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Episode 13 Part 13

By: North

            Bullet’s sense of smell was the only thing working properly, but even that was proving useless.  Everything around him just smelled wet.  The ground, buildings, the air, all of it was one big damp funk.  Strangely enough the lady he was with, Zora, had no scent except soaked clothes and water.  Normally people had a scent unique as a signature, but Bullet barely had time to consider this anomaly.   Underneath the constant blaring sirens the noise was terrible.  When he could make sense of it, he didn’t like what he heard.

            “What do you see up ahead?” Bullet said squinting down the cluttered road.  It was nothing but dark shapes punctuated by flashing lights.

            “Well right now I see two dark blobs going toward one another, they just turned into one big blob, and now they’re two blobs again continuing on their way.  My guess is that two people just walked by each other” said Zora.

            Bullet’s mouth dropped open “What?”

            “My vision isn’t perfect either, pal.  My shot’s worn off and I didn’t bring any glasses.”

            Bullet shuddered.  He had always considered the prospect of vision shots distinctly horrible.

Zora said something else, but Bullet could not hear it.  Shouts drowned out her voice as they neared a collapsed building.  The emptiness the structure had left behind did not seem big enough to hold all the crumbled remains.  Its absence was chilling and hopeless.  Desevites moved frantically forming chains to move wreckage.  They worked in groups pulling twisted metal aside.  Bullet was about to hurry toward them, but Zora tugged him by his sleeve toward an emergency vehicle.  It was the work of a few moments for her to come back with two masks and two pairs of gloves.  She threw one set to Bullet and managed to shout “We’re digging through an asbestos jungle” or something along those lines.  Bullet just nodded.

            They hurried forward only to be met with uncertainty.  Unsure where or how they were needed, they looked desperately for a place to be drawn in. Bullet, a guardsman, had been trained in every conceivable emergency situation.  That did not stop his stomach from coiling like a spring.  He felt hot despite the bizarre cold front. 

Zora had started to ease away from him, but Bullet did not notice.  Instead he pulled on his gloves and took her gently by the elbow pulling her toward a place where they could help dig.  He broke into a run as someone ahead waved their hands over their head.  Zora was towed along behind him. She caught up with his step quickly when she saw what he had seen.  They both scrambled into the group of Desevites and hefted the large chunk of drywall, wood, and piping.  With intense strain they managed to lift it.  A Desevite man crawled underneath and pulled another dark shape out from the pile.  The group managed to heave the rubble aside before setting it down with grunts.  A few Desevites managed to carry the unknown person onto a stretcher laid out on the pavement.

            They didn't even have time to consider this person, who was now on their way to professionals.  The building’s space, which had appeared deceptively small, now seemed insurmountably large.  There was no telling how many people could be.  The thought gave Bullet a terrible pain in his stomach.  A few members of the group started picking their way forward.  Bullet slid in with them, reaching as they did for the next obstacle.  One of them, a Desevite guard, shined the flashlight at his belt up at Bullet.  “You’re a Nathian, right?”  Rain poured down the man’s quills.

            “Yes, I –“

            “Can you smell them?” the man asked.

            Bullet stammered, “Y-yes, but in this rain.  I mean I can’t be certain.  I might just go right past someone and not even notice with-“  He trailed off unsure how to continue.  He had shouted most of this and was unsure how much anyone heard.  The others had already gone back to digging.

           As Bullet joined them his face muscles tightened in concern and effort.  Other species were in awe of Nathian senses, maybe too much so.  All he could think of was what it would mean if they started relying on him and he walked past a part of the building where the wet smell was just enough to get in the way.  Bullet tried not to think about what failure would cost.

            Zora was a little further away from him, but still working with the same group.  Parts of people’s lives came apart in their hands.  He found himself subconsciously keeping an eye on her.  He brushed it off as some sense of responsibility after her agreeing to come help him.  Her friend may be injured, she herself might be injured, after all she still made that weird noise in her throat.  He could hear it in the lulls when emergency vehicles pulled away and were being replaced by others.  There was something strange about her.  Every time he looked up she seemed to have moved further away.

            Bullet was glad to have the gloves as he reached for the next soaked beam.  Cracking sounds and groans met every movement.  Two Desevites stepped in beside him and the beam cracked apart.

It was an amazing thing, thought Bullet joining in, how people were able to form teams on instinct.  In a mere instant need made alliances. He forced himself to think on this and not think about how bad his whole body felt.  He couldn’t let his mind dwell on how big this building was or how many just like it were being dug into by similar groups, or how many there would be after that.  It was dark, wet, and endless. The sirens wailed.

 

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