Not so much for me, other than I’ve made much progress these two days… even though I am only just now getting to the leading edge of my notes I made at the local Book Fair fail of a week ago. Make haste slowly. No, the good news is below the fold.
They were just beginning the third decade when Henge’s voice caught. Gary’s eyes noted nothing unusual from the tele leads. They looked to Faustina’s resting body as Dorina sat up out of her. Her ghostly eyes were scrunched shut and she was gritting her teeth.
Virus destroyed. Some tissues of her heart compromised. No idea extent. Will determine. Needed break to recall myself.
Neither Gary nor Henge spoke or thought to her. They watched her jaw relax, but not her eyes, before falling back into Faustina.
“I know we are praying for them both,” Gary whispered, “but I also wish there was some additional way to thank your aunt.”
“You are so silly, Gary!” she said. He looked to see her gold eyes almost glowing in the early dark of evening. “Love her! All of us, no matter how we’re made, are made for love!”
He nodded. They continued their prayer. It was during “… worlds without end…” of the last decade that the low lights in the room flickered off for just a moment. Rather than seeing Dorina move out of Faustina, she was suddenly standing next to the bed. Gary jumped off his stool as his sister’s blood pressure first plummeted before creeping back up to normal.
“Aunt Dorina?” he heard his wife ask in concern. Only then did he take his eyes off the board to look at her.
Paler than usual and her outlines blurry and indistinct.
She’ll live. This time. And she won’t quite be the same, came the unsteady echo in their minds. Get her home when you can. I must rest…
Her form began to fade.
“Dorina!” Gary called, hoping to not waken his sister. “Thank you! We love you so much, too!”
Like a famous cat, the last to vanish was her smile.
“I’ll go tell them to end the signal – ” he stopped as Henge waved at him. From her eyes he knew she was talking with her first family. They moved information vastly faster than humans.
“That will not be necessary, Gary,” Henge said, looking at him but not seeing him. “So long as Faustina does not attempt to rewrite her lines she will be good enough in the morning. Also, my father, Thaad, tells me that a barge with aviation fuel will be here around noon tomorrow.”
Now her eyes focused. She smiled.
“We can go home!”
Gary leaned down kiss his sister’s bald and partly burned head before taking his wife’s hand and leading her into the hall. With a wave the night nurse rose from her station to take her place with Faustina.
Being what they were, they each knew the other’s habits better than most. Henge was shedding clothes as Gary was still closing the door. She was already pulling him toward their cot as he turned.
“I pray for twins,” he heard her mutter into his mouth while kissing him, “or more!”
At first light the next morning they were both rinsing off and swimming about in a part of Lake Keowee that was just next to what had been a tourist center for the fission plant. Rather than waiting for the morning sun to dry them as they lay next to one another on the unused small boat ramp, they toweled off to be back when Faustina awoke. The first rays of the sun broke over the trees to the east as they began to put their clothes on.
Gary froze. Sensing that, Henge did, too.
“Danger?” she hissed.
“No,” he countered, walking over to her with an odd look in his eyes. She wondered if he wanted to do it again, right now out in the open…?
“You are positively glowing, beloved wife,” she could almost hear his jaw creak at the effort of smiling. “Just like last time!”
They embraced each other tightly.
“I wanted to tell you myself but it seems my body already did!” she laughed and cried. She pulled him down with her so they kneeled on the concrete dock. “Let us pray to Jesus for another blessing!”
Twenty minutes later they walked into Faustina’s room. Her bed was elevated its highest yet, nearly forty-five degrees. She was looking at a mirror the nurse was holding. Gary heard the mutter of “…whatever. It’ll grow back…” before she turned her head left at them. She smiled through the pain.
“Congrats, you two!” she called.
“Good news seems to proceed me wherever I go!” Henge replied. “And thank you, sister!”
“We are *ouch*! an extraordinarily well connected family,” Faustina said as she tried to settle back into her bed. “My first niece is pestering Aunt Ai to teach her knit; she wants to make footies for her new brother or sister.”
“She… is?” Gary felt Henge pause a half step. “Yes, she is! And look at me, forgetting to round up a breakfast for you! Gary, sit with your sister; I’ll be back as soon as I can! Whups!”
The last was as her husband spun to her and put one hand onto her shoulder and his other onto her lower abdomen.
“No running ten miles!” he ordered.
“Not now,” she whispered into his ear as she kissed his cheek.
She was gone and Gary sat next to Faustina.
“Did you two find the time when you weren’t banging last night for Henge to bring you up to speed on my story? Thank you!” The last directed to the nurse who gave her a plastic cup with a straw. Milk mixed with some very old protein powder. His sister sucked at it greedily. What Dorina did last night took a lot out of both of them.
“Cut off from your base? Dividing your force? Crossing in front of an unknown enemy? Yes, Henge told me,” he said not at all concealing the displeasure in his voice. “How interesting that so little of this ever made it into the public record, dear little sister.”
“Piss on the public record, big bro! Nothing succeeds like success!” she crowed, slurping the last of the milk plus and handing the empty cup to him. “I hope silly sister is back soon! Starving! But in the mean time…”
I knew my horse scout would make way too much noise clattering through town; even the idiots in the hills to the northeast would hear that! I kept one troop back as my eyes and had them leave at midnight to make their way as best they could to former Stewartsville, where we’d be taking the back road to the north and behind the enemy. I took their sergeant, Connor, aside and looked up at eyes, telling him this whole mission depended on him. The look he gave me, brother!
My centurions and I were up at oh-four-hundred, waking the men. Twenty-five minutes later we moved out as silently as we could. I was hungry and knew they were, too. I’d confiscated the last of the emergency rations the night before – mostly jerky and some hard cheese – to let them eat while they marched. I won’t bore you with the details other to say that we make it! The sun was just peeking up when all the rest of my horse scouts began making a huge ruckus in front of the enemy camp: yelling, trotting about, shooting their rifles into the air, anything that might provoke them.
I found out later it did just as I hoped: they pulled up stakes and began to move out. By then I had two centuries south of the highway in the woods, a little forward of the remaining seven in the woods to the north, lying low and quiet. I gave their command to Chesney. I took the decoy group as I did not want my boys to fall to pieces on a controlled retreat.
“The first sensible thing you have said,” Gary observed. “No matter your foray into Nashville, these were still green soldiers.”
“I hope we never stand opposite one another, dear brother. I’d roll you up in less than an hour! Yea!” she suddenly brightened. “Henge is coming with more food!”