Darcy stumbled into the barracks, soaking wet, as the latest band of rain had just washed through, in the time it had taken him from the office door to his barracks. Puddles were visibly evaporating under the sun, even as he shut the door on the brutal heat. He was also sweaty under his work jacket and needed the shower desperately.
Everyone was out, working, but him. Fitzwilliam was obviously driving the General and they’d re-plant and re-cover the rows of ‘weed. In the shower he leaned his filthy head against the red native stone, just trying to recover, he wondered if he dared double his shower ration, with the rain still coming and the storage tanks full. It was so strange. These rains had gone on so much longer. Was it because of how the continent lay? If so, then shouldn’t it have gone earthan green much faster than Xanadu?
He pushed the button for his shower and found that Redcap had actually authorized a double shower, as well as medical rinse. How nice of it. Inorganic bastard. “I wish I knew what t’ Book ‘s goin’ on,” he muttered, as the first hot water pounded down on his head.
His eyes were closed against the blessed shower so he didn’t see who said, “I might be able to help you with that.” His eyes shot open just as the soap part descended, hopped straight back out of the cubical, clawing at his face with his scrap of towel, soaking wet, looked around wildly at the bare and echoing barracks. Jorge’s bed was unmade, trailing blankets. Haig’s bed was made so tightly you could bounce a small rock off it. Rows of beds. Hooks for hammocks, one or two cubbys with doors left open. Slippers either carefully lined up, or flung haphazardly onto their shelf at the owner’s whim. The hum of the filters and air conditioners. Rows of pics of families and scenery over people’s beds. There was no one else there.
Darcy stood there, dripping, panting, looking around. The water in the shower shut off. “Hey!” He spun around and dashed back in. “I wern’t done! I’m all over soap! It’s not fair!”
The voice in his ear said. “It’s all right. I just paused it for you.” The water started up again, right in the middle of the soap cycle and Darcy shuddered but scrubbed instead of jumping out again.
He kept his eyes clamped shut as the extra long rinse that was gloriously cool started. “Who ‘r you?”
“You don’t remember?” The voice sounded almost offended. “I’m the dragon you were talking to.”
“What? No, ya were a dream.”
“I’m quite real, thank you very much. First is very upset with me. He thinks I shouldn’t have contacted you.” The air jets blasted him mostly dry and Darcy stepped out onto the damp spot, rapidly drying, where he’d dripped a few moments before. The medpanel popped open and he picked up the salve that would sooth his raw spots.
He didn’t look around. “A dragon. No wonder yer herd or flock ‘r whatever you call y’selves, ‘r so smart.”
“Well. I suppose. They’re wild and more likely to just chase people around to eat them. That Immoderate really made the sow angry when he shot her bull.”
“Not tah be rude, but ya sound like t’ Literate Redcap.”
“You aren’t rude at all. You can call me Two Hundred.”
“Two Hunnurd.” Darcy sank down on his bunk, kicked the hammock back into its cubby where it had fallen out, and then started salving his wrists and his calves where the sand had worked into his boots. “Ye said ye could tell me what’s goin’ on.”
“I can. I must say, Illiterate Darcy, you are adjusting to meeting me very well.”
"Jus' Darcy. Or Darce. I get 'nuff o' that 'Illiterate' this 'n that from 't Redcap 'n their knobs." He leaned back and tucked his slightly slippery hands behind his head and addressed the air. “Ye hain’t demanded I put a Bludgeon on me tah talk. Yer a brain that lives mostly in a dragon, like them wild uns. There’s alot goin’ on here an ye kin tell me.”
“As long as you swear silence about me to everyone else. Especially Redcap.”
Darcy stretched and felt the buzzing tickle of Two Hunnurd’s voice through his pillow and put up his finger. Tiny feet caught it and he found himself with a miniature of the dragons, perched on his finger. “Why?”
“Because your Prime... the Fount of All Knowledge... would try again to kill us.”
“He’s tried afore?”
Darcy lay and thought about it. “I don’ know ‘f I kin promise, ‘gainst ‘t Bludgeon.”
“With your permission, I can work code to block memory of me under the Neural Inducer.”
“In ‘at case, yeah. Sure.”