On day 373 since his kidnapping, Seth found himself once again aimlessly pacing the caves. He really ought to –
“Hey, Seth, right?” A tiny woman – he was pretty sure she was the cook – flagged him down. “Can you give me a hand with this? We just liberated a shipment of rice and stuff.”
“Sure. Lead me to it.” Sitting around waiting wouldn’t do anything but drive him nuts.
“You look stressed.” She led him to the truck, backed up into the mouth of the main cave. “I mean, more than everyone here does.” Being part of a slave rebellion, as quiet and polite as this one was, wasn’t exactly relaxing.
Seth shrugged it off. “It’s nothing.” He looked away, using the bags of rice as an excuse. “Ooof.” He hauled one to his shoulder. “Are you sure these aren’t lead?”
“Hopefully. Is it too much?” She picked up a small crate labelled “spinach.”
“Of course not.” He’d lost a lot of weight and muscle in the last year, but he could still carry around some grain. “I’m fine.”
“You said that already.” She hip-bumped him gently. “You can tell me. I’m practically the bartender.”
Seth took a moment to rearrange his load of rice. “Look. I had, you know, an owner, I guess?”
“Usually slaves do,” she agreed gently.
“Yeah, well, American. I’m not made for this shit. So my former ‘owner,’ he’s getting way too close. They’ve actually sighted his, uh, overseer guy in the hills a couple times.” He shrugged. The rice was sitting funny, so he shifted it again. These people, native Californians and Americans who’d gone native, they had no reason to help him. He didn’t belong here. “He’s going to find me.”
“Take it you don’t like him?”
“I-” Seth closed his mouth. People here, they didn’t think being a slave was wrong. “Yeah. I didn’t like him.” Damnit. She didn’t need to know the gory details.
“It happens like that sometimes. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to own slaves.” Her hand settled on his arm, just for a moment. “We’ll fix it. That’s why we’re here.”
Seth smiled, allowing himself to relax for a moment. “Thanks.” They couldn’t, but it was nice to say.
“Hey kid.” A Californian guy a foot shorter than Seth patted his other shoulder in passing. “You’re off the hook.”
Seth stared at the guy as he walked away. After a moment, he noticed the cook was staring, too. “What-“
“At a guess…” Her voice choked up. Seth wanted to hug her, but his arms were full of rice. “…He just put himself on the hook.”
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