Monday, September 17, 2012

Family

December 24th 2071, Wednesday

Glitzy has been planning Christmas behind my back and I'm facing a holiday with much more company than I usually prefer. But I'm willing to give it a try.

She also brought her son Fynn to live with her, since she has settled down. Well, as much as she can. I had about two hours of warning between learning that Fynn would arrive today and meeting him. I think it went fairly well, thanks to Jasper. There really is nothing better than having a dog for getting to know people.

I like having the kid around, he's an adorable little guy and about exactly as curious and boisterous as I imagined him to be, he is very definitely Glitzy's child in more than looks. I have no idea how it will work out between us, but for now it's fun and I don't want to worry about problems I can't solve now in any case.

We'll have a full house on the 25th, Glitzy invited Maggie, Rusty and Ray and it looks like her brother and his wife will join us as well. More about that later. I invited Whistler for the 26th and, to my surprise, he agreed. We're both not all that keen on Christmas normally. He coolly asked me if he could bring a friend and I said yes, of course. I'm afraid I laughed all the way from the clinic to the Rusty Barrel. A friend. Sure. But I've been dying to meet his girlfriend ever since I found out about her (not that he told me outright) and I'm thrilled that he actually wants to bring her. Whistler is not all that generous with his trust and I appreciate it.

I drove to the Nest today to treat Eric. He is fighting the infection and I'm allowing myself to hope that he will make it. But he's still only halfway through it all and even if he doesn't turn into a ghoul, he may well aquire some aspects of the disease, like the grey skin, abnormal teeth or even an appetite for decaying flesh.

When I was done, Liz found me and told me that there was a patient at the clinic who had been asking for me specifically. And he said he'd pay well. The guy was charming and well-educated, but he clearly didn't belong here. He told me that he was an English teacher, hiking with his wife in the Cascades and that he had some kind of bite he wanted me to take a look at. The ranger had recommended the clinic. Yeah, right.

The bite was nothing serious, a chigger bite, and I called his bluff. He told me that he had wanted to meet me, to see if I was as good as I was supposed to be and that he could not tell me anything else until we would meet again officially. Otherwise we might anger mutual friends. I was this close to simply slapping a tranq patch on his back and then he would have woken up in the back room of the Rusty Barrel, with Growler asking the questions. I guess the raid on the Nest has left me a little bit paranoid or maybe it's just that I have been living here for so long that anyone who looks so out of place and might work for the authorities is immediately suspicious for me. Especially when he asks such a lot of questions about the clinic and how the Nest works.

But the man didn't look or behave very much like a threat and everything he told me was plausible. I don't think I was very friendly, I'm not at my best behavior when I feel like I'm being deceived. He seemed honest in his interest in the Nest and he even offered to help within his means, although I didn't take him up on that offer.

He finally left, after he paid for the treatment and the vaccinations I gave him when he told me he didn't have any before coming on this trip. I did some digging and his story checked out, he really is am English teacher from a town near Winnipeg. I found him on the school's website, he's called Ronald Winters. I asked Glitzy about him because she was the only one I could think of who might have a weird connection like that and it turns out he's her brother. I guess he wanted to check on the guy who's messing with his little sister. Glitzy invited him and his wife over for Christmas and I have to say, I'm actually looking forward to meeting them.

Beanstalks

December 23rd 2071
I've had some time to breathe and to put it all together, so here's what happened during our last hours in the ghetto.

We heard rumors that J├╝rgen Stroop had arrived at the ghetto with Gestapo troops to get the riot under control. There was also a train from Auschwitz and with it arrived Doctor Mengele. Ephraim, who had been in a coma, woke around the same time Mengele arrived. I know, it's ridiculous that he should just fall into and out of a coma that quickly, but he did.

I asked Mordecai about ways out of the ghetto. I admit that the thought of what an incarnation of Mengele might do to us had me panicking and I just wanted out. Mordecai literally froze when he thought about the question, but he came back with a couple of possibilities. When we talked it over, I realized that even if we got out, we had no idea what to do then.

I wrote another letter to Glitzy and asked her to send me what we had scavenged from the Matrix Surgeon. It took a few hours and then we got a package with a book full of code and the broken scalpel Splash grabbed after we fought the Surgeon. I gave it to her to figure out what to do with it.

Meanwhile, I searched for EVO. The SS had been driving around the ghetto all morning, exterminating EVO where they found it. There still were some plants inside our house, where I found Lidia the other day. They didn't look so good so I watered them and I sang to them. EVO feeds on creativity and new things, I had already learned that much about it. My singing made the plants grow and after some time, the first flower appeared and even a dragonfly.

I had attracted attention and when I started to sing Who by Fire, people joined in, singing the Unetanneh Tokef. The song soon spread all over the house, moved to another house and all over the ghetto. And EVO moved with it. The plants had opened cracks all over the walls and the floor, eventually it felt like EVO was the only thing holding the house together. When someone opened the windows to listen to all the people singing, the dragonflies took off and spread EVO even further.

I don't really have the words to describe how it felt to be part of this and I don't know if I even want to try. But I think for me it was worth all the fear and terror of the ghetto.

Kerry told me what had happened next, she was caught in the ghetto with Blaster as part of the SS tropps and had accompanied Stroop and Mengele. Blaster had been carrying EVO around in his pocket and the song caused his plant to grow as well. He faked being attacked by the plant - if he had been caught carrying it, he would probably have been shot. It was a close call even so, but Mengele wanted to take a closer look at him. He asked Blaster how he felt, very genial and and friendly, right up to the point where he cut Blaster's throat. Or would have, if his scalpel hadn't been broken.

Blaster jumped him then, threw EVO at him and used him as a shield to get away from Stroop and his troops. EVO attacked Mengele and grew all over him, right into his mouth. As soon as EVO touched his face, people realized that Mengele didn't have one, that he was just as faceless as the Matrix Surgeon.

The fight between EVO and Mengele was felt all over the ghetto. It was like someone had painstakingly built a huge puzzle and then someone else came along, grabbed one corner and gave the whole thing a good hard shake. The world fractured, but pieces still held together. We slipped - there was no sense of falling, but we were moved from the house and out into the streets, right to where Mengele stood. I had held onto Ephraim and I had been able to grab Han who had held onto Kimba and the others, so we were all together.

Ephraim walked up to the Mengele thing and they seemed to recognize each other. When they touched, Ephraim dissolved, like the ghost Splash saw him as for the first time, and the Mengele thing morphed into the adult Ephraim. That shift again shook the whole ghetto. Ephraim looked around, puzzled and shocked and seemed to come to his senses. He quietly asked himself 'oh my God, what have I done?'

Blaster was the first to react after all this, he took a shot at Stroop and killed him, or should have but the man refused to die, even with his head torn off. I grabbed the scalpel Mengele had dropped and threw it to Splash. She merged both broken scalpels into one whole. I pulled Ephraim behind a Morris column because the Gestapo were taking aim at him, armed with flamethrowers. Above us, a zeppelin broke through the clouds, the same one Splash saw when Hard Corps and Petrovski Security were fighting it out on the streets and in the Matrix a while ago.

Splash gave me the scalpel and I cut into the column, trying to see what it could do. It sliced clean through the column and two Gestapo men, like a monofilament whip. With our cover now gone and more Gestapo (carrying Hinomaru instead of Gestapo insignia) arriving, we were out of options. We could have run, but where to, or we could have fought, but that would have been a desperate last stand.

The thought of killing Ephraim more than crossed my mind, but I couldn't do it. He seemed to have regained his humanity and I had to think of something Growler once told me, 'Treat people the way you want them to be to help them become what they can be'. So I decided to put my trust in Ephraim and handed him the scalpel. He took it and turned to fight the Gestapo troops. I don't know if he survived or what happened to the ghetto because in that moment the men fired their flamethrowers at us.

There was no pain and it all went too quickly to properly realize that we were dying. I woke up in the clinic and I was in and out of consciousness for a while. Diego, Liz, Whistler and Glitzy had their hands full to keep everyone alive, but they did it. We all suffered dump shock, with brain hemorrhages of varying degrees. Surprisingly, two days later everyone is out of the clinic, although we all still need a lot of rest.

The hackers have successfully eradicated Evil EVO in the Nest where it threatened to take over our technology. There are some EVO plants left, Splash's for example and although I didn't check, I'm fairly sure there is one in my containers, but Glitzy asked them to leave those alone and I think I agree with her. I hope that MCT will never be able to trace us back to the Nest. The raid on the Nest would look like a walk in the park compared to what they'd do to us, I'm sure.

I've been forbidden to work and thrown out of the clinic by Liz and just about everybody tells me I need to take some vacation time. I can't help but agree. I'll be staying with Glitzy over the holidays, but I'll still drive back to the Nest to treat Eric. There's still more to tell, but I'm dead tired. It can wait another day, I guess.