When I next awakened, my Master Trainer was prying open my left eyelid and shining a penlight into it. This I found to be rather annoying, and so I threw up all over him. He stepped away from me quickly, nimbly, receiving only a small fraction of the sputum I had served up for him. He is, after all, a Master-qualified Elite Incan Dance-Fighter.
Flora appeared at my side. "He's awake," she said, unnecessarily. She took hold of my right hand. I swallowed what was left in my mouth.
"Awake for the moment," my Master Trainer said. "We'll need to take full advantage of it." He produced a hand towel and wiped the lapels of his jacket. "Tell me what happened, Phutatorius. From the beginning."
I called for water. Flora moved to get it, but my Master preempted her and fetched it himself. I gulped it down and told him everything I could remember about the ambush.
"Can you tell me anything about their fighting style?"
"Well, I thought they would be better than they were."
"I need details, Phutatorius. This is important."
"There was a lot of marching and stomping. High steps. They would bring their knees to their chests, then kick out. They seemed stiff in the hips."
"Ortega's people!" my Master hissed. "I knew it!" Ortega was the last juror to cave in my criminal case before the EIDF Council. He was also the most brutal of my interrogators in the hours preceding my trial. He had really seemed to have it in for me. "He's acting outside the Council's authority, and he'll answer for it. In the meantime, we'll need to move you back to the Redoubt, Phutatorius. We've imposed enough on Ms. Pachado."
Flora tightened her grip on my hand. "It's no imposition, Master Trainer. Wouldn't it be better not to move him?"
The Master turned impatient eyes on her. "He's fine to move. He's stabilized. But he needs real medical care. We have IV units, heart rate monitors up the mountain. And the Redoubt is fortified and secure. PePe!"
The door to Flora's room opened, and my devoted Piper appeared in its frame. "He's awake!" PePe said, unnecessarily.
"We're moving him. Get the stretcher."
Flora looked at me. There was nothing I could say.
"Will I see you again?" she asked me.
"I'll be back to finish the screened porch."
"That's something we'll have to discuss," my Master Trainer chipped in.
Five minutes later my Master Trainer and PePe were hiking me up the mountain.
"Keep your eyes open, PePe, and your pipes handy," my Master Trainer said.
Lying on the stretcher, I only thought of Flora. I had received a hundred or more vicious blows to my body overnight, but it was the soft imprint of her lips on my cheek a stolen goodbye kiss that stuck with me. All I wanted was to see her again. All I wanted was to know what she said to me, starting with "I ", before I passed out. I had a good idea what it was, but I needed to hear it.
It has been a week now since I saw her. I'm still stuck in this bed. PePe brought me his GameBoy, and I've entered a couple online poker tournaments. The days are interminable, and the nights! Don't even talk to me about the nights, Brother/Sister. I'm restless, I'm anxious, I'm irritable, and I'm getting pretty goddam tired of eating green Jell-O.
Enough is enough. I need to see Flora.