Author : Edward D. Thompson (edacious)

It’s just like hunting, Marcus thought, as he scanned the past at double speed. Know where the good spots are, know how to watch and wait, and mostly, it was just dumb luck. He let himself go, drifting up the current of the past, waiting, watching.

Silva’s hungry whimpering only distracted him for a moment. Poor Sil, it was hardest on the youngest. “I know, Sil, I know,” he whispered to himself. “I haven’t found a good catch for a few days. One’s coming soon, I promise. I won’t let any of you starve.”

He avoided the more crowded focus spots, the landfills, the strip malls, the fairgrounds. Those would be picked over, and the temporal dampers wouldn’t let you harvest too much from one place. Too much chance of changing the present, they said. He didn’t see what would be so bad about that.

If anyone glanced out the begrimed windows, they’d see the present in all its over-harvested, dustbowl, sun-bleached-skeletons-of-the-starved glory. It could use a little changing. But he was in no position to argue; he was lucky to have the transporter at all. You did what you could to survive.

A small town, not too small. A few modest but busy eateries. He slowed around a promising site. And there! He scrolled back to watch the moment again, then forward to make sure no one else grabbed the stuff. Nope, it wouldn’t be missed. Just a little less waste in their already overfull landfills.

He scrolled by again, half speed. There was the moment when they decided to toss them. Then the moment when an employee dumped the trash. Marcus locked in on the boxes, but didn’t retrieve them. Not just yet. He skimmed forward slightly. There was the moment the restaurant closed. He tried not to think about the hefty people making their way out of the building. So much. They had so much and they just threw most of it out! Now, no one was around. He initiated the transfer, pacing impatiently as the unit teleported the target from the past to the pad. In the past, the boxes winked out of existence instantaneously; on his end it would take a while for them to rematerialize. He watched Silva and the other children, lost in the fitful, restless sleep of the hungry, and smiled sadly when the first whiff of hot meat and bread wafted through the room and he heard stomachs growl even before they woke.

And there they were. Six flat boxes, steaming slightly in the cold air. He waved the kids into the dining area. They knew better than to rush him, no matter how hungry they were. Slowly he slipped the top box out of the unit and looked over the contents. One medium supreme pizza with some moldy lettuce stuck to one side. Could be worse. He smiled, they’d feast tonight! And tomorrow, he’d resume the hunt.

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