Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 35

words spoken no matter how earnest
do not change our circumstances
only actions taken
can better our lives

—Visions of Eternal Sunrise, a collection by Yann Barigari

Yigars was already out hunting when Agra woke up. The pain had subsided. She moved her left arm up. “Ah!” she cried out.

Daroo woke up, startled.

“What?” he called out as though whatever monster had been hunting him in some dream was still somewhere in the room.

“My arm hurts,” Agra whispered through the pain and clenched teeth.

Daroo ran his left hand over his right forearm.

Agra saw that movement. “You too?”

“Me too.”

Daroo’s eyes met Agra’s across the two beds in the cabin. She held his gaze longer than she was used to, but somehow she was mesmerized by the old, wrinkled face. Everyone was so young around her. There was some kind of wisdom in his eyes she was drawn to.

Daroo smiled. It was the gentle gesture of someone who’d been seen as a human being for the first time in a very long time.

He kept his smile on and stood up, then dressed. Agra kept watching him, eyes on his every movement.

At last, he stood in front of her, fully dressed. He straightened and raised his head, looking more like a dignified village elder than a former slave.

Agra stood, wincing with pain. Daroo pointed at her side. “This will heal. It will take some time, but it will heal.”

“Thank you.”

“The dreams and nightmares will continue.” Daroo paused, then smiled again. “But the dreams and nightmares don’t become reality unless you bring them with you after you wake up.”

Agra smiled the same smile, at which Daroo nodded twice.

“Good. Good,” he said, “I’ll go make some more clothes.”

“We have clothes.”

“Warmer clothes. Winter parkas with cotton and fur.”

“It will get cold, then?”

“Yes, but not yet. First, the rains will come.”

“The rains?”

“Yes. I will go make clothes.”

After Daroo left, Agra dressed, and when the pain got to be too much, she replayed the conversation in her mind. She gritted her teeth and, despite the searing pain in her side, she put her left arm through the sleeve of her vest. Then she grabbed her spear and went out.

Yigars and Ipsena were coming through the garden. Vaega was there too, tending to plants. They saw Agra standing in the doorway, then coming down the two steps to the dirt.

“Agra,” Yigars said, smiling.

Agra raised her arm against the morning light. “Yigars. Ipsena.”

“We found another crash site to the west. Lots of interesting gear. Trion’s there sorting through stuff. We came back to get the donkey to carry some of the heavier things. You want to come with us?” Yigars said.

Ipsena was standing next to him with a new bow slung around her shoulders, holding a new spear.

“I’ll go with you.”

As Agra walked by Vaega, who was picking strawberries and dropping them in a wide wicker basket. She paused and gave her hug and kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for putting me back together.”

Vaega smiled back. “I’ll make you a feast when you come back.”

Agra took a step back, still holding Vaega. “I would love that.”

Once Agra, Yigars, and Ipsena closed the camp gate behind them, they walked to the donkey. Agra felt on edge, her right hand tight around the shaft of the spear. She noticed how Ipsena seemed so different from camp. Here, in the wilderness, she was sharp, alert to every sound and movement. For an instant, in Agra’s mind, Ipsena’s sun-tanned, angular head topped with bright blonde hair made her resemble some otherworldly predator.

The walk was uneventful. At the crash site, Trion had lined up some gear he had selected: a set of YeohLed lights, wiring, two motors, a condenser, some tools, and, to Agra’s surprise, a block of axaline barrich, a luxury even in the wealthiest cities.

“I found something else,” Trion said, “inside. I need help to pull it out.”

Ipsena and Yigars went in with Trion and returned carrying a Pusa engine. This could get a small craft to orbit. They loaded the Pusa on the travois pulled by the donkey and headed home.

On the way back, everyone carried something, and Agra thought her side would hurt more, but she somehow managed without too much discomfort.

Life at camp had returned to normal, and Agra busied herself like the others. She went back to doing research and spent the rest of the afternoon making launch calculations, not liking the results. If they could weld all the escape pods into a single capsule, the Pusa engine could get them to space, assuming they had enough fuel. No matter how many times she did the math, the capsule would not support over three passengers.

This meant leaving Yigars, Daroo, and Ipsena behind.

She closed her notebook, disgusted with how little progress they had made, and set the pen down next to it. “Well, shit.”

Ipsena was standing in the doorway. “Shit what?”

Agra hadn’t seen her standing there. “It’s nothing. I’m just researching something.”

Ipsena brought her right hand from behind her back. She was holding a glittering figurine. It measured about twenty-five centimeters and portrayed a hunter holding a spear. It sparkled with the myriad golden and silvery flecks encrusted in the translucent axaline.

“Trion asked me to bring it to you.”

Agra turned in her chair to take the figure in both hands. “Oh wow, it’s amazing!” She looked closer. Even the face of the figurine was sculpted in high detail. “That’s me!”

Ipsena smiled. “Trion thought you would like it.”

“Like it? Yes. I love it. Wow, it’s so great.”

Agra stared at it some more, then set it on the research desk, where it met the wall in the corner. “It will keep me company.”

“Come. Daroo made clothes for us. Thick coats and underwear, too.”

Agra stood. “Underwear? I need to see this.”

As they walked to the workroom, Ipsena added, almost as an afterthought: “A single Pusa engine can’t push six people into orbit.”

Agra kept her gaze on the ground as they walked. “I know.”

“I’ll stay here with Yigars and Daroo. You three should go.”

“Ipsena, what are you saying? We’re all leaving together.”

“A single Pusa engine. I know what this means: three people.” She stopped walking and gazed at the setting sun, admiring the play of colors, from bright orange to indigo in the sparse clouds above.

“I am a given-wife of Esiron. I follow my fate. I am not afraid of living on Raheem. Yigars is here with me.”

Agra stood with her, admiring the sky.

“Not everyone had a good life in space.” Ipsena concluded.

Next chapter: Rifle for Rifle

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