Battle of Haibi Chapter 7
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 6: Trade Disruption
Chapter 7: Broken Wings
"The enemy is trying to lay siege," Samurai says, "and they tried to kill me, probably assuming that the Communicators are always unarmed."
Roku and Samurai walk through the Western Grove, looking for signs of the wraith spies that might be hiding there, "I'm thinking it might be a problem if they overhear us," she says.
"Good point," Samurai says, "I'm wondering if the ones who killed those kids are hanging out around here."
They hear a rustle and look up. A crow sits on a branch, seems rather interested in them.
"What's with them?" Roku asks, "They don't just stick to the feeders on the wall any more. I've seen them everywhere."
"Ruby said they were sentient creatures, resurrected from previous lives like us," he whispers. "She said that to me the day before she flew."
"Is this one trying to tell us something?" Roku wonders aloud.
The crow takes off and snags its feet above another branch, flaps his wings a couple of times to hover, then draws his wings to his sides, still four feet above the thick branch below him.
Samurai stretches his wing a bit and says, "Kabocha, Roku and I might be a little late getting-"
Roku recoils with surprise as the wraith decloaks with a yellow flash. The crow gets thrown by its claw before the wraith jumps down at Samurai.
"No!" Roku cries as she reaches for her sidearm, fearing that Samurai might already be dead.
Far from it: the now motionless wraith is skewered shishkabob-style on Samurai's sword even before Roku has her pistol raised. Samurai lowers the glowing tip of his sword to the ground and shoves the carcass off with his foot, whence it burns.
There is a caw, grating and agonized, from the base of the next tree. "Oh, no!" Roku cries and rushes to the site of the injured bird. She activates her radio phone with her wing and says, "Hagane, can you hear me? We have a badly hurt crow in the Western Grove."
<Shinzoo here, Hagane's busy right now. Did you say a crow?>
"Yeah," Roku replies as she assesses the condition of the unfortunate bird. "We found a wraith and ... the crow got hurt."
<Why is a crow so important?>
Samurai shakes his head. What Ruby said is apparently meant for a limited audience.
"What can I say? The crow's my favorite bird," Roku chuckles.
<That's not surprising,> Shinzoo's voice chuckles, <since their the only species of bird left who can fly. Take him to Western University, I'm there studying.>
"How?" Roku can tell bones are broken, "He's been really badly hurt, and I think it might be dangerous to move him without ... you know ... splints or something."
<Okay, I'm on my way.>
Twenty minutes later, a haibane kid with grey wings shows up. He's physically about twelve. "Shinzoo's on his way, by the way, but when I heard why he was coming, I figured I better come along."
He crouches by the distressed bird, listens intently. "You're not scared of me?" he asks, "or are you in really that bad of shape?" The boy puts a tiny stethoscope against the bird's breast, under its carbon-colored feathers. He moves it around. "No organ injuries," he remarks, "so why aren't you trying to tear me up with your talons?"
The bird simply waits. It shows signs of pain as the brown-haired boy splints his wings to his body. Checking the bird with his stethoscope again, he announces, "We need to hurry, the broken humerus of his right wing is bleeding into his thoracic air sac. I," he slowly shakes his head, "don't think he's going to make it, but I'll do my best."
"What do you need when we get back?" Shinzoo asks, having caught up.
The boy orders, "In my lab, there's a box of titanium dowels. Tell them to find the one labelled number two humerus, and sterilize it for surgery."
"Oh," Roku says, "Thank you so much. I didn't catch your name, mine's Roku."
The boy shakes her hand, "Tori, pleased to meet you."
"Tori?" Roku gasps.
"As in bird, yes," the boy confirms, "In my dream I was surrounded by crows who waited on my hand and foot while I lay sick."
As Tori carries the unfortunate bird back to Western University, he lets it grasp his finger for comfort.
"These hills," Samurai points out, "the way the wind hits them, after coming off the wall in Sector Five, is very strong and consistent, especially in the autumn." The hill is spotted with garden shacks that Roku already knows are more to hide mortars and their ammo than to grow vegetables. "If we ever need to build a windmill, that would be the perfect spot." To the north of it is the freestanding Defense Tower Five, ever on vigil. To make sure her bearings are right, Roku looks south and sees, much further away, Defense Tower Four standing near the entrance of the river, which is carried by a solidly founded aqueduct around the perimeter of the city to its exit near the north.
They then cross the small bridge over a little creek that leads to Western University from the western side. The University of Medicine is surrounded by its own square wall, four bustling buildings arranged in a square within, and a beautiful sculpture in the middle of the courtyard, all in perfect shape. The sculpture seems to be of swirling energy waves surrounding a tiny cube in the middle.
The bird starts struggling only when other people start getting near Tori.
"Shh, shh. It'll be alright little fella, it'll be alright." Tori turns to the two Defenders and whispers, "He respects you two. Be really quiet until we get back to my lab."
"Be a good fella," Tori says as he puts a cone over the crow's beak. The crow soon passes out from the anasthetic. Shinzoo assists the skilled boy as he puts the crow's broken wing back together with the titanium dowel.
The next day, Roku returns. She sees the aviary attached to the west end of the North Wing, and recognizes her bird as it stands on a perch, rather in a bad mood. Two other crows are in the aviary with it. One sits on the floor with a broken leg, another on a perch, picks at a feeder, a black bandage on its breast instead of feathers, and its wing on the same side in a dark grey sling. The feathers on its other wing look like they've been burnt away with a match.
"Hi, Roku," Tori says as he comes up beside her. "He's doing very well. I've been seeing a lot of injured crows lately, especially in the Western Grove. Could that wraith thing that's been in the news been hurting them, too?"
"Yeah, he uh-" Roku stops herself, then finishes the thought differently, "got caught when we found one."
Tori tugs on Roku's sleeve and reaches up to her shoulder, making sure she can't use her phone while he whispers, "They're smart ... I mean human smart ... That's top secret by the way. Tell no one, not even Samurai."
"Samurai told me that already," Roku says casually.
"Oh," Tori smiles and lets her go, "I guess that isn't news to you then, and that explains..."
"Explains?" Roku asks.
"Why he trusts you," Tori says. He meant to make it look like he was referring to Samurai to the bystanders.
Roku turns to the bird and says, "Thanks for your help. Get well soon."
The bird gives her a tiny nod, enough to show that he understands.
"Help?" Tori asks.
Roku leans down to the shorter boy's ear and whispers, "He showed us where the wraith was."
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 8: Not a Big Deal at All