Darkship Revenge – Snippet 33

I don’t know how long this had been going on.  It felt like years, or maybe centuries, but in retrospect, it must have been something short of two days. Maybe three or four, at the most.

And then at some point, I found Kit guiding me to bed.  I don’t remember dropping to sleep.  I woke up with Eris crying.  She was soaked, and obviously starved.  I wondered if there was any formula around, that Kit could feed her when I slept.  Clearly, she didn’t get any bad effects from three hundred year old formula.

By the time I was done feeding her, she had fallen asleep.  I tucked her away in the box we were using for a crib.  And then went in search of formula.  Surely, Jarl hadn’t had a need to feed babies, but some of his guests might have.

I struck gold in one of the storage rooms, with vacuum packed, sealed bags of baby formula, but when I came back, carrying it in triumph, Fuse was waiting for me outside my room wringing his hands together and looking distraught…

Why is it our fears always go to those we love the most?  In my case, my fears went to Eris.  Had Fuse tried to pick her up and dropped her, or something equally disastrous.  I couldn’t even manage the voice to ask, but he said, “Thena, the boys need a doctor.  A real medtech, not us.”

Fuse seemed to have aged again overnight till he seemed his real age, except that sometimes he missed words or had trouble pronouncing something or seemed excessively frustrated.  I thought he seemed older because he was looking after others.  Not that he hadn’t always been a nice person, but not usually the adult in charge of sick people.  For one because in the time I’d known him putting him in charge of sick people would mean he’d build some sort of explosive to blow them up, thereby solving the issue.

Now, though, he behaved like a rational human being.  A caring one. He moved from bed to bed, providing water, food, help to the bathroom.

“Why?  What happened?” I ask.

Fuse shook his head.  “They’re not coming out of this.  Their fever is too high.  I’m afraid they’ll be damaged.  In the head.” He touched his own head, with a finger, as though to indicate the place of danger, or perhaps the disastrous results that could ensue. “Athena, we should com Simon.  Simon has doctors.  Stands to reason. Emperor.”

“You’re not supposed to call him Simon,” I’d said out of reflex.

Fuse sighted.  “No. But Thena, I don’t want Thor to die.”

“I don’t want any of them to die.”

Fuse shook his head.  “No, he said.  But… different.  Thor is… is my brother.  Is what I was, before… before I got sick.  He’s the only family I have.  Father never family. I’m — I’ll be damned if Thor has to run from someone who wants to steal his body.  I’ll be damned if he blows himself up before he can learn what is dangerous.  I’ll be damned if he’s going to be hurt anymore.  They’ve… they’ve been very badly treated, Athena.  Worse than us.  And treated each other very badly. They’ve been taught very badly.  They’ve been taught they’re things. Might still save them, change them, teach them better, but only if they live. Call Simon.”

I called Simon.  We weren’t equipped to deal with this alone.  Morgan looked like he’d faded into his pillows, a pale little shade so thin and transparent, you fancied you could see his bones through his flesh.  The blue hair and piercings which had looked almost threatening now looked just like a child’s costume, put on for a party and not discarded when illness struck.

So I dialed the new code Simon had given me. The link rang a long time.  I knew it was Simon’s personal link and in the past he’d answered almost instantly. We’d seen him just a few days ago and I couldn’t imagine that his duties as Emperor were very different from his duties as Good Man.  I waited.  At long last I gave up and called Olympus.  I didn’t have Lucius’ code, but I had his name, and he was part of a military.  I had a vague memory of numbers in Olympus, the area code used for official business.  I doubted they’d changed that. Most revolutions alter but don’t abolish the previous bureaucracy.  I called a lot of codes and considered revising my assumptions, before a valid com rang.  I asked the rather bewildered person who answered for the codes for the military installation that used to be the Patrician’s palace: and lucked out.  The person who answered me was one of Lucius’ secretaries, and had heard of me even if not recently.  I’m going to assume at some point in the past he’d heard me too, because he never doubted it was my voice, but instead put me through to Lucius.

Who answered sounding like death warmed over, “Head cold, I think,” he told me.  “Though Si — Julien seems to have a more severe case of it.  He collapsed during one of the morning ceremonies and the doctor has been called.  His own particular doctor, Doctor Dufort.”

“The boys have a very severe case,” I said.

There was a long silence.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.  “We don’t want to lose them.”

“The doctor here reassured me it was just a flu virus,” Lucius said.  There was another silence.  “We’ve been getting very odd, very long lasting diseases, things that we thought were almost entirely vanished from the world, like flu and colds.  The war, and the aggregation of people into tiny spaces, let alone the stress and sometimes insufficient sanitation…”

“And I think the boys caught something their immune system isn’t prepared for.”

“Likely.  Let me call Doctor Dufort” Lucius said.

“To come here?  Would that be safe?”

“He’s– He’s an Usaian.  I’ll talk to him.  Quite safe. He… was the St. Cyr physician.”

“That,” I said.  “Is hardly a recommendation.”  I’d found out, on our flight from the algae station that an acephalous clone had been killed instead of Simon, and that there were any number of these, as well as people who were effectively mules or close to it, created.

Lucius hesitated.  “No.  I suppose not, but he — He’s an Usaian.  Without him, the revolution in Liberte would have gone very wrong indeed, and Liberte would have been taken back by the Good Men.  He’s solid.”

More than solid, I though, if his mere presence could prevent Liberte being taken by the Good Men who still controlled most of the world.  What had he done?  Created armies of Usaians to the cause, out of vats?  I didn’t ask, though.  I suspected all Lucius meant by it was “he is a believer in my faith.”  I thought that if both Lucius and Simon trusted him, he would perhaps be all right.  And if he weren’t, we could keep him here with us, after all.  I mean, what could he do if we confined him in here with us?  And the boys did need medical care.

I went back to the room where we’d put the three boys, to tell Kit that we were going to get a real doctor to come here.

I had Eris strapped to the front of my chest, in a sling, as I did most of the time I was awake.  As I approached the room, I heard a scream, and then Laz’s voice saying, in a rush, “Me, me, not them.  Not them.”

It woke Eris, who started crying, so that by the time we entered the room, Laz half-awakened, and turned, away from us, looking as though we had disturbed something intensely private.

“What was that all about?” I asked Kit, who looked more somber and grave than when the Cathouse had problems.  We were leaving the room the boys slept in.

“You don’t want to know,” he said.  And, to my enquiring look.  “They’ve been talking in delirium again, but he seems quite out of his mind. You really don’t want to know.”  He looked tired too.  None of us were trained doctors or even medtechs.