A Walk in the Woods: Episode 2

Katsura has been coming and going at intervals all evening to give the guard the idea that it doesn't matter whether she's in the room or not.

Katsura has been carefully setting up the jail break. She washed all their clothes in the hand cranked washing machine, hung them outdoors to freeze-dry, then put them in the backpack left in a convenient location. She also asked the kitchen staff to prepare a good supply of food for herself and her Donor to take with them on their travels. The staff were quite aware of Pylor's appetite, and did themselves proud.

Nick has not been any help whatsoever, as he is barely capable of opening his eyes.

Jobob fidgets at his post. This guarding thing seems like a real waste of time, when there are still floors to be scrubbed and wastebaskets to be emptied.

Katsura has been reassuring Nick both verbally and nagerically every time she returns, that she will stay with him and protect and defend him. She wishes the drug hadn't been mixed into such filling food -- it's being slowly released as Nick digests, so he isn't coming out of it much, although it's past midnight.

Nick hasn't been able to respond to Kat's reassurances, and even his nager is hardly responding.

Katsura can easily zlin through the door of the deferment suite and has been discouraged that the guard is wide awake. But she now zlins that his bladder is becoming uncomfortably full.

Jobob fidgets some more. He drank a lot of tea at his last break, and really needs to go take a leak.

Katsura expects that the guard will take a break very soon, and gets ready. She bundles Nick into his coat and boots, carries him to a spot that's not visible from the door and arranges some cushions under the blankets to look like a sleeping Gen.

Jobob considers the distance to the nearest washroom. It's down the next corridor, around the corner, and up half a flight of stairs.

Katsura is glad she read all those adventure stories in Nivet Youth Monthly when she was a child.

Jobob is running out of time, unless he wants to have to mop up after himself.

Katsura takes Nick's hands and makes a lateral contact, hoping to stimulate a little alertness.

Nick moans and opens his eyes, although he's not tracking well.

Katsura: Nick... we're leaving soon. I'll carry you. You'll have to be very quiet, okay?

Nick tries to focus on Kat.

Nick: Schleepy.

Katsura: Yes, I know. I'm going to get us out of here. I'll look after everything. Just stay quiet and co-operate as best you can.

Nick blinks, then nods, then promptly nods off again.

Katsura ties Nick's wrists together with a scarf to make him easier to carry piggy-back. Of course, this mode of transportation is known by a different idiom in Simelan.

Jobob will only be gone from his post a couple of minutes, if he hurries. No one will ever have to know, he tells himself.

Katsura zlins the guard making a decision. She crouches, backs up to Nick, gets his arms over her head, her elbows under his knees, and grasping the scarf with her tentacles, rises and shifts him into the best of many bad top-heavy positions.

Nick moves a little, settling himself more comfortably onto Kat's back.

Jobob can't wait any longer. He presses his ear against the door he's guarding. All seems quiet.

Katsura blows out the lamp, and waits.

Jobob hurries off down the corridor, his attention entirely on his goal.

Katsura leaves the room, closes the door behind her silently, and augments to turn the knob past its normal range, breaking the mechanism. The door won't reopen without a bit of trouble, now.

Katsura moves with Sime speed and stealth down to the utility room at the back where she's stashed the food and the still damp clothing, all packed up ready to go, as well as Nick's beloved satchel.

Katsura shifts Nick's arms to get the backpack and satchel looped over her shoulders in the least awkward way she can come up with and goes out into the yard, augmenting to cope with Nick's weight, substantially greater than her own.

Katsura has, throughout, been covering both Nick's and her own substantial nagers with her showfield manipulated in a manner characteristic of Farris power and skill.

Jobob finishes his business and hurries back through the empty corridors to his post. He presses his ear to the door. All is still quiet. He relaxes. Only two hours left to go in his shift, and someone else will have to deal with the wastebaskets.

Katsura, after an hour of trotting across empty rangeland, climbs a low ridge overlooking a small valley containing a few farms. She goes to ground in a straw storage shed some distance behind a house inhabited only by two Gens and a child.

Nick is finally starting to wake up a bit, if only enough to feel ~~ groggy ~~.

Hrill can't sleep without her teddy bear. She thinks she left it out in the shed where she was playing this afternoon, but her parents wouldn't let her go back out after supper to look.

Katsura sets Nick down on a bale of straw, propped against another bale, and drops the pack and satchel. She feels like she's floating. She unties Nick's wrists and takes his cold hands. She hopes he didn't get too badly chilled in the run.

Nick opens his eyes.

Nick: Kat?

Katsura: Yes, Nick. How are you doing?

Nick looks around, ~~ confused ~~.

Nick: Can't seem to think. Sorry, I'm no good to you like this.

Hrill gets quietly out of bed in the dark, and fumbles for her clothes.

Katsura brushes a lock of hair out of Nick's eyes.

Katsura: That's okay. They drugged you, but it's wearing off now.

Nick: Drugged...

Katsura: Yes. Pen drugs. It's an outrage, and I let them know it. Apparently they're afraid of what you could do if you were conscious.

Nick's mind goes around in a few more circles, then settles on something peculiar.

Nick: Where are we, anyway?

Katsura: About ten kilometers east of Odradek.

Hrill gets her sweater on backwards, and her underwear is inside out, but she's dressed.

Nick's mind is starting to clear rapidly, now that he's awake enough to work at it.

Nick: You broke us both out?

Katsura smiles, charmingly.

Katsura: It wasn't too hard. After all, I'm a Farris.

Nick smiles back, not quite as charmingly as usual because his nager still isn't really responding to his emotions.

Nick: Kat, I didn't think you were such a rapscallion.

Hrill tiptoes to the back door, barefoot. Standing on tiptoe, she takes down the lantern and flint.

Katsura: Rapscallion? Ha! It's my duty to look after the Gen Sectuib issued me, no? I'm a Householder in good standing, and I know my duty.

Nick: You know there's going to be trouble over this, don't you?

Katsura: There sure is, once Sectuib finds out.

Katsura squeezes Nick's hand.

Katsura: Really, Nick, they can't do much to me. It would create such a scandal that they'd be [English] shooting themselves in the feet.

Katsura picked up several colorful English idioms in Cottonwood City.

Hrill opens the door v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y so the hinge won't squeak, and slips outside. She's still barefoot.

Nick: Sectuib Hiram might not think it's worth it, for a nonmember. The laws are less forgiving in such circumstances.

Katsura: It's definitely worth it for me. I'm a member. And the Heir, so far.

Nick: That will at least make it hard for them to throw you in jail.

Katsura: Nick, the Tecton has been trying to take power from the Householdings ever since Unity. Sectuib doesn't like it. No Householder does. I think he and a number of others will be glad to have this fight.

Nick: The Householders are a small minority. Should they really have all the power, in these modern times when they're no longer the only ones who can train channels?

Hrill fumbles in the dark to get the lantern lit.

Katsura: Not all the power. But they should retain substantial autonomy in internal affairs, don't you think?

Katsura is pleased that Nick is rapidly coming out of the influence of the drugs.

Nick: Perhaps. Of course, one could well argue that I'm not an internal affair.

Katsura: One could argue that you are. Besides, Jaklin sent you to us. She's the top channel in the Tecton. Who is Firlith, or that Second in Odradek to gainsay her?

Nick: The legal types will be having a field day, arguing it out.

Nick looks around.

Nick: Where are we headed?

Hrill is already wishing she'd stopped to find her boots. But she's not going to go back in for them, and risk getting caught.

Katsura: Out of this District. Preferably out of this Region.

Nick: I don't know which local Controllers are on bad enough terms with Firlith to ignore her injunction. Do you?

Katsura sighs.

Katsura: I guess we'll just have to move far and fast, and avoid Tecton employees.

Hrill pulls the brightly knitted mittens out of her pocket and looks at them. They're stretchy enough that they should fit, and they'll be better than nothing.

Nick: Hard to do, on this side of the border.

Katsura: We could go north.

Hrill puts the mittens on her feet, and steps down off the porch into the crusted snow.

Nick: Back across the border? That would be very hard on you.

Katsura shrugs.

Katsura: You could have stayed out there instead of coming back in-T with me. That means that you still want to be a Companion... a Donor.

Nick: I do. I'd rather be out-T than in Firlith's jail, though. How long ago did you break me out? I'm a bit fuzzy still on time.

Hrill crosses the field slowly. The mittens don't want to stay on her feet; they're soaked through and stick to the snow with every step.

Katsura: Something over an hour.

Katsura thinks it's rude to use excessive precision when talking to Gens.

Nick: It's night, then?

Katsura: Yes, about six hours to dawn.

Nick: There's a chance they haven't discovered I'm gone, yet. If you can get back quickly enough, they might not suspect you in my disappearance.

Katsura: You're still dopey, Nick. How could a Farris channel not notice you making a break for it in the same room? And how could a zombie like you were escape without help?

Nick sighs.

Nick: It's bad enough that I'm in trouble; I don't like having your career messed up by it, as well.

Katsura: Nick, I may be just a Sime, but I'm old enough to make my own decisions, right? And if they put up with Arat Audnes, they're desperate enough for Farrises that they're not going to fire me.

Hrill's feet have started to go numb. This is a definite improvement over the way they were hurting before.

Nick: There are things they can do even to Farris channels, if they're determined enough.

Katsura: Sectuib won't let them. They wouldn't dare.

Nick smiles crookedly, and this time his nager ~~ smiles ~~ too.

Nick: Well, if you're determined, I have to admit I'd like the company.

Hrill is approaching the shed.

Katsura: I'll take you to the border, just like in those melodramas about pre-Unity times in Nivet Youth Monthly. Except the bad guys are the Tecton, not the juncts.

Katsura squeezes Nick's hand, then turns.

Katsura: Shen. A little kid coming. What's she doing out here in the middle of the night?

Nick looks around quickly, but there's no place to hide.

Nick: Whatever it is, chances are her parents don't know about it. And that she'd rather they didn't find out.

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: I suppose we can exploit that.

Hrill opens the shed door and steps inside.

Katsura: Good evening, young lady.

Nick nods ~~ courteously ~~.

Katsura hopes the kid doesn't drop her lantern and set the place on fire.

Hrill's eyes widen as she sees two strangers.

Hrill: Who're you?

Katsura: We're travelers. We stopped here to rest.

Hrill: Did Mommy and Daddy say you could?

Katsura: We just got here a little while ago. It would be rude to wake them up to ask them.

Hrill accepts that as perfectly logical.

Hrill: Have you seen my teddy bear? I think I left it in here.

Katsura zlins around.

Katsura: I think I zlin it back there, in the corner.

Katsura can also zlin that the child's feet are cold and wet. She's wearing mittens on them!

Hrill starts to move in the indicated direction, but she's been standing in one place too long. Her mitts have frozen to the ground. She stumbles and falls forward.

Hrill: Ow. Ow!!!

Katsura catches the child, picks her up and warms her feet in her hot Sime hands.

Katsura: Oh dear.

Nick is able to provide some of his usual ~~ support ~~.

Katsura: Could you get her teddy bear?

Katsura is careful not to use Nick's name. Little pitchers have big ears.

Nick: Of course.

Nick goes to the indicated corner, and while his support wavers much more than usual with his movement, it's still there.

Nick finds the bear and brings it back, carrying it with the respect due an old family retainer.

Nick: Here you are. That's one fine bear.

Hrill: Thank you. His name's Farris.

Katsura is ~~ amused ~~.

Nick: That's an excellent name for a bear.

Hrill takes the ragged bear and hugs it.

Hrill: 'Cause he's the best.

Katsura: How about I carry you back to the house so your feet stay warm?

Hrill: They hurt.

Katsura: That's because they're warming up now. They were too cold to hurt before.

Hrill: Oh.

Katsura figures pointing out that going barefoot in winter is inadvisable would be a waste of breath.

Nick has spotted his satchel.

Nick: Do you think a bit of ointment would help?

Nick knows that the particular ointment he's got inside isn't going to do a lot, but a channel applying it could do quite a bit more, without revealing she's a channel.

Katsura: Yes, it might help if I rub some of it on.

Hrill: Please. They hurt.

Hrill clings tightly to Farris.

Nick reaches for his satchel, and finds the ointment.

Nick: Here you are.

Katsura sits on a bale, child on her lap, and takes the jar of ointment from Nick. She opens it with her tentacles and dips a bit out.

Katsura rubs the ointment into the child's feet, and blocks the nerves a little to subdue the pain while her feet finish warming up.

Katsura: How's that?

Hrill wiggles her toes.

Hrill: Better. Thank you.

Katsura: You're welcome. I'll carry you back home now, and you go straight to bed, okay?

Hrill weighs youthful dignity against the thought of freezing her feet again.

Hrill: Okay. Thank you.

Katsura gets up, still carrying Hrill, and ducks down to get the mittens and the lantern, too.

Hrill: Um...?

Katsura: Yes?

Hrill: You won't tell Mommy or Daddy, will you? They'd be upset I went out.

Katsura: No, it'll be a secret. We won't tell, and you won't tell, right?

Hrill: Right.

Katsura: But don't do it again, at least not without shoes and socks.

Hrill: I won't. It hurt too much.

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: Good.

Hrill: But I had to have my Farris.

Nick: Yes, he was lonely out here, and keeping your Farris happy is important.

Hrill nods, hugging the bear tighter.

Katsura smiles and winks at Nick. She slips out of the shed, sees Hrill through the kitchen door, and rapidly returns.

Katsura: Nick, I think we should get moving as soon as you're up to it. But I want to do a shunt first.

Katsura has used a lot of selyn tonight.

Nick winces.

Nick: I'd hoped to avoid that, but I suppose it's not possible.

Katsura: I've still got lots, even after unloading what I gathered from the out-T Gens in the name of the Tecton.

Katsura doesn't mention that there's lots and then there's lots, and she's got substantially less than she went out-T with.

Nick: Are you going to need more, before I can give you transfer?

Katsura: I don't know. Depends on how much augmenting I have to do. We've got time.

Nick makes a mental note to keep an eye out for potential donors and other work.

Nick: Yes. In the mean time, let's take care of the present.

Nick holds his hands out.

Katsura: I suppose I should do an entran outfunction as well, just in case.

Katsura takes his hands, positions her tentacles, and leans her head against his shoulder.

Nick's nager ~~ blends ~~ with Kat's.

Katsura: Ah, it's always such a pleasure to interact nagerically with you.

Nick: That must be the first time any channel called a shunt "pleasurable".

Katsura: Always look on the bright side...

Nick's nager is regaining its usual sparkle as the last of the drug wears off.

Katsura performs the outfunction, taking more time at it than strictly necessary, and terminates with more selyn in her primary.

Nick manages to make it less unpleasant than usual; he has had more practice than most high-level Donors get at such functionals.

Katsura releases Nick, and gets a pang of fear and anxiety at what she's set herself up for in managing this escape. Her outrage and the euphoria derived from augmentation have kept her going up to now.

Nick: Kat, what's wrong?

Nick blankets his channel in ~~ comfort ~~.

Katsura ~~ appreciates ~~ it.

Katsura: Nothing really, just... what we're doing. Let's eat something. I haven't had anything for more than a day now.

Katsura rummages in the pack and pulls out some rather squashed muffins.

Nick: Being on the run is more of an adventure when it's happening to someone else, that's sure.

Nick accepts a muffin, and in exchange provides ~~ appetite ~~.

Katsura: Well, it's best done with an experienced partner, and I've got that in you.

Katsura eats a muffin with her own appetite as well as Nick's.

Katsura: Once we're further north we can try hopping a freight train. It's a long walk otherwise.

Katsura shakes her head.

Katsura: Another cliche from Nivet Youth Monthly.

Nick chuckles.

Nick: We'll have to write our adventures up for them.

Katsura: Fictionalized! And of course, not making the Tecton look bad in any way, or they'll never print it.

Nick: We can change all the names, and describe our friends and foes so well that their children would recognize them. Wild Killer Gens, desperate escapes... it'll be a bestseller.

Katsura: But we'll have to change the plot and the characters' motivations, or we'll be accused of corrupting the youth of Nivet.

Katsura fishes another muffin out of the pack and hands it to Nick.

Nick takes it, estimating how much food is available, and how long it will have to last.

Katsura: I figure we should eat the bulky stuff first, and leave the channel chow and donor biscuits for emergencies.

Nick decides that he can afford another muffin.

Nick: Let's hope we don't get that desperate.

Nick is ~~ quite sincere ~~.

Katsura: Sectuib will probably get it all sorted out before we have to resort to such desperate measures for survival.

Hrill, asleep in her warm bed, cuddles her Farris tightly, dreaming of puppies and tentacles and adventures.

Return to Table of Contents