FHD Remix Chapter 30
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 29: Life Outside The Wall
Chapter 30: A Bird's Eye View
Glie, as Jack learns it is called, actually does sleep at night, apparently oblivious to the threat just outside its walls. It makes it so easy to navigate with so little light to lose the stars in, but he realizes you have to stay well clear of the Hill of Winds at night. Those windmills can, and do, kill birds who fly too close to them.
A powerful wall separates this small world of Glie from the world outside, where he soon learns that Glie receives trade from a strange cadre of beings those inside call Toga. The hellspawn calls them The Dumb, because they never speak.
Jack, from a safe distance, identifies several of the little angels. They live in two places, the academy on the west side of town, with the new houses going up next to a covered North Wing, and a half-completed manufacturing facility in the south. He starts really observing from there, because it is closer to the wall. Their waste kiln is also less secure, so he can get into it without arousing suspicions that he is sentient.
He wants to keep his smarts a secret because of how many of these grey wings he recognizes.
Harman Cartright is another casualty of I Mars, found in pieces in Delta Sector 4, the victim of a zombie armed with a chainsaw. Now he's lives in the factory. Nancy Yalen was found outside in a pressure suit, an apparent victim of suicide, she also lives in the factory.
He stands on a perch on the bridge that leads between the factory and the city proper, a small gallery in the middle of the bridge apparently made for couples to pause during their romantic strolls and gaze over the river. The water in the river is filtered by the wall as it goes in, and not far downstream, again becomes toxic with the delta radiation that pollutes the entire planet. The factory, predictably, is located near the exit. Only within the wall is the sky blue, but the missing stars are still missing.
Jack preens his feathers, hoping that Harman and Nancy will have a conversation about him.
"So, do you think it will fit?" Harman asks, just before he suddenly stops walking along.
"Of course, Chishio," Nancy says as she looks over her shoulder at him.
"Shijima," he says in warning.
Nancy stops and turns to see the raven, head over its shoulder, combing its feathers. He pops his head over, blinks at her, to let her know that he knows she's there, then continues to preen as though it doesn't matter to him in the least.
"Oh," she says, "It's only a raven cleaning its feathers."
"From what they eat, you'd think they had no interest in being clean," Harman remarks.
<As if I have much of a choice,> Jack thinks, < I didn't design this body, but I'm happy I'm not a turkey vulture.>
"They are far smarter than you think," Nancy answers, giving the bird some berth apparently because she doesn't want to scare him. "At Old Home, Kurai tells of them actually picking padlocks to get into stuff. I think he wants to say hi."
As Harman passes around, he says, "Hi."
Jack peeps, the sound not even slowing the pace of his vigorous preening.
"Good afternoon," greets the voice of a gentle old man. It's been a couple minutes since Nancy and Harman left.
Jack looks up startled, cocking his head to get a look at him with each eye. How did he manage to sneek up on him like that? Jack then looks at him head on, with both eyes. His mask has one hole in the middle of it, a piece hangs down to cover the man's mouth. The bird's surprise stems not from the mask's seeming nonsense (as in like, how can he see in that thing?) but its resemblance to an ornament he saw in the corridor leading to the tomb of the ancients' warrior on Mars.
"I am the Communicator," he says gently, "You are new to Glie, I see. You are welcome to the Temple of the Ash Feather Council on the southwest corner near the wall. I have many things to explain to you."
The old man walks away, leaving the bird standing stunned on his perch.
Jack decides to sleep there on the tower's eave; the edge of the temple's open roof. In the morning, the Communicator finds him, and beckons him inside the roomy temple. He notices that two other ravens have come inside with him.
"Forgive them," the old man says, "They just like to hear this speech, and perhaps ... they like to aid the new ravens in their journey. The haibane and the ravens are the two types of resurrected beings in this world," he explains, describing the haibane and the humans for him. "I don't know as much about the ravens, but the haibane are very limited in what they can remember."
At this, Jack jumps onto the dusty table and starts scratching with his bill into the thick layer of dust as the Communicator continues to explain.
"Each haibane is named after his or her cocoon dream. Many names have more than one meaning with the same pronunciation. For example, the longest of us to stay here in Glie, Rakka, her given name means falling, but her true name means intruding nut. The name Kurai as given, means gloomy, but she, of Old Home, has yet to discover its true meaning, noble. Each haibane is to find his or her way out of the Circle of Sin, to achieve their Day of Leaving the Nest. The recently appeared white wings, I can't explain yet, but it apparently has something to do with a Saviour they profess to-"
The Washi suddenly notices Jack's message. He has carefully drawn each character, and his tracks in the dust studiously avoid them, forming a fuzzy frame around the completed sentence.
"Washi-san, I remember everything," it reads. Jack preens the first primary of his right wing, which he used to place the final stroke, then gives the Communicator a low nod.
The other two ravens seem a little annoyed at him, but they appear to regard it as time to reveal their true advantage.
"Where are you from?" The Communicator asks.
Jack finds an undisturbed spot in the dust on the table, and spreads its wings, touching the tips of his feathers to the table, he turns completely around in his place, drawing one circle overlapping another beside it. The one to the Washi's left is considerably bolder than the one to the Washi's right. Jack then turns to the Washi's right, spreads his tailfeathers, and peeps at him.
It is recognizable as UAC's older logo: a solid circle, to the right of which is an overlapping hollow circle. In their midst a triangle arranged to show an arrow travelling from the left to the right.
"I've never seen it before," the Washi sighs.
Jack bows in frustration.
"But somehow I know it means ... You were the last warrior of the last war, promised in the tags ... and that explains..."
Jack collapses in his place, blinking and rolling his head. As he struggles to his feet, the Communicator expresses his last contribution.
"I thought it was Tatakai until now." he says.
Soon after this, the Communicator stands, and goes into a tunnel, descending down stairs, he enters a room, dons a big quilted suit, and, with the first door still open, opens the next door leading under the wall. Jack already senses that this is a bad idea, and soon realizes why. He hears the wraith slip past the Communicator, padding quietly and invisibly into the Temple. The inner door pushes open, and the Washi turns around with a gasp. Jack knows no more because he flew away from the suit room.
Jack lands on the top of the iron bar used to secure the gates and makes as much noise as he possibly can, alerting the Toga outside, who come to chase him away. They throw objects at him, but he always returns to that perch to raise a fuss. As the Toga hear the materialization of the wraith, they finally lower the iron bar, which scares off the raven for good. At least this catastrophe is held within the temple.
Standing on the rock cliff where the temple is inset, he wants to observe the door and the approach to it, but not the carnage happening inside. He is stunned to recognize all three of the haibane who respond, speeding dangerously on a tiny scooter to the scene of the massacre.
Driving it is Helen Ochreby, the one who he has seen before. Behind her is the famous doctor who invented the flexible shelter he saved a friend's life with during the First Battle of Mars. Vanessa Bradford, he is surprised to remember the name.
At the very back is the one they must be calling Tatakai. The wife from his previous life: Devon Campbell, looking even younger than when they first met. The bike comes up so quickly that Helen must lay it down in order to stop. And stop it does since the running board that they are standing on plows the road.
Jack is baffled as she strides up to the door unarmed and pushes against it. To face a wraith without so much as a stick, even if you know what you're dealing with, is foolhardy. And how is she going to get that thing open anyway?
Jack takes to the air by reflex just before he realizes that Devon has somehow severed the iron bar which secures the door. The flash he saw most of a second before he heard what sounded like the whip-crack of the Father God.
She still has her featherwing sense of hearing apparently blasting the still invisible wraith with a weapon he can't see. Jack circles vigorously, searching in vain for Devon's weapon. He realizes the true nature of her armament when the wraith stabs at her head, Devon blocks the attack with the palm of her bare hand, the wraith unable to even touch her in anger.
The Saviour has given her the light of war.
Jack knows that the haibane have not seen him, but as the wraith lies dying on its back, it sees him circling above the temple, through the open roof. Jack decides to vamoose, flying away to the north.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 31: Names For The Birds