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kids' room open and slipped in. From the outside lights, Mary could easily see the little ones. All three had kicked off their blankets. Since it wasn't that warm, Mary made her way from one to the other, slipping a single blanket back over each sleeping form. She'd heard that kids had such angelic visages when they slept. Rose, Jon, and David's faces were scrunched up, intent on something in their sleep. Their breath came short, jerky, in near-gasps.
    Done with blanket duty, Mary slipped out of her shipsuit and slid under her own covers. Lying on her side, she rested her eyes on Rose, wondering what it would be like to have such a child, to be responsible for another small person's life and welfare. Strange thoughts for someone who'd never even tried to pass the requirements to have a kid.
    Rose stiffened in her sleep. A small fist jerked out; a leg twitched. The blanket was half off again. With a sigh, Mary got out of bed and rearranged Rose's covers. Then she made another round of the other kids; their blankets were half off already. What made these kids so restless?
    Back in bed, Mary remembered she hadn't laid Ray's pills out; he probably took care of them himself. He was a big boy, didn't need her. So why was she always looking out for him? Hell, six months ago she'd wanted him dead. Well, he's my boss, she thought, knowing that wasn't the answer. Now that she knew him, she'd found the kind of man she might have cared enough about to have a kid with. But that door was closed; he had Rita and their own child on the way and deserved better than to be chained to canes and hobbling through the world. With luck, he wouldn't always be like that. If she could do something to make this period better for him, she would.
    What did she want?
    She'd fought like a demon to stay alive as a marine, and she'd do it again if she had to. She'd done her job at the mine, keeping her nose clean and her head down, but none of that was her. She was happiest with her friends, part of their lives and they part of hers. Right now, the job let her be just that. Tomorrow they'd put their own twist to running a mining operation. For now, that was enough.
    Two blankets hit the floor within seconds of each other. Yawning, Mary made the rounds again, wondering how long this could last. Tomorrow she'd find a complete set of pajamas for each of the kids. PJs with padlocks. As she tucked the kids in, she watched as their breath slowed, became steady, almost in cadence with each other. Good; maybe now Mary could get some sleep herself. She slid back into her own bed, pulled the covers up, took one last look at each of her kids, and went to sleep.
    Jeff tossed his bag on the table nearest the public room's door and shouted, "I'm home! Don't all cheer at once!"
    Annie might have, but her da and ma were in the kitchen getting tomorrow's bread started, and her kid sister was helping sweep the floor. "Nikki," Jeff asked, "could you carry a message to old Ned? I'll be going out mining tomorrow with the starfolk and I'll need a horse."
    "And what do the starfolks think they'll be doing?" Mrs. Mulroney asked, coming from the kitchen with a dishrag to wipe the flour from her hands.
    "Taking all the metal a man could ask from a hill without disturbing a blade of grass," Jeff answered, fishing a coin from his pocket. The one he pulled out was mainly ceramic, with a thin wire of brother Mark's aluminum wound through it. Out here, the aluminum standard had caught on quickly. In the cities, they still wanted copper in most coins. Sooner or later that would cause trouble, but it made it easier for Jeff to catch a little sister's eye. He tossed it to Nikki, who made for the door.
    "Straight to Old Ned's door and back, Miss Nikki, and no dawdling," her mother warned as the girl raced out
    "Humph," Mr. Mulroney said as he came from the kitchen, two mugs of beer in his hands. "That will be the day a hill gives up good metal without the likes of you tearing it apart, shovel

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