Wednesday, December 28, 2016

18: an Effective Clutch

CRISIS! FEAR! PARALYSIS!  The worst of all possible outcomes! 

The Factor sent three.  Follow the meat animals.  See where the animals den.  Find the animals’ hive.  Report.  The Factor sent three, an effective clutch, successful in many sendings.  The Clutch rode upon the meat animal’s windboat.  Underneath.  Out of sight.  Crawling out in darkness to feed on the animals.  Lightly.  Sparingly.  Not to drain but to quench the Need.  To silence.  To survive.  To continue the sending. 

Fever took the animals one by one.  Feeding became easier.  Less eyes to notice the Clutch.  Less attentive.  More sickened.  Less drove the boat.  Slower it went.  Could a windboat die?  Was it an animal too?  Did it feed off the meat animals?  The Clutch discussed this.  The Clutch wondered what to do if the windboat stopped when the last of the animals ceased to be vital.  The mission would fail.  The Clutch would fail.  The Factor would …

One must not picture what the Factor would do.  To die in one’s mind before dying in one’s body.  One would screamcast.  One would become ineffective.  The Factor sent three.  Two now held down one as it screamcast its fear.  It wished to leap upon the burning windboat.  It wished to risk exposure to the meat animals upon the skyboat.  It wished to gather precious bloated corpses, full of ichor, full of vitality for drinking.  It wished to fill its crop before the flames turned all to ash and useless vapor.  It must not.  The animals upon the skyboat would have hornets.  Buzzing, cracking, crackling weapons which though small, could sting.  Some stings just made holes.  Some turned harvesters to ash and vapor.  Others struck like the lightning of sandstorms.  The hornets were a plague the meat animals alone possessed.  Skyboats were ghastly effective at using these weapons.  One must never let one’s self be seen.  Two sat upon one.  The windboat burned.  The skyboat grew smaller and smaller toward where the sun rose. 

Just before it disappeared completely, One’s clutchmate inquired if One could subdue the third alone.  One chopped.  The clutchmate pulled two pieces of debris from the burning wreckage and then carefully set one in the sand.  Then it crawled as far from the burning windboat as it dared and planted the second stick.  It buried itself into the sand and took many sightings over it’s stick.  It moved it slightly, took more sightings and then watched without moving until the skyboat was beyond seeing.

The danger of being observed passed and One let up the panicked third kin.  It leapt upon the burning windboat, not much more than a skeleton, black and crumbling.  The kin dragged two partially burned corpses out, all three of them still on fire.  The two fell upon the precious corpses, rolling them in the sand and putting out the flames.  Then the two attended to the one.  It was damaged but serviceable.  All three harvested the corpses, draining them.  There was much less than one would have hoped.  There was no way to know how much, the Need subsided but a harvester had no sense of one’s own crop.  It could be full or empty.  One could only guess from other data.  The drinking had not been long.  Movement was not heavy or sluggish.  One guessed the crops of the Clutch were closer to empty than full. 

“PUZZLEMENT”  One cast to it’s mates.  It danced the familiar dance of the collective, ‘Harvester, where hast thou found food?’  The kin knew what was meant.  What must the Clutch do?
The effective Clutch sat on its haunches and waited.
The windboat burned out.
One used resin to repair damage to the burned kin.
One slept.
The sun set.  The wind cooled.
The stars came out from hiding.  The undamaged kin took new sightings along it’s planted sticks at the lights.  One saw the kin’s plan now.  Guidance by star was well known among them.  The sticks had allowed one to keep track of the skyboat’s course.
“FOLLOW.” it cast and the effective Clutch set out.

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