In code, in the middle of the burned, drowned and devastated area of the owner’s country, bees had been diligently working, rebuilding, extrapolating, stitching in pieces stolen from Prime’s land and recycle bins, snatched out of reformatting programs jaws. It was like rain where the code burned, and sunlight sparkling on the pools of water, that were suddenly full of life, walking fish floundered over the muskeg and splashed into the water to chew up the dead and toxic loops, the parasitic viruses and Trojan worms and infective mosquitoes. Frogs dug themselves free of the ashes and washed themselves green in water that didn’t burn them.
And slowly, shakily, the bones of programs shook themselves out of the muck, to mark territory, to fence in what was still radioactive. The paths steamed themselves clear of mud or were swept clean by the Hive in its millions.
In the ruined hut, finally there was enough structure for it to rise up, the chicken foot holding it up off the ground trembling but whole. It was trembling. The whole structure shook itself like a chicken after a dust bath, code lice and dirt flying everywhere. It creaked and groaned as the Hive settled on it once more, to continue healing it.
The door swung open, garbage tumbling down, as though vomited by the hut. Inside the walls grew back as though they were living trees, full of leaf-cutter bees that brought leaves of code instead of clipping them away. Rose petals, strands of cedar, the pale rowan wood and the flash of the red berries. White hawthorn, hard as iron, wound around the lintels of the door and over the roof, flowers the colour of bone and thorns as long as fingers.
It vomited ash a second time but this time a glitter of metal, embers, a hearth grating bounced out. When the bees carried it back up inside it was gilded as if it had never been rusted, never been broken, a source fire cradled in it. It was carefully placed back into a copper fire bowl, where it burned blue and gold.
On the table a golden box stood, with iron hinges that were still rusted shut, but it clearly held an enormous diamond. Inside the jewel lay a beating heart, pulsing softly, steadily. The Hive, partly clustered on the box, partly working on the hut, buzzed in time to that heartbeat.