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Episode 13 Part 15

By:  Lenady

Tilly paused her folding and stared in bewilderment. “Can I what?”

 

The Desivite stared back at her, the smile dropping slightly. “You’re not from around here are you? I mean really not from around here. That joke’s as old as Bronder Rixpa.”

 

Tilly blinked, wondering for a second whether Bronder Rixpa was a who or a what. Evidently her confusion was obvious because the Desivite’s shoulders drooped dramatically and her head tiled sharply to the right.

 

“Bronder Rix-… Br- Bron-" She stuttered. “You have no clue what I’m talking about do you?” She cried.

 

Tilly shook her head slowly.

 

“What hole in the ground have you been living in?” Her eyes flew wide open and she clapped her hands to her mouth. “I mean- not that living underground is- I mean it’s really not.” She sighed and let her hands drop.  “Krarishtich,” she grumbled.

 

“No.” Tilly burst out suddenly, to the displeasure of her throbbing head. “I mean, it’s okay. I’m not offended or anything. I mean, I don’t live underground, but-" She paused. How many different sorts of PC landmines were there in space? And how many had she unknowingly stepped on? She didn’t think she’d said anything offensive, but then again body language could be weird when it came to different species, what if-

 

“-just so easy to say something wrong, you know.” Tilly looked up, realizing she had drifted off for a second. The Desivite was looking more at ease, placing the folded blankets in one stack, then picking up the empty boxes.

 

“Yeah, I could see that. And with you working with…Um…” Tilly paused and gestured her hands a little “this. I’d say you’d have to be more careful about stuff.”

 

“Not as much here really. Could you?” The Desivite held out a large box, which Tilly took, then picked up the other and gestured with her head toward a door in the back of the room.

 

Tilly nodded and followed behind the official, grabbing her purse and Toren on the way out and slinging the strap over her head and shoulder so it fell across her chest. By the time she got things situated again she had to jog a little to catch up. ,,

 

“What do you mean?” she asked as they entered a long hall.

 

“Well,” The Desivite started. “This is just mainly for the local area. I mean, Blue River is a planet-wide institution, sector-wide actually I think. I think we’ve branched out to some other planets now. But I’ve only really worked with this city, this neighborhood precisely. Handing out baskets during Forshtistok, running soup kitchens, that sort of thing. We’re partnered with the hospital next door, so we sometimes help out families of the patients, the ones who need a place to stay or need a warm meal, or just need someone to talk to. Not in a professional capacity or anything like that, we don’t have anyone licensed in that helping us out, but just someone to sit, drink a cup of sporet, and listen.”

 

Tilly nodded, not trusting the Desivite to stop for long enough to allow a comment. She was spinning her words quickly, with little pause even for breathes.

 

“That’s my favorite part,” she continued. “My family’s always surprised at that. They’re all like, Shi-la, that’s my name by the way, you’d never have the patience to do that we don’t believe you. But really, that’s my favorite part, because sometimes people just need to talk so bad, I mean sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they do and if I can make them comfortable enough to let themselves unwind and just stop clenching their quills and stop biting their tongue and just sit and be for a little while, then I think that’s a job well-done. Stop here a minute.”

 

They had walked into an unheated, dimly lit room off of the hallway, filled with boxes and containers, and random items sitting around in piles. Shi-la had sat the box down and was digging through a small pile of clothes in one corner. “Here,” she said as she tossed something at Tilly, who barely had time to step back from the flying piece of fabric, which hit the box in her arms instead of her face. “You’re probably going to need that. Well, you might at least. If you don’t do well with cold. Sorry to be presumptive. But it’s better than not and letting you turn into an icicle.”

 

Tilly sat the box down and held up the moderately soft, moderately scratchy purple hoody that had been tossed in her direction. “Thanks,” she said as she pulled it on over her t-shirt and zipped up the front. “Remind me later and I’ll-"

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Shi-la interrupted, waving a hand. “Lost and found pile. Emphasis on lost. We’ve been trying to get rid of that one for probably about two years now. Nothing wrong with it. Just can’t get anyone to take it. Now,” she said, picking up the box and motioning with her head to Tilly before walking back farther into the room. “We’re going to grab some of the food back here and bring it out front. Mostly it’s just cereal bars I think. We’re a little low on supplies, but it’s better than nothing. Then after that we’ve got to run next door and grab some bandages and heat packs and stuff. Whatever the docs want to give us I guess.”

 

“I thought the injuries were going to the hospital.” Tilly said, as they stopped in front of a large shelving unit filled with small packages. Shi-la reached up and started loading them into the boxes and Tilly followed suit.

 

“They’re supposed to, but that’s not always how things work. People think, oh it’s just a scratch I don’t need to go there. So they come in and yeah, they’re not bleeding all over the place and they might not need x-rays or something, but they’re still hurt.”

 

Tilly concentrated on filling the box up, trying to keep her cheeks from reddening a little. It was a losing battle. She was thankful when Shi-la seemed to take no notice and instead started in on a different topic, something about the most recent trip she’d taken, then about how she had missed the tournament that year (thank you God in heaven, Tilly couldn’t help but think) because for once her brother (or so Tilly thought- the translator kind of sputtered for a minute every time Shi-la mentioned her family) had been out of town and hadn’t abducted her television set. They managed to take four trips back and forth without Tilly saying a word. She couldn’t help but notice though, that the shelter became more and more crowded every time they emerged from the hallway, her stomach sinking slightly every time they came out only to be rushed back into the storage room for more cots, more blankets, more food that was swiftly starting to dwindle.

 

“Shi-la! Set-Shi-la!” A young man ran over, his quills bristling just a little. “Have you got the bandages yet?”

 

Shi-la shook her head. “We keep getting sent out to get other stuff.”

 

The male Desivite glanced over at Tilly for a minute, face tightening just slightly, before looking back over at Shi-la. “Well, go on and see what they can spare over there. A few apartment buildings over on Drestna collapsed and they’re starting to transport people in. Lots of trauma cases. The most minor injuries are being sent over here. Nothing too bad, just scrapes, bruises, minor burns, but we’re going to need the supplies.”

 

“Right.” Shi-la said softly. Her olive green skin had paled somewhat. “Okay. So, bandages.” She pivoted around and stalked back towards the hall. Tilly once again found herself jogging to keep up.

 

“Things are-" Tilly began.

 

“Bad.” Shi-la said. “The amount of people in those buildings…” she trailed off, shaking her head. “Lots… lots of people.”

 

Tilly was so distracted by the sudden change in Shi-la’s demeanor that she barely even noticed the antiseptic hospital smell getting stronger as they made their way down the hallway, past the storage room and a sign denoting a kitchen and restrooms, until they got to a set of metal double doors; forgot to feel nervous as Shi-la pushed them open, her eyes hard with something like purpose and anger- something Tilly couldn’t quite altogether place. She followed Shi-la down another hallway, one full of people and sounds and chaos, until they got to a desk. It was an island of relative calm among the confusion.

 

“We’re here for the supplies. Blue River. You were going to set some aside.” Shi-la said, leaning in towards the man sitting at the computer console.

 

He nodded at her and pointed. “Two doors down. Ask Lestraso. She should have everything together for you.”

 

The two boxes the hospital had prepared were quite a deal more unwieldy than what they had been using in the supply runs, large and heavy, and just the right size to be awkward, but Shi-la pointed out that in a case like this larger was probably better, if they hadn’t sent the supplies padded with a bunch of packing peanuts. Shi-la had smiled a little as she said that, and Tilly felt a coil of relief unwind somewhere inside of her. The trip back through the crowded hallway had been a little more tolerable after that, despite the strange growing jitteriness and the pounding in her head.

 

By the time they got back to the main shelter area there was already a large cluster of people sitting on a group of cots, covered in water and grime and gashes and more were streaming in. The next hour or so was filled with a rush to accommodate those coming in, bringing in food and water off of a small truck, setting up more cots, unpacking the blankets in the still-precarious mountain of boxes.

 

It was after the fifth trip for blankets, or maybe the sixth trip for cots, that the room started spinning again every time Tilly moved her head a little too quickly. It was after the second trip into the hospital that she started swaying just a little. It was after the fourth load of dried fruit snacks that she had to catch herself against the wall and, with a worried glance, Shi-la told her to sit down.

 

“Are you o-"

 

“I’m fine.” Tilly started, looking up. She wished people would quit asking her that. “Just a little tired.”

 

She didn’t notice Shi-la walking away, but suddenly she was back and was pressing a fruit bar into Tilly’s hand, along with a small bottle of water. Tilly looked up and smiled, trying to get the frown off of Shi-la’s face. She wished people would quit giving her that look, whatever it was. “Seriously. I’m okay.”

 

“Well, lie down for a bit,” Shi-la replied, looking at her watch. “It’s pretty late.”

 

Tilly nodded, waiting until Shi-la walked away to lay down on the cot. She glanced over at the fruit bar, now sitting beside her on her purse, but couldn’t get herself to do much beyond that. Despite not having eaten in probably twelve hours, she wasn’t hungry at all. Maybe, she thought, sticking the bar down in her bag, she’d feel a little more up to it when she woke up.

 

The sounds floated around and above her, movement and loud voices crashing in her head and through her body. She curled up against it all and found herself drifting, unsettled, into even harsher noises and flames.

 

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