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Aug 10, 2022 9:31 PM
Marena and Cascadi!Tan
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It is the worst and best night of her life.

She's sitting on a swing angrily, like she's ten years younger than she actually is, but you know what? Lil' Marena had her reasons to be incandescently pissed. Big Marena right now has every single fucking reason to go on a fucking homicidal rampage. (She can feel the judgement even just from swearing in her own. Good. Let them judge the feral ball of primal rage. If they're close enough to judge, they're close enough to get bitten.)

She pushes herself off and swings. Her life is ruined, and she's not even sixteen. Her life is ruined, and it's not even her fault. She obeyed and her mother and father (mostly her mother, she was the one with the plans) and worked hard in school and at home and went to Church as often as she could and pretended that 'little voice of God' that was her conscience actually matched what it was supposed to be. She did everything she was meant to to be desirable to a good husband.

When her mother pulled strings so she was handmaidening for the youth pastor and her mother's best friend, she pretended it was all one big coincidence that she was actually thrilled about! She went through the awkwardest nine months of her life. She did all the things you were meant to do to protect the baby and make it strong and healthy. She did everything right, except honestly and wholly have her heart in it.

When the little bas-- bundle of joy took 30 goddamn hours to make his exit, she didn't complain. When epidurals apparently worked for other people, and not her, she thanked god for the opportunity to endure and for giving her a little taste of Hell to warn her away.

The only thing that could have made things better was the baby having all the right baby bits in the right places and in the right order. But well, beggars can't be choosers!

She's been medically cleared to leave. The kid-- well. He's not ever leaving.

She's been cleared to leave the maternity ward, and highly encouraged to do so. She went to the NICU-- it's not her kid, there's no reason to get attached, but... it seemed like it would only be right to say hi? (And then bye.) Except his 'actual mother' was there, and look. She knows that when she started screaming at her for killing her baby, can't you just do this one simply thing right, she should have been understanding. Should have been forgiving. Should have turned the other cheek. 

She should not have asked what she expected to happen if she carried the baby herself? She should not have asked which one of them, exactly, had to get hooked up to a drip because they were puking their guts out so much they fainted. She should not have explained the Christian Concept of Gratefulness and Charity, which surely she should have heard about, but she's happy to give her testimony to help. She should not have done this loudly, at a hospital, while taking the Lord's name in vain repeatedly.

Theoretically she should be in a house, and not on a playground in the middle of the night. She doesn't care! Her life is ruined-- she's never going to have another kid, her marriage prospects are nil-- because of some people burning shit decades ago! An atheist rapist jumping out of the bushes to murder her would not be making anything worse!

If someone comes to find her and bring her back she's biting them... actually she's just going to follow, because what else can she do? She'll go back and she'll apologise and her mother's best friend will magnanimously pretend to forgive her.

Someone lays a hand on her shoulder, and she jumps. (When she replays this memory, she'll remember this hand didn't feel human, but she'll never be able to explain how.)

The person behind her is a woman man pregnant, eight month's at least, and their glowing. Not like, the metaphorically kind that everyone describes pregnant people as being even if they look like they got dragged through an influenza hedge backwards. Literally giving off light.

She shouldn't say what she's about to say. It's just mean. But she's bleeding everywhere and she's accidentally killed a child and her life is over. "Good luck, sister."

"Good luck, sister," The glowing person says the same thing in unison with her. They squeeze her shoulder, and then-- disappear.

Marena knows, with the same dream logic that tells you that this building is your church even if the layout is all wrong, that they're holy and celestial and not of God. That little voice inside her was never God's, it was theirs.

It's the best night of her life.

 

***

 

She gets on Closet, and learns her way around it. Meets the witches and the demontouched and the atheists who just really like tarot.

She also accidentally meets other people. A shared interest in herbal medicine leads her to finding a importer of Fine Cascadian Goods. Not what she's looking for, but she's chill. (There are worse closet mistakes. She could have wasted the time of an honest working girl, or worse: met a Catholic.) It's an accident, but a happy accident. He knows a guy who knows a guy who would hypothetically, in minecraft, help people get out of Gilead.

She has no reason to stay in the country of God. (Her mother has stopped trying to mold her, and is now giving her the cold shoulder, and it sucks that this is an improvement.)

If you're willing to work for years stuck in your parents house, if you know your way around Closet just well enough, and pretend your saving for a proper nice wedding, you can eventually get enough to get out.

 

***

When she spends the money, she spends days worrying the Eyes are going to break in her door.

Then she realises they could just wait till she could to the rendezvous point.

...she still goes. Plan A: everything works out and it's fine. Plan B: whatever goes wrong, she's going to... seduce whoever shows up. It's an awful plan, but if plan B comes up everything will have gone to shit enough a good plan won't help.

Plan C: ... well, here's hoping she can come up with something on the fly.

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Tan got his nickname when he was the third Francis in his Cascadian army company, and it stuck. 

Tan has been blonde and brunette and redheaded, head shaved and short and daringly past his ears; he has had eyes that are green and blue and brown; he's been cleanshaven and had a beard and a mustache; he's gone with and without glasses; he can use makeup to contour his face until he looks like an entirely different person; occasionally, when the heat's been on particularly hard, he's been a woman. He is currently driving a Jeep tricked out with a few of his favorite modifications: blame the Gileadite masculinity issues for this passing as a reasonable car to drive in the suburbs. He has illegal birth control and abortifacents and weed and psychedelics in the secret compartment that no one ever finds, and a few thousand Gileadite dollars under the floorboards for bribes. He has a concealed carry handgun on his hip, legal in both Cascadia and Gilead, which he's never had to fire in anger, although he's waved it at a few Eyes in his time. He knows the patterns of the drones, has an instinct for which Gileadite cops are bribable and which aren't, and can bluff his way out of anything. 

You don't actually make a ton of money as a coyote, not if you're Tan and a soft touch for a kid with a sob story. It's okay. He has his rich doctor husband to subsidize him. 

He does a quick check of the area, doesn't see anything suspicious. She's a teenage girl; pretty likely to want to escape, not very likely to be a cop, not with Gileadite attitudes toward women the way they are. She doesn't dress like a cop, either, and her body language looks nervous the right way. No obvious wires or bodycams. 

He pulls up. "You need a ride?" he asks.  

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Okay, showtime. (If she ends up in the wrong car, she swears to not-god...) "Maybe. Where're you headed?"

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"Wherever you want. --I'm actually here to pick up a friend of a friend."

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"That's convenient!" And this is the most natural conversation she's ever had in her life! "Thanks." And into the car.

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"Are you Emma Brown?"

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"The one and only." With statistically the 11th most common name for girls her age.

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"I'm Alex. You're a friend of Mark's?"

(All the time, he's scanning her for anything suspicious. There's nothing obvious, and he has a cunning bit of tech that creates a cell-phone dead zone, anyway.)

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"We've met up a couple times, yeah." What a coincidence, she's scanning him too, she just... has basically no clue what she's looking for.

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"Well, welcome to Cascadia, Emma. --Don't tell me your legal name, if Emma isn't, I can tell whether you're a cop but you can't tell whether I'm one, because I've been a coyote for years and I certainly hope this is your first time escaping Gilead."

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Oh thank fuck she's in the right car. Or, well, she isn't in the car of someone trying to pick up their kid from soccer practice while a confused coyote circles the neighbourhood.

She can't let her guard down until their over the border and she can wrestle him for control of the child lock. But there's a chance, and not a bad one, that she's headed to Cascadia.

"I don't plan to make it a habit," she jokes.

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"What kind of music do you like?"

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"I have spent most of my life listening to the twee-est Gileadite pop that can be had for love or money. I'm assuming you have a playlist of godless music for people who are sick of it."

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"Unfortunately, the cops might notice if we play godless music and find it suspicious. If there's Gileadite pop you can stand better than the other Gileadite pop I'd be happy to turn it on."

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"--honestly I'd just take something classical at this point."

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"Classical works!"

Have his playlist of classical music songs so they can rock out to Bach. (That is not connected to the Internet, because nothing in any of Tan's cars is ever connected to the Internet.)

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Look, it may on some level be About Jesus, but it communicates it through clarinet and not mouth words, and that's so much better.

"--I was about to ask if you come here often, but there's no way you'd tell me, is there?"

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"Actually I have spent my entire life in a five-mile radius of here. We're going to be exploring the wider world of South Dakota together."

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"It's always nice to meet a neighbour!"

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"Is there anything unexpected you're going to need? I do have snacks."

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"At the risk of jinxing it, I don't think so?"

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"I ought to reassure you that I'm definitely Cascadian. Nukes are evil. Gay porn is hot. I can describe in detail how to slaughter a pig and turn it into delicious, delicious bacon."

("Gay porn is hot" is also reassuring about some other things that girls he smuggles are particularly likely to be concerned about.)

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"You know, I had my doubts, but truly only a red blooded Cascadian would know the dark secrets of bacon." ... Well, that throws plan B mostly out of the water.

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"I am happily and monogamously married to my extremely handsome doctor husband and yes I do feel like I have to specify the 'monogamous.' I can sing all the verses of Every Sperm Is Sacred and The Ball of Kerrymuir. I have been to Folsom and, no, that doesn't make us not monogamous, it's okay to look at the menu as long as you don't order. I learned to make improved explosive devices when I was sixteen. I have never, actually, drunk milk from a cow I haven't personally met. I lock my car during zucchini season."

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"...zucchini season?" What the hell is happening in Cascadia.

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"If you don't lock your car during zucchini season someone will break in and give you zucchinis."

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