Battle of Haibi Chapter 10
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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 9: 'Tis the Season
Chapter 10: Tribulation
"Kikkotsu no Haibi," the Central Tower kiosk begins to announce the time, "76 years, twelfth month, second day. In the morning, nine o'clock, five minutes before."
"Why ... is the auditorium locked?" Hagane wonders as he struggles with the stubborn door.
"There will be a delay of eight minutes," the Speaker announces from the kiosk.
"Okay," somebody answers, "This is just bizarre, I've never seen ... never even heard of a meeting delayed like this. What for?"
"Due to security concerns, I am unable to answer your question at this time," the soft female voice explains.
"We've been locked in this foyer for almost an hour," Hagane says, "Haibane Renmei members are stuck outside and unable to register-"
There's a crack and a scream.
Roku responds immediately, pulling a hidden pistol and shooting the wraith whose claw protrudes through the thigh of an elderly lady. She trips over her feet and falls. Her right wing snaps as it gets between her back and the floor.
"Shiden (紫電, Flash) here," her radio erupts as she reholsters her pistol, "Got the one on the other side, no injuries."
"Weapons, in here?" an ignorant council member gasps, then sees the smouldering monster and hears the woman screaming, gripping the burning claw sticking through her leg.
The cinders burn her hands and her wound, failing to cauterize it. Blood gushes out onto the carpeted floor.
"Roku-chan reporting. Target down on southside," Roku says tersely as she pulls a powder packet out of her pocket, "Medical emergency. Haibane, left hip and right wing humerus broken, age about sixty." [Note: it is rare, and probably rude, for someone to refer to herself with an honorific of any type in Japanese. Roku does so she doesn't get confused with a number.]
<Six minutes, Roku-san,> comes the reply, <Do what you can to stabilize her. Even if it's Taka, we can't open the doors for her.>
"Acknowledged," Roku says, feeling the low temperature in the wound as she pours the package into it. "Crud," she mutters, before pressing her mike switch, "Delta poisoning confirmed. Roku-chan to Western University and Defense Tower Four. Delta poisoning Central Tower, Katia and herbals requested immediately upon end of lockdown."
A friend rubs the victim's head as Roku pours another package of the chitosan-like powder into her leg wound. "Taka, you're going to be okay. Defense has things under control."
Hagane arrives at the scene. He pauses as he realizes that Roku is performing her first aid tasks at about triple his accustomed speed, and decides to wait for her to finish before offering his expertise.
"Hold here," she orders a bystander, "Let's roll her over and get some in the exit wound." She reaches for another pack and finds that she's already used both. She looks at Hagane and asks, "Got another?"
The doctor shakes his head.
"Gangway!" Roku orders, pointing at a recessed orange cabinet with a white cross on it, "Get it please." Turning again to her helper, "Keep pressure on this part," indicating the part with the scarlet-soaked powder already clumping into it. Her own hands can do little to contain poor Taka's adrenaline and poison fueled arterial pressure as the blood puddles around Roku's knees. Except to clear the path to the first-aid kit, Roku has never raised her voice. While obviously nervous, she is the only person present with no signs of panic.
Hagane's shaking hands have trouble getting the first-aid kit off its nook in the wall and he drops it. Someone else grabs it and it flies from hand to hand until it finally lands beside Roku, who pops it open and tears a powder bandage with her teeth before quickly dumping it into the wound.
"My - my wing is broken," Taka complains.
"Ma'am that is the least of your problems right now," Roku says tersely, knowing that in the exceedingly unlikely event she survives, her leg will certainly need to be amputated.
<Kabocha here, Roku-san,> her radio whispers, <How bad is it?>
"Oh, no," Roku squeaks, finally starting to sound a little panicked, "Not a big deal at all."
Kabocha's eyes are pinned as he clutches the just-picked herbal remedy package to his chest, listening, <Shinzoo reporting from Western University, Roku-san. We'll need an hour to defrost the Katia, we uh, ... weren't expecting any delta radiation cases today.>
Kabocha rushes to a pod elevator set into the wall, keying the radio, "I'll-" The rush of accelerating up inside the wall of the tower silences him.
<Say again, Number Four?> Roku requests.
"I'll be there before the lockdown ends," Kabocha says as he jumps out of the elevator pod. He slams his back against the low rampart wall next to the descending elevator pod, extracting a package from a hidden compartment with clasps on his robe, then sprints across to the edge of the tower's roof facing town, past the plasma turret perched in the middle, and flings himself off the edge.
As he freefalls, still clutching his precious herbal package, the pack behind him detaches completely from his back, pulling open ports in his robe. His wings emerge. You can laugh if you want, they obviously can't save him. The pack's two glowing carabiners suddenly fly away to either side as Kabocha still clutching onto the herbal package for dear life, falls about fifteen metres below, almost a third the height of the Defense Tower he just leapt from. The pack transforms into a sky blue wing spanning nine metres, and Kabocha is caught up into the air under it.
It has power that no eye can see. Kabocha hovers below the elliptical blue wing, as though hanging from an invisible harness. He pulls down his right wing, the craft turns right. He pulls down his left, and the opposite occurs. The wind beats at his robe, and still his hands only clutch his precious payload of herbs for the treatment of delta radiation poisoning. Rather than aiming at the Central Tower directly, he flies to the end of a street, and zooms between the buildings. This is the fastest object within the wall of Haibi at the moment, racing faster than any scooter, four and a half kilometres from Defense Tower Four to the Central Tower in just three minutes, a the end of which he pulls up hard, almost dragging his feet along the tiled stone at sixty kilometres per hour. He comes to a dead stop ten metres from an entrance to the Central Tower, then gently sets his feet on the stone of Haibi's open courtyard.. Above him, the wing folds up again into its grey bag and, just as he had pulled it from the wall, it lands beside him. Neither hand left the package for poor Taka. Rushing up to the door, a frustrated Council member mutters, "Speaker won't let you in for one more minute."
"Hot water?" he asks, opening the putrid medicine package. He sets it down and starts setting the thumb-sized sheaves of herbs into the automatic press, which grinds them and mixes them in an instant.
Inside, Roku backs away as Hagane kneels beside Taka, the warrior having done everything she could with the available equipment in the first six minutes after the enemy struck her down. Hagane is shocked to find that her broken leg is very cold, far colder than should be possible in just six minutes.
"Kabocha's waiting outside with a Bradford herbal kit," Roku says, "What should I do, Doctor?"
"Hot water," Hagane orders.
Roku immediately goes over to a refreshment station and orders some. The door next to it opens and Kabocha sets the brewer down beside her. "Right in here," he orders.
Roku winces as she pours the boiling water in, and several observers retreat. "Ugh," she grimaces, "smells about right, I'd say."
"Taka, we're going to get you to Western University," Hagane assures her, "You'll be in good hands with Shinzoo and Tori, I assure you. Shinzoo is a vascular surgeon, you can guess from his name, while Tori knows a lot about delta radiation."
"My issues?" Taka trembles.
"They're on the agenda, Speaker can read them for you," Hagane assures her, "I know how you vote, Taka, we've worked together for many years, and I know you'd vote different from me on many issues." He offers his hand, "If you give me your proxy, I'll cast your votes the way you do ... I promise."
Taka, no longer able to focus her eyes on him, gasps, "Hagane, you'd do that?"
The doctor gives her a solemn nod.
"Speaker," she struggles to order, "Hagane has my votes, you hear me? Give Hagane my votes during the meeting."
"Understood," the soft female computer voice says from far away, "Haibane Hagane will be proxy voting on your behalf, Haibane Taka. Get well soon."
The last comment shocks the audience. Even Samurai, who has just arrived from having been locked outside, is perplexed. Speaker, however offers no elaboration. Despite the incredible disruption, the Haibane Renmei meeting is conducted with almost perfect normalcy, even though everyone's heart except the computer's is obviously sore from the events that transpired in the foyer.
"The Haibane Renmei is adjourned until next week, Seventy Six, December Ninth. Dismiss." As the hall begins to empty, the computer's soft voice begins again. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my sad duty to report, that Lady Taka has left the nest before her time ... eleventh hour and fifteenth minute from the Western University Hospital."
That was fifteen minutes before the meeting ended. No one seems to care how the computer found out.
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 11: Tailspin