We arrived at the Imperial aid center in time to save the two wounded people that we had brought with us. The Garjarack family I’d sent ahead in our original transport also arrived safely. That was where the good news ended though.
“Master Opal just sent me a report,” Fari said. “There’s another mega-quake on the way.”
“Where are these things coming from?” I asked.
“I wish we had a culprit but it looks like they’re natural,” Fari said. “Master Opal and her team worked a tectonic sensing ritual after the first quake and there’s still a lot of tension built up on the faultlines from when the planet was moved.”
“Do we know where the quake will happen?” I asked.
“Yep. Evacuation procedures have begun but we’re stretched thin with the disaster recovery efforts,” Fari said.
“Another quake is going to be really hard on the people who are trying to dig the survivors out,” I said.
“I’ll see if I can help Master Opal,” Fari said and winked out, transferring herself to the planetary control systems.
I’d been worried about the aftershocks when Darius was trapped under the building. Another quake like the first one would mean a lot more aftershocks too.
We’d been lucky so far. Over the last two months, the previous mega-quakes were focused along the Lost Iron rift in the Southern Sunfire ocean. The coastline in that area had been obliterated by tsunamis but there were no settlements on either side of the ocean, due to fallout from battles that predated the Crystal Empire taking over the Exxion system.
In truth the planet was a timebomb in a number of ways. Predicting which plates were going to let loose and in which order was tricky issue. Master Opal’s team had managed to defuse a few of the earlier problem by using the planetary drives. That had come at the cost of making later quakes harder to predict.
“I should get back to my people,” Illya, the human medic from the village said as she left the treatment room where our two attackers lay in a healing trance.
“I wish I could offer you a transport, but there’s another quake coming,” I said.
“Then they’ll need me all the more!” she said.
“The Imperial forces there know the quake is on the way,” I said. “They’ll have your people prepared for it.”
“There’s too many people to evacuate,” Illya said.
“Yeah and adding one more isn’t going to make that any easier,” I said.
“Just put me on a transport that’s going close to Salmon Falls,” she said.
“Illya, there are people who need you here,” I said. “Two of them are in the room behind you, but there’s going to be more. They’re due here in the next half hour.”
“From Salmon Falls?” she asked.
“The serious cases,” I said. “The others are being sent to the nearest Exxion IV outpost.”
I saw her relax at that and understood the feeling. I’d wound up taking care of some of the younger kids at the orphanage once in a while because the Sisters couldn’t be everywhere. Do that enough times and people start to depend on you, which can be a good, empowering feeling, but it comes at a price. If anything happens to the people you’re responsible for, that good feeling can turn to self-hate in an instant.
“Ok, I’ll keep tending to the people here then,” Illya said.
Before she could leave though Cadrus, the adult male Gar of the family I’d rescued, came up to us with Nenya, his daughter in tow.
“Guardian Watersward, we need your help,” Cadrus said.
Illya spoke before I could respond.
“These aren’t natives.”
I was close enough to her that I could feel the anima spell that she cast. A red glow played around her body. She’d raised a shield, but the spell went beyond that. As a healer, she had to possess a sizeable amount of Physical anima to draw on. As a combat-medic, she had to know how to use that anima for more than healing.
“No, they’re not,” I said. “But they are here peacefully.”
I tried to make my voice as soothing and calm as possible, but Illya’s reaction wasn’t a reasoned one so my words all but bounced off her.
Nenya looked puzzled. She could see Illya’s medic insignias and had probably assumed Illya was one of the Imperials since she was standing next to me. Cadrus, on the other hand, had shifted himself in front of his daughter. He hadn’t cast a spell of his own yet, but from the tension in his eyes I could see that he was holding one ready to go.
“We need a healer for our youngest,” Cadrus said.
“I’ll come with you to find one,” I said, “Illya are you going to be ok?”
I put a hand on her arm as a gesture of reassurance. It was also gave me the smallest chance of containing her is she decided to go off.
“Fine.” That was all she was able to say before pivoting away from us and heading back to the treatment room she’d been assigned to. I watched her go, waiting for her to turn and snap, but she just walked away. With her shield up.
I held in my sigh of relief out of consideration for Cadrus and Nenya. It wasn’t a great outcome but it was the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances.
“She doesn’t heal Gars, does she?” Nenya asked.
“She has other patients assigned to her already,” I said. It was true, but far from the reason Illya had left. Cadrus could see that too but it didn’t seem to bother him. I guessed he was used to seeing humans as the enemy and being treated the same in return.
“We need to find a Gar medic,” Cadrus said.
“I don’t know if we have any here,” I said. “What’s wrong with your child?”
“We don’t know,” Nenya said.
“He has fallen unconscious and we cannot rouse him,” Cadrus said.
“Let’s find someone right away then,” I said.
I lead the two Gar to central aid station and flagged down one of the medics there. She was a Rigellun, a race that looked similar to humans but had skin that varied along different shades of purple and blue. There were also racial differences in the shape of the ears and eyebrows which were noteworthy to the Rigelluns but were subtle enough that I had a hard time making them out.
“We’ve got a Gar child who needs help,” I said.
“Have they been triaged yet?” the medic asked me.
“We were all inspected when we landed, but Kallak was conscious then,” Cadrus reported.
“Wonderful,” the medic said. “Is he showing any other signs of distress? Labored breathing? Irregular pulse?”
“No, he just appears to be unconscious,” Cadrus said. “But there’s no cause for it.”
“Kallak? Was that his name?” the medic asked.
“Yes!” Nenya said.
“I don’t have him in here,” the medic said referring to a master list of patients at the aid station. “I’ll add him to the list as one of the serious cases. We’ll have a medic over to see him as soon as one is free.”
“Thank you,” I said and then turned to Cadrus and Nenya, “Can I see Kallak while we wait?”
There wasn’t anything that I’d be able to do for him, but since I was technically on the injured list myself still, there weren’t many other ways I could help.
“Of course Guardian,” Cadrus said.
The Gar family had been quartered outside the aid center in one of the family sized tents that had been set up to receive the incoming disaster survivors. We entered and I was surprised at the smell inside. It was fresh and clean. The air was slightly warm and moist, but I knew that would feel comfortable to the Gars. The Imperial tents were woven with low level enchantments built into them to keep their users safe in a wide range of environments. That made them more expensive but on the scale of resources that the Empire worked with, it was a trivial distinction.
Inside, the rest of the family was waiting for us. They were clustered around a pair of beds where two of the children lay. Cadrus’ wife glared at me when I came in. Before I was through the tent flap, she stood to put herself between the children and me.
“We needed a healer, Cadrus. This one said she didn’t have any healing abilities,” Eirda, Cadrus’ wife, said.
“She spoke with the healers. They will be sending someone,” Cadrus said.
“They had best send someone soon,” Eirda said. It was spoken as a threat but the look of helpless rage on her face said she knew the words were empty.
“We’re expecting another transport in with wounded in less than thirty minutes,” I said. “I think they’ll try to get someone to see Kallak before that.”
“You think?” Eirda said.
“I’m not a medic or a cleric. I can’t say which cases are more critical than others,” I said.
“The humans won’t have to wait for treatment though will they. There’s plenty of medics for them,” Eirda said. “You won’t let them die.”
“I won’t let anyone die,” I said.
“That medic would though,” Nenya said. “The one you were talking to. She would let us all die.”
“She’s not an Imperial,” I said, as though that excused Illya’s actions somehow.
“She was human though, wasn’t she?” Eirda guessed. “Just like all of the rest of the medics at this center.”
“Not all of the medics here are humans,” Darius said as he came into the tent and joined us. “Fortunately, I am, and I’ve healed Garjarack patients before.”
“You’ve worked with our people?” Eirda asked.
“Every day,” Darius said. “Now tell me what happened with your child.”
“He collapsed,” Eirda said. “He has been weak for several days, but no worse today than before.”
Darius moved in to inspect the boy and his sister and I stepped back to give them room. Cadrus stepped away with me.
“Please forgive my wife,” he said. “She sees you as a human and it upsets her.”
“I am a human,” I said.
“Yes, but you are not like the human’s here,” Cadrus said. “I believe we can trust you.”
“Thank you, but why do you think I’m different from the people here?” I asked.
“You are darker than they are. Like the Rigelluns. You are like a human, but different,” he said.
“Walk with me Cadrus?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said.
Nenya tagged along with us, apparently more interested in our conversation than in her brother’s treatment.
“I’m glad that you trust me Cadrus, but you need to understand that I am human, the same as the people you’ve fought, and the same as Darius, the one who’s trying to heal your son in there,” I said. “That’s not important though. Human, Gar, Rig, we’re all in this together.”
“You mean together in the troubles the planet is having?” Cadrus asked.
“That and a lot more,” I said.
“I understand your words Guardian, but you must understand our experience,” Cadrus said. “Our religion teaches us that all life springs from the same source. We are all one family. And yet we have shed blood with the humans here for generations. There are some who can move beyond that. Ones who turned against the war early on, or left when they grew tired of the senselessness of it.”
I caught a glimpse of something that made me wonder if he was speaking from personal experience. Did he know people who left when they grew tired of the war. A brother or sister maybe? I filed that away as a tool for later if I needed it.
“Then there are those of us who stayed true to our own.” Cadrus said. I could see how the limits of Galactic Common were chafing at him. He wanted to explain the idea in Garjarack so that he could distinguish between the layers of proximity in his relationship to the Garjarack war command.
“Some of us are ready to move on but embracing a new future is difficult. There is more danger in that than anything we have ever known,” he said. I saw him glance at Nenya and was able to read that bit of body language easily. If the peace efforts fell apart, Cadrus could lose everyone dear to him in an instant, especially if he let his guard down around “the enemy”.
“And then there are the ones for whom the fighting has been too bitter. Some wounds run so deep they will never heal,” Cadrus said.
It wasn’t hard to guess who he was referring to, though I wondered if his assessment was necessarily accurate. Eirda hated humans, at least as far as her behavior towards me indicated, but when Darius showed up as the one to heal her son, she’d been willing to work with him immediately. Some of that was concern for her offspring, but there had to be a part of her that could still be reached too.
“I’ve never read of anything but time and effort making things like that easier,” I said.
“A common enemy can help speed things up.”
I turned to find a tall, muscular human man standing behind me. His skin was as dark as mine which said he was an off worlder too, but I didn’t see any Imperial insignia on him.
“Can I help you?” I asked. Without thinking about it I placed myself between the new comer and Cadrus and Nenya. I noticed I’d done that a half second later and suppressed a grin. For all our differences, humans and Gars aren’t really so different.
“If you’re Guardian Watersward you can,” the man said. “My name’s Gan Everbright and I’m here to bring these people to a whole new world.”