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"Wind's bad tonight" said the driver. He nodded at the mountains.

At what should have been mountains, but were now a yellow haze.

"How long do we have?" Casey asked.

"It's just the drift." A screen near his elbow flashed and his eyes shifted. "We have an hour. Maybe two."
Casey hesitated, reviewing how she'd left everything at the house. Could it stand alone for a day? A week?

The last evac had been five days. She'd returned home to find a family of raccoons had taken up residence in her bathroom.

She walked through her last moments at home.
"You coming?" his eyebrows raised above thick goggles.

An alarm sounded in the distance. The fire buoys.

Casey climbed into the last empty seat.
Her eyes burned. More from embarrassment than smoke. She'd get a new mask at the evac center. But it wouldn't be as good as the one sitting on her bedside table next to a half-drunk glass of water and a half-read book.
Behind her the other riders discussed fires in low voices.

"Branscombe is at 4,000 acres."

"I heard Solano's at 48."

"50-mile-an-hour gusts, they say."

Casey leaned against the window, eyes shut. Then she tapped her wrist twice and closed her mind.
Casey woke in the dark, neck sore from sleeping upright, throat aching from the smoke she'd inhaled that day.

The transport was empty.

She looked out the window and saw they'd parked near a low-slung government building.

Passengers lined up outside, hunched in the dim.
She scrambled off the bus, in a hurry for the 3rd time that day. Casey walked to the end of the line, avoiding eye contact.


Casey looked up at the gray-haired man addressing her.

"You forgot your bag." He held out a well-worn brown canvas pack.
Casey thanked him and took the bag, slinging it on to her back as she walked to the end of the line.

Slowly waking, she surveyed the people ahead of her. Most carried backpacks like hers, emergency kits stored in closets or garages. Pulled out for evacs.

Bags like hers? But…
Casey hadn't brought her bag.

She pulled the kit off her back and looked at it with suspicion, then held it at arms length and walked back up the line to find the man who'd handed it to her
"Ma'am, I need you to get back in the line."
The command came in a twang that was out of place in Santa Cruz.

Casey squinted into the darkness to her left. Next to the transport a slight young man in heavy gear stood ready, feet shoulder-width apart, one hand near his weapon. His pale face shone.

The moon was out.
Casey opened her mouth, thought better, and closed it, leaving her question unsaid.

Who are you to tell me to get back in line?

She stepped back in to the line, unsure if he was carrying a weapon or just used to carrying one.

His hand stayed near his hip.

He didn't relax.
Ada tapped her on the wrist. Three short, sure pulses that reminded Casey to stop and breathe.
She let the pack drop to her side, then shrugged it back on, wondering what it held.

It was probably someone's e-kit: copies of documents, a battery, an emergency blanket, a pair of socks, and a tiny bottle of water purification pills.

That's what Casey had in hers. At home.
The line shuffled forward.
Ada would tell me to ignore him, Casey thought as the line moved past the pale-faced boy.

She counted the people ahead of her, just nine or ten left. The man who'd handed her the pack was already inside.

The pack.

Casey slipped it off and tried to look inside.
The moon illuminated the guard, the dusty transport, the gravel lot. But it was the wrong angle for looking in the pack.

She reached inside and felt clothes, plastic-wrapped ration bars, and a zippered pouch.

She shook the pouch and heard the clink of pills in a glass jar.
C'mon, stranger, she thought to herself. Tell me you packed a battery.
She opened the front compartment of the bag.

Just a few people ahead of her in line now and nowhere to chuck contraband if she found something illegal.

The front pocket held the most valuable items: a set of vapes, two battery bricks, a first aid kit, and a roll of twenties.
Casey zipped the backpack closed and let out a long, slow breath. Nothing illegal, but no papers either. And not a charity pack. A charity pack would be half food and half useless junk that'd be binned at the evac.

The check-in table was staffed by two women in navy blue sweatshirts. No insignia, but the matching shirts made them seem official, somehow. They wore alert but friendly faces, like the off-duty firefighters who shopped at her grocer.

They were never really off-duty.
"Cesaria Ysabel-spelled-with-a-y Cortez. Date of birth: 6-16-2014. Current address: 145 Hagar Court, Santa Cruz, California." Casey handed over her ID as she recited the information.
The screen on the table flickered from red to green as it confirmed Casey's data and voiceprint. Woman 1 scanned Casey's ID as Woman 2 continued the questions.

"Place of birth?"


"Last series?"


"Really?" Woman 2 broke from the protocol, frowning.
"I'm at UCSC. We got series B a week before the students showed up."

"Series B is for at-risk populations." Woman 2 was still frowning, but just with her eyes.

"I teach freshman classes and live on campus. My vector score was 66.8"


"Just a sore arm"

"Step aside"
Step aside where? Casey wondered, since she was the last one in line and everybody else was inside, eating dinner and finding a cot.

Woman 1 motioned her to the side of the table. Away from the door and closer to the guard.

Ada tapped Casey's wrist again.

Breathe, Case.
Standing, she had 6 inches and 30 pounds on Casey. And muscles. Even I'm the dim, Casey could see broad shoulders underneath the sweatshirt.

She swims, thought Casey, holding out her left hand, palm down, fingers loosely spread.

Ready for testing.
The jab hurt for a moment.

A drop of Casey's blood was assessed on the spot.

She already knew what they'd see.

The 2022 flu
A brush with TB

All of then written into her blood.

But they wouldn't see Ada. Ada knew how to avoid needles, air syringes, random scans.
Ada knew Casey was thinking of her. She smoothed Casey's brow.

Calm now, they'll let you in.

The reader chimed and Casey was nodded into the light.
The evac center was an old fire camp that had been converted to an office space. Now it held about 50 cots.

People slept near their families, neighbors, people they knew.

Casey didn't have anyone nearby. Her family would be in a South County center. If they got out at all.
Her parents would go to the fields and camp among berry rows. A desal kit would keep them in water until the return order came in.
She chose a cot along the wall, facing the door. A good defensive position.

Then she sat down and wiggled her toes in her boots. No sense in settling in. Evac usually included a hot meal and there weren't kitchen facilities in this room. There'd be a mess somewhere in the camp.
Casey needed something to mark the cot as hers while they went to eat.

She wanted to keep the pack with her, so she opened it up and took out the clothes she'd felt earlier. A t-shirt and a pair of leggings.

Women's clothes.

Maybe a girl's, but that wouldn't explain the cash.
It was lightweight, cheap gear that didn't give her any other clues about the pack's owner.
"Dinner's ready in the mess hall." One of the sweatshirted women had popped her head inside the room.

The family groups and elders turned toward her and moved to the door in a tide of hunger and tired.
Casey slumped a bit, pretending to be more tired than she really was. She watch the group form into singles, twos, and threes as people headed for the door.

Nobody in the room looked like the man who'd handed her the pack.
The old men were too old. The young men were too tall. The boys… Well, they were just kids. Nobody had gray enough, bushy enough hair. The guys in hats had the stiff upright posture of men who think they should be in charge. Regardless of the expertise of the sweatshirt twins.
Casey kicked herself for lumping the women together.

Pay attention, she told herself. Everyone here is an individual. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. Needs. Insecurities.

And you need to know how to exploit them.
She stood from the cot, made a show of stretching so she could surveil the room, and followed the group out into the night.
Sweatshirt 1 followed her while the guard locked the sleeping room from the outside.

Casey listened for a key handoff during their walk to the mess hall, but the guard jingled with each step.

Ah, she thought. You need to show you're in charge, you're the one with the keys.
She tucked that weakness away for later use.
Casey took a deep breath. No smoke here. Just dirt and distant woods. Defensible space. Fire-safe.
Casey looked down at her watch. It was only 8:15 PM, but it felt much later. She rolled her shoulders under the pack, ready to run, but at the same time knowing that there was no way she'd run, not with an unknown weapon at her back.
If there was a weapon.

She'd need to check on that when they got into the light.

If he came inside.

Can you remind me? She asked. Of course, said Ada, reminder set.

Casey wiped the conversation from her face and attempted a tired-but-friendly look. A little dazed. Alone.
The mess hall ahead was well-lit and the line outside held more than the 40-odd people in her building.

The camp had other buildings. Other guards. She'd have to wait it out. Trying to leave now, regardless of what was in the pack, would be suspect.

They'd come for her.
Everyone else must have felt the same degree of tired and grimy. There was little small talk in the line. The loudest voices were kids, followed by hushes from parents. Couples leaned in each other, but mostly there was quiet.

And hope.
Casey noticed others eyeing the moon, the smokeless sky. They took deep breaths of the fresh air.

They had the same thought Casey did: there'd be a meal, a restless night, and tomorrow they'd pack up early, head down the mountain in a blackout van, and hike home from the depot.
The guard's radio crackled.

"872 to base. We're at 70% containment. Got a flare along the Solano ridge, but we should have this wrapped up by morning."
Everyone in earshot of the radio visibly relaxed. Another fire mostly contained. They just needed to do the things humans we're good at: eating, sleeping, and practicing the distinct kindness required of people trapped anywhere, whether it was a fire camp or a long-haul flight.
The meal was soup, served from village-sized vats by local men and women.

The women wore long gray center-parted hair, their own aprons, and mended clothes.

Casey scanned the men, and though they had gray hair they were all the wrong size to the the guy who handed her the bag.
Stop looking for him. Ada whispered. He's gone.


There's another exit from the camp room. He could have gone out there.

But the staff…

They're not always paying attention.
Casey took a bowl of soup and a slice of bread. She sat at a table with other solo evacuees and ate the soup mechanically.

This could use some garlic, she thought.

Your wish is my command, replied Ada, lighting up Casey's truncated glutemate receptors.
The sensation lasted long enough for Casey to finish the soup. She ate quickly, feeling guilty for using Ada's capabilities on something as unimportant as food.

Food's more important than you think, said Ada. It tells us a lot. For example, nobody here tried to poison you.
Casey blushed. She hadn't considered being poisoned.
It's okay, said Ada. You're not trained for that.

Casey looked around the room, taking in everything so that Ada could analyze it later.
Others in the room stood up, bussed their dishes, and gave another round of thanks to the volunteers.

Once outside, Casey lifted her eyes to the sky. It was clear enough now to see the stars.

And the moon had moved.

That should be enough for Ada to locate me, she thought.
It happened sooner than she expected.

35.4° lattitude, Ada said. Given the terrain and vegetation, this is the North End of Los Padres, near San Luis Obispo.

Three hours from home by bike. Five by transport.
Casey thanked the moon.

It's the stars, actually, Ada said, in the same matter-of-fact, a-little-too-smart way she said everything. I'll teach you how to do it when we get home.

Casey sighed. Sometimes it was hard, having someone a smarter than you inside your own head.
Ada went silent.

As they got closer to the bunk house, Casey took a few more breaths of the mountain air. She dreaded a night in the shared exhalation of 50 other evacuees.
The guard made a show of unlocking the doors and they entered single-file, heading immediately for their cots.

Sweatshirt 1 addressed the group. "You have ten minutes to get organized, then we'll take bio breaks in groups of ten. If you have questions, I'm Wilder."
The family groups went first, broke the "10 people at a time" rule right away, and left the bunk room quieter in their absence.

Wilder stayed with them in the bunk room. Casey assumed Sweatshirt 2 was outside, shepherding strays.
Casey opened the backpack and took out the pouch. Plain canvas, just like the bag. She unzipped it, trying to look like a person who already knew what would be inside.
A bottle of aquatabs, matches, first aid gear, a solar charger.

The basics.

Nothing feminine. Unless you counted the first aid kit. Men never packed a first aid kit.
Casey felt along the interior of the pouch, looking for a hidden pocket, a place to stash a card or a bit of cash.

"Next ten!" Casey stood up, ready to use the bathroom and get a better idea of the camp's layout.

She took the bag with her, even though she hadn't found a toothbrush.

Not that she wanted to use a stranger's toothbrush. She just wanted to feel clean.
They headed downhill to the toilets. It made sense. The place was on septic and you didn't want that kind of thing uphill from you.

The guard was tired. Casey weighed an escape that night versus the risk of being more thoroughly tested tomorrow.
No, it made more sense to stay put. Act as normal as possible.

The mirrors were sheets of heavy duty stainless steel, unbreakable and barely reflective. Casey washed her hands with the process soap, then wet her face, careful to keep the water away from her eyes and mouth.
The walk back up the hill gave her a better view of the camp layout. Six low buildings like the one she slept in. All lit, all with a guard and staff. No cover for two hundred yards beyond the outbuildings.

That was a long way to run.
Casey was a lot of things. But she wasn't fast.
Back in the bunk she inspected the pack. The initials JBI were stitched into the flap.

Can you help? She asked Ada.

I can't get a standard line out. It's all radio here.


If you can get close enough to an electrical outlet…and if they're not on a generator…
Why didn't we train in remote locations? Places without service? Cold rooms? Casey's questions shot across her mindspace.

Whoa, whoa.

Before Ada's words could flash into being, Casey felt herself changing. Her anger, the ready rebellion, it all disappeared.

Instant zen.
I don't. like it. when you. do that. It took all of Casey's will to talk back.
You're going to survive. Ada relaxed her grip, but didn't let Casey speak. Most of the people in this room are going to die. You'll survive.

My family?

They'll live. If you're around to help them.

Ada let the implication sit while she worked through Casey's extremities.
While you've been arguing with me, the couple in the next row figured out that the outlets in the room aren't working. If you can find a non-chalant way to keep your hand on a light, I can get more information.

Human beings don't go around putting their hands on lights.
Casey would have rolled her eyes if she'd had control of her face.
Ada's sigh tingled in her ears.

I'm going to let go now. Finish checking the bag and then get some sleep.

Will you watch out for me?

When you sleep, I sleep. We both need rest.

Casey felt Ada loosen her grip. She looked around. Nobody had noticed. They had their own worries.
Casey unpacked the bag completely, laying out the contents in a grid on her cot. There were useful surprises (face mask, solar array, sewing kit) and less-useful surprises (lip gloss, condoms).

Should I dump this stuff?

Keep it all. Could be good to trade if we're here long.
The interior of the bag revealed little. It was worn and faded, but clean. Someone had patched and mended it over time. They'd had access to scraps that were the same original material as the bag, but the thread was lighter weight, 2-ply nylon instead of 4-ply.
Casey ran her fingers along the insides of the bag, checked the outer seams, the zippers.

To everyone less she was another small brown woman in long, dusty coat, carefully checking her bag, making repairs to previous goods.

Not a killer.

You're not a killer.

Not yet.
Casey repacked the bag and only then took off her jacket and boots, her outer shell, and inner shell.

Like most of the room, she dressed in layers. If you were never sure when you'd leave or when you'd get back, you wore a lot more clothes.

You also carried a lot more supplies.
At 14, Casey got her first period during a geovac. The bunkhouse women pooled supplies for her, but when she got home she begged her mom for the shot.

Was that the first time?

Can you stay out of my memories?

We're sorry. It's hard to know sometimes…what to respond to.
Try not responding. Try giving me the illusion that I have my head to myself. Try to let me be…

Ada was quiet.

…human. Casey finished the sentence herself, then put her shells back on and waited for the lights to go out.
Chapter 2
Casey woke while it was still dark. She shook her watch once, twice.

Good morning, Ada whispered.

What time is it?

6:13 AM, California time. Dawn in 30. Sunrise in an hour.

Casey closed her eyes and listened to her bunkmates, tried listening beyond them to the guards outside.
Just birds.

Her shoulders ached from the curled-up sides of the old cot, but everyone in the room slept on. Casey thought through her options.

Ada was quiet.

Can I go back to sleep? Casey asked.

I'll wake you in twenty.

Ada set a timer, then hummed Casey back to sleep.
The next wakeup was faster, triggered by a surge of cortisol and accompanied by the sounds of others waking around her.

Get in the first bathroom line. Ada instructed her. We can be ready faster.

Casey obliged, pulling on her boots and pack before looking up at the door.
Sweatshir-er-Wilder was at the door, unlocking it from the outside.

Casey gave her an almost smile and got in the quickly-forming line. She looked over Wilder's shoulder into the dawn-lit preserve.
A gravel lot full of transports waited to charge in the rising sun.
The bathroom trip was faster this time. Ada gave her space until they got back outside.

A girl went missing yesterday.

Casey misstepped, kicking up dust before she caught herself.


Right before we got here.

A kid?

No. Young, but not a kid.

Was she…?

Like us? Yes.
The backpack was hers. A girl, but not a child. Someone between 13 and 30 years old, depending on her size, demeanor, how much time she'd spent outside.

Are we going to look for her? Casey asked.

Only if you want to. Ada held Casey's hand, gave her a quick squeeze.
How do we do this? Casey asked. Incapacitate the guards? Hotwire a transport?

Whoa, whoa. Ada shifted in Casey's brain, tamping down on the cascading effects of her limbic response. No fighting. No stealing vehicles. Just get on a transport that won't take you too far from camp.
Casey scanned the gravel lot while she waited in line for a rationpac and a bottle of water.

Will San Luis Obispo do? she asked Ada.

That or Paso Robles. Which way would you have gone, to escape from here? Follow your instincts. Ada replied.
Paso, Casey decided.

It's Harvest. The town will be full of people. Lots of workers. Vacationers.
Onboard the transport Casey took a window seat. She mulled over her mental map of Paso Robles, the quaint downtown, the neat old neighborhoods of Craftsman homes, the big box stores that edged the cliff side of the river.
Her fellow passengers frowned at their phones, taking them out, then shoving them back in their pockets. Impatient to be out of the wild.

I'll get a place when I have some reception, Casey told Ada. Is it okay to use a card? Or should I pay with cash?


Ada. Are you there?

Casey rubbed her ear.

Tapped her wrist.

Still nothing.

Casey let out the breath she'd held.

No Ada, no problem. You lived for 40 years without someone else's voice in your head. You can survive one night in Paso Robles without her.

Casey tried reaching out to her once more, then realized she needed to breathe on her own.
The view outside shifted from scrubby pine to orchard lowlands.

Dusty rows of almond trees, pistachios with branches heavy. A BBQ joint, boarded up.

Casey's mouth watered.

Hello self, this is a good time to eat. She sighed, wondering how much function she'd handed off to Ada.
And bit into one of the rationpacs. It was chewy and sweet, like sawdust held together with smashed dates.

Casey allowed herself three bites and folded up the pack, still hungry.
The orchards turned to vineyards as they neared Paso.
The half-stripped vineyards led to pink stone chateaus. The monstrosities clashed with the dun yellow hills.

In front of one, a 10 ft tall fountain, shaped like a wine glass, shot geysers of purple water into the air.
She kept her fingers crossed for a downtown drop-off. Close to one of those little diners. Or an ice cream shop.

Less than 30 minutes after leaving the camp they rolled into Paso Robles. The first of three transports parked on the main square.
Casey walked to the nearest coffee shop, unsure about whether she should switch on her phone.

She could be tracked to Pass Robles. She'd scanned into the bus. It was how they made sure everyone was out of the camp.
The coffee shop was full. Workers getting ready for a hot day in the fields lined up next to families in last-days-of-summer mode.

They all wanted coffee. Casey wanted to know why her transport had gone so far south. Over 100 miles too far.

And she wanted to find the girl.
Casey felt at the quiet in her head. Poked a bit in the dark corners.
She turned on her phone. It felt too soon to dip into the cash.

I'll just get a cup of coffee, read the paper, and seem like my regular self.

Like I decided to turn an evac into a vacation.
The fires weren't front page news. At least not in here.

Casey sipped her coffee and read quotes from people in Napa. The ones who kept planting new vines, against all sensible advice.

Casey pocketed her phone and people watched, enjoying the residents' farm slang.
Men filled the line. In uniforms of Wrangler jeans, work boots, long sleeves to protect them from the sun. They lined up, paid, filled thermoses of coffee just hotter than the air outside.
Casey turned on her location settings and in a moment was inundated with recommendations for places to stay, to eat, to drink, to spend money.

She flipped through the options without looking closely.

I'm looking for a single bedroom. I don't need kitchen access. Shared bath ok.
She stopped.

No Ada.

You got this, Case. You spent 40 years without Ada. Just read.

She flipped back through the listings, discarding boarding houses and male hosts, places too far north.

The girl. She'd stay on the south side. Casey listened. To herself.
Twenty minutes later she had the promise of a clean room within walking distance of downtown. Just one problem: she needed a bag. Something that would make her look like a vacationer.

And then Casey remembered that she already had a bag.
She had no idea what trackers were embedded in the bag or equipment inside.

Casey sighed. There was already plenty of data tying her to the bag. They'd recorded her exit transport, she'd bought a coffee and signed into the coffeeshop network, and now the room payment, too
The hunger she'd felt in the van was gone.
But this was a chance to eat.

Casey ordered breakfast from her table and ate the egg sandwich like a robot. If robots ate egg sandwiches. Which they don't. Unless you wanted a robot to pretend it was a person. Eating would be a good trick.

Casey's mind ran away with itself.
She shook off the patter, her brain's attempt to make up for a missing companion.

I'm like one of those little old ladies talking to her cats, Casey thought, pulling on her pack. Except I don't have a cat. I don't have anyone…

She ran though the lists she'd been drilled on.

People were the easiest target. Men, actually. Single men. Men in unhappy marriages. Men with poor social skills.

Casey could turn them, even without Ada's help.
She walked west through downtown, walking quickly to get out of the morning sun.

In Fern Canyon, the neighborhood was a mix of centuries old wooden houses and newer ranches. Part of the rebuild after the fires in the 20's.
Her rental was a new Craftsman pretending to be old. A red front door and a rock garden out front. It should have been shaded by a live oak. But none of them had survived the drought. The fires.

Instead, eucalyptus saplings grew in untended groves.
The owner opened the door before Casey could ring the bell. Taller than Casey, Tanner. And thin like the vines in the fields, she smiled and shoved a small barking dog behind her.

"You must be Cesaria," pronouncing it like a cross between Little Caesar's pizza and diarrhea.
"Casey, please." She held out her hand and put on her best smile, trying to look ungrimy

Think fresh. Clean. Like you packed a tube of toothpaste.

The woman responded in the way Casey's size and youth was intended. She tutted, scooting Casey inside the house.
(story break: this is *another* fire day. closet to our house this time. lots of choppers in the air, which is good for atmosphere and othwlerwise just bad)
"You little thing! Are you out here on your own?" The dog was quiet as it sniffed at Casey.

Casey swallowed. She hadn't come up with a cover story.

"I'm going to meet some friends at the tasting rooms downtown tonight. You know, one of those girls weekend things…" Casey felt
her throat closing in panic. The story wouldn't work. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

"A girls' weekend? I do hope you're aware that guests are not permitted here." The woman had crossed her arms, was leaning back in disbelief.

The little dog continued to sniff.

"Oh, that's exactly why I
wanted to stay here! They like to stay up late and I'm an early bird. If we all roomed together we wouldn't be friends for much longer."

Casey waved toward the clock on the wall, as though the early hour was backup for her lie.

"It wasn't completely a lie."

Casey's mouth
dropped open as Ada's voice hummed into her head.

"Sweetie, are you alright?"

"Oh, um, your dog gave me a little lick. I don't have any pets, so I was a bit surprised, that's all." Casey looked down at the dog. 8 inches at the shoulder, with an underbite that gave it a look of
crumudgeonly menace. "You're such a friendly sweetie aren't you?"

Casey mimicked the woman's speech, stretched it, added a bit of Casey, but made them part of the same group.

And the woman smiled. "That's my Billy! He loves the ladies. But bring a man around here and he'll
bark his little gosh-darn head off." It was a brag and a warning all in one.

Casey nodded to show she understood, all the while questions to Ada raced across her mind.

But Ada was silent.

Casey shrugged the weight of the backpack from one shoulder to the other, reminding her
host that she was a paying guest, with a bag.
The woman got the hint. "Why don't I show you your room, then you can make yourself comfortable."

Casey gave her a smile, wondering how she could take a shower immediately upon arrival without seeming suspicious.

"Go for a walk." Ada said, as though she'd been away for moments
rather than an hour.

"I'd love to drop off my things and then go for a walk around the neighborhood. I'm sure you'd like some time to get started with your day…" Casey trailed off.
"Oh, you're not bothering me!" the woman replied. "I take my coffee, then Billy and I go around the block, then it's time for my students."

Her name is Jennifer. Ada said, just above a whisper.

Who are these students she's taking about? Casey hissed back.

Don't worry,
it's a virschool. I ran a background check.

Casey snapped back to the conversation. Jennifer was explaining which dresser knobs were sticking and pointing out the towels, worn and faded.

With Ada's return, all Casey wanted to do was get to latest info on the escapee.
She needed Jennifer gone.
"I'm feeling a little grimy from the trip down. Mine if I take a quick shower before meeting up with my friends?" Casey did her best to look travel-worn, which wasn't hard after spending a night in a cot.

"Oh!" Jennifer said, finally realizing that Casey hadn't seen the room.
They walked up a narrow flight of stairs that had been a late addition to the house, Casey following Jennifer and the dog following Casey.
The dog might be a problem. Ada whispered.

The dog likes me, Casey replied. And I like dogs. You just don't understand them.

And you do?

I understand why we need dogs, Casey replied. Any person who's ever had a dog knows that.

And I don't?
Ada's question hung in Casey's mind as she entered the low-ceilinged room. It was painted the deep orange-pink of a drift sunset. Furnished with flea market finds and decorated with fluffy quilts.

Already the air was warm. It would be brutal by the afternoon.
Jennifer walked to the window and flipped on a converter.

"You can't see it from the front, but I've got full solar on this place. Western exposure, so it's not so good in the morning, but it'll be nice and cool all afternoon."
Casey set her bag on the floor and started taking off her boots. It would feel good to be barefoot, to dig her toes into the plush rug. And maybe Jennifer would get the hint.

But her host was already in the bathroom, offering pointers on how to use the shower.
"It's a Gray-X, 2nd gen. So depending on the overnight temps and whether or not I ran a load of laundry you'll get about six minutes of hot water."

Casey peeked into the tiny bathroom where her host was demonstrating just how to jiggle each handle to get it working.
"And you'll want to use this for drinking and toothbrushing." Jennifer's hands fluttered over a ceramic faucet, cream with blue flowers, it cooled a small jug of precious fresh water. "The next delivery is in two days."

"Oh, I can make it last." Casey assured her with a grin.
The shower could be 18% more efficient, Ada chimed in. We just need a wrench and access to the control panel.

Casey grinned harder, her focus on Jennifer. Stop talking. Just, stop. She's suspicious already.

She's not suspicious. Just back up slowly and ask if you can shower now
Casey followed Ada's orders.

After walking her through a few more peculiarities of the rental, Jennifer creaked back down the stairs, calling her fluffball of a dog away from the interesting new smells attached to Casey and her pack.
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1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

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