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Chapter Fifteen

The Town That Will Be Tyler

I am dying--freezing from the inside out. I can feel it. Something has happened to us. What? I can't remember. I only know that I am cold, unnaturally cold. Something is freezing us.

My hands, they are becoming rigid from the cold. I bring them around my arms, hoping that together they could slow the loss of warmth. It does not help. For the first time I realize I am in a pale yellow room, seated by a glass table on a yellow chair. I am not in my body but looking at myself from a short distance away. Somehow, I do not mind or need to know why that is. It feels natural so I do not question it. I feel so cold it no longer matters.

Shivering does not help. I can no longer do so. My bones are so frozen I that their muscles are slowly becoming ice as well. Something has happened to us, to me and to Hugh. I don't know what^╦only that it will kill us within a matter of hours unless we can find a cure. Is there a cure?

I look to my left, my body's left. To my mind's eye it is the right. There is a simple doorway there leading into darkness. But I know that Hugh is in there, suffering. Nothing can help us, nothing can halt this freezing death. I stand. How my bones throb! My legs are stiff and I pray they do not fall out from under me. Perhaps there is nothing anyone can do to help us, but I... I know his pain. He is unconscious now, nearly consumed by this horrid thing. But perhaps I can alleviate some of his agony.

Perhaps I can warm us both--for we are now and forever apart from the others, those who have not suffered as have we.

I enter the darkness. My mind follows. A presence comes beside my body to steady me. It is distinctly male, though I do not know how I know. I cannot see anything in this darkness, anything except the bed on which Hugh lies, surrounded by a dark blue light. The presence is worried over my health, my strength. He suggests I go back to where I sat and wait. But I cannot wait. He needs me. I reply to him, speaking without hearing my own words. Somehow, I begin to feel this presence is Kain. And then my final words become clear to me. It is a command the presence will not ignore.

"Lay me down on him."

I say nothing else, and the presence is hesitant. He reluctantly assists me, knowing there is nothing else to do. I am draped over Hugh. He is bitterly cold, like I must feel. The presence leaves us and I want to weep, but tears cannot flow from ice. I clasp Hugh to me, slowly rubbing his arms with my hands, hoping to bring some warmth back to him. Perhaps together, cold as we are, we can be warm.

My mind's eye spirals above the bed, watching, seeing me lying atop him, barely moving myself. It is all that can be done.

* * * * *

Lore awoke. There was a wooden ceiling above her, and wooden walls to either side. She looked around, disoriented, not only by her dream--the small room was cold--but by the location. She closed her eyes again for a moment, worried over Hugh. This dream--she did not think it should be ignored. Lore could not understand it, but she felt something truly frightening behind its cover.

However that would have to wait. The present was confusing enough. What had happened? She tried to remember.

"The ship," she murmured as she sat up.

"Done for I'm afraid," said Kain.

She turned around. His chair was set far back beside the head of her bed, not easily in her field of view upon waking. He looked slightly disoriented himself, blue hair mussed in several different directions.

She again looked around the room, down at the pair of pajamas she wore that she had stashed in her duffel prior to departure. "What happened? Last I remember we were on the ship. I heard you shout... Then..." She held a bandaged hand to her head as she blankly looked at him. "I can't remember..."

"We crashed," he said flatly. "I don't know exactly was happening, I was starting to black out myself, but people explained it to me later on."


Kain nodded. "They saw us falling. They used one of their few remaining tractor devices to slow us down. It was barely enough, but at least our fall was no longer fatal. I had already sealed off the cabin from the rest of the ship so none of the fire got to us, only some of the heat. You were pretty badly burned though since you were the closest to the door. We all probably would have burned up if they hadn't caught us in time and we weren't fortunate enough to crash into a large snowbank. Pretty much only the cabin was left intact when they got to us."

Lore quietly absorbed all this, pulled back a sleeve to expose more bandages winding up her arm.

"You probably can remove those now," said Kain. "One of the doctors has been looking after you ever since the crash. You've come a long way."

"Long way?" She gave him a puzzled look.

"Yeah, you've been out of it for five days now. I've seen you awake a few times, but this is the first time you've actually responded to us."

"I see." Lore looked back down at the bed sheets. "But I guess you couldn't help waiting for me, especially since we don't have a ship anymore."

Kain smiled slightly. "For now. They're gonna give us one."

Lore turned her head slightly up to look at him. "Who is 'they' anyway?"

"The people of Kepfall, the town we're in. Did Hugh ever tell you about Tyler, the space pirate who rescued us from Gaira? He's here. And he's the one leading the survivors of Palm who've come to live on Dezo!"

The door to Lore's left clicked open. It swung aside to reveal a gray-haired woman in a medical uniform and Hugh. The biologist's face brightened considerably when he saw that Lore was sitting up.

"So, I see our patient is awake." The woman smiled kindly. "It's about time."

Hugh nodded. "Nares heals a lot, but it can't cure burns overnight."

"Thanks for your help." Lore inclined her head politely.

"It's all right," said the doctor. "We all look out for each other these days."

The historian laughed nervously. How unlike she was from the Palm people who had landed on Motavia those months ago! This doctor was a different sort; cooperative, caring. The New Council's help was so one-sided. Lore told her as much.

The doctor nodded. "We wanted to break away from them. But we couldn't leave Algo, our home, which is why we are here--such as here is." Her face grew long. "You'll understand when you get outside. These metal shells with wooden walls don't do much in the way of providing a home, but they're the best we have. At least Dezo appears to be in spring right now. The winter nearly killed all of us."

"I'm sorry," said Lore.

The woman smiled wanly. "It's all right. We're ready to help, and Tyler's been such a good inspiration for everyone who has decided to settle here. I don't know what we would have done without him."

Kain smirked, turning to Lore. "They want to name this town after him. He won't have it until after his death though."

The historian shook her head but grinned. "I don't blame him."

* * * * *

Lore came outside later that day. She stood on wobbly legs but without assistance. Hugh and Kain had gone to meet with Tyler, leaving her more or less by herself in the doctor's home. But she could not stay idle, she needed information. The doctor could not answer her questions for her, and with her permission, Lore decided she would have to explore the town. She dressed herself in her warmest clothes and did her best to endure the bitter cold.

The Dezorian spring was a joke. Lore was relieved that they had not come in winter. She thought the Motavian winter was becoming bad enough, but the Dezorian spring was three times worse. There was a slight wind that ran its slender fingertips of ice across her check as she stepped from the doctor's small metal home. The sky outside was clear and blue; no clouds with which to capture the warmth of Algo's golden rays. The landscape was beautiful nonetheless. Lore had never been to Dezo before. Now she wished she had, during the summer at least.

Lore had only to look at the many tombstones lining the edge of the town to know how harsh the winter must have been. Scattered hulks of metal could been in the distance, no doubt the remains of their shuttles. World ships could not land. No doubt the shuttles had been used many times over to bring everything possible down from above. Now they were no longer needed, perhaps no longer wanted. Lore knew why she wished she had visited Dezo before. She wanted to know what this world was like before it became a snow-filled refuge.

She breathed deeply into her mittens to warm her hands and rubbed them vigorously together. Hugh and Kain might not be as readily forgiving of her venture as the doctor, but Lore felt secure. The cold was the only enemy here, and she was aware of it.

As Lore walked the outskirts of Kepfall she heard a voice speak out to her. "You're one of the people we rescued, aren't you."

The words came as a statement, not a question.

Lore turned to see an emerald-haired woman about her own age standing by a metal fence not far from her. The speakers' long hair was tightly braided and curled around one shoulder. She wore a leather cap with goggles about her head.

"Yes," Lore replied, "I am. My name is Lore. I'm a historian from Motavia."

The woman nodded, stepping away from the fence. She walked easily over the snow to Lore and offered her an outstretched hand. "I'm Jade Kornor, formerly unemployed, but now chief trainer of the sky tiaras. I thought you looked familiar. I lead the team that rescued you."

Lore accepted her hand and pumped it weakly. "Thank you. It seems as though everywhere I go here there are people I must thank."

Jade smiled. "I take it you're not used to this."

The historian shook her head. "No, not for a while. It's been a long time since I've been in a place where gratitude seems the norm rather than the exception."

"We've had to care for each other here, far more than we had to back on Palm."

Lore inclined her head in agreement. "So I've been told. I wish more people like you had come to Motavia. But... that isn't something I can blame you for not doing. In your place I've probably want to get away too."

The historian paused, a thought disturbing her. "By the way, I don't suppose I could ask you a question, could I?"

Jade shrugged. "Go ahead."

"You said you were a sky tiara trainer. What's a sky tiara?"

The other woman laughed gently, seeming to have expected a more serious query. She gestured towards a hill beyond the town's perimeter. "Around on the other side is their paddock. Come with me, I'll show you them. It's better than just trying to explain."

Lore nodded and followed her. She occasionally stepped deeply into pockets of snow where the ground was uneven, but did her best to manage. Whenever she stumbled too far, Jade reached out to steady her. The emerald-haired woman continued to speak as they made their way to the paddock.

"You've heard of the gas leaks that caused the evacuation of Skure, right?" Jade asked.

"Yes, what about them?"

"They caused a lot of mutations in the animals living near the area. The sky tiaras were among them. Most mutations turned out for the worst, like all those rabbits the press made such a bit deal out of--watch your step there!--but there were a few that weren't so bad." Jade grabbed Lore's shoulder to prevent her from plowing into a snowdrift. "Just a little further. There."

The hill gave way to an expanse of snow surrounded by low wooden fences. Within the paddock were several magnificent birds, white chested, but with growing hues of red as one neared their backs and wings. All of them bore halters of some sort, tied at some great distance to wooden posts in the center of the snowy field. The ropes gave them enough slack with which to move, but not so much that they could leave the paddock entirely.

"They're... birds," Lore murmured.

"A fine lot to tame too," said Jade. "We couldn't do anything with the adults, but the children can be trained well enough. These are relatively young. They grew up with us since our arrival here. They aren't big enough to be ridden for long stretches yet, but they were enough for us to get you from your crash site to our town. Since most of our salvageable metal had to be used for initial housing and to set up something resembling a communication and command station, we didn't have enough left in the way for personal vehicles. That is what the sky tiaras are for."

Jade lead Lore up to the fence. One of the sky tiaras came near them, thrusting its head in their direction.

"Do they tame easily?" Lore asked, eying the avian and wondering if it was okay to pet.

"Somewhat. You need them to have a good attitude or they won't work for you." Jade reached in her jacket pocket and pulled out a plastic bag and pair of plastic gloves. "Here, hold this." She thrust the bag into Lore's arms.

"What? Why?"

Jade exchanged her mittens for the gloves and shoved former into her pocket. "You'll see." She smiled as she opened the bag and reached inside.

Lore found herself almost nauseated by the smell coming from within it.

"The sky tiaras like them fresh," Jade said with a wink, as if to explain. The woman whipped a slab of raw red meat from the bag and threw it in the direction of the nearby sky tiara. The giant avian snapped its head up in response and caught the meat in a blinding motion. Blood dripped down on to the white snow.

The tiara lowered its head, cutting off a chunk of the meat with its beak as its jaws shut and letting the rest drop to the snow. It swallowed with an exaggerate pumping of its head and squinted its eyes shut in what appeared to be a sign of contentment. The bird then lowered its beak to pick at the rest that had fallen to the ground.

"There aren't many people I know who carry raw meat in their jacket," Lore finally said after a moment.

Jade laughed. "I'm not surprised. But like any good trainer I feel obligated to give them treats every now and then." She gestured to the sky tiara and the bird snatched up the last of its meat as it stepped up to the fence. Jade scratched the bird affectionately under the chin. "I've heard some Dezorians are working on domesticating the dezo owl for its eggs. I suppose that's well and good, but nothing beats a sky tiara for ease of flight."

Lore set down the bag of meat and eased a little closer to the sky tiara. She tentatively reached out her hand and patted the great bird along its neck. The sky tiara puffed out its chest and thrummed. Lore smiled. "I guess I should not be scared."

Jade smiled and grabbed hold of the sky tiara's halter rope so it wouldn't meander away. "Good for you."

"If you don't mind my asking," said Lore, "where on Palm did you live?"

"Parolit," Jade replied. She looked back at Lore. "Why?"

"Ever go to Camineet?"

"Yeah, it was close enough that if I ever got tired of Parolit it was just a quick hop away."

"I was born there. I'm hoping you might know what happened to the members of my family that didn't move to Motavia with me."

Jade paused tapping her lower lip in thought with her index finger. "I dunno. What's your family's name again?"

"Drakon; we're mainly historians and anthropologists."

The woman's eyes widened slightly. "Drakon you say? Any relation to Leslie Drakon?"

Lore nodded briskly. "She's my aunt."

"She's the reason we escaped Palm at all. Leslie is an inspiring speaker."

"I've heard. Even the politicians from Palm acknowledge her." Lore took in a deep breath. "But that's beside the point. Is she here, on Dezo? Or is she elsewhere in this star system? She and her family didn't come to Motavia."

Jade lowered her gaze as she played with the rope in her hands. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but the Drakons are no longer in Algo. When the fleet split up, the majority of the four hundred ships left the star system. The Drakons went with them."

"What!" Lore murmured in disbelief. "They left Algo? How could they when so many people here could still use their help?"

"You said they're historians, right Lore?"

"Yes, but..."

Jade brushed back her braid and looked up at the sky. "Well, everyone needs history, and since they're leaving Algo those with them will need their knowledge even more. We don't know where they're going, or where their long years will take them, but they won't be a civilization without a culture, without a history. If your family is there to remind them of that, they are doing as great an honor as they would here."

Lore turned her gaze skyward. The Dezorian atmosphere was thinner than Motavia's, and even during the day stars could be seen. She wondered which, if any of those her family might be heading to. Lore closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in a semblance of prayer. Somehow, the air was not so cold now. She could almost feel warm, and she wished her family godspeed.

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