"Shut yer trap, Brick!" Doc Mizumi snapped from behind his welding mask as sparks flew from his precision cutting torch.
Brick, who was undergoing a popular surgical modification - being retrofitted for construction, grimaced and bit down hard on a chunk of leather. Since the Defense of Stardown there had been a disastrous shortage of medical supplies like anaesthesia. For that matter there had been a shortage of everything. A shortage of food. A shortage of water. A shortage of workers for the work of rebuilding... Many, like Brick, had opted to get the necessary implants without the pain meds.
And boy did it hurt having skeletal welds undone.
But squinting through the pain and the sparks, Brick could look out of Mizumi's reclaimed downtown surgery onto the central plaza of the ruins of Geneva Prime and it almost made him smile. There, a team of Biomade electrical engineers working with their Mechified partners were putting the finishing touches on the new memorial. Where the statue of the idealized Cheldrun had previously stood on the nose of an ancient spaceship, there now towered an unparraleled work of art in bronze and coursing energy. A Sygola tree. Hammered and welded from the rusted metal remains (what little the moths had left behind) of the former Goshi Tower, the trunk twisted high into the sky, splaying it's branches over the opening of the defunct blackrock mine and for several city blocks in every direction. Pulsating beams of light danced in mesmerizing patterns along the limbs of the tree and from each twig hung dozens of crystalline leaves - the shards of glass that were ubiquitous around the city. When the wind blew, they played a musical tune, and if you examined them up close you would see each one contained a name, laser-cut into the glass, of a victim of the war.
A sudden jolt of agony brought him back to himself and he shot a dirty look at Doc Mizumi, who was unsympathetic and shouted at him to stay still.
The Doc was doing good business these days. His shop was littered with old Bullet-Spitter parts, discarded in favor of more utilitarian implants. In what Brick thought of as a defining metaphor, he could even see an old gun-arm half disassembled on a nearby table - its parts being scavenged to make a scoop.
As part of the rebuilding effort, Doc Mizumi refused to accept any payment but food and spare parts, and from friends like Brick, the Doc wouldn't even take those things. So Brick tried hard not to take the pain personally, and he focused his thoughts on that memorial tree...
Up in the highest branches of the tree, Karak was attaching glass leaves to their respective twigs. He paused for each one and read the name it contained aloud. He'd kept a special handful of leaves aside, sorted them from the millions of shards to be the very last ones hung on the tree. No one but him would know he had done this, and he wasn't sure anyone but him would have cared. He heated each setting with his finger torch and carefully slotted each leaf into its place.
Terry the Canary.
Mickey the Mixer.
From her chair in the tower of the Choir of the Sky Elder Moon could hear the sounds of fosterlings at play outside. She had a momentary urge to get up and go to the window to watch, but the aches in her joints persuaded her otherwise. Without a hint of regret she admitted to herself that she was getting old. Not for her a centuries-spanning existence like the life of Elder Winter. She couldn't bear the absence of Mokuzai so long in any case.
Across the room, dappled by the rainbow light bouncing off the ubiquitous Nevergems, her son Hiro sat, looking serious like men his age often do.
"You'll enjoy being a grandfather, Hiro," she said with a concealed smile.
He seemed startled that she had interrupted the silence. "Yes, of course I will, but..." he frowned.
Moon drank her tea and patiently waited for him to work his emotions out. His youngest daughter, Lyre, was about to give birth to her first litter and something about the event was troubling him. As for Moon, she could hardly wait to meet the new kits.
"Mother, you know I'm happy for her, but she's so far away. Away from the safety of the Chantry or the companionship of her Choir. I just wish..." Hiro left the words hanging, and to her surprise his eyes began to swell with tears. Among the Prill emotions are usually expressed through song in a highly ritualized fashion. She supposed she had no one to blame but herself that her own family was so unconventional.
"Hiro, my son, you mustn't wish something different for Lyre. She chose to stay in the sanctuary cities. She is happy there. Those cities represent our hope for a lasting peace, it is good that so many like my granddaughter have the courage to make a life in common with the Children of Steel..." she was prepared to launch into quite a moving piece of oratory on this subject, but Hiro cut her off.
"You've misunderstood. I don't wish anything different for Lyre - it is for me. I spoke last night with Twilight. He has had a vision. You were right about the Riddle of Peace. You were right about all of that. That's the point. Twilight says our vow to Karia has been fulfilled. The forests are safe - and that this next generation will be the first to receive their vulpine forms back. We will be fox-children again!" He paused for breath, before continuing in a rush, "My grandchildren will live a life none of us has known for generations and I will miss so much of it. I wish Lyre was closer so that I could enjoy this."
Midway through his speech Elder Moon had begun crying her own tears, and by the end she was laughing and crying at the same time as the joy in her soul erupted.
"Oh Hiro! Every grandparent that has ever lived has wished their grandchildren were closer to home. You are not alone..."
She got up then, aching joints be damned, and crossed the room to hug her son. Neither of them said anything for a long time, but they clung to each other and looked out the window at a miraculous sky.