Subject: You know, I meant to get in on last month's. Ah, well - here goes!
Posted on: 2020-08-04 06:20:00 UTC

Prompt: "How many people does it take to change a lightbulb?"

The anthropomorphic bee looked curiously over the shoulder of the human who was currently typing on something vaguely resembling a laptop, occasionally glancing up to scowl at the light fixture that had gone out a few minutes ago. “How many people does it take to change a lightbulb?” they asked, mostly out of idle curiosity.

Jeff looked up at them and blinked. “Um… one?” he said.

The bee tilted their head - an expression of confusion they had obviously learned from books, given the… somewhat over-exaggerated way in which they did so. “Only one?” they asked. “I would have thought it would take more.”

“They’re… not that complicated,” Jeff said, reaching up to push the bee’s head a bit straighter. They’d asked for the humans to just correct their posture physically - trying to explain with words had a tendency to get… interesting, what with the translation process between their languages being very, very incomplete for the moment. “Why? How many of you does it take?”

“One,” the bee replied simply, still appearing rather confused.

“But -” he stopped, thought for a moment, then realized. “Oh. Oh, right. Sorry - I meant how many bodies does it take you, not how many Rivis - or, is it Rivi right now?” Rivi was, for the moment, in the somewhat-irritating habit of changing their name at least once a week - apparently they’d never actually settled on one before meeting the humans, and so now they were trying them on like sets of clothes. … No, no, that wasn’t fair. Rivi’s clothing choices were far more static.

“Ooooooh,” the hive mind said. “Right, right. Um… on average, I think about two hundred and thirteen?”

Jeff stared at Rivi for a long, long moment. “... It takes you two hundred and thirteen bodies to change a light bulb? How complicated are those things?”

“I do not think they are that much more complicated than yours?” Rivi said, though they sounded rather doubtful. They had discovered that humans were… odd about these things, sometimes. “There’s the bodies to mine the materials, the bodies to maintain my connection to that planet, the bodies to move the materials out of the mine…” They trailed off as they saw Jeff shaking his head, and laughing at… well, something. “What is it?”

“That explains it,” he said, after getting himself under control. “What I meant is, how many bodies does it take to grab the lightbulb and go up to change it. Not how many it takes to manufacture it. Stars, you actually keep track of that?”

“Well, not for every lightbulb, but it helps to know how when I need to… to...” They trailed off, then shook their head - a gesture they naturally shared with humans. “Never mind, it is not important right now. But… yes, I see what you mean now. That only takes one body. It probably only needs one body when you might need more, actually, since… oh, I forget the word.” The wings on their back buzzed to life, and they lifted a bit into the air. “Because of this.”

“Because you can fly, yeah,” he said. “Alright, things make more sense now. They really need to get this thing figured out.” He mock-glared at the laptop, though, being as incredibly experienced in the ways of singletons as they now were, Rivi was pretty certain that he was actually glaring at the dictionary that had thusfar been compiled.

“We are working on it right now, but we are having some trouble with a few… zo-o-lo-gi-cal terms,” Rivi said, in that odd way of speaking they had when they were copying the words they’d just heard with a different set of ears without necessarily understanding them. “Shirou says that Mariettasusanhakim-”

“Marietta,” Jeff interrupted. “Her first name is just Marietta.”

“You humans and your names,” Rivi said, amused, shaking their head and conveniently forgetting that one week that their name had been Hazerentirikvanelifahein. “Shirou says that Marietta will arrive in a few minutes to help, but it will take some time even once… she? She’s assisting.” They looked at the computer again, and added, “Though, if it only takes one person to change a lightbulb, why are you sending so many messages?”

“It’s only three,” Jeff protested, though admittedly, Rivi had a tendency to view any messages as a lot - which he, personally, was enjoying while it lasted, since in no more than a few decades, Rivi would probably view anything less than twelve billion as a laughably small number. “And I need to make sure this gets through to Maintenance - I think I’ve seen another one out, maybe a couple, actually, and the chief engineer hates not being on top of this sort of thing. And she’ll want to send out a few people to check all the lights, actually, so… huh, I guess I lied. I guess it will take more than one person. Only one for each lightbulb, but there will probably be a few people wandering around and checking for a few hours.”

Rivi was quiet for a moment, and he thought that was the end of it, until they said, “Twelve.”


“It will take twelve people to change all of the lightbulbs.”

He blinked, then grinned and smacked Rivi on the arm. “That’s cheating!”

“The last time you told me not to ask was seventeen hours and twenty-eight minutes ago,” the hive replied, smiling.

He laughed and set the laptop down. “Alright, guess that’s fair. Come on, then - that was the last thing I needed to take care of, and I need food. And no, before you ask, don’t just bring something here - the last thing we need is a diplomatic incident because of your taste buds, like what almost happened last month.”

“You are all so odd about your food,” Rivi said as they walked towards the door. Then, they paused and asked, “What are taste buds?”

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