Dysnomia gently taps Red's face, waking him back up again, and helps him up into a sitting position. Laika, standing just to her left, ghostlike and attentive, pushes a cup of hot, sweet tea into his hands, and Dysnomia cradles his hands in hers, helping him drink. We still need to get him to hospital, but Dysnomia says that this will help for the moment. Fluids, sugar, and the British panacea of tea. I find myself wondering, but only for a moment, what planet she's from.
She's saved Red's life, at least this far. I owe her gratitude.
There's a peal of thunder outside, but it goes on and on, for far too long, and the whole room seems to shake. A little dust falls down from the ceiling, then more, and then it seems to pour down like a cataract. When the noise stops and room is still again, everybody looks like a ghost, and Red's tea appears to have solidified. He stares at it, tilting the cup from side to side, and then starts laughing.
"Bomb," says Dysnomia, rubbing her hands together, a look of strained pain on her face. "Has to be, you don't get fluctuations in the magnetic fields like that without something blowing up." I stare at her. What on earth does she mean?
Laikia nods though, and makes a hand gesture that I don't get; there's a whirl of her hand, a splaying of her fingers, and finally something that might be cross-shaped. Dysnomia understands it at once though, and again I feel slightly left out, cheated by a language I can't hear.
"He needs a hospital," she says, "and bombs bring ambulances. Let me change, and we'll take him out there and pass him off as a victim of the blast."
But she's gone, through another door I hadn't noticed, clattering down some stairs. Puppy takes Red's cup away from him and empties it out. The plaster dust has made a semi-solid mass, and she begins to sculpt it into a face. I watch, enviously, until Red falls over and off his chair, at which point blood rushes to my face and I guiltily rush to pick him back up.
Dysnomia appears again wearing a nurse's uniform. I don't say anything, but my face must give me away, and she chuckles, a deep throaty sound that seems far warmer than her pierced face looks. "In an emergency, kid, people look at the uniform, not the face."
She leads the way out, back along the narrow hall. I carry Red again, though he's starting to limp by himself now, and Puppy brings up the rear. We pick our way through the alley, and see the milling confusion outside City Hall.
There's smoke rising from the roof, but there's no obvious damage to the front, and a police car has already arrived, sirens still wailing, and three policemen trying to move people away. More sirens are wailing from both left and right now, and Dysnomia cocks her head, then points to the left. The ambulances are coming from that direction. We start to walk that way, Dysnomia somehow parting the crowds with just a glance, when I hear a name that stops me dead, and poor Red limps two more steps and collapses.
"Jim Kutcher? Why'd you bother bringing him out? Wilkerson's not going to care!"
I turn, and look, and there, held by a single suited hoodlum, is a slight man with dried blood all over his face, an arm at a strange angle, and barely supporting his own weight. I'm horrified inwardly at how easy it is now for me to see and catalogue these injuries -- when did I become this observant? When did I become this callous? But it doesn't change the fact that now I know why Q went silent, and I owe it to him to see that he gets to speak again.
Puppy has bent over Red, and is helping him up; Dysnomia is looking at me wondering what's wrong, and I feel slightly dizzy as I walk briskly over to the hoodlum and slap Q's face.
"He's mine, where've you been? I've been waiting for over an hour. And where's Wilkerson?"
The hoodlum sneers at me. "Who are you?"
"A friend of Viktor's," I add a little Russian accent to the name, "who doesn't like to be kept waiting. Why weren't you here as arranged. Do you really think we have all day for this?"
Jim's eyes are flickering and he's trying to focus on me. I need to act faster, before he recognises me, but thankfully Grozny's name is doing its magic. Is there anyone in this city he doesn't scare?
The hoodlum loosens his grip, uncertain now, and I seize the opportunity, and Jim, and pull him away towards Dysnomia and the others. The hoodlum looks at Dysnomia and his mouth drops open; and before he can close it and start thinking again, we're pushing through the crowd.
"A friend?" Dysnomia asks, and I nod. Then suddenly the crowd parts of its own accord and there is the first of the ambulances, fluorescent-jacketed paramedics spilling from the cab and hurrying forward to take Red and Q off our hands and put them into the back.