Kilgore did not respond, had no desire to debate the man on his perception of the past, not just then in the presence of everyone and with night coming on, so he kept quiet, letting Einar think he’d won that round but knowing with a secret satisfaction that he’d made some headway. Man wouldn’t be able to forget it now, the thing they’d talked about. It would creep in around the edges of his consciousness in the day and haunt him during the wakeful hours of his nights, the knowledge that down there something serious was brewing, something real, and he—insufficient for the task as he claimed to be—was not doing his part in it. He’d planted the seed, now let it grow, and perhaps next time… Well, who knew if there would even be a next time. Would largely depend on events down below, how quickly they moved and what his own involvement might be as they progressed. Would probably move more slowly than everyone was at the moment thinking. That tended to be the way such things went, and though upon his leaving it had certainly appeared they were reaching crisis stage, a point at which action, in one form or another was all but certain to commence, he knew things might have cooled off considerably in his absence. They might have more time. Or not. Would simply have to wait and see.
Asmundson, on the other hand, did not appear to have too much more time, and the tracker hated to think that his recruitment efforts might have been a success, only to lose, in the end, the man on whom they had been focused. Looked more likely than not to happen at that point, even should the man from that time forward make his greatest effort to get things turned around. He was making some effort. That much was plain to the tracker, struggling, perhaps for Liz’s sake, perhaps for some reason of his own but more than likely some combination of the two, to eat when things were put before him, to do the things necessary to maintain life, but the whole thing was clearly a major struggle, and the man looked dead tired. Had to be, really, considering the sort of work it took to maintain life in the high, harsh environment he had chosen for himself and his family, and there was no way he would have been slacking off on any of that work, even considering present circumstances. It simply wasn’t in his character to do so.
Well, Kilgore shrugged, stared into the fire, that’s exactly why we need him down there, why he has so much to teach them young fellas, and some of the older ones, too, but that ain’t gonna happen if the very stuff and substance I want him to pass on to those guys ends up killing him, first. Which it appears real likely to do. Would kinda like to strap him into a sleeping bag, haul him out of here and board him up in Sue’s spare bedroom until he comes round and sees the sense in all this, ‘till his brain stats working well enough to tell him how bad things have actually got, and at the same time he hopefully gets to a point where he has a fair chance of surviving the next month or two, physically…
This’d be the time to do it, too, with both these ladies here to help me do the hauling. Lot better than me trying to do it by myself, because that’d probably end up killing the both of us. Wouldn’t take much to knock him out and keep him that way, state he’s in right now, so the only real trick to all of it would be keeping him from freezing to death on the way down. Looks like he’s not far from that right now, probably never too far from it these days, and the danger’d be somewhat more if he was unconscious…but not a whole lot more, I do believe. Might actually be less, sine he wouldn’t be able to spend so doggone much of his time deliberately freezing himself in one way or another. Might actually do him some good. And I think between a couple sleeping bags and one of them fur blankets, we’d have a fair chance of managing to get him down there without his temperature getting too much lower than it is right now. Then all we got to do is make sure he don’t wake up until we’ve got him real securely stashed in the house, probably tied down for a little while just to make sure he don’t up and disappear the first day or two, which he’d almost certainly do, otherwise, and we’re well on our way to… The tracker sighed, shook his head.
Well on our way to disaster. No deal. No way. Even if we could manage to successfully get him down there in one piece, smuggled up to the house and get enough food stuffed down him that brain and body could start working a little more like they do for the rest of us, it’d destroy him, and probably the lot of us, with him. No containing a fella like this, not if you’re wise, anyway, and not for long in any regard. Never have his trust again after a thing like that, and the fella makes for one dangerous enemy, that’s for sure. Not the sort you’d want to have in the house, unless he was a willing and happy guest, and there entirely on his own terms. And that’s a steeper hill than I have the ability to climb, I’m pretty sure—talking him into showing up right now as a willing guest. No way he’ll come around on that one, even if he don’t realize my primary reason for trying it. Made some efforts in that direction in the past, and it only led to everyone parting ways mad. No reason to think it’d be any different this time…but Sue’d probably never entirely forgive me if I didn’t at least try. So. Got to try. But not tonight. Enough for tonight. Gave him plenty to think about.
Einar was thinking, alright, lost in thought as he watched the tracker, studying him almost as if though intense concentration he might able to read the man’s thoughts—which, though he could not exactly do at the moment, was not always a feat entirely beyond him, and if lacking the details, he was fairly certain that he had at least some inkling of the man’s intent, and he did not care for it one bit—and the stare made Kilgore uneasy. He had, from past experience and second-hand knowledge of Einar’s background, little doubt but the man might well be able to glean some semblance of the half-formed plan he’d had bouncing around in his head, and he couldn’t help but think it would be an awful shame if he never made it back down the hill to his wife and the small but growing army that met every weekend in the quonset hut-workshop up the hill from the house, due to a simple misunderstanding. Gave Asmundson a little shake of the head, turned his thoughts another way, and Einar seemed to get the message, quit glaring so hard at him. Wasn’t done though, his natural suspicion and some extra sense for such things conspiring to prevent his being satisfied with the tracker’s feigned innocence, demanding an answer.
“I can hear you thinking, Kilgore. You planning on letting me in on the matter? Come on, out with it. You really don’t want me to have to make you…”
“Like to see you try,” he growled, and for a tense moment both Liz and Juni were quite certain they were about to witness a series of events which would almost without doubt lead to the demise of one man, and perhaps both, but before the threat could come to fruition the entire thing dissolved into laughter, Kilgore starting it and Einar, though maintaining a straight face for a good deal longer, eventually joining him.