Epilogue – To Here Knows When
Darius was right: Robert did have some big decisions to make. The newest piece of information, however, made the most important choice easier for him. Robert, after having endured this whole journey, chose to stay with his sole descendant at the settlements.
After all, how could he narc out his own son? Here his son made a life for himself that was independent of that corporate dictatorship that Robert never really agreed with in the first place. And that life seemed pretty sweet. Why would Robert want to ruin that by reporting the deserters involved and the locations of the settlements to human resources and the security sector? If those deserters got relocated to Homesteads across the Republic, then wouldn’t his own son’s way of life be threatened? And if Robert went back to the city without telling PR anything, then wouldn’t his career be threatened? So, the easiest way around this dilemma was to just stay at the settlement with his son and not draw any attention.
Maybe that was his fate all along. Maybe the PR team sent Robert here because they thought he was replaceable and they knew he wouldn’t come back to Washington. But wouldn’t that mean that they knew Darius was his son, or at least had a clue? He wouldn’t have stayed if it was any odd Joe that he was tracking down. Or would he? But how would they know that Darius was his son? Robert didn’t even know until he had talked to him for an hour. Wouldn’t that mean that PR, and even Alpha Corp, are much more competent than they let on?
But those questions didn’t matter anymore. Robert didn’t have to worry about them because he was living out here now. He was off the grid; out of the system; dropped out and tuned in. Life seemed easier out here, and although it was no vacation, he soon found out that his assumption was correct.
He never regretted going back to work in city either. He was close to attaining his pension and all, but that no longer mattered to him. What was he going to do once he got his pension? Tour the different, yet same, cafeterias that the Republic had to offer? The whole country had been turned into one massive franchise establishment after all, so what was he so eager to see? Clayton was right. Anything with identity was hidden and neglected, while anything that was in broad daylight, for everyone’s viewing, lacked any sort of identity.
Speaking of Clayton, he followed Robert’s lead and stayed at the settlements as well. Not because he had allegiance to Robert or anything, although they were good friends, but because he finally found himself a woman that he was willing to sacrifice his singleness for. At the party that they stumbled upon, Clayton met a lady from Alabama named Shantell who really piqued his interest. The next morning, when Robert was going to break the news that he would no longer need Clayton’s assistance because he planned to stay at the settlements, Clayton had already decided to stay at the settlements with Shantell. It worked out for the best because Clayton wouldn’t have to go back to the city and explain what happened to his missing passenger. There were some excuses that would have simply raised some eyebrows, such as: eaten by wolves, struck by lightning, or was deathly allergic to peanuts and happened to eat one, but if Clayton told the truth - that Robert had deserted - then Clayton wouldn’t have been off the hook so easily. His overseers would probably punish him for not stopping a deserter in action, which may have included sending him back to a Homestead. Luckily, Clayton didn’t have to make up any excuses because he has never had to report to anyone since leaving that parking lot on the outskirts of the city.
Clayton wasn’t the only one to give up his singleness. Robert found a spouse as well. As it turns out, Feral Fran was following the buggy ever since they left the house in Spotsylvania. She was fascinated by the commune or co-op that Robert told her about - the one that was attracting a large number of Homestead workers to it - so she wanted to see what it was all about. Maybe these people could be potential trading partners. That would make visiting their operation worth it. So, she let Robert and Clayton find it for her as she tailed them.
Once she got there and experienced the celebration, she figured that the settlement was a much more vibrant place than her lonely back woods home, so she wanted to move. Robert, who just so happened to be her love interest at the time and was also planning on staying, was the main factor that helped her decide that moving was best for her. As long as she kept close ties with her in-laws and the co-op she would be able to move out without to much difficulty, which was the case. Using Slush, Mudd, and the buggy, with some additional help from Robert, she was able to move all her essential items without any problems. Well, there were some minor issues, such as Francine’s son Patrick’s protesting the relocation, but that was solved once he got to the settlements and realized that there were a few kids his age that he could befriend.
With Patrick’s arrival to the settlements, Robert took on the role of step-father. It wasn’t a role that he complained about either; it was just a role that changed his behavior and outlook. But change was good. Robert was stuck for so many years at the same job doing the same things, many of which he couldn’t even think of ways to justify, but now he found himself in a position where he would take on new challenges and responsibilities, and at his age, he figured that these were long overdue.
Step-father wasn’t the only title that he had picked up since his decision to stay at the settlements. Robert was also a grandfather; Darius had two sons and a daughter with his beautiful wife Anna, all of which were eager to meet their grandpa Rob. And Robert was eager to meet them.
It all happened so fast, but that didn’t faze Robert. In a mere few months since the start of his journey, he acquired a wife, a step-son, a real son, a daughter in-law, and three grandchildren. Gone were the Washington days where Robert had no close relationships and spent his time in isolation. The settlements brought the most important thing: loneliness no more.
The challenges, the responsibilities, the relationships, the new ways of living; Robert was adapting and gaining satisfaction from the changes that his new life presented him. But how long could this go on? The settlements couldn’t live on indefinitely. Surely there would be another PR silencer sent here to narc out the whole operation. Who knows, it just might be David Dunlop or one of those devout newcomers who mostly grew up in a time where there was nothing else besides Alpha Corp. If one of those silencers shows up, then the settlements are in for trouble. Those types won’t simply throw in the towel and join the community; they’ll make sure the security forces are notified and then all the deserters will be returned their rightful Homesteads. It’s a possibility that the deserters, and the society of misfits, and the children or adults who don’t belong to any of those groups, are trying to avoid, but in the meantime, life continues to go on just fine.
 Although ‘found’ isn’t the best word. ‘Reconnected’ is more suiting.
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