Rise of Glie Chapter 21
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 20: Window to the World
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 21: Cold Dawn
Bahitsu listens to the cold wind blowing outside, and shivers under his blanket. He turns over to his slightly warmer friend and asks, "Fushoku, did you turn up the heat? It's feeling rather warm in here."
"Yeah," he says back through rattling teeth, "The throttle's stuck and I can't turn it back down."
"You wish," Bahitsu laughs.
"You're right," Fushoku shivers, "I do." He ponders the moment and says, "Can you believe this?"
"Believe what?" Bahitsu says.
"We got Stone Mill finished before winter hit," Fushoku says.
"Almost" Bahitsu points out, "I'm sure you've noticed that we still need to put in the windows."
"The shutters should be warmer," Fushoku replies, "until we get glass for the panes."
"Since I can't get to sleep," Bahitsu gets up, "I'm going to find something to do."
Fushoku laughs, "It's morning anyway, the coldest hour of a winter day." They don their coveralls over their pyjamas, and add sweaters on top of that.
"Washi asked for a flare gun; I don't know why. But I got really good at getting light out of wood," Bahitsu says, "I remembered that stuff called kerosene long before I knew it had a name. Now I'm better at getting light out of wood than kerosene."
[Author's note: Glie/Haibi never had a domestic supply of hydrocarbon fluids, except ethanol for its obvious "medicinal" purposes.]
Bahitsu builds really good stoves, and the one in Stone Mill gets its heat up in only two minutes from striking the match, despite being a wood stove. After lighting amazing his little wood lantern above the table, he soon has a continental breakfast on the go, not just for himself and Fushoku, but the other four haibane working on the construction of Stone Mill.
Fushoku examines the turbine generator on the work bench.. "This is nuts," he says, "I can't believe we have to build all this from scratch. The Communicator won't say a thing about why the Toga can't bring in whatever generator they use to charge their batteries."
"Come on," Bahitsu says, "I'm bored, let's eat, then get a few more windings on this thing. Crystal can finish up the windows ... er- shutters, I mean."
They've completed the design of a windmill generator, several copies of which will be emplaced, predictably, on the Hill of Winds. Stanley keeps checking the calculations because he can't believe the wind turbine can be weathervaned, that is, turn into the wind with just a fin, but it's true. The Tower Oil carefully rationed out by the Communicator is up to the task. Not only that, but once in place, the wind turbine generators will only need to be overhauled every hundred years or so.
The automatic winding machine, which spins the rotor so that wire can play off a reel onto it through a specially controlled pulley, requires power, as well as a motor of its own. The first are made by hand, but after, the haibane hope to speed up the process using at least some automation.
"I miss harvest time," Fushoku complains.
"Why?" Bahitsu moans, "I've never worked my back so hard in all my life, probably not the old one either."
"Harvest day is the day that the humans and haibane get along the best," Fushoku says, "That was the day Crystal's mom Janice broke it to her that we could never marry."
"Oh," Bahitsu snaps his fingers, "We can't? I had just the girl in mind."
Fushoku laughs at Bahitsu's incessant humour as the master chef serves breakfast.
"Does she still like you?" Bahitsu asks as he sits down.
"Oh, yes," Fushoku answers, "We still get along very well. It was her name that answered the riddles about my cocoon dream. From that moment, she wanted to marry me."
"Do you really think that's Glie's future?" Bahitsu asks, "We're going to turn into the biggest computer factory that ever existed?"
"I don't know," Fushoku says, "I'm pretty sure the one I see in my dreams has more people working in it than live in Glie right now. I'm wondering if we can really live up to the task. I mean, how big is the world out there, Bahitsu?" Fushoku asks seriously.
"Big, I imagine," Bahitsu says quietly.
"Can we really serve that world?" Fushoku asks himself more than his friend, "There could be thousands of times as many people out there as in here ... And Glie is the only place on the planet where semiconductors can be made."
"And what if whatever poison that's killing the computers and withering the trees near the wall gets to them," Bahitsu looks at Fushoku with his serious eye, which is obvious because his left eyelid droops a little more than his right only when he's being serious, "and they all start clamoring to get in here?"
They hear a sudden commotion outside, "Fushoku, Bahitsu, Haoto?" Stanley's distant voice utters, three more names follow. The person at the door must be closer, probably Aware.
"Let's wait 'til he gets closer to the door," one of the other of the six haibane suggest, "Let 'em all in at once."
A key slips into the lock. Shivering fingers open the door. What enters looks momentarily monstrous. Bahitsu is first to laugh at this appearance: a walking sleeping bag, or perhaps someone sleepwalking in it.
Fushoku has never seen the white stuff before, which follows the "monster" in by the gallons. "Oh, it's snowing outside," Haoto notes casually.
"Answer next time," Stanley huffs from inside the winter cloak, "You scared the crap out of me, I thought you'd all frozen to death."
Bahitsu leaps to his feet as Haoto explains the blizzard to Fushoku, who's familiar enough with it to indicate that his precursor had experienced the hated weather phenomenon blowing around the new building. "Stanley, what the heck are you doing out in this weather?" Bahitsu gasps in an unusually serious tone as he shovels the snow out of the doorway so he can get the door closed again.
"He's just hungry, I think," Fushoku almost giggles.
"As I woke up, I realized you weren't here for the first winter after the battle," Stanley gasps, "You were born grown up and all, I didn't know if you could handle it." As he notes the haibane, all sporting sweaters and footwear, are not bundled up as much as he is.
Bahitsu is beating on the man's outer clothes to remove the snow. At the top of his mind are the high latent heat values of water, and what that will do to the room's already scant comfort and his skimpy budget of stove fuel. Less wood than Amon Diin has must last all of Glie for the whole winter, although Bahitsu has no idea where that thought came from.*
"Breakfast?" Haoto offers his untouched plate with its little pile of scrambled eggs, pair of cute little sausages and two big pancakes that seem to be trying to push its greasier companions off the edge. "I can make another for myself," Haoto says.
"It's," Stanley gasps as he pulls off his hood, "actually above the freezing point in here?"
"Not by much since you got here," Bahitsu says. He lands a hand gruffly on the man's shoulder and says, "Eat up, maybe you'll give us a fart or two."
Bahitsu's backup plan to keep Stone Mill's residents warm was to isolate the little "dining hall", a common area designed to seat no more than eight people. Crammed into it are six teen-sized haibane, a huffing middle-aged human, enough clothes to keep all of them warm at thirty below, and the upended small hydro generator decorated with the outer coats of all the haibane, some of which sport patches and scars telling of adventures with the unfinished thing's loose wires and sharp edges.
Stanley's not-yet-uttered decision to turn down Haoto's breakfast is undone by the sizzling sound of freshly scrambled eggs landing in the pan on the stove. Bahitsu guides the man into Haoto's vacated seat almost like a cop introducing a suspect to the interrogation room. Reluctantly, Stanley accepts the clean chopsticks from Fushoku's pale fingers and starts into it with his winter gloves still on, surprising a couple of the haibane with his practiced dexterity.
"What was that first winter like?" Fushoku asks.
"Awful," Stanley says, "Just awful. Worse than this," he utters ruefully, "not even counting the battle. I was just a kid, with the first Flight Well group during the battle, I went with my parents to the Flight Well, then my parents went out to investigate what was going on. I never saw them again. Then, just two days after the battle, the first blizzard hits. It was horrible, just one after the other, with a rhythm, every three days, but they somehow went around the Saturdays."
The haibane are somber as the story continues.
"I remember seeing the children with the red triangles pushing the snow away from our paths. That was all they did ... push snow. I could sometimes see little sparkles in the path after they had gone by ... little glow-in-the-darks like your halos." He recalls, "Keepsie the wheelmaster was one of them. Janice explained to me after that Kasei and the other humans, including myself ... I had that attitude as well ... would not let them eat if they did not work. They were sick, ill from some sort of enemy poison..." He winces with guilt, "Janice told me that God sent the snow ... blizzard after blizzard after blizzard ... so that these sick people had work to do that wouldn't spread their poison to us."
The haibane are horrified at the story.
Stanley finally pulls off a glove and points a finger at Fushoku, "Harsh justice it was: most of us who weren't sick found nothing we could do during these blizzards ... and we went hungry those days we could not work."
"But," one of the other haibane point out, "We still have that rule. You don't eat if you don't work. It's a good rule."
"Yes," Stanley says, "but not to the exclusion of the sick and the children, and those days like today when working simply isn't possible because of the weather."
"It's okay," Fushoku says, "You are a good leader now."
Haoto, haibane the longest at three years, at least among those at the table, says, barely above a whisper, "No wonder Shiden was so quiet about that time."
"Come," Fushoku says with cheer, "Now that it's warm enough in here, let's put another mile of wire on this thing," indicating the hydro generator. The haibane assume their positions, one to turn the generator like a top, and two to paint bare wire as it leaves the coil with an insulating lacquer that ensures it doesn't short to itself as it is coiled. It takes three haibane just to play the wire onto the stator: two to lift and manipulate the increasingly heavy device, and a third to actually guide the wire. The other three busy themselves preparing it.
Siezing his opportunity, Stanley dons his gloves and takes the generator. Being full grown and stronger, he is able to do the flips and turns of the generator single handedly much faster than the two boys, who bundle up and go outside to push snow with their shovels.
[*Lord of the Rings: Amon Dîn is one of the beacons of Minas Tirith, a bonfire relay telegraph to send a distress signal from Gondor to Rohan in a couple of hours, rather than the normal three days' gallop of a courier. Doubtless this recollection pegs Bahitsu's precursor as otaku no Tolkien!]
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 22: A Troubled Youngster