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         Chess thought about the riddles for a minute, as he leaned back against the bare wall and tapped his knuckles against his chin.  “Okay,” he said finally.  “Here goes.”
         “We are an army in your land, but not controlled by your government.
         “We fight under your flag, but we are not all citizens.
         “Your citizens pay us for protection, but they don’t know the cost.
         “Your citizens fear us, but they don’t know what we are.”
         “I know what they are,” Ileana answered darkly.  “You’re talking about Home Defense.  I’ve done some research into what’s going on there, and how the villages outside are being ‘protected.’  I think some of the stuff I have read is probably blown out of proportion, but I think some of it’s true.”
         “Armed men came through our village every once in a while,” Sariel put in.  “My grandfather said they were from the government.  I was always frightened, but he would reassure me.”  She smiled, looking a little sad.  “He said that our little village was far too poor to come to anyone’s notice.”
         “Well, hopefully, none of us will ever be noticed,” Ileana answered thoughtfully.  “But this is a really fun game, Sariel.”  Chess nodded in agreement.
         Sariel shrugged, looking embarrassed then.  “It is just an old game.  My grandfather said it helped to keep our minds sharp.  He said people needed to practice thinking.  Especially, people needed to think on the workings of the world around them.”  She frowned then, as if remembering something unsettling.  “He said that when people forget to think, the world becomes more dangerous.”
         Sariel rose then, her cheeks still reddened from the praise, and walked out into the darkness.

         After waiting a few minutes for the appearance of discretion, Chess followed Sariel.
         He found her standing beside a clump of trees, and she appeared to be gazing at the moon, which was near its full brightness now.  Her hair, outlined in silver, curled down over one shoulder, and Chess longed to twine it between his fingers.  She had not come to him lately.  She and Ileana had been spending so much time together that it seemed as if she had forgotten him.  But perhaps, he thought, he had just not tried hard enough to remind her.
         She heard him and turned when he was still a few yards away.  She started toward him then, moving languidly and making his breath quicken.  His focus dropped helplessly to the motion of her hips.  His heart began to pound when she reached him, and he stared at her, captivated by her lovely face and her soft-looking lips.  She gave him a warm smile, and then passed by.
         He caught her fingers before she went beyond his reach, and she turned back, looking surprised.
         “My lady?” he whispered hoarsely, his heart fluttering.
         She blinked at him for a second, as if confused, and then her eyes widened.  “Ah…” she breathed, and stepped closer to him.  And then he heard Ileana’s soft, distant voice calling Sariel’s name.
         “Ah,” Sariel repeated, now with an apologetic tone.  She inclined her head to him, and then she walked off into the growing darkness, in the direction of the old house.
         Bewildered and disappointed, Chess stood staring in that direction for a few minutes.  And then he sighed and headed that way, himself.
         When he got back to the house, though, the girls were not there.  He sat down on the dusty floor, feeling grouchy.  The voice in his head was laughing softly at him, but he tried to ignore it.  He reasoned that, if he had to be forgotten, at least the girls were getting closer to each other.  Hadn’t he been so worried -- hadn’t he been willing to do anything -- only days ago, in order to make that happen?
         Plus, if anyone could get Sariel to open up about the secrets of her history, well, it was definitely Ileana.  She had a way of persuading people that amazed Chess more and more.  But he feared that, soon, they might not need him at all, anymore.  And did they even need him now?
         Dejected, he lay down on the floor and drifted into a restless sleep.  His dreams that night were filled with strangers, faces he could not quite see, following him just beyond the edge of his vision.  

Continued next page...

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Half of writing history is hiding the truth.
- Serenity (2005)

         Another major point that The Ripple Effect makes is that people, in general, tend not to value water because it is inexpensive and seems abundant. However, water is currently a public utility, and its price is apparently being kept artificially low by government subsidies because it is essential for life and it is the only substance on earth that meets certain needs -- nothing else can substitute for it. However, many parts of the country, and especially the Southwest, are actually running out of water. Increasing population and businesses are all drawing on the same limited water sources without the ability to create any new ones, and recent severe droughts only make the situation more critical.
         The plight of the Colorado River is probably the most well-known and vivid illustration of the limited supply of water. Whereas the river once flowed from its source in the Rocky Mountains all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, more recently:
It's remarkable. The river basically just disappears at the U.S.-Mexican border, about 100 miles shy of the sea. And even now, so we have the Roaring Fork River next to us, just a few hundred yards, it's actually somewhat trickling right now. We should be at the tail end of the peak runoff, and it's running at about 10 percent of average.
-Talk of the Nation June 26, 2012

         All the way along the Colorado River, “water rights,” or the right to withdraw water from the source, are being fought over: by farmers, businesses, and towns. Fighting over water rights in this country is certainly nothing new, but as the river capacity lessens, the battles get more furious.
         Amid these problems, there is also talk of privatizing water supplies, in the same way that energy providers are private companies. Throughout the world, private companies supplying water to the public is a common situation. Problems that many in this situation have experienced include significantly higher prices charged for the water and a failure to maintain standards of water quality. Handing over the responsibility for supplying water to private businesses is a possibility that is increasingly being discussed in the U.S.



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