The Crane Pt.9- fullness and emptyness

Doctor Golden wanted Del to stay in the med tent for a little while and not move much, adding that he would have time to show the 5 men there, kicking soda, the techniques of nonthink. Del wondered if it was just to keep him busy. He wondered if getting used to no nueralnet would be as harsh as kicking soda had been. Delmar clumsily told the soda addicts how to stop their brains in a crisis, adding some of what he’d learned from Seppy. “Nothin lasts forever,not us, and not our pains…” Dell said to the 5 dizzy and sore people on the cots. One of the doctors assistants started cleaning Delmars surgery cuts, as he spoke over the aircleaner. Delmar imagined he was putting a file out for an anonymous audience, and found it easier to speak. “the brains are above the body, and somethin else is above the brains… somethin that’s hard to show, but really important. I guess that part gets stronger when your brains aren’t always in charge… to get there, and get through the ruff days… you gotta learn to reach nonthink. Get your body to relax as much as you can, try to feel any muscles that are tensed up and imagine they’re melting… then ya sorta do the same thing with your brains. Close your eyes and look at the nothing that’s there. If you see weird shapes or lights, they aint real, and look at the nothing behind it. Imagine your stepping out into that nothing space and bein part of it. Pretty soon, your brains and internalspeak will come back, sometimes blatant, sometimes sneaky. When that happens, don’t kick yourself, just tell it there’s plenty time for it later, and relax it away like you would with a clamped up muscle. If you can stop all internalspeak, pictures, memories, and thoughts about bullshit, for even 5 seconds, out of the 40minutes your tryin to do it, it’ll still help a lot. Sometimes your brains will be too much, and some of us can’t get it to shut up at first…I started out lookin at a dot, or just watchin myself breath and not thinking of other stuff…that helps too…” Delmar felt like he was telling them things he wish someone had told him a long time ago. An emaciated guy with long stringy hair was leaned forward, holding his stomach, and asked: “I wanna try and learn this, sounds cool, but some of us aren’t chipped… ‘traded mine for Titz. You got a shorter thing we can use to help remember this stuff with, without a hard drive?”. Del felt kind of bad, having assumed that they would all just record it and run his rant later. Del thought hard about what a really good nonthink guy might say. “Um.. well… think about the phrase: ‘The Bot is Still in the Car, but I Dont Let Him Drive Anymore’…” Del thought that a bot was a pretty good analogy for the brains, maybe a crazy bot, and wondered what the insulting securitybot would say, “Here’s another good one:” Del told them, with a half smile, “Sit Down, and Shut Up’….. is that helpful? Let’s try it now, ‘Sit Down and Shut Up’…ready? go.” They all sat in silence for a while. One guy drooled a bit. Gary walked in (the sound of his false leg was distinctive) and started to say something, but instead just sat on a cot and closed his eyes with the rest of them. The white noise from the aircleaner covered some of the noises outside, and the soft light of the tent seemed softer. Delmar noticed that the tent was now full of a very peacefull feeling.

This peaceful feeling didn’t last forever. A bell started to ring outside, and the looks on the faces around him told Del that it was something bad. A series of hisses and explosions shook the ground, and Del looked out the tent to see over a hundred screaming people, kicking up sand and running to cram into the few, solid looking buildings. Gary was pulling a tight, disposable, full body protection suit over his sweaty thick body. He talked quick, but without panic, to Del: “Everyone in this tent is yours, get them to the arms booth, it’s protected. I gotta go check the quarantines, outside the wall.” He zipped up the facesheild, picked a tiny crossbow from one of the herb drawers, and limped out the door. A few people in the med tent couldn’t walk, several couldn’t run, or help move others. Delmar’s new kidney burned, as he and a wiry soda addict picked up a cot like a stretcher. The assistant who had cleaned up Del was fast, but terrified by the tiny rockets. On the first trip, they were knocked down by a close call, and two people got back up full of sharp metal bits. The rockets were coming slower now. A few tents were on fire, and all were pocked with tiny holes. In two trips, Del and a few of the stronger patients had moved everyone across the dusty center square, and into the crossbow guys seemingly wide open booth. The crossbow guy was called Hodge. The inside of the booth had crossbows and carriage spring bows locked to a long cable. Hodge himself held a terrible looking crossbow, with a built in winch, big enough to hurl all kinds of horror ordinance over the wall. He was motionless, pissy, and armed to the teeth. Delmar didn’t want to ask him anything, but as the frightened med assistant checked the recently wounded, Del followed and tried to help, and he gathered a little info this way. A thick wire net above them was an active armor when needed; the balls at the wire intersections were one of the few defenses capable of targeting a paper rocket. Hodge was widely feared and valued in most blackmarket circles, and had probably sold the paper rockets to the robbers. Some of the longer term Knowhere residents were hopeful that the current attacks would push Hodge to take Knowhere’s side in the future. The rockets had stopped, but still, no one moved.

There was a commotion heard at the front gate, but it was still solidly closed. Around the smoky interior of the settlement, a few people came out, cautiously, and soon, many had run to help throw dirt on the burning tents. Even with all the shady and devoiced people, and new criminal types who had just come in to trade, no one had looted anything during the attack. People were going to great lengths to help all others, and many didn’t know anything about each other. Delmar was again amazed. He could’t imagine a similar scenario ever taking place in the cities.

That night, there was a somber fire built in the middle of the square. Delmar walked around talking to people, as if he were logged in. He asked for stories verbally, and soon got a fuller view on what had taken place: The bargirl was dead, directly hit by the front gate. A guy lost an arm, and both eyes, trying to save someone else. His surviving the night was uncertain. A camel had gone nuts, taken a tent down, and tried to escape the city. Many people in the walls were wounded, a few seriously. Hardest hit, were the people who had been quarantined just outside the city walls. 3 of them died, and Gary ripped his suit trying to put out the fire there. He hadn’t been cleared for the pox yet; people talked about him in tones of high respect, but he still wasn’t allowed back inside the walls. Shortly after the rocket attack, some robbers had showed up on airbikes (they couldn’t have come from too far away, someone told him). The robbers wanted water and plantfoods, as a ransom, to stop the rocket attacks. Seppy had bravely walked out to negotiate, but was super pissed that some of the quarantined folks had been killed. The negotiations were at a stalemate and they were probably going to take Seppy hostage, when Gary clinked around the side wall…covered in soot, with the people from the quarantine tents. They all had been deemed pathogen hazards by Golden, and lots of them were bleeding. This looked like a bio-attack to the robbers, and they left in a hurry. “Is Seppy okay?” Del asked a dark, freindly guy by the fire. “No,” he said, “He’s really pissed off!”. “He’s lucky he has the little girl watching over him.”-said a foreign sounding voice. Del turned to see Hodge. This olive skinned kingpin of blackmarket arms was still bristling with strange weapons, but now had a headscarf on, that had certainly been worked over by Selest. Many of his guards also showed evidence that Selest was doing good business. They struggled to stay close to Hodge in the crowd. He seemed a little less scary now that he was drinking. He looked at Del less harshly than he had before and asked: “The sword girl, She is your friend?… That Mari is real warrior… a big, strong, little girl.” He and Del laughed, despite the solemn mood. The bonfire still showed some human remains. Doc Golden appeared on top of city hall with a voicecone. He had a lot of blood on his clothes, but it wasn’t his own. The little doc threw a drink into the fire, and led the entire crowd in calling out the names of the dead, three times each. Then he had them recognise a few he called “the fearless and altruist, on which all our safety depends” Seppy was on the list, and several others. When they got to Gary’s name they got real loud, so he could hear them. Golden strained to make his snarly little voice heard, and gave updates on the wounded. It sounded like the guy who lost an arm would live, but was blinded for life. Selest found Delmar by the fire and smiled at him warmly, handing him a cup from the bar. The firelight had an incredible effect on all her tinkling metalbits, and she looked a lot healthier than she had in the city. “You’re needed in Council Chambers” She whispered, and the two of them made a subtle exit.

The aircleaner, cots, and apothecary drawers had been moved into the city hall lobby, and Delmar saw the one armed man in the middle of perhaps 20 bloody wounded people. The med assistant was staying busy, coordinating new volounteers. They zipped around between the cots with buckets, bloody rags, and poultices. Down in the bar, Seppy and Golden were trying to work out how to better protect the quarantined. Marie was wearing the babysling around her shoulder, but she had set Hallide on the bar, to play with clay cups. Marie was her quiet self again. “So we got a new bartender?”, Del joked, but no one laughed. Marie handed Delmar a stuffed backpack, saying “No time to rest up from surgery, you gotta go before the robbers come back.”. Seppy led Del down to the cave, giving him an all-too-brief explanation on compass navigation. As they passed the bot, it told Del that if he was to die, he would smell even worse, and flipped him off again. Down by the potato boxes, two young men with r pes met them, and they gave Del a pair of nightspecs. He put them on and the four of them clambered up into the dark, open area overhead. With the goggles, he could see some rope hanging down from far above, with footloops in it. Seppy nudged him with a warm candlebox. Through the nightspecs, Seppys eyes had a weird glow. He gave Del the birdfeather from his hat, said it was important. “I wish there was more time, the files in your new memory might help you, I look forward to seeing you again, my friend.” Then he hugged him, and Delmar hugged him back. Del got a foot in one of the rope loops and the three men hoisted him up the long, rocky cragg. After a while he heard a squeeking pulley getting closer. He had to get an arm under an old door by the pulley, and clear a lot of cobwebs to break through to the surface. When he finally emerged into the cool night air, he had cobwebs and bits of fiberglass on him. He tried to restore the hidden door to its previous condition, before dusting off and turning around. He was on a high cliff, overlooking Knowhere. The bonfire was like a star.

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