The Hive, Chapter 1

Written by Ademal

I am a Seeker, mostly of things but not sometimes of people. I'd like to think I’m one of the best out there and my wallet tends to agree. Usually it’s easy money, like tracking down a cheating lover or a stolen cat, but every now and then someone actually makes me earn it.   This was one of those times.   Richard Galt, 27, pipekeeper, was too curious for his own good.   Anyone with any sort of sense in their brain knows better than to keep out of the dark, labyrinthine corridors of the Undercity. There's too many things down there that will eat you, crush you, or get you lost. Not Richard. Oh no. To him, the Undercity was an invitation.   In my books that put him down as an idiot. I immediately liked him. Even as I chastised his ghost for aspiring to go so far down, I found myself relating to that fatal attraction.   It seems presumptive of me to just assume Richard is dead, I know, but that’s how the Undercity works. By the time someone thinks to seek a Seeker to seek the missing, odds are it’s too late and they’re already corpse confetti at a bug party. Jobs like those end up being more a task of getting photographic proof and a DNA sample. That is if you bother to stick your neck out enough to even do that much.   I hear you back home: If you were so certain Richard was dead, why did you bother to take the job?   Do you want the altruistic reasons or the selfish ones? I have both; I’ll leave it to you guess which one weighs more to me.   Altruistically: curiosity and honor. Only the suicidal or idiotic venture into the Undercity without a plan. With Richard, there had been states of certainty and uncertainty, planning and premeditation, all of which I had gleaned from his journal server. His logs had a nice, deadpan wit but were otherwise the standard thought-to-text. After hours of rifling through his life for clues to where in the Undercity he had gone, and why, it only seemed right that the duty fell to me to find him. Or at least to confirm his fate and pop a selfie with his dead meat.   Selfishly: competition. Money is a motivation, but not enough of one. I live pretty comfortably without putting my neck on the line for wild goose chases through the Undercity. The less time I spend under the streets the better. Originally, once I had realized how far down Richard had aimed to go, and how much ground I would have to cover, I had given Richard’s brother a ridiculous figure to scare him out of hiring me. Half of the money was in my account already—small consolation when I considered what lurked in those claustrophobic depths.   What really got me going was the idea that someone had the gall to aim so deep. Richard wasn’t an idiot; he knew what he was getting into. As a pipekeeper he had seen the hounds and bugs firsthand.   So, yes. No single reason was strong enough to compel me to take the contract, but there went I, dragooned by my own competitive nature and stoked by the flames of my curiosity.   I put my affairs in order first, just in case.

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