Parts 0-2 are already at 2500 words. Let’s go ahead and call this one a light novel or novella. Anyone wanna do the b&w illustrations for me?
It had been two days since Nozh’s well-intentioned advice. Advice Nike had tried to take: he didn’t formally signup for multiple watches, but when he’d a spare moment, he’d make his way to the old machine shop on the third floor. Such as now, for instance.
He paused at the door frame. Nozh was leaning out the window frame looking somewhere off to the left.
“Snaran sunbathing topless again?” Nike called. Judging by his friend’s violent flinch, he might have been right!
“N- no!” The younger man said spinning around. “The Gate was open and I was trying to, well…”
“See out past it, using our superior height here?”
“Well, yeah,” he admitted, confessing something that would get him in serious trouble with the Federation. But no one at the ‘Factory would rat out another!
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Nike said easily. He jerked his right thumb at the cocoon. “Anything?”
Nozh shook his head as he walked to it and put his hand up.
“Yes?” Nike asked, finally stepping into the room. The younger nodded for him to take the chair.
“There was… yelling…”
“Language?” Nike sat down.
A head shake.
“Girl… or young boy.”
Nozh turned his head back.
“You’d like the latter, I’m sure!”
Nike’s proclivities were well known both at the ‘Factory and in the town.
“I’m betting a girl.” Nike said, taking a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket.
“Another ‘feeling’?” Nozh asked, walking towards the door. Unlike the older man, he detested sitting still.
“Mmm,” his elder replied, lighting his smoke with a match.
“I guess when you get to be as old – ”
Nozh whirled left as Nike’s head came up quickly.
The cocoon rocked slightly.
“She’s here,” Nike whispered to himself.
“Do I have time to go get – ”
*thunk!* *thunk! thunk!*
A crack formed two-thirds of the way up, just to their left of center. Fluid began to leak out.
“Guess that’s a ‘no,’” Nike heard the older teen boy mutter. He spared a glance at the table a few feet behind the chair. Blankets. A small tub of water.
But… if it was injured. It had only happened once in Nike’s life…
“Flare gun?” He asked Nozh.
He pointed at the small table by the window. That would bring everyone – everyone – at a run. Just like –
A slender right arm stuck out through the hole to the elbow and waved around. Nike was a bit surprised to see the fingers curl into angry claws as it was pulled back in.
“What was – ?”
So Nozh saw that, too.
There were several other sounds: more thunks, tears; the cocoon’s fluid was now leaking from more than a half dozen places.
“Active one,” Nozh muttered.
Something was different. They both felt it.
The action seemed to be focusing on the middle center. Ah: her – he thought of it as her – had her hands on either side of that main tear…
With a whoosh! the rest of the cocoon’s fluid washed out, carrying a small figure in its midst. It – she, that was now obvious – came to rest just a Nike’s feet.
He shuddered at that unwanted omen.
“Nice butt,” Nozh smiled. “Disappointed?”
Nike glared at him from the corner of his eye while he pointed.
“Look at her back; they’ll be in in no more than two days…” There were two great swollen red-purple lumps on her upper back.
“That’s…” Nozh was still fairly young, “that’s odd… isn’t it?”
“A bit,” Nike said with a shrug, taking a drag off his cigarette. He did not like having her called ‘odd,’ “but not unheard of. There are records of some hatched with wings – ”
There was a groan from his feet as she lifted just her head. She paused at his shoes. She paused at his knees. He watched as she used her arms to raise her torso and stare at his face.
Fifteen or sixteen, Nike thought. Japanese, but maybe Korean; all those people look alike to me! He could not look away from her dark grey eyes. If her wings come in that color…
“Rest of her looks good, too!” Nozh smirked. “And she’s definitely a ‘Factory Girl! A hatchling at Old Home would have been screaming about being naked!”
Nike smiled as he watched the girl’s head look around. For a moment her eyes settled on Nozh. On his wings and halo. Then back to Nike. On his wings and halo.
So typical, he thought.
She tried to talk and started coughing violently. True to Tradition, Nike and Nozh did nothing. A hatchling must learn to live the moment it clears its cocoon. She tried again.
“Where I am?” She managed. “Am I… dead?”
Nike heard Nozh’s sharp intake of breath and ignored it.
Does this one know? He thought.
Nike stepped up and off the chair to his left.
“Where are you?” He echoed. “You are in Abandoned Factory just outside the town of Glie, in the land Inside the Wall.”
He waved at the huge empty window frame with his left in his little speech.
Stand up! He thought. A hatchling must stand on their own!
“And to my eyes, young Miss, you are very much alive!”
There was a pause. Nike and Nozh did not look at one another. She placed her hands onto the cold tile and pushed with her legs.
“I’m… cold…” She said, wobbling a little.
The two men moved fast.
Nozh had one blanket wrapped round her chest and down to her ankles. Nike used a smaller one about her neck, gently rubbing her wet hair. She sneezed violently, spraying cocoon fluid all over his worn shirt. It had been a nice shirt, once.
“Tholly,” she muttered. He handed her an even smaller cloth.
“Blow your nose,” he said. “Get cleaned out!”
She nodded and honked vigorously. Nike was glad she couldn’t see Nozh laughing silently behind her.
She handed it back to him, surprised when he tossed it off to the right into the darkness.
“Someone will clean it up later,” he said, following her gaze. “One thing we have plenty of, here, is time.”
She suddenly arched her back. Nozh put his hands onto her waist to keep her from falling. It was not moisture from her hair that began to bead on the girl’s forehead but the start of the fever.
He’d little time; he stepped forward and put his left around her waist, pulling her towards him from Nozh. She was blinking too much.
“What did you dream?!” He half-yelled at her.
“What?! Leave me alone!” Her resistance was weak and he knew he had less than a minute.
“Your dream! In the cocoon! What did you see?!?” He put his right hand onto her chin to hold her gaze onto him.
“<Blood…>” Her eyes started to roll up into her head.
“Nike? Aren’t you…”
He tried one last time.
“WHAT DID YOU DREAM?”
She was on her back. The light was terrible; emergency lights in the C-130H? There was constant dripping… like rain. From the ceiling, wires, piping. A salty, warm, red rain…
“<Red… rain.>” She sighed as she passed out in his arms.
“Akai… ameh?” Nozh tried.
“Akaiame.” Nike said, cradling her head. “Welcome to Abandoned Factory.”