New Eden


Scene 7

His back ached as he bent over DeShawn's leg, sewing up a long gash in his calf. Give enough idiots sharp items, and someone was bound to cut someone sometime. It was a mathematical inevitability. And so was Guy's cranky mood.

Medicine is a fail business proposal; it fights against death, and death eventually wins no matter what. A doctor can win battles, but never the war. And if Guy thought it frustrating before, in his shiny office, with all of the shiny and sterile medical tools, it was killing him now. He had virtually nothing. Boiling water; that was about it.

"Hey, Doc," Echo walked into the room partitioned off with a wicker screen. "Oh, sorry. Didn't know you were with someone. What the hell happened to you?" She looked, wide-eyed, at DeShawn's bloody leg, taking a bite out of an appleplum.

"Damn cracker got me with an axe," DeShawn muttered.

Guy gave him a look. He didn't entirely disagree with the sentiment behind the statement, but the name-calling was something he'd like to leave in the before, with all of those beautiful sterile instruments.

DeShawn rolled his eyes, and corrected his statement. "My coworker didn't see me standing right in front of him, and mistook my leg for a log that needed chopping."

"Better, I guess," Guy rolled his eyes.

"Who's the co worker?" Echo asked, dropping into a seat and offering the fruit to DeShawn.

He waved off the offering, putting a hand to his stomach. "Lost my appetite with all the blood," he laughed. "It was Henry."

"So, yeah. Cracker." Echo gave a naughty giggle. "Did he then explain to you how you were bleeding wrong?"

"You're not helping, Echo." Guy said, tying off the last stitch.

"Not a nurse." She shrugged.

DeShawn laughed. Echo was one of the few people who didn't seem to make this young man angry. An interesting note, but Guy wasn't sure what good it would do, at the moment.

"Okay, so," Guy stood. "You," he pointed at DeShawn. "Bend over backwards to keep this clean. Because I don't have antibiotics. If this gets infected, you lose your leg. At the least."

DeShawn nodded, his dark eyes serious.

"Wash it, don't stick it into anything dirty. Keep sawdust and stuff off of it. And if it starts swelling up, getting red, or getting smelly, come to me right away. Those are not good signs. Got it?"

DeShawn stood, hobbling past the wicker wall.

"Maybe check with Marny? See if you can't learn how to work a loom? Stay off the leg for a couple of days, and get cross-trained."

Guy shrugged. "Not a bad idea."

"Women's work?" DeShawn scoffed, but his eyes were laughing.

"Seriously, dude?" Echo laughed, tossing her appleplum pit at him. "Don't worry, I'll pick that up," she said to Guy as DeShawn walked out of the room.

Guy nodded, cleaning up the bloody towels and washing his hand in the basin. He could feel the frustration building in his chest. These people looked at him like he was their savior, and the best he had to work with was luck. If they were lucky, nothing would happen. DeShawn was a healthy young man, in a perfect situation he would heal with nothing more than a scar. But so many things could go wrong to change that. They lived in a jungle! The warm, the damp, a thousand potential infection vectors stared them in the face.

"Doc, we've got a problem," Echo said, as soon as DeShawn was clear of the area.

Guy threw his hands in the air. "We have a thousand problems! A million!" He turned his rant on the scout, letting it all come out in a quiet hiss so that only she had to suffer the fear in his heart. "I just sewed that kid up with twine and a bone needle. I don't have alcohol or any sterilizing solution. I don't have antibiotics for infections. What if that axe broke his bone? I don't have an xray machine. I'd have to set it blind."

He threw his hands up and stormed around the tiny exam room. "People are starting to pair off, Echo. Do you know what that means?" He turned on her, the words tumbling out of his mouth.

She shrugged, wide eyed.

"Babies!" His hands flung in the air, and he started pacing again. "I don't have an ultrasound machine. I don't even have a stethoscope! How am I going to deliver a baby, here? What if something goes wrong? How am I supposed to help everyone? Without any tools? Without any medications?"

Echo shrugged, her eyes squinted to suggest that he had perhaps gone a little off the deep end. "You'll do your best? Just like the rest of us." She shook her head. "How did they deliver babies before there were all these pills and machines? That's how we'll do it now. At least you know enough to wash your hands."

Guy sagged. She was right, but that didn't help his frustration.

"You should write that down, about washing hands. We don't want to forget that, through the generations." She nodded, agreeing with herself.

"Write it down on what?" Guy gave a sour laugh. "We haven't figured out paper, yet."

"On the cave wall?" Echo gave a smirk. "Carve it into the stone, if you have to. But we need to mark those basic truths that we know, or we risk forgetting them."

Guy gaped at her, stopping in the middle of his rant. "You're serious."

"Occasionally. It happens." Echo gave a frowning shrug. "Writing doesn't mean you have to make a trip to the stationary store. Think! How did they write before they figured out paper? They scribbled in mud. They chipped in stone, wrote on wax tablets. They used tree bark and calf skins. We have almost fifty people here. Surely someone can figure that out."

"You're right," Guy started pacing again, his mind whirling around the possibilities.

"It happens," Echo laughed.

"You're right on both accounts." His steps picked up pace, an excited smile spread across his face. "We have to stop thinking so narrowly, confined within our own experiences. And we have to write down our experience, what we remember and know of the advances we had, so we don't lose what little information we have." He headed out of the cubby.

"We're not done, yet!" Echo called after him.

"We're not?" Guy stopped, turned to her with his head cocked at an angle. His mind ran through all the people he should chat with before the meeting tonight, so they could have some proposals ready. Start with Marny and Scott, of course...

"We still have a problem?"

"About the paper?"

"About Ted."

Guy frowned. That guy was always a problem. But which problem did she mean, now? "I don't follow."

"You asked me to stop by and check on Amber." She rolled her fingers in the air, prompting him to follow her.

He shrugged. "Amber is...?"

"Crying girl?" Echo sighed. "We sent her out there. To help him with the pigs."

"Oh, right. And she wasn't coming to council meetings." Guy frowned. "Did she say why?"

"No. Ted did. He said he did the talking for both of them." Echo gave a tight-lipped grin that had nothing to do with humor. "That guy is a real jerk. And we totally threw her under the bus."

Guy reached up and scratched his head, his fingers tangling in his hair. Man, he wished they had scissors. He needed a haircut so badly, but wasn't quite ready to just shave his head, like Keidra and a few of the others. "I don't follow. What's the problem. And, don't just say Ted again. What about Ted is the problem?"

"He's going to beat her." Now Echo started pacing. "I've seen it a thousand times, the pattern is right there for anyone to see. He's controlling, won't let her talk to anyone." She turned to him, her face pale and dark eyes huge. "He stood there just groping her in front of me. Like she was his property. Like we gave her to him, along with a new bushell of pigs."

"Sit down, Echo. If you get all worked up, we can't talk rationally about this." He guided her, without touching, hands just hovering near her, to sit on the bench they'd made for his patients. "Breathe. There we go, in, and then out. Now, answer a couple of questions for me."

She breathed in, and then out, in and then out. And then nodded. "Okay."

"Did you see him hit her?"

"No, but--"

"No, okay." Guy spoke over top of her. "Was she hurt? Did she have any cuts? Or bruises? A black eye, maybe?"

"Well, no, but--" Echo started again. He could see a small flash of hurt growing in her eyes.

Guy shook his head. "Did she ask you for help? Or say that she wanted to come back?" He frowned sympathetically.

Echo sagged. "I can't believe this shit." She pushed up from the table, but not before he saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. "I don't want to live in a world where women are beaten. I don't want to bring that here." She balled her fists and hit the air. "I want to go get him. I want the council to make a rule that he can't do that."

"He hasn't done anything, yet. That we know of. That we can point to and say 'this is wrong.' It's all supposition." Guy shrugged.

"You don't know," she cried out, turning to look at him.

He gave a sad nod. "I do." He shrugged. "I was a P.A. in an E.R. I can't tell you how many women I've had to put back together, in the before." He shook his head. "I don't want that to be okay here, either." Carefully, so carefully, he reached out and took her hand. "But we have to be careful about this."

She frowned, angry and suspicious. But she let him lead her back to the bench. She sat down, but the muscles in her legs bunched, ready to spring up in protest again.

"As much as you get into Ted's business, he gets to get into yours. Do you want Ted in that much of your business?" Guy blinked at her, watching the repulsion spread across her face. Just as she was about to open her mouth, he continued. "You can go to Crying girl... I'm sorry, I should stop that. What's her name, again?"

"Amber," Echo grouched, her arms crossing over her chest.

"Amber." Guy nodded. "Go to Amber, let her know she can come back anytime, and we'll find someone else to help with the pigs. And she can get another job. She doesn't have to stay there. She's not stuck. Now or ever." He shrugged. "And if she ever does show up with bruises, or someone sees him hit her, then we can go in like gangbusters and say 'that is wrong.' But I don't want the council to have the kind of intrusive powers that you're asking for."

Guy watched Echo sag further and further into herself as the waves of consequence rolled through her mind. After a few heartbeats, he gave a chilling conclusion. "That said, this council is a body of us all, and I am no more or less a representative than you." He gave a grim smile. "If you want to bring this to council, that's your choice."

She gave a heavy sigh. "Dammit," she muttered under her breath, hopping off the table and heading out of the wicker-walled cubby.

"What are you going to do?" Guy asked, chewing on a hangnail on his thumb.

"I'm going to talk to Amber again." She sighed. "Not that it's going to do a damn bit of good."

Guy nodded, a little sad in his heart. "Let's just hope we do better at supporting her here than she obviously got back in the before." He shrugged. "I doubt that this is new, for her."

Echo reached out and touched a punch to Guy's arm. "Thanks, Doc."

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