“Jock,” said Mica’s father suddenly, “do you and Ietta ever plan to have children?”
Jock turned a dull red. “Why do you ask, sir?”
“Pure scientific inquiry,” retorted Everard. “I was speculating on what type of father you might be. I have immense difficulty imagining it.”
“I won’t have any pressure put on Ietta in that direction until she decides for herself,” Jock began.
“Yes, of course, I’ve heard the speech several times. I didn’t ask her; I asked you. It isn’t the sort of question a man can put to an unrelated woman,” he added. “Too awkward. But I want to hear your thoughts, free and clear of any other considerations. Do you plan to have children? Do you even want to have children?”
“Have you even thought about it?” said Shyam Calder quietly from the opposite corner of the tent.
“I don’t have a ready answer to the first question,” Jock admitted. “I’ve always regarded the subject as her decision alone, since she would end up carrying the full burden of the outcome.”
“And yet,” noted Everard, “you are the one who insists that no one even nudge her toward a decision, one way or the other. Ietta doesn’t get as worked up over it as you do.”
They were finishing the morning paperwork. The weather had gone from a chilled, misty dawn through a rapidly warming morning, and lunchtime was near at hand. Mica completed his inventory of files in preparation to package them up for transport to the capital with the next day’s courier. He handed the clipboard to Jock for a signature.
Jock read down the list. “Good. Pack them up.” He appended his signature and handed back the clipboard.
Mica drew out the locked bag that had come in that morning. The key was in the lock, since the bag was empty, so Mica had only to turn the key and unzip the bag. He bound up the envelopes in the usual tatty green ribbons and fastened the ribbons with the battered enamel seal-brooch bearing the all but indecipherable insignia of Father’s office. Then, envelopes, ribbons, seal-brooch and all went into the bag. Mica locked the bag and handed the key to his father.
“Good work. Rusza, are you nearly finished yet?”
Rusza’s head jerked upright. “Huh? Oh, is it time for lunch?”
“I said, are you nearly finished yet?” Everard repeated patiently.
“Finished? Ah, yes, I finished the assigned part.”
“How far beyond did you go?”
Rusza shrugged. He flipped through the pages of the book he held. “Two chapters. No more than three… or four?”
“So we can assume that you enjoyed your readings?”
“A lot,” Rusza agreed.
“If only Rosamund Fulke could see you,” said Everard. “Put the book back. It is nearly time for lunch, but we aren’t eating at the mess hall today.”
“Field trip?” asked Rusza eagerly.
“You could call it that.” Everard refused to be drawn out any further than that. He had them all pack up the office and carry the contents back to the Leeward commander’s office for storage.
Aug Yeardley and Edmund Haigh met them outside. Each carried a small bag. “Where are we off to, then?” Yeardley asked.
“To our meeting,” Everard replied. “Shy, at least eat with us. I won’t ask more than that.”
They left through the main gate and caught a trolley car at the nearest stop. Rusza was gawking wide-eyed at the traffic. Mica stayed near his father’s elbow and listened to the conversation.
“What sort of place did you choose for lunch?” Yeardley was asking. “You always choose something unusual.”
“A local recommendation,” said Everard vaguely.
The two captains exchanged a look of curiosity. “When you’re this evasive,” Haigh said, “it always means we’re in for something tricky.”
“Tricky?” Everard spoke with mild amusement. “I’m never tricky. I just like to see people’s honest first responses to new stimuli.”
“A trait some might call tricky,” Yeardley laughed.
They jumped off that trolley car and caught another that took them down to the docks. Mica noticed several pairs of liveried loiterers and asked, “What uniform is that?”
“That,” said his father, “belongs to the Harbor Guardians Guild. They serve as harbor police and firefighters. Maccani Moor’s family founded the Guild and still owns a controlling stake in it.” He hailed a pair of them and asked, “Where is the lobster pot moored?”
They pointed as one to the east-southeast. “Look for the yellow flag,” one of them advised. “You sent word ahead, didn’t you?”
Everard nodded. “This morning.”
“Then they’ll be on the lookout to spot you.”
“Lobster pot?” Yeardley said tentatively.
Everard said nothing. When they came in view of a saffron-yellow pennant, beneath it was literally a boy on a lookout platform, surveying the crowded docks. “Give him the signal, Jock,” Everard said. “He can’t see us in all this push and hubbub.”
Jock raised his hand high. Mica did not catch the exact gesture, but it was answered by a shout from the boy, who then slid down a rope from the lookout platform and vanished. In a few seconds, half a dozen sun-bronzed sailors began to push through the crowd, opening a passage to the dock where the yellow pennant had its berth. The pennant snapped in the breeze above a sixty-foot fishing boat.
A large, weathered old man hailed them from the deck. “Jump aboard, we’re ready to set out,” he shouted.
Everard jumped the eight-foot gap easily enough, but Mica only just landed on his feet and had to fight for balance. His father grabbed him by the hand and heaved him forward, clearing that part of the deck for the other members of their party to make the jump. Everard never missed a breath between jumping and addressing the old sailor. “It’s a pleasure to meet you in person, Captain Arras. She’s a handsome ship.”
“She’s my second greatest pride,” said Arras. “It’s my privilege to welcome you and your crew.”
“This is my eldest son Mica.” Everard gestured for the others to draw near. “My best friend’s son, Rusza Tate. Captains Yeardley and Haigh of South Territory. My first lieutenant, Jokulle Knox. My sergeant major, Shyam Calder.”
“Welcome, gents, to the Lobster Pot’s maiden voyage as a seagoing restaurant of the highest quality. Ryba!”
A young man came from the cabin, wiping his hands on a towel. “Yes, Grandpa?”
“My grandson Ryba Arras, my greatest pride. None of this,” and the captain swept his hand in an expansive arc, “absolutely none of this would have happened without him. Ryba, this is Father Locke.”
“Sir. Thank you for reserving the Lobster,” said Ryba with an eager, beaming grin. “We’ll give you our best.”
“I look forward to it,” Everard replied.
Grandfather and grandson ushered the group to a seating area on the foredeck as the sailors cast off. Another of the sailors brought a bottle of white wine. “Today’s a bit rough,” he explained, “so we’ll keep to the harbor.”
“Would you ever go out beyond the bay?” Everard asked.
“That’s the plan,” said the sailor-waiter, “but only by request, says the captain. Some might be made anxious by the distance. Anything I can get you ‘sides the wine?”
“We’re fine with this,” Everard said. “Any idea what the menu is yet?”
“Not ‘til we catch it,” the sailor answered with a smile.
“Very unique,” said Captain Haigh after the sailor left them. “How did you hear about this, if this is their maiden voyage?”
“I’ll make that clear later. The weather has held fine. I had wondered for a time if it might be too cold to enjoy the outing properly. Rusza, do you intend to fall overboard?”
The boy righted himself. “No, sir.”
“Haven’t you ever been on a boat before?” Yeardley asked his cousin.
“Never. It feels funny.”
“Wait until you see them catch your lunch,” Everard said.
Sure enough, there was a stir near the cabin. Captain Arras was at the helm, calling directions, and the boy from before was back on lookout. He shaded his eyes and scanned the horizon, bounded as it was by the low cliffs of the bay. Whatever he called out sounded like gibberish, but the captain responded in kind and adjusted course. The ship’s engine was a muted growl that varied in pitch according to the captain’s manipulations.
The Lobster, as her crew called her, drifted to rest in the shadow of the southern cliffs well out in the long, narrow bay. Men began running out lines from the stern. Two of them let out a net. The sailor-waiter from earlier returned, bringing them a tureen of soup and a basket of rolls. “Shellfish stew,” he explained as he dished it out.
“Smells great,” Rusza said.
Everard thanked the sailor-waiter and almost immediately turned to Haigh. “If you are serious about recruiting Sanna Taivas, you need to speak with her uncle Axel Taivas first.”
The sailor-waiter dropped the ladle into the soup. “Axel Taivas of Sky-wind?” Then he caught himself and apologized. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, or to interrupt, Father Locke.”
“It’s fine,” said Everard. “Do you know Axel?”
“I’m from Sky-wind too. I wasn’t close with the Taivas family, but everyone knew Axel and Marinen. I didn’t know he was alive,” said the young man.
“What’s your name?” asked Everard.
“Daava,” he said. “Daava Jainin.”
“So you survived Sky-wind, Daava Jainin.”
The young man nodded. “Only just, sir. Me and my sister. The disposal company that came, it came just in time for us.”
“Do you know Axel’s niece Sanna?” Everard asked.
“Ah, the girl whose sympathy went out of control,” Jainin replied. “I saw her sometimes. Mostly I saw her with Doc Guslin, training.”
“Doc?” said Lieutenant Knox suddenly. “I didn’t think anyone from the Guslin school went into medicine.”
“Ah, he wasn’t a doctor officially,” said Jainin, “but he was always helpful if you had an injury, or if your grandpa had a stiff back, or if a baby was crying and nobody could tell why. He was great with babies and toddlers. And that girl, Sanna Taivas, was such a kind girl. She stayed away from most of us, and it turned out wise for her to do it, so I never knew how kind she was until the burial.”
“Spend a little time with us and tell us the story,” Everard urged, “if it isn’t too hard for you and isn’t taking you away from your job too long.”
“I can spare a little time before the next course, if you want.” Jainin knelt between Everard and Mica. “I’ll tell you just what I told the investigators after. There were two collapses— you know about that, don’t you? Our house was at the edge of the first collapse, right at the edge. Our neighbors’ home went in, but ours stayed up on the edge. That’s how near it came to us. We went out to see if we could pull anyone up. Gran stayed in the house to sit with my sister, who was sickly always. So we were at the edge, and since I was better with knots, I ended up going down into the collapse to secure others for my family to pull up. We hoisted three or four like that when the second collapse happened.” Jainin shuddered. “I was that near to being crushed by my own home falling on me. Gran didn’t survive the fall. My parents were trapped in rubble. My brother… he got crushed straightaway. Halla, my sister, she was saved by being in bed, but even she was bruised badly and dazed by the fall. We were so caught up in worrying about the casualties of the fall that we didn’t see what danger we were in until Doc Guslin came running to warn us that the collapse was due to a massive source of the Decay.” He shuddered again. “He told me to get Halla out however I could, and I did. I climbed out, carrying her on my back. It took time, too much time. There was such screaming and crying,” he mused gravely. “I kept telling Halla to keep her eyes shut, or to keep her face turned upward if she couldn’t do that. She was the first of us to see the disposal company arriving to help.”
“Us?” asked Yeardley.
“I had gotten a rope anchored,” said Jainin, “and there was no other way up, so I had others following me up, mainly young kids Doc Guslin had sent after me. The specialists pulled us clear and went down into the crater. She was there with them.”
“Sanna?” Rusza interrupted suddenly. His voice came out strangely tight and harsh.
Daava Jainin nodded and said, “She was like a ghost, spoke to no one, just jumped down into the crater like she could walk on air. I could see her in the fire and the smoke, running from one pile of rubble to the next. She never called out, not that I heard from up top, but she seemed to find what she was looking for further in toward the center. There was this incredible wave of cold and the fires just guttered out. It was so dark…”
Everard touched the young man’s shoulder.
Jainin offered him an unembarrassed glance of gratitude. “Even now, it’s hard to speak about it. But the strange thing was, after the cold and the dark, there was a noise like you get sometimes, when the lake ice shifts… a creak, a groan, and a shocking split. It was like that, but deeper. The specialists started shouting to each other, so I figured they didn’t know what it was either. But in the middle of the shouting, I heard a sobbing, keening voice that…” He paused, swallowed hard, and couldn’t go on.
“I suppose Sanna is the only one who knows what exactly happened just then,” said Everard, “but I can guess. You said something earlier about burial. Did you mean your family?”
Jainin nodded, still fighting for control of his voice. He started once, broke off, and started anew. “Teams came from the other villages and from Cavern to help. I had cousins here in Leeward, and they came to us two days after the cleanup began. There were so many dead who had no other family outside the village, and the survivors were mostly children. I saw her everywhere during those two days. She helped to identify the dead, and she stood by the graveside wherever there were no adults to do it. She was very kind…”
His audience remained silent when he stopped talking. Everard squeezed his shoulder. “I’m glad to see that your lot has fallen in a brighter, fairer place now.”
Jainin nodded, his expression recovering some control. “It’s hard, thinking about all that’s gone, but you describe our current place exactly right. My sister is just this month married to Captain Arras’ grandson Ryba, whose dream it was to have a sailing eatery. She’s a fine cook, and they liked each other from the first. And I suspect she’ll be wondering where I am, because the next course is bound to be finished and ready by now. If I may ask…” He sighed. “May I ask you to not bring up the village to her, if you speak to her?”
“We won’t,” Everard assured him. After Jainin walked away, he turned to his two guests. “That was one thing I wanted you two to hear. What conclusions have you drawn?”
Both captains sat back in their seats. “Stunning,” said Yeardley. “It’s not at all the same as reading the details in the training file. You all right, Edmund?”
His friend exhaled. “The scale of it is numbing until you hear those details in that tone. Yes, Aug: it reminded me. But it’s completely different. Except the grief. That’s the same.”
“She will always remind you,” said Everard, “never knowing that she does. Are you still determined?”
Haigh nodded. “She won’t flinch. I can tell that much already. That’s the important part.”
“And for you, Aug, are you also resolved? It will mean having another Edmund in your company.”
Yeardley grimaced and laughed. “I never thought of it that way.”
“From my observations,” Everard continued, “it’s more than possible that she can out-Edmund Edmund.”
“Hey,” protested Edmund.
“She’ll be in his squad, so that’s his problem,” Aug replied.
Everard permitted a slight smile to rise to his lips, a sign that he was enjoying himself immensely. “Then, barring a few restrictions, I see no reason why she shouldn’t join Company G as an intern once she finishes my course.”
Edmund said, “Restrictions?”
“Those must wait until our afternoon stop. Her uncle needs to be a part of that conversation. But you had gone so far as to decide which squad to assign her to? I’m impressed at your foresight.”
“Oh, that was the simplest matter in the world,” said Yeardley. “The first time I saw her take down our Rusza here, I knew for sure she was made for the incapacitation squad. Isn’t that right, Rusza?”
“She’s talented at it,” Rusza agreed around a mouthful of stew. “I can testify. But I would do better on the other squad.”
“You? You barely know how to tie your shoes,” Yeardley scoffed. “You’re fifteen years too early to be on my squad.”
Rusza made a sour face at him. “I’m learning how to do what she does. It’s just going slow because I don’t dare move around too much. How does anybody get anything done with mechanical energy sympathy, I’d like to know!”
“Ambrose will answer that for you,” said Everard. “They’re due tomorrow just before lunch.”
Mica straightened. “Mom’s due here tomorrow?”
“I just heard from her this morning, yes,” his father answered.
The rest of their conversation passed idly, mostly because the activity at the stern had grown noisier and more exciting. Men were hauling in huge fish on their lines and carrying the fish to the galley. “I’m impressed,” said Yeardley. “I thought it would take longer.”
Yeardley expressed his amazement again when, hardly fifteen minutes later, Daava Jainin came carrying platters of fresh-grilled fish. “Here you go, gentlemen,” he said, “the main course. Careful not to burn yourselves on the plates.”
“Here is another opportunity for you to practice using cold,” Everard said to Rusza. “Cool the edges of your plate. I want to see if your practice has produced any results.”
“That’s a hard thing to ask of him,” Yeardley remarked.
“But you notice he isn’t objecting to it,” replied Everard. “He knows his capacities, and he has seen sufficient inspiration to want to try, even though it’s difficult for him.”
Everybody watched Rusza stare motionless at his plate with both hands bracketing the edges. After a few seconds, he moved his hands a little closer. Then, so tense that he trembled, Rusza brought his palms into contact with the edge of the plate. “I did it!” he exclaimed. “It’s cool enough to touch!”
“And in record time,” Everard said. “Well done.”
The rest of the group, even Shy Calder, spent the rest of the meal talking and often laughing about the influence Sanna Taivas had exerted over Rusza. Mica sat quietly, eating his meal but enjoying it with only half his attention. He made no remark even when Rusza stole the last chunk of fish from his plate.
“And you’re going to let that pass?” said Yeardley to Mica.
Everard rubbed Mica’s head with a rough hand. “He’s just thinking. It happens. Rusza learned how to take advantage of it a long time ago. He learned the secret from Larimar, I believe.”
Mica looked up in surprise.
“Don’t let him take your dessert too, though,” his father continued, “or he’ll be insufferable for the rest of the day.”
Mica uttered a short laugh. “Yes.”
The dessert turned out to be a blueberry pie with fresh cream, which caught Mica’s full attention immediately. He alternated bites of pie with sips of the chicory coffee that Jainin had brought them.
Captain Arras came to their table as they were finishing. “How was your meal?”
“Delicious,” said Yeardley.
“Good,” Haigh said.
“Quite good,” was Everard’s judgment.
“Great!” added Rusza.
“Thank you,” Shy Calder said to the captain. “I enjoyed it.”
“Excellent,” said Lieutenant Knox.
When Mica did not speak, the captain asked him directly, “And you, young man?”
Slightly taken aback, Mica said the first thought that came to his mind: “I’d like another piece of pie to take with me, if possible.”
Captain Arras laughed heartily. “You shall have one.” To Everard, he said, “You were able to have your conversation, I take it?”
“Yes, thank you. I appreciate your help. I can certainly let people know that you have a fine restaurant here, so I hope to return the favor soon.”
“That would be a great help, Father. I’m pleased that you think so. When Father Locke says a thing is good, people know it is good.” Captain Arras beamed. “Where can we set you down?”
“Our next stop is Kap Moor’s bathhouse,” Mica’s father replied.
“I know the one. We’ll put in just over there, that’ll get you closest.” The captain pointed.
So, full of good food and good cheer, the party was set ashore on the docks nearly at the opposite end from where they had boarded the Lobster Pot. Mica carried in his hand a small balsa wood box containing a second slice of pie.
At the entrance to a large storefront, Everard ducked under the fluttering half-curtain and declared, “Kap Moor! You look as healthy as ever.”
“Father Locke,” boomed a voice that turned out to belong to a man of unusual muscular development in the upper body, but with a pair of emaciated legs strapped up beneath him. This man looked over everyone who entered after Everard. “A good sized party you bring with you.”
Shy Calder said, “I won’t be staying. I can take that back to base and have it held in the fridge for you,” he offered to Mica.
Mica gave him the little box. “Thank you, Sergeant Major.”
“Someday,” Kap Moor said, “I’ll get you to stay and try my baths.”
Shy Calder merely smiled, bowed politely, and headed back out into the street.
“Anyone else not staying?” Kap surveyed their faces. “Good! Follow me.” He grabbed a leather strap and swung by one arm off his countertop perch and through another doorway deeper into the bathhouse.
Everyone followed. In the locker room, Mica changed into borrowed swim shorts and stashed his belongings in a locker between Rusza’s and Everard’s. He padded on bare feet across the damp tiles to the next room and stopped short, looking at the three small pools in curiosity. As Kap Moor explained the benefits of each bath, Mica watched to see which one Everard would choose first.
Edmund grabbed Rusza by the back of the neck. “Stop right there. E-M does not get into the water with non-E-M.”
“I’ve never had trouble with it before,” Rusza protested.
“That’s like saying you’ve thrown a pair of dice a dozen times and, because you haven’t come up double-sixes yet,” retorted Edmund, “it must be impossible to come up double-sixes. Don’t take chances like that.”
“If you would give him some advice,” Everard said as he lowered himself into the second pool, “I’d appreciate it, Edmund. He hasn’t had the benefit of another E-M user’s experience before. So far, he has operated strictly on trial and error.”
“Then it’s amazing he hasn’t electrocuted anyone yet,” Edmund declared. He dragged Rusza with him to the third pool, where he permitted no one else to join them.
Mica sank carefully into the second pool beside his father.
Everard, without opening his eyes, said, “You can do as you please while you’re here, Mica. You don’t need to shadow me. Rusza I brought because I still can’t trust him out of my sight, but you’re here as a reward for your diligence. You’ve made excellent progress these past few weeks. Take your reward and enjoy it to the full.” Then his eyes opened just slightly, and a hint of a smile touched his lips.
Mica sank down into the water so that the heat of the water might cover any change in color he might make. “Thanks, Dad.”
Again, Everard reached out to tousle Mica’s hair. Then he relaxed back into the water with a sigh of satisfaction.
Kap Moor came swinging through to ask, “Anything I can get for you gentlemen?”
“Do you have such a thing as a steam bath?” Haigh asked back.
“I do, but few ask to use it, and then mostly those with head colds and the like. I can ready it if you want.”
“Please do. But don’t worry about heating it.”
Kap Moor fairly flew through the next doorway. Everard spoke again without opening his eyes. “So you learned something, at least, from dealing with Turstin?”
“I suppose,” said Yeardley, “but what makes you say that?”
“Edmund’s request. He plans to work with Rusza on E-M, but he remembered to account for the heat affinity at the same time.”
“I suppose it turned into habit,” Yeardley admitted. “Every time he went off to train Turstin, I had to yell after him not to forget to have that brat keep his heat under control.”
The ceiling trolley rasped again, but this time Axel Taivas entered. “Good afternoon, all,” he said. “Soren, just put those towels there.”
The little boy was carrying an armload of towels so high that it nearly obscured his vision.
“I’ve filled the reservoir in the steam bath,” Axel continued, “and the heat is off, so that’s ready for whoever wants it.”
Edmund stood and let the water run off him. “Let’s go.”
Rusza followed obediently, but just before he left, he leaned back through the open doorway and said, “Please don’t talk about anything interesting until I get back, please.”
Axel chuckled. “What was that about?”
“We are here,” began Everard, “not just to enjoy the baths, but to have a conversation that involves you. Have you been introduced to Captains Yeardley and Haigh of South Company G yet?”
“Not formally, no, but I’ve seen them on base and heard about them from Sanna.” Axel studied Yeardley with some curiosity.
“This is Captain August Yeardley, usually called Aug,” Everard said. “He is… what was your degree of relation to Nirva, Aug?”
“Thank you. He’s a second cousin to Archet’s late wife, and thus is a second cousin once removed to Rusza Tate. His friend Captain Edmund Haigh you just spoke to now. I suppose Sanna has informed you that Company G is interested in recruiting her.”
“She did mention it,” Axel said pensively, “but she didn’t talk as though it was a serious possibility.”
“That girl!” Yeardley exclaimed. “Why doesn’t she think we’re serious?”
Everard said, “There you put your finger on the difficulty in Northern speech. They tend to speak frankly, without euphemisms or hyperbole. They hear the same way. If you don’t speak straight to the point, you won’t get much of a hearing. They are serious, Axel. I have told them that, with a few restrictions, I will approve the request. I want you to hear the restrictions. Sanna is an adult, but you are still her guardian in certain ways.”
Axel listened to all this with lively interest now. “Is that how it is? I’d like to hear what you have to say.”
“I believe that is what Rusza meant by his parting remark,” Everard added. “He wants to hear it too. Do you object?”
“No, as long as you think it’s acceptable for him to hear. Have you said these things to Sanna yet?”
“Not yet. They have been evolving in my thoughts since yesterday, and I opted to speak with you first.”
“That’s intriguing. No wonder Rusza Tate is so eager to hear the mystery.”
After the relaxation baths, Everard and his group moved to the circulating pool. Not long after they had settled in there, Rusza came trotting across the damp tiles. “Have I missed anything?”
“Nothing you would mind missing,” Everard answered. “Axel, do you have a large bucket or deep basin that you could fill with cold water?”
“We can find something to suit,” the man replied. “What is it for?”
“Yes,” said Rusza warily, “what is it for?”
“Your color is too high for my liking. I want you to sit by the wall with your feet in cold water until you have your temperature under control.”
Yeardley laughed. “I remember my mother doing that to me when I was a kid. I was so bad at regulating my temperature. I came to really hate having cold feet. Just be thankful he isn’t making you sit in a full bath of ice water,” he called out to Rusza. “That was the remedy my gran always used when Dad had a fever.”
Axel disappeared into the back room. When he returned, however, he was followed by Kap Moor carrying the bucket. “I still lack the arm strength for this kind of task,” Axel admitted reluctantly.
“But you’re getting there,” said Kap, “you’re getting there in good time. Anything else I can bring?”
“No, thank you for offering,” Everard replied. When Kap had left the room, he turned to Axel. “These restrictions I have in mind,” Everard began.
“They’re based on a remark made by my former mentor, who is traveling with Company G for this trip. He said… no, I should start further back than that. Axel, did any of you notice a change in the weather that year before the incident?”
Axel thought about the question for a few seconds. “Yes,” he said, “now that you bring it up, that winter was oddly warm. The spring too.”
“The air and water sympathists of North Territory’s climatology school keep detailed measurements of temperature, precipitation, and other weather-related phenomena that could possibly influence the Decay’s activity. Your village was a case of special interest to them. Their measurements indicate that there was a direct link between the change in weather patterns and Sanna’s departure to the capital.”
“How is that possible?” Axel asked.
“You may well be surprised. I sent word to one of the capital’s elders, a man who specializes in weather. I asked him to compare the temperature around the capital over the past ten years. His conclusion was that the average temperature has dropped by approximately three degrees every year since Sanna took up residence there. I don’t think this is a fluke. I think what Emmett Brook said is accurate: Sanna won’t be able to settle permanently anywhere without causing significant environmental changes.”
Axel sat on the lip of the circulating pool, eyes wide and mouth slack. Then he squeezed his eyes shut in a grimace. “Our poor Sanna,” he murmured. “No place to rest.”
“The restrictions I have in mind should help. Once Sanna finishes my course of training, I want to send her to Current-town as an intern for Company G. That assignment will last for three months. Can you train her in all her duties in three months?” Everard aimed this question at Haigh.
“Then I want to send her as an intern to East Company 074,” Everard continued. “Mariel will take her for three months. Then to West Company D1 for cross-training with Major Venn for three months, another three months with the Polestar Ranger company in Northwest, and then back to you in Current-town for the winter.”
“Keep her moving around,” Haigh mused, “to mitigate the weather impact.”
“Precisely, Edmund. That is the first restriction: she can only join Company G in the winter. Can you accept that restriction?”
“Second restriction: I want her to have separate housing when she’s in South Territory. It needs to be housing suited to her unique condition. Are you willing to provide that?”
Haigh nodded again. Yeardley said, “We can arrange for it. We have a decent budget.”
“Third restriction: In addition to the housing, she cannot even visit Current-town until there is a suitable place for her to safely deplete her sympathy. I have some preliminary sketches back at my office, describing the type of facility I want built. It will benefit more than just Sanna,” he added, “so the expense should be shouldered by the main army offices in South Territory. I would like to see at least one such facility built in every territory, to be frank. Enough sympathists struggle for control that I think it past time for this measure.”
“Sounds interesting,” Haigh commented. “I’m for it.”
“Interesting?” laughed Yeardley. “Sounds groundbreaking, more like. Are we the first to get in on this?”
“Then we had better do it right, to show the other territories how it’s done. I assume you have ideas, at least, about the kind of housing? Maybe even a preliminary sketch or two?”
“I haven’t gotten as far as a sketch,” Everard replied. He turned his head to find Soren crouching at the edge of the pool, gazing intently at him. “Do you have a question, Soren?”
With wide eyes, the child nodded and said softly, “Is Sanna going away?”
Everard looked to Axel.
“We will go with her,” said Axel, “wherever she is sent.”
Everard turned back to Soren. “There you have it.”