Written in part to prompts from Wyste and Lilfluff, clearly not finished.
“And when you turn twenty,” Thomas whispered, “the Testers come and they take you away. And if you’re very very lucky, they take you to a good place, and if you’re not, they take you to a bad place.”
The younger children shivered. Kelly was supposed to be watching them tonight, but she was letting Thomas tell his stories, even if they weren’t at all helpful.
She’d be twenty tomorrow. She remembered when they’d taken Aaron. And before Aaron, Jennifer, and before Jennifer, Keisha and Min and Lad and Petyr.
Sometimes they brought someone, too. The elevator would come down slowly with a small baby inside, and two of the older kids would say “this is our baby,” and that would be their child to raise and teach, feed and clothe and everything else.
“They”, “the Testers”, “the grown-ups.” They said things like that, but none of them had ever seen an adult. Their teaching videos had voices and pictures but no people; the Testers demands came with a small robot, like the ones they used to help them farm the hydrofarms; the Tests themselves came on the screens. Once every five years, untl the one at Twenty meant that, no matter what, you had to go away.
Kelly had been born down here, like two of her three kids had been born down here. She was pretty sure her mothers had been born down here too. Children and young adults lived here, in The Burrow. Right now, there were one hundred and seven of them, but Vittoria was pregnant and due to have her second baby any minute now.
What would they do when Kelly was gone? Bian had been training to take over her duties as midwife and nurse, but Bian was nearly fifteen, and she tended to get distracted easily. Reyansh had been their medic and midwife before, but he’d been gone for almost a year – although the little baby that had come down just last week had looked a lot like him. They’d named the baby after the maybe-father, and, although they weren’t supposed to, Kelly had put some medical toys in his cradle.
Her baby-partner Yasin would take over the children when she was gone. She was pretty sure that he would partner up with Terentiy, who had been partnered with Jennifer.
She stood up. Thomas was still telling his campfire stories over their digitally-generated fire. He was good at it. The kids were always a little shivery but almost never actually frightened.
She kissed Erin’s head. She was old enough for the stories, and Kelly wouldn’t take her away from that. But Elisaie was only three, and Balu was two, and she could indulge herself in cuddling them for a while.
And then what?