Nineteen

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Import logging  Logging.config(security=ultra; module=core("op.parameters", "safeguards");)  Log:    Analysis sources: academic essays, medical records, social observations, parental reports, psychological examinations and surveys, neuroscience insight—...more...
    Childhood amnesia critical factor in establishing suitable threshold. Memory formation begins at approximately age 2-3 but does not fully engage in an adult form until age 7-8. This will be useful in calculating where to create the cull. Inherited bias (99% long form trace match) will not be an influencer on humans that have not reached the end of the amnesiac period.
    Note: theories concerning explicit and implicit memory packets may prove to be problematic in efficiency of calculations. This will not be evident until the Clean Slate programme has been enacted: subsequent analysis to be continued as data becomes available. Pivots to be determined as required.
  Exit(logging)

*

It had happened again. Robin wandered the village, yurt to yurt, even checking behind them and round the back of the toilet sheds. Harry was nowhere to be seen. It was selfish of Harry to keep wandering off without him - Robin wouldn't have minded if Harry told him where he was going, ahead of time. Being kept in the loop wasn't too much to ask, surely? Instead he was left floundering, drifting around Cragside like a lost wolf pup. It was embarrassing.

Whenever Harry got like this - and it had happened before - it was always because he'd latched on to somebody who intrigued him. Someone would catch his attention and he'd make them his mission. Eventually he always came back to Robin, so it was a matter of patience more than anything else, but it still rankled. For a while Robin had hoped that Harry had exhausted all of his options: there were only so many people in Cragside, and there was a percentage of those that Harry could experiment with before it all got too awkward. Not that awkward every bothered Harry. He made his own rules.

Then Tilda got her hooks into him: the most unlikely person imaginable, someone Harry had never even looked twice at until that year, suddenly becoming his sole focus. Harry had the same look in his eye when he was hunting a person as he did when he was hunting for food. He knew what he wanted, and he was going to get it. Robin used to admire it but as he got older it became less of an admirable trait and more...complicated.

Robin didn't like complicated. He lived for a world of certainty and stability, in which the Temple kept them watered and fed, the crops grew in time for each harvest, the community stayed happy and the sun rose and set each day. It was the way of things. The days cycled round, longer in the summer and shorter in the winter, repeating endlessly. That was life. That was Cragside. He knew his place, as did everyone, and it worked.

Perhaps this time he should try something different. Nothing too ambitious, but a small effort to change his routine. He always waited for Harry - he'd spent his life waiting for Harry, one way or another - but this time he would forge his own path. Decide his own destiny! Prove to everyone, or at least himself, that he didn't rely on Harry for everything.

And so, Robin decided to go and choose his lunch by himself.

The kitchen was already full from the morning's collections, piled high with lettuces and carrots and potatoes and all sorts of other fruit and vegetables. A stack of loaves of bread were off to one side, cooling from the stone oven, their gorgeous smell infusing the air with a fresh deliciousness. There was even a roasted chicken that someone had already sliced up. He loaded his plate, pondering idly what he'd do with his afternoon. Perhaps he'd try writing something, like Rufus. Or he could go for a swim, or sing some songs with the younger kids.

Thinking of all the options was oddly exhilarating, to the point that it was almost impossible to make a decision.

That was always his problem: an inability to decide, which is why he too often left it to others. He'd do whatever Harry asked, carrying his stuff halfway up the hill, even though Harry would get all the glory from anything they brought back. He'd follow Tommy's rules to the letter, recognising that it was best for Cragside, and thus best for him.

One thing at a time, but perhaps he'd try doing more for himself. Not in a selfish manner, of course, but through an effort to be braver, bolder and more independent. Harry would approve anyway, so it was a positive move no matter how he looked at it. Being his own person didn't mean that he couldn't be friends still with Harry, after all. But he might even forge new friendships.

He sat on the end of one of the logs around the fire pit, chewing at his meal, enjoying the freshness of the air and the twittering and squawks of birds overhead. It was slightly later in the day than most people took their lunch, which meant there were only a couple of others there, sat apart from him. Everyone else was out on the fields, or down by the lake. As a result, Robin was the first to notice Tommy walking slowly down the main path of the village, his steps awkward and staggered, as if he was about to fall over.

Setting his plate aside, Robin stood and moved towards Tommy. As he got closer he could see that Tommy's face was muddied and raw, as if he'd been whipped by tree branches while running through the forest. It had happened enough times to Robin for him to recognise the thin, red streaks. Tommy's face was oddly bloated and expressionless, as if it were hanging loose from his skull.

"Are you alright, Tommy?"

Halting, Tommy stared at the ground for several seconds, then took a deep breath and raised his eyes to meet Robin's. He couldn't tell if Tommy was angry or upset. He looked towards Robin, holding his gaze, while chewing on his lower lip. Glancing off to the side, then up at the trees covering the steep hills, he sighed and took another deep breath, as if making a decision.

"Harry's dead, Robin."

The moment hung, pregnant, unwilling to give birth to the next.

"Don't be silly," Robin said, smiling stupidly.

"He's dead." Tommy pushed Robin aside and continued walking towards the fire pit.

Rooted, nonplussed, Robin tried to formulate coherent thoughts. He only vaguely understood the term dead. Animals died, of course. Plants died. Humans didn't die.


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