The Immune – Chapter 16

Kara approached the center section of the city, stopping at the gate to the hub that sat at the city’s core.  The gates were all open, of course – there was never a reason to close them – and most of the members of the Order had chosen to pass their nights here.  The outer districts were used for most of the daily activities, the ongoing business of keeping a city alive.  The southern section had been devoted to teaching – the intellectual, spiritual, and physical kinds. Kara had come through this area to get to the core.

Alexia was sleeping on a cot, not far from the gate.  After the first blood-draw they performed, the former councilor had flown into a rage, tearing the transfusion tube from her arm and nearly attacking her nearby brothers and sisters before finally getting control of herself.  Kara grimaced at the thought – Alexia had gotten enough control to sprint to the animal barns and attack one of the horses instead of a human.  She’d bitten right into the terrified creature, and used her bare hands to tear the thing apart and eat it in fistfuls.  From that point forward, they’d done every blood draw only after making certain there was meat nearby for her. They’d needed no second lesson.

The council had voted unanimously to undertake Alexia’s plan. It still seemed too good to be true to Kara, but the appeal was strong – the entire Order, all of them Immune.  Kara’s mind continued to float questions regarding the Creator’s plan, and whether it included the Immune or not, but she kept these to herself.

She approached Alexia slowly, silently, but when she was within 5 meters, the former councilor lifted her head, slowly turning it to look at the administrator.  Kara stopped for a moment, then continued her approach.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” she said, quietly.

Alexia smiled.  “You aren’t.  I’m resting, but I don’t know that I need sleep. My mind is too agitated to sleep, anyway.  I’ll be ready for another draw in a few hours, I believe.”  She noticed Kara’s expression, and cocked her head.  “What is it?”

Kara took a deep breath.  As always, humble honesty was the best path to take.  “I still haven’t been able to put my concerns to rest, sister.”

Alexia nodded, patiently.  “How are they doing?”

“Christopher is doing as well as ever. It doesn’t seem to have affected him at all, except that he is getting slightly pale. He says he feels fine.  The others, though…” Kara sighed.  “They’re all in great pain, sister. They’re all running a fever, and they say they can feel it spreading through them.  Lysander can’t keep his feet for more than a minute or two, and Gretchen can barely sit up now.”

“My own transformation is a blur to me, I’m afraid.  I don’t remember it at all – I was too enraged at the breach of the Great Rock,” Alexia admitted.

Kara nodded.  “I can’t help but think we should wait until we see how it affects those who –“

“Kara,” Alexia said, sitting up.  She breathed deeply, her shoulders and chest rising and expanding, and as they did so, displaying some of the power that lurked beneath her skin.  She smiled.  “Sister, it may seem rushed to you, but our Order has been in jeopardy every night since the Great Rock was over-run.  Even here,” she said, looking around at the high, cement block walls, “we are too vulnerable.  We need to take this leap of faith.”

Kara nodded again.  While it had never been spoken aloud, they all knew that disagreeing with the former councilor too strongly would carry a dire consequence.  Her mind replayed Alexia’s attack on the horse, then recoiled in horror at its own memory.

“I understand your concerns, sister,” Alexia said, gently.  “Please take good care of them as they transform. Make them as comfortable as you can.”

“I will, sister,” Kara said, bowing her head slightly, then turning back to the southern district.

 

*****

 

          The hills got steep as they headed South, but Svetlana had no trouble keeping up.  She moved slowly, silently, alert for any sounds or any signal from her senses.  They’d been sharpened by years of training even before she’d discovered her Immunity. The sixth-sense the Infection gave her didn’t replace her other five, but it certainly augmented them.

          Dana had been making a bee-line for Red Valley, but had changed course abruptly, just outside the edge of their fields.  Svetlana had followed the same path, circling around the village, then veered off to the South.  They had traveled beside a road for half the day, then gone directly into the forest.

          Svetlana knew this area – or more accurately, had been here before. The remains of an ancient-built bunker was within a half-kilometer of her.  The moment she’d realized Dana was heading for Red Valley, she’d guessed the bunker would be her destination.  That was where the secret of building concrete blocks had been found.  And not long afterward, two more discoveries; the iron mine the ancients had started building, and an invention they’d left behind generations before. This invention didn’t have a name to anyone today, but it had created the explosions that had torn open the fences around the wealthy district of Carter’s Hill.  Xeren had shared the story with her at the end of the previous summer.

          Could that be what Dana is after? Turning the trick back on her brother? Svetlana had considered it before, but it didn’t make sense.  The explosions may or may not damage the concrete block wall being built around Carter’s Hill, but the bunker was no longer abandoned.  There was a small village there now – supported by Red Valley, not far away – and among their population was at least one of the Immune.  They would sense Dana’s presence, preventing her from stealing anything from the rediscovered mine.

          So what is she doing here? Svetlana asked herself for the tenth time.  She’d followed Dana much closer before, and hadn’t been detected, but this time she was being extra cautious.  Symon had sensed her last time, but this time she didn’t want Dana on her guard until it was too late.

          When Dana’s path turned away from the bunker, and into the higher hills, Svetlana’s confusion grew.  The slopes were steep now, and while the hills were no taller than 10 or 15 meters, moving over them took effort.  She continued to follow, staying out of sight, silent, and just close enough that she could sense the Infection Dana carried.  The hills got steeper, the trees thicker, and the canopy darker.  Several clusters of the Turned stood in the heavier shadows, waiting for the sun to set, but ignoring the two women who moved between them.

          Quite suddenly, Svetlana’s feelings on Dana’s presence weakened.  She was still there, up the hill and about 50 meters away.  Svetlana continued climbing, but very slowly now. Dana seemed to have stopped moving.  Svetlana found a large, old oak tree to hide behind before looking forward again.

          Up the slope from her was a natural opening in the side of the hill, a cave, just large enough for a person to walk inside if they stooped.  From where she could detect her quarry, Svetlana was certain Dana had gone inside.  The Turned would be inside, if they could find their way in.  The sun may or may not drive them in there – the trees gave plenty of shade.

          Her senses then picked up something else. Near Dana – with her or around her, Svetlana couldn’t tell – was a cluster of the Turned that felt different.  Smaller.  The Infection was concentrated into smaller bodies, almost like a crowd of children that had Turned together.  But what were the chances of that happening? Or that they would stay together?

          Svetlana’s mind replayed what she’d seen at the not-too-distant bunker, the first time she had followed Jameson and Marlena there.  The answer suddenly became clear to her.  Her eyes widened in alarm.

          She’s going to take those things to Carter’s Hill!

 

*****

 

 

Marlena walked along the outer face of the new wall, smiling up at the workers who were putting the final course at the top.  They smiled back at her, but didn’t pause in their work.  The wall was nearly finished now, and with their goal in sight, everyone worked harder.  Even the young men and women bringing drinking water to the wall seemed more focused, more excited.

The wall was being built to encircle almost the entire city – it would isolate the old wealthy district, which would eventually get its own wall.  Joshua had made public the idea the Von Allens had brought with them, for a building that could harness the Turned to make a grain mill and bellows work. Marlena thought it was genius, but understood the hesitation in the non-Immune citizens.  And so, it had been decided that the new concrete block wall would cut that part of the city off.  They could encircle it with another wall later – the first priority was to protect the people.

Jameson and Katrick were working together near the leading edge of the wall.  Many of the Immune had helped with the construction, taking shifts here and there where they could, and the citizens were more and more happy for the help every day. Marlena stopped beside them, waving a greeting.  Jameson was pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with blocks – since he didn’t tire out, he took the more tiring work.  Setting the blocks into place took some effort, but it was still only moving one block at a time. Jameson could distribute the blocks to the others better than anyone else.

“You’re still at it?” Marlena asked him, shaking her head.

Katrick laughed, setting a block into place on a waist-level course he was working on.  A woman on the inside of the wall was troweling mortar on the previous course while Katrick set the blocks.  He gave the block a precise hit with the meat of his fist, pushing it into the proper position.  He squatted slightly, closing one eye to check the block’s height against the guide string that ran along the wall.  Then he turned around, slapping his hands to get some of the concrete dust off of them.

“Captain Carpenter said the same thing about an hour ago,” he chuckled.  “He’s been going since dawn, they say.”

“You should see Jessi,” Jameson said, pointing further down the wall, where the tiny Immune woman’s black and white hair was easily visible.  What Marlena noticed next was that the wheelbarrow she was pushing had blocks piled up even higher than Jameson did.

“I would think being out in the sun all day would bother you even more than everyone else,” Marlena observed, running a hand across her own forehead.

Jameson nodded.  “They’re bringing us plenty of water.  Hey, Janelle came by earlier. She said Xeren was looking for you.  She had something important to ask you about.”

“Okay,” Marlena said, looking over the wall and into the city.  She could sense more than a dozen Immune from where she stood, but couldn’t tell which one was who.  She turned around, and made her way back through the gate.

Just inside the massive door, Janelle joined up with her, heading about the same direction.  The two nodded greetings, but didn’t speak for a few moments.  Then Marlena’s eyes looked over the younger girl for a moment.

“Janelle… I want to ask you about something that happened at Silverlake,” she said.  “When the Turned came in under the wall.”

Janelle nodded, a mysterious smile on her face.

“There were a couple of people who were scratched up that night, but the next day they were all right,” Marlena continued.  “They had flame weapons applied to their wounds right after being hurt, and while that works sometimes, I haven’t seen it successful that often. Especially not several times in one night.”

Janelle nodded again, the smile still playing on her lips.

“I also noticed-“

Another voice cut her off.  “There you are, Marlena.”

Marlena stopped short, blinking in surprise.  Xeren and Joshua were right in front of her, not five meters away.  Her mouth opened in surprise – she’d never had anyone who was Immune get that close without her knowing it.

Janelle chuckled.  “I told you, Xeren, the first test would be to see if you could sneak up on her.” The girl spread her hands.  “Looks like it worked.”

Joshua was completely confused, but Marlena was stunned. Her eyes were wide.  She took another step toward Xeren, then another. Marlena didn’t quite believe it until she was close enough to touch.

There is no Infection here. Her mind was having trouble processing it, but her feelings had never been wrong.  There was no other Immune within 20 meters of them, she was certain. But that could only mean…

She looked at Janelle, whose smile had widened even more.  “The answer to your question, Marlena, is yes.  But you have to keep it a secret. We only have a few doses left, and we can’t make any more.  My family has been working for generations to find a way, but without the machines the ancients had, it’s been impossible.”

Marlena nodded, still in shock. “A cure!” she whispered, half to herself. It seemed impossible, but the proof was undeniable. She should have been able to sense Xeren a kilometer away.

Joshua turned Xeren toward him.  “Are you serious? It can be cured?”

Xeren nodded, putting a hand on his cheek, then slowly stretching up to kiss him.  She drew back for a moment, letting him look at her again.  It was as if he was seeing her for the first time. He licked his lips, then pulled her close again, kissing her deeply.  After a long moment, the two parted.  He was breathing heavily, shaking his head. Then he looked at Marlena, the unspoken question obvious in his eyes.

“You’d be able to taste it by now,” Marlena said.  “Your mouth should be numb.”

Joshua shook his head again.  For a long moment, everyone was silent.  Then he seemed to erupt with laughter, lifting Xeren off the ground and spinning her around in the air.

3 Responses to “The Immune – Chapter 16”

  1. yeay a cure!!!!

  2. ok so now I need 17…

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