Last Week on the Disapprovers: The sysadmin turns out to be a decent hoomin and helps the Disapprovers complete the bust. He removed the remaining critters from cages and replaced them with stuffed toys. The crew leaves the lab a little bit ahead of schedule.
When we got out of Singularia, the temporary shelter felt deceptively quiet. The faint glow from her tissue over the ceiling made the place feel almost serene. Abby organized a triage and grouped the rescuees by the severity of their conditions. There was a small group that seemed fine. They were snacking on some fresh veg and fruit or having fresh hay. Some of them were sniffing the strange thing that hay was to them. There was a significant group that was not doing well at all. Pancake and Molly were taking them one by one into Singularia and were returning with them completely restored -- physically at least.
I was happy to drop my vest and all my stuff. Bruno gladly untangled himself from his panzer-darter and set it down. Our new ratty friends, Sammy and Quinn, were fascinated by the surroundings. They were very curious and almost ran off into the wreckage before Izzy grabbed and pulled them back. Penny and Ava were helping Abby get the rescuees ready for transit to their shelters and foster homes. They were trying to group them according to how they bonded and were getting their care supplies ready. Ratties were snacking and taking it all in, especially Zeus. He looked extremely fond of what had transpired tonight. Molly was ecstatic. She binkied on and on. Where did she get all that energy? Then again, the bust had started with the memories of her friends in the lab. No wonder she was bursting with joy. Talk about swapping a nightmare for a dream come true.
Freddie, on the other hand, turned away and went to sit next to Frankie's body. Izzy joined him.
I started to feel the weight of the night in my bones, and my stomach felt sour. I drained the rest of my water and went over to Abby to ask if I could help with anything. We were reaching the cut-off time for tonight's expedition, and we had a decision to make. Do we stay here, everybun, and carry on with the restorations and transfers, or do we break and continue the next night? When we realized that hoomins would be arriving at the shelters and getting up at the foster homes, our paws were forced. We had talked about it before, but from all the excitement and exhaustion, we ended up re-discovering that little tidbit. We discussed what would happen to our hoomins if they found us all gone one morning. No matter how we tried to justify such an incident during the tabletop simulations, the hoomins never returned to "normal". We thought we could convince them that it was the party the night before, or that the mushroom pierogies were a bit too far on the magical side, but we could never make it stick completely.
Thus, we concentrated on getting a few more buns restored in Singularia and then called it the night. Sammy and Quinn swore they would not run off into the wreckage and would help Ava and Penny keep an eye on everybun. I have to admit I worried about leaving everybun on their own like this. We severely miscalculated the time it would take us to wrap it all up properly. Anyway, as soon as our hoomins cleared off to work, we would be back to keep them company.
Bruno took the body of Frankie, wrapped up in a little blanky, and carried him. Our caravan headed for home. We put poor Frankie back in his favorite hammock, and we bid our ratties good night, or morning, I couldn't tell anymore.
When I got up, the house was quiet; the hoomins were away, and we had to go back to the temp shelter. The ratties wanted to stay home. Well, Freddie wanted to stay and nobun wanted to leave him alone. Izzy offered to work the radio for us. We understood. When we re-joined the rescuees, to our amazement, everything remained as we had hoped! Nobun wandered off into the wreck. We finished restorations and then we simply spent time with everybun, listening to the rescuees' stories. We didn't snack a whole lot during that time. Their stories weren't what I would call, "snack friendly." I felt traumatized just listening to them.
That one, old, blind bun I rescued was sitting up, gritting his teeth and looking around. Looking around as if he were appreciating each and every photon hitting his cornea, absorbing everybun around him, appreciating not being blind anymore. He recognized my voice when I came over to hug him, and I felt like he was scanning me with his eyes, head to toe, to have a copy of me to take with him. He wouldn't let go of me; it was the strongest hug I ever got. We broke a carrot together and enjoyed it very much. I noticed that every once in awhile, he would whisper to himself slowly, "It doesn't hurt anymore; it doesn't hurt anymore," as if being out of pain wasn't real enough. And he kept looking at me.
I found Bill, the bun whom I had given a temporary name. He had a very different reaction to the change in his life. Somebun next to him said that he mostly napped and slept. He kept gritting his teeth a lot, and his sleep was very restless. When he got up to use the facilities, he binkied, as much as an elder bun can. On his way back, he would stretch, binky a little more, and go right back to sleep.
We had to go back home for a little bit to check in with our hoomins, and we returned late that night. We transported everybun to their shelters and foster homes. Nobun wanted to leave. For them, the dreary, cramped hole in the dirt that the temp shelter was had become the best resort they'd ever "visited."
Ava, Penny, Sammy, and Quinn were the last ones to go to their shelter, so we all decided to see them off. When we came out of the port, there was something strange about the place. It was too quiet, and it had the echo of a cave. It was freezing cold, too. I knew exactly what had happened; I'd just thought it impossible. The place was shut down, and everything was cleaned out.