With the boy undergoing a cursory medical exam before being transferred to the head of the militia, Bryant sipped herbal tea at the edge of the campground and watched the sun dribble into the hazy sky.
Mornings like this made her miss Eutaw. That is, the Eutaw that existed before the Battle of Fort Evergreen six years ago. Nobody who had means to escape stuck around in Sunset after the first truce. By the time the Aides restored order they recruited anyone willing to pledge allegiance to their newly-formed country. After seeing what happened to her contemporaries in a rapidly disintegrating city, Rey stretched the truth about her age to the militia and said as little about her past as possible.
A tall man with a serious expression on his face whipped the medical tent flap and motioned Bryant over.
“His CD4 counts are through the roof,” Alvarez whispered. Bryant’s stomach dropped. Scans of both the old woman and the other son indicated that their immune systems had been exposed to this virus before. Given their close proximity and unbelievably unhygienic living conditions the Reader had initially predicted Isaac had been exposed to the hantavirus months ago. No one was expecting this result.
“All normal so far as I could tell. The MediReader blinked out halfway through the exam.” Caca.
“Did you run the probabilities?” Everyone in the company who wasn’t a new recruit had been vaccinated already, but after a few bloody missions the percentage of new recruits was rising rapidly.
“No, I didn’t have time.” With brand new and fully functional equipment Alvarez could have completed this scan in a few seconds. As it was he now spent more time trying to electronically create and record his findings than actually examining the civilian. Had the capital not been so insistent on meticulous record-keeping he could have finished this exam in half the time.
“You know you have to tell Baker, right?”
“It’s your assignment. You should do it,” Alvarez said with a tinge of hope in his voice. “The risks of clearing him for questioning are honestly fairly low. Aceveds was the only one exposed to him who hasn’t already been vaccinated, and that man is indestructible. All we have to do is keep the rest of the new recruits away from him until I can get the MediReader fixed.” There was also the fact that Alvarez already been reamed out by their militia’s commanding officer once this week for his involvement with the Swood disaster. He was in no mood to be the bearer of bad news again so soon.
“Medicine is your jurisdiction. I’m just a grunt.” After what happened in Nevada Bryant wasn’t about to stick her neck out for anyone, even her husband.
“Ephraim, this isn’t safe,” Daphne said again as her son slid his newly-sharpened knife into his boot holster.
“We need to know more about them before we go to the council. If I tell you how many men they have and what their weaknesses are maybe you can convince the other ombudsmen to do something other than twiddle their thumbs and hope for the best.”
“But you don’t even know if the council still exists!” Even water rights weren’t being fought over as nearly every house struggled to finish preserving their harvests and bury their dead.
“You exist, mom. As long as you’re alive so is the council. If you had to you could govern this whole valley with one hand tied behind your back until more volunteers stepped up.” Now Daphne knew that wasn’t true. She could barely sit at the council table and look at a sea of faces staring back at her without feeling jittery.
“You’re outnumbered, ‘Raim. I need you here to protect us.” For a second Ephraim paused and smiled. The idea of his mother – a woman who once ran off a mountain lion when it injured Lemon and shamed the councilmen who had ruled against her in the custody battle with McArthur into reversing their decision – needing him was slightly funny. Did she love him? Without a doubt. Did she need him? Not in the least.
“I’ll be careful,” was his only reply.
It was a long, quiet, sad day at the Lewis house, but even Paige saw fit to keep her opinions to herself for once. Daphne preserved everything her sons had brought back on their last trip from the gardens. In the past it had been more than enough for one adult and two children, but it would be tricky to stretch it out for six hungry mouths over the summer. Planning out how to keep everyone fed was a good distraction, though.
When Daphne gathered everyone inside for their siesta at the hottest part of the day she decided to tell Felix and Wilma some of the stories she’d shared with her sons when they were small. Felix already knew how Father Time had first set the world into motion, and Wilma was too young to hear about what happens to those who defeat Death, but after a moment of hesitation Daphne wandered to the little bookcase built into a nook by her bed and picked up one of her favourite history books.
“Many generations ago animals still remembered knew how to speak,” she said. “And this is the true story of what happened when some of them decided to overthrow a farm and run it themselves…”