Clair did survive the crash. She and Dyta hung upside-down in a tree until Clair freed herself in time to confront the rescue party sent out by the farmers.
(unknown male): "You with Turner?"
Clair: "Why do you want to know?"
(unknown male): "This is a piece of his airship. We're looking for survivors. Is he up there with you?"
(unknown male): "He could be anywhere, then. Pieces of this thing fell all over. Are you going to shoot me or put that away?"
Clair: "Tell me who you are, first."
(unknown male): "I'm a farmer, of course. Don't you know where this is?"
(unknown male): "So you weren't headed here specifically?"
Clair: "We were originally planning to take the Skylifter to Buffalo."
(unknown male): "Buffalo, huh? Well, that's not here."
Clair: "I guessed."
(unknown male): "My name is Arcady. Turner trusts me, so you can trust me too. Or you can stay up there on your own. Your choice."
Clair: "All right. I need a hand, though. There's someone hurt up here."
(sound of movement, vehicle engines)
Clair went off with Arcady, injured Dyta and two farmers in a four-wheeled truck. When she asked where they were going, she was told simply and tersely "The Farmhouse". Every minute or so, with growing frequency, she checked for the Air and for me, but of course received nothing in response.
The service road they were following hit a T-junction, then wound around a broad reservoir. This was one of the small migration of vehicles I had tracked from orbit. They crested a low hill and drove down into a broad depression, where lay the cluster of buildings that was the heart of the Farmhouse.
Dyta was carried carefully inside. Clair followed with Arcady. Voices came at her from everywhere, almost impossible to decipher. Arcady passed her over to a farmer who took her to a quieter area. There she sat for ten tense minutes. Then another man joined her and introduced himself as Arcady's husband, Axel.
Axel: "Hello, Clair."
Clair: "How do you know my name?"
Axel: "From the video of you in the chancellor's office."
Clair: "You've seen it?"
Axel: "Parts. I didn't think it was real until you dropped in on us. Literally dropped. We heard reports via shortwave radio of an airship damaged in a power beam accident. That told us two things: one, WHOLE is involved, because no one else flies airships so far from the coast; and two, because WHOLE is involved, the beam was unlikely to be an accident. We mobilized immediately to search for survivors."
Clair: "Who else have you found apart from me?"
Axel: "We're still hearing from the search crews. There's a kid called Cashile. An old guy called Dariusz. No sign of Turner, yet."
Clair: "What about Jesse?"
Axel: "I'm sorry."
Clair: "What does that mean? That he's dead?"
Axel: "It means we haven't found him. That's all."
Clair: "Arcady's not happy to see us, is he?"
Axel. "We live quietly here. We don't like attention or surprises. But we know Turner Goldsmith's crew and we'll be glad of every life spared. We'll drink to those lost."
Clair: "Is there a reason I can't access the Air?"
Axel: "Come on. I'll show where you can freshen up. Might as well put the wait to good effect."
Clair: "Do I smell that bad?"
Axel: "Yes. I'm afraid you do."
The farmer showed her where to shower and gave her a fresh set of clothes. Axel was cagey with Clair about the purpose of the farm, even when she guessed the truth. But he wasn't overtly hostile or suspicious. He accepted her arrival with caution and equanimity. When she was clean, he took her back to the main hall, where survivors and farmers were making each other's acquaintances around a hastily provisioned meal. Turner had been found, and Gemma and Jesse, too. Relieved greetings were exchanged, and sad farewells too.
Axel: "Here's to fallen friends."
Turner: "To Dancer, Theo and Ray."
Clair: "To Zep."
Jesse: "To Dad."
Arcady: "To life, and the hard business of living it."
YOU ARE READING
113 (Twinmaker)Science Fiction
A post-scarcity world transformed by free, instantaneous travel should be paradise, but nothing is ever as it seems. When an ordinary girl uses Improvement, a meme promising a complete physical makeover by little more than wishing for it, she brings...