Charlie makes his way through the refugee housing centre with a roll of papers under his arm, whistling. There’s a low murmur of activity here; people filing paperwork, arguing over rations restrictions (not that anyone is ever pleased with the amount of food available), triple-checking figures. As Charlie passes a group of desks, he hears a pretty young thing say that one of the refugees has had another child, which makes three since she got here, and they’ll need to be moved to a larger cottage, which’ll mean turfing the Harringtons to the one across the other side of the camp. Mr. Harrington, who’s working in the room next door, hears this and steps out, but Charlie has kept walking. The conversation grows loud behind him, and he shakes his head. Can’t have a quiet day around here, can we?
He finally finds the desk he’s looking for, and unfurls the paper on it, revealing a plan of the central camp. The owner of the desk, a young engineer, looks at the plans with a mix of curiosity and dismay. “What are these?” he asks.
“That’s the taverna,” Charlie says, gesturing. “We’re over here somewhere, Paul.” He traces his finger along the edge of the map, then follows a zig-zagging line inwards. “And this is the life-support system. It’s been out of operation since November.”
Charlie shrugs. “Someone burned it down. Don’t know why. Can I leave these with you? I want to get it sorted out, but we’re low on equipment as it is, and unless we’re willing to explain to the locals that we want to take their terraformer apart and bury it, I don’t know what to do.” Paul nods, Charlie nods back, and he heads back through the building, through the minor fray (Mr. Harrington is saying something Britishly angry now, sounding far too polite).
The sun is struggling through the clouds outside - late spring, the first of June, but it feels far muggier than it should be. Charlie walks between the houses for a while, listening to children shouting, the sound of a tractor chugging lazily in the field nearby. It feels strange still, being outside of a walled city, and Charlie is struck with a sudden pang of indecision. He’s outside, now. He can go anywhere he chooses, back to the taverna, to see one of the music hall shows, he could go all the way to Portree or just start running until he hits the sea. It’s like flying, again. Which way do you want to go? He shrugs the mood off and heads towards the taverna and the infirmary. He pauses briefly outside, transfixed by the sound of an airship limping weakly towards the half-rebuilt mooring tower.