63 Participate In Your Manipulation, Part Four
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One month after impact

Yong Jie took a chance on having tea in the tin shed Ibrahim had staked out for himself and Milo very early on. At least, Ibrahim had moved himself in there at the first available opportunity and somehow convinced Milo to follow him in there. Yong Jie wasn't sure how. Nothing of their relationship made any particular sense to him yet.

The shed looked small from the outside, but somehow even smaller on the inside, nothing at all like the fancy cabins Yong Jie's mother had dragged him to in one dull holiday spot or another in that brief period of time between his father's death and the resumption of her boring work.

There were a few chairs, neatly lined up by the front door. A small piece of burnt carpet Ibrahim and Milo had somehow turned into a rug. Two sets of bunk beds with only the bottom beds showing any signs of use.

"Something seems to be on your mind," Ibrahim said.

Yong Jie pressed his hands tighter to his warm mug. "I don't understand how you convinced Milo to share a room with you? Doesn't he resent you for your crimes?"

Ibrahim's smile was small, wistful. "You've known Milo for a long time. Can't you guess at his behaviour?"

Yong Jie scoffed. "Milo is no less a stranger to me just because I've known him for a long time."

Ibrahim nodded. "Milo is a hard man to get to know. Very well then. Perhaps I'll tell you that I convinced him the people here would be safer from me if he was in here to restrain me."

"If you won't tell me anything worthwhile about that, at least tell me why you have such a disagreement with that soldier woman."

Ibrahim put his cup of tea down on the neat cloth laid over the small metal cabinet that made up the only other piece of furniture in the room, and smoothed down the cloth again. The cup was still nearly full. Surely the tea had to be getting cold while he left it there.

Then Ibrahim folded his hands in his lap and said, "I have no quarrel with your friend, the young Miss Moon, for following her into battle, but Major Keating and I have a profound disagreement on the morality of leading children into battle."

The door slammed open and Yong Jie couldn't help but look to see Milo coming through the door, rubbing at his hands with a rag.

"Are you still talking about that?" Milo asked.

"At least take your shoes off, Milo," Ibrahim said.

"Uh, I'll go..." Yong Jie said.

"Nonsense, you'll stay," Ibrahim said. Ibrahim stood up and moved right into Milo's space, and then Milo said, "Have you asked him yet?" and Ibrahim said, "I'm getting around to it," and neither seemed to notice Yong Jie picking up his cup and inching toward the door.

Until he'd nearly made it, when Ibrahim abruptly turned to put the full force of his gaze on Yong Jie.

"...Yes?" Yong Jie asked.

Ibrahim cleared his throat. "It has occurred to me that it is no good for a young man to be sleeping on a hard wood floor night after night, and as you can see we have spare beds."

"Me? You think I..." Yong Jie trailed off in thought.

Milo finally sat on his own bed and started unlacing his boots.

"Yes, of course," Ibrahim said. "You're an upstanding, moral young man, after all. You can help keep me in line. And perhaps you can learn from this why someone might reconcile themselves to someone like me."

"Sometimes I regret saving you," Milo said, in a soft voice.

Ibrahim whirled around and loomed over Milo, who seemed to be taking no notice.

"Milo, I could never regret your survival," Ibrahim said.

Yong Jie made his escape with his empty cup. But he returned with his belongings.


Three months after impact

The new rule announced itself with an explosion in the gymnasium. Maria ordered everyone out and then Mnemosyne did a head count once the smoke began to clear, even as Rod Spark yelled and made a fool of himself.

Once they were sure all were present and accounted for, they ventured back into the building.

Only the two of them went in to check the damage. A patch of the floor was blackened and scorched and Gael's green sleeping bag had died an undignified death, its remains strewed all over the room. Otherwise, the building seemed unharmed. They would have to leave the doors open at night to air out the burnt smell and someone else would have to attempt to fix, or at very least clean up, the issue with the floor, but the building could still be used.

At least, it could be used as a gymnasium. Maria did not feel it possible to let people sleep in there any longer.

A gentle knock on the edge of the open door of the gymnasium was accompanied by Ibrahim's voice letting them know the list of rules had expanded.

Mnemosyne rushed out, so Maria followed.

So they looked at their new number four – the colour green was banned.

"Does any person here have green eyes?" Mnemosyne asked.

Maria coughed into her hand. "Uh, I can't say I notice eye colours most of the time. Except yours, of course."

They both looked at Ibrahim. He raised an eyebrow at them and said, "I don't know why you would ask me. Everything looks red to me."


They found Ted outside the gymnasium days later. More precisely, Yong Jie found him and shrieked, and that alerted everyone else that there was a situation. Such a mess had been made of the body that Maria still couldn't tell if Ted's eyes had been green.

They organised for burial, gave Spark a job so he felt important and wouldn't make things worse.

Spark lifted his metal pole to get ready to break the dirt. Wires shot out of the ground and grabbed it from his hands. Then other wires wrapped around the body and dragged it away. Mnemosyne ran after it but it disappeared from view too soon for her to catch.

"Very well, then," Ibrahim said. "We'll leave all corpses be."

"How can you think that's acceptable?" Yong Jie asked.

"One learns to accept a certain amount of injustice in life," Ibrahim said.

"A greater injustice" Maria said, "would be to leave Gael and everyone else that used the gymnasium as their base without a place to sleep. I wish I could offer people beds, but our room is full."

Yong Jie cleared his throat. "Yes, well, I suppose there is a space for Gael in our room. If that's okay with you, Ibrahim?"

"It does seem like a waste to let the top bunk remain unused while there are people looking for somewhere to sleep," Ibrahim said.

At least the ban on the colour green only lasted a week.