12 August 2008

Running on Fumes

There was little to repair on the jet pack, but I replaced the seals anyway, considering the abuse they had received at Aunt Sis’s hand. Ash was not about, but the crew arrived in the office upstairs just as I was finishing up.

“…and no, we did not ‘hose you off in back of the office’, Darien. Honestly, I begin to think your gift for hyperbole is intrinsic in your nature…” Seems Father had ticked off Mama, finally. Her patience is not infinite, but considering the length of time the ferry train takes, he had apparently been working on her last nerve the entire time for her to use that tone. She might actually try to ground him if he kept that up, so I logged Father’s jet pack into the Personal Flight Apparatus racks.

Mama stopped by the garage as the others were settling into the hydrodynamics lab. “Do you think you have time to check in on Augustus? Birdie is determined to take care of him herself, but she might need some instructions on wing care.”

“Surely, I need to see if there are any residual issues with his going walkabout for so long.” I picked up my healer’s satchel, when Mama’s next statement stopped me cold.

“He is still projecting, and is unable to get back. You might need to help your Aunt with long term care.”

That was enough for me to skip the ferry train and slide directly to the Station. I landed on the front stoop, and called out a warning to those inside, “Hallo the house! Medical assistance coming in!” Not that either one would be embarrassed by the entrance of another while they were intimate. Considering the sergeant’s nerves might be stretched thin, her defensive reflexes might be heightened, and she was a good shot with throwing knives.

I found them in the bath, with the faintest traces of kerosene coming from the pile of towels in the corner. Father apparently left in a hurry. Birdie had stripped Uncle Gus out of his clothes, which seemed not too bad for the wearing of three days, but the shirt had been shredded by his wings when he reverted. Birdie had cradled him in her lap in the bath, draping his wings over the edge as she carefully rinsed the lather from his back. “Hy haven’t done hiz wingz, yet. What do Hy need to do?”

“Just be gentle with them, and listen for anything that tells you to stop.” While I helped her work around the control surfaces and the membranes, I took the opportunity to check on Uncle Gus. He was still walkabout, but the astral cord tying his spirit to his body was stronger than what I had been led to believe from my studies. [Ready to come home?]

His answer was immediate, [No, still too much work to do here. I have to free her from the controls, but I have to go carefully, so as not to damage her further.]

[At least now you are not trying to do it alone.] Birdie’s accent did not show up in her projections, which gave me pause. I filed that tidbit away for later study.

I turned my mind back to the current problem. [Understood – anything we can do to help?]

[I need you to take some notes, and check on my memories of the references in the library…] Uncle started detailing what he had found so far in his observations, and set out his conjectures. I took notes sitting on the edge of the tub, ignoring what Aunt Birdie was doing. [… and that is about it. I do not recall if I had run across the chemical composition of the vintages she has been drinking.]

[I have them, but I’ll check the libraries jut to be sure.] I packed away my notes, and pulled dry towels from the press. “We should get him out of the tub before you fall asleep, Aunt Birdie.”

She startled, “Hy’m avake!” but subsided when she realized Uncle had slipped off her shoulder. Between the two of us, it was not too difficult to get everyone dry, and the two of them tucked into bed. She had been running on nerves for the past month, and even the Jaegerkin had their limits.

I took a few moments to clean the bath and took the towels outside to dry, when I noticed movement in the trees off the property. Someone who did not have sufficient woods training, out wandering? No, the movement was more furtive than that. I warded the grounds, and resolved to let the sheriff know the next time I got into town.

Back at the main office, everyone had gone to sleep, save one. Father had found the library, and the copies of the Foundation Chronicles the staff had collected soon after arriving. Standard operating procedure for a new territory or ally – find out what they hold important enough to write down. Father seemed to be taking notes, which would be odd, since he wrote most of them. Then I realized he had the same memory issues I had. After all, a fifth of my long-term memory came from him. I would have to compare notes with him later, to see if there were deviations from my point of origin.

I left a note for Mama on the message board in the common room, and left to catch up on my studies.

Mentor Ibiz found me asleep in the library, my head pillowed on reference materials that had nothing to do with the research paper he had assigned. Luckily, I had finished it before diving into the questions Uncle Gus had asked. His chuckle woke me, as he finished writing his comments on my paper.“I should have known it was not necessary to give you assignments. You have the basics down.” He put down my paper and tapped the copy of the Al-Aziza Biological Guide, commenting, “This avenue of independent research puzzles me, though.”

I rubbed my face, trying to wake sufficiently to make sense, “There is a problem in the family, and I needed to get more information on underworld substance addiction disorders.”

He blinked at me twice, and then said, “I wish you were joking, but I have kept up with the tangles that seem to attract Aoefe’s branch of the family. Your aunt had to be moved to another room with better filters,” I started to get up, but he stopped me with a hand on my satchel. “No, it is all right, she is stable for now. I am afraid she is the one in the least trouble at the moment. We haven’t had much contact with the Court since the Council split off, but we have had some come to us as outcasts, asking for asylum. It is not a perfect solution, but I do think we can help your clockwork cousin, if she will accept the assistance.”

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