Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
Hopes and Hops
Hopes and Hops
The first step of terraforming a new planet, once a candidate has been identified, is to send life in its most basic form: single-cell organisms that can transform minerals, chemicals and energy into more complex compounds and foods. Establishing these may take a skilled team decades. Only the most dedicated and patient people are suited for this work.
Everything was in upheaval. Vaega had assured them Agra would pull through, that her wound would heal. After Vaega and Trion had spent the afternoon tending to Agra, they had taken turns sitting with her all night, and while she had not woken up, neither had things grown worse.
It was the morning after the attack. Daroo came into the infirmary holding a bowl of clear soup and a jar of fresh water.
Yigars, who was on watch then, helped him set them down on the table.
“How is she?” Daroo asked.
“Same. She is breathing. She is not awake. She’s not taken food or drink.”
“Is she in pain?”
“I don’t think so. Her body is very relaxed.”
“I am awake,” Agra said weakly.
Yigars was on his feet again. “Go get Vaega,” he told Daroo, who nodded and left right away.
“Agra! How are you feeling?”
Before she could answer, lines furrowed her brow and crinkled the top of her nose. “It hurts,” she whimpered, shutting her eyes.
“Where does it hurt?”
She moved her right hand to point at her left side but set it down right away. “It burns. It burns.”
“Don’t move. Vaega is coming.”
“The Wilder…” Her voice trailed off into a grimace full of pain.
“It ran away. It was injured.”
“Who?” She kept her face still and spoke through clenched jaws, barely moving her lips.
“Ipsena stabbed it with your spear.”
The door opened. Vaega and Trion walked in. She came to her left side while Trion stood with Yigars on the right side of the bed.
Agra opened her eyes and looked to the left and to the right. Vaega took her hand and held it. Agra’s gaze shifted again to the left and held on to Vaega’s.
“I’ll give you some water now. Can you drink a little for me?”
Agra barely nodded. Vaega put a few drops on her lips, then a few more. At length, Agra drank two hundred milliliters, but that took much effort.
“Later, we will feed you some broth.”
Agra closed her eyes, exhausted.
“Let her sleep,” Vaega told Yigars.
“I’ll take watch,” Trion said. “You’ve been up a long time.”
Yigars picked up his bow. “Thank you.” He left the room.
Vaega followed him. On the way to the cabin, Vaega caught up to him.
“I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you,” Vaega said.
“What?” Yigars replied, puzzled.
“When you told us not to go outside the gate.”
Yigars didn’t respond. Instead, he stared at Ipsena, who was standing in the open doorway of the cabin. She looked disheveled, lost.
“Ipsena, are you okay?” Yigars asked, walking up to her. He was about to wrap his arms around her, but she flinched and brought her hands up to protect her face. Yigars stopped immediately. “I’m sorry.”
As she looked at him, her face softened, a faint smile etched for an instant on her lips. “No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Yigars.”
“May I kiss you?” She asked.
Without waiting further, she closed the distance between them and crushed his lips with hers, holding his face in her hands.
Yigars closed the door, hiding them from view. Vaega smiled wryly.
If she thinks it will heal the pain, Vaega thought, and then paused, reflecting. Well, maybe it will.
Daroo was coming into camp through the gate, holding a jar of water. He plodded in the direction of the kitchen. Vaega joined him near the garden, and walked with him, carrying the jar of water for him.
“Are these hops?” Daroo asked, pointing at a patch of green shoots poking through the soil.
“Yes, they are. I hope to make a little beer,” Vaega answered.
“Won’t you need barrels for fermentation?”
“Yes. I suppose Trion will know how to make them.”
Daroo opened the kitchen door and Vaega went in and set the jar on the table.
Vaega knew Daroo had seen a lot more of Raheem than the rest of them put together. “Her side is infected. She started having a fever. I don’t know what to do except to keep her cool and keep her wound clean. I hope she can fight it.”
On the seventh day, Agra’s fever broke, and she opened her eyes without seeming lost in some strange within-world.
They had all taken turns watching over her, and Ipsena had spent the most time at her side, as she had no assigned camp duties except stone work.
Trion had made her a bow, and she had practiced but wasn’t very good yet.
“I think I prefer the spear,” she had told Trion.
“I’ll make one for you. You can fight with both if you need to.”
Vaega had made pemmican with the baby bison meat, but the memory of the battle left everyone with a bad taste in their mouths when they ate them, so she decided to keep the rest for later—maybe they would not mind so much once the memory had faded.
On the evening of the eighth day, Agra sat with them at the campfire, looking weak, emaciated, but she finally had an appetite. Vaega gave her soft, nutritious food, but not too much, only a few bites. “I’m happy you’re feeling better.”
“Thank you for taking care of me,” Agra said quietly. Vaega nodded with a smile.
Agra then turned to Yigars. He was the youngest among them, yet he was wise too. Agra saw that now.
“I’m sorry I didn’t take your advice,” she said. “I should have heeded it.”
Yigars looked at Agra. His hand was in Ipsena’s, and Agra saw in her eyes that she was holding on to their relationship at the edge of sanity, at some boundary.
“When I watched as the fever ran through you on the third night,” Yigars began, “I apologized for not being more resolute. I didn’t want to go against the group. I didn’t want you—” He glanced at Ipsena. “I didn’t want to appear weak or scared.”
Trion and Daroo nodded quietly. Agra saw at that moment they knew what he meant from personal experience.
“I don’t want that to happen again,” Yigars said.
Agra kept her eyes locked on him, weighing his words. She took another plate of food Vaega was handing to her, but did not eat, and kept looking at Yigars.
“I am happy you are here with us,” Agra finally said.
Later that night, in the darkness of the cabin, Vaega came to check on Agra, who was trying to sleep but was twitching and tossing under the furs.
“Are you okay?”
Agra opened her left eye. “I can’t sleep. Too stressed. It still hurts.”
Without hesitation, Vaega slipped into Agra’s bed, turning her back to her. “Lean on me and sleep.”
Agra snuggled without question and fell asleep almost immediately.
Next chapter: Pusa
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