by Betty Adams
“I really, truly, don’t know what to say.” Maria didn’t stutter, no, ten years of diplomatic experience saved her that embarrassment. However nothing in her training or her work history prepared her for this moment. Humans just didn’t do this kind of thing. She had no frame of reference for the situation in front of her.
“She means,” the Vespian diplomat spoke up in her clicking voice. “That she is still processing the situation and could use input from the instigator for the proper social response.”
Lyric smiled at the human once she was done explaining the words to the soldier/worker. By all things holy that was terrifying. The Vespians had nearly upset the Arane as the friendliest and most eager allies of Earth. They were so quick to learn human customs too. However an insectoid face did not take well to smiling. Intellectually Maria knew that she would eventually adapt and consider it normal but for now she simply ordered the hairs on the back of her neck to lie down.
“Ah!” The larger Vespian bobbed her blunt head in understanding. “I see. It is like this.” She held up the mason jar (where had they gotten those?) full of the burnt umber translucent liquid. “Workers produce this in a separate organ than the digestive or reproductive tracts so you don’t have to worry about cultural taboos or practical contamination. I assure you that my screening is equal or superior to your own food processing. It is produced during every resource rich time and is primarily used as an emergency ration for hard times especially as it is very calorie rich and has various medical properties. It is also used in social situations as an – I believe the term is ice breaker – as most of our species can tell much about the individual who produced it by the flavor and texture.”
“I see,” Maria spoke into the silence where a response seemed needed. She knew the Vespians (like the Arane) detested being compared to non-sentient species so she firmly bit back the comparison to honey. Humans did not make a habit of accepting food from the body of other sentient species, but then again they had never had much of a chance to explore that concept. The two Vespian delegates were casting pointed looks at her and at the lounge area where most informal meetings were held. Clearly they wanted to sit down and share the jar of not-honey. Cultural exploration was Maria’s job after all but was she willing to set that precedence for the entire human race?