Gritta waits by her handcart for her customer to arrive. It's a quiet, moonlit night, and the mosquitoes are feasting.
Gritta is a subsistence farmer who's found a market in selling produce to the local bootlegger, who bypasses the company store, taking a somewhat smaller, but still substantial profit.
Gritta's older son changed over two years ago, and she's been giving him transfer monthly since. Nobody thinks he's other than a child or a Gen, and one reason she has a surplus to sell is the amount of work a Sime can do.
Spartacus is the son in question, and is recovering from pulling the cart here single-handed.
Juniper leads his elderly donkey and equally elderly sledge through the woods towards the meeting point. He's visited his still already, and has a couple of kegs of moonshine already packed under the blanket.
Gritta: That him, Spart?
Juniper spots his suppliers in the clearing ahead.
Juniper: Halloo, there!
Gritta: Yeah, it's us again.
Juniper: I hope you have a full cart. Business has been very, very good.
Juniper reeks of ~~ satisfaction ~~. Also mash. And a few samples he took for quality control.
Gritta: Well, we got what we got. Beets, carrots, knob onions, some of them early yellow apples. Zucchini, of course. Too early for tomatoes, give 'em another week or two. A couple cabbages, more in a few weeks. Spart, show the man what we got.
Juniper inspects the merchandise closely.
Gritta: Bringing you the same stuff we eat ourselves.
Juniper: Better quality than last week, I'll give you that much.
Gritta: Season's more advanced every week.
Gritta doesn't think the man can see much in this light, and by the smell he's had a few. So this is just talk.
Juniper: Business has been good. Really good. I'll take the lot. And can you bring more next time?
Gritta: I'll bring what I can. It's not like I can make stuff grow overnight.
Juniper: I mean it, Gritta. Things is changing in town. There's money to be had. If you can get your hands on some dry goods, I'll take those off your hands, too.
Gritta: Yeah? What happened? They find diamonds in the mine?
Spartacus: Naw, Ma, can't be diamonds, or the folks 'ud be broker than ever.
Gritta: And where the hell am I going to get dry goods? I have to buy stuff like that myself.
Juniper: We got a visitor in town.
Gritta: A visitor?
Juniper: A furriner.
Gritta: You're all furriners. My family's been here since before they opened the mine.
Juniper: Two of them. All the way from Simeland.
Gritta: Coleman must really be getting desperate if he's trying to get miners from Simeland. He should treat the ones he's got better.
Gritta is not going to make any comment about how much harder and longer a Sime can work.
Spartacus: Besides, who'd go down the mine with a Sime next to him?
Spartacus snickers internally at this remark, but doesn't let it show.
Juniper: They're not miners. They're government folks, over there. They're trying to find something.
Gritta: Huh. So what's with the money? Paying people to look for it? What are they looking for anyway?
Juniper: I haven't got that part straight. Something about some Sime criminals who might be in the area.
Gritta: If there was Simes around, you'd think people would notice.
Spartacus: "Hey Jobob, any of your family been kilt today?"
Juniper: Yeah. But they've got money. And they'll give some to anyone who'll let them... take their stuff.
Gritta: Huh. So that story's real then? They can take stuff? And they'll pay for it?
Juniper: Yup. I wouldn't have thought anyone would take that kind of chance, but there's a bunch of desperate folks who want out of debt.
Gritta: And they're buying your booze and my vegetables with the money, hey?
Juniper: Uh-huh. Since the Sime got put in the house next door, they have to come through my crawlspace if they don't want to be seen.
Gritta: Coleman giving them a hard time, is he? He would.
Juniper: He's no dummy. He knows what's gonna happen if the miners get that kind of money regularly.
Spartacus: Yup. His little setup goes all to blazes, that's what.
Gritta: But those Simes are just visiting, so it will go back to the same old soon enough.
Juniper: Not quite. A couple families have already bought themselves out of debt and left.
Gritta: Well, if there's all that money flying around now, I think you can pay me a bit more than usual for what I've brought here.
Gritta gestures to the cart.
Gritta: Come on, Spart, let's get the stuff unloaded.
Spartacus holds up his hand.
Spartacus: Wait a minute. He hasn't agreed to the new prices yet.
Gritta: He will. Where else is he going to get stuff like this? Right, Juniper?
Juniper: I'm willing to pass some of the wealth on to you, as long as you don't get too greedy. And if you have more for me next time.
Gritta: Like I said, I'll bring what I can. I can't make it grow any faster.
Spartacus begins to unload the cart, being careful not to show his unnatural strength, speed, or endurance.
Juniper counts out the normal payment, and a reasonable bit more.
Gritta: Good. See you next week, then.
Gritta tucks the money away and helps her son finish the unloading.
Juniper: I'll be here.
Juniper carefully covers his load with blankets, making sure that the only shapes to be seen are those of the kegs. He relies on the guards' self-interest to neglect what they assume is only a fresh load of moonshine.
Gritta and her son maneuver the cart around and trundle it away.
Juniper heads back to town, whistling.
Gritta: Out of his earshot here, I think, hey?
Spartacus: Yeah, Maw. You don't think he's getting any ideas, do ya? We never talked about Simes before.
Gritta: I don't think he notices much. But I'm thinking about that Sime that takes stuff from people. Must be one of those channel guys.
Gritta: What I'm really thinking about is your brother. If he goes Sime I don't know if I can feed the both of you. Probably not.
Spartacus: Not unless he times it perfect-like, and who can count on that?
Gritta: He'll be twelve this fall. We have to do something, but I don't know what. Move to Simeland?
Spartacus: I guess we could, although I betcha they would try to separate us.
Gritta: They can't take a son from his mother. But maybe you'd have to get a channel to feed you instead of me.
Spartacus: 'Swhat I meant, Maw. I don't reckon I could give you up for just anybody.
Gritta: Even for your brother?
Spartacus: Mmm, don't know. That 'ud be tough too.
Gritta: Well, I want both of you alive and working, and I sure don't want either of you to kill me. I better go talk to that Sime before he leaves.
Spartacus: Huh. I think I better go with you, then. And maybe Del, too.
Gritta: I don't know. I don't want to risk anybody in town finding out about you and your tentacles. I suppose I could take Del. Maybe a channel can tell if he's going to go Sime.
Spartacus: Maybe so. I sure can't. But I'm not so sure it's safe for you to go up against this guy. He's got nothing to lose, and you -- all of us -- have everything to lose.
Gritta: He can't do anything to me. He's not even a citizen here, for one thing.
Spartacus: Citizen, maybe; law-abiding, not so much. There's a reason we do all this stuff by night.
Gritta: But you know if anything happens to me you've got to get to Simeland before you need to be fed again. And take your brother.
Spartacus: No!! I mean, I'll go, but don't talk like that!
Spartacus feels a deep fear at the mere idea of losing his mother.
Gritta: You're a good boy, Spart. I know you'll do the right thing. And we aren't breaking any laws. Just getting around some of that jerk Coleman's greed.
Gritta: Although if we're going to have to move to Simeland, we'll need more money. Maybe we should collect some hemp leaves and sell them to Juniper. He's always asking for them.
Spartacus: 'Twouldn't do him any good; it 'ud be a one time sale.
Gritta: If he's willing to buy it, that's not my problem. It's just another weed in the field for me.
Gritta: It's not too late to plant some more cabbage and root crops for the fall. I wonder if Juniper will still want to buy more stuff by then?