I have only hours to figure out how to graft raster wings onto the Araska’s back. Is this to be my fate? Held in this prison, forced to make animal augmentations under unrealistic deadlines? And the chiurgeon is no help…
Exhaustion and fatigue is beginning to sink in and I’m having trouble thinking straight. Between feverishly working on the armature all night and Goash’s incessant weeping, sleep has been an unattainable option. I have no idea how this Araska expects me to construct an armature that would support a raster’s 9 meter wingspan. I’m finding hints of iotum in some of the bits of numenera scraps lying about, but is it enough to take considerable weight off the wings? I’m only guessing as to how to make use of it, in any event. Just because I have an understanding of the numenera doesn’t mean I know how to construct anything from it. I’m not sure this Araska knows the difference between an Aeon Priest and a wright.
After hours of work under intense pressure, I may have something that could work. Goash has pleaded with me not to submit to the demands of the Araska, not to make him have to graft his raster’s wings onto her back. I explain to him that our unique skills are the only thing keeping us alive, that we live as long as we are useful. This falls on ears deafened by grieving wails. This chiurgeon needs to get it together if we are going to pull this off. How is he going to perform surgery in his state? I understand the raster is his beloved mount, but our own survival is at stake.
Even as confident as I am with the current state of the armature, I still haven’t tested it enough before the Araska and her companion arrive at our prison. When she asks me if it’s ready it sounds more like a demand than an inquiry. Goash stands numbly by as I show her the structure built to support the raster wings. In a quavering voice Goash tells her the armature will first need to be fused to her bones before the wings can be applied, to allow her body to adjust to the weight and movement. It feels like a stalling tactic to me, but I let him play it out. The Araska looks at him dubiously, then looks to me. I raise my brows and cock my head, leaving my gesture to interpretation.
The Araska grunts with annoyance but seems to buy it. She removes her layers of fur and lies face-down on the table. Her companion hands him the stubby scalpel and Goash approaches her with shaking hands, then takes a moment to still himself, eyes closed, deep inhale drawn, and remarkably his hands become completely steady. Much as her companion the day before, the Araska neither flinches, winces, nor makes a sound as the scalpel cuts into the flesh on her back. Once again Goash displays his deft surgical precision, confidently exposing the areas of her shoulder blades to attach the armature to bone. He is somehow able to staunch the flow of blood at the site of the incisions; I don’t know how. Some form of chiurgeon esotery? It is incredible to watch.
In just over an hour, Goash sets down the scalpel and stands beside me to survey his work. The armature protruding from her shoulders is impressive; hopefully the numenera will do its job in countering the weight, especially once the wings are added. The chiurgeon nudges me. I turn to him but he is intently staring at the Araska prone upon the table. She turns her head slightly, complaining that the armature is too heavy to allow her to move. Goash continues to stare at her through an awkward silence that is welling up around us. I can feel the tension in the Jaekel companion. A statement quietly uttered from the Araska breaks the silence when she says quite matter-of-factly, “I can’t move.” Goash whispers a word to me, one I can’t make out. Just a moment later the Araska breaks the still tension as she shouts those same words: “I CAN’T MOVE!” That’s when Goash yells a single word, the word he had whispered previously: “RUN!”
The jaekel immediately lunges at Goash as I am propelled by reflex and instant adrenaline toward the open door of our cell. I dash down strange corridors past several doors and into the large entryway, where veins of lava etch along the walls and the floor of the chamber. I sprint toward the exit where a Jaekel sentry had turned, their attention called by the shouts within the structure. I don’t know what came upon me to command this next action. As the guard rushed toward me to intercept me at the entrance of the building I thrust my arms forward, shoving at the meter of empty space between me and the Jaekel. A great force of energy blasted forth from me, impacting the Jaekel, sending them flying backward, forcefully landing several meters away from me outside the building.
My feet pound through the snow at a pace faster than they have ever carried me, taking me down the mountainous slope toward the sea, toward a freedom that is at all odds temporary at best. I am snowblind, delirious from lack of nutrition and sleep, only depending on the descending grade below me to determine my direction.
I can faintly hear shouts of these animal people behind me. I reach the sea none too soon, its aggressive wind-dashed waves threatening me from diving into it. I run along the rocky shore until I come upon a cove harboring several ships and boats, and I desperately look for a vessel to abscond with. A well armored ship before me supports a small craft on its side, enough to hold half a dozen people. I make my way up the gangway and rush to the craft, climb aboard, and quickly discover how to release the hinged clamps holding it onto the edge. The boat lands hard on the water’s surface from the three meter drop and I frantically try to figure out how to propel the craft. I finally find a wheel with a crank handle and I strain to employ my meager reserves of energy to turn the crank as I feel it move the boat forward, toward the mouth of the cove where a menacing sea awaits me, where I hope it will be kinder to me than the Jaekels from which I’m attempting to make my escape.