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Nov 28, 2020 5:21 AM
ves and imrainai in bliss stage
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She's venturing farther from home than she usually does today. She wouldn't do it if she had one of the younger kids with her - too big a risk of not getting home by nightfall - but she doesn't, she has Naomi and Anemone, and Naomi and Anemone can handle themselves. They're never gonna get any good stuff if they don't take a few chances, sometimes, when they can afford it.

So she's pretty far away from home - maybe forty miles, her team has bicycles and is serious about covering ground - when she spots some other people picking stuff over. This is not unusual. But these people look organized.

She stops her bike by one of the younger ones who's a ways away from the others. "Hey. You guys from somewhere?"

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"Yeah, we're from Eros," the kid says. 

"Erie, we're from Erie--" his friend says. "Asher hated when we called it Eros."

"Well, he's dead, isn't he," the kid says, "he doesn't get to have an opinion."

"He's dead and that's exactly why we should call it Erie," the friend says, "it's respectful--"

It has the flavor of an old argument.

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"Where's that?"

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"Lake Erie Correctional Facility," the kid says. "Some wanderers settled there a few years ago and now it's a real community."

"It's great," his friend says. "We have movies. At least once a month, and more during summertime."

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"You guys have electricity?"

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"It's rationed," the friend says. "You don't get to use it except for the essentials, like animas and medical stuff."

"And movies," the kid says.

"Well, yeah."

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"What's an anima?"

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"You can make this giant robot out of sex," the kid says, "and then you go into the dream world and punch the aliens like POW, and then they don't bother us and there aren't any drones ANYWHERE around Eros."

"That is not even a little bit how animas work."

"Whatever."

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"How'd you figure this out?"

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"Asher who used to run Eros was a genius," the kid says. "He captured one of the drones and reverse-engineered it so that we could go into the aliens' world instead of them just going into ours."

"And then he died."

"Piloting a giant robot made out of sex into the aliens' world to punch them is not super-safe, it turns out."

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"Doesn't sound it."

This is either very intriguing or very bullshit. It's very intriguing bullshit. But a lot of things about reality are pretty bullshit these days, so.

She taps irritably on her handlebars. Can't follow them anywhere without either splitting up, which is not very safe, or letting Karen think that something got her, which is really a pretty terrible thing to do to someone.

"How long are you guys gonna be around here for?"

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"Two days," the friend says. 

"But if you're part of a community that's thinking about merging with Eros we can stick around longer," the kid says.

"No, we can't," the friend says. "We have a list of supplies to get, it's going to fill up the canoes, we can't just leave a bunch of supplies here and replace it with new mouths to feed."

"Lev would want us to," the kid says, as if it is a trump card.

"You can't know that. We don't even know if their community has any useful skills--"

"It's going to turn out they have an eight-year-old," the kid says, "and Lev is going to make that face he makes when he thinks he's supposed to be upset, and then he's going to read the eight-year-old a book, and then I am going to get a piece of candy for talking you into it."

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"There's twelve of us. William and Mary are seven, Tempest's nine, Christy's ten, Tamir and Anemone're thirteen, I'm fourteen, Naomi and Dana're fifteen, Tracks is sixteen, and Connor's twenty-one. And Karen, Karen's like thirty."

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"You have an old?" the kid says. "Eros has, like, hundreds of people and we only have one old."

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"Yeah. She's pretty cool. Wigs if we don't come home on time, though, so I don't wanna follow you guys without telling her where I'm going if I don't have to."

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"We'll wait," the friend says. 

"Tell your old there's a school," the kid says, in a tone of great wisdom. "No one works until they're eleven. Olds love schools."

"You haven't met any olds other than Rebecca," the friend says.

"And she loves school!" the kid says. "Besides, I kind of remember my parents, and my parents tried to send me to school all the time."

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"I'll tell her."

 

"New plan," she says, heading back to where her sisters are. "We fill the wagons up with stuff here, we bike back in a sane and timely manner, and then we convince Karen to pull an early great migration and figure out what's up with whoever's moved into Lake Erie Correctional Facility. They have electricity. And a school. And robots that fight the aliens. Or else they're lying, but if they're lying they still have, like, people, and food."

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"That's the old plan with more steps."

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"Which makes it very unobjectionable."

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"wanna go see the robots."

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"Fine. We head home and we talk to Karen."

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"They looked like they'd been eating, these kids?" asks Karen, when they tell her. Her kids do not all look like they've been eating. Some of them do, but Tamir and Christy definitely don't look like they're getting quite enough to grow up strong and healthy, and she assumes that for some of the others it just happens to be a little less visible. 

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"One of them said they had candy."

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"They could have said anything. And candy won't keep you alive. But - if they really seemed together, sane and well-fed and everything, on top of what they told you - we can look."

 

They have two vans. They never use them, except for migrating, since there aren't any renewable sources of gasoline, but they don't have bikes that fit everyone, and this way lets them keep more of their stuff. They pack quickly but carefully. Karen drives one and Connor drives the other, and between them they have enough space for everyone and all of the really important stuff.

They drive out early in the morning, and arrive where Zana found the other scavengers a couple hours after that.

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The leader of the scavengers, a well-built boy in his late teens, approaches Karen. 

"Hello! I'm Alexander, leader of Rabbit Scavenger Unit. Are you the old who's considering joining Eros?"

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