Sung Home: Chapter Fifty Two. {fiction}

Victorio and I shared a room, while Tochuku, Frank and Ching Shih were assigned separate rooms, all of them in a row.

“Some library, eh?” Victorio asked as we unpacked our belongings.

I shook my head, speechless at first. Victorio grinned.

“I’ve been so worried about how few books, how little information we had. I forgot how big this library was.” I said.

“You can copy a lot of them, can’t you, on the scanner Tochuku gave you?”

“Yes, and he gave me the one he had, making me promise to include as many of the engineering textbooks as I could. Still, we will only be able to get a fraction of the books here copied.”

We lay on the separate twin beds in the room, staring up at the ceiling as we talked.

“How are you doing now, since you bravely rescued me?” he asked, only half-teasing.

I guffawed shortly. “Yeah, that was crazy!” Turning serious, I rolled onto my side to look at him. He looked back at me.

“You were really brave, Lakshmi. I was so glad to see you. I couldn’t imagine how you were going to get me out, but you did. You know, I could hear all the stuff you were screaming at them. I was so scared for you. I thought for sure they would kill you the second they got the gate open.” Victorio rubbed his still bruised wrists absentmindedly, as if his body suddenly remembered the restraints that had held him.

“Troglodytes? Cockroach spawn?” Victorio was now starting to laugh in earnest. “You… you,” gasping between laughs, “you really do have a great vocabulary!”

The memory came back clearly, rattling the fence and shouting insults, and soon I was overcome with giggling too. Victorio was hugging his sides and rolling back and forth on the bed, his laughs growing louder as my own rose in volume too.

“Oh my god!” I gasped, “You looked so awful in the stupid stock…”

“And then Ching Shih jumping in like that. I’ve never really seen what she can do before. Made me feel even more respect for her. Don’t want to ever piss her off.”

Victorio’s mirth started to calm a bit, as I hiccuped a little between my own bouts. He rolled off his little bed and slid onto my own, wrapping his arms around me, face against mine.

“Hey,” I said, “when we left, you and Joe exchanged a look. Did he know something was going to happen to you?”

“Yeah. He ‘told’ me that I’d get into trouble, but I’d probably get out of it too. I forgot all about it until I stupidly went on ahead of Frank and they jumped me.”

“Well, I hope you listen to him better next time he gives you a warning like that. I may not be around to save you,” I teased.

“I always knew you were smart, and a good woods-woman, but I never knew you were so dangerous!” He nuzzled my neck in the way he knew I liked and soon my breath became a little ragged and my body pressed into his.

A knock at the door stopped the sensuous motion that had ensued.

“Yes?” I called.

The door popped open and Ching Shih stuck her head in.

“We’re ready to take the tour,” she said, eyebrows raising at seeing us so entwined. “Do you want to go? Or…”

Victorio and I looked at each other, and with a silent communication both slid off the bed and onto our feet.

“Yeah. We’ll go…” I said.

We found Elphias in the library as promised. He and a sturdy-looking woman named Alethea took us out the northern doors and down a long staircase to the science building. As we peeked in the doors of the long row of laboratories, we saw people in white lab coats looking through microscopes and mixing things in beakers.

At first the people inside barely noticed us, until Elf introduced us, and by us, I mean Tochuku, to someone who recognized his name.

“You’re Tochuku Adeyemi? The computer engineer?” the man’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Hey! You guys, look who’s here!” he called to the others in the room. Soon we, and by we, I still mean Tochuku, were surrounded by people who were crowding each other for a chance to shake his hand.

“It’s unbelievable that you’re here!” exclaimed another.

“How on earth did that happen? Didn’t you leave to go to State in Cruces?” asked a skinny, dishwater-blond, thirty-ish looking woman.

“Yes, well, I came back to take some friends camping in the Gila, just when the virus struck…” Tochuku barely got that much out before he was bombarded with questions by the crowd that was growing as word spread to the rest of the building.

Then, I recognized the woman, just as her eyes focused on me where I stood behind Tochuku. She was the woman who, with Stinky Boy, had detained Burl and I in Deming. I almost didn’t recognize her in her lab coat, cleaned up and hair neatly trimmed.

Eyes wide, she whispered in horror, “You’re that girl. The one in Deming.”

Victorio shot me a questioning look as Frank raised his eyebrows in surprise. My face grew hot with rising fury.

“Yeah,” I said, “that was me.” She certainly gave a different impression, dressed in a lab coat, in a university laboratory. Not stealing my food and threatening to kill me.

“Oh my god,” she said.

“Yeah.” My head spun with the visceral impulse to grab her by the neck and bash her head into the wall behind her. If it weren’t for my hunting and gathering skills, I could have died after my encounter with her and her companions.

“I’m so glad you’re alive,” she said. I stared at her.

Seeing that I wasn’t going to hold up my end of the conversation, dumbfounded as I was, she continued in a rush.

“We had escaped from a Slaving compound, one in Cruces. We had barely managed to keep from being caught by the Slavers in Deming, and just holed up in that old bank, waiting until we were sure they were off our trail. Then Darian came to question and threaten us. We were starving.”

Finding my voice finally I said, “So you decided it was you or me.”

“Look, I’m sorry. And Derek, the boy with the gun. It wasn’t even loaded. I mean, he did have to kill some Slavers before, for us to escape, but he wasn’t going to kill you. We just needed your food really bad.”

“I get it. Tough times.” I turned towards the hallway. “Like you say, I made it.”

Tochuku was oblivious, chin-deep in chattering scientists. My other companions watched the exchange alertly.

“We’ll find you later,” Frank said to Tochuku as we exited the room to continue on our tour. Tochuku nodded briefly and returned to the conversation with his fans. The woman stared at me as if I had struck her.

“Someone you know, I take it?” asked Elf.

“She and some others captured me when I was going through Deming. Took my food. Threatened me.”

“She’s one of our best scientists, from the New Mexico State Agriculture Department. She came to us, along with some others, over a year ago. She’s helped us improve our crop yields and our livestock practices quite a bit.”

“Good for her,” I said curtly. Elf said no more about her but sure enough, the areas between the buildings, which had all been lawns Before, were covered in gardens and orchards.

There was a large field covered entirely in corn, another in wheat, still another in amaranth. Large patches sported the traditional three sisters of corn, beans and squashes of various kinds. Other patches grew tomatoes, onions, potatoes, garlic and numerous varieties of peppers.

“We don’t eat a lot of meat here, since we don’t have access to hunting and we don’t have enough land to grow feed crops. We do have the goats for the milk and some meat, chickens, and some rabbits, but that’s it,” Alethea explained as we strolled the grounds.

“We do pretty well, but we’re practically imprisoned here because of the fear of the Slavers. The Maker scientists and ours have figured out how to make large batches of a sedative that we can produce in a liquid form and atomize in misters. Others have been transforming one of the unused buildings into a ‘drug rehab’ center like the one they have at the Maker compound,” added Elf.

“In fact,” Elf continued, “we’re having a meeting about that very thing at lunch. We’ve been collaborating with the Makers about neutralizing the Slavers. I understand that you got a head start on that effort already. Because you’ve already weakened them, it will make our job much easier.”

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.


Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home‘ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.


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