Monday, February 9, 2015

A Time To Every Purpose Under Heaven

Daria puffed her breath out, her hands pressing hard into her lower back. “Not today, baby, I ain't got our room set up right yet. You gotta stay put. Another week. You ain't supposed to be here for another week anyway.”

Baby's impatient?” Haley asked, a little wistfully. The girls were making their beds in the little bunk room that would become Haley's room when Daria went into labor and was moved into the birth room Dana was making at the northwestern end of the hospital. Haley didn't really care about having her own room; it was reassuring to wake in the night and hear Daria breathing across the room. She was wistful mostly because soon Daria would see her baby, and hold it, and be a mother. Her own due date seemed so far off in contrast some days she felt the baby might be imaginary.

Think she's gotta be a girl, she's all impatient like me,” Daria said.

That would be nice, a little girl. So cute. Like all in pink and little bows.” Haley smiled at the thought.

They brought back so many baby clothes last time,” Daria said. “I'm gonna try sorting and stacking them in the plastic bins in the storage room. You think I should do it by size and what kind of baby it is? Or should I do like a whole wardrobe for a baby, and the moms can just take a whole bin and that's their baby clothes?”

Do it by size. I'll come help. I'll organize the diapers and stuff.”

It's kind of a surprise for Ruth,” Daria said. “She was gonna do it later today when she got back from helping Ed and Ben get water. But I need to do something. What job you got today?”

I already did it. I helped Amanda and Eve clean up the bakery and move some furniture out of the barracks and down into storage until more people come.”

All while I was napping?”

Yeah. I needed something to do, too. I miss Facebook.”

Daria laughed at that; high, squeaking peals that had Haley laughing with her.

Eve and Katrin stumbled into the bathroom with the shower much later that night, covered in soot and dirt.

“I hate bakeries,” Katrin said, dramatically.

You loved Cupcake.”

I never had to clean Cupcake,” Kat said. Her mother checked their camp showers and decided the water was hot enough. The camp showers were thick black plastic bags with shower hoses on them, meant to be left in the sun to heat up. Eve had left these two in her kitchen near enough the fireplace to warm up properly and Will had brought them down to the shower only moments ago.

I have plans for the bakery.”

You have plans for everything. You used to have plans for everything AND we never had to scrub out a whole bakery,” Kat groused. “You just did the plans part in nine hundred notebooks.”

Yes, but now I am SuperEve, Mother of Multitudes, and your Glorious Leader.” Eve, half undressed in the icy bathroom, clenched her hands into fists and let her head fall back to make a good evil genius laugh.

No,” Kat said, unimpressed. She stood in the shower and Eve hooked her camp shower up over the shower rod so Katrin could get cleaned up first. Eve used a cold washrag and the bucket of clean water near the sink to try and wipe off the first layer of grime while she waited for her turn at the hot showers.

I hope you have plans for cupcakes,” Katrin muttered in the shower.

I heard that!”

I don't like it bikkiks all a time,” Val said grouchily. “I want bread you buy it from store.”

Sorry, bud. The biters ate all the bread,” Eve said sympathetically. “And most of the packets of yeast, even, or I'd make you real bread.”

My dad made real bread,” Owen said. “And he would make us cinnamon rolls with the leftover dough.”

Man, those were so good,” Aiden said. “I miss-” The older boy cut himself off, looking at his friend with a worried look.

That sounds like a very happy memory,” Eve said, gently.

It is,” Owen said, beaming. “I miss my dad but I like thinking about his cooking.”

Yeah,” Aiden said, relieved.

Samson lurched up from the spot where he'd been dozing near the kitchen fire and launched himself from the room, barking ferociously. He scrabbled his paws against the back door, growling and barking urgently.

Amanda reached him first. Eve signaled to Owen, Aiden and Katrin to stay with Val and Baby, then followed the others, taking her axe up as she passed where it rested against the kitchen threshold. Ahead of her, Amanda, Ben, Travis and Will were already armed with bows and Will's iron hoe.

Hush,” Amanda told Samson, and the dog fell immediately silent, his body tight and nearly vibrating with alertness. At Travis' raised eyebrow she said “I found that one out when we were clearing out the storage buildings.”

Ben reached around the dog and Amanda to start opening the door.

Heel,” Amanda said, and Samson took the position.

Will,” Eve said. “Go let Tammy and Haley know we have a ruckus up here, and to be alert. Quietly.” Will nodded and hurried to the front door and out toward the catwalk and the Round Tower.

Eve passed the jackets forward and they shrugged them on, then the four and Samson slipped out the back door, closing it tightly behind them. Amanda and Ben had their heavy duty flashlights out, but not on, the night was lit well enough by the moon right now and any light might actually obscure their vision and make it easier for someone or something to hide in the shadows.

Samson led them down the back stairs and then up on top of the Half Moon Battery behind the Commander's Quarters. He pointed tensely down at the trail below them.

His people crouched behind the wooden barrier and searched the shadows below them. He whined a little and scratched the flat wood platform forming the roof of the Half Moon Battery.

“There, down there,” Ben hissed in a whisper, pointing. He nocked an arrow, holding down and ready. Amanda copied his action, scooting low on her toes over to look where he was pointing. They crowded around him.

The moon lit the trails below them like a river of alabaster snow in the absence of the leaves, the bare branches black and stark against the reflected moonlight.

At first Eve couldn't tell what they were looking at, only that someone had been making tracks on the trail, a broken ripple on that river of moonlight. Then she caught motion and sucked in her breath.

A group of at least ten Red Flu rioters were scrambling through the snow below them, following the trail. The going looked tough, the ones at the front were being trampled on as the ones behind them went over them in a low, on all fours swarming movement. Slightly behind the main group, one figure walked upright, stepping in the snow they'd compacted, the chaotic trail they were leaving. They didn't seem aware of the watchers holding their breath up on the Half Moon Battery.

Who's having a party up here?” Ed called out, climbing up the steps. Travis was on him in a second, bringing him down to a crouch, holding his finger up to his mouth to silence him.

We're observing a phenomenon,” he whispered. “Do not fire that weapon.” He indicated the rifle Ed held. “We watch. Then we will go back to Eve's to discuss what to do. We're safe right now, we won't be if we get their attention.”

Scratch that,” Eve whispered back to them. “We can meet at Ed's if that's all right with Ed. Let's not have this discussion in front of the children.”

Ed nodded his agreement with an air of pleased importance. Will's head popped up high enough to see as he came up the stairs.

Get Dana and meet us at Ed's,” Travis said quietly, stopping him before he came all the way up. Will gave a disappointed nod and hurried off again.

They're out of sight,” Amanda said. “Let's go in.”

I say we hunt them down, splatter 'em against a wall,” Ed said, leaning on his fireplace mantle. The others gathered around in chairs and on a bench. Lila fussed around making sure everyone had some coffee and then sat next to Eve on the bench.

Eve gave her a smile before turning her attention back to Ed, who clearly felt that he was leading this meeting. Something about Lila reminded her of a small, yappy dog kicked too many times. Like she desperately needed some kindness, but there was a fair chance she'd bite if you offered her any.

I think we need to track them and watch them, if we can, for a bit. They were being led, did you see that?” Amanda asked.

Yea,” Ben began, but was interrupted by Ed.

By the guy at the back? That's leading?” Ed asked.

We've seen that behavior before, at Target,” Travis said. “One clear leader, who seemed able to give commands without speaking. Looked like they were on the move following someone's orders, all of them working together and not eating each other.”

Fucking weird,” Ed muttered.

Yep,” Amanda said shortly. “Which is why it would help if we can figure out what's going on with them. So we can know better how to protect ourselves from fucking feral packs of them, instead of just one at a time biters.”

Ed sighed loudly. “Yeah, ok.” The others looked to Eve.

We can start tracking them tomorrow in daylight, while they're sleeping. Find where they're holed up and observe. And from tonight we'll need an extra watch up on the Half Moon Battery. They can't attack us from back there, but we'll need to keep an eye out for them. Objections?”

Agreed,” Dana said, and the others echoed her, Ed last. “I can take this watch. We can alter the official schedule in the morning.”

I'll take after her,” Ed said. Ben volunteered for the watch after that.

That brings us to daylight,” Eve said. “We can meet at the schoolhouse after breakfast. I have to get the runts tucked in. Goodnight, folks.” She stood, stretching her back a little.

See ya in the morning,” Ben said, and she left them there, gathered in Ed's little parlor.

I need new story,” Val said grumpily, tucked into his bunk. “I tired of mouse cookies. I want Sharknado.”

No!” Katrin snapped. Both girls were tucked in with Val for the moment. Once the story was over Katrin would hurry back to the room that used to be Eve's, and her mother would carry Baby, and they'd both be tucked into the double bed in there. Then Eve would head upstairs to rest in her new bedroom, the formerly empty spare room upstairs. It was still mostly used for storage, but now Eve had a bed tucked in between the dormer windows, too.

I am going to read you Harry Potter,” Eve said. “And then you're all going to sleep and dream of being wizards.” And not, she thought, that maybe we are under siege by organized monsters.