Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 12

Changing circumstances dictate approach and attitude.

—Motto on the lintel of the Hall of Engineering at Subaba University.

After a few days, Agra knew how to smoke just enough of the Genoresis to ease the pain in her leg and allow her to work without feeling her mind was floating in water. That morning she went out and instead of following the river, went right around the camp palisade and headed up into the nearby hills. She climbed for nearly two hours.

The soil gradually grew rockier and only the hardiest plants grew there. It was colder, too, but she felt fine as long as she kept walking. There was little wildlife, so she thought about turning back.

A few hundred meters away, a ridge line hid what lay beyond. She decided to climb to that and turn around then.

At the top of the ridge, the land fell away into another valley. It was lush with trees and other vegetation. A lake glimmered in the distance. To the left, in the rocky escarpments, she spotted a metallic shine: something was reflecting sunlight in that particularly man-made way, but it was too far to identify clearly.

She took her notebook out of her bag and expanded her maps to include the valley, the lake, and the shiny metal object. She penned delicately, making precise lines on the thin paper. She didn’t know many things on Raheem, and depended on others for so much, but she knew how to do research and document thoroughly.

“I will make that my advantage,” she said to herself.

Standing there, drawing, she felt the biting cold of the wind buffeting her. Setting aside her notebook, she left at brisk walk, making a beeline to the shining object.

When she reached the source of the glittering light, Agra saw it was part of a much larger ship that must have crashed recently because it wasn’t covered with vegetation or half-buried in mud.

She entered the wreck carefully, minding every step. Part of the fuselage had crumpled on impact and metal shards littered the area, but once inside, she saw much gear that had not been damaged.

She took a survey of the whole ship, noting the equipment that could be salvaged. Much of it was too bulky or heavy for her to carry back alone. She picked up a couple electrical motors from an air circulation section, and coiled up some wiring.

Her notebook filled with descriptions and her bag full, she returned to camp the way she had come, thankful for the warmth of the lower elevation.

Trion and Vaega welcomed her at the gate.

“I saw you coming from the mountain. Did you find something interesting?”

Agra lifted her bag. “Two motors, and wiring!”

Trion smiled and took her bag from her, already looking inside with keen interest.

Vaega closed the gate behind Agra and joined to walk alongside her.

“How is your leg?”

Agra smiled. “No pain at all. I nearly forgot about it.”

“That’s good.”

“Thank you for asking.”

Vaega looked into Agra’s eyes. “Obviously. I care about you.”

Almost by instinct, Agra raised her arms to Vaega, who understood immediately and stepped into the hug, wrapping Agra’s body in her own arms.

Agra held the hug, finding herself wanting to cry, or to dare hope again.

Vaega disengaged slowly. For a moment, she held Agra’s hands in her own.

“Come, sit by the fire. I’ll feed you.”

Agra sat and rested some time while Vaega gave her a strange mixture of pungent leaves and strips of rabbit meat.

“How is it? I was trying to make pemmican.”

“It tastes okay. Does it keep?”

“Not really. I have more. We have to finish it before it goes bad.” Vaega put another handful on Agra’s plate.

Trion was walking from the work shed to the fire.

“Have some more?” Vaega asked.

Trion grimaced. “Ate too much already, thank you.”

He sat next to Agra, holding the list she had compiled of the gear in the wreckage.

He ran his middle finger down the list. “Is all this really in good shape?”

She glanced down to follow along on the list. “Yes, everything there has no damage. It must have been a soft impact.”

“It hasn’t been stripped of parts?”

“No. It looks like it crashed recently.”

Vaega was chewing on rabbit meat laced with leaves. “Did you see any survivors?”

Agra turned to answer. “I did not see anyone. It is cold up there. Maybe they did not survive.”

Agra paused and looked at the fire. “The ground is rocky, arid, and cold. I imagine if we had crashed there we would not have survived either.”

Agra continued. “There was a valley just below, with plants and trees, and a lake. Maybe they made their way down there.”

Trion stood, extending his hands near the fire. “I have enough now to build a windmill and a refrigeration compressor. I’ll try to finish today, before night comes.”

“I will go hunt,” Agra said, also standing.

When night came, Trion was still at work in the workshop. Agra and Vaega tidied up after dinner and went to sleep.

Agra dreamed of a ship crashing in a dry, barren hillside, of a handful of survivors trying desperately to find food and shelter in a cold, dry landscape. She saw, or imagined, their parched bones stripped clean of flesh by predators, left scattered to the winds. She imagined in her mind the bright sunlight glittering on the remnants of the metal hull, the bright light in her eyes, growing, growing, until she was no longer asleep and bolted straight up, eyes wide open.

Trion was standing at the far end of the cabin, awash in the bright light of a YeohLed.

He wore a blanket of stitched furs on his back but the front of his body glowed against the darkness and Agra found herself admiring him in detail, his muscles gnawing at a need deep in her consciousness.

“Like a god,” she whispered.

Trion turned at the sound of her voice. The darkness of her skin shone with blueish and tawny highlight in the artificial light, and her eyes reflected deep brown hues with glints of purple and specks of aquamarine. He knew this was an illusion of the YeohLed yet he was struck and enchanted by the effect.

“We have electricity,” Trion said.

“Thank you. This is amazing.”

From outside, Agra could hear the steady whoosh of the new windmill.

Trion looked back at the light, shielding his eyes from the most intense part with his left hand.

“You’re welcome. This will help tremendously. Now you can build a research station. Come with me.”

They stepped out into the night. The moon was high; the chill was bitter. He clasped the lock of another fur stitch cloak around her and she wrapped herself in it. Behind the kitchen building he had built another, smaller room. Inside, a YeohLed shone above a wide table of polished pine planks, with a small metal and wood chair in front.

“Tell me what else you need and I will make it.”

Agra turned to him and smiled, beaming. At last she could do proper research.

“Thank you. Thank you. This is perfect.”

She hugged him then, expressing a gratitude she did not have words for.

Next chapter: More Traps

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