It was a hot night, insects buzzing outside the open window against the screen. There was no breeze to kiss the heat away, just more god forsaken heat.
In a tiny house a man lay in his bed, wearing nothing but a set of boxers and blankets kicked to the floor while he laid sprawled out. Groaning in tired misery.
Maxwell Conner Jones, he'd spent the last four months filling out applications, smiling at interviews and attending job fairs. Behind on bills and child support of his son, he was sure the she devils lawyers would toss him behind bars soon. Rent was due so he would likely have to move again soon and start all over.
He groaned, rolling his head as he slept. Dreaming of his laughing ex wife and showing up pantsless to an interview. Grumbling to himself between heavy breaths.
From under his bed a dark hand reached out, claws tipped with a putrid green, and grasped his hand firmly.
His head turned, hand grasping back for a shake while he blurted, “Hi I’m Maxwell Jones. I’m sorry I forgot my pants but I really need a job…”
For a moment the hand didn’t move, “You’re hired! I’ll be back in the morning to pick you up!” Then the hand slipped away.
Max rolled to his back with a huff, groaning with the heat.
His alarm went off at about six thirty, just as the sun was starting to rise. Rolling out of bed he smacked the off button and sat up. Brown hair frazzled, poorly tanned skin sweaty, and brown eyes blinking away gunk. His clammy hands rubbed up his face and pulled down, “God it’s been a night, I can’t believe this heat wave has lasted this long…”
Stumbling from the sparse bedroom to the empty living room and kitchen he opened the fridge. Groaning as his bloodshot eyes looked in. Sitting on the rack, was a jar of pickles, but he let out a pleased sigh as the cold air from the fridge fell over his hot skin. “I guess starving isn’t as bad as this heat…”
Picking up the jar he popped off the lid, using his fingers to fish out a couple slices. “Least they’re cold…”
He shut the fridge and leaned against the counter as he munched. Sorting his thoughts of what he had to do today, more applications to fill out for sure, but the local area was drying up. He’d already sold his car. Laying another pickle on his tongue he sighed, I’ll call Jerry, maybe he’ll give me a ride… Think his car even has AC.
A knock fell on his door, making his shoulders slump, jar in hand he pinched his nose. “Coming, coming,” he said as he walked from the kitchen to the living area and sighed. Opening it he kept his eyes closed to shield them from the sun, “Look Kenneth I know I’m…” Blinking away black dots he was standing face to face with a rather large centipede looking creature.
His jaw dropped.
The creature was roughly seven feet tall, a long bug like body that rattled with many long legs extending just as far. “Hello Mr. Jones,” it’s voice was sweet and cheerful. It’s face was flattened with almost, but not quite, human features. “My name is April, Madam Isabella got a little tangled up in her work and sent me to retrieve you. We’re so happy to have you in our company!”
After a couple blinks he looked at the jar in his hands, These pickles are expired… They gotta be, I’m hallucinating…
Aprils beady eyes didn’t blink, but her long antennae twitched and wiggled. “I take it you haven’t finished packing yet, I assure you, you will not need much when relocating to the company headquarters.” Her most forward limbs rose and pressed together, long hooked hands with claws. Tilting her head as adorably a massive insect with mandibles could, “We will supply all of your needs.”
Max rose his shoulders but they faltered and he let out a breath, “Um… W… What company?”
April perked and rose a slightly lower limb that had a bag hooked on one of the joints, digging in the black designer bag and producing a small stack of papers. “We are Human Insect Validation and Endangerment, or H.I.V.E.”
Taking the papers from her he stuck the pickles between his chest and elbow while he flicked through. “Uh… I filled this out?”
“Is that not your signature on the last page at the bottom?”
Flipping it over he looked down, “I… Think there may have been a misunderstanding, I uh…”
Her head turned and she pushed him back into his apartment, following him and shutting the door. Her antennae twitched as her large form hovered by the door before letting out a breath, “I’m sorry, we’re not supposed to be seen by more humans than necessary.” Returning to her happy mood she folded her sets of hands in front of her, three if he counted correctly before they were more insect than human-like.
“Now then, I’m happy to answer any and all questions you may have.”
He laid the jar down and looked at the paper, “Look uh… Amy-”
“April,” she said a little cross.
Pausing he took another breath, “Right… April… Look, I don’t really remember filling this out and I don’t know if… I’m really all that suitable for so...something like this… And I kinda need something secure…”
Her little head tilted and reached back into her bag to produce a notebook, then rummaged a little more for a large pair of gold rimmed glasses that curled back to hook on a small gap of the exoskeleton of her face. “Maxwell Conner Jones, age thirty seven, male, brown hair and brown eyes. Spent four years at Hamiltons R.V’s, married a Sandra Iris Jones. Maiden name Milton. Mother's name is Cary Leanee Jones, Father is Jackson Perkons Jones the second.”
Flipping a page she continued, voice growing to a steady stern tone, “Your wife divorced you earlier this year, and has sole custody of your son Peter. You were fired after two years from Beltons Animal clinic where your only task was to do yard tending. Three write ups involving provocative behavior with coworkers on company grounds.” Her head rose and she shifted her glasses a little. “Mr Jones, you have been unemployed for how long?”
April tucked the notebook back in her bag and took off her glasses to hold them in her sharp fingers. “Your wife divorced you because of an affair, yes?”
“Yes,” he took a small step back.
“Now, with your provocative behavior you do not have that many viable options. And if you want to fight for proper visitation or even custody of your child, you are plum out of luck. Any job you can get will leave your lifestyle to a simple little job.” She wove her glasses at him with her next words, “‘J’ ‘O’ ‘B’. Just over broke.” Tucking her glasses in her bag she snorted with a nod.
He stood there, still sweaty from his hot night, fingers sticky with pickle juice, standing in his boxers as he attempted to rationalize the giant female centipede before him that seemed to speak to him like a stern parent. “Um… O...Okay… What's the pay..?”
“Entry level positions can vary depending on tasks. You however have been hired to tend to the needs of our unmated females. Your provocative tendencies make you a prime candidate to tend to the many who must wait patiently to be properly paired during the breeding program. Your starter pay will be fifty united states dollars an hour, seventy five once you have completed training. Hours can vary between six and eight hours, with time and a half over.
'Our company also includes the entire board of benefits and up to thirty days of paid vacation and thirty unpaid. Our company lawyers can insure a good deal, and due to the mixed government involvement you only have to report half of your earnings which will insure you have a low child support. Any and all tips you make are off the books.”
“Yes, some girls can be very selective and we reward good behavior. Humans greatly appreciate money and we have plenty to provide.” April dropped her hands again.
“So… What about housing… I mean you’re asking me to pack up and move, aren’t you?”
He could only assume a smile crossed her mandibles, “You will be provided a H.I.V.E home within headquarters for ease of access to your work. You will also be provided a surface home to insure your local government is kept in the dark…” She fidgeted her long fingers, “We really must be going. If you are going to accept this job, you don’t want to be late for your first training session.”
Max looked up at her then down to the jar of pickles on the table. “All my needs?”
Aprils plated head bobbed, “Mhm!”
He tried to think about what possible cons could exist, mauling them while he chewed his lip. With a heavy sigh he looked up at her, “Alright, lemme go get dressed.”