There was an accident.
I was reading a paper in my room when the lights went out. They came back on quickly. I went into the corridor, and Xi asked me if the lights in my room had flickered. We knocked on Sergei's door, then pushed it open. He wasn't there.
We found him sitting on the floor of the entrance level. He was trembling, his face covered in bandages. He'd been in the decontamination shower when the lights went out. I didn't ask why. In the darkness, the shower blasted scalding water. It was only for a second, but it burned his face. He crawled out and grabbed a first aid kit. Xi and I looked at one another. I could see what she was thinking, what she didn't want to say, so I preempted her.
I told Sergei that both of them should go with the relief. He needed to get out of The Sick Land, and he needed proper medical attention. The new researcher and I could hold the fort until another volunteer came. Sergei nodded. Xi tried to look happy, but I could see a flicker of worry.
She's right to worry. The men who work the relief have orders, and they're armed. I don't know what will happen if they're told to pick up one person, and we send out two. Xi might have a breakdown if she has to stay. I don't know what will happen to Sergei. He can manage at the moment, but he's not healing. He's falling apart.