Hypathia Colt had spent a great deal of time trying to get clean when she returned to the Asklepian. She hadn’t had much luck. Dramanaks, above all other districts, was filthy. Clean water for a real bath was unthinkable. Like any good Researcher, however, Hypathia wasn’t content with the world as it was. She would make it better.
For her, anyway. Everyone else could wait.
The bettering of Hypathia’s world was a process that began when she solicited three of the off-duty Watchmen to help her carry one of the hospital’s tin tubs to the roof. When questioned as to its purpose, she told them that she would be beginning a project to bring safety back to the district, but the magic involved would require concentration and privacy. Also it would require them to help her haul about thirty buckets of water up five flights of stairs.
As trained law enforcers, the Watchmen weren’t impressed. As a trained wizard, Hypathia insisted.
It was drilled into researchers not to abuse the various advantages of their position. It would certainly be abusive to give orders to others on the pretense of helping them. For that reason Hypathia rationalized her flagrant abuse of her position as vital to maintain her dwindling sanity. As for abuse of power…
There was something electric about summoning magical fire. Okay, yes, it was not technically electric, but there was no reason to spoil a perfectly good metaphor for the sake of accuracy. The joy of the act never really went away, and running the flames along the sides and bottom of her bath, Hypathia worked it to a boil, realizing only after the fact it would now need to wait to cool. So she sat in her red robe and rested her chin on one hand, staring as the tin hissed, trying to find a color more natural to it than the orange glow it currently sported. Sitting gave the Researcher time to think, more than she had when she was trying to survive in the quarantine, or trying to escape some ramshackle prison.
Langar was dead. That was something. If she hadn’t lost her first spellbook, Hypathia was certain it would have been dead much sooner. Maybe if she wore green robes she would’ve spotted its Idolatry more readily. Sometime before it began to command the earth and sky and raise titanic slugs to do his bidding. Ostensibly it was burned and buried, too, which showed remarkable respect for someone who had, apparently, not gotten along with the Inspectors.
Those Inspectors were on loan from Periad, according to Shavrem. A loan ordered by the Dreamer himself! The First Watch had been surprised to see her again, but certainly appreciative. He was no more comprehending of her questions, of course. “How can we have made no progress on a cure? What have we requisitioned? What have we even tried?”
“Talk to the Idol.” had been his only response, in his nasally whine of a voice. Though perhaps his tone could be forgiven, what with the nosebleed.
And talk she had. Galin, it called itself. Though apparently it was in style outside of Adladom to refer to Idols by their gendered pronouns. That was the style among certain parts of Adladom, too. The division was a pithy part of a much larger academic debate. Hypathia was of the opinion that the Idolatry obliterated the original personality, but it was hard to test. At least Galin was driven and clearly wanted a cure more than Spencer did (she had the audacity to say she was busy with the purification plant issue!) The Idol, at least, couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t stop helping people long enough to help more of them. It was actually kind of scary.
Hypathia blew her bangs out of her eyes, frowning. Spencer won’t work on a cure because there’s no time, Galin won’t work on a cure because there’s no time. There’s no clean water for her bath unless she makes it herself. Everything was terrible. The Researcher sighed, looking from the steam rising off the water she had boiled and west towards the walls that divided the quarantine. Her head swung back and forth a few times, the frown she had managed disappearing in a sparkling moment of clarity. In a flurry of excited motion, Hypathia Colt abandoned the bath, tearing down the stairwell towards the basement of the Asklepian, red robes flapping behind her.
The Researcher had an idea.