Apocalypse World: Orphans

Kile and Toms

Prelude to Episode 2

The sun was down, but nobody was at rest. Not even the dead, Toms thought as he wrung his hands together. They had moved the mourners across the street, but he could still hear their sobs through the window. White strips from the work lights below danced on the wall as volunteers crawled around the lower levels. Beams of stray light poked through where the gunshots had pierced the ceiling.
A hospital is usually a place that smells like death. But not like this, he thought to himself.
Toms took a deep breath and poked his head around the doorframe.
“Hey. Kile? You okay?”
Kile put one hand up to silence him. He was leaning over the bed, hands folded under his chin as he stared at the form laid out beneath him. Grast was tied to the bed, hands and feet, and he had straps keeping him down across the chest and pelvis. He relaxed into the bed, not fighting his restraints as he spoke.
“I was outside the door with Lem, we were waiting for Pigeye and Craw to get around the other side so we could surround ’em. I was finished checking my ammo when I looked at Lem, and…” he trailed off, studying the ground.
“And what.”
Sweat dripped from his hair as he lifted his head towards Kile, anguish and confusion plain on his face.
“I had to do it.” He started to tremble. “Jeez, I don’t know why, but I never known nothing more than that I had to do it.” He grabbed at his head. “It… goddamn it, it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Kile stepped closer and put a hand under Grast’s chin. “Look at me.”
He assented, and Kile stared into his eyes.
“Try to remember that moment as hard as you can.”
Grast’s expression shifted from anguish to confusion as he reflected Kile’s stare. Then, he started to fight his restraints and terror crept across his face.
“No… no no no no…”
Toms did his best not to watch as Grast’s protests became wordless grunts as he tried to back away from Kile’s iron grip.
He remembered the first time he saw Kile do this, how the room grew warm and the hairs on Toms’ arms stood at attention when Kile had turned his focus on a con from Glencoe. How the man had spoken at length about how and why he killed Leona and her sisters. How he had collapsed, spent, that unsettling blood dripping slowly out of his ear. How he had spent the rest of his short life wandering around Dustwich, muttering to himself and jumping at shadows.
The people’s memory of that is what kept Kile strong enough to deal with Glencoe. His “honest eye,” he called it. Whatever it was, it unsettled Toms to no end. Men shouldn’t be able to see into other men’s minds.
That’s what we have women for, he added, sadly, despite himself.
His own recent loss to painful to dwell on, Toms focused back on Grast. His pupils became huge and his brow mopped with sweat.
Then, all of a sudden, the fighting stopped, and Grast spoke with a voice not his own.
“Kill the other guy!”
And he promptly collapsed, coughing and muttering softly to himself.
Kile rose solemnly, and in the impossibly long silence that followed, Toms suddenly found words.
“What does that mean? How did he do that with his voice?”
“Lingering psychic energy. Some sort of compulsion.”
“You’re saying they made him do it?”
“Not exactly. But yes.”
“This is the same people who killed Kettle and stole the medicine?”
Kile nodded once.
“Shit.”
He walked past Toms to the bed to retrieve his jacket.
“I’ve already sent Pants out to find them.”
“Alone?”
Kile shrugged into it.
“She can take care of herself.”
“She’ll be killed!”
Kile reached for his long staff and paused, feeling its smooth surface with his thumb.
“Then they’ll have another death to answer for.”
Toms held his breath as Kile studied Grast on the ground. Grast flinched away from his eyes, but raised his head to meet Kile’s outstretched hand.
“Thank you for your help, Grast. Now go to sleep. We’re gonna put these freaks down.”

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