Kilgore followed Einar behind the tree and stood watching him for a moment as he lay all stiff-limbed and staring in the snow, shaking his head and muttering something under his breath before finally becoming aggravated and bellowing his displeasure. “Asmundson, hey, whoa, what’re you doing here? Man, the things you’ll try to get out of talking with me, let me tell ya,” and he gave Einar a hard kick in the ribs--Einar, eyes wide open and starting, seemed to feel it but was unable to respond--was about to do it again but Susan grabbed his arm, stopped him.
“No! Don’t touch him. Please. He’s not doing that intentionally…”
“Oh no? Well then what’s he…wow, fella’s pretty bad off, isn’t he? What is it? Seizure of some kind? Don’t look like the ones I’ve seen, really. He’s not jerking around or anything.”
“I think that’s what it is, though. I’d like to help him, but don’t believe there’s really very much we can do until its over, and we’re just going to alarm him if we try to step in and do something right now, anyway. Let’s just stay back for a minute, and wait.”
Which they did, Einar’s limbs finally relaxing after a good minute and a half--far longer than his previous episodes, though he didn’t know it, didn’t know much of anything at the moment--but unlike on previous occasions he found himself slipping inexorably into something like sleep when it was over, attempted briefly to fight it but the thing was too strong, had him, rendering him quite thoroughly unconscious.
Bud stood watching in dismay, shaking his head. “Aw, man, I’m the one nearly got asphyxiated just a minute ago, how come he’s on the ground like this? Figure that blow to the head was a little too hard? Sure didn’t figure a critter like him to be so doggone fragile, or I might not have done it…”
“No, no you didn’t cause this…he just needs to eat, I think. Needs energy. He’s practically emaciated, starved, can’t have much of a reserve left and here he’s been out following us around all day in this cold--he’s probably just out of energy, low on sugar or something. Really, really low. We need to give him something sweet for energy, see if we can bring him out of this.”
“Now don’t you be getting too close to him! You saw what he almost did to me earlier, and that was with him presumably in his right mind. Whatever that is. Way too dangerous right now. Stay back.”
“We can’t just leave him lying there in the snow!”
“Sure we can. He’s tough. He’ll come out of it.”
“Maybe, but by that time he’ll probably be too hypothermic to do anything for himself, and that’s if he comes out of it. I’m not convinced that this is something he can come out of on his own.”
“Well then, let me do it. I’ll bring him out of it, alright.” With which Kilgore grabbed Einar’s spear and struck him a savage blow in the ribs with its butt end, Einar showing no response whatsoever.
“No! Don’t hurt him! I’m sure if he was able to be awake right now, he would be.”
“Then what you got in mind?”
“Like I said--some honey, sugar, something that’ll provide him with instant energy and hopefully allow his brain to wake back up. I’d give him a piece of hard candy or something, but he’d choke on it right now.”
“Oh, so like you’d do for a diabetic who’s got into trouble?”
“Exactly like that.”
“Well, I got this little tube of cake decorating icing in my medical kit that I carry for that purpose. Almost pure glucose syrup--with a few lovely artificial colorings added in, but he don’t look like he’s in any state to be objecting to that. You can just squeeze it into a person’s mouth, no danger of choking even if they aren’t entirely conscious.” He fished around in his pack, came up with the tube.
“Perfect! Let me…”
Kilgore snatched it back away from her. “No way! What if he comes right awake and grabs you? He could break your neck in half a second, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it, either. I got to be the one to do this.”
Keeping the spear ready in one hand as if dealing with a cage full of large, unruly half-wild animals that might at any time decide to rush him, Kilgore edged closer to Einar--yep, fella’s out like a light, nobody home but I can’t count on his staying that way--and squeezed nearly the entire contents of the little cake decorating tube into his mouth, which he’s pried open with a stick. No immediate response, Bud sitting on his heels and watching, taking an occasional tentative poke with the dull end of the spear in a rough attempt to gauge the fugitive’s level of conscious. Unchanged, it seemed, and when he saw that most of the icing had dribbled out of the side of Einar’s mouth he took the risk of approaching once more and carefully righting the unconscious man’s head before squeezing in the remainder of the tube. There. Better. Ought to be able to absorb a good bit of that, if nothing else.
This time the improvised medicine had its desired effect, Einar stirring after another minute, slowly waking and then--eyes wide and wild as he glanced around--scrambling rather clumsily to his feet, falling, rising again and putting some distance between himself and Kilgore, knife in hand when he saw that the tracker held his spear.
“Hi there, Asmundson. Kinda thought we’d lost you there for a minute.”
Einar was confused, head thick, foggy and throbbing terribly, leaving him a little scared, perhaps, last thing he remembered being the struggle with Kilgore and now here he was waking up flat on his back in the snow with some kind of…mysterious sticky green sweet-smelling substance oozing from his mouth and then he knew what had happened, what must have happened, tracker giving him a hard blow in the head and then drugging him with some sort of very powerful and quick-acting stuff, probably sticking him with a couple of darts for good measure, too, once he was out, and in a frenzy he took a few quick steps back into the timber, wary eyes on the two intruders as he tore off his parka, quickly searching himself for the telltale tufts of orange fuzz that would mark the tranquilizer darts, hoping desperately that he wasn’t too late to pull them out and save himself from total incapacitation. No orange, he didn’t see anything but knew it must be there, didn’t stop--soaked in sweat, heart pounding and fluttering, definitely something wrong with him--until he’d struggled out of vest and shirt and tossed his hat up into a tree while searching through his hair for the darts which he knew must be hiding there somewhere. Or maybe not. Seemed he wasn’t really feeling any weaker than he had been upon waking, a bit more steady on his feet, if anything, so perhaps the tracker had counted on the green stuff doing the entire job and he stuffed his mouth with snow, chewing, swishing, spitting in an attempt to remove any traces that might remain. Must have already swallowed a good bit of the stuff, the way he was feeling, but he was awake and felt as though he could remain so, and it would have to be enough. Now. Had to sort things out with Kilgore, somehow deal with him and get back to Liz, make sure no one had got to her in his absence.
The tracker was staring at him, Susan doing the same as the two of them conversed in hushed tones and then Susan took a step towards him, hands empty and slightly raised in a conciliatory gesture. Probably a trap, and Einar took another step back, warning her away with a shake of the knife. She was persistent, took another step.
“Einar, please listen to me. You were having some kind of seizure and then you passed out…we were just trying to help. We’re not here to do you any harm, either of us. Now will you please come sit down over here for a minute, have some food with us and get warm?”
He didn’t care at all for their kind of “help,” not one bit and he glanced around for his atlatl and darts, pack, wanting to secure them and give himself some longer-range weapons options, but Kilgore had taken everything, hung it in a tree where he couldn’t get at it. Figured. Angry and beginning to shake terribly as the bitter wind dried the sweat on his unprotected arms and torso Einar scrubbed at a bit of the strange, sticky green poison that remained hung up in his beard, tried to force his sluggish brain to tell him what he must do next. Act, act or he’d be lost, but short of ending the lives of the two individuals there before him--a questionable proposal, armed as he was with a knife and Kilgore with his spear and atlatl, and besides, Liz would be awfully mad at him when he told her what he’d had to do--the only reasonable course of action seemed to involve taking them back to the cabin with him where they could be properly questioned and debriefed, details pried out of them until they’d explained that low, circling plane and all the rest of it. Would have done the questioning right then and there except that he wanted so badly to be getting back to Liz and the baby, checking on them and making sure nothing had happened to them in his absence, and besides, they already knew the way to the cabin, would find their way soon enough if left to their own devices. Only one option, then. Too bad he didn’t have his weapons back so he could compel their compliance. Had better try and rectify the situation. Before he grew any colder and lost entirely the use of his hands.
Susan was watching him, sensed their danger and sat down right where she was. “Icing,” she casually remarked, “that’s just cake icing in your beard, and I’m sorry we had to give it to you without asking but you were completely out of it. Needed energy. We were just trying to help you wake up. Here, let me show you the tube.” Even with the tube in his hands--he’d jumped back at first as if she’d tossed a grenade, but picked it up, eventually, when it didn’t explode--Einar remained doubtful, confused, not remembering much about the past minutes and not at all trusting the pair’s intentions. Which was probably wise on his part, Bud seriously considering taking the drastic action of knocking Einar in the head and dragging him behind them to the cabin--he’d been describing it to Susan, suggesting they render him unconscious and tie him into one of their sleeping bags for the operation--probably would have done it, too, had Susan not been with him and thought to suggest otherwise, saving all of them a good deal of grief.