Sunday, February 5, 2017

20 Soon

The feeding time came.  The Harvesters came in, their crops bulging, or not, each according to the success of it and its kin’s foraging.  Each went directly to its own Factor, and each Factor moved nary a tentacle to receive them until they were nearly touching.  And, as is the way of Factors, moved only then as if uninterested but granting the trembling Harvester a favor.  But make no mistake, each Factor there sized up the crops of one’s rivals.  Which was successful?  Which was not?  Were any floundering?  Could power moves be made?  Which Factor could be a useful ally?  Which a threat?  Which could be overpowered and its stock subsumed?  The Factor-with-the-Plan had long ago trained its stock on penalty of death to always, ALWAYS send a full Harvester to it in the Factorium even if it meant the rest need starve.  This deliberate masquerade of strength or weakness was necessary and yet in the end, useless.  All Factors did it.  So the relative strength of a Factor’s Stock was still known.  A Factor which was fed from a hungry Harvester was a Factor with nothing left to hide behind; it was a Factor marked.

These moons no Harvester came in flush.  Prey animals rarely ventured this far into the Sea anymore.  Even the stinging meat animals were rarely seen since the last hive of them was overpowered in the most recent raid.  The Stock had to range far and wide and use far too much of it’s own crop to return.  Much of the casting and dancing around the Factorium of late dealt with the need for a new raid and where it should be focused.  The mood was ripe.  The Collective Factors of Factors would decide eventually.  But an ambitious Factor, a daring Factor, a Factor with a Plan could find co-conspirators in the tense tangle of tentacles. 

It was therefore with barely restrained eagerness the Factor-with-the-Plan perceived the particular Harvester which brought its evening feeding.  One which it had not perceived in much time.  A weary and travelworn Harvester.  Still, it could not appear eager.  So it left the miserable creature to tremble a while.  Then it slithered out a thick grasping limb and drew it close.  A feeding tentacle pierced its crop and slowly it began to drink.  The Factor was nearly trembling itself.  It took particular care not to damage the Harvester overly much.  It restrained itself.  It drank with care, holding the vessel as something precious.  Not for the life sustaining ichor within its very body but the knowledge it now held in something no tentacle could reach.  How to extract this without being noticed by the other Factors?

“Where?” it cast.
“Far-far.” it cast back.
“Success?”  The Harvester raised one arm and let it fall as if involuntarily.  There were many bodily responses to a Factor’s feeding, few of them premeditated.
“Success?”  One asked again.  One must be sure.  Slowly, the same arm raised and was allowed to just drop as if the Harvester swooned.  One nearly broke the Harvester in one’s joy but it cast fear to One and One relaxed it’s grip and ended the feeding, setting it back on its own feet.  “Prepare kin,” it cast.  Tell the others to get ready.
“When?” the Far-far Foraging Scout Harvester asked.  When would the Plan be implemented?  How much time did one have to prepare?  The Factor scanned the Factorium.  One had spent the interminable time of waiting observing One’s fellow Factors.  One had formed a list of potentials.  One now narrowed it further.  Potentials could be neither too strong nor too weak.  Potentials must be desperate and ambitious enough to undertake a risky venture but not so weak as to unable to be helpful.  But again, for One’s purposes, Potentials must not be strong enough to be challengers.  The Plan required control.  One would need be careful in all choices.  Even in giving One’s stock information too specific. 
“Soon,” it cast.  “Go.”  “Prepare.”

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