Saturday, 12 December 2009 - 3:20 pm

Rude awakening

I was woken by shouts this morning. Yanked out of my bed, I pulled on pants and a vest and ran out to see what was going on. Matt stumbled out behind me, just as mussed and sleepy.

Someone was calling for Masterson and I snagged Estebar as he wandered past me and sent him off to find the doctor. I didn’t know what was wrong, but if Masterson was being called for, it had to be something serious. Then I broke into a run to head outside, where all the voices were.

The first thing I saw was a confusion of bodies in the yard. People were running through the smatter of vehicles, most moving towards the centre of the fuss, a couple heading outwards on errands to help. Most skittered around the cause of all the mayhem, like ants with nowhere to go. I dove into the maelstrom and pushed my way into the centre of that circle, nudging less certain bodies out of my way.

There were a couple of Seekers lying on the tarmac: Bree and Conroy. Bree had blood all over her face and was slipping into shock. Conroy was ash-pale and unconscious; it was hard to tell what was wrong with him at first glance, apart from the sleeping part. A couple of others were kneeling next to them, hands hovering without a clue about what to do.

This I could do. This I knew. I remembered the fights we’ve survived and Simon’s efficiency after the Converter’s accident. Even Masterson’s gruffness helped me as I shifted people out of my way and tried to assess the damage.

Bree was the easiest to sort out, so I started with her – pressure on the head wound and have someone fetch a blanket to put around her. Mira was there, so I told her to keep Bree talking and not to let her fall asleep. The wound didn’t look serious, despite all the blood, but you never can tell with heads. I didn’t like the vague way she blinked at me – there was a distance in her eyes, and I’m used to seeing sharpness there. I hoped it was just the shock. She didn’t seem to be hurt anywhere else.

By the time I got to Conroy, Masterson had arrived. The doctor went to deal with him first and I kept out of the way, lending a hand when he needed something held or removed. There was a nasty bump on the back of Conroy’s head and a few scuffs on his limbs – from being dragged, it looks like – but he was breathing steadily enough.

After the examination, Masterson instructed a few of the boys to take Conroy inside and to settle him on a bed. Carefully now, and for god’s sake, don’t jostle his head. Gently does it.

Then the doctor turned to Bree, and after a cursory check-over, gave Mira the same instructions that I did. That was gratifying, even if he didn’t look at me once the whole time. Apparently, pretending I’m not there is the best thing for him to do. He asked Mira three times if she understood what she needed to do, until the poor girl nodded so vigorously her hair nearly shook itself loose of its ponytail. Her eyes were wide as she watched him get up and stalk off, feeling chastised as if she couldn’t be trusted with this.

“Let’s get you inside,” I said to Bree once Masterson had gone. He went to check on Conroy and make sure that no-one had damaged him when he was taken inside.

Bree shook her head, then immediately regretted it. She closed her eyes and swallowed convulsively, holding up a hand for patience. “Not yet,” she said, her voice a torn murmur.

I felt sorry for her, but deep inside, there was a part of me that didn’t mind. She had hurt me too. I scrunched down on that urge; she’s had her share of pain here in the After. I shouldn’t wish more on her, not even in the dark, hidden places of myself where resentment hides.

The others were milling uncertainly, peeling off slowly at the edges as the emergency seemed to be over. I saw Matt standing nearby, watching me with concern. He knows I have complicated feelings about Bree; I’m not sure if he was more worried about her or me.

Bree didn’t want to move, but there was a lot we still needed to know. So I settled on my knees beside her and sat back on my heels, and prepared to question her.