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Authority derives from pain. Your own or someone else’s, it doesn’t matter: some people cause suffering in order to draw power, while others choose to remain indifferent to its source.

Beth will do neither; thus her authority is weak. But sometimes it’s enough.

“Nothing back there but frozen corn,” she drawls, heart pounding.

“We need to look inside anyway,” says the checkpoint trooper.

The door creaks; her cargo blinks in the sunlight. The trooper has one hand on his gun, another on his radio.

“These aren’t the boys you’re looking for,” says Beth, match lit and unwavering beneath her open palm.