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I saw you crying in the rain
tears and raindrops running down your face
as your future dead and cold
was lowered into an early grave

We walked away then and we talked
of things that happened so long ago
when we were young and oh so bold
before we became so very old

And I recall a summer day
oh so many years ago
We rode our bikes and laughed and screamed
towards what was our destiny

And there it was we left our dreams
in the light of the setting sun
did the things that we were told
live gray lives until we were old

We stood there in the rain and cold
and remembered times so long ago
And lied to ourselves and said that’s all
Just rain and cold and nothing more.

But if on that long lost sunny day
we had rode laughing into the dark
would we have met the light of the dawn
could we have found another way?

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The Only Peace There Is, Part Six

Dismas had promised a farm, and there was a farm. Her mother and her father were not there, but an old man and an old woman were. They were kindly people, and listened to Mir on subjects such as clothes and bought her sturdy farm clothes and taught her farm chores. During the weekdays she went to school, where she was placed in a class with much younger students to learn things she should have learned years before. There were perhaps some older students, her age or older, who would have bullied her. But when they tried, she merely lifted her eyebrow and said “Really?” and they stared and eventually moved away.

There were no bombs. There was no constant struggle for food or shelter. And for the first time in a long time, Mir felt at peace.

Then six weeks after she had arrived at the farm the armies poured over the borders and her nation’s armies collapsed, fleeing in terror before the superior weapons of the invaders. Early one morning at the break of dawn Mir was in the barn milking the cow for that day’s milk for the household, and she heard shooting from the house. Swiftly she opened the back door of the barn, then scurried up into the loft and hid in the hay and straw. Through a crack in the floorboards she saw two men enter the barn and look around. They were dressed in the uniform of her nation’s army, and looked worn and scared from behind the rifles they carried. Deserters, then. They spotted the lantern, the milk bucket, then the open back door. Mir watched them take tin cups out of their small packs and dip them into the milk and drink much of it, then they looked at the cow. “Should we kill it?” one asked. The other replied “No, we have no way to carry the meat. We need to get out of here, whoever was here is probably running for help.”

They left.

An hour later, Mir crept down from the barn loft and crept to the house, careful to stay out of sight of the windows as much as possible. Then she looked into the window of the living room. The old man and the old woman were dead.

Later that day, Mir buried them and then piled rocks upon their graves to keep the dogs from digging them up. She fashioned grave markers from boards and wrote their names on them. Then she went and gathered eggs from the chicken house and vegetables from the garden and cooked a meal. There was food here, and shelter, for now. She would wait.

Eventually what she was waiting for arrived.

The giant tanks rumbled down the road, egg shaped and their treads barely protruding beneath their fields. Guns whipped around their perimeter like snakes, searching, searching for target, searching for people to kill. Searching for people like Mir.

Mir stood up and walked into the yard. A tank stopped in front of her.

“I speak your language,” Mir shouted. “Do you need a translator?”

A smaller oval broke away from the tank and came to Mir and sniffed at her, then said “Clear” and returned to the tank.

“Clear?” Mir said, puzzled.

A woman walked away from the tank. She had seemingly appeared from nowhere. “The dog smelled no explosives on you, no gun oil,” the woman explained. “How do you speak our language?”

“My grandmother was from your country.”

“I see. We can use a translator. But where are your parents?”

“Dead. Deserters killed them.” Mir pointed to the obvious graves by the side of the house.

“I… see,” the woman said. She examined Mir closely. Mir looked placidly at her. “And you are sad, but not surprised.”

“They were old,” Mir said. “I knew they would die. It was too soon, though. But…” she shrugged. “The world is what it is.”

“Then you will travel with us and translate,” the woman said.

And she did.

The convoy travelled through the countryside, occasionally stopping to disarm deserters or to destroy houses or barns where people were shooting at them. A shell from one of the tanks usually blew the house into so much shrapnel and pink mist. There was rarely enough to bury afterwards. They arrived at a small city, then. Mir’s services were used to talk to the city government of that city, which swiftly surrendered and pledged to work with the new military government until elections could be held for a new national government. There would be peace, then, the invaders promised. There would be peace.

But always there were those who fired at the convoy, and required them to destroy. And always those who shouted at Mir, called her a traitor for working for the invaders..

They drove through town after town, small city after small city, at each place it was the same. The city or town surrendered, there were the inevitable people who fired shots from buildings, buildings were destroyed, and the convoy moved on after receiving assurances that the mayor would make sure that nothing else happened until the national elections. Finally they arrived at the city that Mir knew, the city in which she had been born, and then into the Quarters where deserters had fled and were holed up and making a final last stand. It was not much of a last stand. Building after building crumbled beneath the shells of the tanks, and the soldiers of the invading force in their body armor that repelled the rifle shots from the deserters cleared building after building.

Then there was a white flag of surrender and Mir was called to talk to the person who was flying the flag. The soldiers had sent out a boy. The boy was Jack, looking thinner and more ragged than Mir had ever seen him.

“So you’re working with the frogs,” Jack said bitterly. “I should have guessed when you deserted me.”

“I didn’t desert you, Dismas had me hauled away in handcuffs!”

“I talked to Dismas. He gave you exactly what you asked for. You never even mentioned me.”

Mir looked down. “Okay. So I deserted you. What do your people want?”

“We’ll walk out of the building unarmed with our hands over our heads. Just please, don’t shoot us as we do so.”

“We aren’t animals!” Mir said.

“So you’re one of them, then. I should have known.”

Mir relayed the request to the people in the tank behind her, and the voice in her ear said “We agree.”

“They agree,” Mir said to Jack. “You say you talked to Dismas? Where is he?”

Jack smiled. “You’ll find out.” Then he walked back to the building, and a line of men started exiting with their hands over their heads. They were swiftly rounded up and searched and handcuffed, then led away to open trucks further back in the convoy, where they were chained to the rails with the other prisoners. Then the soldiers entered the building to clear it.

The explosion blew apart the building, sending shards of concrete and wood flying through the air, sending Mir flying backward into a tank. As Mir bled out from multiple holes pierced into her body she saw soldiers scrambling to retrieve their comrades from the wreckage, and other soldiers fanning out with sniffers to look for other booby traps. “It’s not fair,” Mir said. “Dismas, you promised!”, Mir said, as her vision slowly faded. “All I wanted was peace. That’s all I wanted, peace?”

And then she was dead, and then there was peace, the only peace she would ever have, in the end the only peace there is.

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That afternoon Mir used some of her new money to buy food from the bodega man, who had black market food for a price. She almost made herself sick gulping it down in the alley behind the bodega. For the first time in weeks, she was no longer hungry. Then she went to check on Jeannie, and found Jeannie to be staring forlornly at the walls.

“Don’t be sad!” Mir told her. “I used your gold coins to buy our way out. Tomorrow morning we leave. I will be so happy to get to a country where everyone speaks Aligese!” Then she went back to Dismas again, and found where to bring Jeannie the following morning.

That evening, Mir crept into another of her hiding places and curled up on a rat-eaten mattress topped with old flour bags. She used a blanket for the first time that season. The evenings were starting to become cool. She wondered if Jeannie had a blanket in that pack of hers. She imagined so, it would be stupid not to, but she wasn’t really worried. She slept, dreaming of things she could never have in her life, dreaming of peace.

The next morning Mir woke up with the sun. She felt good, and there was still food left for her to eat. Food, a warm blanket, the shelter of a small alcove nobody larger than her could get into… that was all she could have hoped for only a few short days ago. Now…

She walked warily to where she’d left Jeannie, watching for people watching her. Trying to to walk faster than normal, or with more energy than normal, even though every fiber of her being was urging her to run, move fast, be excited. But that was a tell. And Mir was good at hiding her tells. So she walked seemingly casually along the near-empty streets, constantly aware of everybody as she walked on the cracked sidewalks alongside crumbling concrete buildings. Then, making sure nobody was looking her way, she ducked into the ruins.

Jeannie was still dressed in the traditional robes. They hid almost all of her, all but the eyes. There was nothing that Mir could do about the eyes. Except.

“Look down while we walk,” Mir said. “Don’t look anyone in the eye, stare at your feet. You are a proper traditional woman, you don’t talk, you don’t respond, you allow your man to respond. We will meet a man shortly, and he will escort us out of the city.”

“I can do that,” Jeannie said. She looked nervous.

“Don’t fidget! You are a proper traditional woman out on proper business with your man and your little girl! You have nothing to fidget about!”

“I’ll try,” Jeannie whispered.

“Don’t try. Do. Or they will capture you and torture you.”

“I… will,” Jeannie said softly. She looked down at her feet, looking demure, like a proper traditional woman should.

Mir nodded, and led Jeannie out of the building by her hand. She popped her head out first, seeing nobody, then led Jeannie out.

The place where they were to meet Dismas was a half mile away, and Dismas was waiting there and fell in as if leading the group. Which he was, of course.

“This was the original city,” Dismas said, sweeping his hand around. “Back when we were new here, when the seeds first fell from the sky. That is why they’re so bare inside, why the electrical supply is so rudimentary. These buildings were never intended to be more than temporary shelter while the new city was built.”

Mir looked around. All she saw was dirty decaying concrete buildings.

“What happened?” Mir said.

“These buildings were supposed to be temporary. But our leaders…” Dismas shrugged. “There is always a place like this, in any land, in any city, where those who have been thrown away settle. They left these buildings to be that place.”

“So we are the ones thrown away,” Mir said.

“For now.” Dismas did not talk further.

A patrol was approaching them from in front. Mir talked to Jeannie in Aligese. “Remember, eyes down, demure, quiet. Don’t speak even if they speak directly to you.” Dismas looked at Mir curiously, as if wondering at what Mir had said. Or as if wondering at how Mir could say it at all, in a language foreign to almost everyone in their land.

Suddenly another group of soldiers fell in behind them. “I brought her,” Dismas said to the leader of the patrol in front of them, and Mir smiled to herself, thinking about how surprised Jeannie would be to be suddenly grabbed. Then strong arms grasped Mir from behind and threw her to the pavement, and suddenly there were handcuffs on her hands and Mir turned her head and looked up at Dismas and shouted “You lied to me! You lied!” as other strong hands were doing the same to Jeannie.

“I didn’t lie,” Dismas said, accepting a bag of coins from one of the soldiers. “I’m giving you exactly what you asked for.” Two civilians walked into Mir’s view. Mir recognized them. They were from the Social Services office, and Mir had been avoiding them for years as they walked around the streets checking on their charges. Dismas gave them a smaller bag of coins and said to them, “Take her where I told you. Remember, if you don’t, I know where you live.”

“You betrayed me,” Mir said to Dismas, tears starting to form in her eyes. “I’ll get you. I’ll run away and I’ll tell everybody what you did. I’ll run away and you’ll never, ever be able to show your face in the Quarters again.”

Dismas smiled. “Not much chance of that where you’re going.” And then he walked away, leaving Mir with the two from Social Services.

As the man from Social Services helped Mir to her feet, keeping a strong grip on Mir’s wrist, the woman from Social Services produced a tissue and wiped Mir’s face. “Don’t worry, little one!” she said in a cheerful voice. “We’re going to take care of you. You’ll see!”

“I don’t want your kind of care,” Mir sniffed. “I want to go home.”

“Home? Where is that?”

“Nowhere,” Mir realized. The Quarters had never been home. They were just a place she had stayed. While she had been thrown away.

“We’ll fix that,” the woman said.

And they did. For a while.

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Mir went back to one of her better squats in the gloom of dusk. There were no lights, and she did not dare light a candle, so like most people in the Quarters she went to sleep with the sun. There had been a time when street lamps had lit the streets at night, when the lights from building windows and building doors had lit up the streets even where the street lamps did not go, and the street kids and gang soldiers had hung out late into the night, dancing under the light of the moon. But the lights had gone off with the first bombs. The city was dark at night, darker than night seemed it could be, dark like a cave where stars are but a dream, with only occasional flickering from behind windows where someone had rounded up a candle or a small crank-powered lantern to eke out a few more minutes of life before sleep. Those never lasted long.

So Mir slept, and she dreamed, dreamed of a time long ago, a time when she had a mother and a father and no cares in the world and was not hungry and tired all the time. A world that was a better place, except it wasn’t, it never had been, she had just been younger then, and ignorant of what life was.

The next morning she arose and searched out Dismas in the cellars where he lurked, dodging one of the increasingly rare street patrols. He had a different cellar for each day of the week, the same one for each day, but Mir never remembered what day of the week it was. The concept of a week no longer had much meaning to her. At one time Friday night had meant drunk people slumming in the Quarters who were easy pickings for the cut-purses and pick-pockets of the Quarters, but that had disappeared with the electricity and the bombs. There were just days now, and nights, each much like the previous one.

Finally she found the cellar where Dismas was holding court. She watched a man enter with a sack of something unknown. A few minutes later he left, and Mir slipped inside as the door slowly closed behind him.

The room Mir entered was roughly six meters long by two meters wide, a long thin room. Some light entered from a transom over the doorway and from another transom at the other end, but a bare light bulb hanging from the rafters provided most of the light. Mir didn’t wonder about Dismas having electricity. He was Dismas. Of course he would have electricity, whether from paying someone to provide it, or from solar panels, or from a hidden generator, because he was Dismas. Dismas was behind the counter, a stockily built man with curly black hair that was graying at the temples and a hawk nose like most people Mir knew. He nodded respectfully in Mir’s direction and flipped a switch behind the counter that locked the front door so no one would disturb them. She heard it buzz and lock behind her, a sound that was disturbing to someone who valued her freedom but there was no choice. That was how Dismas did things. He would unlock it, because otherwise another customer could not enter. So she squared her shoulders and marched to the counter and pulled a gold coin out of her pocket and placed it on the counter and said, “What can you do for this?”

Dismas picked up the coin and examined it closely, turning it in his hand. “A South Sudestan Dolar. Interesting.” He placed it back on the counter and Mir slid it back to her side of the counter. Dismas reached underneath the counter and pulled out a slate. After multiple swipes and tapes of its screen, he examined the screen, nodded, and put the slate away again. “This coin is worth roughly 600 dinar. I can only give you a third of that, 200 dinar, because it’ll be hard to move, I will have to bribe several people.”

Mir tried to keep her surprise from showing. Two hundred dinar? That was more money than she’d seen her entire life. More than enough for a bus ticket to the farthest part of the country. She was supposed to bargain at this point, she knew, so she did so. “You’re not going to have to pay 400 dinar of bribes! Surely you can give me half price, 300 dinar.”

“You will bankrupt me!” Dismas said, but he was smiling. “I will offer you 250 dinar, and I will still only barely make enough money to pay for the light bulb for the time you’re in this shop!”

Mir could have bargained for another 25 dinar at that point, but that would have been pushing the boundaries of courtesy and patience. “I suppose I will have accept 250 dinar then,” Mir said. Dismas was still smiling as he counted the money out onto the counter, then swept it into a cloth bag. Mir pushed the coin back to his side of the counter, and he pushed the bag over to her side of the counter. She then snatched it up and hid it in one of the inner pockets of her robe.

Dimas looked sad, then. “Have you ever wondered, little bird? Have you ever wondered why things have become so hard even before the bombs?”

Mir shook her head. “That’s just life. It is what it is.”

“If you could have anything in the world, anything at all, what would you have?”

Mir remembered her father speaking Aligese to her when she was small, explaining things to her that she could no longer recall, but she could remember the love in his face, and the caring in his words. “Food. A place to sleep where I don’t have to worry about being raped. A mother. A father. Peace. Peace. Peace.”

“I can get you the first two,” Dismas said. “But the rest….” He sighed.

“I know,” Mir said. “That’s life.”

“Except maybe… peace, for a little while. I know what you have hidden,” Dismas said. “I can sell it for you for far more than that coin, for enough money to move you out to a farm in the country where things can be peaceful again.”

Mir stood there, staring at Dismas, her brown eyes displaying no emotion but inside her heart was pounding. Should she deny it? No. He undoubtedly had figured it out from the coin. Dismas was not stupid.

“What if she offered to take me with her if we get her to a field outside the city? What if she has more coins?”

Dismas sighed. “So she’s a girl, then. I’m sure she has good intentions, but the rescue teams have never taken away a local. Never. It doesn’t happen. Besides, you would have no peace there either. They don’t speak our language there, you know.”

“I know that,” Mir said in Aligese.

Dismas looked surprised, then nodded to himself. “I had wondered how she’d told you she would take you with her. But it can’t happen. There isn’t spare capacity in their rescue ships for that.”

“I see,” Mir said, and she did. It had been another empty promise, then, like all the other empty promises in her life. She should have known.

“She’ll be sent to a prisoner of war camp, and traded for one of our pilots or soldiers. She won’t suffer. And we’ll get enough money from the mice to set you up on that farm. You’ll have peace then, at least.”

“I suppose,” Mir said. But she thought it another empty promise. There was no peace, no peace that really counted anyhow. Still, there was nothing to be done. The woman Jeannie was useless to her so taking the risk of moving her outside of the city… no. And if Dismas betrayed her… well, she had enough reputation, she hoped, to make sure that people knew Dismas had done so, and hurt Dismas as much as he hurt her. “So when?”

Dismas nodded. “I will make the arrangements today. Come back in the afternoon and I’ll tell you where to bring her tomorrow morning.”

There was nothing to say, then, other than “Agreed.”

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There was a bombed-out building that Mir knew of. It was no longer weather tight, but had housed several traditional families. Mir gathered some traditional garb. Then she headed to one of her stashes, and shuffled through a drawer full of ID cards. There was one of a woman of approximately the right height in traditional garb. If they ran into a patrol with male members, Mir could talk them out of closely examining the woman. If they ran into a patrol with female members… well. Then Mir would hope to run faster than the woman. That’s all.

Mir took these back to the woman under the tarp in the corner of the bombed-out building, and pointed to the clothes and said “Dress.” Mir watched the woman strip out of her boots and flying clothes and compared her own stick arms and legs with the well muscled arms and legs of the young woman, Jeannie, she recalled. Jeannie did not like Mir’s clinical gaze upon her naked body. She turned her back to Mir as if embarrassed. The woman finally got the clothes on, and Mir pointed to the sandals and Jeannie slipped them on.

“You’re going to take me to the Resistance?” the woman asked.

Mir was puzzled. The Resistance? “What is that?” she asked, wondering if she had misunderstood the word.

“People against the government. People fighting the government.”

“Oh. Yes,” Mir lied. There was no Resistance that she knew of. Nobody fought the government. People who did, disappeared and were never seen again. Mir knew of nobody who could be this “Resistance” that the young woman was talking about. “What do you need the Resistance to do for you?”

The air raid sirens had shut off while Mir was gathering clothes, but now they were blaring again. Bombs crunched in the distance.

“They need to take me to an open area a few miles from the city so a rescue team can pick me up,” Jeanie said. “When do we leave?”

“Later. I have to find some people,” Mir said. The hollow feeling in her stomach was annoying her and she felt light-headed. “Do you have food?”

The woman dug in her pack, that had been the bottom of her seat, and brought out food bars. “Here,” she said. “Do you have water?”

Mir pointed at where bottles of water were set against the wall. Of course she had water. You died if you did not have water. All of Mir’s hiding places had water.

“Do you have money?” Mir asked. “I may need to pay off a policeman to get you past.”

The woman pulled out some gold colored coins from the pack and handed them to Mir. Mir gazed at one of them, puzzled. “What is this?”

“Gold coins from South Suderstan. They’re worth a lot of money.”

Mir had no idea what that meant. “Worth a lot of money”, though, she understood. There was a pawn shop where she could maybe sell them. The shop-owner would rip her off, of course, give her much less than the coins were worth. But that was life. She had no idea where else she could take these strange golden disks that were like nothing she had ever encountered.

“What is South Suderstan?” Mir asked.

“It’s at the far southern tip of Suderstan.”

“What is Suderstan?” Mir asked.

“It’s a continent.”

“A… continent?”

The woman was staring at Mir. “Didn’t you ever go to school?”

Mir shrugged. “I learned to read and do numbers a little, but then my mom and dad died and…” she shrugged, and pointed around. “The foster home was worse. They rented me out to customers. I was nine years old.”

“Where did you learn my language?”

“My father grew up speaking it at home. His mother, my grandmother, was from your country. She died a little after I was born, and his father died when I was six years old. But he still spoke it to me when I was small.”

“Do you have any relatives? Anywhere you could go?”

“My mother and father were both only children. My grandmother on my mother’s side is still alive but she is very old now and can’t take care of anybody. I don’t know any other family.”

The young woman’s eyes glistened wetly, and Mir could see what was going through her mind. “No!” Mir said. “Don’t feel sorry for me! I’m fine.” She shoved on the young woman’s chest, forcing the young woman to take a step back. “I just need to get out of this place, we’re starving to death because of your bombs, I need to go somewhere there’s peace, far away!”

The young woman looked sad, then. “I don’t know of such a place. We’re bombing everywhere in your country, everywhere there’s a city. Unless you went back home with me?

Mir stopped, recalculating then. But there was no Resistance. No way to get this young woman out of the city and back to her country. Mir would not even know how to try. Maybe the bodega man, but no, she could not trust him. The pawn shop owner? No, he would turn them over to the mice for money, he was always money. Jack… but Jack knew as little as Mir did. Jack had been on the streets even longer, and there was nothing Jack knew that Mir didn’t know. Besides, she did not want to bring Jack in on this. Jack would want to come with them. Jack would want to share.

The fence, the man to whom they took stolen things. He would not turn them over to the mice because Mir knew too much and could finger him. Though he undoubtedly was paying off the police to look the other way. Still, no one would bring things to him if he broke the code of honor amongst thieves. He was safe.

He would not be available until morning. Mir munched on the food bar, feeling it descend into her stomach. She could only eat a few bites, then she walked over and picked up a bottle of water and drank half of it. Still, already she felt less light-headed.

Yes. She would talk it over with Dismas. Dismas was old. He knew things. If there was a way to get the young woman home, he would know. If there was not, he would also know the best way to get money from selling the young woman to the mice.

“Stay here,” Mir said. “I’ll be back tomorrow evening, I need to talk to a man.”

“Resistance?”

“No, but he will know how to contact them,” Mir lied. Because she was pretty sure there was no Resistance, and that Dismas would instead help her sell the woman to the mice. But of course that was not something she would say.

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It’s 6 parts, which will be posted over the course of a week. It’s a 1st draft so it has some problems, some places where it needs more explication, some places where it needs to be trimmed, but so it goes.

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Mir stared at the young woman in a pilot’s suit who was struggling to free herself from a chair. The canopy of a parachute kept tugging on the chair as the wind blew. A faint smell of smoke wafted across in the evening gloom.Mir swiftly brought out her knife and cut the parachute loose, then chased it down and stuffed it into a nearby trash bin. It would be found, eventually, but they would be well away by then.

The young woman had freed herself from the chair and pulled loose its lower cushion and strapped it onto her back. Mir surmised that it was a survival pack of some sort. The girl had straight black hair, cut short, and a small nose and a flat face unlike the beak-nosed hawk-eyed look of everybody Mir knew. Rushing back, Mir said “Do you speak Rabic?” The girl, because Mir could see that it was a girl barely older than Mir now that she had pulled off her helmet and stood up straight, looked puzzled. Mir switched languages. “Do you speak Aligese?”

“Oh!” the girl exclaimed. “You speak my language!”

“A few words,” Mir said, She pointed to the trash bin, then to the chair and the helmet that the girl was holding. The girl got the message and stuffed them.
“Come. We must get off the streets before the bombings stop,” Mir said, and tugged on the girl’s sleeve.

The girl followed. “I’m Jeannie”, she said. Mir thought it was a fine name for a downed pilot. A woman from a bottle. A burst bottle that had spit her out, parachute and all. A bomb fell a few blocks away, causing Mir to stagger slightly. She was hungry, and tired, and her legs felt weak. “I am Miranda,” Mir said to the girl, giving her full name for the first time in years for no reason that she knew. Then she knew. Nobody would find her if they looked for Miranda, if this Jeannie was caught. Which hopefully would not be for a while.

Mir pulled her into an abandoned building, one whose roof and several floors had caved in and thus was considered uninhabitable. Still, the walls kept wind away, and Mir had fixed up a cubby in one corner underneath a dusty tarp. Most street kids had found buildings that were more intact to sleep in, the Quarters had half the population that they had once held, the others left or died or drafted. There were plenty of intact buildings for the street kids to squat in. But Mir was small, and could not risk someone coming across her as she slept. She did not trust even Jack. She had many hidden squats like this one hidden in the ruined buildings of the Quarter, most more secure than this. She brought the girl Jeannie here because this squat was disposable. But should be secure for long enough.

“Stay here,” Mir said. “People will kill you if they see you.”

“Why?” the girl Jeannie asked.

“You drop bombs on us.”

“But you started the war!” Jeannie exclaimed.

“I’m a kid. I didn’t start a war. Nobody here in the Quarters did.”

“But we’re trying to liberate you from your dictatorial government!”

Mir stared at her. “Dead is liberated, I guess.” She shook her head. It was not a liberation that she would welcome, or desired. “I need to go. I’ll be back with clothes for you. Stay here, if you leave here dressed like that, you’ll die.”

“Why are you helping me?” Jeannie asked.

“There has been too much death already,” Mir lied. Then she left.

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