This is the hive. After so long fruitlessly following cold trails, suddenly everything comes together and it's like Fate tapped you on the shoulder and said, "Now." Of the three hives you'd narrowed the field to based on distance from the shops where Cloris and Erskin were sighted, only two were within the service area of the aircab company Cloris used to fetch Jethro. You didn't get back to Scorpius in time to follow his lusus, but it turns out that in a northern hivecluster like this, an ice bear purposefully trotting down the street is the kind of thing people blog about. Is it someone's lusus, or is it a random predator? Dare you shoot it and find out? Pancho tracked Paw by the tweets he occasioned, and that led you here. To this... incredibly obvious drinker-lair with its absurdly high security, rose vhines worked into the electrified fences, and one last sad pizza drone still ringing the gate buzzer every thirty seconds. The pavement under it is dry; it's been here since before the snow started. Unfortunately, the lawnring is immense, and all the other hives around here have huge lawnrings too. Cloris's garden is too low and manicured to provide any decent cover. The closest place you can set up your sniper nest is a tall tree nearly two kilometers away. Fortunately, despite the slushy drizzle, there isn't much wind, or even that wouldn't be any good because it would sway. The neighbor in whose lawnring the tree grows is having a party. There's a faceted dome attached to the back of the hive, and through the condensation-fogged glass you can vaguely make out trollish shapes splashing in chlorine-blue water. The faint laughter that wafts up to you as you climb the tree (numbed fingers gripping climbing belt, cleat-strapped boots slipping on the moss-slimed bark) is bright, joyful, innocent, not a mean note in it. Why couldn't Cloris have taken Erskin to a party like that, instead of a medication-interaction party at the STD farm? Oh, right, because she's completely foul in every way. Unpacking, assembling, and attaching your collapsible hunting stand while clinging to a wet trunk fifteen meters off the ground is not the sort of process you want to rush. You have to push away thoughts of what Erskin might be going through right now, what might have happened to Jethro, what Galley and Lu are up to, the possibility of someone from the pool party noticing you and alerting the neighborhood or taking potshots -- push away all thoughts except this here now, what's in your hands and before your eyes. As a result, you begin to fall into that peaceful sniper zen state even before you've assembled your rifle. And once it's done, once you're in position -- rain softly pattering on the night-camo plastic rain cape covering you and your gear, rifle resting on the stand's edge, scope focused to the correct distance -- time ceases to be a thing that happens to you. With the infinite patience of Death herself, you scan the windows of the hive and wait for your moment.