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Brina Ashford was fortunate. Very few people in the ArcPoint Community woke up to bright sunlight. Most of the log cabins were built in the forest. The tiny houses had tiny windows. Most apartments in the Facility had no windows at all. But her great-grandfather, Norm Ashford, had the foresight to stockpile windows before he moved to the Mojave. He built a home on the top of a hill, with lumber salvaged from an abandoned house. For nearly a century the family has kept the hill free of trees.

According to family calculations, it was a third of a mile down the hill from the Ashford home to the Facility. Brina could walk it in about five minutes—unless she was with her grandpa Lars. During a certain time of year, it could take her hours. Every spring and fall, Monarch butterflies stopped at the ArcPoint forest during their migration. They loved the Acacia flowers as much as Brina did—maybe more. It was a spectacular sight when the forest's blooms transformed from evenly spread white to a patchy, undulating, orange.

At an early age, Brina was set free to wander the ArcPoint compound. She could usually be found with an energetic young boy who was only a year older—Arcon Franklin. The two of them were never out of sight of their parents—and attracted stares from everyone else in the Community. They were the chosen ones, the future of ArcPoint. Brina didn’t know that. Then she knew it, but didn’t understand. Then she understood, but didn’t like it. Her friend Arcon had the same experience, but took it one step further. He hated it, and fought against it.

As they got older, Arcon drifted out of her life as he spent most of his time in the forest. Her grandpa Lars, in his teens plus a century, appreciated her helping hand as he traveled around ArcPoint. She loved learning his horticultural wisdom, and hearing his exaggerated life stories. You had to know him to love his odd humor, and she did both.

Some days she missed hanging with Arcon as he tried to fix things he found in the boneyard. She learned a lot from helping him. If anything in their home broke, she was the first one to grab a toolkit. If Arcon would have stuck around, she may have ended up an electrician or a mechanic. Her girlfriends—all three of them—worked in the clothing barn, while her parents were in charge of the hydroponic gardens. She never could decide which vocation to embrace, so she did it all. A few hours in Hydro, a couple in the dye house, visit the machine shop, a little domestic engineering at home. She went where she was needed, and she rarely stopped to rest—except when the Monarchs showed up.


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