Challenge #02507-F317: The Jewels of the Tour
A feathery flash of ruby red, then several bright flashes of green. These tiny birds flit amongst the gardens on the space station as the havenworlders watch them in wonder. They came from a 4.5 deathworld. These beautiful, flying gems. They are more delicate than the most delicate of havenworlders, some humans brought them here to the garden to act as pollinators and to make the place, "more like home,' she'd said. Little nectar-filled feeders can be seen swarming with these sweet little birds that make the softest of sounds as they flit from feeder to flowers past all who watch them. When asked what they were, one human whispered uncharacteristically as they were normally quite boisterous, "Hummingbirds." -- DaniAndShali
They call it Bejewel Station, and it is an otherwise out-of-the-way whistlestop with the standardized everything that a traveller could need. Standardized food vendors, standardized hot-bunks, standardized medik bays, standardized living spaces, standardized repairs, standardized shops... standardized boredom... Yet people are willing to endure longer trips across Hyperspace and true space alike just to get there and stay for a day. Why?
They call it Bejewel Station, but that's a mispronounciation of its original moniker. Bee Jewel Station. Someone in this stations forgotten past could not import Terran bees because of the venom and the inherent danger, but they needed pollinators... so they went for the next-best, and most harmless replacement. Tiny, delicate, beautiful, and iridescent Deathworlder birds.
Many visitors to Bejewel Station do not believe the birds come from a Deathworld. They are tiny, they are fragile, and they subsist on simple sugars like many, many Havenworlders do. There is even a helpful poem on a stelae by Big Flower Park entitled When a Bird Be a Bee that explains the evolutionary path on a lies-to-children basis. So many pictures are taken of people feeding the birds next to the stelae, it's almost mandatory to have one. Yet, despite this, they cannot believe the birds belong on the same planet as bears or wolves or snakes.
Some are almost the size of the insects they mimic. Resplendent in all their colours, they even buzz as their wings flap faster than most eyes can follow. They dart about like the savage Terran dragonflies and make nests smaller than a teacup. Bejewel Station is home to a hundred species, one of which may have evolved on station. Even the resident Humans aren't sure.
Which is why there are tour guides who, for a Minute or two, will explain in detail how the birds' ancestors were carefully caught, carefully packaged, carefully kept in Stasis for a trip across thousands of light years, and then carefully released to pollinate the plant life... and show how to mix a specific nectar feeder solution for the birds so that they can have food wherever they happen to roam.
People native to Bejewel station have feeders outside and inside their homes. It's one of the few stations that won't allow Oshits and police their Skitty populations because they love the little birds so much.
Of course, some have tried to smuggle the Terran hummingbirds off Bejewel Station, either as pets or to introduce to their own colony worlds. None have succeeded because Terrans are used to "these levels of horseshit" and protect the population accordingly.
[AN: if there is a poem about Hummingbirds with the title, When a Bird Be a Bee, I hope it is like this. If there is no such poem, there should be. Please do inform me of the existence thereof]
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / paulb]
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