The place, evidently a chemical warehouse, had a row of washtubs as well as a hose system for fires. Shevek’s companion had fainted by the time he got back to him. He took the opportunity to wash the man’s hand with a trickle from the hose and to get a look at his wound. It was worse than he had thought. More than one bullet must have struck it, tearing two fingers off and mangling the palm and wrist. Shards of splintered bone stuck out like toothpicks. The man had been standing near Shevek and Maedda when the helicopters began firing and, hit, had lurched against Shevek, grabbing at him for support. Shevek had kept an arm around him all through the escape through the Directorate; two could keep afoot better than one on the first wild press.
He did what he could to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet and to bandage, or at least cover, the destroyed hand, and he got the man to drink some water. He did not know his name; by his white armband he was a Socialist Worker; he looked to be about Shevek’s age, forty, or a little older.
At the mills in Southwest Shevek had seen men hurt much worse than this in accidents and had learned that people may endure and survive incredibly much in the way of gross injury and pain. But there they had been looked after. There had been a surgeon to amputate, plasma to compensate blood loss, a bed to lie down in.
He sat down on the floor beside the man, who now lay semiconscious in shock, and looked around at the stacks of crates, the long dark alleys between them, the whitish gleam of daylight from the barred window slits along the front wall, the white streaks of saltpeter on the ceiling, the tracks of workmen’s boots and dolly wheels on the dusty cement floor. One hour hundreds of thousands of people singing under the open sky; the next hour two men hiding in a basement.
“You are contemptible,” Shevek said in Pravic to his companion. “You cannot keep doors open. You will never be free.” He felt the man’s forehead gently; it was cold and sweaty. He loosened the tourniquet for a while, then got up, crossed the murky basement to the door, and went up onto the street. The fleet of armored cars had passed. A very few stragglers of the demonstration went by, hurrying, their heads down, in enemy territory. Shevek tried to stop two; a third finally halted for him. “I need a doctor, there is a man hurt. Can you send a doctor back here?”
“Better get him out.”
“Help me carry him.”
The man hurried on. “They coming through here,” he called back over his shoulder. “You better get out.”
No one else came by, and presently Shevek saw a line of blackcoats far down the street. He went back down into the basement, shut the door, returned to the wounded man’s side, sat down on the dusty floor. “Hell,” he said.
After a while he took the little notebook out of his shirt pocket and began to study it.
In the afternoon, when he cautiously looked outside, he saw an armored car stationed across the street and two others slewed across the street at the crossing. That explained the shouts he had been hearing: it would be soldiers giving orders to each other.
Atro had once explained to him how this was managed, how the sergeants could give the privates orders, how the lieutenants could give the privates and the sergeants orders, how the captains… and so on and so on up to the generals, who could give everyone else orders and need take them from none, except the commander in chief. Shevek had listened with incredulous disgust. “You call that organization?” he had inquired. “You even call it discipline? But it is neither. It is a coercive mechanism of extraordinary inefficiency—a kind of seventh-millennium steam engine! With such a rigid and fragile structure what could be done that was worth doing?” This had given Atro a chance to argue the worth of warfare as the breeder of courage and manliness and the weeder-out of the unfit, but the very line of his argument had forced him to concede the effectiveness of guerrillas, organized from below, self-disciplined. “But that only works when the people think they’re fighting for something of their own—you know, their homes, or some notion or other,” the old man had said. Shevek had dropped the argument. He now continued it, in the darkening basement among the stacked crates of unlabeled chemicals. He explained to Atro that he now understood why the army was organized as it was. It was indeed quite necessary. No rational form of organization would serve the purpose. He simply had not understood that the purpose was to enable men with machine guns to kill unarmed men and women easily and in great quantities when told to do so. Only he still could not see where courage, or manliness, or fitness entered in.