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A Hundred Eggs & One Survivor

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Mothra asked, Why do you visit me so often? It was something she had wondered for a long time.

Sure, she and Nido liked each other alright—but they were far too different for Mothra to consider Nido a close friend, and she'd never felt any waves of camaraderie coming off his mind to indicate he considered her more than a casual friend. She was convenient for him to visit, true—her island was near the pters' "volcanic trail"—but so were the homes and territories of a great many other people that she was sure Nido didn't visit nearly as often. And on top of all that, he was terrified of her brother, whom he was more likely to run into on her island than he was on any other piece of land in the world.

So she'd wondered for centuries why it was he made a point of visiting her so often. Now that he’d brought along the aliens that had tried to make a career out of smashing her eggs, the question was suddenly a lot more pressing.

He gave her a hurt look. "Do you not want me to?" he asked. "I promised I won't bring the golden ones by again."

It's not that. She paused. But, no, don't bring them again. Even if Nido hadn't told them her exact location, it was bad enough they now might get a vague idea of where her island was. And here she was, wings still damaged from their last fight, unable to fly and lure them away from the island. She might need to hatch an egg prematurely just to make sure she'd be able to defend the island if necessary. I just don't know why you visit. I want to know.

"Oh! No—no real reason." But his thoughts tingled with embarrassment, as though he'd been caught with a secret.

Come, now.

"It's nothing important." He looked down, scratching the trunk of a tree with one talon tip. "I just—well, when I think of you on this island all alone..."

I'm not alone, she pointed out. I live here with humans.

"Oh, I know," he said quickly, "and having a colony nearby really does liven up an island. They're great natural pest control, too. But it's not really company, is it."

She thought humans made for spectacular company; but she knew she was among the few people who recognized the sapience of humans, much less could talk with them, and if she argued the point she'd never get an answer to her question. I suppose. Lots of other people live alone on private islands, though. You do.

"Oh, sure! But you're—in a different situation from most of the others. They can go to other islands any time they want to visit others of their own kind. Either that, or they don't have any others of their kind to visit," Nido said. "But, the rest of your kind is in eggs. And you're just—by yourself. Waiting for them to hatch."

For a moment, Mothra was so taken aback that she wasn't sure how to respond. She must have been radiating her confusion strongly enough for him to feel it, because he quickly added, "I know, I know, you're not actually waiting for them. They're all you in the future, I get that. It just..."

He fell silent again as he scratched at another trunk; and Mothra became aware of a sorrow welling up in him—a sorrow that had been welling up since she broached the subject. Across the surface of his thoughts danced vague images of the pyramids and cavern openings that led to her nests—in his mind, they seemed impossibly still, impossibly isolated, impossibly lonely—cold and dark places that each held a single seed of life that might never bloom. And mixed with those images, Nido saw dormant volcanoes and his people’s fossilized igneous bones.

"It just seems lonely for you," he finally said. "That there are thousands of your kind that lived before you ever hatched and dozens waiting to hatch now—all of your kind exist behind you and in front of you—but in the present, it's only you. You're going to die only you before any others of your kind hatch. It's... well." He clacked his beak nervously and turned away, looking across the ocean as though checking to see whether the alien was still waiting nearby. "I know it's normal for your kind. But I worry about you anyway."

All the centuries she'd known Nido, and with the answer to one question she understood him better than she ever had before. Was she also finding out why he'd been so willing to invite complete strangers into his home?

Just because he'd never seen another of the aliens’ kind before?

Just because they'd fallen from the stars?

I see, Mothra thought. Thank you. It's kind of you. Just... come by yourself next time.

"Ha! Sure, sure. They'd probably rather get their tour of the trail over with than stop to visit anyway." He stretched his wings and turned again to look in the direction he’d left them. "Do you think they're still waiting for me, or are they halfway to Kilauea by now?"

She perked up her antennae, trying to feel for their unique triple telepathic signature without brushing their minds hard enough that they'd notice her. They still haven't moved. Just a few islands east.

"Ah, great. Wherever it's raining hardest, probably."

Probably.

With a farewell cry, he took off, heading east into dark clouds.

She watched him until she lost sight even of the glowing embers trailing from his wings.

Between his violence and his exuberance, she could forget sometimes how compassionate Nido could be. Or how alone he was.

She hoped it wouldn't get him killed.

She hoped even more it wouldn't get the rest of them killed.