Chapter 15

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I return to the Kawitzen village ahead of the others and ignore all lines of inquiry, making a beeline for Amelia's tent. I don't even knock or announce my entrance; my plan is to be at sea by the time Father wakes up.

Amelia is reading by lamplight. Behind me, a growing cluster of villagers await news of the mission.

"It's done," I tell her. "Their leader is dead. The League is disbanded. We let the survivors go but we took all their weapons."

She puts down her book and stands up. "Where are the others?" she asks, her concern written on her face.

"On their way. They had to scour the campus for weapons and find a working vehicle."

"Did we suffer any casualties?"

I bow my head, knowing those behind me are listening. "Cale and Jen."

There are a couple of sobs amongst the villagers, but to Amelia's credit, she accepts the news with poise befitting a leader.

A time to mourn, I think.

"And...your father?"

"He's fine, just...indisposed. We had a disagreement so he's sleeping it off."

"Oh." She seems like she wants to say something else, but the words die in the air between us. Truth be told, I'm not in the mood to grant Father any favours, so I figure he can stand to miss out on a goodbye. It's not like he's hurting for girlfriends; he's got one in every settlement.

I used to wonder, sometimes, if I had any siblings I never knew about. Now my entire lineage is in question.

The crowd behind me disperses to a mixture of sorrow and relief, and I suddenly want nothing more than to be off this damned island. It's brought me nothing but angst and questions. As the Kawitzen survivors line up to shake my hand and thank me for my help, I can see a fresh row of graves off near the tree line. They dug enough for the League's dead as well as their own. Instead of a headstone, each grave bears a sapling as a marker.

A time to reap, and a time to sow...

As the tears come, I realize that I won't be leaving until tomorrow morning. There has to be a reason for all the killing.

Father needs time to share his findings on the Doom's cure.

***

The Doom was a reset button.

Some, like Father, choose to collect the knowledge and relics of the pre-Doom world. They are our legacy as much as they are a reminder of our mistakes.

Some, like Novamerica and the League, seek a return to a past that never was: an idyllic promised land, the American Dream as it existed only in our minds. Capitalism without consequence.

Amelia and the Kawitzen see a third way. They envision a fresh start, a chance to return to the Palaeolithic days of hunter-gathering and small-scale farming. Their societal restructuring goes right down to belief. No haphazard and organic process this time; they are even building their own religion from the ground up, deliberately.

You can't make me believe in something so transparently made-up, but damn me if I don't still find it beautiful.

There are two stages to a Kawitzen funeral: mourning and celebration. Mourning is the burial, which is solemn and sacred, as friends and family place items of significance into the graves. Even the League dead are given gifts. I watch Father, who appears as little more than a gangly shadow behind Amelia, and can only imagine his inner turmoil at watching so many useful items get buried until the next plucky archaeologist comes along, thousands of years down the line.

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