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“Oh, not that again,” says Damian. “We’ve been over that a hundred times, what did he expect us to do?”

“Nothing, but you can’t blame him. It’s even harder on him, you know that,” says Sarah.

“I know, but taking it out on us doesn’t help anything,” as he bemoans their disappointing circumstances.

“He’s just a child, Damian, and it’s not fair to him and he has to express it somehow. He doesn’t mean it, leave him alone for a while. I talked to him earlier about it.”

Damian then pulls out a chair and wearily sits down beside his wife. “I don’t know, I just don’t know. We’ve got it a lot better than others. What else could we have done?”

Sarah gets up from the table and begins filling a plate for herself and her husband of over twenty years. They had met at a summer picnic held by the company that Damian had worked for at the time. She had come with a friend who also worked there. Sharing in games and laughter for the afternoon had led to a romance, a marriage, and then a life together. So much promise, so much planning had given way to sorrow and simple surviving as the world had come crashing down around them. Christopher was born after five years of marriage and, although wanting another child, they like so many others had forgone the possibility. The idea of one more mouth to feed is a hurdle that not many are willing to jump over anymore.

“Maybe we could have one of Christopher’s friends stay over tomorrow night,” suggests Damian as a possible improvement to their situation.

“He hasn’t wanted to spend time with any of them lately,” says Sarah. “There’s only two boys his age here and he doesn’t really get along with them. Don’t worry, he’ll be okay.”

“But he knows that if we had stayed below, there is a chance that we wouldn’t have any food now. From what I hear, things are only getting worse down there. And Johnston said the other day that he heard several Sectors were expelling less desirable members to cut down on the number of people they had to feed. That could have been us,” says Damian.

“I know that and you know that, but it doesn’t make the day to day existence for Christopher any easier. He wants more out of life and I can’t blame him. I’m getting a little tired of the whole thing myself,” she says. Placing the food on the table, Sarah sits down beside her husband.

At the time of the Schneider family’s move into the Grouping, the breakdown of governments and of social order had created particularly perilous scenarios for those without means or reserves. Very few could afford to pay the extremely high prices required to obtain food supplies and often, even with money, there were none available. Production had been dominated by those with wealth and influence. Large, global corporations had merged and united in attempts to control food supplies, water sources, and any other worthwhile resource.