But apparently she was a good excuse for Sam and Connor to ignore butchering, as Xen hoisted the bear with a levitation spell, and cut its throat.
“So, some of the original Exiles were Chinese?” Rael batted her eyelashes.
Connor tried to tighten up his muscles and look sexy.
Sam looked cynical. “According to the history books? Maybe forty. They said the Chinese didn’t approve of genetic engineering—of themselves. Boozy Jaejong, his descendants and their wives and children were first among them, of course.”
“Of course.” Rael suppress a giggle. “And I’ll bet they’re still running the whole world.”
Connor snorted. “Of course.”
Sam scowled. “We’re the only people with any . . . potential to gain eminence. We just have to impress the leadership with our brilliance.”
“Or not, and bring down everyone around.” Connor glanced at Xen as he walked by with a large bowl and large sack of something in his other hand. “I’ll never eat sausage again.”
Rael frowned. “I’m surprised at your low birthrate. I didn’t notice anyone starving. Is there a problem with inbreeding? Is that why the . . . recruiting of Lengmen?”
“We have a pretty high miscarriage rate. The oldest doctors say that it’s worse than the early years.” He shrugged, but looked uncomfortable.
“Hmm, well, no matter. Sam and Mike are recovered, more-or-less—with Sam it’s hard to tell the difference between normal and hungover—from Xen’s treatment. If you two want it . . .”
“We’re not Moshushi!” Jerry looked over from the butchering.
“It’s got general healing as well, better than the spells he’s been throwing at you.”
Xen walked back and gave her a thoughtful look.
She nudged him. “Go on. The poor lads are still pretty scared up and some of the charred spots are getting infected again.”
“Right.” He tapped Connor on the back of the hand then strolled over to Jerry. Who rather tentatively held out his hand for a tap.
“You ought to do flashing lights and stuff.” Jerry scowled. “I don’t believe in mofa. Oww!”
Sam lowered his hand. “Don’t ever let me hear you say that again.”
Connor staggered over. “Yeah! Whoa, I feel funny.”
Xen stepped away and met her gaze with a nod. “You were right. How very interesting.”
“How’s the sausage coming?”
“Well, I managed a small amount. I haven’t a clue what it’ll taste like with no salt or pepper. Then I gave it up as bad job and tossed the rest of the blood. Saved some casing for regular bear sausage, which won’t have any salt or pepper either.” He gazed up at the sky, opaque to her. His mind closed. “Well, well. I think I’d better help with the rest of the bear.”
Rael stiffened her back. I killed it. I can help butcher it.
She walked over to volunteer and Xen handed her a huge bone, shredded muscle hanging from it.
“Could you toss this to Hunter? I sort of want to keep him around.”
Jiol was lighting a fire in the smokers as she walked past. “I’d laugh at your expression, but I suspect mine was worse the first time I saw Xen butchering a poor little bunny rabbit.”
Rael giggled and hiked back up the hill. Hunter was still wary of her, standing up and getting ready to run. But he caught the tossed bone in mid-air and carried it off.
And slicing meat for the smoker wasn’t very icky, once it was off the bear.
Jiol was collecting all the fat into a big clay pot. “Soap. It’s harsh and nasty, but it’s so nice to be clean!”
“Soap . . . is fat?”
“And lye water. Xen says to let it sit for as long as possible and it’ll mellow a bit . . . but so far ‘long as possible’ has amounted to a few days.” Jiol looked suddenly worried. “I don’t like to think about more months of living here . . . or worse.”
“Yeah. This is almost fun . . . for a short while. Xen’s been here for over five months now. You’ve been here for three. And yes Inso and the kids are upset and worried, but we will get out of here. Either because Xen’s gotten over the shemofazing, or because Q finds us.”
Jiol straightened her shoulder. “Indeed. As long as Q’s out there, we’ll be rescued.”
Q stared up at the metal lattice reaching up above the concrete wall. “Well, Py, we’ve found them and their gate mechanism. But what I want is Xen. Shall we head for town?”