Everything's gone grey.
Dan knows why. Dust from the rubble; smoke and soot from the fires, some of which are still burning. It's likely to remain in the air for months, even years, reducing sunlight and lowering the temperature on the ground. Nuclear winter.
He knows this, but his brain refuses to focus on the facts. Suited up and inside Archie, he ought to be thinking rationally, trying to stay calm, but he just keeps thinking that he feels like a diver in a wreck, cut-off and cold and miles from the living world. Yesterday this was New York, and today it's a horror-movie wasteland, thick with ghosts and nothing left to salvage. All the shapes and angles in the rubble are indistinct, and he keeps expecting some shambling rubber monster to lurch at him out of the murk. And when he reminds himself that this is real, it actually happened, he starts feeling like there are cubic tons of water pressing in on him and he is going to implode, and has to force himself to just look straight ahead and carry on, tunnel vision through the permanent twilight.
* * *
"Dan." Adrian doesn't look up, and neither does the guy whose wrist he's bandaging. Well, practically a kid, really; he's perhaps twenty, and he has dust in his hair and eyes dull with denial or incomprehension, or maybe just exhaustion. One of his legs is already in a cast.
"You have plenty of first-aid experience," Adrian goes on, and his hands don't stop moving. Deft, quick, graceful even in all this noise and confusion. The knuckles of his right hand are scraped red and raw. "You should speak to Doctor Mayer. She's over there." He inclines his head minutely.
His voice doesn't falter or crack, and some little part of Dan that's still clinging on to before guesses that that should make him angry, but mostly he's just glad. He'd like to cling on to the words, sag against their steadiness and just collect his thoughts for a moment, comforted by the fact that some part of the old world still exists, something he knows is still true.
Adrian finishes the bandage, rubs his hands with sterile alcohol, straightens his shirt. He's wearing dress shoes, no tie, but then that could have been discarded somewhere along the way. He looks as though he's been interrupted in the middle of a business meeting.
"Excuse me," Adrian says, and Dan isn't sure whether he's addressing him or the kid, not that it makes much difference. The kid just blinks and goes back to staring blankly, words barely registering. "We have been trying to establish contact with Washington. No success so far, but I should see how things are going."
He turns and walks off. And there is a distance and a hollowness in Adrian's eyes then, and it makes Dan's stomach twist in ways that have nothing to do with the fact he hasn't eaten a meal in two days and he's been staying awake off caffeine pills for the last ten hours or so. And he kind of wants to run after Adrian, grab him by the arm or the shoulders and shake him and demand to know how the hell he plans on fixing this, but he doesn't know where the hell he'd even start, and besides, there are more important things to worry about right now than Adrian.
So he goes to see Doctor Mayer, instead. He does as he's told.
Dan doesn't answer right away, though that's more out of exhaustion than any particular sense of righteousness at this moment, just looks at him sideways. The words are uninflected -- no bitterness there, but no warmth either -- and Adrian's expression is as impenetrable as the gloom outside. It's all practised neutrality, and his eyes are focused somewhere on the opposite wall, like he's barely even in the room at all.
Eventually, Dan shrugs. "Why did you?" he asks.
"What else could I do?" Adrian doesn't wait for an answer, though, just presses his fingertips together, smiles blandly, and excuses himself again, explaining that he still has things to do. He heads purposefully towards the other side of the shelter, and doesn't look back.
Perhaps Dan imagines the trace of bitterness he hears there, and perhaps the strain in Adrian's voice is just a product of the tiredness everyone's feeling. But for a moment, Dan feels like he's on the verge of understanding something.