FHD Remix Chapter 43
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 42: Tears For The Toga
Chapter 43: Homes for the Toga; Growing in the Garden
[In this chapter is buried a homage to Aliens, the 1986 Twentieth Century Fox movie written and directed by James Cameron based on the 1979 original Alien directed by Ridley Scott, the protagonist played by Sigourney Weaver; possibly the most successful piece of fan-fiction ever.]
Menmo, Yaiba, Shimoni, Joe and Tsunami are gathered around the table in East Tower's guest room at Old Home. Leroy stands behind Tatakai. The meal is half bakery take-out, and half home cooking by Yaiba. Jack and Nancy, the ravens, stand on the piano.
"We have twenty-two new Toga," Tatakai says, "They emerged in the wall early this morning."
"Really?" Tsunami squeals, "Since no one else is allowed in the wall, you might have to get them to clean up their own cocoons."
Tatakai smiles at her. Tsunami's probably smart enough to realize the truth, but definitely smart enough to realize, that even if her perception was accurate, the issue she brought up is trivial.
"Wow," Shimoni says, "Can they do trade?"
"No," Tatakai says, "Not until we re-establish contact with Toga outside so they can get lost to the enemy among them. I believe their appearance corresponds with a specific enemy deployment, and if the enemy finds that correlation, they would be slaughtered immediately."
"What if there are no Toga outside?" Shimoni asks.
Tatakai looks over her shoulder at Leroy.
Leroy first closes his eyes, signs what he learned from the Toga, the name of the Saviour, then opens them. They are still their natural green color. "At last knowledge two weeks ago," he says at last, "Three hundred, seventy Toga were thought to be alive by our enemy, who also believe that all seven of the Toga who participated in the Battle of Sangatsu are dead."
"The incursion two months ago at the Great Gate?" Joe asks.
Jack caws, and Tatakai looks at him as he fumbles with his toes.
Tatakai turns back to them and says, "Jack says four hundred, twenty-two."
That surprised everyone at the table. Even Nancy gazes at him in wonder.
Tsunami stands and says to the raven who wasn't using his toes, "He's right, isn't he?" She flaps her own right wing, "Is that how many Toga are really left outside?"
Nancy does the same. Right then and there, Jack starts teaching Nancy raven-foot Toganese. She'll pick it up much slower than Tatakai did.
"Why the discrepancy?" Joe asks.
"Like us Haibane," Tatakai says, "The Toga do not reproduce, but emerge from previous lives in a new form as Toga. In this way, seventy-four Toga have emerged since the incursion at the Great Gate and have not been registered with the enemy's trade association."
"Twenty-two inside the wall, and fifty-two outside?" Tsunami asks.
"That would be correct, Tsunami," Tatakai confirms.
"Unfortunately," Joe says, "That means of course that the enemy has been at least trying to keep count, probably even trying to control them all these years. We've been respectful of their wish to stay anonymous, and have made no attempt, at least on any record I've seen, to tell one from another."
"The vendors can as a matter of course," Tatakai says, "but those vendors can't really tell if it is the same Toga delivering their type of merchandise. They only suspect that is the case. The Toga prisoners were surprised to observe me cry for their newborns. The vendors, some of them at least, are really worried about the fate of the Toga for their own sakes. I think the Toga would be very surprised."
Shimoni is staring at her fingernails, realizing that her concern for the Toga related to Glie. It never occurred to her that the Toga deserve consideration in their own right.
"But how do we get out of this mess?" Joe asks, "I mean, will our sentient kinds ever escape this bleak existence and you know, have a future?"
"We can't," Menmo says softly but very insistently, "Our only option is to hang on until the Saviour returns, even if it is generation after generation in the future of children too far removed to remember us. Even if humanity dies out and all that remains are a couple dozen haibane to pick among the ruins. We must endure until the Saviour's return."
They are silent for a time.
"Tatakai," Tsunami sighs, "If you can't tell one Toga from another, you will have to keep all of them in the tower. Twenty-eight Toga. If you let out the twenty-two who you think are the newborns, how do you know the traitors won't be among them?"
She gets quite a few amazed looks. Tsunami's physical age is only eight years!!
"I have gotten to know the six elders," Tatakai says, "and..." Tatakai dangles on Tsunami's point. "Good thinking, Tsunami," she says, "even today they could..." she trails off.
"Aw, crud," Shimoni says, "We can't house twenty-nine people in there. The temple has no roof, only eight rooms and even we could, it would be so unfair to the newborns to imprison them. They haven't done anything wrong."
Jack is very sad. He has a history with them as Ticks. He knows that they helped him deliver the power cells to the Beaver Butch, remembers how they provided him with the ropes from their silk to get the Conestoga wire over the wall. He knows that Erebus discovered their treachery and sent them on an abeyance mission, predicting that Tatakai would fry them on his behalf.
"The traitors can't get past me," Tatakai says, "I won't be able to tell one Toga from another, but I can tell a newborn from an elder."
Shimoni smiles, "That's good. Next, we must accommodate them in the North Nest. We have two livable suites left in the East Tower, at two each means we'll need to accommodate eighteen in the North Nest. Yaiba and Tatakai will have to clear their spare rooms. That leaves twenty-two, counting Yurushi, who's already living with me, among five houses. Four and five to a house will be quite a squeeze. I'll get Kurai to train a few for construction, and we should be able to complete two, perhaps three more houses before the white stuff arrives."
"Can she handle it?" Yaiba asks, "I mean, you're better at it-"
"I'm too busy saving the power grid so we don't freeze to death," Shimoni says, "We are going to be out of heating fuel by the winter and most of what we got left has to go into," she points out the window at the mustard colored crane she just acquired, "that."
"It's getting pretty tight around Glie, isn't it?" Joe asks.
"Affirmative," Tsunami says with a salute.
"That fire displaced over a hundred people," Shimoni winces, then chuckles, "A steadily shrinking population and we still have a housing crunch. It's not the first one I've dealt with."
"What?" Joe gasps, "This is the only one Glie's had in my memory."
"She's probably thinking of the red planet," Tatakai says, "her first life."
"Probably," Shimoni says, "I don't remember red, though. Just tasteless metal boxes with sparse furnishings and no windows, built by sun-yellow mechanical arms that still amaze me whenever I see them in my dreams." With a smile she says, "I would punch into a glowing picture, build one hundred, go to bed, wake up the next morning and they'd have them stacked up neatly in the storage area. One big cube of boring steel boxes."
"Come on," Yaiba whines, "It's not like these houses are very exciting!"
"I know," Shimoni says with a laugh, "These boxes had the same floor plan."
Everybody's laughing in moments.
Yurushi and Kurai hear a ping as the drill bit penetrates the pipe. Yurushi continues to pedal the contraption as Kurai pulls the old pipe away from the drill bit sticking out of the side of the bicycle wheel and sets it to drill another hole.
Helen hammers together the squat water tower that will be topped by the canvas lined steel tank they ordered from Hubert the welder. The Young Feather they brought along for the walk, ten years in apparent age, started jumping up and down in familiarity, flapping his recently Saviour-bleached wings excitedly as he repeated over and over again that welding is something he does every night in his dreams. Now Glie has two people who can fuse two pieces of metal.
"Shimoni will be able to fill this thing up in like three seconds," Helen affirms, "It'll save her so much time. Oops," Helen stoops to pick up the plain black logbook Tatakai had given her. Instead of the cover, the first page inside, a stout card, has her name 「ヘレナ」 in the traditional katakana, and the respected Haibane Renmei seal. Helen clutches it with a smile at her new winged friends, feeling privileged to be among them.
On their break later, she jokes, "I'm in charge."
Her two friends look at each other, then laugh. It is obvious she's last on the pecking order in Old Home, youngest hireling of the Haibane, she might be the lowest ranking individual in all of Glie.
"Really," she says softly, a tone of admiration, "until he comes back."
"Like, how can you say that?" Kurai asks, confused.
"Yesu," Helen says happily, "says that if you want rank and privilege. To be the great, you must become a slave. The greatest will be the servant of all," she sighs. "To show he meant it, he had me sit in his throne, and had me hold still while he washed my feet. It was embarrassing at first."
"When was that?" Yurushi asks.
"When I was dead," she insists, "I was dressing for school when I noticed the house next door was on fire, My mom had just come to check on me when it collapsed. A piece of wood came through the window and landed on me, right on my chest. I couldn't breathe and it lit me on fire. It hurt so much and for so long, but the worst part was hearing my mother screaming. There was nothing she could do."
"How did you survive that?" he asks.
"I didn't," Helen says, "I died and was welcomed into a bright place by Yesu, the Saviour," she smiles at the memory. "He said I was going to go back soon, that the light he gave to Glie would bring me back. The hard part was after I insisted I wash his feet, I saw he had scars from where he had been nailed to his cross. I asked about them and he explained, All are born impure and destined to be burned in the fire forever. I cried in reply, How can I be saved then? How can anybody escape the fire? He answers, One holy and pure must be killed and given to the fire as the punishment for all. I was crying, and I asked who it would be. He says, It was me. I thanked him over and over again until he asked. Will you take up your cross and follow me? So grateful, I agreed immediately, and he took my hands. He promises, I will be with you always until the end of the earth, and I could feel," she winces, "the nails tearing through my wrists and feet, closed my eyes and screamed, it hurt worse than the fire, but only for a moment. I knew the pain of the fire would be forever, but the more intense pain of the Saviour is only for a moment. When I opened my eyes, I was naked on the grass in front of my home, alive again." With a smile, she finishes, "My mother can tell you the rest."
As the sun nears the horizon in the west, Shimoni turns from the windmill dynamo she's working on, pulls the agonizing copper sliver from under one of her fingernails, and silently thanks God for Yaiba and her light. She looks about, wondering where she might-
"What is that?" she gasps as she sees the three metre tall water tower at the far edge of the garden right at the top of the gentle hill on the northern edge. She notices that Kurai, Yurushi and Helen, the displaced human girl, are trying to pull a canvas bag over top of the two metre steel frame structure sitting on top of the squat wooden platform. It is obvious that it is far too small to go around it. As she walks along the edge of the garden, too distracted to even remember her sore finger, she realizes that they are trying to turn it inside out into the structure, not cover the structure with it. That's when she realizes, several aisles of the garden have pipes held a few inches above the ground on forked sticks. The irrigation system is nowhere near complete obviously, but she recognizes what it is as the kids finally get the canvas bladder into the steel frame. Then she sees something that makes her halt so hard that she almost falls over.
The wings of Kurai and Yurushi have turned white.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 44: Battle of the Great Gate