Battle of Haibi Chapter 32
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 31: Triage
Chapter 32: Quarantine
In the distance, they can hear Kasei having his hissy fit about how the Haibane Renmei no longer exists and the lazy ashfeathers no longer make the rules.
Janice reads the sad list of rules.
"1. It is forbidden to speak the name or write the character this place was known by before."
She starts to think of alternative words, "setup", "open", "extend", and "assemble", now that the word "deploy" is forbidden.
"2. No person who works will be denied food and water, however no person who does not work will consume food or water. All must contribute to our community."
"If we contaminate every living thing we handle," Kenny sighs, "how are we going to contribute to the camp? What do we do for work?" The ten year old is feeling better now that he's had some of the notoriously awful tasting radiation remedy. Keepsie is in the process of dressing his wounded right arm by the light of the sun setting over the lip of the restored wall in the west.
"3. The haibane are," she stops for a moment, wiping a tear from her eye, "The haibane are not allowed to possess real money. An alternative means of economic exchange will be made once the Haibane Renmei is reestablished."
It is clear from the preamble of the handwritten declaration that the humans are now in charge, their equivalent of the Haibane Renmei called, as it was before, the Community Watch.
"4. The haibane are not allowed to own anything new," Janice gasps, lowers the document and says, "This is so unfair."
Samurai sits with the children and Janice in a stand of three tents with a boundary of small pebbles and red triangles on pickets to warn trespassers of the enemy's poison coursing through their veins, the insidious delta vector. Outside, three of the other four surviving ashfeathers stand: Shiden, Shinyoo and Kabocha, listening to Janice continue.
"They are only allowed to purchase and use items that humans no longer need, excepting expressly single use items, such as food and toiletries."
"5. The haibane are not allowed within one hundred metres of the wall, and are not allowed to possess weapons or armor of any kind. The humans will now defend themselves and the haibane."
Hagane returns from the informally elected leader's tent downcast.
"The ill must work as well, he says." Hagane looks up at the grey clouds which now block out the sun and the chill wind engulfing the camp. "Anyone who feeds someone who doesn't work will be exiled from the camp."
Keepsie picks the last of the glowing leaves out of Samurai's feathers to put them in the glass jar, "What are we going to do?" she desperately begs, "We can't do just anything without endangering the others with our delta vector."
"And it'll take over two months to work itself out of your systems," Hagane confirms. "At least the bradford herbs don't count as food."
"In more ways than one," Shinzoo says as he closes his notebook, "Their nutritional value is rather specific to the nervous and immune systems, and they have fewer calories than it takes to swallow the stuff."
"And we can't afford to spread delta vector through the entire camp," Shiden says, "Our supplies will not hold out if many more people come down with delta vector. Did he agree to forbid travel to Western University?"
"Yes," Hagane says, "but only if all haibane join the quarantine. I'm in. Safeguarding the few lives left in Hai-" he catches himself. "I mean, uh, the camp. It's worth the price. It's also worth this price to show that we still care."
"I agree," Kabocha says, "I don't feel like I've been released from my oath as a Defender." He walks towards the camp.
"Kabocha," Hagane says, raising his hand, "Just because we're in the quarantine doesn't mean we have to put ourselves at risk."
"We can't afford to waste the bradford we have left," Shiden says. I'll set up another border.
"I'm in," Shinyoo says with a tear, "Just let me go get my stuff first." He walks back to his little camp, knocks his little tent down, carries over what he can, and starts setting up again quickly before it gets too dark.
"That still leaves open the question of how we are going to work," Shiden points out as he pokes a couple more red triangle warning signs into the soil.
Hagane holds his hand up to the sky and observes a small clump of white flakes land on his hand and melt into a drop. It is the first of millions to fill the sky. "Snow removal."
Keepsie pulls her knees up to her chest and sobs, "Kasei brought this down on the camp himself with his silly rules. I prayed for work we could do so you could still be fed." As the storm blots out the stars above and the white flakes come down in waves she finishes, "This is the answer."
"Ten at a time," he grunts at the people clustered at the window in Defense Tower Four, "Unless you got more mud waders back there."
"Kasei," Yulie complains, "How are we supposed to get there in the dark?"
"Easy," the practical man points out. "First, put these on," he sets the mud waders on the window sill. He points out along the way he came, "See these little glowing bits? They lead straight back to Samurai's camp. Hagane's isolated the children because of some sort of poison. I don't think it's serious, but they seem to be pretty freaked, and we can't persuade the children either. All of them are orphans and Samurai's their father figure."
"These flakes aren't going to lead us straight into a leper colony are they?" Yulie gasps.
"They would, but I won't," Kasei explains, "Look left at the two candles I set up, and you'll be able to see the Flight Well and the fire pit." Not all of the grey in his hair is from the snow, and that there is a smattering of grey in his gull-winged mustache too. His face is lined from perhaps three decades of supervising a building panel factory filled with obstinate teenagers, unable to retain anyone with more than a mediocre level of skill and reliability because of his abrasive management style.
Because of the eddies caused by the Tower's intact shell, the snow is coming down even swifter inside it than outside. The westerly wind keeps it from accumulating very quickly along the path to the Flight Well. The haibane watch the eleven divert from the sparkly trail to the main camp at the edge of visibility. Whether the humans have seen them by their halos is not clear through the blizzard.
Shinyoo, who led the nearly two hundred already there before the flood and the first group of just under fifty just after the Defense Tower's collapse, shakes his head at the irony.
Hagane's appreciative smile at the end of their first meeting, as though from a mentor to a trusted apprentice probably grated at the former construction plant director over twice his apparent age. The humans trust him because he was efficient with his time and money, and very trustworthy. He was a man of his word, especially when that word was a threat. Hagane is confident that Kasei can lead the last seven hundred humans left in the universe through the greatest crisis of all time, at least better than Hagane can, although the once respected haibane can think of many people who'd probably do the job better, they are all dead, or, in the cases of Samurai and Kabocha, distrusted because of their failure to save Haibi. Hagane also knows that many of the survivors were his customers: recipients of a high quality, on time and on budget product line. The doctor hopes that they know how to handle things when it becomes obvious that Kasei is cut out to build houses, not communities.
Hagane crawls into his bough-augmented nylon tent and begins his struggle to rebalance his upended sleep cycle. Just as he is about to fall asleep, the thirty five centimetres of snow built up on his shelter causes it to collapse upon him and Shiden, whom he shares it with. The nylon keeps them dry, and the boughs spilled the fresh snow around the sides. Somehow it winds up feeling cozier this way, and Hagane is soon asleep.
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 33: The Beginning of a New World