Fear. One was a fool. How could one harvester search such a hive in just a few nights. If all the Effective Clutch was with One, it together would not be able to search this sprawling, multi-level hive in a moon cycle! The scents and signatures all blended together and disappeared into the desert, blown away by the wind. The Collective Hive was laid out in such a way as to aid a Harvester’s senses, the wind trapped, manipulated. One could follow one’s sense of smell to the hatchery or to the Factors’ feeding chamber or to and entrance. The scents weren’t jumbled, overlapped, confused as they were here. One needed a plan. One needed one’s clutchmates. One needed information one did not have. Knowledge of the meat animals’ hive and its workings. One had no time. One had no aid. One was one. One was inadequate.
The Kinslayer had avoided the hornet’s hive-camp. One feared. The Purpose required one alive, one must be successful. Detection or injury by the hornets would doom the mission. Harvesters stalked and drank hornet animals when necessary. If the Need had been greater, more pressing, if prey wasn’t in such abundance, one would have overcome one’s fear.
Interesting, the Kinslayer thought, One thought a lot now, which had been last night’s interesting thought, One was more vulnerable to fear and self-preservation when one’s crop was full. One was in danger of indulging One’s fears. One’s safety was not more important than the Purpose. One could suppress fear when One was in the thrall of the Need. The Kinslayer felt it had been remiss. One would search the hornet animal’s camp!
Tomorrow. Tonight the hornet camp was alert and a wailing fear sound emanated from it. Hornets and their machines were swarming out into the meat animal city. Perhaps there would be time to search it the next day. No, but soon, the search would have to be stepped up, the Swarm could not be far off now. One would have to search during the day as well. The Kinslayer added fear of searching during the day to its growing list of dreads.
Feed. Drink. Hunt, stalk, subdue. Feeding soothed the Need. It hushed the fear. The Kinslayer crept from shadow to shadow, staying up out of eyesight. The meat animals custom of building their chambers up and separate like small, stunted hive spires made staying above their sight line much easier. Eaves and roofs hid the Kinslayer from view. Meat animals seldom looked up, if one moved slowly; One had observed meat animal’s vision to be drawn to movement. The Kinslayer decided to search the part of the meat hive as far from the hornet camp as possible. One was only being sensible.
One picked up a scent of a youngling and followed it to an open window. It slept. One could see its cool heat signature and hear its quiet breathing. It mewled once when the tooth pierced skin but after was silent. No alarm was cast. The meat animals nearby were unaware. The Kinslayer went to leave but a familiar scent caught its attention.
It was not the One-who-traded-corpses but it was associated with it. It was fresh! It had been here this day. Its scent was everywhere. It slept here! It was very possible it would return here tonight! The Kinslayer thought hard. It considered possibilities. It found a hiding perch and settled in to wait.