Vision in Silver Page 7

<Do the Intuits have a feeling about this meeting?>

<Too many emotions, I think, but no feelings that guide.>

<That’s not good,> Henry said. He walked into the cabin, leaving Simon to follow.

Steve Ferryman was a vigorous, healthy human male, lean muscled like a Wolf rather than bulky like a Bear. His dark hair was clean, and his brown eyes usually held a bright intelligence.

Today the man looked a bit . . . chewed. No, humans wouldn’t say “chewed.” Frazzled. Was that the human equivalent?

“Thanks for meeting me,” Steve said. “Sorry to change the venue without warning, but it was the only way we could talk quietly. And if it becomes necessary, Will is ready to cast off and keep us in the middle of the river in order to avoid uninvited participation.” He blew out a breath. “We have some baked goods from Eamer’s Bakery, and Aunt Lu says the urn has fresh coffee, if you’d like some.”

“What we’d like is the reason you called us here,” Simon said.

Steve rubbed his hands over his face. “The whole village is scared. We are piss-in-the-pants scared, and we need help.”

Simon stopped himself from ducking under the table and taking a sniff, but the aborted motion made Steve smile.

“It’s an expression,” Steve said. “It means we’re very scared.”

Humans had invented some useful swearwords and expressions, but that expression wasn’t something Simon would be using anytime soon.

“This fear is because of the terra indigene now ruling Talulah Falls?” Henry asked.

“That’s part of it,” Steve agreed. He glanced at Ming.

“The Others in control of Talulah Falls feel a deep anger and distrust of all humans,” Ming said. “And many earth natives around the Great Lakes think that the anger and distrust is deserved, that the human population in Talulah Falls needs to be winnowed down to only those who are necessary to run the machines and businesses humans previously claimed were vital. They look for excuses to kill humans and respond violently to any kind of trouble. Even humans making requested deliveries are at risk.”

“That kind of anger comes from experience,” Henry rumbled.

“I know. But that kind of anger is like fire—it will either burn out or spread.”

“The Talulah Falls and Great Island Crowgard had a gathering, which is how we learned some of what is going on,” Steve said. “The Falls Crows said the terra indigene brought in an enforcer who makes them uneasy. He’s been given free rein in dealing with humans who cause any kind of trouble. They said his hair is long and fixed in many little braids with small bones woven into the ends—bones that sometimes clatter together and sound like angry snakes even when he is standing still. And the hair changes color. They saw some humans arguing with terra indigene like they were going to fight. The Crows looked away from the enforcer when the bones rattled and his hair started to change to black—but they saw the humans fall down dead.”

“Do you know this form of terra indigene?” Ming asked.

Silence. Then Henry said, “The braids and bones are not familiar, but we know of this form. It is dangerous even to speak of it. If you must go to Talulah Falls, be very careful—and do not look at the enforcer if his hair starts to turn black.”

A Harvester, Simon thought. The terra indigene had brought in a Harvester to deal with troublesome humans. Did Tess know there was another of her kind in the area? Was there any safe way to ask her? Probably not.

Simon focused his attention on Steve again. “What else is making you uneasy?”

“What’s really shaking up our whole community is the five cassandra sangue girls you brought out of the Midwest,” Steve said. “We thought they were adjusting to living here. At least, they seemed to be doing all right during the first few days. But now one or more of them is having some kind of emotional breakdown every day or falls into a catatonic state that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. We don’t know why this is happening. We don’t know how to help them. We do know we need to move them out of the bed-and-breakfast and make other living arrangements for them, but what kind? And where? We tried to take them to our medical center for a basic checkup. Three of them messed themselves, and the other two ran away in a blind panic and came close to being hit by vehicles. Remember I told you about Jerry Sledgeman’s family, how his niece had started cutting herself, then jumped into the river and drowned? You can imagine what seeing five young girls breaking down like this is doing to his whole family.”

“You want us to take the girls away?” Henry asked.

Steve shook his head, a vehement movement. “The Intuits gave someone else the care of girls like these once before, and it’s a shameful part of our history. We won’t willingly do that again. But it’s not just our community. Every Intuit village who took in some of the girls from that compound is having problems. I’m getting e-mails every day from village leaders begging for any information that might help. We don’t want these girls to die, and we’re all afraid they’re going to.”

“What about Jean?” Simon asked. “What does she say?”

Steve sighed. “Jean is . . . haunted . . . and barely able to function. She keeps saying Meg knows, Meg can help.”

When Simon had rescued Jean, she had told him Meg was the Pathfinder, the Trailblazer. At the time, he’d liked the sound of those words. Now they sounded like big stones someone wanted to tie around Meg’s neck before throwing her in the river to see if she could survive. But the girls he, along with Lieutenant Montgomery and Dr. Lorenzo, had brought out of the Controller’s compound were between eight and eleven years old. Still puppies who depended on the adults in the pack for their survival. And Jean, who was an adult and very damaged from what had been done to her, was Meg’s friend.

“I’ll talk to Meg,” Simon said, not happy about making that choice but pretty sure Meg would be more unhappy if some of the other blood prophets got hurt.

“Something that will help now,” Henry said. “Your bodywalkers—doctors—should not wear the white coats around the girls. Their captors wore white uniforms and white coats. Meg is disturbed by those things. It is likely the other girls are disturbed by them too.”

“That’s something,” Steve said. “I’ll give everyone that information. Thanks.”

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