Lauren's group tries to sleep through another nearby battle in the predawn.
During or after the shooting, two strangers somehow slip into the camp and bed down among our heroes.
Jill was supposed to be on watch, but she neglected to do a good enough job to catch the newcomers. D'oh.
Harry, Travis, and Lauren surround the two newcomers, who wake up. They're a brown-skinned woman and a child of sevenish. Lauren asks them who they are.
The woman says she and the kid will leave. Lauren says they can, but they don't have to—they can eat with her group instead.
Lauren notes that two weeks ago, she wouldn't have been so kind to strangers.
The new woman says she and the little girl can't pay, but they aren't thieves and will heed Lauren's requirement to take only what they're given.
Lauren worries that the two are dangerous, since they're desperate.
Justin eases some of the tension by toddling over to the newcomers and being cute. Yay, toddlers.
Each person in Lauren's group gives the two newcomers whatever can be spared. Then the group gets ready to leave. The woman begs Lauren to take her and the kid with her.
The group talks over the possibility in private. Lauren reveals that Bankole has a place up north where the group can start Earthseed. The group is interested.
Everyone's also worried that the woman will steal, and Jill and Allie recognize by the woman and her child's body language that they're used to being abused. Harry points out the change in Lauren—that she's now more willing to help strangers. Lauren admits it and worries that it might not be a good change.
Our narrator's group decides to let the newcomers join. Lauren also reprimands Jill for not noticing them during her watch. Jill, accustomed to abuse, is hurt by the criticism, but is able to take it.
The new woman is named Emery, and her daughter is Tori—she's nine, not seven. Emery is twenty-three. She had a Japanese father, a Black mother, and a Mexican husband, making her the most racially mixed person Lauren has met. All of those relatives are now dead. At thirteen, Emery married a much older man who promised to take care of her.
Once married, Emery worked on a farm.
After the farm was sold to an agribusiness conglomerate, wages were paid in company scrip (not cash), and the workers were put into debt. The debt slaves had to work off the debt as indentured people or convicts.
Emery and her children became responsible for her husband's debt after he died from illness, and her children were taken from her as a result. She eventually decided to run away with her remaining daughter.
Emery escaped with Tori and survived on whatever they could find or steal. A gang fight drove them to bed down with Lauren's group, and now here they are.
Sunday, September 12, 2027
Walking, the group comes across two other travelers, Grayson Mora and his daughter Doe Mora.
Doe is eight, a year younger than Tori. The two little girls become friends and pull their parents together.
Grayson is a tall, thin, Black Latino, and he's quiet. He likes Emery but seems not to want to be part of the group. Lauren isn't sure why he resents them, but she thinks it's maybe because her group is united and armed, and thus threatening.
Nevertheless, Grayson decides to stay with Lauren's group for his daughter's sake.
Lauren thinks Grayson used to be a slave, since his odd nervousness is similar to Emery's.
At night, Bankole warns Lauren that there's something wrong with Grayson. Bankole thinks the newcomer is too jumpy. They agree he's probably another ex-slave.
Lauren says they've become a modern underground railroad, but Bankole says it isn't new and that it's happened throughout history for disadvantaged groups.
Lauren says things are breaking down more and more. They need better guns, and they need to be careful.
Bankole says he thinks the two little girls know how to be quiet, and that'll help them all stay alive.