“What does it matter? If there are any inside, they already know we’re here. They can smell us. What the hell is this?” She shone her flashlight at the box in front of her. Metal sides, streaked with dust and dirt; open front that might once have held glass; eight rows of widely-spaced rusted metal coils, five to a row.

Bon trekked back to her. “We don’t have time for this, Mac. The lights will only last so long. We have to get back to the Stronghold before dark.” He looked at the metal box illuminated in her beam. “I think that’s what they called a vending machine. I heard one of the elders talking about them.”

“What were they for?” She reached inside and twanged one of the coils. It thunked dully, and a puff of rusty dust drifted lazily to the floor of the box.

“Snacks, Elder Louis said. You could get snacks from them. Treats. You know, like cookies and crackers and things. They used to be made by factories and sold in big marketplaces.”

Mac marveled at this for a moment before allowing Bon to lead her away. They had a “marketplace” in the Stronghold, where all scavenged items were turned in and distributed as needed. She and Bon were Gatherers, whose job it was to keep the Marketplace full of food, clothes, solar-powered devices, blankets – even livestock, when any could be found or caught. The Stronghold had a farm section a decent distance from the living quarters, well-stocked with chickens, geese, goats, cows, pigs, and a few sheep.

It was a dangerous job; the Gatherers had to venture into dark buildings where any number of Revenants could be hiding. She had only been scavenging for three months after having been assigned to Bon for training a year ago. The only job more treacherous was that of the Hunters, who actively sought the Revenants to dispatch them and decrease their numbers. If the Revenant population could be controlled or eradicated, the survivors of the Upheaval would be able to begin rebuilding the industries that had made life easier, more comfortable, and longer.

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