Many thanks to the Corner for arguing with me that "turpid" -- no matter how nice it sounds -- is not, in fact, a word. ;)

by Lise

Chapter Six

"Someone was here I'm telling you, I was dreaming, someone was in my head while I was dreaming." Franklin rubbed his eyes, looking around at them. "Someone was here."

Nate crossed his arms. "I don't sense anything."

They had gone to check on him, wake him up because of the concussion, right after checking on the shield wall. A few droplets were coming through, right near the ground, and falling into the soil, dribbling down the cracks and running into the dirt. Franklin was sitting up in bed, staring off into space. Kitty had said he woke up yelling. She wouldn't say about what.

Franklin muttered, "It wasn't your dream--"

"Now just a minute, boys." Domino made a chopping motion. "Let's not start, okay? We have a crowd gathering to see if Franklin's all right. What am I going to tell them?"

Kitty looked at Franklin while she said, "Tell them he's all right."

Domino eyed her. "Is he?"

"Tell them he is."

Domino nodded, and went outside. Franklin muttered, "Someone was here in my, my dream."

Kitty patted his head, and murmured, "Yes. You."

They called a meeting -- Nate called a meeting -- to discuss what to do. Nur, Alex, Kitty, Domino, Bishop, Patrick, Ilsa, even Lorna and Bobby looked at him expectantly. He wasted no words. "I don't know what the flonq we're going to do."

"Great." Domino made a face. "Anyone have any ideas?"

Kitty pursed her lips. "The shielding seems to be getting thinner, around the cracks. Like a stretched out soap bubble." She paused. "I don't know what's on the other side."

Domino answered curtly, "Well, we don't want to find out the hard way. So we figure out how to fix this."

Alex spoke up, uncertainly. "Are we sure -- could Franklin get past this, in a day or two, and then fix the problem on his own?"

Everyone turned to Ilsa, who frowned. Only Domino noticed her fingers were shaking badly. She said, "He's got a concussion, at least, and he's mentally exhausted. There's no telling what other consequences this might have."

Domino spoke quietly. "He's never been hurt before."

"He's also quite capable of walking the four fucking feet to sit in on this meeting." Everyone looked up to see Franklin himself in the doorway, looking very angry, face red. "Couldn't wait to decide where to bury me, huh?"

Kitty flinched; Nate said, "Franklin, for gods' sake--"

"No," he replied, eyes narrowing. He looked at Kitty, and then Domino and Nate in turn. "If we're going to decide what to do, we're going to decide together. Right?"

No one was willing to disagree. He shuffled in, wincing. Lorna got up silently, and offered him her chair. He refused to sit. No one missed that, either.

Domino slipped out, mid-way, to get some air. Bobby followed her. She looked at him, and sighed inwardly, but offered him the stub of her cigarette. "How are you holding up, kiddo?"

He answered sharply, "I'm not a child."

She would have snapped back, because her nerves were close to snapping anyway, but then she glanced down at her feet. And swore. Bobby followed her look, and his eyes widened.

They were standing in a puddle of water, her boots making little splashing sounds when she moved them. Domino looked up hesitantly, and saw the cracks in the shield closest to the house looking a little wider, the little trickles of water a little bigger. She turned around, and saw the same thing, out by the beehives.

Bobby whistled, following her gaze, and dropped the cigarette butt down by her foot. It fizzled out. He said, "That can't be good."

They were debating the possible eventualities when Domino slipped in. She spied a thin-lipped Kitty leaning against the counter, sidled over. "Kitty."

Kitty looked up in surprise, but murmured, "What?"



Nate was arguing with Bishop about the advisability of trying to find some dry land around them. Bishop was suggesting building a boat, Nate was calling him ridiculous. Kitty wasn't listening. Domino said, "That whole water thing?"

Kitty eyed her. "Yeah?"

Domino clicked her teeth together. "Problem."

The suggestions flew around them. Bobby had disappeared already. Nur was relating the whole experience to a problem he'd had before all this had already started; Lorna was brewing tea for everyone and not looking at Alex.

Sourly, Kitty replied, "We know that." She sighed, then looked at Domino. "Big problem?"

Domino nodded. She looked at her feet, the boots she wore still wet and glistening. "Two of them. And becoming more of a problem every minute. Listen. I know that--" She paused. "Did Irene ever predict this?"

Kitty put a hand to her lips. She couldn't answer.

Domino was about to speak, but Nur said loudly enough to interrupt both of them, "We could always evacuate."

Franklin looked around at them, and said quietly, "No."

"We have to decide what to do. Some time soon, Franklin, I mean, look at that--"

"No." His voice was quiet. He sounded raspy. "No. This isn't happening again."

He remembered Thessaly.

The rest of them were frowning, but Franklin's face was unchanging, determined. They were here to stay. In a desperate bid for some humor, Nur said, "I suppose that this would be an appallingly bad time to mention that I met Noah."

Kitty slipped out next, to gather up pages and pages of nothing. Nowhere did Irene say anything about Franklin directly, but twice, at least, she'd mentioned Babylon, and once she'd drawn his face. Flipping through frantically, she pulled out page -- forty, the top corner said, and nine, the bottom corner said -- and read. But there was nothing, nothing about water, and nothing about Franklin on any page she read. Her eyes blurred.

Lorna brought her a cup of something she took without question, looking up briefly to ask, "Where is everyone?"

Lorna sat down. "They went to try and secure everything. The animals were getting restless, Amy said. You've been in here a while."

"Oh." Kitty wondered how long 'a while' was, and gripped the handle of the cup in her hand. She said flatly, "I'm not going to find it in time, am I."

Lorna whispered, "Irene didn't know that there was anything to find."

Kitty looked out the dirty window. While she had been researching, the trickles had turned into a steady stream of water, flowing into the garden and running through the dirt, creating paths for itself. And the gushing seemed to be picking up speed. She could see where the dips in the dirt itself was cratering little lakes, and the water, flowing in ever-faster, was swirling around them. It looked deeper than before.

She stood up, pages in one hand, cup in the other. She said faintly, "They'll probably need an extra pair of hands. I'd better go and help."

She caught up to Franklin and Domino while they were standing in front of the shield wall in the garden, Franklin's eyes closed, their feet in water. Domino put a finger to her lips, as she came closer. Kitty looked, and could clearly see ocean on the other side.

Franklin had his brows knitted together in concentration, and the shield wall behind them buckled a little bit, and then tried to reform itself, stitch itself back together. He managed a kind of hazy filter. Little criss-crosses that kept out chunks of concrete, and fish, and telephone poles -- though they could have used the fish -- but the water, the noisy rushing water was still getting through, like tap water running through a sieve, the incessant 'shh' 'shh' 'shhh' of waterfalls.

It was like a soap bubble, stretched too thin.

He looked at her, eyes open, and mouthed, 'I'm sorry'.

Kitty nodded, and waded away.

There was always something to do. Franklin realized that this time, the difference was, people weren't automatically looking at him to find out what it was.

Bobby asked uncertainly, "Is there anything I can do?"

He and Franklin were wading through a foot of muddy, turbid water, evaluating the damage and taking a hasty census. Nur was trying to coax the animals to higher ground -- what little they had of it -- and Domino and Nate were marshalling people. It was up to Bobby and Franklin to round up any stragglers and make sure they got to the shelters, into the house, before their shacks floated away.

The water level continued to rise. Franklin gazed at the far shift wall, so thin that the less dense water was gushing through steadily, taking anything not nailed down with it. He answered absently, "Can you check that last hut? Then we're done this row. I think everyone's accounted for."

He watched Bobby shove his way through the river that was their home, and peer into the gloom. "No one," and shut the door. Bobby said, "Is that everyone?"

"As far as I know." Franklin pinched the bridge of his nose -- his head pounded, steadily, like the freezing chill swirling around their calves. Knees, now. "We'd best get back."

They were walking slowly back along the path, which was where the majority of the water was concentrated right now, when it started to rain.

Bobby looked up. "Did you do that?"

Franklin cringed. He didn't have to answer.

"I'm really not sure about this."

Nur said, "It's the most secure place -- near the house, heated." He grinned weakly. "They'll even have something to eat."

Domino stared in the plastic windows of the newest greenhouse, and took in the goats, already chowing down on Franklin's mint plants. "And the bees? The rest of the livestock?"

Nur nodded. "I moved the biggest hive in there. The queen said it would be 'adequate', and thanked me rather courteously for having the foresight to put the hives up on blocks high enough that they weren't too wet." He paused, visibly tallying animals in his head, and added, "Nelly is the last holdout. Camels have a tendency to become rather stubborn in the face of disaster."

Domino nodded, shaking wet hair out of her face. Beside them, a kids' bucket floated away, beside a broken flowerpot and half a baby plantain tree. Damn. They'd just gotten the bananas to start growing yellow, too, not pink. Damn. It bobbed in the water, rushed past them, and she could see it flowing downstream into the great ocean at the other end of the Oasis. Two great, gaping holes, and lines running through the whole bubble, like claw-marks. Her boots were wet; the water was muddy and black, like river water in autumn, right when it sucks down careless schoolchildren.

The tree cracked sharply against something, a building maybe, and bobbed out of sight. Domino could barely hear it over the roar of the waterfall, the dull muted thunder of water bearing down on them.

Nate was piling people onto the roof of the ranch house, children, people that couldn't be moved easily, when he happened to glance out the window. His eyes widened. #Dom?#

She was piling what dry wood they still had. #What?#

#You ever been in a hurricane before?...#

Her head whipped up. #What?#

Nate paused in handing Tanya inside. He squinted at the garden, which was just a flooded field, the plants bending and breaking against the rush of water. Beyond the shift wall, the sky had gotten black. Very black. And far off, in the back of Nate's mind, he could hear a faint whistling, a howling. He yelled, "Okay, everyone back inside. Now."

They started scrambling to get back inside. Domino had stopped what she was doing, and asked impatiently, #What, Nate?#

He answered urgently, #I think this side of the shift's going to snap.#

Nur clucked at Nelly, and the camel stubbornly refused to move, digging her heels in. There was a bit of a breeze, and then the animals started crying out. Nur saw the barn blown away from the force of wind, and then he let go of Nelly's tether to duck.

The roof flew above his head, digging into the ground. Nelly trotted the last few feet into the greenhouse, and he shoved the door shut. He was pelted with raindrops-- a normal person would barely have been able to walk, for the wind. Nur got up, determined, and ran.

Bobby and Franklin ended up taking shelter in someone's shack when Domino and Kitty found them. Domino's hair was hanging in her face, and they were all soaked to the bone and shivering already. Dom's first words were, "Christ, if it's the last thing I do, I'm water-proofing these boots."

They were in someone's shack, the inhabitants probably already having fled to higher ground like Nate had encouraged. Only the crazy were out in this kind of weather. Kitty almost chuckled. "You know, it's been so long since we've had real weather around here."

Domino just looked at her. Franklin turned around to throw up.

"Are you all right?"

He wiped his mouth, scrunching his face up. "Fine. Just, my head." Neither of them replied, and he stared out the window, watching the raindrops swirl around, the storm pick up speed. He said softly, "I'm sorry. I can't keep it all out. And I think the wind's picking up."

And it was. Howling through the pliant shift-wall, the holes, whipping past everyone's face at a biting speed. The rattle of dozens of pieces of sheet metal that made up the kitchen and cafeteria was close to deafening. Bobby was wringing out his socks, wiping mud off his face.

Something blew past the open door, and Domino jumped, feeling the cold breeze against her cheek. A piece of plaster thudded against the side of the barn across the way, shattering. She rubbed her arms briskly, trying to keep them from going numb.

Nate called to her. #Dom, where the fuck are you?#

She wrapped both arms around herself, cursing the dampness in her mind. #Very, very wet. You?#

#In the house. Things'll be fine here for now. I think we have the whole population in here. What a mess.#

Domino watched Bobby sit down, cross-legged, on the floor. #Any bright ideas?#

#Watch it, shut the door -- not a flonqing one.# Nate sounded worried. #Nur just showed up -- the animals are taken care of, apparently. I have no idea what that means, but I trust him.# He paused. #How's Franklin? He is with you, right?#


Domino shivered, as Patrick clomped through their own door, shutting it again. He said, "By god, it's nasty out there."

#Patrick just came to us, too. We should probably take a census, and soon--#

#Fuck.# Nate's mental tone was desperate. #We might not have time. The walls of the house itself are starting to creak.#

Domino looked outside, seeing the water carrying away larger pieces of buildings, a barn roof, and couple of the smallest shacks themselves. And the wind was still getting stronger. She could hear their own scant shelter swaying, could see the walls flapping from the force of the rain. #We're going to have to do something, and soon.#

Rain pelted on their shelter like bullets, rattling the metal. Another hut floated past the window, bobbing up and down in the steadily rising water. She answered, #If we don't do something soon…#

He was arguing vocally with someone else when he answered, #I know.#

They all knew.

Kitty was trembling. She could tell that Domino was talking with Nate, and since Dom looked tense, but not too tense, things had to be all right, relatively speaking, with everyone else. She glanced over at Franklin, who had sat down on the cot in the one-room hut and put his head in his hands. She knew, of course, they all knew, but asked anyway. "What's wrong?"

He just looked at her.

The sound of the storm outside was deafening. Kitty brought her hands up to wrap around herself, and heard a crinkling from the inside pocket of her worn coat -- Irene's pages, wrapped in plastic. Dom glanced over, sharply. "Oh, this is too much," she said, disbelieving. "You still have those things with you?"

Kitty didn't bother answering. Domino asked, "Did they give you any insights into what we should do?" Kitty shook her head, mutely. "Irene must have seen something. Someone must know something." Domino put her hands on her hips. "You've wanted our attention about this for years, Kitty. Well, you've got it. We're finally paying attention."

Franklin looked up, eyes sharp and sad. "Domino, don't."

Domino held her hands up. "Sorry." Swallowed. "Just, if there's anything in any of those extremely soggy pages that might help, I'm all ears."

Something large banged against the wall, and they all jumped. Kitty looked down to where the water was swirling over the doorsill, spilling into the shack and getting her feet even more wet. She started to laugh.

They looked at her. Domino raised an eyebrow, saying, "What?"

She shook her head. "Nothing. Something Mystique told me a long time ago."

Kitty still remembered Raven Darkholme laughing at her in a casino, years and years and years -- lifetimes -- ago, about decoding what was locked away in Irene's head. Some memories are burned into your skull, so deep that you can't scrape them away no matter how much you want to. Franklin said, "Kitty?"

The wind picked up just then, making it next to impossible for anyone to hear. Kitty's hair was blowing all over her face, and she swiped at it uselessly. Domino grabbed the beam holding the roof up, trying to stay steady in the assault, and almost shouted, "If anyone has any bright ideas, it's about fucking time we tried them!"

Kitty could still hear Raven echoing in her head, 'I'm not laughing at you, Katherine.' Mystique thought that Irene was flawless, but then, she was in love with Irene for years. Kitty heard something else loud, banging, and realized that she couldn't remember perfectly anything from the first Books of Destiny -- it had faded, under scratchy letters in her own handwriting, because Irene, at the end, couldn't see well enough to hold the pen. But she could remember Remy's face, always Remy, not Gambit, when he told her that he was done and through. She could remember that all too well.

Kitty muttered, "I'm done, Irene."

And the wind kept howling. This wasn't the desert.

Franklin was being sick in the corner again, trying to keep it in the bucket; Bobby was rubbing his shoulder and wincing. Patrick was trying to hold the wall up, prevent it from blowing away completely, and Domino was sitting on a table, cursing. If they were on the floor, they'd be almost hip-deep in water.

Kitty looked around at them, and in her mind, an idea started to form, desperate, ridiculous. Irene hadn't written, or said, a word that had done a bit of good. Kitty grabbed onto the desperation, and wrenched. Her fingers were turning into prunes; her lips were shaking and numb.

Over the howling, she yelled, "Christ, forget about the goddamned prophecies! Bobby, Freeze it all!" He looked uncertain. She winced against the wind, against everything, but added, "Do it before we wash away!"


continued >>

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