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Machine Gun Fairies, IV

Machine Gun Fairies, Part IV (part I, part II, part III)


---IV

Rowan and Bitty introduced each other to their various contacts in the new underground of the Changed. Most of Rowan's friends were people she knew from Pagan circles, and many of them had ended up in elven or dwarven form, with the occasional giant, gnome or werewolf thrown in (not really a werewolf, even, they couldn't change back, but they weren't fully lupine.) Most of Bitty's were, well, cats. Polydactyl, sarcastic, sentient cats with a few fairies, elves and trolls as a leavening.

The days soon settled into a routine, with the two of them hunting and scavenging as a pair. The official government presence in the city grew thinner and less visible, trash piled up, and more and more of the poorer neighborhoods seemed to be ruled by gangs of the changed. The corporate owned stores catered only to the un-Changed - the "pure" as they came to be called, and actively discouraged the changed from entry.

The Pure did not take the reduction in their numbers lying down. Many, having seen their family and friends start to change, started killing any changeling that they saw. The authorities did nothing about it, or even sanctioned and supported it.

Even in the beginning, when the changed were "wanted for study" and recruitment into the governments programs, it turned out that some who were thought to have "died from the change" were actually killed by family, coworkers, or supposed friends trying to "spare them the humiliation" or something. If a person died from blunt force trauma in the midst of the change, it was assumed that it was a "self inflicted" spasm. Bitty knew several people who literally had to escape their own families to survive. Most of Rowan's Pagan friends didn't have the problem, since if they had non-magical families, they were often already estranged from them.

Now the Pure were getting more bold, or desperate. Rowan had to dodge one squad of what looked like off-duty police and military reservists armed with machine guns going through the streets looking for "freaks". She had never been one for tree climbing pre-change, but the area she was in had a couple very tall trees, so she stashed her cart and climbed. It was surprisingly easy for her. Bitty perched on a lower branch, just to avoid flying bullets.

When Rowan got to the highest branch that would support her, she grabbed her bow (a nice fiberglass composite that she scored in a garage raid) and nocked an arrow. She hoped that they wouldn't look up. While her arrows always found their mark due to her magic now, she didn't have enough to out-shoot machine guns. Fortunately, they didn't. What they did do was shoot anyone who looked like they might be changed, or changing.

They left the bodies, of course. The smell of blood and death would draw the scavengers, normal and changed.

After they were gone, Rowan and Bitty came down the tree. "Bitty, can you grab my bag from the bike? I want to grab some of this brass. They didn't have catchers, so their loss is my gain."

"Oh, how hardened you've become now." Bitty said as she dragged the fabric bag over to where Rowan was picking up shell casings. As Rowan held the bag open, Bitty expertly picked up and tossed casings into it along with Rowan.

"Hmph. I still need to be able to make tools, and brass works well enough." Besides, if I didn't grab it, someone else would."

"Yes, and if it's like the other times I've seen, the Pure gunners will come back looking to nail the scavengers." Bitty did not stop flinging brass, but her tail swished back and forth rapidly.

"I figured that, and figured that was why we hadn't seen any scavengers yet. The Pure will wait for the scavengers to get hungry enough to show up, and we will be gone."

"Tricky timing, that..." Bitty growled.

"Perhaps." Rowan straightened. "That's all I can find easily, and I'm starting to twitch, so it's time to leave." She sprinted for where she had stashed her bag lady cart, Bitty hot on her heels.

While Rowan muttered a few shield and masking spells, Bitty climbed underneath the basket, and the two of them ran down alleyways away from areas where there might be clear fields of fire. As they got three blocks away the sound of machine gun fire erupted once again from where they had been.

---

"And you call me a smart ass." Bitty said when they finally slowed down.

"Look, I didn't feel them coming the first time, and I ended up up the tree, but once I got the stench and pattern, I was going to get some of their brass for making me watch." Rowan grumped as she dropped the extra spells and resumed the bag lady shuffle.

"Mrrrrr. Vengeful witch, eh?" Bitty replied as she playfully batted at Rowan's leg.

"You bet. Still, this whole thing is getting more ugly by the day. It's bad enough that humanity is changing, but the way people aren't dealing with it, just trying to either deny it, control it or kill it is just going to end badly."

"You already know that. It's human nature. Yet you keep denying it." Bitty pointed out philosophically. "You expect the leopard to change its spots."

"Why not? The human has changed to elf and fairy!" She retorted.

"Yes, but the essential nature of the person underneath has not. Weren't you remarking the other day about how one of your more oafish friends ended up a troll, and you werent really surprised?"

"Yes, but I was also surprised that one of the more respected members of the Pagan community, a long time witch, ended up a gnome!"

"Were you really? Was she really good at magic, or did she just talk a good line?"

"I never worked with her. I had only met her in passing, and she never stood out for me magically, and I always assumed it was because she just shielded it off in public."

"Well, I think that she never had much to start with. All of the people that you've said that you worked with that knew what they were doing and weren't oafish, they have turned out to be elves, yes?"

"Well, yes." She had to admit that Bitty was right. "Even some of the some of the more scholarly types that should have been magical powerhouses turned into book gnomes. Although a couple of my favorite tool makers have apparently turned dwarf, according to the last time I was able to get online." She jiggled the bag of brass. I'm hoping to find them and see what they can do with brass now."

"Mrrrr. But you've dodged the subject again."

"Huh?" Rowan stopped. "What do you mean?"

"The subject is the decline of human civilization, Rowan. Things falling apart. The Pure hunting the Changed. The Changed hunting each other." Bitty intoned solemnly. "And what you're going to do about it."

"Bitty, I know it's all going to shit. I can't stop it. I'd just burn myself out trying." Rowan said quietly.

"I'm not saying you can stop it, or even that you should try. But you know what must be done to try to save something. You knew it the day we first met. But you are dodging it."

"Damnit, Bitty, it would mean getting a ton of total strangers to follow me into essentially the ass end of nowhere and learn to live completely off the land. I'm not frigging Moses! I'm not a frigging 'leader'! I can't figure out how to pull it off!" Rowan growled in frustration.

"Aren't you, Rowan? You walk up to a mixed group of strangers, and they listen to you. Julio Blue Fairy asks you politely to move out of his firing range, when he never laid eyes on you before? People walk into your campsite and tell you of comings and goings, or ask you where they should hunt. Your pagan friends all say 'ask Rowan, she'll know what to do', and you do." Bitty pointed out.

"Bitty, that's because I used to be an executive secretary, used to organizing information, coordinating meetings and solving problems. That's just administration, not leadership."

"From what I've read, most of leadership is administration, problem solving, delegation, and decision making. The 10% of 'inspiration' and charisma is what separates a true leader from a mere boss."

Rowan looked at Bitty "What the hell did that guy have in his library? Besides, I don't have inspiration or charisma."

"Hrrrrr. I don't recall the titles, but one of his girlfriends was studying for an MBA. But back on the topic..."

"I still don't see myself as a damned leader!" Rowan growled.

"Fine. Just be an organizer, then. Get out your maps, decide what would be good places - your gut will tell you when you're right, and then organize small groups into going. It probably shouldn't any big movement anyway - just small clusters drifting away from the cities and iron civilization, but taking knowledge and technology with them, rather than just desperation. People probably know they need to go anyway, but may wait and leave in a panic, with nothing but the clothes on their backs." Bitty explained patiently. "If you organize and coordinate, they can leave earlier, and take more essentials with them."

Rowan sighed. "You're not joking, are you?"

"No, Rowan, I'm not. Your friends, and mine, are getting antsy, but they don't know what to do. Those who do, like you, are already gone, in denial, or avoiding trying to 'lead'. Screw that shit. If you want your friends to make it through this, put together the plan, organize the resources, and coordinate getting people moving. Make it something simple, that can be spread to trusted people, and just get it done." Bitty looked as adamant as a cat ever could.

Rowan looked resigned. "All right. Let's go see if the previous net hot spot is still live. I have some research to do, and some mail to send. Let's hope the servers just keep running for a while longer."

---

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
siliconshaman
Nov. 7th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
Why do I get this feeling that this a deliberate shadowing of current concerns and events? [albeit exaggerated for effect.]
ravan
Nov. 7th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Some of it is, but most of it is founded in history, and how humanity deals with catastrophic change, with echoes of all of the war-ravaged, ethnic-cleansed cities that the 20th & 21st centuries have produced. The fact that it tracks well with current events is food for thought.
jemyl
Nov. 7th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
A beautiful mind at work!
Well done, Ravan! It tracks like a modern allegory. It reminds me of the ethnic cleansings, sure, but also of the jihad being waged in various areas of today's world. I see not only the elements of fear of change, but also the traditional cleansing and putting down of things magical or magic based, if you will. I always enjoy the way your mind works. Hope the real world is treating you better than Rowan's world is treating her and Bitty. Peace, Love and Hugs, ---Mom

Edited at 2010-11-07 11:47 pm (UTC)
ravan
Nov. 8th, 2010 07:50 am (UTC)
Re: A beautiful mind at work!
This is also a twist on is the "Zombie Virus" type of story, with instead of people turning into flesh eating zombies due to some bioweapon, they are changing into metamagical races. Less of a dead end, in my book. Still almost as much conflict.
quondamquadrat
Nov. 8th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing another chapter - I am enjoying this story, particularly Bitty trying to convince Rowan that she can, indeed, be a leader. :-)

Q
natf
Nov. 14th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
I am loving this story especially the Bitty character and cannot wait to read more!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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