretched back to before Crisis. From nails to pots to rifles, a hundred thousand fortunes had grown from this place. This place with the faint perfume of the blooms, quiet buzzing, the gentle susurrus of the wind over the fields like a heartbeat. This place, with fat black clouds looming in the distance, ready to feed a dozen forges. Home.
There was a call to come to supper, the laughter of hungry children. Jason smiled and stood, back popping. The world was changing, flowers spreading. The humming of the bees followed, their droning flight an evening hymn.