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Nov 28, 2020 8:07 AM
ves and imrainai in bliss stage
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(It's so cute when kids call her old. Like she's survived a great cataclysmic event and become a repository of ancient knowledge, which is sort of exactly what's happened.)

"Yeah, that's me."

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"Is there anything I can tell you about Eros that would help you make the decision? Obviously, we're always interested in recruiting olds."

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"Honestly I think we need to see it. I'm not sure how far away you guys are, exactly, but if it's less than two hundred miles from here I think we should be able to make it there and back by car. Worth the risk, if it turns out you guys have a nice safe place with enough food for everyone."

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"You're welcome to ride in our canoes, if that would be easier," he says, "although of course that means you'll be dependent on us to leave, and we understand why you might not want to do that."

(It sounds a little bit scripted.)

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"We'll take the cars, but thank you! We have some stuff we'd rather not leave behind." Also she in fact doesn't want to be dependent on other people, but no point in being sharp about it; the kid's clearly trying very hard. 

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"There are some things I am supposed to tell everyone who comes here," the kid says. "There are ways you might be used to doing things in your old group. That's not how we do things in Eros. Lev is in charge of Eros. If he says something is the rules, it is the rules. You might be the leader of your old group, but you are not the leader of Eros. If you try to become the leader of Eros, you will be exiled. On the other hand, unlike a lot of leaders, Lev wants to be told when he's wrong. Criticisms of Lev will generally result in privileges, up to and including candy."

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"Zero interest in becoming the leader of Eros," she assures him, not quite hiding her amusement. "But I think we'll go and meet Lev before we go making any commitments, OK?"

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"Well, if you hated the way things were run here," he says earnestly, "we wouldn't want you to waste your gasoline. --People under the age of eleven are in school and not working. This is non-negotiable. People over the age of eleven work. If you are over eleven and persistently a person who makes Eros less likely to survive, rather than someone who makes it more likely to survive, you will be exiled. If you do violence to another person, you will be exiled. If you steal or destroy objects of special value, which includes books, candy, electronics, and other people's personal mementos, you will be exiled."

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(In the back seat, Christina and Tempest start quietly arguing about whether school is probably better or worse than not-school.)

"That makes sense," says Karen.

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"Cool!" he says. "We'll be around for the next two days if you have any questions."

(If Karen looks around, she'll see all the scavengers look well-fed and relatively uninjured.)

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"All right! We'll follow you back when you're ready to go."

Her group camps out by itself, though most of her kids go and talk to the Eros scavengers at least once while attempting to assess the situation. In two days, everyone is in favor of following them back, except Christina (who thinks that they sound 'excessively totalitarian') and Naomi (who abstains).

They follow the kids back to Eros.

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A message is passed along and about ten minutes after arriving they're greeted by a man with shoulder-length curly hair and a very stressed-out expression.

"Thank God. Adults."

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"Yep! We heard good things. Or, well, I kind of suspect that someone heard the words 'giant robot' and came running, but your people looked pretty well-fed, so we thought we'd check it out and see if the cost of meals was worth it."

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"We try. --I'm Lev, I run this place, and you are?"

(He is, at best, in his late teens.)

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(Ahhh poor baby.)

"Karen. Karen Teller. More of an adoptive mom to everyone than a leader, honestly. We've steered clear of most groups until now, they tend to be - meaner than we prefer."

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"I try not to be mean, I don't like it and it doesn't actually work very well."

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"I think it depends what your other options are. But it's very good of you to try. You seem like you have a pretty good setup here. We thought maybe we'd stay a bit, take a look around, see if we liked the place, then decide whether we wanted to stay. Anything I can do for you while we're here?"

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"If you don't know how long you're going to stay, probably the most useful thing you can do is talk to the librarian and share any information you have that we don't-- maps, information about dream emanations or other groups, stories, poetry. Especially since you're an old, you might remember something useful from before."

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"Sure! We have a few books in the van, mostly just the ones the kids liked enough to reread a bunch of times, plus some nonfiction - if we leave we'll want to take them with us, but you can read or try to copy them while we're here. I don't know if I personally know anything useful. We've met some other groups, but we haven't followed any of them before. I guess I know lots of stories and have some poetry memorized, if there's any interest in that."

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She gets a real smile. (His eyes are still very stressed.)

"Oh, yes, there will be. Whenever we can, we have one person read while the other people work, and of course there are stories at night. But most of our book runs have to be for nonfiction, so there's always a shortage of fiction and poetry."

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She succeeds at not saying you poor things out loud. They're clearly doing much better than most people.

"Well, we'll give you what we have." 

They have, honestly, a kind of excessive number of books, given that books take up so much space. They also have a bunch of Karen's old copies of Asimov's Science Fiction, which offer a greater number of fanciful worlds for the same number of pages. 

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Real smile!

"If you decide you want to leave, could you give us three or four days to copy all of that? Of course you can copy anything you want from our library."

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"Yeah, absolutely."

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The kids work out how they plan to systematically tear through the Eros library, mostly without consulting Karen. They reluctantly decide not to lie about anyone's age; Christina and Tempest cautiously investigate ""school"". The older kids investigate what sort of work needs doing that any of them could plausibly do.

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Christina and Tempest will learn about multiplying two digit numbers, using maps to find destinations, the role of scavengers in the ecosystem, the clothing and food of ancient Greece, and Romeo and Juliet (plain-language version adapted for children). 

William and Mary will learn about skip-counting by threes, things strangers do that mean you should run and yell for an adult, the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates, how humans evolved from apes, and the story of Arachne.

The older children can farm or scavenge or learn to do medical care or make things or repair solar panels or cook or clean or pilot or anchor an anima. 

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