“If the stream dries up, we’ll move down to the river. My main worry is the Helios trapped here. I suspect they’ll be moving to the river as well.” Xen frowned to the northwest. "Or they may have reliable year round water. But I'm going to take a look at the river upstream. And hunt."
Rael eyed him. “May I come?”
Yes! Or oh, no! Or . . .
Snickers from the other guys.
Xen glared. Rael giggled.
“Certainly.” Xen tried for casual, knew he was failing.
Jiol smiled. “It’s so fun to watch you try to not melt in Rael’s presence. When we get back we need to try harder to recruit her.”
Xen finished his scrambled pheasant eggs and tossed a moderate selection of food in his pack and headed north. Rael at his side.
“Sorry. I . . . didn’t mean to, umm . . .”
Xen just shook his head. “I think it’s pretty obvious that I utterly adore you.”
“Really? I think you’re trying to resist me. Why?” She trotted to keep up with his longer stride.
“The joy juice’s fertility effects linger for about three months.”
Rael stopped . . . then caught up again.
“Yes. And . . . I’m almost sure I can deal with the fertility effect . . . except I’ve got the assembler as well, and that stuff is just flat scary, some of the things it does.” Xen veered over to a copse of young trees. “This is far enough. Let me throw a corridor.”
Pull power. A good hard throw. He anchored the corridor and stepped through. A hundred miles. Good. Got that back. He pulled this end over to the trees lining another gully, and attached it.
Rael stepped through. Looked around, glanced sunward. "Right. That way's north, right?"
Xen grinned. "Correct. In theory it would be more logical to turn the opening around the other direction, but then you walk into a bunch of trees."
He turned and walked along the edge of the forest. Caught another bubble and threw it. Another hundred miles, and halfway up a rocky hill.
He pinned it to a rock outcrop and headed up the hill.
Rael trotted after him.
Be strong Xen. Instead of being an idiot around her.
A warm hand on his arm, and he was turning around scooping her up and kissing her. Glowing at her. Resistance melting.
She pulled back and stared him in the eye. “Xen. I know I was drunk when I said that. But I’ve wanted a baby for years, I just keep chickening out. I’m, I’m . . . Xen. May I have your baby?”
“Yes. But I think we should wait at least another month and make sure that nasty stuff is absolutely totally out of our systems. And what if I can’t get us home for another year? I can imagine the reaction as I escort you home, babe in arms . . .”
Rael giggled. “Ooo! What my parents would have to say . . . umm, Xen the Medgician? How much experience do you have in delivering babies?”
“Counting foals, calves, lambs and puppies?”
“None. But I have observed, tagging along with my mother and Ask when I was quite young.”
“Oh. One. Right. We wait until the joy juice has worn off, the shemofazing is gone, and . . . I get my anti-ovulation spells going again.” She thumped her forehead on his chest. “Dammit.”
Until I’m sure your tenuous desire to have a baby won’t be a horrible disaster you will regret. So put her down and get to work!
"So the mountains are higher and still have some snow." He forced himself to put her down and get his mind back on work.
"That doesn't look like enough to last through the summer and into fall. Not that I have the faintest idea about when the rainy season is, here." Rael looked around. "And down there we have . . . buffalo?"
"Some sort of bovine. Beef sounds good, doesn't it? We'll have to pick some up on the way home. And watch out for the local lions, or whatever they are."
/// Must extend this. Not sure romance should be blocked by mere logic.
/// Check snowpack
/// Bison stampede
/// Corridor to guards to demonstrate butchering and cooking—wistful comments about their wives and children—sketch diagram of underground facilities, including family quarters.
Rael wrinkled her nose. "They house you all underground? Why not in the city? I mean, they let you out, right?"
Blank stares. "No. Once you are chosen, you are apart from the . . ." an expression of strain, "normal population."
Rael looked over at Xen. "You are planning on wrecking this civilization, aren't you?"
"Umm, I'm not supposed to do things like that. Nudging the opposition is the most I can do." Xen squirmed at her skeptical expression. "Well, helping a few families move wouldn't actually constitute a hostile action. And damaging the power supply to this facility . . . And the vaccine manufacturers . . ."
Rael giggled. "Oooo! Subtle!"
Xen grinned back. "I hope. And . . . AnnaKarina and Jaejong may just . . . interest some other people. Could be interesting."