Battle of Haibi Chapter 31
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 30: Snow Flies
Chapter 31: Triage
Samurai plods along, feeling like crap for failing Haibi. He saw the black spots on his wings. He deserves them. He is far ahead of Janice and the children.
"Samurai!" she calls ahead after him. He turns around, seeing glittering sparks covering her and all the children. "What is this stuff?"
Oh, no. Oh, crap. He looks down, looks at his hand. He's covered with the sparks as well. Hikarinium. Perhaps his feeling ill isn't just psychosomatic.
He runs back to Janice and asks, "When did you first notice it?"
"Right here," she points at the ground a few feet behind her, where the kids started to leave a trail of the little flakes in the dark, "What is it?"
"Hikarinium," he explains.
A ten year old boy collapses to his knees, leans over and vomits on the ground, clear fluid, gripping a painful scratch on his right arm with his left.
"The wall and foundation systems make hikarinium from delta vector and they're supposed to teleport it into storage ingots in the forges of the Defense Towers after a couple of minutes," he explains in a tone of dread. "The system has obviously been badly damaged."
"Delta vector?" Janice asks.
"The enemy's poison," Samurai whispers, "The wall can only convert it to hikarinium outside of living tissue, see?"
Janice follows Samarai's arm as he indicates the boy's puddle and its tiny glowing specks.
Samurai tears open the medical pack he's carrying with him, pulls out the package with the green triangles and lettering: "ΔビラヅホーヅΔ" on one side and the more recognized "ΔBRADFORDΔ" on the other side. He opens it to reveal black dust that once had been the remedy's herbs.
"How are you feeling?" Samurai asks.
"Not much better than that," Janice indicates the boy. All of the surviving children are showing signs of fever.
"I think I'm in the best shape among us," Samurai says. "I'll head towards Tower Four, the rest of you make your way to the Well of Flight. When you encounter people, make sure you don't touch them."
"How bad is it?" Janice asks.
"I don't know," Samurai confesses, "I'm a soldier, not a doctor. I wish Tori were here, he knew more about delta vector than anyone."
"How?" Janice asks.
"I don't know," Samurai says, but he suspects that he's treated crows infected with the stuff before.
Kabocha, aching, climbs the stepladder with his wife spotting for him, and Deborah's friend Yulie holding Jabez, who stares in wonder after his father. A second floor emergency provision closet hangs from the tower's wall, the floor having fallen away from it.
Kabocha takes the winter coats, still hanging from their bar above, and hands them down. A total of fifty. After those, he crawls up into the rest of the closet set back into the wall, and finds twenty more.
"Be fair with them," he quietly instructs, "Some of you still have good coats."
"They're felling trees in the Western Grove to build shelters," Shiden says sadly, "Cutting straw for beds. We didn't have a lot of trees to start with already. The humans around the Flight Well aren't listening to me or Samurai."
"Why should we?" Yulie growls, "This wasn't supposed to happen. You were supposed to keep Haibi safe."
"Please believe me," Kabocha says, "We did our best to defend Haibi. It wasn't good enough, we know."
"The light," Yulie grunts, "Why did you call it earlier? Why wait until over a hundred and sixty thousand people are dead?" she screams, "Why!? If you had this light, why wait so damn long?"
"I don't know," Kabocha weeps, "It wasn't issued to me."
"Someone's standing outside," a young man reports, "He's covered in white specks. I think it might be Samurai. He's refusing to come any closer."
"White specks?" Kabocha gasps.
"Glowing white specks, come see," the human beckons, "He's only a few metres outside the window Shiden was using."
Kabocha climbs to the window via the debris.
"Kabocha, I thought you were dead," Samurai rasps, "Brew me up some bradford, please. When it's ready, come out, set the cup, a water jug and a working heater on this here," he indicates a piece of stone flooring Shiden had thrown into the mud earlier. "And, some bradford herbs. Fresh if you can manage."
Kabocha wants to ask, but he can't. Samurai's in horrible shape, and he seems to be concerned about others with the same problem.
Kabocha finds a rechargeable camper's heater tablet. Works for about sixty hours on a charge, but there's no way to recharge it with the power grid down. It can't be helped, and he'll spare anything that can be spared to save the few lives left in Haibi... He emerges from the Tower into the mud, having found a pair of good hip waders, and sets it on the debris, then backs away.
Samurai staggers to the spot, takes the cup in both hands, slams his eyes shut against the stench and pitches it back. After one hearty gulp he lowers it suddenly, spilling a little, and screams, "My God, this stuff tastes worse than I thought!" He swallows the residual in his mouth, then finishes the awful brew.
"To top it off, the Wallblessing vine resin reacts with all sugars and sweeteners," Kabocha moans. "Never had it before, boss?"
"Nope," Samurai coughs. He looks at Kabocha and says, "Western University is flooded with delta vector, damage to the foundation. I've got ten kids, one tailor, and no time to lose. See you later." Samurai takes the kit and slogs his way back through the muck towards the Mid Circle Road, which hasn't completely flooded over.
Samurai rides on his horse. In front of him, dead peasants lie on the ground, mostly men. Children and their mothers cower and beg as he dips his torch into the pit of a fire, lighting it.
Samurai can't stop as the knight he once was trots his horse up to the side of a house and lights its thatched straw roof on fire. Another, and another as mothers scream and children cry.
No! Stop doing this, you're burning innocent people out of their homes!
They are not innocent.
Yes they are. They were upset because you were taxing them out of a livelihood just so you could wipe your ass with purple linen!
Samurai's eyes pop open and behold the cyan sky of morning.. He's lying beside a large log, an old fallen tree at the edge of the Western Grove, curled up in the wet grass.
<See how much different you are today?> the voice in his heart asks, < I'm proud of you, my precious child. Please come home.>
"Defender," a tiny voice squeaks. Samurai looks up to see an eight year old girl with dirty brown hair and tattered brown ... formerly pink pyjamas. "I'm sorry for what I said back at Western Univerity," she says timidly, "I don't hate you, and," a tear rolls from her eyes and washes a path down her grubby cheek, "thank you for bringing us the cure."
She sits down on the log. "Master Samurai, we'd all be dead without you." She extends her hand for him, "Thank you for saving us. Thank you for saving Haibi."
He looks up at her. He doesn't deserve such accolades. You must be joking!
"May I," she indicates the log, "sleep on the other side. I haven't been able to since Mommy and Daddy dragged me out of bed on Friday."
"Go ahead, sweetie," Samurai says.
"Mommy," she weeps, "Daddy."
"Oh, what's your name? Mine's Samurai, I'm sorry for leaving you undefended in the Western University."
"Keepsie," she says, "and thank you for giving me a place to rest." She disappears over the other side of the log with a tattered nylon awning and blanket and is sound asleep in moments.
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 32: Quarantine