Katsura sits on a bale of hay in the newly erected tent, ~~ impatiently ~~ waiting for the lieutenant to send the promised escorts for the search and rescue workers.
Nick has been putting his talent for improvisation to work, directing that some of the excess dried beans be placed in the decorative purses, and heated on the mercifully intact stove to replace the missing hot water bottles. He's seen the effects of winter camping often enough to suspect that they're going to see a lot of thoroughly chilled Gens.
Katsura has finished her Sime-sized lunch, and wonders whether she should get Nick to accompany her to the military headquarters when he finishes eating. People are dying in the ruins, and the Sat'htine team is just sitting here. Well, they have set up their field hospital in the past four hours.
Nick stuffs the last bite of his sandwich in his mouth, and surveys the rest of the crates of random goods that somehow got substituted for the disaster team's supplies. He's mentally dividing the stash into goods that are useful, goods that can be turned into something useful, and goods that can be traded on the black market for something useful.
Nick has a pretty good idea what's going to happen in Cottonwood City as the extent of the losses begins to sink in.
Katsura surveys the rows of improvised beds -- platforms made of bales of hay. She wants to salvage wood from the ruins to put a low box on top of each with loose hay to serve as a mattress, and to keep patients from rolling out of bed.
Katsura sneezes, and hopes it's just dust from the hay and the traffic on the dirt floor. Well, a kit of Farris-specific medications should arrive with the next shipment in a few days. ~~ determined to maintain optimism ~~
Nick swallows the last of his lunch, then wanders over to Kat.
Katsura pats the other half of the hay bale in invitation.
Katsura: That's a good idea, the beans and those silly purses.
Nick: Thanks. Snake and I used socks and rocks instead of purses and beans, but these should work fine.
Katsura: You came up with a good way of convincing Norrin not to augment all the time -- telling him he was using more than his fair share of selyn, wasting it. That fits right in with his culture, doesn't it?
Nick: Yes. It doesn't hurt that he can feel how precious selyn is, now that he's surrounded by other Simes.
Katsura: I'd like to get him in-T as soon as possible, but I don't know when that will be. He could be a real problem for us here.
Nick: I know. Maybe we can keep him too busy to make trouble, or be noticed.
Katsura: I hope so. He's certainly a willing worker.
Nick: Put him to work helping the cook, and working with the laundry. That way, he'll be busy, he'll be away from the patients, and he can feel useful.
Katsura: Yes, that should work.
Katsura sighs ~~ impatiently ~~.
Katsura: I wonder if that lieutenant is actually planning to send us anyone. I'm thinking about going over to their headquarters myself.
Nick: There has been more than enough time. And we should survey the damage for ourselves, anyway.
Katsura: Well, let's go up the road where the lieutenant went and see if we can figure out where their headquarters is. Maybe we can see something from the top of the ridge.
Nick: Good enough.
Katsura: I suppose you've been keeping the retainers with the warm bean bags?
Nick: Well, they're a bit farther from the fire. But yes, I figured that they ought to be usable on short notice.
Katsura gives Nick a charming smile of appreciation.
Katsura: Okay, onwards!
Nick fetches the retainers, and helps Kat into them.
Katsura dons them without verbal complaint. It is a little easier when they're warm. She leads the way out of the roped off area posted Sime Territory and up the hill.
Nick snatches up a large and somewhat disreputable satchel, and follows.
Katsura views a scene of great devastation. Very little is left standing.
Nick's natural Gen optimism is somewhat ~~ dimmed ~~ at the extent of the damage.
Nick: Somehow, I don't think we're going to be wanting for patients.
Katsura: I can see where there were fires. It's amazing the whole town didn't burn.
Katsura shivers at the thought of people trapped in ruins with fires approaching.
Nick: We can thank the weather for that, I expect.
Katsura: I suppose the wide main streets helped. It's a new town, built since Unity, to serve the farmers who moved here now that Raiders aren't a danger.
Nick: It's cattle country, isn't it? It makes sense that they'd have streets wide enough to drive a herd down.
Katsura: They'd do that? It seems awfully unsanitary. And all the dust...
Nick: They've got to get the cows to the railroad somehow. They're not any more unsanitary than horses.
Katsura: Oh, I thought you meant they'd drive them into town to milk them twice a day, instead of doing it out nearer the pastures.
Katsura thinks about it.
Katsura: They wouldn't milk them at all, then. Just raise them for meat and leather?
Nick: Yes. It's not practical to run a dairy herd on an open range.
Katsura: I guess in-T we mostly raise sheep on such land.
Nick: Cows are hardier, and don't require constant protection against coyotes.
Katsura: But they don't make wool.
Nick: They make leather, which is just as useful.
Katsura: But you get wool every year.
Katsura isn't going to compare beef production with the junct economy and wool production with the situation after Unity.
Katsura holds up her arms and tries to zlin for the army headquarters, to no avail.
Nick uses more primitive means to address the same question.
Katsura: I feel like I've got a bright light glaring in my eyes all the time with these things on.
Nick is ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Nick: There's a lot of campfires over thataway. Let's try it. If that's not the camp, they'll know where it is.
Katsura: Sounds good.
Katsura pulls her wooly cap, in Sat'htine colors with a red pompon to let Gens know where the channel is, further down over her ears and follows Nick.
Nick leads the way, hoping that his Gen-style winter coat will make Kat seem less threatening.
Katsura trudges down the road, unable to get used to the discomfort of the retainers and the distortions of her Sime senses.
Katsura: Nick, I zlin somebody over by those trees. I think there's a wrecked house back there.
Katsura points to a row of evergreens.
Nick: Let's go check it out.
Katsura: Maybe we can get directions to the army camp. I'll hang back and you do the talking.
Nick: All right.
Nick lengthens his stride to draw ahead of Kat.
Kelev comes out from behind the trees when he hears voices. He's an old man dressed in clothes that were far from new even before they got covered with soot and dirt from foraging, or was that looting? in the ruins.
Kelev: Hey! Help me get this guy out of here!
Nick: There's someone trapped?
Nick starts to jog, putting one hand on his satchel to steady it.
Kelev: Yeah, I just come by and heard somebody. He's down in the cellar, I guess.
Kelev doesn't explain why he was investigating the ruin, or even glance towards where he's stored things he's found over the past few days.
Katsura follows Nick.
Nick has a pretty good idea what Kelev was doing, but doesn't see fit to criticize.
Nick has, after all, done his share of "foraging" in his time.
Kelev: See, it looks like there was a sort of shed over the door into the cellar that fell in. You're a big strong guy, you could lift it off.
Nick: Do you know if he's hurt, as well as trapped?
Kelev: Dunno. I can just hear him yelling for help. I yelled back so he'd know I was here.
Nick surveys the damage.
Katsura wonders whether Nick can get the man to let her take the retainers off and do the heavy part of the lifting.
Nick: Hello, in there!
Kelev eyes the man's wife. Pretty little thing, but he likes them with more meat on their bones. And it's too bad about the nose.
Polvo: Help! Get me out of here!
Nick: It's those two beams that are blocking the exit. If I get one end, do you think you can manage the other?
Nick doesn't want Kat trying to lift anything heavy while wearing retainers. He also doesn't want to make a big issue of Kat's larity with this unknown Gen.
Kelev: Well, I can try. I got my truss on.
Kelev goes to what looks like the easier end.
Nick: It's not that heavy, just very awkward.
Kelev squats to lift.
Katsura feels useless, and hopes the old man doesn't injure himself. Is a truss what they use to keep a hernia in, or is it some mysterious slang expression?
Nick takes the other end of the beam.
Nick: On the count of three. We'll move it this way, two steps. One, two three.
Nick bends his knees and lifts carefully, trying to take as much of the weight as he can to spare the older Kelev.
Kelev more drags than lifts his end, but it does move.
Nick: Good! Once more now!
Kelev squats again, and makes ready.
Nick pulls steadily, and the beam starts to come free.
Kelev makes an effort, then lets Nick pull the beam while he just guides it.
Polvo lets out a somewhat slurred cheer. He's been living on canned beans and tomatoes, washed down with the products of his still.
Nick surveys the revised situation.
Nick: I think if we clear some of those boards away, we won't have to actually move that second beam, after all.
Katsura can zlin that the Gen does have an inguinal hernia and has been reasonably careful not to overstrain it. The Gen in the cellar zlins somewhat abnormal neurologically, but in good spirits. It's hard to zlin anything through these retainers.
Nick starts clearing some of the boards away, partially unveiling the cellar stairs.
Kelev picks up a few loose boards and tosses them aside. He wonders why the woman doesn't help. She could do this.
Kelev: Why'n'cha tell your wife to help us?
Nick: She can't move her arms well, just now. If she could help, believe me, she would be doing so.
Katsura nods vigorously, unwilling to display her awful accent.
Kelev tosses some more boards aside. The shed, or portico seems to have been thrown together from rotten scrap. The guy probably got tired of shoveling snow off the steps and figured anything was better than nothing.
Polvo: Hey, can you guys hurry it up? I haven't seen the sun in three days!
Kelev: Yeah, yeah, be glad I came by or you wouldn't see it until spring.
Nick: I think that'll do it. Can you get through that hole?
Nick has, of course, no idea how large Polvo is.
Nick looks at Kat in ~~ question ~~.
Katsura shrugs. She can't zlin through the earth and stone foundation, and size of nager doesn't tell her much. The Gen zlins to be in good shape, although somewhat drunk.
Polvo is taking matters into his own (not completely steady) hands, and crawling through the hole that Nick and Kelev have cleared.
Katsura can zlin now that the Gen is a little dehydrated, with a few scrapes and bruises, several more of which he's acquiring now.
Polvo is almost out when his jacket gets stuck on a nail. He reacts to the ~~ frustration ~~ in the typical fashion of a drunk Gen who's never learned how to behave around Simes. In his defense, he has no idea that there's a Sime around, and so wouldn't know to apply inter-larital etiquette even if he knew it.
Polvo jerks hard, ripping his jacket and causing the rotten board in which it resides to slide out of the pile of rubble. He yelps as the rubble shifts in response. He scrambles fast enough to avoid being under the worst of the mess, but a flying board clips him smartly on the forehead.
Katsura tenses, but restrains herself from augmenting over to rescue the Gen.
Polvo: Ow! Danged roof.
Kelev: Built by a real master carpenter, I can tell. ~~ disgusted ~~
Kelev offers a hand to help him up.
Polvo: Huh. You try shoveling snow off those danged steps all winter, every time you want a little nip of something.
Katsura grits her teeth, hating to see these Gens hurt themselves, but unwilling to panic them when they're on such unstable footing.
Polvo allows Kelev to help him to his feet, and staggers a few steps away from the building.
Polvo: Dang if it isn't good to be out of that cellar.
Polvo reaches up to touch his stinging forehead, and discovers that what he thought was sweat, isn't.
Polvo: Dang! I'm bleeding.
Kelev notes the location of the booze in his mental map of the ruined town.
Katsura itches to heal the wound, even though it isn't very serious.
Nick moves over to Kat, offering ~~ support ~~ that partially offsets the blurring of the retainers.
Katsura leans on Nick's support with ~~ relief ~~.
Nick: It's just a cut. Put some pressure on it, and it'll stop bleeding.
Katsura: [quietly] Can you get directions from the old man?
Nick turns to Kelev.
Nick: I don't suppose you know where the military has set up headquarters, do you?
Kelev: Over in the stock yards.
Kelev has been staying well away from that area.
Nick: Which way would that be? We're new in town.
Kelev: Hell of a time to be visiting. Head on the way you were going and turn north at the bottom of the hill. Follow along until the road meets the rail line, and you can't miss it.
Kelev: I hear they got doctors there, maybe they can fix your wife's arms.
Nick: Er... We'll be sure to discuss medical care with them.
Nick was raised in-Territory, and has maintained the Sime idea that direct lying is useless.
Kelev makes a throwaway gesture and goes to get his stash.
Polvo: Thanks for gettin' me outa there.
Kelev: Eh, wasn't gonna just walk away with you hollering in there. Too bad you didn't bring any of what you've been drinking up here with you.
Polvo: Huh. I never thought I'd say it, but I've had enough hooch for a week. Well, maybe a day or two, anyway.
Katsura longs to recommend that the Gen drink some water, but restrains herself.
Polvo turns to look at his house with ~~ sorrow ~~.
Polvo: It was a good house, and deserved to last longer than ten years.
Kelev: Whole friggin city looks like that. Worse, even. At least yours didn't catch fire. You would have roasted like a pig in an oven down there.
Katsura winces at that image.
Polvo: Yeah. Speaking of pigs, it looks like my sow escaped. I guess I'll be living on beans and tomatoes for a while longer.
Kelev figures the sow will come home if she's still alive, but most likely someone's shot her for meat.
Kelev: Yeah, somebody else is eating pork.
Kelev is starting to feel ~~ resentful ~~ that Polvo didn't bring some hooch up to share with his rescuers. He picks up his bulging pack from where he'd hidden it in the weeds and shoulders it.
Kelev: I'm out of here. G'day to you, for what it's worth.
Polvo notes his horse blanket tied on the back, but decides not to object. It's fair enough payment for freeing him.
Polvo: And to you.
Kelev stumps off.
Nick looks at Kat and shrugs, then gestures back at the road.
Katsura nods. She waits until they're a little further away from the drunken Gen.
Katsura: Thank you for handling all that. I felt [English] useless as tits on a bull.
Nick: That man was very lucky.
Katsura zlins her Gen carefully, through the distortions of the retainers. He seems to be unharmed by his exertions.
Nick is in fact feeling ~~ good ~~ after the exercise.
Katsura: He was. It could have been some time before another looter came by.
Katsura ~~ enjoys ~~ Nick's pleasure in physical exertion.
Nick is starting to ~~ like ~~ Kat more and more, as channels who are willing to let their Donors do potentially dangerous work are few and far between.
Katsura zlins the affection and smiles.
Katsura: I didn't zlin anyone on the road while we were back there. So the lieutenant still hasn't sent us anyone.
Nick: He might have conveniently "forgotten" to mention it to his boss. Or his boss might have done the forgetting all by himself.
Katsura: That's bad. What do you think we should do about it?
Nick: Find his boss, and get it cleared up. If his boss isn't interested, find the local police, and see if they are.
Katsura: Time is passing, and not everyone has food and drink where they're trapped. Some of them are dying right now, I suppose, while that young man indulges his prejudices.
Nick: Yes. We can't help them all, but we can help some of them. If we're allowed.
Katsura: Yes. If we're allowed.