Sad news, this week.
Kahe'ni, the layer of the La'helis, is dying. She has a cancerous tumor in her abdomen, and given that her exoskeleton will not permit her body to swell outward, the growth will soon put enough pressure on her vital organs to kill her, one way or another. Surgery is nearly impossible for Myrmeoids, since it means cutting holes in their skelletons. They do have chemotherapy drugs, but they would only give her a chance at survival whereas the crippling side-effects would be a certainty. Myrmeoids tend to have less patience with lingering than we do, and Kahe'ni has chosen to accept only palliative care. She is 73 years old, not ancient by Myrmeoid standards, but certainly old. She says she is tired.
But, she has a distinctly Myrmeoid last wish; to have another child. Since Myrmeoids care for children communally, there is no worry about bringing an orphan into the world, and Kahe'ni is still laying an egg a day anyway. All she has to do to have another child is make sure an egg is kept, and the egg she layed this morning will be. It will hatch in five days. I gather Myrmeoid larvae look rather like stuffed socks--I used to stuff one sock inside the other, so they wouldn't get separated, until I noticed the kids were stealing them to play "house" with. Now, I guess they can play with a real larva. Beginnings and endings.
I don't know Kahe'ni well. I know she is the family accountant, and that, like most layers, she is central to her family, something like its heart. Myrmeoid families are, by definition, a partnership among all the castes, and while families can have multiple layers, the La'helis have only one. They'll have to bring in somebody new, and Kahe'ni is talking about who the family should look for as calmly as if she were simply retiring. I guess it will be hard for them to lose both their engineer and their accountant at the same time, but Kahe'ni says they should look for a botanist next. I don't know how she's regaining her composure.
She's a lot bigger than the flyers. Her exoskeleton is a glossy black, though visibly scratched in places, and her abdomen is long and heavy. Myrmeoids don't turn grey or get wrinkled when they get old, but they do slow down, and Kahe'ni walks slowly and rests often.
She's walking even more slowly now. I can't really think clearly.