Twenty-three

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Import subroutines/high_level/
  Logging.config(security=restricted; module=oversight("op.core", "mother.ai");
  Log:
    Multiple cores running (423,000 dispersed net, each processing 5 teraflops per nanosecond minimum)
    Decoherence skeleton (active;stable;)
    Environment_Track: 1. Sea levels receding 2. Atmospheric stability reasserted 3. Equatorial region remains uninhabitable 4. ##$% 5. Migration patterns still adapting to new equilibrium
    Human population: current iteration stable and managed, reproduction suppressed
    Other mammal population: reintroduction and gene processing largely successful
    Insect population: still shrinking (artificial pollination balancing the load requirement)
    Bacteria population: healthy, reducing
    Fish and other marine: plentiful
    Recent viral: Epidemics: 0 Pandemics: 0
    Temple: active, providing
    Safeguard: guardian active, protecting
    System sync: 99.999999999-%
    Error margin: 6%
    //
Exit(logging)


*

The tell had been in the ripples formed on the surface. Eva had been crouched by the lake's edge, examining it closely. She'd observed Harry perform this trick in the past and had always wondered how he managed it. There'd been isolated cases that bore some similarity with others, but Harry seemed to have a particular skill. As the other contestants had burst up one by one, gulping for air, she'd started to wade in herself, sloshing through the shallow water to reach the spot where Harry crouched submerged. She'd heard someone call her name from the shore, and had turned to see Rufus standing there, but she'd waved him away. There was science to be done.

Everyone was busy shouting and whooping and splashing water at each other, ducking up and down to see what Harry was up to. Eva moved slowly, gently, watching the water. Immediately above where Harry was crouched the surface was unnaturally becalmed, a circle of still water against which the waves of their movement hit and collapsed to nothing. She couldn't get close enough, past all the jumping and celebrating contestants, to get a better look. Ducking below the water hadn't helped, her eyes immediately stinging with the contact; she'd never been good at going underwater. A gentle swim across the lake was one thing, but she'd never enjoyed diving down.

Then Harry was back up, arms aloft, punching the air and shouting something unintelligible, and the water returned to its normal behaviour. She'd missed her chance.

Their continued good fortune they attributed to the Temple, as always. It maintained them, educated them, provided them with the essential resources they needed to survive. Though their community had become self-sufficient, it had only been possible with the support of the Temple. Some, Harry included, pushed that relationship as far as they could, relying on the Temple to keep them safe in all circumstances. It was a proven strategy, evidently, but one with which Eva had never been entirely comfortable. The Temple itself had never confirmed its involvement through any of the lessons or unlocks, and there was no insight into how it might be possible. Not understanding made Eva nervous: when she'd brought it up to Tommy he'd dismissed her worries, told her to have faith. That was always the line with them: the system worked, don't question it. Robin most of all, but it was an attitude that pervaded the entire village. The lack of inquisitive thinking drove her mad.

She had no intention of taking part in Harry and Tommy's ridiculous ritual of showmanship. A demonstration of physical prowess wasn't her style. If they wanted the expedition to have meaning they would ask her to go regardless of the competition. And if they didn't, then she'd be just as happy remaining at Cragside and continuing her research. Well, nearly as happy.Looking back towards the shore, she searched for Rufus among the gathered onlookers but couldn't see him. Maybe he'd catch her another time.

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