Back in her own body, Blix fulfilled her promise to drone 52789 and gave her the name Ninn. Blix said it was a beautiful name, and Ninn agreed. She was ecstatic to have the approval of her queen. Any name would have pleased her, even Canq, a name generally regarded by ants as ugly.
Blix didn’t send Ninn back to work right away. She wanted to talk to someone about what happened outside, and since Ninn had no memory of it, she was as good of a sounding board as any.
“A human was about to step on your body and another gatherer, but he stopped his foot from coming down until it was clear of us,” she told her. “He had to know we were there. He purposely avoided killing us.”
“That’s amazing!” Ninn exclaimed, adding nothing else. She was simply mirroring the queen’s sentiment.
“It is! We have to rethink everything we thought we knew about humans. They aren’t clumsy, murderous brutes. Not all of them anyway. They’re actually quite graceful. The move the human I saw made took great nimbleness.”
“If you say it, it must be true, your majesty,” Ninn concurred, sending a wave of disdain through the queen’s abdomen up to her eyes, which twitched.
“Ninn, tell me about your experiences with humans while gathering,” Blix asked, attempting to turn the conversation into something useful.
“They’re big,” Ninn said. “They make a lot of noise when they walk, and they crush the grass. Sometimes they make sounds with their mouths.”
“Sounds?” Blix asked, intrigued. “What kind of sounds?”
“Like thunder, not like a boulder falling. Sometimes they sound like birds. They move really fast too, especially when they move with little hops. They can’t jump like grasshoppers or crickets though. When there is more than one, they make sounds at each other.”
“That must be how they communicate! They must not be able to connect their minds. Do you think they’re capable of telepathy at all?”
“I have no idea, your highness.”
“That’s all right. You’ve been very helpful, Ninn. Do you enjoy gathering?”
Ninn was confused. She never thought of her job as something enjoyment applied to. In fact, she had no idea what it meant to enjoy something. She had felt very few emotions in her life, and they were not strong ones.
Sensing her confusion, Blix tried to clarify. “If you could, would you change your job from a gatherer to something else?”
“I will do whatever you require of me,” Ninn answered. “It doesn’t matter to me what I do as long as it serves the colony.”
“Even if it means risking getting stepped on?”
“Yes. If my life is required to help you and my sisters, I will not hesitate to give it up.”
Blix couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She felt like a fool for thinking so lowly of her children simply because they had no opinions of their own. They had no fear, pride, or ego. They lived for everyone else. That was not something Blix could understand. It explained why Queen Aaq’s attitude was what it was, but why did Blix care? If Queen Blix didn’t think the way she did because she was a queen rather than a drone, then why did she?