December 12, 2005

Chapter 34

Jacob stirred as the door to his room opened. Miriam entered with a tray of food, setting it on a cart while Jacob shook off sleep. He'd slept poorly, waking up every time he started to roll over. The nurses had offered to sedate him, but he told them he wanted his mind clear. There was too much to think about, and too little - or too much - time.

"Any news?" asked Jacob.

"The nurses think you're difficult," replied Miriam. "They seemed especially happy that I was here to bring you breakfast."

"Have I angered them?"

"Not yet, I don't think. Martha said 'At least he hasn't thrown anything at us,' but there's definitely some tension there."

"There's tension here. This waiting, waiting to know whether I can stay or have to go..."

"I know, Jacob. I'm waiting too."

"They might exile you?"

"No, no - I'm just waiting to hear about you. Remember? You're my brother."

Jacob sighed loudly, and lay back in the bed.

"What am I supposed to do? Change what the raider did? Change what you did?" asked Miriam. She moved the cart so Jacob could reach his breakfast.

Jacob shook his head and stared at the food. "I'm not hungry," he said.

"You barely ate yesterday," said Miriam. "Have some toast. Maybe it will calm you down a bit."

Jacob pushed the cart away. "I don't want to be calm," he shouted. "I want be where I used to be, where I had some chance of feeling I was right. Where I wasn't stuck waiting for someone else to tell me if I stay or go, live or die."

Abner knocked on the door. "Is everything all right in here?"

Jacob nodded, while Miriam shook her head. Abner looked back and forth.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked.

"No," they answered in unison.

Abner stepped back out, closing the door behind him.

"You're not helping things, Jacob," said Miriam. "Where's your patience?"

"I think I lost it when the raider took me prisoner."

"It's not like you've had control over the world your entire life, and you were fine then," said Miriam. "Maybe the raider and this make that clearer, but - "

Jacob deflated a bit, sinking into the bed. "I know, I know," he said. "I just always thought I'd have something to do with what happened."

"You have," replied Miriam. "You set it all up. You just have to wait right now."

She pushed the cart back up to him. "Eat," she said.


Zipporah waved from her bed when Abner walked by. He called a nurse, then opened the door and came in.

"Is everything all right?" asked Zipporah. "I heard shouting, and it had been so peaceful here."

"It's all right now, I think," said Abner. "Just a friendly discussion." He shook his head.

Martha came in behind him, carrying a tray.

"More toast and sandwiches," said Zipporah. "Nothing that requires silverware."

"We're just, well, worried," said Abner.

"That I'll stab you? Or stab myself?" asked Zipporah.

"We're still figuring out who you are," replied Abner. "I know it's strange."

Zipporah leaned forward. "It is strange," she said, "but it's a lot better than where I was yesterday, and better than anywhere else I've been. The food tastes good, too."

A bell started ringing in the hallway. Abner closed the curtains on Zipporah's door.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," he said. "Stay in bed and enjoy your breakfast."


Caleb found Isaac in the library again.

"We'll need you in a few minutes," he said. "One of the raiders injured himself smashing against his cell, and we need to rearrange the barn."

Isaac closed his book and stood up. "What happened?"

"One of the younger men tried smashing his way out of the cell. He couldn't have escaped, especially with the noise he was making, but we've had to restrain him. They're taking him to the hospital now. We need to rearrange his cell so that we can keep him in restraints."

"Restraints?" asked Isaac as they left the library.

"Yes. He'll be in a hospital bed with his arms and legs bound to the bed so he can't smash around again."

"We don't normally..."

"No, we don't," replied Caleb. "But in this case we seem to have to do it for his own safety. We're keeping a close eye on the others to see if anyone else tries this, but so far they're quiet."

They walked into the barn, and Caleb picked up some hammers and pry bars near the door. The raider's cell had been next to Jethro's cell, and Jethro was keeping an eye on them.

"Couldn't keep Shadrach caged, could you?"

Caleb ignored Jethro; Isaac didn't know what to say. As they walked into Shadrach's cell, Isaac could still hear Jethro talking, apparently reading his Bible.

"We need to remove this bed frame - the one we just built into here, of course."

Even with the pry bars, pulling the bed off the floor was a challenge. The farmers hadn't wanted the raiders to be able to take apart their furniture to use as a weapon, so it was fixed tightly to the floor and the wall. Eventually it gave way, and they carried it out.

"Come talk to me when you have a chance," said Jethro, as Isaac passed, and Isaac nodded.


"We don't have anyone left who's trained to be extra guards," explained Matthew. "If I wasn't leader, we'd have one more, but even that wouldn't be enough for what you want."

"It looks like the weather will force us to keep the raiders here at least another three days. The raiders can hear each other shouting, and with all the nonsense they're spewing, how are we supposed to know if they're passing coded messages? They have plenty of time to plan an assault, and I don't think our defenses are nearly strong enough," replied Catherine.

"We still have about half the people who went on the raid," said William. "Why can't they be guards? I know it's a loss to their departments, but maybe it's worth it."

Matthew shook his head. "It's not just about knowing how to shoot the guns and use the communicators," he said. "It's about knowing how to deal with people."

"So they stay further away from the raiders, as an emergency-only force," suggested Catherine.

Most of the council was nodding in agreement with Catherine.

"Even if they're simply there, waiting just in case, it should be an improvement," she said. "We know the farmers aren't equipped for this,and so do the raiders."

"I suspect the initial shock of their capture is wearing off," said Stephen quietly. "They haven't tried anything so far, but we know what they're capable of doing. They're different from the raiders we've had in the past. We've never seen anything like this."

"Not exactly," said Matthew. "We've had religious zealots before, but never so many or so organized. These aren't our usual robbers, either."

"So?" asked Catherine.

"All right. We'll use the group who went out on the expedition, unless they're critically needed here. We'll try to match the two shifts of guard duty to their normal working hours. But I want them in a separate area, brought in only for emergencies."

Posted by simon at December 12, 2005 08:23 PM | TrackBack
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