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Arts & Liberties => Writer's Block => Topic started by: MamaLiberty on April 18, 2010, 05:42:13 pm

Title: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 18, 2010, 05:42:13 pm
This just popped up as a brainstorm in a regular thread, and has taken on a life of its own already. I don't have a title for the whole story yet, but have now written the first two chapters which are named. Here you go...

Tactical Errors

Charlie watched the flames reaching into the sky, just a block away. He was carefully shielded from casual observation from the street, high on his former balcony, but he didn't dare stay long. No point to it anyway.

Replacing the plywood on the old French Doors, he screwed it down for the last time. The room was empty, and dark since the other windows had been boarded over after the attack a week before. The bullet holes in the walls gave silent testimony to the senseless savagery of that night. He could still smell the blood and his jaw trembled as he struggled to cope with the anguish anew.

Cathy waited patiently in the basement with the two little boys. Evan, just 10, had wanted to go upstairs with his father, but 6 year old Donald clung with desperate fear to his mother and hid his face at any sound from outside.

"We can't stay here any longer," Charlie said softly. "We should have gone months ago, and I don't know how we can get out now. But if we don't at least try, we'll die here."

Cathy didn't respond. Her vacant stare suggesting that she had reached the limit of her coping ability, with no more tears to shed. She had even stopped looking out the remaining window to the back yard where her baby girl occupied a shallow grave. She wouldn't fight him, he knew, but she would be no real help either. She had not been willing to pick up her gun since the night of the attack that killed Jackie.

The terror had begun quickly after the trucks stopped coming into town with their loads of food and medicine. Charlie figured it was a combination of no gasoline and the increased danger over the preceeding week, when the looters and criminals remaining in the city had begun indiscriminate shooting of anyone or anything that moved on the streets. First it had been only at night, but the last two days the sporadic gunfire in the distance had gone on day and night. He had seen the bodies of a few neighbors, and one policeman up and down the block, and it made him sick to know he would not have dared attempt to help someone wounded if he had seen one.

Charlie had had watched his neighbors board up their homes and leave over the preceeding months, clinging desperately to the hope that something would happen to defuse the coming crisis. Once the shooting had started, he continued to hope that the situation would stabilize somehow, with the shooters either killing each other off, running out of places to loot and leaving, or being taken out by the authorities.

He and Cathy had enough supplies to keep them alive for a month or more, and so far the looters hadn't discovered their existence, keeping busy in other more prosperous areas. The bullet that had ended his tiny daughter's life had been a chance stray when a large group of young men had gone down the street shooting out the windows of all the houses they passed.

But now the looters were getting closer and beginning to set fire to the buildings. Time was running out. Charlie sat on the bed rolls and put his face into his hands. He hadn't planned for this - and he knew now with sickening certainty that he should have. He just didn't know what to do - or where to go if they did get out.

The Marines Have Landed

Charlie came up out of the bedroll instantly alert as the roar of a large engine tore apart the breaking dawn. His M1A was in his hand, and the sling was snug a second later.  Suddenly, the roar was very close and a kaleidoscope of sounds included a heavy thumping on the basement door.

"This is it," he said to himself, "payback for all my screw-ups!"

Safety off, Charlie waited for the battering ram to break down the door, unwilling to fire first, knowing he couldn't win even if he did so. But he was spared that dilemma. A loud, throaty voice on the other side of the flimsy barrier said, "Charlie, get your butt in gear! The Marines have landed!"

Throwing off the lock and turning the knob, he came face to face with the last person he had ever expected to see again in this world - a bristle headed older man, the scourge of his stint in the USMC, Sergeant Bradshaw - his sister's new husband. Bradshaw and two other men in full combat gear poured through the door and immediately scooped up Cathy and the children. Wordlessly, Charlie grabbed his ammo packs and the "bug out bag" he'd so carefully packed a month ago, never even thinking to look back as he followed the men to the big, black Hum-Vee idling in the drive way.

An incoming round hit the armored side of the truck as the final door slammed shut and the big vehicle almost burned rubber getting out and down the tree shaded street.

Nobody said a word as they rapidly traversed the long streets, dodging the burned out cars and occasional corpses. By some miracle, only a few more shots connected with the armored vehicle, and none seemed aimed at the tires. The Sergeant rode "shotgun" beside the driver, and Cathy - still catatonic - sat between Charlie and the other man in the back seat. Evan soon crawled into his father's lap, and Donald had finally stopped whimpering by the time they reached the edge of town.

The last bit of road before the highway was blocked with a significant pile of junk cars, so the big Hum-Vee simply lumbered over the curb and retraced its own incoming tracks through two lawns and a shallow drainage ditch to the road beyond. Nobody was guarding the barrier, and they had not heard any gunfire since they had left the burning neighborhoods behind.

Two other vehicles, two armed men in each, waited on the highway. They pulled out rapidly to leave the "Hummer" in the rear guard position. Neither of the others had any sort of armor and were pocked with bullet holes. 

The man on the other side of Cathy passed Charlie a big canteen, and another one to the Sergeant. Charlie poured some water into the cap and got Cathy to drink it, then did the same for the boys before he tipped the container and drank greedily. What a chump they must think he was, he thought, but he'd not realized how desperately hungry and thirsty he'd been until he put the canteen to his lips.

With a grin and a nod, the big man next to Cathy reached behind him and pulled out another canteen and quickly drank his fill as well, then handed around granola bars. Charlie relaxed, and prayed he could avoid any more screw-ups, even though these folks seemed very forgiving. He didn't want to push his luck.

Cathy groaned suddenly, and Charlie knew that meant she had to urinate. The message seemed to be clear to at least the Sergeant, and he spoke into a small radio. Soon the little convoy stopped next to a small wooded area.

"Don't go far, and don't get out of sight," Bradshaw said as Charlie half carried Cathy down the gentle bank to the grassy verge. He nodded as he helped her squat, noting that only the Sergeant had dismounted with him,  watching the back road. The boys erupted from the vehicle just as Cathy stood again, and Charlie helped Donald with his zipper while keeping close watch on Evan as he watered a bush.

When they were all settled again in their seats and travel resumed, Sergeant Bradshaw gruffly introduced his companions as "Mutt and Jeff," with no further explanation. The driver "Mutt" chuckled and "Jeff" just smiled, so Charlie understood this was an inside joke. He knew there would be time for explanations and introductions when they were clear of the danger zone.

[Edit to correct typo]
[last edit, add an important few words!]
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 18, 2010, 05:55:05 pm
It seems to be becoming a fast-paced thriller... Cool.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on April 20, 2010, 09:21:38 am
Hmmmm........... recruited/drafted?  Hard decision time?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 20, 2010, 09:28:20 am
Hmmmm........... recruited/drafted?  Hard decision time?

?? Don't know what you mean here. :)

New chapter by tomorrow. This thing has a life of its own!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on April 20, 2010, 09:41:42 am
I await developments.  Just paranoid speculation: recruit someone you knew was a good marine/soldier by providing for the family?  What if this is a case of providing for the family thru unprincipled action?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 20, 2010, 10:00:18 am
I await developments.  Just paranoid speculation: recruit someone you knew was a good marine/soldier by providing for the family?  What if this is a case of providing for the family thru unprincipled action?

Ah, I see what you mean. All will be revealed in the next chapter. :) After that, I don't know. This story is telling itself. I'm just the channel.  :rolleyes:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: jeremy mcilroy on April 22, 2010, 11:51:37 pm
I like it, Mama. Keep it coming.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on April 23, 2010, 04:01:23 am
Yes, please!  More, please!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: knobster on April 23, 2010, 05:00:23 am
What a great way to start my day!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 23, 2010, 06:26:14 am
Sorry, guys... I got busy. But I'll post more today. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: CorbinKale on April 23, 2010, 06:34:45 am
Ok, I'm in. Let that story flow!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 23, 2010, 07:09:54 pm
Ok, here is the next chapter. Sorry it took me so long.

Bandits At Noon

"I knew you were going to be trouble from the moment I set eyes on you."

Charlie's head came up from a light sleep, just barely grasping the softly spoken words from the grizzled Sergeant. Silence had reigned for many miles after their quick pit stop, and the combination of motion and the warming day had made exhaustion finally claim him. Cathy was actually sound asleep beside him, and both boys were out like lights.

Bradford turned his head and grinned at the little family group, eyes full of compassion and sorrow at the same time. Charlie gave a weak grin back, but didn't know what to say. He knew he'd been a royal pain in the butt in boot camp, and probably even more so afterwards in Iraq.

"You had plenty of guts and a good head, but you were never going to relate well to authority. Too much thinking, son. I wish I had understood that at the time."

Charlie could still remember the sore muscles and weary days of marching, push-ups and extra duty dished out by the Sergeant after his frequent episodes of rebellion or unwise remarks. He grinned a little himself, remembering what a smart-ass he'd been so often.

"Yes Sarg!, he said. I came home just happy to have stayed out of the brig."

The little convoy followed the old state highway, making a wide detour around any town where possible, but a squawk from the radio Bradshaw held announced trouble. The sun was just past high noon, and blazed in a cloudless sky all around them, but they could see a good sized town in the distance. The bridge had been out when they came through before, and there was not much of a way around the town without it.

"Stop here," the Sergeant said, and the convoy came to a halt in the middle of the road. "We ran into trouble here yesterday, and it wouldn't be smart just to barge in now."

A driveway nearby caught his eye, and he directed all of them to turn in there and park behind a row of trees. Without another word, two men in the lead vehicle jumped to the ground and began a careful reconnoiter up the hill, vanishing over the slight rise in a few minutes with rifles at the ready and the easy movements of long experience with such maneuvers.

The boys woke fussing to get out, but Charlie had them pee in one of the plastic water bottles they had emptied earlier. He worried about Cathy because she would hardly drink, and was showing signs of dehydration already. But this didn't seem to be the time do anything about it... even if he'd known what to do. The boys were enjoying the adventure with the bottle, and Charlie was busy keeping them from spilling the contents, so he was startled to hear a shout from beyond the hill, and then the sound of gunfire.

Immediately, he pushed the boys onto the floor of the HumVee and pulled Cathy's head and shoulders into his lap as both Mutt and Jeff leaped out. He couldn't move her over so he could get his head down too, so just leaned as far forward as possible. Bradshaw had jumped out his door, and all of the other men had taken cover as well as they could  - watching in every direction while they waited for a report from the forward scouts.

Once again the radio squawked, and the Sergeant motioned for everyone to remount the vehicles. They drove on up the road and into a deserted farm yard behind a deep windbreak.

Well, not actually deserted. Two corpses were inside the small fenced area around the front door, and two obviously fresh ones lay in the open door of the house. The two in the yard appeared to be the farmer and his wife, while the others were clearly armed bandits. They had not been given any chance to shoot.

Bradshaw gathered everyone around for a little conference after the corpses had been decently hidden in the barn. Charlie helped Cathy into the house to use whatever facilities were available, and hoped they would have time for her to rest in a bed for a while. He washed her face and hands in some water he found in a big Arrowhead bottle, and then did his best to get her to drink as much as possible. No telling when they'd have another chance like this.

Mutt came into the kitchen and shook his head at the mess the marauders had made of it. Food was strewn all over the table and counter, with a burned mess in a pan on the stove. Like hyaenas, the bandits had destroyed more than they used. Cathy sat on the single chair that had not been broken. The boys stayed near her, but were obviously eager to get outside and explore.

"Go ahead and find a place to lay her down for a while," Mutt said. We're going to send some scouts into town and that will take a while. But keep the kids in here, at least for now. We need to make sure there are no more bandits in the area."

Charlie herded the boys in front of him as he helped Cathy into the living room and onto a couch. He thought she was moving a little better, and didn't need him to support her weight nearly as much - but maybe it was just because he'd finally gotten some liquid into her.  Evan and Donald found some crayons and coloring books on a table in the corner and were finally persuaded to occupy themselves that way, after he promised that they could go outside as soon as it was safe.

Ducking back into the kitchen, Charlie got a long drink himself, and looked through the cupboards hoping to find something to feed the boys. A big box of crackers had fallen behind some canned goods, and it was half full. A can of corned beef hash and a jar of spreadable cheese was lurking in the far back corner of another cupboard, and the combination soon made a fair meal for them all. Charlie didn't figure anyone would miss the stuff, but he still felt bad about taking it and, self consciously, went about cleaning up at least some of the mess as a token of appreciation. The fact that nobody but him would ever be likely to care made no difference at all.

The sun slowly inched its way to the west as the little family dozed. The men outside kept careful watch from covert positions, the vehicles parked in an equipment shed on the edge of the windbreak. As it was, only a light breeze caught the leaves from time to time, and flies buzzed with ever increasing numbers in the barn. Charlie wondered what had happened to the animals, or if there had been any, but it didn't occupy his thoughts long because the sound of a vehicle on the driveway got his attention immediately.

Bradshaw was speaking into the radio as the old Jeep crested the little hill. Calling everyone into the yard, he briefed them on their plans.

"There is a fairly large bunch of bandits there, but most appear to be dead drunk. Must have broken into the brewery. A few of them are on the barriers at the edge of town, but they are drunk too. If we move fast we should be able to use some side streets and get through without too much difficulty."

The vehicles had all been refueled earlier from the supplies they carried, so it was a matter of a few minutes until all were in their places and ready to move out. The HumVee took the lead now, and they made good time as the day wore on.

Next chapter:
Losers Weepers, Finders Keepers
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: socalserf on April 23, 2010, 07:34:28 pm
That's some mighty fine reading, Thanks ML!
p.s. MORE!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 23, 2010, 08:05:24 pm
That's some mighty fine reading, Thanks ML!
p.s. MORE!

Yes very good indeed. More please.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story -chapter 4
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 24, 2010, 08:59:40 pm
Losers Weepers

Dodging an increasing number of abandoned and burned out cars, the convoy approached the town rapidly, leaving the main highway at the first opportunity. The side road took them near the damaged bridge, and Charlie could see that a massive train wreck had been the cause of it. The HumVee could possibly have mounted the siding and crossed the tracks below the wreck, but the other vehicles in their wake could not have done so. The only other crossing was on the other side of the bridge, beyond the commercial district.

Jeff, who was now driving, turned again onto a road that paralleled the railroad tracks and slowed significantly. Ahead was a blind curve with a large manufacturing building jutting into the bulge. It was the best route they could find on the map and with the limited scouting information they had, since they didn't want to go anywhere near the roadblocks on the highway and just needed to get across the railroad tracks as quickly as possible.

Bradshaw spoke into the radio, ordering the other vehicles to drop back and maintain a little greater distance between them. Tension was high, and Charlie realized he was sweating hard... the bile backlash of fear harsh in his throat once again.  He had no desire for another shooting war, but there didn't seem to be much choice here.

The boys and Cathy had been settled on the bedrolls in the middle of the cargo area behind the seat. As their supplies dwindled, there was more room, and the Sergeant had decided they would be safer there than in the seat. They slept quietly in the afternoon heat, and Charlie turned his attention to his rifle. They all had a pouch full of extra loaded magazines, and nobody needed to check again to make sure they had a round chambered.

They were as ready as they were going to get.

Rounding the first part of the curve, the hummer took a solid hit in an armor plate just below the driver's window. Everyone was thrown forward a bit as the brakes were applied, and they got a glimpse of a road full of nasty tire spikes ahead. Someone had fired just a few moments too early, and blown the trap. The shooter was not visible, and there were literally hundreds of places from which he could shoot down at them without exposing himself. Impossible to know if there was one shooter or dozens.  They all held their fire, since they had no targets, and they heard no more shots fired at them.

Reversing gears screamed as the hummer backed up, then turned and fled back down the frontage road. The convoy reached the highway and turned east, then stopped when there was no pursuit from the town. The open ground was both an advantage and a disadvantage, of course, since the goblins in town could see which way they went as easily as they could see any movement to follow them. 

Bradshaw's jaw was tight and his brow furrowed, but he showed no other emotion. He'd very much doubted that all the bandits were drunk, and he hadn't shared plan B, hoping that it wouldn't be necessary.

Much as he hated the fact, there was a personal enemy in that bunch, and they knew he was near because they'd recognized the hummer. The road spikes told him that his old nemesis from the Nebraska National Guard was in charge, and he knew that man would do anything he could to kill all of them.

He was not apt to make another mistake like the last one.  And they were not going to make it past this town unless Colonel Millwright was taken out and his bully boys neutralized.

A sign just off the highway announced a private RV park and fishing spot a few miles south of town, visible in the near distance - inviting with trees and a small lake. They needed to camp for a while, and it looked like a defensible place, so they turned in and approached cautiously. Bradshaw didn't like the fact that there was only one way in or out, but their options were as limited as their time.

The main building had been looted and burned, and there were several abandoned vehicles in the lot, but the camping spots near the lake were mostly clear. The convoy pulled into a circle, ignoring the usual camping site lines. They dismounted after a thorough search of the out buildings  and the tiny woodlot, discovering nothing but a single corpse and an old dog that had died from a bullet between the eyes. It was impossible to determine what had happened to all of the other people, or why the vehicles had been abandoned intact. Just one more pebble on a mountain of mysteries.

Charlie checked out a nice camper rig, and got Cathy settled into the bed. The boys were simply wild to run and climb, so he took them to a nearby play area and watched as they enjoyed the slides and swings. He knew that the deep sand would sap their excess energy quickly as they ran back and forth.

Preparations were started for an early supper. They hadn't taken time for a regular meal all day, and everyone was suddenly very hungry. Charlie volunteered to be the cook, while Bradshaw and most of the others sat a little apart, discussing the day and the current problem. Two were on guard, but everyone kept alert with their rifles close at hand.

"Colonel Millwright?, Jeff said. "He's one bad hombre." He looked away from the others, remembering stories told by some Nebraska folks who had joined their refuge in the last few weeks. Evidently, he and a big crew of criminals and former guardsmen had turned rogue within days of the final breakdown of civil authority.

"I know you guys don't like it," the Sergeant said, "but there really isn't much else we can do. I'll take one man with me, and do my best to find and eliminate Millwright. If we can cut off the head of this snake, the rest of them won't present us with too much of a problem." John nodded, knowing he had drawn the short straw for this mission. It didn't seem to bother him.

No word on how he planned to take Millwright out, and nobody asked. They didn't have much to say, but though they plainly didn't like Bradshaw's plan B., he hadn't asked for their opinion and they knew better than to argue with him when he'd made up his mind. Several of them grinned at John, wishing they were going instead, but they knew he was the best choice.

Silence reigned for a little while. Then Bradshaw asked a man named Fred to take his team and make sure the parameter of the camp was secure. Jeff's  team would relieve them as soon as they'd eaten, and they could trade off every four hours after that until he and/or John returned - or they decided they weren't going to be able to make it back, whichever came first.

Charlie called them to eat the simple meal, then took a plateful into the trailer to feed Cathy while the men outside watched the boys.

Cathy was sitting up, and he was overjoyed to see her make eye contact and even give him a wan smile. He helped her to the toilet, and watched while she washed her own face and hands, grateful there was still water in the tank of the camper and enough battery power left to move it.

She sat and began to eat, a little shaky and hesitant, but clearly coming around. She said, "thank you" a few times, but didn't speak otherwise - only turning her head to look out the door when her sons howled with laughter. The big block of ice that had encased his heart for so long began to melt, and he suddenly felt so weak he was glad to be sitting down beside her.

Even though she wouldn't eat much, he encouraged her to consume as much of the "sport's drink" as she could tolerate. She patiently swallowed until she could take no more, but he was encouraged to see that she'd gotten down most of the liter bottle and knew it would restore much that had been lost from her system over the last week. 

Twilight was long and colorful from the smoke that hung over the town, but soon the bed rolls came out and no time was lost getting into them. The boys were snuggled with their mother, and Charlie placed his bed in front of the trailer door, making sure his rifle was exactly where he needed it to be.

He didn't know when the Sergeant and his partner had left, but he said a silent prayer for all of them, with a special prayer of thanksgiving for Cathy and her recovery. He hoped she could be spared further shock, but he knew now that she was stronger and more resilient than he'd dared to expect.

*****

Bradshaw was no longer young, and his body had been given a number of serious insults over the years, but the younger man had to work hard to keep up with him. John grinned about it occasionally, and kept on moving, thinking that the bad ass Colonel was about to regret the afternoon's error in a big way. He'd almost had them, and if he knew the Sergeant, he wasn't apt to get many more chances.

Night found them half way to the edge of town, a sliver of moon giving them all the light they needed. Night vision glasses were clipped to their helmets, and there wasn't much in the way of rough ground ahead of them anyway. It would have been easier walking on the road, but they'd have been far more visible then of course.

Fires in the residential areas continued to burn, but they seemed to be more smoke than fire now. John mentally reviewed the map he'd memorized, and tried to think where the rogue Colonel would set up his headquarters. The old National Guard building was the most likely place, but there were other possibilities and he had no real idea what intel Bradshaw might have that he hadn't shared. He wasn't worried about it... he'd know when he needed to know.

Stopping at a flood control ditch, they carefully climbed down and walked further south along the dry watercourse. Distant gunfire could be heard occasionally, but there were no moving vehicles or people anywhere they could see.

John touched Bradshaw's shoulder lightly when they reached the street that led to the Armory on the outskirts of town. Climbing out of the ditch on the other side, they melted into the shadows like ferrets on the hunt, stopping at the official chain link fence only long enough to make good use of the heavy cable cutter John had carried. Then, after crawling through the cut wire, the tool was abandoned to reduce the weight of his pack.

They came to a 6 foot retaining wall, and took a breather while they looked over the large sprawling installation beyond the storage lot on the lower level where they had entered. Few vehicles were on the lot behind them, and only two sat in front of what looked to be the administration building nestled in a crescent of smaller structures and trees. The concrete of the parking lot reflected the warm moonlight faintly.

"Bingo," John thought. " But he wondered how they could cover the 200 yards of bare concrete unseen. A diversion would work, but then Millwright would KNOW they were there. He would be expecting Bradshaw to try this, of course, and he'd be ready. No guards in evidence, but John didn't expect that. Too obvious, and too vulnerable. At least the ordinary guard soldiers would be vulnerable.

Bradshaw started to move, and John followed along the wall until they came to the end at a driveway. Close by was one of the small buildings, door hanging open and windows broken. He could see others beyond it, but no details were discernible in the shade cast by the many trees around them.

Gliding silently from tree to tree, and building to building, John constantly consulted a small electronic device, hoping to spot surveillance or alarms before they tripped them. Twice they came close, and several were passed with a wide margin, but they were both drenched in sweat by the time they reached the back of the main building. It wasn't likely that the Nebraska National Guard had more sophisticated electronics than they did, but anything is possible.

John hoped they were not going to attempt to enter the structure, always a much more difficult task, but it was obvious what was needed. John placed another device on the electronic combination lock of the back door and, after a few seconds with a tiny thing that looked like a remote control, the light on the lock went from red to green and the door opened easily. The back up generator was powering the doors, but not the big array of lights that would normally have covered the place inside and out. Of course that was just fine with John... darkness was their friend.

Both men slipped on their night glasses as they passed inside, watching the tiny displays of the alarm detectors carefully. They found the security room easily, quiet and empty as a tomb, and the same device that had opened the door lock turned off the whole system. Not that they quit looking at their alarm snoopers, of course. Back up and redundant systems are an old military standby.

But this time, one was all there was, it seemed. No other surveillance devices or nets were discovered, and the continued quiet seemed to indicate that their presence had not yet been detected.

Silently, they walked the hallway leading to the front of the building. Doors on either side, a few standing open, led to empty, dark offices and one large conference room with a massive table in the middle, all smashed to splinters. Nothing else seemed out of place, but the savagery of the destruction of that table sent cold spikes down John's neck. He remembered some of the horror stories about the mad Colonel, and wished he'd never heard them.

This was all much too easy and he seriously feared a trap, but he would have gladly followed the Sergeant into hell itself, so he kept on walking.

A large suite of offices branched off to the left, complete with a lobby and a receptionist's desk.  A single dim light shone behind the glass door of the office designated for the facility commander, and it stood slightly ajar as if to invite them in. It swung silently as they entered after flipping up the night glasses, and neither of them was surprised to hear someone gruffly say, "Well, you did come after all."

A big man sat in an office chair, behind a massive desk, but John could see immediately that something was very wrong here. The voice had not only been gruff, but weak and breathy. The figure in the chair was slumped to one side and seemed to waver in the pale light of an emergency lantern that had been placed in front of him on the desk. The smell of blood hit the back of John's throat, and he suddenly knew the man in the chair was dying. That didn't make him any less dangerous, necessarily, but he didn't feel so trapped all of a sudden.

Bradshaw didn't say anything for a few moments, but his first words were a big surprise to John, who knew the terrible history between these two - or at least the last part of it.

"Hello, old friend. I'm sorry it has come to this, but it seemed you never wanted it any other way." The Sarge paused, then continued. "I tried to tell you that your own actions would someday bring you to death and destruction."

The Colonel shook his head slightly, his expression hard to read. He was breathing harder, and the smell of blood was strong. He closed his eyes, and pressed his fleshy lips together for a moment, swallowing hard, but obviously unable to call up enough strength to say anything more.

A door slammed in the distance, and the faint sound of pounding boots could be heard between the rough breaths of the dying man before them. Bradshaw took a good sized bundle from his pack and turned a dial, then placed it on the floor in front of the desk. They turned and left the room without another word, but John knew that the Colonel had taken his last breath before the door closed behind them. After all the horror he'd inflicted, he'd simply bled out in his own office.

Quickly retracing their path to the back door, they slipped out into the night and then ran for the retaining wall, knowing that the security system was out. John knew what to expect, but they had barely gotten behind the wall when the night exploded into fire and sound that blinded and deafened them both for a few moments, sending a cloud of smoke and debris that would have cut them to ribbons if they'd been in the open. 

The explosion leveled the main building, and the rest of them were soon burning brightly. A few men staggered out of buildings on the edge of the compound with their clothing in flames, and nobody noticed two shadows that merged with the night and crossed the back of the abandoned base to the hole in the fence.

John labored to follow Bradshaw, and he wondered to himself just what had happened. But he'd done his job. He wasn't much of a soldier, all told, but he was an electronic genius and had never come across a system he couldn't jam or shut down. He was glad tonight had not been any exception.

*****
Dawn had broken, but for the first time in a long while Charlie hadn't awakened with the first light. Even a former Marine occasionally reaches the end of his endurance. So, it was with some confusion that he woke to shouts of joy. Rolling out of his tangled blankets, he saw the Sergeant and John staggering into camp looking dirty and rough, but very happy indeed.

 
[Next chapter:  Finders Keepers
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 25, 2010, 03:56:27 am
This has to be the most excitement that ever occurred in Nebraska... Aside from the State Fair.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on April 25, 2010, 12:26:24 pm
good stuff ML...keep it up.    :notworthy:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on April 25, 2010, 04:46:14 pm
good stuff ML...keep it up.    :notworthy:
+1  Hooked and ready for more.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story- chapter 5
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 27, 2010, 05:03:40 pm
Finders Keepers

Just like the replay of a bad movie, Charlie saw the blind curve and vacant factory building came into sight. Cathy and the boys were flat in back again, though not sleeping this time, and everyone looked grim. Nobody had any idea what to expect.

They crept up to the point of yesterday's attack and then came to a stop just beyond it. The spike strips were tossed off to the side, and a makeshift barrier of saw horses and 2x4s spanned the road instead. Weatherbeaten old men armed with farmer's rifles and shotguns were guarding it . They were obviously not bandits or goblins, but they didn't look welcoming.

Bradshaw stepped out of the hummer with his hands high, leaving his rifle behind but clearly armed with the holstered pistol. He stood still and let the men look him over, wondering what they thought about the faded camo and combat gear, not too much different than many of the bandits had worn. He was clearly not a cop or regular military, and right now even they were not apt to be too welcome much of anywhere.

A middle aged man in overalls and a straw hat stepped forward of the barrier. He wasn't exactly pointing the rifle at the Sergeant, but he wasn't exactly NOT pointing it at him either. His gaze bored into the vehicles, and then froze on the hummer as Cathy got out with the boys. Charlie didn't want to let her go, but she was adamant and would not be held back. She just stood there silently, waiting for whatever might happen. Somehow, her intuition had insisted that this was necessary for everyone to understand each other before there was a tragedy.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" The man directed his question to Cathy, his voice gruff with resolve, but the suspicion was fading from his expression and Bradshaw slowly lowered his hands. The old man lowered the muzzle of the rifle at the same time, and everyone took a deep breath.

"We were rescued from a city in Iowa," she said, her glance taking in Charlie and the boys. "These men have saved our lives." She went on gazing into the old man's eyes, but had nothing more to say.

The Sergeant moved slightly, drawing the man's attention and said, "We just need to get over the rails and back on the highway. We're going to our place in Wyoming. Would you please let us through to the crossing?

The man looked thoughtful, and then rubbed tired eyes as he made up his mind. "You see," he said in a whole different tone of voice, "we're sort of in a bind here and maybe you folks could help us." He almost smiled as he said it, but they could all see that he was suddenly very near to tears.

"Many of our young men are still overseas in some Islamic rat hole or another, and this town has been torn apart by all these filthy criminals who crawled out of the cities when things crashed. They've killed a lot of our folks, and there wasn't much we could do about it, but we've just learned that some women were taken captive and are being held down town. It may be a fool's errand to rescue them, but we'd sure like to try and 8 more men might just get the job done."

By now the barrier had been moved aside. Everyone had dismounted from the vehicles and all were gathered around the HumVee. The townsmen moved closer, most slinging their rifles, but the ever vigilant Mutt and Jeff kept their guns at the ready, scanning the surrounding buildings and open spaces carefully as they casually took opposite sides of the street .

"We can't stay here in the open," said Bradshaw, and the old man nodded. "Follow us," he said, and went to an old pickup truck that had been parked in an alley. 

Bradshaw's group remounted, and the rest of the townsmen piled into the truck bed, rifles back in their hands and at the ready.

The old truck pulled out and went west, then abruptly turned left onto a light industrial park. Another turn took them toward a shipping dock complex under two of the buildings, and they snaked around several abandoned 18 wheelers and assorted loose trailers until they were all parked in the gloom at the bottom of the ramp. The trucks and trailers topside were evidently being used as a screen because there were none in the underground area that was bordered on both sides by closed shipping doors.

Inside the office portion of one building, maps, sketch pads and pens or markers littered a big conference table. The building evidently had its own generating plant because some women with hot coffee and sandwiches appeared rapidly as they settled into the room. One older lady led Cathy off to find a rest room, and the boys were engaged with paper and markers at another table soon after they came back.

This time, Charlie took a chair at the council of war, having left the last of his reluctance and self doubt at the old RV park that morning.  He and his family had been rescued, and now it was time to pay that debt forward if it was at all possible.

The lead elder introduced himself as Luke Benson, a local farmer and county commissioner. Each person around the table introduced themselves, but only Bradshaw added a few words to indicate his former occupation and experience in the Marine Corps.

Luke said that most of the people in town had evacuated to the farms and were probably safe out there, but that his wife had been in town with him when the goblins hit and they'd been separated in the madness. She had been worried about a group of people who had insisted on staying in the old church and she might have tried to reach them. He hadn't seen her since.

Looking at the maps while this was going on, Charlie compared the topographical to an excellent detailed street view, and was delighted to see one of the new aerial view sort as well. Within a few minutes he was more familiar with the layout and features of the town than most of those who had lived there all their lives. For this was Charlie's gift. He had a photographic memory and perfect recall of it. He seldom had to look at a map a second time to know exactly where he was and how to get to where he needed to be - or to direct others to a desired destination. His memory worked just as well for other things, but was especially keen for maps and the geographical features of any landscape.

His eager study of the maps had not gone unnoticed. The Sergeant grinned, probably remembering Charlie's talent, and then turned to address Luke again. Charlie smiled too and relaxed into the nice chair, swirling the dregs of his coffee in the thick mug.

"Where did you say you thought the women were being held, Luke? Sarge said. Luke just wrung his hands and told them that his son Jake had gone out last evening to see if he could locate them. But he had not returned and was feared lost.

Bradshaw probably was not aware of the fierce look on his face and the eager tilt of his jaw, but it was not lost on anyone else in the room. The townspeople murmured to each other, casting hopeful glances at the newcomers. Nothing had been promised yet, but nobody really doubted now that the attempt would be made.

The morning seemed to be going by too fast to measure, but by 10 AM they were ready. Extra radios had been brought out, batteries and function tested, and pouches loaded with anything else they thought they might need. The boys wandered from group to group, alternately being cosseted and scolded, but enjoying all of it until, too tired to go on, they fell asleep at their mother's feet and were carried off by loving hands for a nap out of the bustle.

Charlie stood beside a large window in an empty office and watched the clouds in the south rising to fantastic heights, trailing showers and lightning across the prairie. A deep black bank of clouds on the horizon promised serious rain later. Cathy stood silently beside him, obviously not happy that he was going to leave without her, but accepting his desire - his need - to "pay forward" his debt to Bradshaw and the others. Charlie and two others had been chosen to do the scouting, to see if they could locate the women being held captive. She knew that Luke's son, who had gone on that mission the night before, had never returned so the risk was not small.

*****
The jeep had been chosen for this mission, and the man made cavern echoed slightly as the men shouted to each other over the sound of the engine and the occasional bursts of thunder. Bradshaw had just given the order for the recon team to mount up when a lone man came in out of the rain. He was soaked to the skin, and his long hair hung in strings around his face, but there was no menace in him.  He was young, not obviously armed, and wore the typical jeans and t-shirt, moving with fluid grace.

Luke and Bradshaw stepped forward together, and Luke took the young man's hand as it was extended wordlessly. "Did you find them? Luke said.

Turning to the Sergeant, Luke introduced the newcomer as his only son Jake.

"Yes, Pop, I found them. Was pinned down for a while, but finally got away." Jake was clearly almost exhausted, but excited with his news. "They're in the Manor House Motel on Main and 2nd St.," he said. "Those guys are starting to come off their drunk, and they're getting real ugly. We got to DO something fast!"

"Did you see your mother? Luke said sharply, but Jake just shook his head. "I couldn't get close enough to see anything much, but I know that's where they are... the ones who are still alive anyway... They took the women from the church and killed everyone else"  His voice trailed off and his eyes burned with hate. Luke put his arms around him saying, "These men are going to help us rescue everyone possible. We've got to let them get going."

Bradshaw nodded, and then turned to address the three men in the Jeep who had been ready to go looking for the women. "This changes everything, now that we know were they are. Hold on a moment and we'll all be going with you!"

"Saddle up! he shouted to the rest of the convoy. They'd all actually been ready to go, so it was only a few moments until all three vehicles roared up the ramp and headed out into the sporadic rain. Charlie had returned to the HumVee, and was now the navigator in the front passenger seat. Mutt was behind in the truck with his team, and Jeff brought up the rear in the Jeep with his group.

The wrecked and abandoned cars on the streets made progress very slow and Bradshaw noted that the gutters were already flowing from the passing thunderstorms. When the main rain hit, the streets would soon be flooded and travel would become even more hazardous. He hoped to be done and out of the open by then.

A block from the motel, they left the vehicles. Sarge sent two of the men to scout further on foot. They needed a better idea of what they were getting into. They had seen no signs of guards or watchers on the way in, but that didn't mean they hadn't been spotted. They just had to take the chance that the enemy was either too drunk or too hung over to mount a watch.

He was very worried that the bandits were being led by Emmanuel Perez, Millwright's demented lieutenant, as implacable an enemy as had ever lived. His serious lack of intelligence had always kept him in the shadow of his evil master, but his skill with any sort of bladed weapon was legendary among those who knew him. Bradshaw was as sure as he could be that the knife wounds Millwright had died from had been inflicted by Perez. Nobody else could have gotten close enough to the old tyrant anyway, but why Perez had killed him was a whole other unanswered question. He figured he's probably never know.

The scouts returned quickly, moving fast through another cloudburst. Jeff climbed into the back seat of the hummer to give Sarge report, and the other man returned to the Jeep where he had been before. Jeff's soggy clothing dripped on the seat and the odor of sweat and wet leather was heavy for a moment while he caught his breath.

"Not too many guys outside the Motel," he said. No telling how many inside, really, but they're still pretty drunk and very loud. I heard women screaming too, and wanted to go in there real bad, but here I am." He looked very grim, and took a second to swallow hard. "Lots and lots of doors, of course, being a motel. It's going to be a nightmare to clear the place of goblins without killing the hostages! The main building with the office, cafe and store are pretty messed up, but I didn't see any signs of fire. We could blow the place for a diversion, but I'm not sure what good that would do. They are just too screwed up to be predictable at all.

The Sergeant nodded, and then shared his fears about the identity of the goblin leader. Jeff took a deep breath and held it a moment, jaw tense and eyes very wide. "Oh God," he said, and swallowed hard again. Charlie had never heard of Perez, of course, but he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise in response to the fear demonstrated by the others.

"A personal challenge to fight might bring Perez out," said Bradshaw. The others looked at him silently. They certainly didn't have anything better to offer, and they knew the Sarge understood their enemy the best. What they didn't have was anyone even remotely qualified to take the crazy criminal lieutenant on in hand to hand combat. The did know that he would not agree to anything but knives.

"Sniper shot when he comes out?" Jeff suggested. "Maybe we could get him to come out?"
 
Charlie cleared his throat, and the others looked at him curiously. "Ah, are these guys like a gang outfit? How would they react if a rival gang came along and challenged them?"

Bradshaw just shook his head. "Not enough of us for that, but you did give me an idea Jeff. Hmmmm, I wonder where all of the big guns and vehicles from the Armory went to...  Sure wish we could see this burg from the air."

His eyes went immediately to a tower on a building on the block just beyond the motel. If they could manage to remain undetected and get up into the top of that structure, they might be able to see better, and they'd be in a much better position for sniper fire too.

Speaking to Luke on the radio, he soon determined that there was a way up the tower, probably locked, but not impossible to penetrate as the building was quite old. He also said that he thought the National Guard vehicles and guns had been loaded onto the train that had derailed east of town. He would send a group of men to determine if any could be recovered. Bradshaw instructed him on placement of any he was able to salvage, cautioning him to take great care not to be discovered by the bandits.

The pickup truck was left with one man as guardian of some very special ordinance. Mutt patted it as he set it up on the back of the truck and hoped to have the chance to use it. The HumVee and the Jeep went around several blocks to the big old church with the tower. It didn't look as tall when they got to it, but it was obviously the tallest structure in town and would give them some advantage anyway.

Getting into the tower was a matter of breaking one lock and climbing a long winding staircase to the top. The old clock mechanism occupied a closed area in the center, and a narrow window on each of the four sides let in plenty of light. Luckily the one on the side facing the motel had been broken out recently, so they didn't need to do anything but set up their equipment and wait. Monsoon rain and heavy wind came with the black clouds as three men were finding other rooftops around the motel to establish sniper points.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story 5, continued
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 27, 2010, 05:05:04 pm
The Sergeant shook his head and muttered to himself, while Jeff adjusted the scope on his big battle rifle to get a clearer picture of the most likely target. The rain and wind made a good clean shot almost impossible, he knew, but he'd do his best. Charlie looked out over the downtown area, trying to spot anything that might help them. They all had field glasses, and Charlie had a powerful spotting scope, temporarily mounted on the ledge of the old tower window. Something drew his attention to an old grain silo and feed mill on the far western edge of town, but he didn't have time to think about it much.

Suddenly, a car came out of the motel parking lot and stopped in front of one of the rooms. Everyone in the rescue party came to instant attention, and Jeff got serious about his aim. Lady luck might visit them, but she wouldn't stay around to give them a second chance. 

A small, dark man in a rumpled uniform staggered out, several other men crowding out behind him. Bradshaw touched Jeff's shoulder, and the sniper grew very still for just a moment before the rifle spoke. One man in the group fell, but it was not the right one, and the rest scattered fast. Two went back into the room, and three entered the car which sped off to the north. The Sergeant spoke into the radio, and a few moments later the car was hit with something rather larger than a bullet and came to rest in flames against the burned out hulk of a truck about a block away. Small arms fire was heard for a moment, but there was no movement from the wrecked car. The SMAW had come in handy, and their placement of it had been pure blind luck.

A stream of men came out of all the rooms, but nobody on the rescue team could see that as anything but a good thing. Gunfire rattled from many directions, and the drunken men in the street began to fall like bowling pins. They couldn't see anything to shoot at, of course, but that didn't stop them from shooting wildly into the surrounding buildings. That had to be stopped as quickly as possible, since the motel rooms behind them might be filled with hostages.

The snipers placed their shots carefully, in spite of the rain and wind, and the bandits in the street were quickly all accounted for. That left an unknown number still in the rooms, and the women were still hostages. While the situation had improved some, the telling point would be the presence of Perez. If he was dead in that car, the rest of the goblins might be killed or convinced to surrender. If Perez was in that room, a successful rescue was far from sure.

The radio signaled an incoming report, and the Sarge heaved a big sigh of relief to learn that Perez was almost certainly dead. He really ought to go down there to make a positive identification, but he doubted that there were two men here who would fit the description. Perez had a face that would stop a clock, full of old scars from knife fighting.

The rain intensified, and the afternoon began to grow dark. Luke had not been able to salvage any of the National Guard trucks, but they had a good number of guns and lots of ammunition. They had gathered a dozen men from the farms, and agreed to surround the motel to rush the buildings as soon as everyone was in place. There just wasn't any other way they could see to effect the rescue now.

Leaving Jeff in the tower, and at least three others on various rooftops around, the men assembled behind the old church and out of sight of the motel. Rain fell in sheets, and everyone was soon drenched, but their spirits were high and their resolve rock solid. The older men arrived and gave sandwiches and hot coffee from thermos bottles to the young warriors. A few men took a quick smoke in the doorway of the church, trying to stay out of the wind while Bradshaw and his team leaders conferred with Luke.

Then, after a quick huddle to be sure everyone knew their part, each man carefully made his way to an assigned position and waited for the signal to attack. Lightning once again began to flash through the storm clouds, and the rain continued. Charlie pulled the hood of his poncho over his face and checked again to be sure his rifle was covered. He hoped this would be over soon because he was just as exhausted as he'd been the day before and he didn't know how much longer he could go on. But he knew that he'd gone on much longer than he'd ever dreamed was possible, even back in the city, so he put it out of his mind and waited patiently, just as they'd taught him in the Marine Corps years ago.

He almost didn't see the signal anyway. A blinding flash of lightning and instant crack of thunder mostly covered the sound of the opening volley of gunfire. Charlie joined others rushing the motel rooms, kicking in the doors if they were locked, and taking out any resistance. There was surprisingly little, but the shock of seeing the condition of the women they found was more sickening than the toll exacted by having to kill their despoilers. It was all over very quickly, with a few men detailed to make sure all the goblins had been accounted for. Then the task of helping the women out to the waiting vehicles began. Nobody knew exactly how many women had been taken alive originally, but only 11 were found in the motel rooms. Luke helped with bowed shoulders and grim face, knowing his wife was not among the survivors.

Through the rest of the afternoon and evening, the men checked out all the other motels and  buildings in the town, finding nothing more than widespread destruction and many corpses, fortunately mostly goblins - except for the men and children in the old church sanctuary. It was sorrowful and crushing work for the townspeople.

A restless night's sleep in the old shipping center had been followed by a quick breakfast and brief good-bye speeches from the town elders. They would ever be grateful for the help they'd received, but they declined to follow the Sergeant and his party to relative safety in Wyoming. They were resolved to rebuild their town and resume their lives the best they could.

Bradshaw, Mutt and Charlie, with Cathy and the boys in the HumVee led their little convoy across the tracks and back onto the highway at the crossing north of town early the next morning. They still had a long road home.

Next chapter: The Kiss of Lady Luck
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on April 27, 2010, 09:02:47 pm
Again...love it and keep it coming.



Just a small editorial note.   The stinger missile (used to blow up the car) is a surface to air missile and would not be used for that application.  A better choice would be the SMAW, a Marine specific,

S-holder launched
M-ulti-purpose
A-ssault
W-eapon.

Basically an updated, more powerful, re loadable bazooka.

Just sayin.   Ya know, for when you publish.   :thumbsup:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 27, 2010, 09:27:40 pm
I'm not going to pick any nits, two thumbs up!

 :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: socalserf on April 28, 2010, 05:53:43 am
A better choice would be the SMAW, a Marine specific,

S-holder launched
M-ulti-purpose
A-ssault
W-eapon.

Basically an updated, more powerful, re loadable bazooka.



Can I buy of of those at the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms convenience store?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on April 28, 2010, 07:29:42 am
LOL probably not in Kalifornia...sorry.   ^_^
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 28, 2010, 07:54:27 am
Again...love it and keep it coming.
Just a small editorial note.   The stinger missile (used to blow up the car) is a surface to air missile and would not be used for that application.  A better choice would be the SMAW, a Marine specific,

That's great, and I'll change that. I have no idea about any of this hardware. And remember, I'm not writing this, really! The ghost who is driving my typing must not know a lot about such hardware either. LOL
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Zookeeper on April 28, 2010, 01:36:37 pm
M.L.  You have me hooked. More Please.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on April 28, 2010, 01:53:23 pm
Hehe...no problem.   Just one of those things I get anal about.   :rolleyes:

If your ghost ever has any questions about stuff like that just shoot me a PM...my ghost is a weapons and hardware buff.   :mellow:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 28, 2010, 02:22:12 pm
I read through the whole thing so far last night, and there seem to be quite a few big holes in it... so today I started on a sort of "prologue" that will plug a lot of them. We'll see if I'll be allowed to write it, and what new mysteries may be revealed!

This is the most bizarre writing experience of my life. :) I usually do careful plot outlines, character sketches, research the locations, and so forth... but not this time. Not kidding you guys at all. When I sit down to write this I have absolutely NO idea where the story is going or what's going to happen. 

In any case, please do send me any real gripes or problems with either hardware or tactics - or inconsistencies of any kind. We shall see if the ghost allows me to do anything about it!!

Probably will not be ready to post any more until some time tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 28, 2010, 07:22:42 pm
Will do! I look fo'ard to yer next post.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 29, 2010, 09:56:28 am
The story seems to have a title now. Here are the missing pieces. A small edit has been made to the second chapter as well, tying it in. Others are, no doubt needed, but for now this is it. My ghost needs another cup of coffee. :)

Consequences

All choices and actions have consequences. This story illustrates some of the consequences possible for the choices and actions Americans have taken since 1776. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

Prologue

Betty slowly took the headphones off, placed them on their hook by the radio, and then put her head down on her arms to sob. Roger Bradshaw came into the radio room just then, and gently rubbed her neck while he rescued the notebook under her arms. He continued to rub her neck and back while he read the notes she had taken from their ham contacts in the east and California.

None of it really surprised him, but he was still dealing with some shock that it had all happened so fast. Four weeks ago, the US dollar had at last joined the scrap heap of history without anything to replace it, at least not on an international level. Imports had stopped arriving, including food and the oil so desperately needed for the transport of basic food and supplies.

Martial law had been declared across the country, and Washington DC had been burned to the ground within the next few days. It was not known if the President or Congress, etc. had died, but Roger didn't suppose the country had been that lucky. The criminals of DC had had their rabbit holes prepared for a long time - at least for the chief rabbits.

Soon, rioting had broken out in the big cities, and it had been obvious from the start that the various law enforcement agencies were woefully inadequate to stop it, even in those places were National Guard troops were sent in. The cutbacks and budget woes of the last year had made that inevitable, and they were simply outnumbered regardless of superior firepower. Thousands, on both sides, were dying every day.

Now, the latest reports from ham operators in Iowa, along the Mississippi, and California were coming in. Large groups of desperate, lawless men, including released prisoners, were beginning to infiltrate farther and farther into the center of the country, looting and burning as they came. One of the most disturbing things to Bradshaw was a confirmed report of a National Guard commander in Nebraska who had deserted with his picked troops. Unfortunately, nobody knew where they had gone when they left Omaha. Roger knew this man personally, and he greatly feared their paths might cross again.

Betty stood up and put her arms around her new husband. Her sobs were controlled, but the tears continued to fall on his broad chest. He gave her a hug, then took her hand and led her out the door. Soon they stood before a small group gathered in the lounge of their community building - a former "dude ranch" headquarters and main house.

Twenty three adults, another twenty not quite out of their teens, and a large group of young children who were mostly sleeping on bed rolls along one wall. Three grannies watched them, while half a dozen older women worked in the adjacent kitchen packing food and other supplies into backpacks and boxes.

Every adult in the room had a sidearm, and racks full of rifles nearly filled the far wall next to the outside door.

"You know why we've gathered," Roger said, after reading the latest reports to them. Their faces were generally stoic, though there was a glint of tears in more than a few of their eyes. They had been preparing for just this day for a very long time. Two of the ladies came up and took Betty to a seat at one side, silently comforting her.

"We also have a few members not present here, as you know. Betty's brother Charlie and his family did not get out of Iowa in time. Why that happened is not really important now, I think, and I suspect Charlie and Cathy are very aware of the errors they made. The question before us is what to do about it, if anything."

They were all silent for a few moments, remembering the events of the last few weeks. They had expected Charlie to roll in any time, but it had become evident that Cathy was not as committed to the move as she had seemed to be during earlier visits, and she was not really willing to leave her family in Sioux City, Iowa. They, unfortunately, had not been willing to even consider leaving the city.

The last communication from Charlie, just before the cell phone network went down, had confirmed that he was ready to "fort up" in his home and had prepared the best he could with supplies and ammunition. He had indicated continued hope in a peaceful outcome, or at least a restoration of order by the police. But he hadn't sounded as if he believed it much... And he'd been mighty sorry they couldn't come out for the wedding.

Six young men stood by the back door, as if they were not completely sure of their welcome yet. Their haircuts and manners identified them easily as Marines, and the faded BDU uniforms gave silent testimony to their recent experience. They had come with Roger, all being discharged in the final and hectic days ending the "war" in the Mideast. Thousands had finally been released from their long "stop loss" extensions of expired enlistments, and most of them had refused the offers to join various law enforcement and National Guard organizations. They'd had a belly full of the lies and abuse from their "government."

The oldest of the former Marines, Jeff Sutton, stepped forward and addressed his former Sergeant. "We can just go get them," he said, grinning. The others nodded agreement. Charlie was one of their own, a former Marine, even though these 6 had never met him.

"We'd be leaving our community a tad light on security," Bradshaw commented, but the combination of scornful and defiant looks from the rest of the people made him laugh out loud. They all chuckled with him then, realizing that he'd been pulling their legs.

"Anyone object to us doing a rescue?" Bradshaw asked. We've got our own vehicles and supplies, of course. No need for anyone to go with us. You might want to see to it that the cabin Charlie built here is ready to be occupied.

Nobody had any objections, but there was plenty of discussion later as some of the folks joined Bradshaw and his troops in the planning session. The maps and notepads were stained with coffee and marking pens, empty plates and cups pushed to the side to make room for them.

"Not too many large towns between here and Iowa," Jeff said. "If we stick to smaller state highways and county roads, we should be ok. We don't know how well or if these towns are prepared to deal with invaders, and we'll have to be mighty careful not to get mistaken for goblins." Bradshaw rubbed the back of his neck, easing the tension, and said, "I sure wish we had Charlie with us because he's a whiz with maps in strange territory, but we'll have him on the way home." Standing up, he said, "We've got the route mapped, so unless someone has something to add, I suggest we get some sleep and head out at first light."

Yawns and grins greeted this prospect without objection, and one by one they left to find their various bed rolls while Bradshaw rolled the maps and tucked them in his tote bag. He turned out the light and went down the hall to the room he shared with Betty.

Tomorrow was going to be a very long day.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on April 29, 2010, 01:00:09 pm
Geez, now I'm gonna have to write one for my story. It's going to be hard too because I'm writing it in the first person, rather than second or third, which are the usual perspectives.

Nice to know the pre-story tho'.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on April 30, 2010, 04:46:47 am
a little foreshadowing too.  Keep going.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 30, 2010, 06:49:08 am
This next chapter seems to be getting even more hair raising! They only thought Perez was dead! And now he's on their tail.

May not get it posted until late, or tomorrow. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Bill St. Clair on May 01, 2010, 10:17:12 am
I hadn't taken the time to read this until today. Now I want more. I pour out energy to your muse, Mama Liberty. May she continue to serve you well.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 01, 2010, 10:21:23 am
I hadn't taken the time to read this until today. Now I want more. I pour out energy to your muse, Mama Liberty. May she continue to serve you well.

Thanks. :) I need all the help I can get. The more of this I write, the more horrified I am. This is just too weird.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 01, 2010, 05:03:23 pm
Great job ML!

More more more!

Please
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 01, 2010, 05:42:21 pm
Sorry, folks... got a little behind this weekend and have to finish the paying stuff first. <grin> I promise the new chapter some time tomorrow. It's bubbling up inside me and I just have to let it out!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 02, 2010, 10:46:38 am
The Kiss of Lady Luck

Kitty took a deep breath and stretched a bit, trying to work her elbow away from a bit of rock under the thick grass beneath her prone body. She wasn't exactly "bored," but she knew how dangerous any complacency could be. She was on guard duty, and well aware of her responsibility. Resisting the urge to look at her watch, she knew her relief would be there soon.

The spotting scope gave her an excellent view of the territory below her position, moving in measured sweeps, left to right and far to near, across the landscape slowly being illuminated by the early morning light. She had put away the night vision equipment just a few moments ago.

Suddenly, she tensed and moved the scope a fraction of an inch back to the right. There was an especially worrisome gully there that often caught her attention, but this time she thought she had seen movement. Waiting for a deer or other creature to emerge from the crack, she was startled to see a man with a backpack, and a large battle rifle. He kept low, and might have been almost invisible just a short while before.

This didn't look like a friendly visit.

Then, suddenly, two more men appeared from the crack, even as Kitty scooted back away from the edge and reached for her belt.

Activating the device in her hand, she knew that the alarm had been given to everyone at the ranch. Then she pressed a button on a post nearby, thus arming the booby traps in the gullies and washes below. Footsteps on the path up from the valley behind her announced the arrival of Pat, her relief.

Without a word, and careful not to skyline themselves, they removed the cover from the small machine gun at the edge of the cliff face, and made sure it and their own rifles were ready for action. Kitty pointed to the scope, and Pat lay down to see what Kitty had found. His sharp intake of breath and sudden tension told her he'd seen the invaders.

****

Lauri Donaldson was halfway across the compound before she got her gun belt buckled property. She'd over slept just a tad, and needed to hurry to start the morning coffee and breakfast preparations in the main building, but had obeyed one of the most stressed rules of the community rather than leave her heavy and very inconvenient gun behind in the rush. Even though she could see no real need for it, no adult left their cabin unarmed here and she had agreed to that rule in the beginning. She was too old to be of much use in a fight, she figured, but she respected these people and her commitment to them.

Duke, the old shepherd dog at her side suddenly growled, and she looked up to see the new man, Jason Cole, coming toward her. He had a funny look on his face, and she couldn't understand the dog's attitude, but she took greater notice as he walked closer. Something was definitely NOT right here.

She had never liked him, hard as she had tried, and her self preservation instinct went into high gear as he pulled a small gun from his pocket. Instantly, the dog rushed him and the man made the last mistake of his life - he shot the dog.

Lauri's muscles did exactly what they'd been trained to do over the last six months and her pistol came out smoothly. The three shots blended into one roar, two of them to the upper body and the third soft lead .38 slug in his face taking him down for the count.

Half a second later, Lauri was seated on the ground with the old dog's head in her lap and the smoking gun beside her. The dog was obviously dead, and she ran her fingers through the bloody fur while tears ran down her face. In her shock and grief, she didn't really see the people pouring out of the buildings around her... until Betty was helping her to her feet and two men were standing over the body of her attacker.

"Come into the house," Betty said. "We'll sort this out after a bit."

Lauri was still very shaky, and one of the men helped Betty get her into the common room and seated in a comfortable chair. From somewhere in the fog of her thinking, Lauri wondered why everyone else was up and dressed already, but she was too busy processing what had just happened to give it more than a passing thought.

*****

Without any panic or hesitation, everyone arrived at their duty stations within a few minutes of the alarm. Every perimeter guard point had two people present, since it had almost been time for the guard to change anyway. All of the booby traps were armed, and they were as ready for war as they ever would be. There were ample signs posted at the property line, warning of the booby traps... just no indication of where they were.

It was up to the invaders to make the next move.

And, suddenly, it was obvious that they had as a series of explosions roared in the near distance. Those close to the eastern rim of the valley could hear shouts and screams and some scattered gunfire had rattled for a few minutes after that, but then all became deadly quiet.

Wishing with all her heart that Roger had been there, Betty spoke to her cousin Sam who was acting in his place. Sam was very qualified and competent, of course, but he just wasn't Roger. She smiled to herself as she said, "Well, what do we do now?"

The common room was crowded as everyone who was not at an essential post gathered to hear the reports of those who had manned the ramparts. Kitty and two men who had been relieved as guards from the eastern posts described the invaders and what had happened. Nothing had been seen by any of the other guards on duty. It became pretty clear immediately that Cole had been an infiltrator and spy, set to disable their defenses from within just before the attack. Lauri had stopped that, but the invaders hadn't correctly interpreted the gunfire from the compound and had attacked anyway - with disastrous consequences to themselves. After the booby traps had killed or injured a good number of them, and the riflemen on the ridges became evident, they had run away leaving the dead and injured behind them.

Betty was glad to see Lauri busy in the kitchen, quietly directing the other ladies as always in the preparation of their breakfast, only just a little later than usual. They were all strong, decent people here, and she loved every one of them. How they'd ever been fooled by Cole was a good question, but she knew such things couldn't always be avoided. Loving and caring about people was always risky.

Looking out of the dining room window, Betty saw that the bodies of the man and dog had been removed and someone had put sand over the blood. It still didn't seem possible that could have happened, but it had certainly reinforced the importance of their mutual commitment to remaining armed and trained.

The long tables of the dining room were a bit crowded this morning, and the moment of silence before the serving started was heavy with both prayer and emotion, in contrast to the usual light banter and happy greetings. They all felt the ominous implications of the recent attack, and yet were suddenly more closely bonded and committed to each other than ever before. A few old rivalries and disputes died suddenly, unremarked.

*****
Sam, with a small group of older adults, looked over the cliff and down into the ravine. None of those previously identified as the wounded were moving any longer, and chances were they were dead. None of the defenders was particularly worried about them, and nobody even suggested any sort of rescue. They had been the attackers, had ignored the warnings. All responsibility for the consequences were on their own heads.

The question was what to do about the bodies. There was some risk that some of them were simply lying in wait to attack anyone who came down there, and nobody wanted to take the chance on losing one of their very thin numbers to such a fate.

"Leave them there for the coyotes and lions," said old man Justis. "Serves them right. After a few days, any decoys should give up and go away anyhow. No skin off our noses in the meantime. We can always go tumble them into the crevices and cover them later if they get to stinking too bad."

Nobody disputed that, and almost every head nodded agreement, so it was left at that for the present. They would have to go down and replace the discharged booby traps anyway, sooner or later, but for now there were plenty still in place and had remained armed. They hoped the goblins had learned their lesson and given up, but nobody was going to bet their life on it.

So, life at the Gulch went on pretty much as before. They worked and trained and cared about each other in their own individual ways and for their own purposes. Lauri tried hard to bear the burden of being a hero, and everyone else did their best not to make a big deal of it after the ceremony that evening when she was presented with the gratitude of the community and a squirming warm puppy that looked suspiciously like her old Duke. She had declined to accept the dead man's pistol, though it was her rightful property now.

"Luck, fate, preparation, love, integrity, so much more," Betty mused as she turned out the last light... They didn't know why things had turned out the way they did, but they were grateful for what they had and each other. And she sent out a silent prayer that Roger and the others would return soon, hopefully with Charlie and his family.

One more pebble on the mountain of mystery that is life.

*****

Next chapter.... no name yet. We'll see what happens. :)
 
[edit... danged spell check doesn't know the difference between parameter and perimeter... and I didn't look. AGG]
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on May 02, 2010, 01:50:14 pm
Oh my nerves! Pins and needles here waiting for more.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: CorbinKale on May 02, 2010, 09:38:15 pm
"A few old rivalries and disputes died suddenly, unremarked."

Classic. I am enjoying the ride!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 03, 2010, 12:34:55 am
As am I.

Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: socalserf on May 04, 2010, 06:55:26 am
MOAR, please.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on May 04, 2010, 12:11:33 pm
MOAR, please.

 ^_^
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 04, 2010, 06:11:39 pm
Some problems here... we had a power outage that crashed my computer and killed the script that recognized my mouse! I just got it put back together this afternoon. In the meantime, most of yesterday when I was off line, I wrote a long new chapter in the "windows" partition of this computer that DID recognize the mouse. Unfortunately, I saved it only to my thumbdrive and didn't print it. Now neither windows or puppy will read the file and it immediately crashes the word processor each time I try to open it!

AGGGGGG

I have company coming tomorrow, and so it may be some time Thursday before I get the new chapter posted... provided I don't have to try to completely rewrite it. I will, however, go over it and fix all the typos. It's been coming so fast I didn't take time to do much of that before. :)

But, in any case, I'll put up more just as soon as it is possible. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on May 04, 2010, 07:29:16 pm
AGGGGGG

(http://img174.imageshack.us/img174/9079/image6px9.gif)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 04, 2010, 09:59:36 pm
AGGGGGG

http://img174.imageshack.us/img174/9079/image6px9.gif
:panic:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 06, 2010, 11:13:49 am
Ok folks, bad news and good news.

First, the file is toast. It did not actually "save" and so cannot be retrieved by any science known to me or ZooT.

The good news is that, since I've given up trying to open the file, I'll just start to rewrite it today and expect the ghost who is the actual author to have kept enough notes so we can reconstruct it. Anyway, I'll post it as soon as I "save" it in about two hundred different places and formats... LOL
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Bill St. Clair on May 06, 2010, 12:37:44 pm
I hate when that happens, but if your experience is anything like mine, you'll be able to reproduce it, nearly verbatim.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 06, 2010, 07:48:16 pm
Well, here is the next chapter. Same story as the one I lost, but far from verbatim. Probably better in some ways. But remember, I'm not the one writing it so I don't have much control over it. Really, REALLY weird.

Detour

Just a few miles beyond the railroad tracks, coming out of town, the road ran between two hills and curved off out of sight. The HumVee, in the lead again, slowed as it approached the blind curve. Charlie didn't think he'd ever again see such a curve without his hackles rising.

His premonition was immediately verified. Just as they rounded the little hill that blocked their view of the road ahead, they saw a man hauling a body out of an old station wagon, partly pulled off the other side of the road about 200 yards away. The man tossed the body onto the road and jumped into the driver's seat, evidently thinking to drive away. Rapidly slowing, the hummer was about 100 yards out when the would-be driver's brains spattered forcefully onto the windshield, and the sound of the shot echoed from the sides of the hills.

The hummer stopped, level with the front bumper of the wagon, and Bradshaw jumped out. His first thought was for the man who'd just been shot, and his eyes grew wide when he realized that Perez had, at long last, finally gone to hell where he belonged, only minus the top of his head.

Turning his attention to the back seat, he saw two women. One was about 18 and loudly hysterical, while the other one was middle aged and sat still, staring ahead blankly. Approaching with great caution, the Sarge soon heard a baby crying hard amongst the younger women's screams.

Jeff had come up behind him, and they each cautiously went to a rear door. Bradshaw tapped on the glass next to the older lady, and she popped the lock clear without looking at him. Opening the door, he saw a slim 9mm on the seat, but she made no move to reach for it.

"Can we help you? said the Sergeant? It sounded silly, but he couldn't think of anything else to say.

The lady looked at him then, and he marveled at the clear determination and spirit in her bright blue eyes. But she only nodded and put her feet out on the pavement after pocketing the gun.

The girl had stopped screaming, and picked up the still crying infant from the floor. Rocking the child, she looked at Jeff with wide, terror filled eyes as he opened the door. But she took his hand and he helped her out while Bradshaw did the same for the other lady.

"We can't sit here on the road," he said to her. No telling when more bandits may come along." She nodded, saying nothing.

"Can we take you somewhere?" he asked. "Do you live around here?"

She looked into his face, as if measuring his soul, and then said, "I live just a few miles up in the hills. I'd sure like to go home."

"Can do," he said. They led the ladies to the hummer and got them seated next to Cathy and the boys. Charlie moved to the front passenger spot, and after they had moved the body of the young man off the road, Jeff joined his team in the Jeep. Bradshaw took the wheel of the HumVee, and the convoy turned to go back toward town at her direction.

"I'm Carrie Benson," the woman said, and this is Maria with Angel. The girl nodded an acknowledgment of the introduction, and continued to rock the still fussing baby without a word. Cathy ached to take the baby, but she only made soothing noises and cuddled her boys.

Charlie and Bradshaw looked at each other and grinned. "You Luke's wife?" Charlie asked. And his grin got wider as she began to smile too. "We just left him and your son Jake in town not half an hour ago," Bradshaw said. "Shall we take you back there?"

Pointing to a farm road off the highway, the lady said she'd far rather go home, so the little convoy turned and took the winding road up and between hills to another valley with the most beautiful farm Charlie had ever seen. Smoke rising from the chimney looked so natural and wholesome that it brought tears to his eyes. They had seen little but death and destruction for many days, and this was welcome balm for their wounded spirits.

The road was blocked by a gate of welded pipe set between two massive piles of rock, and 4 armed men stepped out of their cover as the lady called to them to open the gate. They were suspicious at first, but the young men soon crowded around to greet her and welcome the strangers once they realized who she was.

Pulling into the yard, the convoy was turned again to head out... just in case. The ladies were helped into the house, and the men stood around the vehicles just breathing in the peace and quiet. Nobody was really letting down their guard, of course, but it looked as if there might be at least a pause in the battle for now.

Two of the young men were sent to town to let Luke know his wife had been found, and three more went to pick up the other women Carrie said were hiding in an old mine near the defunct feed mill. She wasn't about to tell the story until her husband had come, so she led Cathy with her boys and Maria with the baby into the private recesses of her home to bathe and rest until he came.

The smell of coffee and bacon frying drew Bradshaw into the kitchen, and he made instant friends with an old man wearing a chef's apron, just adding bacon strips to another pan on the stove. "Semper fi," said the cook, grinning from ear to ear. "How many men with you, Sarge?"

"Seven," he said, "and we'd be mighty grateful for some of that coffee. We had breakfast with Luke and the folks in town, and we're anxious to get on the road toward home."

Coffee was soon handed around, and the convoy fuel tanks topped off from farm supply. Once the other men realized that Bradshaw's people had rescued the women in town and helped defeat the bandits there, they couldn't do enough for them.

Soon Luke and Jake pulled into the yard, and a conference was called inside. They were joined around the big dining-room table by Carrie and Maria, Bradshaw and Charlie, along with two other men introduced as neighboring farmers. Cathy took the now sleeping baby, and instantly fell hopelessly in love with her as she carried her out to the cozy living room, hearing more than she wanted of the horrible happenings of the last few days.

Luke was clearly almost beside himself with joy, and held his wife's hand as if he'd never let go again. She looked at him from time to time, and the love in her eyes was balm for everyone there. Charlie was touched deeply, knowing how rare and special such a bond was in any relationship.

"We got separated from the other gals at the motel," Carrie started. "We were thrown into the back of a truck and taken to the old feed mill, all tied up with those horrible plastic things. The men were all drunk and rough, but we were dumped into a side room at the mill and they just went on drinking and fighting something awful.

"One of the girls got loose, though, and since nobody was coming in to check on us, she found some tools and got us all free. We waited until things were pretty quiet after dark, and then took a peek. They were all out cold! We found some rope and tied them up good. Some of the gals started bashing their heads in, but we got everybody out of that mill fast as we could and took to the hills."

An old mine shaft nearby had offered a defensible shelter from the rain, and they'd taken every bit of food, guns and ammunition the men had had - at least what they could carry. There hadn't been much water, but they'd made do.

Many of the women were in no condition to walk, so Carrie had told them to wait in the mine and keep watch while she went for help. She knew she could find her way to the farm, and thought she had less chance of running into bandits that way than if she went back into town, even though it was much closer.

She hadn't reached the highway until morning, having made several wrong turns and once getting lost because she ran, panicked thinking she heard someone coming behind her.  She'd made much better time and direction once there was light, and came out onto the road just in time to see an old station wagon headed toward town.

She waved them down, hoping for a ride to the farm, but the engine died as they stopped and it was soon apparent they were out of gas. Carrie sat in the back to rest a little while, intending to bring Maria, her brother Ricardo, and the child home with her. Maria had let Carrie hold the child while she got into the back seat to rummage in the cargo area, hoping to find something she could use for a diaper on the very wet and unhappy baby.

They'd barely introduced themselves when Ricardo had yelled. A man had come up on them unaware and cut the young man's throat through the open driver's window. Opening the door, the attacker grabbed the body and tossed him to the road. Instantly getting in, he'd reached for the keys after only a passing glance at the women and the approaching HumVee. Maria was screaming, and the baby crying hard, but Carrie sat very still indeed until the scar faced demon looked forward.

Swiftly, she drew a small 9mm pistol from her pocket. Calmly she put the muzzle of the gun almost against the man's skull through the opening in the headrest of the seat, and gently she pulled the trigger. Then she slumped, letting the pistol fall to the seat beside her, content that at least one more of the monsters was dead.

****

Carrie came to the end of her story and was suddenly wracked by sobs. Luke took her into his arms and gently led her out while Bradshaw filled the rest of them in on the happenings in town and the identity of the goblin Carrie had sent to hell.

Luke came back quickly, and it was Maria's turn. She told them that she and her brother had just come from Argentina, now locked in yet another civil war. As US citizens, they had been evacuated with the other staff of the US consulate there, the last flight to leave before the airport was destroyed.

They had found a distant relative in Denver to stay with at first, but Ricardo and Maria had gone out to the surrounding small towns trying to find an affordable place to call their own. They'd taken the baby with them to give his mother a brief respite, and she had stayed with the old cousin.

While they had been out, they heard on the radio about the sudden declaration of martial law and then the rioting and fighting going on in the city. Racing back, they saw large parts of the city in flames and were stopped at the outskirts by National Guard troops. Nobody was being allowed to enter, and they were warned that they might well be shot if they attempted to get around the barricades.

Unable to reach his wife because the cell phone system was out, he drove as far as he could south and attempted to enter the city there. Once again, they were stopped by National Guard troops and warned to go away as fast and as far as possible. The young trooper said that even the prisons had been opened and nobody knew when order might be restored. He was clearly very much afraid himself, and he convinced them that only death awaited anyone who ventured beyond the barriers now.

Torn between the danger to his sister and daughter, and worry about his wife, Ricardo had to face the fact that he couldn't save them all and the only real choice was to flee with those he had with him. They found a self serve gas station still open out in Greely and filled up for only about three times the posted price, then headed east on the highway with absolutely no idea where they were going or how they would survive in this maelstrom.

They had entertained such high hopes for a better life in the US, but the civil war had followed them instead.
*****

Cathy came in just then and asked if there was any reason why Maria and Angel shouldn't come with them to Wyoming. She was looking at Charlie as she spoke, but her question was obviously for Bradshaw.

He saw Maria's gratitude as she smiled at Cathy, and he thought of all the young men at the ranch who would love to meet this beautiful girl. His smile of complete acceptance sealed the bargain without a word. They were all agreed here, and he couldn't think of a single reason his community at home would reject the deal.

"Sure wish I could get word to my wife," he said, looking at Luke.

Suddenly, the old man smacked his head and jumped up. "I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner!" he cried. "Does your wife have access to a CB or ham radio?"

Bradshaw about broke the chair getting out of it, and both men rushed from the room. Turning into an office down the hall, the Sergeant saw a state of the art ham outfit on shelves over an old desk. The young man sitting there got up instantly as the old man dismissed him with a smile, and Bradshaw sat down putting on the earphones. He gently tuned the radio to the frequency used by the ranch, and immediately Betty's strong voice was heard giving their call sign and asking for news.

As soon as she stopped speaking, Roger keyed the mike and gave the call sign of Luke's station and then the secret code words that identified him to Betty. Releasing the mike, he heard her gasp of recognition and a shout to someone else was cut off as she stopped transmitting. Soon her husband had heard about the aborted invasion, and Betty knew that everyone was safe on his end and to expect them home in the next 24 hours. Reluctantly, Roger signed off and removed the earphones, torn between the joy of hearing her voice and the understanding that the goblins had penetrated much farther north already than he'd anticipated.

It was long past time to get home.

Next chapter - Getting there the hard way (or something like that)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 07, 2010, 12:13:29 am
Wowee!

I'm nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers waiting for my next fix.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 08, 2010, 10:38:45 pm
Wowee!

I'm nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers waiting for my next fix.

Well quit watching re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillys while you're waiting.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 09, 2010, 01:32:44 am
Wowee!

I'm nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers waiting for my next fix.

Well quit watching re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillys while you're waiting.

I LIVE IN NC (aka hillbilly land)!!!

ANDY GRIFFITH IS STILL ON PRIME TIME HERE!!!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 09, 2010, 06:01:34 am
It is finished! At least I think so... Didn't dream about any more of it last night at any rate. Last chapter will be posted in a little while... soon as I chase some typo gremlins out of it. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 09, 2010, 07:12:11 am
Well folks, here it is. Now I must decide what to do with it. It could be two or three times as long if I go back and add more detail, but the basic story would not change. I can see some things that do need to be added to earlier chapters to maintain some consistency, but not much more. What do you think? Does it need more detail? Do you really care what the names of the towns or highways are? I'd be happy to get your comments. :) ML

Going Home

Dishes clattered in the kitchen as "Cowboy" the cook and some of the ladies finished clearing up after lunch. His off tune whistle, faint but shrill, was irritating Roger more and more. He knew it was mostly his general state of anxiety and not really anything to do with the other man, so he tried hard to ignore it. They needed to get out of here and get home, but he knew they had a better chance of that if they made good plans and didn't make any mistakes.

Charlie was studying several maps on the living room floor, going from one to the other with no pattern Roger could determine, but he'd seen the way Charlie worked before and didn't say anything, just sat looking out the window, jingling the keys and a few coins in his pocket - totally unaware that it had the same affect on others that the whistling had on him.

He had spoken to Betty just a few moments before, and so far they had not been attacked again, but with only about twenty five adults really able to man the defenses, they were spread mighty thin over that large valley. An attack with any force from more than one point at a time would be serious. They needed every hand they had to produce food and keep the rest of the operation going, let alone mount an effective guard.

The vehicles were fueled, food had been packed, and much that had been offered in the way of clothing and other comforts for the women had been reluctantly refused because they were going to be pretty crowded with another passenger. They had gratefully accepted a few more water containers, however, because they would soon be leaving Nebraska for less watered areas of South Dakota and Wyoming, depending on where the road took them.

In consultation with the local residents, they now had charts and diagrams of the best routes. What they would find on those roads as far as bandits or other trouble, the maps couldn't tell him of course. They'd have to play it by ear, but they had a good chance to get through going into potentially less hostile territory.

Bradshaw heaved a sigh of relief when Charlie indicated he had all the information he needed as he rolled the maps and charts. Roger went into the kitchen and asked Cathy to gather the children. Stepping out onto the porch, he was amused to see Maria talking with Jeff in a small side yard. He signaled to the men that departure was upon them, and they all said their final good-byes while the ladies and children were tucked into the HumVee.

Luke and Carrie stood with the other farm folk on the drive way, waving until the little convoy vanished through the gate and over the hill. They had once again considered Bradshaw's offer to come join the community in Wyoming, but had all decided to stay and help rebuild their own. They truly believed that the worst was over and they were much better prepared to defend themselves now.   

Roger had smiled and let it go, certain that the offer would be made again as they maintained contact via the ham radio. They needed more people at the ranch, with many skills not yet represented. A few farmers would be a big help, and while he hoped they really could revive their own town, he also hoped that even a few might eventually join his efforts. Recruiting strangers was dangerous, and he felt he knew these people pretty well.

Mutt was back behind the wheel of the hummer, with Bradshaw in the shotgun position. Cathy and Maria, with the three children filled the back seat, and Charlie once again rode with Jeff and part of his team in the Jeep. The old pickup truck brought up the rear, and Roger sincerely hoped it would hold up until they got home. It was getting mighty tired, but there wasn't much of a way they could haul all they needed without it - not to mention there being no place to put the three men. They could have gone back to town to find another vehicle, but the Sergeant had not wanted to waste the rest of the day and decided to trust his luck with the one they had.

The early afternoon sun was sliding toward the west as they drove up the farm road north. They would not travel on regular state highways again until they got to South Dakota. They had decided that the highway they'd been on before, heading west, would take them much too close to the path of the goblins from Denver and that they'd have a better chance in an area without so many towns along the road. The sooner they could hit the Wyoming state line, the sooner they would be home.

Farm roads gave way to dirt BLM roads in the sand hills. They crossed a small stream at a ford, grateful it was late summer instead of spring. The flood marks on the rocks were much too high. Scrubby cedars began to dot the rolling landscape as it gently rose to meet the foothills, and they entered the beautiful mountains called "The Black Hills" at dusk. Pressing on, they came to another set of gravel county roads and found a small town nestled in the hills just as full night fell.

The people of the town had set up roadblocks and armed men bristled with suspicion until Bradshaw urged them to talk to the women and some of their story had been told. Once past the barrier, they were directed to an old motel in the trees and allowed to take as many rooms as they needed. Bertha, the middle aged lady who owned the place complained that there certainly wouldn't be any tourists through this year at any rate. Payment was offered and refused. All she asked was that they clean up after themselves and maybe help the townsmen guard the road during the night.

The refugees made supper in the main lounge of the Motel, furnished with a big wood burning stove and several tables. They provided their own food and service, inviting Bertha and her family to share the meal with them. The townspeople shuddered at the fate of Luke's community, but they were confident that they could repel any raiders.

Supper over, the Sergeant asked both teams to help with the guard, then urged everyone to get as much sleep as possible. No telling what they might run into next.

First light found them on the SD state highway going west again. The sense of urgency was building in all of them, and Roger feared that their time was fast running out. All of the men kept a sharp watch in every direction. Each blind or obscured turn in the road was approached with great caution, and they lost an hour once sending a scout team ahead on foot just to be sure there was no ambush on the other side of a small pass. It was almost more unnerving to be left unmolested, after all they'd been through, than it would have been to run into goblins.

Sandwiches packed by Carrie and "Cowboy" were passed around with the canteens at lunch time, and nobody asked for a pit stop unless it was truly urgent, but the miles seemed to crawl by and the unfamiliar territory was not reassuring. They passed through several small towns, each fortified and well guarded, and none of them reported seeing any bandits for the last several days. They were alarmed at the story of the hoards supposedly coming out of Denver, but believed they were far enough away not to be in too much danger.

Roger quit trying to convince them otherwise after the first few towns, and they drove on into the west as quickly as they could manage.  He was afraid he'd been much too optimistic when he told Betty they'd be home in 24 hours. They had almost 200 miles left to go, and night would probably find them on the open highway in Wyoming.

At last they saw the little town where the road split, one part going north again, and the other going more or less west toward the Wyoming line, only about 20 miles away. The usual roadblock was poorly manned, and the exhausted guards told of frequent attacks in the week before. They'd been unmolested for several days, but they feared more of the goblins could come at any moment.

The convoy paused there, trading one of their hand pumps for fuel to top off the vehicles and both barrels. Water jugs and canteens were refilled and trash dumped, even as the last sandwiches and cookies were handed around for a quick early supper. Roger made sure everyone was ready for the final run   The children were placed between bedrolls in the cargo area of the hummer, and the men were surprised when both of the women asked for guns so they could participate in their defense, if necessary. Charlie fished Cathy's own .380 pistol out of the bag he'd carried all this time, handing her two extra loaded magazines as well. She didn't have a holster, and she wasn't too happy about the idea of putting the gun in her pocket, but she didn't have much other choice. Her hands needed to be free to take care of the children.

Maria said she had the 9mm Luger Carrie had given her, but she was much more used to shooting a rifle and wondered if they had an extra she might borrow. Jeff, with a wide grin, handed her a spare AR15 and watched in wonder as she expertly checked the chamber, the safety, and then adjusted the stock and sling. She took the pouch of extra ammunition without a word, and climbed back into the truck. They were ready to roll.

*****
After staring into the distance both ways for a few moments, Charlie pointed to the northern fork as the best route. There were few towns that way, he said, and more cover from both hills and forest. Roger nodded, and hearing no objection from anyone else, they mounted up and hit the road. The day was fading, and they still had many long miles to go.

The winding road through the hills was empty, but they were all encouraged as they came upon a small herd of buffalo crossing the road a few miles from the town. They began to see antelope, deer and hundreds of prairie dogs along the way too, but the homes and ranches they passed looked empty and forlorn. At least they were not burned, and they saw no corpses - human or animal.

Finally, they came to a good sized town and turned west again on a main state highway. The townspeople had not been attacked yet, but the folks from the surrounding territory had gathered for mutual defense, which was why the farms were deserted. They were well armed and resolute. Roger briefed them on the situation to the south, and the little convoy went on briskly, jealous of the fading light.
Passing the Wyoming State line just as night fell, they stopped for a few minutes to take a break and stretch their legs. The tanks of the vehicles were topped off again, and the boys were fed, then allowed to run around for a few minutes to ease their boredom with the steady travel.

Roger tried the CB radio again, but it had not functioned since the first attack on their way out to rescue Charlie. He wished he'd taken the time to exchange it for a working one with Luke, but it hadn't seemed important at the time. They couldn't call for help anyway. He just wished he could tell Betty that they were almost home.

Soon another little town came into view, and the recent pattern was repeated. Roadblocks and armed men with hard, suspicious eyes looked them over and, finally, let them pass. These people had been attacked several times over the last week, and were fortunate that their valley had limited access points for vehicles. They had a refinery in town, and many generators were evident by the few lights that twinkled on the hills and in town. Turning north onto another highway inside the town limits, Bradshaw's outfit was quickly on its way again.

Silence descended on the travelers as the children slept and they waited for the other shoe to fall... They each nurtured hope, but battled the premonition of more fear and pain to come. They'd been very fortunate since leaving Nebraska, but they all knew that the chances were still high of running into another attack.

In the dark, with only a sliver of moon, they made the final turn onto another highway winding through wooded hills. At the top of the first rise, their fears were realized and they stopped clear of a big bonfire in the middle of the road. Seemingly deserted, they knew whoever had built the fire had heard the vehicles and faded into the dark in order to trap them if they could.

Turning around, they retreated to a position of relative safety and once again circled the wagons. Jeff's team went left, and Mutt's boys went right. Bradshaw, Charlie and the women stayed to guard the children and vehicles. Both teams knew their business very well, and soon shots rang out in the warm darkness. Occasional muzzle flashes were seen among the trees, and the distant sound of shouting and curses rang in the night air.

Suddenly, a few man sized shapes in the moonlight were running toward the convoy, and everyone tensed to meet the challenge. No shots were fired, however, as the bandits discerned their relative disadvantage with enemies before and behind them, and they quickly vanished into the woods to the south.

Another shout and a flashlight signal announced one of their own running toward them. Bill, one of Jeff's men, told the Sergeant that Jeff had been hit and needed help fast and that the goblins were dead or had been run off.

All the vehicles were in motion in seconds, and they pulled up beside the dying fire. Jeff was sitting against a rock, holding a field dressing to a wound in his left shoulder. A nasty gash in his scalp bled freely too. He was covered with blood and dirt, but he didn't look as if he was in much danger.

Maria, however, flew out of the hummer. She knelt at his side and swiftly began to deal with the wound. Bradshaw brought her the medic pack, and stood back grinning. The two young people looked deeply into each other's eyes while she got the bleeding under control. "Here is a lady of many talents and much charm," he thought to himself, but it didn't look as if any of the other young men at the ranch had a chance now.

Mutt and his team kept careful watch for the goblins, while others cleared the remains of the fire from the road. Roger rubbed his neck, again approaching exhaustion, and considered how they could rearrange the passengers to accommodate the injured Jeff. He wanted to continue to ride in his usual place, but Maria insisted it was better if he could lay down and make sure the bleeding didn't start again. The bullet had gone through the shoulder cleanly, and no bones were broken, so bleeding was the chief worry.

They rummaged around in the bed of the pickup truck and placed some of the bedrolls there, moving the stuff displaced to where the bedding had been or discarding what they figured they could live without. Jeff was finally convinced to lay down in the truck, and Maria wiggled her way in to sit beside him, both covered with a thick blanket and the AR15 firmly in her grasp. Charlie returned to the hummer, now in the rear guard position, and the Jeep took the lead as they headed out into the star filled night.

When he thought they were close enough, Roger keyed the little radio that had been so helpful all through their ordeal. They didn't have much range, but he hoped he could contact the outer guard post on this road now. The static at first was discouraging, and he wondered how much life was left in the batteries, but suddenly he heard the challenge of the guard, and gave the proper countersign with a full heart and lifting spirits.

******
The common room was soon truly packed full when they finally pulled in. Never mind that it was after midnight and the travelers were weary. There were hugs and tears and stories told until Betty, with Roger's arm around her, insisted they all go to bed and take it up again in the morning. Jeff, with Maria at his side, occupied the small hospital room in one of the cabins, and Charlie led Cathy, carrying the baby, to their cabin. The sleepy boys were carried by other women, and soon deposited in the bunk beds their father had made for them. The little crib that had been built for Jackie received Angel, and when the lights were finally extinguished, Cathy clung to him with the first real tears in many days. But this time they were tears of relief and joy. The sorrow was there, and would never totally depart, but now there was room for peace and joy as well.

A new life was beginning for all of them.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 09, 2010, 08:10:07 am
Mama,

You have a great skeleton for a story.  My suggestion for muscle and flesh would be to detail the layout ane preparations of the ranch in Wyoming, details of the trip of the team going to rescue Charlie, preparations for the rescue, cause of the disaster, details of the people gathering at the ranch, etc.  This story has much potential to include details of preparation and mindset for survival and could be a great educational tool as well as a great entertaining story.

My  :twocents:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 09, 2010, 08:11:10 am
Wowee!

I'm nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers waiting for my next fix.

Well quit watching re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillys while you're waiting.

I LIVE IN NC (aka hillbilly land)!!!

ANDY GRIFFITH IS STILL ON PRIME TIME HERE!!!

Well, that explains a lot. :rolleyes:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 09, 2010, 08:42:06 am
You have a great skeleton for a story.  My suggestion for muscle and flesh would be to detail the layout ane preparations of the ranch in Wyoming, details of the trip of the team going to rescue Charlie, preparations for the rescue, cause of the disaster, details of the people gathering at the ranch, etc.  This story has much potential to include details of preparation and mindset for survival and could be a great educational tool as well as a great entertaining story.

I've thought along some of the same lines. If the ghost who has been writing this thing gets the message, more may be added to it. We'll have to see. Going to take a lot longer if I have to invent all of that. <grin>

I'm not kidding you that this did not come out of my head. This thing is not written in my "style."  I was allowed to tidy it up and edit typos afterwards, but each and every time I attempted to add my own idea to the story it was rejected rather clearly, so I'm not sure I could add to it coherently now.

Each day I just sat here and started to type. What came, came. The story took many unexpected turns and I was as much on the edge of my chair waiting for the next part as anyone else.

But at least the ghost hasn't tried to dictate any other part of my life... at least so far. <grin>
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 10, 2010, 12:37:29 am
Very nice, ML.  Very hopeful.

Blatantly stealing political thunder, we all need some honest, true hope.

Makes me seriously consider adding my literary contribution, D&D fantasy that it is.

(Edited to add 3rd sentence, and this :))
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 10, 2010, 07:04:09 am
Very nice, ML.  Very hopeful.
Blatantly stealing political thunder, we all need some honest, true hope.

Yes indeed! I was struck with the positive theme running through it, in spite of all the carnage.

Quote
Makes me seriously consider adding my literary contribution, D&D fantasy that it is.

Go for it! :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 10, 2010, 04:42:07 pm
MORE!!! ...............

Well, right now that seems to be the end of the story. I don't know how to get in touch with the ghost who was writing it, but I'll keep trying.

If I don't hear any more from them, I may take a stab at it myself. I have ideas for a sequel - a year later...   :rolleyes:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 11, 2010, 11:15:15 am
Very nice, ML.  Very hopeful.
Blatantly stealing political thunder, we all need some honest, true hope.

Yes indeed! I was struck with the positive theme running through it, in spite of all the carnage.

Quote
Makes me seriously consider adding my literary contribution, D&D fantasy that it is.

Go for it! :)

OK...within a day or two  :ph34r:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 13, 2010, 09:14:19 am
Ok, folks.. the ghost is back. So far it is not interested in doing anything more with the previous material, but here is the start of book two.


Consequences and New Choices

It seems a law of the universe that if you keep doing the things you've been doing, you keep getting the same things you were getting. So, if you don't like what you are getting, you must change what you are doing. It's not always easy.

*****

Betty tapped her fingers on the desk top, waiting for news from the community infirmary turned birthing room. Two women were in labor at the same time, giving the midwife and her able assistant an interesting challenge. Charlie and Jeff stood by their wives, gently coaching and giving such physical comfort as they could. They all knew it was just a matter of time, and they all hoped that time would come soon.

Cathy, having had two children before was calm and stoic. Maria with her first baby was a little more anxious and uncertain, but she looked to the woman she now considered her sister and smiled through her discomfort. She thought of how wonderful it would be for their two children to grow up together in this wonderful new and free world.

Everyone else at the ranch was aware of the drama being played out at the headquarters building. They were all encouraged by the birth of new babies and the influx of good people in the last year.  As a result of the rescue of Charlie and his family, two of the farmer's from Luke's town in the former state of Nebraska, and three with various talents from South Dakota had come last fall, bringing their families.

Two grade school teachers had come in the spring and established a private school for those who didn't want to homeschool totally. There was also a thriving apprentice program for the pre-teens. Among the newcomers this year had been a professional builder/contractor, a civil engineer, a doctor and three nurses, a machinist and tool maker, three more actual farmers and four rancher/cowboy types. There were now forty six adults, thirty pre-teens, and dozens of smaller children - all living and working together, yet living as free individuals.

The main projects for all of them last fall had been the harvest of their crops and provision of meat for the winter- both wild and domesticated - along with the construction of new cabins as more families joined them. Quarters had been cramped for a while as they shared the available space, but the new dwellings had all been completed and furnished in time for the first snowfall. The building had continued all summer, and new fields had been prepared and planted along with much other increased production of food to keep pace with the population. But though the work was long and hard, many hands made the work effective and enjoyable for everyone.

Keeping an old tradition, they had come together for a true "thanksgiving" in late November, a celebration of not only a successful harvest and hunt, but also the marriage of Jeff and Maria. The couple had adopted Maria's orphaned niece Angel as their daughter. 

The winter had been long and cold, but filled with work and community building as the new people became assimilated. New friendships, and more than a few new families had formed while they worked to turn the products of their summer labor into useful objects and nutritious food. The hides and skins were fashioned into footwear and other necessary items. Old, worn out clothing was braided into sturdy rugs by the older children, and the younger ones were sent here and there as messengers and couriers. The women canned and dried the fruits and vegetables, making many pickles and other fermented foods. After much discussion and even some sharp debate, it had been decided to attempt brewing beer as well.

Laughter and warmth prevailed, and even the small disagreements or frictions were soon put aside and friendships resumed. All but one, Bill Evans... The young man had decided he would win a certain lady, but when she chose another man he became aggressive and uncooperative. In open council of the whole community, he refused to apologize or promise to mend his ways, and so was asked to leave the ranch. He took the food he was entitled to as wages for his work, and drove off in his old pickup truck.

There had been no more raids by bandits since the rescue party returned, though the security of the valley had not been relaxed, but they continued to hear of problems in the rest of the country from the dwindling number of ham radio reports they received each evening. Not that there were fewer stations, necessarily, but it was getting harder and harder for most to power their units more than a few minutes a day and some had given up trying. Even Luke wasn't broadcasting much these days as they all had their hands full just staying alive.

The summer just passed had been much dryer than normal, and their one well had proved inadequate for the increasing number of people and livestock, let alone their precious crops, so the engineer and the two old cowboys - however unlikely a team - had found a good spring in the next valley. They were all reluctant to move the cattle and horses because there was no way to make them really secure, but it had finally been done to keep from losing the valuable animals.

It had been a very good move. While drilling to enlarge the spring, they had hit an artesian pool and much of the valley quickly became a small lake after two more taps had been sunk. The poor clay soil had instantly gone from being a curse to a blessing because it held most of the water in the valley.

A trip was made to another lake and great pains were taken to capture live fish which were released into the new body of water. They were thriving, and would provide both another food source and recreation for the community once they were firmly established.

After building a small dike type dam where the two valleys connected, runoff from the lake had been diverted by pipes and, in some cases, ditches to provide irrigation for the farms, and the harvest to come in another month looked to be the most promising since the community had been established. The work was staggering at times, and they could have used a lot more help, but they all knew they had to maintain a balance between population and food production. Nobody had expected a free ride.

Now the problem was to find another valley for the livestock, since both the human and animal population was growing and the lake had risen so far that the cattle had nowhere to graze outside of the original ranch boundaries. Another small community to the north, beyond the lake, had ample highland pasture land, but few animals and fewer inhabitants, so it was hoped an agreement could be reached. Whether or not the stock could be held over the winter there was unknown, since guarding them from wolves and other predators would be more difficult so far away, but they had a hardy herd of Scottish Highlanders for beef, so it remained to be seen. The horses would be kept in the home pastures, at least for the present.

A sudden infant's cry, immediately followed by another, broke the waiting silence and Betty jumped to her feet. She knew she shouldn't bother them now, but her curiosity was almost overwhelming, so she stood just outside the door and waited as patiently as possible for someone to come out. She wrestled with her feelings of inadequacy because she had not been able to have any children, still not completely willing to accept that it was probably best now, considering her age. Babies born to mothers more than 30 years old had a higher risk of genetic defect and serious problems, and she knew she couldn't bear to watch her child die because she had been prideful and stubborn. Roger was resigned to their fate, and she knew she should be as well.

Mrs. Redwing, the older nurse, came out of the room with a bundle in her arms. She was smiling wide enough to split her face. "A big, healthy girl here for Cathy and Charlie," she said, then hurried down the hallway to the small room set aside for the doctor's office.  A few moments later, Jenny, the midwife came out with another bundle and a similar smile. "A boy," she crowed! "Redhead, just like Jeff!" And she went down the hall too, gently closing the doctor's door behind her.

Betty poked her head into the birthing room, and smiled at the two proud fathers comforting their wives. The nurses and midwife assistant were almost done cleaning up the patients and the room, so she slipped in to offer congratulations and inquire about their wishes regarding announcement to the community.

Cathy wanted to get up, but Charlie and the midwife urged her to rest for the balance of the day at least. She gave in easily and everyone was relieved. Maria slept quietly, holding on to Jeff's hand solidly, even in her sleep. He gave Betty a look of such wonder and joy that she was moved to tears herself.

Charlie and Cathy had no objection to an immediate announcement of the birth of their daughter. They had decided to call her Hope Elaine, the second name being that of Cathy's mother. She had weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, and was 20 inches long. No telling about her eventual hair color, really, but she had a fine peach fuzz of something dark.

Jeff said he'd be delighted to have Betty announce the arrival of his son, and he didn't think Maria would object either. The names Carlos and William would bridge their histories, with one name from each of their fathers. Carl, as he would be known, was just two ounces heavier than Hope, and an inch longer, so he would be a tall man. The red hair had certainly been a surprise, and Jeff wished his own Irish father had been able to see the boy.

Betty had a notion that the concurrent birth was just the start of the things these two children would share.

*****
The community room was crowded that evening, though most people now took their meals in their own cabins. News of the births had brought them together, and there was a growing pot luck supper in the dining room as people brought their meal to the HQ building to share along with the happy news. Only about half of them could fit in the dining room at once now, so those who would soon head out for guard duty were fed first, and workers from around the ranch began to come in, hands and faces washed and hair slicked back. The children were given sticks of jerky to chew on, and told to go play a while longer in the long twilight since they would eat after all of the working adults had finished.

Women bustled in the kitchen and carried steaming dishes to the dining hall, often apologizing for getting in each other's way. They knew that it was long past time for some changes - or some larger buildings!

Announcement of the double birth and other community news had just been completed when the general intruder alert alarm began to sound.  Betty ran to the office to retrieve the small hand radio she'd stopped carrying last winter. Roger had been out to the far side of the lake, and she didn't know when he'd be back, but it was his voice on the radio when she turned it on. Each adult went to his or her assigned position and waited for whatever would come, and the children were brought into the common room to be watched by teens who were not quite ready for adult responsibilities.

Roger had been almost to the dam site when he'd spotted a puff of smoke coming from beyond the steep hillside to the west. Leaving his horse and climbing to the top of the ridge, he'd spotted at least one point that looked like a campfire in the distance. It was too far to see who and what was out there, but he had decided to sound the alarm and get more people guarding that place since there were, as yet, no booby traps in the arroyo below. The fast approaching night would make the area even more vulnerable.

Since there was very little fuel left for motorized vehicles now, a dozen men ran to saddle horses. Another dozen women went into the arsenal and storage rooms, bringing out rifles and ammunition, along with pre-packed saddle bags of supplies and trail food. The posse was mounted and on its way within a few minutes of the alarm.

The celebration had been great, but all too short, and everyone was concerned that their peace and security would be lost once again.

Next time: The Prodigal Returns
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 13, 2010, 03:54:54 pm
Cool beans!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 13, 2010, 05:39:31 pm
The Prodigal Returns

Roger heard the men ride up the draw and saw them crest the ridge beside the crude dam. He was grateful to see they were careful to be quiet, but wished he'd told Betty to have them dismount before they were skylined on the ridge. Too late this time, but he'd remember it for another day... if there was another day. He still wasn't used to using horses for combat.

Their mounts were soon unsaddled and turned loose in the valley below them and the men were quietly briefed on the possible intruders. The last flags of the twilight colored the west with reds and golds, and the fire in the rocks below could no longer be seen.  It was impossible to tell if they had doused the fire and broken camp, or settled in for the night.

Extremely broken and treacherous, the land between the rocks and the ridge where they waited was probably impassible in the dark, but the men spread out to guard all of the possible approaches, and a few that seemed impossible. They would not be caught napping in any case.

Unable to rest, Roger prowled the various guard positions making suggestions and giving encouragement to the newer and less experienced of the men. They had all responded very well to learning the tactics and discipline Roger had lived with so long in the Marine Corps, but they were in the early stages of training except for the 6 combat proven former Marines who had been with him in the daring rescue trip the year before.

First light of a late summer morning found them alert and waiting for whatever the day would bring. They all hoped for peace, but were prepared for war if they should be attacked. No smoke was seen from the rocks, and Roger fought a growing sense of wrongness about the whole affair. He knew he had not imagined the fire, but he wondered now if it might have been some lone stranger camping out there in the wilderness instead of bandits.

Even in the growing light, the terrain was almost too rough to contemplate traveling over, but it seemed important to send at least two scouts to discover what was going on below the rocks. Mutt and his crony, George were chosen for the task and they stripped down to minimal gear while Roger outlined his plan. They were to avoid contact at all costs and return before nightfall if possible. Roger contemplated sending another party of men around the east face of the mountain to come at the suspected campsite from the road below, but he didn't really have enough men to do that and still guard the ranch valley. The scouts knew they might not be rescued if they got into trouble.

A coil of rope over his shoulder, and a smile on his face, Mutt vanished down the slope in the growing light with George on his heels. George wasn't smiling... but that was just his way.

*****
Bill Evans stretched in the early morning light, and wished he had a cigarette. That was about the only thing he really missed from the old civilization. There were other things to smoke, of course, but he'd just never developed much of a taste for it. But he still thought about it sometimes.

Two other men began to stir, and Bill expected the so-called "leader" to roll out any moment so he got up and began to roll his bed. The air was cold at this altitude, in spite of the summer, and he didn't even want to think about being out here during the winter. Last fall, after leaving the ranch, he'd managed to get to a good sized town and find some work, but as soon as the spring weather had settled he knew he didn't want to spend another winter in town.

He regretted now that he had been so stupid about the girl back at the ranch. Over the winter he had come to see how his hormones had torpedoed his good sense, and he wondered if there was any way he could mend the breach. He had recently joined this bunch of men who said they were looking for a homestead place, but he had realized their evil intent as soon as they turned off the highway into this broken country below the ranch. Glad he had not told them of his previous experience with Bradshaw, he wondered how he could thwart their plans without getting killed. They were all heavily armed, as was every man in this country now - and he feared they wouldn't hesitate to shoot him down if he got in their way.

It turned out that one of the men had been among the survivors of the original attack on the ranch last year. He was very adamant about the booby traps, but said he thought they could get past them by scaling the badlands and coming in from behind. Most of the men looked sceptical, but were greedy for the loot and women the leader promised were there for the taking.

Bill smiled to himself, knowing that each and every one of those women were armed and ready to fight too, but he didn't want to see any of them forced to defend themselves or their home if he could help it. He figured that might be a way to mend the fences he'd torn down. Now all he had to do was figure out how to go about it.

John Bighamton, the so-called leader, had forbidden anyone to light a fire again, so they ate cold stuff from their packs and prepared to move out. Only a few of the men were in the least used to working outdoors, and most were not hunters or soldiers, so they were a noisy and undisciplined bunch. Bighamton was pulling his hair out by the time he got everyone strung out and on the move, with half a dozen of the men threatening to quit and go back to town without even trying the assault. They'd heard about this Bradshaw bunch, and once they got a look at the landscape, the promise of easy pickings didn't sound nearly as good as it had in the bar two days before.

Bill quietly and unobtrusively worked his way to the far southern edge of the group and was almost out of sight when Bighamton appeared and ordered him back to the line of march. Bill just shrugged and acted dumb, not getting much closer to the others but trudging along as if he was happy to be there. He was afraid that John would keep special watch on him after that, but it soon became apparent that he was going to have all he could do to keep any of them moving in the right direction.

As the pale light increased and the slope got rougher, Bill took a chance and drifted completely out of the line and headed southeast, roughly toward where the road came around the mountain. Stopping for a breath after clearing the rogue group, he suddenly felt a cold, hard object in the back of his neck and threw up his hands.

Mutt came into his line of vision then, the bore of his .45 looking as wide as a cannon and pointed straight at his chest. But the look on Mutt's face was somewhat reassuring, so he smiled and waited to be invited to talk.

George then appeared, holding the gun that had been pressed to his neck a moment before, and he wasn't smiling at all. Of the two, Bill was far more afraid of George, but he knew Mutt was in charge.

"I saw you sneak away from that bunch of vultures - twice in fact," said Mutt. "Glad you got away the second time. Care to let us in on what they're up to?"

"They think they'll get up that draw and into the ranch that way," Bill said. "Most of them are useless as real fighters, but they're armed and greedy to steal anything they can."

"How'd you get to be with this bunch," George said gruffly. He'd been fairly good friends with Bill before things got bad last year, and he wasn't eager to trust him again.

"They said they were looking for a place to homestead, and I didn't have any other prospects so I came along, but I knew they were up to no good when they turned off the road there below yesterday. Either of you know John Bighamton? He's the leader and there are twenty men with him - not counting me!"

Mutt had never heard of him, but George had lived in the big town to the south for years and knew the man as a thief and braggart. He scratched his short beard and tried to remember everything he could about the man.

Keying the radio, Mutt gave a report to Roger and asked what they should do next. Roger was glad to know that Bill was not one of the bandits, most likely, but he figured they could sort that out later. Right now, they had raiders to discourage. He'd been looking at the broken slope before him earlier, and he couldn't see how anyone could get up without being picked off by the defenders. Surely, this Bighamton had something else in mind. He couldn't think that they could come in totally undetected.

One of the spotters waved for his attention just then, and he walked over to get his report. Through the strong scope, the bandits could be seen struggling up the slope and through the brush, but it appeared that they were turning more and more to the north and up toward the side of the mountain itself. This made no sense at all to Roger, as far as the attack was concerned, but it did keep the bandits out of range for all but the longest shots.

"Ok," he thought, "why do we want to wait for them to get here? Their intent is clear and we may not have any better chance than right now."

Calling the best marksmen with the long range rifles, he set them into position and let them shoot whenever they were ready. He'd almost waited too long, but the bandits in the front began to fall quickly, and the entire assault crumbled in a few moments. Roger hoped that Mutt and the others had cleared out far enough not to get in the way of the retreating rabble.

After a while, Roger could see through the scope that two trucks and an old car were leaving the rocky area far below, and he wondered if any of the bandits had been left behind. Most assuredly, this area would have to be booby trapped and guarded from now on. A single infiltrator would be far more dangerous, in the long run, than a large force and he didn't fool himself thinking nobody else would figure it that way. He knew Bighamton too, and he knew he'd be back.

Leaving a guard, the rest of the men saddled up and headed back to get some breakfast. Bradshaw waited until he saw Mutt and George with Bill, coming up the last part of the slope, then turned his mount toward the ranch. He was glad the prodigal had come home.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 13, 2010, 08:51:12 pm
That was Great!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 13, 2010, 08:59:58 pm
That was Great!

Ya, Me too.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 13, 2010, 11:11:26 pm
Excellent writing, ML!

Very nice to have the prodigal return, sense pounded into his head by hardship.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 13, 2010, 11:20:21 pm
Excellent writing, ML!

Very nice to have the prodigal return, sense pounded into his head by hardship.

Dude,

You're posting when you should be writing.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 13, 2010, 11:57:49 pm
Excellent writing, ML!

Very nice to have the prodigal return, sense pounded into his head by hardship.

Dude,

You're posting when you should be writing.

Dude, I *am* writing  :laugh:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 14, 2010, 02:13:09 am
I know how to stitch and glue book bindings by hand... Been a long time since I did it though. You should start a thread on it soas not to hijack this one.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on May 14, 2010, 06:26:21 am
Excellent writing, ML!

Very nice to have the prodigal return, sense pounded into his head by hardship.

Dude,

You're posting when you should be writing.

Dude, I *am* writing  :laugh:

 :laugh: :thumbsup:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 14, 2010, 06:57:06 am
M.L , PKL . FeralFae and all the rest  of the writers here , get your assorted stories together and consider whether or not you wish to have them published in some sort of anthology form.
 
  I'm going to get my hands on a press even if I have to start selling motorcycles to do so. It may be a bit.
 
  The " MentalMilitia Literary Anthology" or the like. If anyone whomsoever wishes to discuss this feel free to p.m. me , start another thread , whatever.

Yes, another thread would be good to discuss this. Start it in general discussion, I'd think, as not everyone looks here. Have you investigated the new sort of publish on demand thing? I suspect they use a different technology than some of what you are talking about.

As for preserving this for posterity, I know I am backing up everything to other media, even printing all of it out. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what ff and others think of your idea. :) Sounds like fun. But then, I'm an old ink head myself. Used to help edit my college newspaper back when we did things the old fashioned way. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 14, 2010, 04:40:32 pm
Here is the latest, folks... :)

New Challenges, New Opportunities

Once again, the common room was crowded. Everyone there was anxious to hear about the raid and the potential problems ahead. Supper had been a mostly quiet affair with many low voiced conversations and even a few disagreements. Bradshaw and his team captains had spent the afternoon in conference with various elders and specialists among the community, and everyone was eager to hear what they had come up with. They were also very interested to hear how Bill Evans had figured into it, and why he had returned. The rumors had flown, but most people were content to wait and consider all the facts before they made up their mind.

Bill sat with George and a handful of other young men, cautiously sampling the newly brewed beer and trying to ignore the tension in the big room. Everyone had been polite to him so far, but he knew he had a way to go to be fully accepted again. He hadn't seen Carol yet, and wasn't looking for her. His infatuation seemed something from long ago or another life. He realized all over again just how young and stupid he had been. He also realized that the reason he'd been asked to leave was his arrogant and aggressive response to her rejection, refusing to take no for an answer.

He sighed deeply, and had just drained his glass when Bradshaw and the others came in. A hush settled over the whole company gathered there, and the Sergeant began his report in a tone that indicated both satisfaction and weariness - somehow reassuring.

Briefly describing the failed attack, he also told them how Bill had inadvertently joined the bandits before he knew their objective, and had done his best to avert the attack after it started.

Voices from around the room expressed appreciation and welcome. Then, the crowd becoming still again, Bradshaw went on.

"We've been working long, hard hours since spring, and it looks as if we're going to have to pick up the pace to get ready for this winter. Most of the faces Bill could see were stoic and calm, though a few of the older folk just grinned.

"We were able to drive off the raiders for now, but we will have to construct an extension of the booby traps and alarm system out into the lake valley and across the lower face of the mountain out there. We'll just move some of those on the north here that are now inside the extended ranch, but we'll have to build others because the new territory is considerably larger. That's going to take time, and might not be done before snow flies, so there will have to be more people on guard duty up there until we finish the traps." Heads around the room nodded, and there were a few murmurs of agreement.

"This means there will be fewer of us to manage all of the other jobs that must be done. We have a large harvest about to begin, and there are still living quarters to complete. We need to utilize our own beef more this year and not do any hunting because we don't have pasture for all the stock now and it will be spring at least before we can make arrangements with the folks to the northeast for use of their land. We had hoped to do that this year, but the prospect of new raiders makes that very risky. We just don't have enough people yet.

More murmurs greeted this announcement, but it wasn't really news to any of them except Bill. They'd talked about this before many times. The balance between the population and the production of food was pretty delicate, and they had to be careful of who they took in. Nobody was apt to forget Jason Cole and the attempt he'd made to destroy their community. They knew they'd been very fortunate not to have any other spies or traitors so far, and they all knew that it was just a matter of time before something like that happened again.

Roger waited for the voices to still, and then went on. "We also have a new problem." Motioning for Jake, the engineer to come forward, he stepped back and sat down on the bench against the wall.

Jake held his old Stetson hat and turned it slowly as he spoke. "I made a pretty big mistake and it's going to take a lot to fix it, but it seems we'll be even better off later if we can make the fix work." Puzzled looks from almost everyone spurred him to continue. "We should not have tapped all three holes for the artesian water up in the lake valley," he said. "Too much, too soon. I'm from the southwest originally, and didn't think it through well enough. When the spring snow melt starts, that valley will simply overflow and flood the farms and pastures here below. The dam we have is very small and very fragile, so it won't hold much at all."

Shocked looks and more murmurs ran around the room, but they quieted for him to continue.

"We're trying to figure out how to cap the springs so we can release water when we need it and cut it off when we don't. We haven't much time, and worse, we don't have the right machinery or parts to put valves on them. About the only thing we can do right away is blast and hope to close the two larger springs. We may just open them up farther, of course, which would really be a big mess.

He stood quietly, turning the hat for a few moments, and then went on. "Or, we can dig a good sized ditch and let the run off go into the badlands. That will buy us some time to find the valves and things we need to do it right. We don't have any heavy machines to do that digging, and we don't really have enough men to do it the old fashioned way, so the Good Lord is going to have to send us a miracle, one way or another." Jake sat down heavily and clapped the hat to his head until he remembered he was indoors and took it off again.

Bill stood up just then, which cut short the start of conversations and questions from a few. He was obviously nervous, but inside he began to feel a glow of joy because he could finally see where he could truly contribute to this community and, hopefully, regain his place here.

"It's not terribly far, and the road is still very good, so maybe it wouldn't be out of the question to go to the city and get those parts you need. I worked all winter for a man who drills wells, both water and oil, and he has more equipment than he could possibly use, considering current conditions. Maybe you can trade with him. Don is a good man, and has a large family besides. There's a chance they might even want to come join you all here. They were talking about it this spring because of the bandits, even in town. And Don's isn't the only family that might be interested."

Bradshaw had a knowing smile on his face as he thanked Bill for his suggestion. He'd actually thought of going to the city for supplies, but hadn't any way to know the conditions or who might be trusted there. Now he knew.

"And there was talk, Bill continued, of that town with a refinery south of here starting to sell diesel fuel. Don would have trucks to haul it too. But he doesn't have enough men to both haul and protect it, so you might be able to make several deals."

Many voices were raised in discussion of these possibilities, and the news about available fuel had several of them quite animated. One of the big problems was lack of fuel for the machines they did have, resulting in so many jobs being done the old pick and shovel way. With fuel, they could make so much better use of the manpower they did have. The prospect of one or more large and productive families coming in was exciting too.

Roger thanked Bill again, and asked if there was any other business they needed to discuss currently. Nobody ventured anything and, since they'd all had a busy and stressful day, the room was soon empty. But on the way out, many had stopped to welcome Bill back and shake his hand. They expressed great appreciation for his information and help with the raiders. Bill was a little embarrassed with those comments, however, since he didn't feel he'd contributed anything at all to their defense. He'd been willing, but never had the opportunity.

Bradshaw directed him to the bachelor's bunkhouse where he'd stayed before, and the community hummed with optimism as they all went their separate ways for the night.

"Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day," Betty thought to herself. She hadn't had an opportunity to share another new problem. But it seemed that a trip to the city might just provide the solution there too. "Tomorrow, she said, and blew out the last lamp.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 14, 2010, 06:42:21 pm
Very nice way to let Bill prove himself, ML.  Let's hope that his new attitude sticks.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 14, 2010, 09:55:21 pm
Nice story so far, I can't wait for the next chapter.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 15, 2010, 05:19:29 am
Thanks! It is so interesting to me to see how much of the story actually does revolve around pretty clear "consequences" for the choices and actions of the characters. Bill coming back like that was a real surprise! When I started that chapter, I was thinking he would be LEADING the raiders and out for revenge.

I think the bandits and goblins will become less and less of a problem now, at least for the ranch, and other things will start to happen as they deal with the various consequences of not having the right equipment and supplies as time goes by. Fuel will become more and more of a necessity, as will be increasing their numbers.

But, of course, as they accept more people, there will be more opportunity for a miss match and undesirables to come in, so the potential for danger and conflict will continue - just perhaps in a different way. They must learn and adapt.

We'll see what happens. :) This could get to be a very long story!

Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 15, 2010, 12:38:28 pm
Thanks! It is so interesting to me to see how much of the story actually does revolve around pretty clear "consequences" for the choices and actions of the characters. Bill coming back like that was a real surprise! When I started that chapter, I was thinking he would be LEADING the raiders and out for revenge.

I think the bandits and goblins will become less and less of a problem now, at least for the ranch, and other things will start to happen as they deal with the various consequences of not having the right equipment and supplies as time goes by. Fuel will become more and more of a necessity, as will be increasing their numbers.

But, of course, as they accept more people, there will be more opportunity for a miss match and undesirables to come in, so the potential for danger and conflict will continue - just perhaps in a different way. They must learn and adapt.

We'll see what happens. :) This could get to be a very long story!



Mine is going to quite long too. Funny thing is, my chapters are very short. At some point, my unnamed hero must leave Rinville and ride off to the next town.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 16, 2010, 06:18:27 pm
This is really rough, and may be changed later. It's also not complete, and I'll add to it when I get it done. I've got a LOT going on this week, and will be away from May 20 through the 23rd, so won't be posting much of anything. Be patient... I'll be back with more as soon as possible.

(Prodigal continued)
Once again, the common room was crowded. Everyone there was anxious to hear about the raid and the potential problems ahead. Supper had been a mostly quiet affair with many low voiced conversations and even a few disagreements. Bradshaw and his team captains had spent the afternoon in conference with various elders and specialists among the community, and they were eager to hear what they had come up with. They were also very interested to hear how Bill Evans had figured into it, and why he had returned. The rumors had flown, but most people were content to wait and consider all the facts before they made up their mind.

Bill sat with George and a handful of other young men, cautiously sampling the newly brewed beer and trying to ignore the tension in the big room. Everyone had been polite to him so far, but he knew he had a way to go to be fully accepted again. He hadn't seen Carol yet, and wasn't looking for her. His infatuation seemed something from long ago or another life. He realized all over again just how young and stupid he had been. He also realized that the reason he'd been asked to leave was his arrogant and aggressive response to her rejection, refusing to take no for an answer.

He sighed deeply, and had just drained his glass when Bradshaw and the others came in. A hush settled over the whole company gathered there, and the Sergeant began his report in a tone that indicated both satisfaction and weariness - somehow reassuring.

Briefly describing the failed attack, he also told them how Bill had inadvertently joined the bandits before he knew their objective, and had done his best to foil the attack after it started.

Voices from around the room expressed appreciation and welcome. Then, the crowd becoming still again, Bradshaw went on.

"We've been working long, hard hours since spring, and it looks as if we're going to have to pick up the pace to get ready for this winter. Most of the faces Bill could see were stoic and calm, though a few of the older folk just grinned.

"We were able to drive off the raiders for now, but we will have to construct an extension of the booby traps and alarm system out into the lake valley and across the lower face of the mountain out there. We'll move some of those on the north here that are now inside the extended ranch, but we'll have to build others because the new territory is considerably larger. That's going to take time, and might not be done before snow flies, so there will have to be more people on guard duty up there until we finish the traps." Heads around the room nodded, and there were a few murmurs of agreement.

"This means there will be fewer of us to manage all of the other jobs that must be done. We have a large harvest about to begin, and there are still living quarters to complete. We need to utilize our own beef more this year and not do any hunting because we don't have pasture for all the stock now and it will be spring at least before we can make arrangements with the folks to the northeast for use of their land. We had hoped to do that this year, but the prospect of new raiders makes that very risky. We just don't have enough people yet."

More murmurs greeted this announcement, but it wasn't really news to any of them except Bill. They'd talked about this before many times. The balance between the population and the production of food was pretty delicate, and they had to be careful of who they took in. Nobody was apt to forget Jason Cole and the attempt he'd made to destroy their community. They knew they'd been very fortunate not to have any other spies or traitors so far, and they all knew that it was just a matter of time before something like that happened again.

Roger waited for the voices to still, and then went on. "We also have a new problem." Motioning for Jake, the engineer to come forward, he stepped back and sat down on the bench against the wall.

Jake held his old Stetson hat and turned it slowly as he spoke. "I made a pretty big mistake and it's going to take a lot to fix it, but it seems we'll be even better off later if we can make the fix work." Puzzled looks from almost everyone spurred him to continue. "We should not have tapped all three holes for the artesian water up in the lake valley," he said. "Too much, too soon. I'm from the southwest originally, and didn't think it through well enough. When the spring snow melt starts, that valley will simply overflow and flood the farms and pastures here below. The dam we have is very small and very fragile, so it won't hold much at all."

Shocked looks and more murmurs ran around the room, but they quieted for him to continue.

"We're trying to figure out how to cap the springs so we can release water when we need it and cut it off when we don't. We haven't much time, and worse, we don't have the right machinery or parts to put valves on them. About the only thing we can do right away is blast and hope to close the two larger springs. We may just open them up farther, of course, which would really be a big mess."

He stood quietly, turning the hat for a few moments, and then went on. "Or, we can dig a good sized ditch and let the run off go into the badlands. That will buy us some time to find the valves and things we need to do it right. We don't have any heavy machines to do that digging, and we don't really have enough men to do it the old fashioned way, so the Good Lord is going to have to send us a miracle, one way or another." Jake sat down heavily and clapped the hat to his head until he remembered he was indoors and took it off again.

Bill stood up just then, which cut short the start of conversations and questions from a few. He was obviously nervous, but inside he began to feel a glow of joy because he could finally see where he could truly contribute to this community and, hopefully, regain his place here.

"It's not terribly far, and the road is still very good, so maybe it wouldn't be out of the question to go to the city and get those parts you need. I worked all winter for a man who drills wells, both water and oil, and he has more equipment than he could possibly use, considering current conditions. Maybe we can trade with him. Don is a good man, and has a large family besides. There's a chance they might even want to come join you all here. They were talking about it this spring because of the bandits, even in town. And Don's isn't the only family that might be interested."

Bradshaw had a knowing smile on his face as he thanked Bill for his suggestion. He'd actually thought of going to the city for supplies, but hadn't any way to know the conditions or who might be trusted there. Now he knew.

"And there was talk, Bill continued, "of that town with a refinery south of here starting to sell diesel fuel. Don would have trucks to haul it too. But he doesn't have enough men to both haul and protect it, so we might be able to make several deals."

Many voices were raised in discussion of these possibilities, and the news about available fuel had several of them quite animated. One of the big problems was lack of fuel for the machines they did have, resulting in so many jobs being done the old pick and shovel way. With fuel, they could make so much better use of the manpower they had. The prospect of one or more large and productive families coming in was exciting too.

Roger thanked Bill again, and asked if there was any other business they needed to discuss currently. Nobody ventured anything and, since they'd all had a busy and stressful day, the room was soon empty. But on the way out, many had stopped to welcome Bill back and shake his hand. They expressed great appreciation for his information and help with the raiders. Bill was a little embarrassed with those comments, however, since he didn't feel he'd contributed anything at all to their defense. He'd been willing, but never had the opportunity.

Bradshaw directed him to the bachelor's bunkhouse where he'd stayed before, and the community hummed with optimism as they all went their separate ways for the night.

"Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day," Betty thought to herself. She hadn't had an opportunity to share another problem. "Maybe tomorrow, she said, and blew out the last lamp.
*******

Betty sat before the big loom in the pale morning light, having grudgingly lit one of the lamps earlier. She hated to use the fuel, but she knew better than to strain her eyes either. The shuttle and the loom arms went back and forth relentlessly, and the blanket before her grew slowly.

Slowly - which was the problem. Or one of the problems anyway.

She had estimated the amount of wool in the bins, and the number of hours it took to weave each blanket, divided by the number of people who were able or willing to work the looms... and the numbers just never came together. Too little wool, too many hours, and never enough people to weave. Too many other jobs for everyone to do, and yet warm blankets were as important to their comfort and survival as almost anything else.

Most of the people who had come since the crash had not been able to bring much with them, and the first year had been very hard for all of them. The blankets they had brought and those they managed to weave had literally been life savers in the cold winter past, and she knew they would be very important again this year. If they could get the materials in the city to make heavy quilts, they could cut the time required to make the bedding by a considerable amount.

The woven blankets would continue to be valuable, of course, and she knew they would last a lot longer than most quilts, but the need was now and their resources limited. She had started a list of other things earlier when she first got up, and she fought the conflicting hope and pessimism that warred for her heart. They'd just have to see what they could get, and hope they had plenty to trade for it.

She agonized over letting go of any of the good things they'd produced and stored, but she knew they had to find something the townspeople would be willing to buy. Much would depend on their harvest, and she thought about all of the canned goods they still had from last year. She just hated to give up the jars. They had jerky, both beef and venison, and the berry crop had not been too bad in spite of the dry spring, so they had quite a bit of that dried as well.
*****

Next: A trip to town
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Clip Johnson on May 16, 2010, 06:49:52 pm
I just now read through this thread.

Excellent story MamaLiberty!!!!

It amazes me to hear you say how you are able to write this so quickly. Reminds me of experiences I've had in the music business. The best material seemed to always be the ones that just flowed from somewhere within the depths of the writer, and took very little time to write. And it seems these songs were always the biggest hits for the artist.

You really have been blessed with an extraordinary talent, and I sure have enjoyed reading this story. And look forward to reading more as you are able.

Thank you for sharing ML! :thumbsup:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 16, 2010, 10:34:31 pm
It was Awesome!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 16, 2010, 11:33:29 pm
It was Awesome!

+1
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 17, 2010, 11:58:14 am
Request for help here. Now, remember that I don't seem to actually be writing this thing, but I have a situation here where an understanding of how a military man might think and react will be important. I'd like to get it right, providing the ghost will let me, of course.

Anyone reading this have any military training? Remember that Bradshaw was a sergeant in the USMC for quite a while before he retired. Why does a career combat Marine remain a sergeant all that time, probably at least 5 or 10 years coming up through the ranks. (And nothing says he actually retired... his discharge was certainly honorable, but not necessarily after 20 years.)

Why not advance any further than sergeant? He's obviously a competent leader and intelligent person. He's about 40 - 45 years old.

This question will come up in the story somehow, and I don't know how a man might think about it. I know that my late husband did spend 20 years in the Navy and never advanced beyond Chief Petty Officer, but he had specific reasons that wouldn't fit here.

Any ideas?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Who...me? on May 18, 2010, 11:22:09 am
Here is a chart of the Marine rank structure.

http://www.chadduck.com/ymarines/rank/usmcrank.htm

Unless promoted by actual combat the rise through the ranks is dictated by time of service and skills.  It will generally take 10 or 12 years to reach the level of Staff Sergeant.

 Also keep in mind that there is a real division between commissioned officers and enlisted personnel. Commissioned officers are commissioned mainly through one of three sources: Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidates School (OCS), or the United States Naval Academy (USNA).  So one does not join the corps as a private and rise through the ranks to become an officer unless there are extenuating circumstances.  Such as combat attrition or feats of heroism coupled with shown leadership and tactical ability.   

So what I am saying is that it is not at all unusual and is in fact the norm for an enlisted man to never reach officer ranks. 
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 18, 2010, 11:56:44 am

So what I am saying is that it is not at all unusual and is in fact the norm for an enlisted man to never reach officer ranks. 

Thanks so much. Seems there are 8 steps as sergeant, before any sort of "officer," so maybe I have to figure out which one Roger is. That can be discovered in the section to be written. Since he is used to command, and obviously familiar with ordinance beyond rifles, I suspect he must be a Master "gunny." LOL We shall see!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 18, 2010, 01:05:33 pm
It's funny, I'm reading this thread and the boys at Ft Bragg start Mortar practice again. We can hear it all the way down here.
It is not quite as loud as the artillery practice, but that's because the shells fly right over the town with the artillery. Or so I'm
told by a guy in the Army. The house shudders when they do artillery practice, so I don't doubt it one bit.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 18, 2010, 01:44:03 pm
That must be terrible, PKL. I was with a large group once, camping near the Guernsey National Guard artillery range here in Wyoming. The first night they had live fire drill on that range, and it was impossible to sleep. Sounded like the landing at Normandy was going on just over the hill. No live rounds coming over, thank goodness. That would have been too much.

Why in heaven's name anyone would build a campground there is a real mystery. The land must have been dirt cheap. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on May 20, 2010, 04:59:52 pm
I am enjoying reading this very much, ML. I hope you don't give up the ghost, so to say.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 20, 2010, 06:39:49 pm
Such morbid humor from a guy named hangman should be expected.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 21, 2010, 06:46:15 am
Ok guys, just ducking in fast to read email. Someone told me I'd used the word ordinance when it should say ""Ordnance" - but he didn't tell me where I'd made this mistake!! Can anyone find it so I can fix it tomorrow? No time at all to go looking for it.

Thanks!  And I'm having a ball shooting. LOL
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Zookeeper on May 21, 2010, 11:19:09 am
Page 6 , In your reply to Who...Me.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on May 21, 2010, 12:15:09 pm
Such morbid humor from a guy named hangman should be expected.

I was referring to the ghost who "wrote" the story.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 25, 2010, 07:34:32 pm
A Trip To Town

Charlie was glad to be in the HumVee once again. Mutt was at the wheel, and Roger had the shotgun seat. Jeff and John were in the rear seat with him, and the old Jeep followed behind with four other former Marines.

Bill was behind them driving the big flat bed truck with dual rear wheels, hoping it would be heavy enough to do the job.  He couldn't help but think about how crazy it was to need eight Marines in order to attempt a shopping trip, but that was today's reality.

Leaving the ranch at first light, they drove south on the old roads, first through the hills with great caution, and then faster across the grasslands. They had to stop a few times to clear debris, but there were no signs of ambush or attack. Eventually they reached the state highway and then the old "freeway." Both were deserted, though fairly clear of obstacles. The places where water and mud had washed across the road from the eroding hill sides were rough, but drivable.

Passing the old reservoir, Roger saw signs of people camping on the northern shore and cautioned everyone to be alert. They would soon come through the first town, and he hoped to be able to pass by without stopping. Bill, using the hand held radio a bit nervously, reported seeing Bighamton's old truck among the campers. He had an idea that getting out of this area was going to be a lot tougher than getting in.

True to form, a large barrier blocked both sides of the freeway at the outskirts of the first town. Armed men patrolled it, looking both effective and well trained. Bradshaw wasn't happy about being required to enter a narrow pathway for inspection by those guards, but he knew he wasn't getting past them otherwise, and it was too late to turn around and attempt to find another route. Of course, there really were not many alternate routes available in this area anyway, at least not without going many miles out of the way.

A big blond man about Roger's age was obviously in charge, and he waved them forward to his position. Drawing level with him, the Sergeant gave a shout and, leaping out of the hummer, the two embraced and pounded each other on the back as if suddenly demented.

"Bob Mitchel, you old fraud! Did they finally toss your ass out of the Corps?" Roger's obvious delight at seeing his old buddy was swiftly translated into friendly greetings and mutual introductions among all the men present.

"Where the hell have you been hiding?" Bob said. "We got here just about the first of April and the town hired us as their security company. Same old job, just different employers. The pay isn't bad either, when you get to it. No taxes!"

"I have a ranch about 75 miles northeast of here," Roger told him. We're building a nice little community out there. If I'd known you were here, I'd have come a lot sooner!"

"A community, eh?" snorted Bob. "Some kind of commune? Don't sound like you at all." But he listened carefully as Roger told him about their organization, their plans and some of the troubles they'd had. Others drifted in as he spoke, and many of the others were very interested. They asked a lot of questions about conditions and what it might take to join them. Some had new young families and were not too happy about the situation in town.

"Damn," Bob laughed, "now you're going to steal all my men!" But it was obvious he was thinking hard about it all himself.

Roger cautioned them that they couldn't accept a large number of people all at once, especially with winter fast coming on, but he assured them that each one would be considered fairly and that there was a great need for strong young men right now. He was clear that hard work and possible privation was to be expected, and that the more resources they could bring, the more comfortable they would be. "One of the major problems is a serious shortage of housing," he told them.

One young man looked thoughtful, then offered, "there's a lot with several older mobile homes that are not being used. It's possible the folks in town might be willing to let you have them. Do you have any meat to spare? It's been too dangerous to hunt much with those bleeping bandits creeping around, picking off anyone who tries to go out."

Bob nodded and backed him up. "We can keep the so-and-sos out of town, but there are not enough of us to do that and go hunting. We need more men too, but there isn't enough here to feed them. The town was almost wiped out after the first waves of bandits and goblins during the crash. And it wasn't a big town to start with."

Roger looked at his watch, then at the sky saying, "we've got to get going." He briefly outlined to Bob his need to get to the bigger town some 40 miles to the west and remarked on seeing Bighamton and his gang of criminals at the reservoir.

Bob didn't show any surprise about the criminal gang being so close, and confessed there wasn't much they could do about it. But a quiet confab with Roger certainly cheered him up, and they parted with a nod and knowing smirks. Knowing Roger's previous escapades, Charlie didn't have to hear the plans to know that Bighamton might yet regret running into this branch of the Marine Corps. Given the right ordnance and manpower, the vicious criminal gang could be disposed of easily.

Back on the road, the sun was ever higher in a clear blue sky and, under any other circumstances, they would have been enjoying themselves. But, inevitably, another barrier was seen in the distance and they braced themselves for the unknown, hoping they would find as much welcome as they had the last time.

A massive power plant stood idle and forlorn just beyond the guard post, and a large open pit coal mine was on the other side of the road. It was silent and abandoned too. But Roger knew the tremendous potential, and wondered why the people of the city had not resumed operations here. That, and a few things Bob had told him, had Roger's brow ridged with tension, but he hoped they could pull it off and get a chance to talk to Don Bascome in town. A lot was riding on their ability to get the equipment and fuel Bill had talked about.

Once again, the road was narrowed to a single lane between stout cement barriers. A lone guard watched impassively as they approached, then stepped behind a cement column. A siren began to sound and several other men moved into positions behind the barricade, heads bobbing above it. Roger smiled to himself at their lazy pace and poor use of cover. They obviously didn't take the little convoy seriously or were unaware of proper procedure. Either way, if he had wanted them dead, they would all be dead by now.

The hummer came to a stop just short of the man hiding behind the column. A loud speaker was activated, and they were ordered to advance. Mutt just rolled his eyes as Roger keyed the loud speakers on top of the vehicle.

"Send one man out to parley," he ordered in his best drill sergeant voice.

Silence greeted this demand, and Jeff began to tap his foot unconsciously until the man behind the column actually moved out and approached the hummer cautiously. His sidearm was holstered, and he held nothing in his hands, but Roger couldn't be sure if there were others in better positions.

The team in the Jeep had taken what cover they could on the left of the vehicle, rifles at the ready, and Bill had vanished behind the dashboard of the truck.  The men behind the barriers could not deploy their rifles without exposing themselves, so the only thing that could be seen of them was an occasional glimpse of their caps. If Roger hadn't been so flaming angry, he'd have been laughing.

"We are looking for Don Bascome," the sergeant barked when the lone man got close enough. "We have come to trade."

The young man from town looked confused and stammered that the convoy had seemed threatening. Roger snorted his disgust, but directed his people to remount and they drove through as soon as the gate was opened. He was tempted to talk to whomever was in charge of this sorry "security" detail, but decided it was their problem. His mission came first.

Following directions Bill had given them, they soon located the big construction yard on the west end of town. Curious people had come to their doors as they passed, and a small crowd had formed by the time Bill got the attention of someone inside the yard, beyond a serious locked gate. The young man obviously recognized Bill and ran toward the main building without a word.

Later, after everyone had been introduced and brief histories exchanged, Roger suggested that the team leaders go with one of the young men and attempt to match the list Jake had given them to the needed parts. Then, sitting down over coffee, he talked with Don and his lovely wife about the possible migration of his people and at least some of the machines to the ranch. Their care worn faces were mute testimony to the strain they'd been under the last year, and they seemed to brighten as they contemplated the possibilities Roger offered. Don was very thoughtful, and said he would talk it over with his entire family in private.

Mutt came in just then, excited to report that they had found every single item on Jake's list, and were ready to load whenever the deal was complete. Roger and Don went over the list, and the items brought for barter were displayed. An agreement was reached quickly and the loading began.

Evening came, and Martha, Don's wife, had a troop of young ladies bringing food to what had obviously been a large conference table. Office type stacking chairs were set around it, and the adults sat elbow to elbow as the food was passed. Mutt could see into another room from where he sat, and noticed an ordinary dining table with at least 9 children of all ages around it. They were cheerful, and would have been loud but for the efforts of the lady who sat with them. Someone had told him that most were orphans.

The adults were not much quieter, and he grinned to see the enthusiasm of the younger people especially. There were 6 men from about 18 to 30 years, and 10 women in the same age group, including the one at the children's table! Don and Martha had three grown sons and two daughters. The rest were employees and their families or townspeople they had allowed to join them.

Don and his wife looked happy, though thoughtful, and Mutt was eager to get past the meal so they could hear if the Bascomes had made a decision. He had his eye on one young lady already and knew that these folks would be an incredible asset to the ranch.
****

The table had been cleared and coffee provided for those who wanted it.  Roger had used Don's ham radio to notify Betty that they would be staying at least overnight. He hadn't wanted to tell her about Bighamton, but he knew they should take extra precautions at the ranch even though the gang was very unlikely to leave the reservoir now.

Evening was fading into night, and it was cool enough that a fire would have been nice, but there was simply no fuel to spare. The meal had been simple and frugal, even with the supplies brought from the convoy, so everyone had a fair understanding of the stakes here. Don made it clear that it was obviously not a question of "if" they would migrate to the ranch, just how and when. He said he and his people had discussed it many times over the summer, and the only problem had been not having anywhere to go.

The situation had eased a bit a few months earlier when the corrupt sheriff and his picked goon squad had been eliminated in a brief firefight. Caught in a crossfire between Bighamton's gang and a rival from town, the crooked sheriff and his men had all died. The "rival" had been tried by the townspeople for various crimes committed earlier and driven out of town.  His new confederates decided that they'd rather be honest citizens after all and were allowed to stay. But Don was not prepared to trust any of them again, and there were signs of another corrupt past deputy aspiring to take the old sheriff's place.

"Never any shortage of fools in this world," he sighed after telling the story to Roger's group. "It's almost impossible to conduct any business here, and we don't have enough men to make it safe to go outside the city very often. We've almost been caught outside by Bighamton a number of times."

Roger smiled to himself, and his Marine buddies exchanged satisfied looks. They didn't know the plan, but they never doubted that there was one.

"So, said Don, "we are agreed. We can take a large amount of material out of here tomorrow, and come back quickly for the folks in a few days. We can also see about getting some of the mobile homes you talked about east of here. If we can get fuel from that town down southeast, we should be able to make several trips, but that will have to wait."

He looked at Roger expectantly, clearing his throat. "Want to outline your plan for Bighamton now? Then we'll all know our jobs tomorrow when we meet up with your friends down the road."

Roger stood to address the group, and indicated his men. "Between these guys and whoever Bob can come up with, we'll have a pretty good sized force, but that's really only going to be a decoy and backup if necessary."

He went into some details, assigning some of Don's people specific jobs as well, but he clearly was avoiding giving any real clue as to just how he expected to get rid of the criminal gang without a direct fight. Mutt and Jeff looked smug, and John was clearly enjoying himself, but everyone else just had to take it on faith that the plan would work. Most of them figured they wouldn't understand it anyway and were just happy at the prospect of getting rid of their old enemy.

Most of Don's men and a few of the women would be driving the extra trucks packed with machines and materials. All of those to be left, save the small children, were armed and fairly well trained, so Roger didn't worry too much, but he wished they could have made a mass exodus anyway.

The bedrolls finally came out and the lights were extinguished. Roger and Don went out to another room to talk a bit more, but soon only the sound of snoring could be heard. Guards were quiet in their concealed positions, and few could have seen or heard them as they changed through the night. Unlike the young men at the barrier, both Don and Roger's men were very, very good at this.

After meeting with Bob and a small group of picked men at the edge of their town, Roger, John and Charlie in the Jeep and the rest of the two teams in a borrowed pickup pulled out shortly after dawn. Roger had decided not to take the HumVee since it was so easily identified. He didn't want to give away his position too soon. The rest of the larger convoy, guarded by Bob and his men, would pull out using the main road in a few minutes, and the hummer would be leading that group. Bob had been dying for an opportunity to drive it.

Taking a gravel county road, Roger's group approached the reservoir from the southeast. Charlie kept them on course with the maps in his lap, and John was busy in the back seat with little boxes and wires. Roger glanced back once when John stopped his little hum of concentration, but smiled when the contented sound resumed.

The reservoir was in two parts, with a small town in the center. It had obviously been looted and burned sometime in the beginning of the crash. The streets were covered with debris and mud, but enough of the old walls were standing to give them cover. The long range sniper rifles came out and were carefully placed to cover the rag-tag campground just across the water. They could see no signs of life, let alone guards, but they didn't take any chances.

John had sealed the boxes and wires into heavy plastic bags, then stripped off his outer clothing, shielded from sight of the camp by some thick brush. He shivered a little in the early autumn light, but quickly slipped into the cold water and silently swam away, remembering the big harbors and warm backwaters of the Persian Gulf, as well as the big and small ships he had so often attached his boxes to, not so long ago.

The sun was up by the time John rose again from the water, dripping and obviously nearly exhausted. "Not so young as I was," he remarked, and gratefully accepted the towel Charlie passed to him, as well as the big thermos of hot coffee later.

Roger used the spotting scope to watch the robber's camp, and was starting to be a little alarmed not to see any signs of life there. He worried that they had done the decoy bit themselves, so he sent one of his snipers back to the vehicles to watch for a rear attack.

Just then, a shot rang out across the water and immediately several men poured out of a large tent, one holding his chest and staggering. He went down, and the others scattered fast. Within a few seconds, men were coming out of the other tents in various stages of undress, but nobody approached the tent from which the wounded man had come.

A minute later, another man came out of the same tent, holding his arm at an odd angle. Roger increased the power of the scope, and could faintly see that the man was bleeding hard. Nobody came to his aid, and he soon went down beside the man who had obviously been shot earlier. He could see no sign of hostages or innocent bystanders, only rough and dirty men like those who had attacked the ranch recently.

For an undisciplined bunch, the robbers broke camp fast and their trucks were loaded within half an hour. John was grinning as the last of the criminals slammed their doors and a few engines coughed to life. He twisted a knob on the small box he held and suddenly the far shore was filled with noise, dust and smoke. They were too far away to hear anything but the explosions which destroyed each and every vehicle completely, burning the remains with a vicious fire.

One nest of vipers wiped out.

The main convoy had paused by the road to prevent any of the bandits from getting away, but they wound up having nothing to do but wait for Roger and his men to catch up to them.

The camp was searched for survivors, and Bill was satisfied to learn that Bighamton had been the one who had been shot. The other man, a stranger, had been cut bad and had bled to death. Unwilling to waste the time to do anything but search, there were few regrets as they left the remains to the tender mercy of the local predators and birds. A fitting end to such evil men.

Don and his people celebrated the end of this gang, but Bill exchanged meaningful glances with both Mutt and Jeff as they passed to their places in the convoy. He nursed his lower lip a bit, still wishing he had a cigarette. "That," he thought, "was much too easy." And he wondered when the other shoe would drop.

Next time: The balancing act
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on May 26, 2010, 12:53:04 pm
I read about half, so far so good.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on May 27, 2010, 09:43:46 am
Good stuff, ML!

More, please!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on May 28, 2010, 11:33:00 am
Yes, more please. It's a very good story.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 28, 2010, 11:44:54 am
Had to take my gentleman friend to the VA hospital yesterday and didn't get anything done... but I'm going to work on it as much as I can the next few days. Should have another chapter up soon.

Warning... it's about to get even more intense, I think. I see vague hints of US military involvement... maybe helicopters... can't quite make it out yet. LOL
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Bill St. Clair on May 29, 2010, 11:54:06 am
I had stopped reading this thread after the first installment, thinking it was all done. Caught up again. Waiting for your fingers to pass along the words of that magic muse.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 29, 2010, 12:13:44 pm
Thanks, Bill. Just writing it is exciting! :) Should have the next chapter up by tonight.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 29, 2010, 04:32:42 pm
The Balancing Act

Linda Stewart rode the big boned gelding well, but the horse was young and the trail had been torn up by many horses and machines over the last week or so. Coming over the last ridge, the horse plunged ahead too fast and slipped in the algae smeared verge of the lake, going to his knees and throwing Linda face down into the mud. With a mighty heave and snort, he regained his feet and managed not to step on his mistress. His reins trailing, he answered his training and stood by her side, gingerly lifting first one and then the other foreleg as if testing for damage.

The men working on the valves against the far shore couldn't have reached her in half an hour, but the team that had been setting up the booby traps along the foothills was just coming down to the staging area where their own horses were tied.

Bill, in front of the group, ran to Linda and helped her to sit up, manfully suppressing the urge to laugh at the state of her face and clothing. She could have been hurt badly, of course, but seeing that she was unharmed it did look funny. Taking a handkerchief out of his pocket, and making sure it was clean first, he dampened it in the lake and attempted to help her wipe off some of the mud. He had to keep pushing the playful horse's head out of the way, and finally just burst out laughing.

At the same moment, Linda got the mud out of her eyes enough to see him grinning at her and was immediately furious! Of course, she didn't realize that she was actually angry with herself for not controlling the horse better... it was much easier to take umbrage at the cowboy who had come to her rescue.

"Are you laughing at me, you big galoot?" she growled. Floundering in the mud, she refused to take his hand and almost fell into the water itself before Bill grabbed her arm and helped her to stand. Shaking off his hand, she staggered to the dry portion of the trail and ineffectively attempted to brush the wet, sticky mud off her jeans and shirt. The tears quickly washed the last of the mud from her eyes, but the fact that she was crying just seemed to make her more upset and angry.

Still smiling, Bill backed off and bent to examine the colt's knees. The horse then rubbed more of the mud and water on his own muzzle and neck all over Bill's shirt and hat. "Danged Wyoming mud," Bill muttered, glad to find the horse had not come to any more harm than his rider. "What a mess."

Shady, the horse, stepped into the water itself and took a long drink. That got rid of at least some of the mud on him, but there was no such easy fix for the lady's condition. The other men tried to help her scrap it off, but she eventually waved them off and asked if Bradshaw was anywhere around.

"He's with the bunch up at the springs," George said. "You need to talk to him?"

"Betty sent me," Linda replied. "There is an urgent message from someone on the radio thing. She said it's from someone named Luke."

One of the older men came to full attention at that, and swung up on the horse immediately. He was away and at a full lope along the better part of the uphill trail by the time Linda shouted her objection. Bill and the others turned to get their own mounts, and someone helped Linda get astride the horse the other man had been riding. They had actually finished their job up there for the day, and were eager to get back to the ranch - as much to learn the news as to get cleaned up and ready for supper.

Bill rode behind Linda, doing a little cowboy daydreaming about her pretty face and independent spirit. He found himself very pleasantly attracted and wondered just how he could get close to her again.

****
Roger came out of the radio room with a grim expression on his face. The common room was packed, almost filling the dining room as well. Others looked in from the kitchen across the serving counter. Nobody said anything, and it was evident they were braced for bad news.

Charlie and Bill didn't think anything could really surprise them... The other shoe was about to fall.

"As most of you know," Roger began, "we've been in constant communication with Luke out in Nebraska, as well as others across the country. We've gotten reports from a few people along the Mississippi this last year, but none of the ham stations east of that have answered for at least 6 months. We have heard nothing out of California or the southwest for at least that long. Oregon has a few stations, but Washington has been silent for several months as well. The old British Columbia and Alberta stations are alive and well, but there's nothing out of central or eastern Canada either."

"To the best of my knowledge, there has been no functioning Federal Government since the crash, but we all know that a great many of the old administration and their favorite backers had bunkers and other means of survival. There was a large military/industrial complex entrenched in the Colorado mountains, but there has been no sign of them - until now."

Roger already had their full attention, but his last words brought many to their feet, and a low murmur of protest broke the former silence.

"We've had major news in the last few hours," he continued when the room fell silent again. "Luke says he's received reports from Mississippi and Arkansas about heavy troop movement west into Louisiana and Texas. Nobody seems to know for sure where they came from or just who is in control, but it is clear that they are a mixed national, mercenary army. Their purpose seems to be conquest and occupation. Reports are clear that they are "living off the land," and pretty much destroying what they can't use or carry. It's the pattern followed by invaders and governments since the dawn of time."

Only shocked silence met this news, so he went on.

"The really interesting part is that a similar, if smaller, group has appeared in Colorado. They are reported to be mixed regular army and national guard, but not terribly well organized. We are getting a recorded broadcast from a ham station that does not identify itself. It seems to move around, but may not be able to avoid contact with the bandits for long. The message indicates that this second group is moving south and east - at least for now."

Brief conversations erupted around the room, and those in the dining room pressed close to the doorway to hear better.

"So," he continued after the buzz quieted, "there are several possibilities. Obviously, the best for us would be a conflict between these two armies. It would weaken both of them and the people of those states might be able to eliminate the rest. But they may join together instead, of course, and that would be very bad for the south and, eventually, for everyone else. We don't know how well they are armed, where they came from, who is leading them, or what their actual goals are. I'll do my best to learn as much as possible, as soon as possible - but we may never know all of it."

In the meantime, what we can and MUST do is get ready to defend ourselves. We also have to decide how many more of the people from the towns south of here should join us. My old buddy Bob and his men are all ready to roll and should be here within a few days. There are quite a few ready to come from the town out east where the refinery is, and they'll be bringing fuel. We've got to get as much in place as possible before winter, of course, but we can be mighty grateful for the coming cold and snow because it will give us precious time. By spring we will know much better what to expect, but we'd better be ready for anything."

Just then the shift change guards from the perimeter came in, and there was lively discussion all around as they heard the news and lent their ideas to the speculation and brainstorming going on. Roger retreated to the radio room again, and Betty found her cousin Sam with him there. They had been having more and more disagreements about the number of people coming in, and Sam's face was red with anger.

Roger gave up the idea of listening more to the radio then, and asked Betty to monitor it while he held a conference with the elders and leaders of the community. The word passed quickly through the crowd, now beginning to thin as people left for their own quarters, and the big room was eventually clear except for the ranch council.

Sam didn't even wait for everyone to be seated before he began his usual rant about too many people, coming in too fast. He was genuinely concerned about the balance of the population with the resources, always wanting to err on the side of excess resources. He was never really willing to admit that those who came now always brought more materials and talent than they consumed, seeming only to remember the first frantic days when most of them had arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Everyone listened politely, but meaningful looks passed between many of them. They had heard this before, and had answered his complaints often - both in council and in private. His status as an elder and an original settler gave him the benefit of the doubt and a patient hearing, but it was wearing thin.

"What do you suggest instead, Sam?" said Justis. He was the oldest among them and, usually, the only one Sam would listen to. Justis sat back and combed his long beard with his fingers, his eyes gentle but firm on the younger man.

Sam looked around at the patient but unrelenting faces around him. He knew he didn't have any real answers either, and he was man enough to admit it -  he just didn't have to like it. His shoulders slumped and he put his hands flat on the table in defeat, enduring the grins of a few. He knew he'd have to come up with more than vague dissatisfaction if he wanted to be heard again in this council.

Roger cleared his throat, deftly regaining control of the meeting. He asked for and received a report from each section chief. After discussing some of the problems, they decided that the first order of business for the following few weeks was the construction of more housing and storage facilities. As many men as could be spared would prepare building sites in the gentle foothills above them. A crew would go to haul up the mobile homes that they had already traded for, and attempt to obtain more of them. Bob and his men would be security for that operation, so Roger and his men could concentrate on finishing the guard posts and booby traps on the northern edge of their territory, as well as complete the placement of the valves on the artesian springs in the lake valley.

The harvest was almost done, and the butchering would start as soon as it got cold enough. With more people coming, they could also do enough hunting to put plenty of meat into storage for the winter and spring. They agreed that an expansion to the northeast would be imperative next year or they would have to find another source for grain and grazing for their livestock. The original valley was filling up, but the settlement to the east had plenty of land and few people. They all hoped it could be worked out for everyone's benefit.

After the council broke up, Roger returned to the radio room and found Betty smiling. Intrigued, he sat down beside her to hear what she had learned from the radio.

Next: All's Fair in Love and War
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 31, 2010, 03:57:47 pm
Consequences - chapter 12

Love & War

Roger took a chair beside the desk to hear Betty's report, happy to see that something had lifted her spirits. He was still thinking hard about the implications of the news they'd gotten this morning, and everything they needed to accomplish before spring. The growing chill of the late October night made him wish for one of his good flannel shirts, but he wanted to hear Betty's news before he did anything else.

"Cows!" she said, before he could even sit down. "They've got real milk cows, and even some milk goats! We can have butter and cream and real milk for the kids now! No more of that powdered, non fat yuk!"

"Who, they?" he asked, at a total loss.

Betty grinned and pushed over the notebook she always kept of the communication with other ham stations. He saw that she'd been talking with a fairly new contact in South Dakota, up in the northwest section.

"A group from that town on the Nebraska border you went through last year traded with a town called Fruitland in northern SD last spring. They told the people there about us, and some of them are asking if they can join us here. There are not enough people to trade with there. More and more bandits are moving in from Minnesota, and it is becoming impossible to protect their people or livestock consistently."

Roger nodded, wondering if those bandits would get as far as the ranch next year.

"They have dairy cattle and goats," she went on, "as well as all kinds of root stock for fruit trees and other things. It would be so wonderful to have fruit trees again."

Most of the original fruit and nut trees that had been planted at the ranch had died the first year. Nobody knew if they were the right varieties, and nobody had really known how to tend and prune them - even if there had been time. Just one of the many things that had gone by the wayside when the focus was pure survival, Roger thought. Since then, they'd had to learn high altitude gardening and farming the hard way, until the farmers from Luke's town had come to stay. More expertise and new rootstock would certainly be a blessing.

"They also have sheep and some other farm animals to bring," Betty continued. Roger looked up sharply. His family had ranched in Wyoming for more than 150 years, and none of them had ever had any tolerance for sheep. Sheep were hard on grazing land, so there had been many a war on the range between the cattlemen and the sheep herders.

Seeing his look, and knowing pretty much what he was thinking, Betty smiled and said, "the sheep would probably do well out in the far east valley or beyond, if there are enough people to protect them. We sure could make good use of the wool, even if nobody here wants to eat the meat."

He thought hard a minute, then grinned at his wife. "Well, that might just be the answer to the problem in the east valley. We don't have any more room for livestock here, and they don't have enough people to guard the livestock they have, let alone what we already want to graze out there. This could be very good for everyone. But first we've got to meet with the east valley folks and find out what they want to do. We can't decide that for them."

Betty put her arms around him as he turned off the lights, and they walked down the hall together in a warm silence. She was excited about the cows still, and Roger was thinking about the new people already promised to come in the next month or so. They were going to have to do some smart building, for basic housing as well as larger meeting facilities. In another two months they wouldn't be able to get even a third of the population into the common room, packed like sardines. For some reason, that made him grin even wider.
******

Bill was patiently working with a young horse, leading her gently around the pasture and talking to her. He enjoyed this job more than almost any other, and had recently become the lead trainer at the ranch. He had been an excellent horseman since childhood, but had only in the last two years learned and internalized the patience and strength of character necessary to be a leader of men.

The little sorrel suddenly shied, and he looked up to see Linda running toward him excitedly. Taking a firmer grip on the halter, he frowned for a moment, but then realized that the filly needed to learn to accept even such disturbing activity. She stood trembling a little, but didn't move again until Linda reached the fence and seemed about the climb over.

"Hold up," Bill said, "You're scaring the filly, Linda."

She stood on the outside of the fence then, and labored to catch her breath. "The new people have come from SD," she panted, "and you've just got to see their horses! Big Belgian draft stock, and the most beautiful paint mare I ever saw! Somebody said she was in foal too. I'd give just anything to have it."

Bill smiled and patted the filly. She had calmed immediately and was now trying to reach for the short grass, brown and sparse as it was. He unsnapped her lead rope and turned her loose to run with the other youngsters, then climbed the fence and - daring greatly - gave Linda a brief, brotherly hug as they walked toward the headquarters buildings. She didn't seem to mind, and his grin got even wider.

She went on describing the newcomers and, as they rounded the corner of the main house, he was prepared for the big heavy wagons and the gorgeous horses that had pulled them. They were tired and dirty, having been on the road for more than a week getting to the ranch, but their quality and health shown through nonetheless. Bill hurried to help the drivers unharness the gentle giants, and they were led away to join the saddle and brood stock in the large pasture. He worried that the grass would not keep so many horses, and made a mental note to break out some extra bales of hay for the evening feeding.

The dry cattle had already been driven out into the grazing area with the beef, and the milkers and goats had been put into the pens especially constructed for them earlier in the month. The sheep would be coming in the next week, needing to move more slowly, and they would go directly to the East Valley.

The negotiations with the east valley people had gone well, and Bill - as a new member of the ranch council - had been proud to be part of the delegation that met with their leaders to work out the details. They had been painfully grateful to receive the new settlers, as well as to accommodate the ranch overflow herds onto their grasslands. There were many things the east valley people did not have and could not produce for themselves, so they were glad for the opportunity to grow, as well as to trade.

The big problem had been housing for the new folks, and they had decided to dig sod houses for the first winter. They would not be very comfortable, but they didn't have much option this late in the year. The first snow could come at any time now. Most of the "soddies" were complete and ready for the new folks to move in because there had been earth moving equipment and fuel from the ranch. The new settlers would build their own log homes the next summer and the soddies would be used for storage and, perhaps, any other newcomers.

A general meeting was called for that night, and a big fire was laid in the main courtyard, with chairs and benches brought out from every dwelling and the old common room. Everyone bundled up against the chill and, while the smallest children were fed and put to bed, the community gathered around the big fire for the last outdoor meal of the year. Large pots of beef and venison stew were set on rough tables, and everyone helped themselves to that and fresh brown bread, made from their first wheat crop. The East Valley settlers contributed several kinds of cheese and dried fruits, to the delight of the ladies especially.

The new people bound for East Valley were warmly welcomed. There were quite a few new folks at the ranch too, and small groups kept forming and reforming as the council members circulated to get acquainted with all of them and hear their concerns.

Some of the women were fearful of a winter in a sod house, especially those with small children, but they were reassured to know that many others had lived that way before them, and the fact that East Valley had a doctor and a Native American medicine man in their company helped some. They all knew that there was little choice except to adapt, endure and learn if they wanted to survive. They had agreed to come, knowing the conditions might be harsh, and they were determined to succeed. The 20th century tyranny had not been able to kill the old pioneer blood after all.

Roger was so proud of all the ranch people. Their own newcomers had brought quite a bit with them as far as clothing and building supplies, machines and fuel, but food had been hard to get in the southern towns. The older ranch settlers had been very generous with everything they had produced and set aside for the winter the last two years. With so many here now, it might be a bit of a stretch to keep everyone well fed until the new crops came in, but he didn't think anyone would really go hungry. There were still deer and antelope down in the grasslands, and they could always kill another beef or two. The horses would have to do without much grain this winter, he figured, but they should be OK even so because they had put up a tremendous amount of excellent hay due to the irrigation from the lake valley. There was still room for a few more grain fields, and the gardens could be expanded as well.

They had fuel for necessary transport, and new solar panels had been set up by Don and his family, so there was enough electricity for a few things like the radio and a little refrigeration. Don had plans to create hydroelectric generators at the artesian springs, and he had some equipment to produce heat pumps. Eventually they hoped to find more ways to replace some of the wood burning heat sources. They were spending an awful lot of time and energy cutting wood and hauling ashes.

The camp fire burned to red coals, and a cold wind came with a growing cloud cover. People began to drift off to their quarters as the last of the food was taken back into the common kitchen and put away. The square was nearly empty as the first large, wet snowflakes began to fall.

Bill had put his arm around Linda earlier as they sat by the fire, and she leaned her head against his chest as he walked her to the women's bunkhouse. He was afraid to say much, so exchanged a gentle "good night" with the sleepy girl, then strolled through the increasing snowfall toward the single men's quarters. He didn't feel much of the cold wind since he was still in a glow of warmth from contact with the girl, wondering if this was actually love. "This time I've got to go slow and find out for sure," he said to himself.

Next time: Spring
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on June 01, 2010, 04:54:21 am
Just caught up.  Going pretty good so far.  I am thinking we are up to a couple hundred people tho'  comfortable but crowded and there are some probably getting independant minded.........
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 01, 2010, 07:33:15 am
Just caught up.  Going pretty good so far.  I am thinking we are up to a couple hundred people tho'  comfortable but crowded and there are some probably getting independant minded.........

Hard to say. Some numbers were mentioned earlier, but not lately. Remember that I'm not personally writing this, so I'll have to consult with the "ghost" who is the actual author and see if they'll give me some clues.

And yes, the population is getting ever more diverse as well as numerous, and some strains will probably appear as soon as the immediate danger is past. This is an age old pattern. People pull together in adversity and danger, then tend to have problems when peace and plenty come along. I suspect the next few chapters will be very interesting. New one going up in a few minutes. :) This ghost is keeping me up LONG past my usual bedtime to write this stuff. LOL  At least it lets me get done with my regular work first. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 01, 2010, 10:20:01 am
Consequences - Chapter 13

Spring

Maria looked out the infirmary window, desperately searching for some sign of green. The winter had been long and cold again, and there was still snow on the ground on the upland pastures. She didn't think she would ever stop missing her Argentine home, but felt guilty for that homesickness too. She knew she would probably not have survived if she had not gotten out, and she certainly would never have known Jeff or had their beautiful son Carlos.

Angela, just three years old now, sat drawing mysterious pictures on a chalk board, turning occasionally to maneuver her little rag dolls in some game only she understood. So far, Angela had never said a single word and made very few sounds. She had been tested for hearing and sight, and was normal in every way they could determine, but some aspect of the trauma she had endured was evidently blocking her social skills and impeding her cognitive development. Oh, she seemed to understand a great deal in some ways, but words divorced from emotions were ignored and she made no attempt to communicate or interact with others. She accepted most people and things, but never tried to make her needs known or initiated contact. She didn't fit the pattern of the "autistic," really, but sometimes it was close. Nevertheless, she was greatly loved by everyone at the ranch. Most people never seemed to tire of trying to get her to respond.

LeeAnn, the midwife, came in to check on Maria's progress, hugging Angela on the way back out the door to check three other women who were also in labor. Maria had been told she was still several hours from delivery so she composed herself to wait patiently, only wishing that Jeff could be with her now. He was on the other side of the valley, helping to bring in hay from the east settlement for the hungry horses and what cattle remained. She could see Roger and some of the other men out at the barns. They were supervising the birth of both colts and calves so necessary to their survival. Spring, though elusive, was definitely in the April air.

Roger and Bill, sweaty and streaked with blood and mucous, had stepped out of the barn to catch their breaths during a lull in the foaling. The cows outside in the sheltered area had pretty much all dropped their calves and were doing well, but some of the mares were weak from the short winter rations and one foal had died already. They all knew that such a loss could happen any year, anywhere, but Roger had especially wanted this foal because the mare was really getting too old to breed again and she was one of his favorites. She'd been born the last year he was home before he went into the military, and had been a real challenge to break on one of his infrequent trips home a few years later.

He looked out at the horse herd, dispiritedly searching with their lips for one more blade of dead, brown grass. The melting snow had long ago been pawed into mud, and he despaired of having any decent pasture there this year unless they could somehow reseed. Even the tough bunch grass could not hold out against hungry horses, who had long ago eaten even the roots, and he was glad the hay would be here soon.

A shout from the headquarter building got their attention, and moments later a breathless teen ager arrived with a message from Betty. Luke was on the radio again, and the news was worse than ever.

Leaving Bill to continue overseeing the foaling, Roger headed for the radio, youngster in tow. He wished there was some way to put off the confrontations coming at them, but he didn't expect any miracles. They'd have to fight again for their homes and freedom. The only question was when and how many they'd face.

Luke had been recruiting as many people as he could from all the towns in Nebraska and lower South Dakota. They had rebuilt much of their city and probably had enough manpower for both farming and security. With the equipment and supplies they'd found in the wrecked train, they could likely hold off any number of ordinary bandits - but that wasn't what was coming at them now.

All winter they'd heard scattered and brief reports of the two armies that marched through the south land. The "scorched earth" policy had backfired on them badly, as it usually did, and the ordinary citizens had gotten very good at fighting them. But the death and destruction had been horrible to consider, and they were sure it was probably many times worse than the reports indicated.

Now it seemed as if the remnants of both armies had joined, even as they had feared, and were starting to march north up the center of the country. This would bring them into Kansas and Nebraska by late May or early June at best, and there was no telling where they would go from there. They had no reliable estimate of their numbers either, but the reports did indicate that they had no extensive weaponry. For the most part, they had a fair number of firearms, knives and bare hands. They were evidently mostly trained soldiers, both regular forces and National Guard, unlike the ineffective bandits and almost mindless goblins they had faced before.

Betty handed Roger the earphones without a word, her face reflecting mixed fear and stoic determination. She stood behind him, lightly touching his shoulder as she so loved to do. She might well be frightened, but her touch never failed to give him renewed strength.

"We've got all this National Guard stuff here," Luke said calmly, "but we don't really know what to do with half of it. Nobody knows how to drive the tanks and much of the munitions are useless without someone who knows how to place and use them. Don't suppose you could spare John and George for a while..." His voice trailed off, then resumed. "Of course, I'm not sure just how they'd get here anyway. Oh well, it was a thought."

Roger turned the problem over in his mind while they talked of other things. He signed off with a promise to send John, George and a few others if it was at all possible. They were both aware that the more of the rogue army that could be eliminated or deflected in Nebraska, the fewer they would have to fight later, and the more communities would be spared their devastating rampage. Too bad they didn't have an airplane, he thought.

Then it struck him! There had been an airport in the city to the south, and a smaller one at the refinery town. Was there any chance a plane and, equally important, fuel was left there to serve in this emergency?

The gravel road out of the valley was only barely passible now, but he thought the paved highway should be good and clear by this time. The HumVee could easily deal with the mud and debris from the winter storms, and he wondered if it was at all safe to go it alone. None of the other, smaller trucks would likely make it for at least another week - and that would only be if they didn't get more snow.

He wasn't forgetting the possible raiders from Minnesota either. The folks in the east valley would be their first target, and they had little in the way of defenses. There just had not been time to rig any booby traps out there before winter came. The herds couldn't be moved up into the mountain pastures until at least late June, so the far east approach would have to be guarded well.

John came in quickly, having carried one of the small radios when he joined the crew clearing the road. George was still out east with the crew bringing in the hay. John listened quietly to the reports, and agreed that going to Luke's aid was undoubtedly the best way to help them all. The only thing lacking was someone to fly the airplane, provided one could be found.

Roger radioed a contact in the city, but had to leave a message since they were all out working on fortifications for the coming wave of goblins. The refinery town had a radio now too, and Roger was glad to be able to talk to the young woman who monitored it, but she said she'd have to give the message to the sheriff as soon as he came back in. They had been plagued with a rash of cattle rustling the last few months, and the entire posse was out tracking them down.

Laying the headphones down, he thought about going back to the barns, but knew that his duty lay here instead. Bill could handle the horses, and it was time to begin organizing their defenses in earnest. He must wait for an answer to his messages, for one thing, and then he needed to re-inventory his private stock of lethal surprises. They'd dipped into them quite a bit for the perimeter defenses, and he wanted to make sure he had enough for something he'd been considering all winter.

Good smells came out of the big kitchen, and Roger wandered into the new multi-purpose dining room to look for a cup of what they were now calling coffee. He didn't care much for the dandelion root brew, but it was hot and better than nothing. Taking a cup, he surveyed the expanded room, still regretting the necessity of building out over most of the old courtyard. The addition wasn't the greatest construction he'd ever seen, and the rough new logs didn't mesh well with the older ones, but it served the purpose of meeting room, dining room and community gathering space. Unfortunately, with the settlers from last fall it was already too small and if more folks joined them this summer they'd have to use it in shifts again, especially when they had company from East Valley.

A little girl came into the room and shyly told him Betty wanted him in the radio room. He smiled at her as he left, always glad to see the children, and always secretly sad that he and Betty would never have even one of their own.
****

Two days later, the HumVee was again in front of the headquarters at dawn, being loaded with the last of the supplies for a trip to town. The sheriff had not been able to find anything at the old landing strip in one piece, and said nobody there was able to fly anything they might have found. He remarked that the runway was pretty sound still, however, if that would help in some way.

Of their few remaining friends in the city, the man who kept the radio turned out to be a lot more help. He had sent his sons out to the old airport, and they had found a sealed hanger with a 4 seat aircraft that looked like it should fly. He had rounded up some former airport employees, and they had worked through the night to make sure it was airworthy. Fuel had not been a big problem, but they would probably have to find more for a trip back. Luke had assured Roger that there was aviation fuel available in his town, and so the mission was set up. All they had to do was make it to the city and take off.

Finding a pilot who could and would take it up had been the hard part, but one of the East Valley settlers that came in with the hay haulers had volunteered. He'd been a "bush pilot" in Alaska and elsewhere, and he didn't think there was a small plane made that he couldn't fly. His neighbors seemed to think he was reliable, and - after a long talk that night - Roger had decided to trust him. So many things could go wrong... and it was going to be a miracle if it came off anyway.

John brought a very special box from the HQ building and very carefully loaded it into the rear of the hummer, being sure to pad it well. They were well armed, but taking minimal gear and supplies so the rest of the loading was done quickly. John, explosives expert, George, artillery sergeant, and William the pilot took the rear seat, while Mutt took the wheel. Roger wanted to go very badly, but he knew this wasn't his mission. One of his other Marines, Judson, took the "shotgun" seat and the big diesel engine took them down the road and soon out of sight.

Charlie stood with his arm around Cathy, holding the year old Hope. Jeff hadn't even made an appearance, excused because Maria had given birth to their new daughter, Elizabeth, the night before. Bill saw the departure from the barn, keeping watch over the last two of the laboring mares. A part of him thought he'd like to go out like that again, but he was more than glad to remain behind when he saw Linda approaching with what looked very much like a thermos. The "coffee" wasn't anything to write home about, but the company would be outstanding. And she was a deft hand at helping him with the new born foals as well. Her bright intelligence and independent spirit had truly captured his heart. Now he just had to be sure that she was willing to be his partner for life.

Betty, with her hand lightly on Roger's shoulder, was silently grateful that he had not gone this time. The responsibility and risks had to be delegated and shared for any of this to work. One man simply couldn't do it all, and she was grateful that he was so well aware of that. He hugged her tightly, then turned saying he was going back to the radio room.

In a few moments everyone left to take up their tasks for the day, but there were more than a few prayers said for the success of the mission and the safety of those who were going. They all knew that the coming struggle would be a matter of life and death and that their lives might well depend a great deal on the actions of those five young men.

Thus it had always been, and thus it would ever be.

Next: Armageddon
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 01, 2010, 04:08:31 pm
I'm really on a roll today with this. Have not gotten much else done. Somehow, the title of this chapter doesn't seem right, but I couldn't come up with anything else. Got to get outside and do some mowing before my dog gets lost in the tall grass... LOL More tomorrow, I'm sure.

Armageddon Chapter 14

Betty and Roger both woke in the darkness to a pounding on their bedroom door. On the other side, Ellie was not quite shouting, but very excited. "Mr. Bradshaw! Betty! They want you on the radio!" Ellie had the duty to monitor the radio that night, alone for the first time, but she knew exactly what to do.

She gave a brief report as Roger followed her down the hall, tucking in his shirt as he went. Betty followed right behind, wrapping herself in a quilted robe against the early spring chill. She caught only bits and pieces of what Ellie said, but it was clear there was bad news from the East Valley. They had finally found someone who could operate a radio, and one had been installed just a few days ago. Clearly, it was going to be a life saver from the start.

Roger took the headphones and adjusted the dial slightly, then spoke into the mike in his hand. He relayed the report from East Valley, and Betty wrote it down in the notebook as fast as she could. A shepherd had come in bloody and almost prostrate just a few minutes ago, the other operator said. Their camp had been attacked and many of the sheep killed by gunfire, but the shepherd and his brothers had escaped at first. The raiders had found them, and he had escaped again with just a small knife wound while the raiders fought over who would kill them. He didn't know what had happened to his brothers and was being restrained from going back out to rescue them. They were grateful he'd come in to warn the town.

The men of the East Valley were gathered and would carry out the plans that had been set up earlier, but they were requesting help from the ranch. They had few trained warriors, and no real experience in night time battles if the raiders decided to attack the town immediately.

Once again, the general alarm sounded and people poured out of the cabins and mobile homes around the headquarters. Horses were saddled and packs were secured while Roger conferred with his men. It would take them several hours to reach the other settlement on horse back, but he thought they would have a better chance to surround the bandits and end the battle quickly that way. The sound of of trucks coming over the rough pass road might make them break off the attack, but then they would hang around just waiting for another opportunity. All of the men agreed that it would be far better to eliminate as many of them as possible now. The last report from the radio had been good; no general attack so far, but dawn was only a few hours away.

The trail was good, and the moon was high. The posse moved out as quickly as possible, each man leading another horse so they could switch midway and arrive on more or less fresh horses. Bill rode with them, as did Jeff and the other Marines.
*****

A rooster crowed with lusty abandon, soon joined by another until the entire poultry yard was awash in the joyful welcome to a new dawn. In the distance, horses whinnied and cows mooed in anticipation of food and getting rid of their overnight burden of milk. A dog barked in the compound, and an engine coughed to life somewhere near the road.

The ranch was alive and well, but Deborah wished she could have had just a few more moments of the lovely dream she'd been having. She stretched and put her feet on the floor, snatching for her slippers because the stone floor was cold. She remembered washing her rag rug, and resolved to put it back down today if it was dry.

Reaching over to wake Richard, her husband, she saw a man going between the buildings and stopped to watch. Something about his obviously TOO nonchalant behavior had tripped her alarm. She recognized him as Larry, one of the men who had come with them from the city, driving one of Don's trucks. She wasn't sure just what made him seem suspicious now, but she realized that he had never quite "fit," even back before they had come here.

Richard came awake with a start, sensing Deb's alarm, and rolled out fast. He hit the floor and was dressing as his wife described what she'd seen and her impressions. Larry was long out of sight, but Richard intended to find him and discover for himself just what was going on. As a former sheriff's deputy, he was pretty good at sifting facts from feelings, but didn't ignore the fact that he'd never been comfortable with the twitchy little man.

Closing the door quietly, Richard went out and Deb continued to dress for the day. She was going to be working in the bakery this week, and was looking forward to it. The smells and warm relationships with the other women there had always made her happy. Besides, they often got to eat "mistakes," and she looked fondly at her swollen belly. "Must eat for two now," she said.

Larry was upset with himself for over sleeping. He'd have to put off his plans until the next day now since he'd seen several people coming out of their cabins already. He'd almost gotten to the armory storage building in the clear, but had seen Richard coming straight for him in time to turn aside. Something about Richard made him feel especially uneasy, though he was fairly paranoid of everyone in this loony bin.

Working for a living was no particular joy for him to start with, but these people were nuts. They expected everyone to work long hours for just their food and a place to sleep. He hated all the menial jobs he'd been given, not willing to consider that those were the only honest jobs he was capable of doing. Somehow, his talents at breaking and entering, armed robbery and general thievery had not been brought up.

He was thoroughly sick of this goody-goody place. A man could get a glass of home brewed beer - or two - during a meal or in the evening, but nobody could get a decent supply of the stuff to get a nice buzz on in private. It wasn't that he couldn't take more, but the one time he'd tried it the rest of the men had looked at him strangely and he hadn't wanted to attract undue attention to himself while the winter storms raged. He fully expected they would turn him out in the snow if he made a wrong move.

Nobody at the ranch had any real money that he was aware of, though he suspected Bradshaw had plenty of stuff tucked away. The only things of value he thought he could get his hands on were guns and some explosives. He smiled, thinking that there were a few guys in the city and, maybe elsewhere who would pay plenty for those things. He didn't know exactly how he was going to get them out of the valley undetected, but he figured he could steal a truck pretty easy. He didn't know anything about horses and wasn't interested.

Defeated for the moment, but not discouraged, he trudged off toward the barns and his most hated chore. Richard watched him go, realizing that the man had changed his course after seeing him, and resolved both to keep an eye on the man and report his suspicions. He thought he'd wait for Roger to return, a decision that almost caused a tragedy - but which would ultimately result in a whole new phase of their community.

Larry came into the barn with his usual reluctance. He hated the smells and the animals very much, but he absolutely hated Bill and so was very careful to be quiet and unobtrusive. He had an idea that Bill wasn't totally fooled, and he didn't want to get into a fight - at least until he could safely get away. He grinned to himself, indulging in a few side plans that involved a knife in Bill's ribs, but he knew he probably wouldn't have the opportunity anyway. Getting out of here with something he could sell was the main thing.

Several other men who did menial chores on the ranch were just getting tools out of the tack room, so he slouched over to them, trying to decide if he could trust any of them to help him. It could mean a division in the swag, of course, but he might be able to use at least one of them for a diversion while he stole the truck. Nothing said he actually had to take anyone with him.

The two other truck drivers were out, of course, since they actually seemed to like it here. The older Mexican man was very quiet and didn't interact much with the others, so Larry thought he might approach him as a possible partner or, more likely, dupe. He didn't speak any Spanish, and the old man didn't speak much of anything else unfortunately, but Larry thought it might work if he was clever.

Larry didn't have a clue that he was not "clever" at all, or even particularly intelligent, but of course he never gave that any thought.
*****
The news from East Valley had been good last night. The bandits were dead or gone, and the men were coming back today. One man had died, and Maria was very sad, but her world would only be made right when Jeff once more held her in his arms. She thought of those who had left to fly to Nebraska and said a "hail Mary" prayer for them and the others, as she so often did.

Resolving to wait patiently, she made sure that Angel was happy playing in the little sand box Jeff had made for her on their porch, well bundled against the brisk spring wind. Carlos was happy squeezing a stuffed dog in his crude "play pen" made of smooth 1 inch branches, and baby Elizabeth was nursing enthusiastically at her breast. 

Just then Cathy came around the corner of the building, carrying her year old daughter Hope. Mounting the porch, she put the baby in with Carlos and they immediately began to squeal and laugh as they played tug a war with the toy. Both mothers smiled to see how well their children got along, but knew it wouldn't last long so Cathy quickly got out the sewing things while Maria put the newborn into her tiny crib, sound asleep and full as a tick.

The quilt was coming along nicely and both women looked longingly at it in it's frame against the living room wall, but they resolutely turned their attention to the mending which was a higher priority. Cathy marveled that they were actually reduced to darning socks and repairing things that would previously have called for a trip to the department store. But she had no real problems with it, and was glad to have learned so much from some of the older women. Neither she nor Maria had ever needed to mend or conserve much of anything in their former lives, and now each day was a serious education in survival, but down deep she did hope that new clothes would not always be the extravagance they were now - even when it was possible to obtain them. No department stores!

A clatter of hooves on the road brought people out from almost every building, and the weary horses were led off to the barns quickly. Three men were carried to the infirmary, and many people craned their necks to see who had been hurt. One horse had been burdened with a wrapped bundle, and that was carried into the main room. The men took off their hats, if they wore one, and many of the women blotted tears from their faces. Maria had left the porch running and Jeff ran up the path toward her. Her cries were muffled against his chest as he nearly crushed her in his arms, his own tears streaming down his face. Charlie gathered Cathy into his arms as well, and their own tears mingled as he kissed her. Looking at the two women, he wondered just how long they must endure the almost unending trauma of fear and loss.

Soon the community had gathered in the common room, the doors all left open so those in the kitchen and what remained of the courtyard could hear. The body of old Justis lay in state on a quilt spread over the largest table. A bloody hole in his chest told the tale of his demise in graphic terms, but everyone strained to hear what Roger was telling them about the entire encounter.

Just a little after first light, the posse had come into the East Valley settlement. All was quiet there, but every person was awake and watchful. Most of the men had gone into the surrounding forests to take up their guard positions and would stay there for the duration. Roger checked with the elders and the injured shepherd, just to be sure of the last known position of the enemy, and then rode out with his men. They also vanished into the forest, after splitting into three sections - each going a slightly different way.

The bandits had taken over the shepherd's camp and were roasting mutton over a big, untidy campfire in the growing morning. It was obvious from the debris around the camp that they had done the same for supper the night before, probably while they ransacked the small caravan vehicles of the shepherds. Highly unsatisfied with the few bits of clothing and tools in the wagons, they'd amused themselves with the sheep, also killing the old mules that had drawn the caravans. The entire place stank of blood, burned cloth and wool - and increasingly - the ugly smells of careless, dirty human beings.

Many of the raiders were still asleep on the ground around the fire. A big man covered with dark tattoos sat honing a knife, stopping occasionally to slice off a chunk of meat and stuff it into his mouth. His beard and mustache were dripping with grease, and he seemed to have no thought for the crusted blood on his trousers. Other men, equally unlovely, were gathered in small groups around the fire or just awakening. A fight broke out over the meat, and the thug with the knife simply slit the throat of the man who had started it! Everyone else backed away from him and found somewhere else to be, never even giving a glance to the man who had been slashed. He thrashed feebly for a few moments, and then was still. Tattoo simply kicked him out of the way and went back to the meat.

Things changed fast then. A volley of shots rang out, and ten of the bandits dropped where they had stood. Tattoo took a round in the chest, but he was so fleshy that it didn't reach a vital place and he rolled toward his own gun. He much preferred a knife, but was happy to kill by any means. Another volley of rifle fire brought down at least 9 more of the robbers, and Tattoo was furious to see that none of those left was making any effort to find cover! Most of them had not been near their weapons when the shooting started. Several men fired wildly into the surrounding woods, but were soon picked off.

Tattoo had the partial cover of the wagon where his rifle had been stored, but he couldn't see where the attack was coming from and so didn't know where - or if to move. Their enemy seemed to be all around them and he was very surprised. He didn't think the sheepmen had been that well trained or prepared to defend themselves.

Within seconds, all of the bandits had been shot or had fled into the woods barehanded. Tattoo lay still and pretended to be dead as best he could, eyes closed to a tiny slit. After a while, he heard faint sounds of men coming into the camp and waited as patiently as he could. He didn't really expect they would leave without making sure of him, and he hoped he could take at least one more with him.

His inadvertent grin gave him away and the knife was kicked out of his hand before he could get it into play. The rifle in his other hand came up and he got off one shot before a bullet tore through his skull. He died without even the satisfaction of seeing his victim fall.

Roger got there just in time to ease Justis to the ground as the light faded from his pale blue eyes. The old man smiled, then released his spirit and lay limp in Roger's hands. He bent his head over his old friend and said a prayer for his journey.

Later, they discovered the bodies of the two shepherds among the dead sheep. They were buried where they had fallen. Roger didn't want their families to see evidence of the torture and mutilation they had endured. The sheep and mule carcasses were set to burning along with the bandits, and four East Valley men said they would stay until it was done. Roger and his men were very glad to get away from the incredible stink of it all.

The double column of horsemen going back to the village was solemn. They were weary and sad, even though they knew that their casualties had been very light indeed. Besides the man who had died, three men and one horse had superficial wounds. It could have been much worse if they had not come upon the camp when the raiders were unprepared.

Roger was thinking hard, in spite of his personal grief, and knew that they had been very fortunate indeed to dispose of the big tattooed man. He had no idea who he had been, but he'd seen that type many times. He was a natural leader of criminals, just as Perez had been, and there probably would be far fewer successful attacks in the future because he was no longer around to organize the dissolute and criminal element into another gang.

A quick conference on the radio with Betty and a brief confab with the village leaders was all he allowed himself before making sure his men were bedded down and the injured attended. Then he gratefully accepted a bed. Groaning, he turned over, thinking about the really big fight that was probably coming their way soon and he wondered how things were going in Nebraska. His last thought was that he was getting too damned old for all this crap. How long, oh Lord...
******
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 01, 2010, 04:10:22 pm
Chapter 14 continued.

Larry slid out of his bunk very cautiously, not wanting to wake anyone else in the bunkhouse. He was tickled to see that only the faintest hint of dawn was showing on the mountain to the south, and he thought he could get away today. He'd been very disappointed with his attempt to communicate with the old Mexican, but shrugged it off as unimportant. He'd just have to be even more clever to pull things off on his own. The stupid old man had not really understood a word he said and walked off in the middle of his proposal. He'd seen him talking later with that high flautin' woman who was supposed to be from Argentina, but he hadn't thought anything about it.

Larry breathed a sigh of relief as he softly closed the door behind him and started down the path toward the road. He figured he might as well check out the trucks first and see which one he might take. Then he could snatch some of the arms store and get away quick. The first two vehicles he came to were locked up tight. This surprised him, since he'd had the impression nothing much was locked here. The third truck, and old pickup, was locked too, but a window had been left down some and Larry chuckled to himself as he reached in and popped the lever.

It seemed to him that time was flying by, so he left the truck and went directly to the armory. That door was locked too, but Larry knew the combination. Everyone here carried guns, and he'd been given an old 9mm shortly after he arrived. A week or so ago it had developed a misfeed problem on the practice range, so George had said he could have another one until it was fixed. The old man who had opened the armory to exchange it for him had been dumb enough to have the combination on a piece of paper in his coat pocket, so it was almost child's play to steal it from him later when he was sleeping. That, of course, was when he had conceived the idea of stealing some of the guns and getting away.

The combination worked beautifully, and Larry slid the door open gently. He flipped the light switch, but nothing happened. He realized then that he should have brought a flashlight or something. The door faced north, and it was as dark as a tomb inside, even with the door wide open. Unwilling to give up his plan even so, he stepped inside and began to rummage around on the shelves, trying to figure out what might be the best to take. He found the rifles all locked into a rack, and all of the drawers of ammunition were also locked. He found a few loose handguns on the workbench, but had no idea what they were or even if they were in working condition. He thought about the explosives, but even he wasn't stupid enough to look for them in the dark and figured they would certainly be locked away even more carefully than the other things. So much for that idea!

Leaving the door open, he went back toward the truck fuming at his rotten luck. He couldn't think of anything else to steal, but he knew he wouldn't be terribly welcome in the outlaw's camp with just an old, beat up pickup. Racking his brain for some better answer, he came around one of the cabins and noticed that a window was open. A little girl was standing in front of it, looking out at the sky. Maybe, if he could snatch her, the ranch people would pay some ransom to get her back. He recognized her as the mute child belonging to the Argentine woman. They'd pay well for her, he thought.

Nervously he approached, and was surprised when she didn't move or make a sound as he reached through the window frame and picked her up. Her lack of fear or response made him feel really creepy, and he was half way down the path when he began to wonder if this was such a great idea.

Then, suddenly, all hell broke loose.

The old Mexican appeared out of a shadow behind Larry and a wicked knife flashed in the growing light as it entered the younger man's side. Larry dropped the little girl, and she was immediately covered with his blood as his heart emptied. She screamed, a piercing sound that seemed to come from everywhere at once, and doors slammed in every direction as people rushed to the scene.

Several hours later, the ranch council was gathered around one of the big tables in the dining room. Jose', the Mexican, was already tired of the congratulations of the others, feeling that he had clearly only done what any of them would do in a similar situation. He smiled to himself a bit, enjoying the fact that he understood (and spoke) a great deal more English than he ever let on. He had heard the crazy gringo and his stupid plan, and had set himself to watch to see what he would do. Seeing him take the helpless child had enraged him, and he hadn't hesitated to end that sorry man's life to save her.

He smiled at Maria, who dutifully translated his account of what had happened. He had glossed over just why he'd set himself to watch Larry, but when he saw Richard smiling at him from across the table, he had the feeling his English - and maybe his motive - was not as much of a secret as he had thought. That didn't bother him, really. Richard was one of those he trusted and liked.

Richard told them about Deb's suspicions and his own encounter with Larry the morning before. He spoke of his intention to watch the man, regretting that he'd not done more. Others reinforced the suggestion that Larry had never been a good fit for the community, but all admitted that hind sight was not going to help them with similar problems in the future. As their numbers grew, there were bound to be more and more people who did not fit, and there was no way to know which of them might be actual criminals. They acknowledged that they had all become much too complacent, forgetting that they must each remain ever vigilant to defend themselves, as well as the young and helpless of their community.

The council ruled the death as completely justified and, through Maria, thanked Jose' for taking the initiative like that. Some expressed the need to organize some sort of internal defense system, but they were wary of potential abuse. None of them had forgotten the serious problems most people had experienced with police and their powers before the crash.

They agreed to discuss it more later, and each council member resolved to talk to the other settlers about this problem. They could all see that they must adapt to changing conditions and be ready to take bold moves where necessary. There was a clear sense of responsibility among them, but they were fearful of giving any new power or authority to any individuals. In theory, any of the settlers could leave if they didn't like what was going on, but in reality there was no place for most of them to go. Right now most of them were willing to do almost anything just to survive, but they knew this would not be enough in the long run.

Roger watched them all leave, aware that he'd started something here and that no person or group could truly know what the eventual outcome might be. He was certainly concerned, but believed strongly that everything would be fine if they would just stick to their principles of individual ownership and responsibility, working together by mutual consent for mutual goals. Just about everything else was negotiable.
******

Jeff and Maria ate their lunch as they watched Angela attempting to play with Carlos and Hope in the sandbox. She seemed to have changed quite a bit since the abduction attempt two days before, and was now making tentative responses to all kinds of stimulation that had previously left her unmoved. She would actually make eye contact now much of the time, and Maria swore she had smiled that morning. Jeff didn't know how even more trauma could possibly have helped the girl, but he was glad to see her beginning to interact with the world. Suddenly, she laughed and he saw tears of joy in Maria's eyes. He left her then to watch the children as he went back to work.

Roger had become increasingly concerned over hearing nothing further from Luke. He had gotten confirmation that John and his crew had landed safely, but there had been nothing since. Brooding was definitely not his style, but he began to torture himself at times with all of the possible reasons for their silence.

Had the rag-tag army come much sooner than expected? Why hadn't he been able to raise Luke for the last few days? Why were there suddenly so few other American radio stations broadcasting? Those in Oregon and western Canada reported no unusual problems, though they'd had the same raiding and destruction from goblins as everyone else. He'd heard briefly from that mystery station in Colorado the day before the East Valley battle, but it had been silent ever since. He was worried, and had not a clue what to do about it except to continue broadcasting and listening. He read again the log kept by everyone who monitored the radio, and was struck again by how few entries there were in the last week.

What was happening out in the greater world?

Next: The sleeping giant
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on June 02, 2010, 12:51:55 pm
Your story certainly holds the reader in suspense. Very good plot. Thanks.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on June 03, 2010, 11:28:54 am
Indeed!  As one writer to another, Bravo!

More, please!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on June 03, 2010, 11:39:58 am
Indeed!  As one writer to another, Bravo!

More, please!

My sentoment exactly, to both of you!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 03, 2010, 11:56:46 am
Typing furiously....

You're going to get a bang out of the next chapter. :)  (Pun intended. LOL)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 03, 2010, 04:40:00 pm
The Sleeping Giant  15

Donald had found a wonderfully secluded place in a corner of the little cemetery. At the age of eight, he probably should have known that his elders might not approve much, but he was too excited about being out alone to think about it. Their whole school had been excused for the day because the teacher was sick and the other teacher now had too many older students to take the younger ones. His mother had insisted he do the day's lesson anyway, but after that she was busy with the baby and he had slipped out of the house without her notice.

At least he hoped he had. He was sick of being in the house all the time, or on the playground with the other students. Donald was pretty much a loner, quite happy with his own company for long periods of time. He couldn't understand why Evan, his older brother, always wanted to be out working with the other men or hanging around his group of friends. All they did was hard work or laugh and tell bad jokes.

Donald liked to explore. He especially liked rocks and bugs and even unusual plants. He wasn't exactly too old to appreciate a good mud puddle either. The cemetery offered plenty of those things, but the only mud now was the mound of fresh soil over the new graves, and he had enough sense to leave them strictly alone.

The old stone wall around the graves looked sound, but an unwary touch sent a big rock tumbling down the hill. Donald was sad to see that the rolling stone had attracted the attention of a cowboy riding past the bottom of the hill. But he shrugged and went toward the gate as the horse turned up the path, and was glad to see that it was his friend Bill and not someone who might be angry with him... such as his father. The boy didn't understand that Charlie misinterpreted his son's need for solitude as being anti-social and uncooperative.

Bill pulled the gray gelding to a stop and took off his hat to wipe his brow with a big bandana. He was amazed at the difference a few days made, and how the long, cold spring was now just a fond memory.

Stepping off the tall horse, he approached the small boy who lingered by the gate. He didn't have much time to spend with the boys, but he knew Charlie was worried about this one. Knowing the horse would not wander, he let the reins fall and squatted on his heels to get down to the boy's level and soon they were side by side. He didn't say anything, just offered his presence and an opportunity to speak if the boy wanted to do so.

Donald liked Bill more than any man at the ranch except his father. Bill seemed to know that lots of talk was useless and unwelcome. He thought Bill was being silly with Linda, but figured it wasn't any of his business. So, squatting quietly in the warm sun with their backs against the wall, they communicated wordlessly for a little while as was their custom.

Bill was always a bit surprised by the boy's seeming maturity. "He's an old soul," he said to himself. He understood Donald's need for solitude at times, and was concerned that so many others tried to force the child to be more outgoing and communicative. He knew it just wasn't in some folk's nature, and the attempt to force it could make them angry and even go bad.  He he was determined to mentor this boy so he didn't go sour on life or people.

"You want a ride to the barn?" he asked at last, knowing he had to get back to work. Donald nodded and went to pick up the reins, daring to pat the horse's nose gently. Bill mounted, then reached his hand down to lift the boy up behind him - reining the gelding sternly to stand still until he was seated with his arms firmly around his waist. Wordlessly, they moved off at a smart trot toward the barns.

Cathy had left the baby with Maria and was at the barn when they arrived. She had missed Donald almost immediately, but had not become worried until he didn't come in for lunch. Knowing that he might seek out Bill at the barn, she had started her search there and was very relieved to see them ride in. She had never ridden a horse and was not comfortable with them, but she had finally gotten over being nervous when Bill let Donald ride behind him.

What she didn't realize was how very sensitive Donald was to her feelings, and how it worried him when she was upset. He was very glad to see her smiling and not angry. She hugged him and they both waved good-bye to Bill as they left for home. And, suddenly, Donald realized that he was very, very hungry.

Communal meals were rare now, so the people were surprised to hear the old dinner bell ringing wildly just shortly after noon. Many of the men in the garage and equipment yards came running, and several horsemen, including Bill, came on the run from the barn. Bradshaw had been indulging himself by working with a new colt in the main breaking pen. Flinging down the lead rope, he thought about trying to vault the fence as he once would have done, but spent the few extra seconds opening and closing the gate instead. Then he ran for all he was worth. If it had been an attack, the general alarm would have sounded, but he knew the bell could mean almost anything else.

Betty was still ringing the bell when he got there, and she fell into his arms with a glad cry. "THEY'RE BACK," she shouted to the settlers streaming in. "The plane has landed in the refinery town."

Many of the people smiled and returned to their chores, but quite a few followed the Bradshaws into the HQ building and crowded around the radio room door as Roger picked up the headphones.

Keying the mike, he said his call sign and waited for the reply. "That you Sarge?" came the disembodied voice into his ears. He shut his eyes and let out a deep sigh. Mutt had finally checked in.

"How do you plan to get back?" he asked. The HumVee was still in the city from which they'd taken off two weeks ago.

"Just me, George and Judson coming back," he said. "We'll catch a ride to the city and pick up the hummer. Tell you all about it when we get there, probably this evening or early tomorrow. John's ok, just has himself a different job for a while. He was kinda bored with nothing to blow up out there at the ranch." Mutt's big grin came through the radio waves like sun through a window. It made Roger warm to his toes to know that they were OK and on the way home, understanding why John had wanted to stay behind.

"We were glad John stayed," Mutt went on. Five men in a four seat airplane is no fun! His laugh was cut off as the transmission ended, and Roger immediately gave the good news to the others. A cheer went up, and everyone scattered to spread the glad tidings.

Evening was falling when Roger went back to the radio. Mutt was calling from the city. They had run into a "little trouble" getting the hummer back, and would be doing what they could to help their old friends restore peace before they proceeded home. He didn't elaborate on the trouble, but insisted they'd be home by nightfall the next day and hinted that they were really looking forward to an old fashioned ranch celebratory dinner.

The ladies in the big kitchen went into high gear as soon as they got the word. Lauri was in seventh heaven. She'd missed preparing the community meals every day, never believing she had much but that talent to offer. That night, rubbing the ears of her young hound dog, she was counting her blessings and only wished that her late husband could have lived long enough to enjoy this life with her.

*****
Mutt pushed back his plate and cautiously sipped his beer, afraid he didn't have room for another swallow. Grinning as always, he watched the others scattered around the room and enjoyed the glow of homecoming, especially to such a great welcome as this had been.

But now it was time to tell the story of their adventure, and he couldn't help but mix that glow with some real pride. They had been sent out to do a job, and had succeeded beyond their imagination.

Since there was simply no way that everyone could be accommodated in the dining room any longer, tables had been set up in what was left of the courtyard and beyond. The permanent population, including children, now approached 200 and they would have to do something even more drastic pretty soon if they wanted to continue to gather like this.

Speakers had been set up, both inside and out, so everyone could hear. Mutt was not really comfortable speaking into the microphone, but he set his mind to just tell the story and not worry about the equipment. "Get on with the job," he said softly, tested the mike again, and then he began.

"We like to never got off the ground in the first place," he laughed. We were a tad overloaded with five guys and the cargo, but William was a great pilot and got the crate off the ground just before it hit the fence. We flew low all the way, except where there were mountains or thermal drafts, of course. And don't ask me what that means because I don't really know.

The sound of laughter outside echoed the response of those in the room, since the windows and doors all stood open to the cool spring night.

"We landed fine at Luke's farm, though he'll have to plow that field again, I think. As William said, every landing is a more or less controlled crash. Some are just easier to control. Our extra weight made it worse, but we got down in one piece...

"Anyway, the next day we had a big confab with all the men who were doing guard duty, and several who had come from the south when the troubles there started last summer. A few had come in this spring, and they had the most recent information. I won't go into a lot of it now, but you have to understand that many thousands, if not millions of people have died because of this situation in the last year. It's hard to bend your mind around such tragedy and savagery, but we needed to understand as clearly as possible what we were facing. They had burned whole towns around the ears of all those who couldn't flee and couldn't fight them. Torture and rape was as common as flied on the corpses."

Murmurs and whispered comments arched back and forth for a few moments, but his audience was soon quiet again.

"The good news is that many more people than we'd have believed possible found a backbone and stood up to these pseudo armies. It seems the goblins expected to steam roll the population across the south and got their asses handed to them pretty much instead. There must not have been anyone in their ranks from Texas, I guess. They didn't seem to expect that much resistance."

"Unfortunately, the good citizens were not as well armed or trained, so even as they thinned the ranks of the soldiers and goblins, the carnage was incredible. I heard tales that many of the police and sheriff's officers did all they could and took very heavy losses, but if the ordinary people had not been so well armed none might have survived. I'm sure it will be no surprise to learn that more people died in the cities and places where guns were not commonly kept. I hope that's a lesson we never lose."

Shouts of agreement and encouragement rang from all quarters, and Mutt waited for them to quiet before he continued.

"So, the best we knew was that the remnants of the two armies had joined and were turning north. Seems they'd both burned their bridges and couldn't really go back the way they had come. When we got to Luke's place, he'd just had word that the first wave was hitting southern Kansas and we had maybe a week to prepare whatever it was we were going to do."

"That night, there seems to have been some sort of solar storm and most of the radios around there quit working, including the one in our airplane. Luke said there had been speculation about that happening for years, and he didn't begin to understand it, but we didn't have time to fool with it right then anyway. Luke said he had some spare parts for his big unit, but the rig in the airplane was too old and he didn't have any tubes for it."

"Anyway, turns out there wasn't really much of anything in that National Guard stuff we could use. The townspeople had already salvaged all the small arms and ammunition. There was no real artillery and little else in the way of armament, but one thing we did find was some pretty good earth moving equipment. Our stock of explosives was pretty small too, and no time to produce much of anything, so we decided to make the best use of what we did have. Some of those corn fields are just never going to be the same."

He paused to take a drink of water, and nobody moved. The air almost crackled with the suspense, and he decided to turn the mike over to George to tell the rest of the story.

George balked at first, but then took the mike and stood gathering his thoughts a little. An unemotional man, he didn't have Mutt's ready grin or sense of humor, but he was willing to tell this part of the story because the execution of it had been much of his doing.

"We dug random trenches in a 300 yard wide swath in a three mile long crescent south of the town," he said, "covering them with whatever we could find that wouldn't blow away, but also wouldn't hold the weight of a man. There were hay stacks here and there, and we tried to make it look as much like open farm land as possible. The trenches were pretty deep, and we'd like to have put sharpened bamboo stakes in the bottom of them, but we just didn't have the time."

Most of the younger people didn't understand the significance of the stakes, but the older folks who had heard the tales of war in the Asian jungles shivered. They knew just what he meant.

"We used what explosives we had to sort of herd the enemy to where we wanted them, but we figured it would be up to us to take them out while they were floundering around in the trenches. Then we found a big underground tank of some sort of fuel and figured it wouldn't really be a waste if we pumped some of it into those trenches... We got about a foot of it into most of them the last day."

George actually managed something between a grimace and a grin at this, and shifted his weight on tired legs. He wasn't as young as he used to be, he thought, then went on.

They'd been working just a week when they finished their preparations. Increasing numbers of civilian refugees had been coming from the south the whole time, and the town swelled to close to ten thousand people. Unfortunately, few of the new people were armed, and many were sick or injured. The town defenders had a devil of a time keeping them from running into the big booby trap as well.

But that evening, huge clouds of dust in the air announced the advancing army. Scopes revealed a ragged front indeed, but the men looked grim and determined as they trudged along without any kind of order. There was no sign of officers or heavy weapons. Most had packs on, and rifles were slung, but they carried little else and there were no vehicles. All resemblance to an actual army was long gone and they were simply evil goblins and trolls after all.

It wasn't possible for nearly 200 people to be totally silent, but Roger didn't think any bunch had ever gotten closer. He knew the basic story already, but was still on the edge of his seat with anticipation. George stood there a minute looking around, and then motioned for Judson to come take the microphone. The young man actually yelped, then shook his head "no" vigorously, backing up out of the room.

George almost smiled, and then went on.

"They came pretty close to the trap before they stopped to camp for the night. We hadn't shown ourselves at all, and figured they were mighty confident they could run right over us. The trick would be to drive them all into the trap, or as many as possible. John had a dandy idea for that earlier, and we had made our plans accordingly."

"In the morning, about 200 of us with long range rifles got behind some cement barriers we'd drug to the edge of town and got ready to rumble. John and a few others had moved out in the night, going the long way around to get in behind the enemy and we were all tickled to have the wind in our faces. If it held, the battle wouldn't last too long."

"The goblins were breaking camp and even fighting among themselves, probably over what little food they had left. There were about two thousand of them - including some women - looking mean and hard, for sure, but unless they had some kind of leadership able to see the trap or even consider their poor tactical situation, we knew they were going to be slaughtered."

"Suddenly, those in front started forward, right toward the town, and the others quickly followed. Again, no order and no discipline at all, but it was obvious they had done this many times. Once all the goblins were in motion, we began to work our plan. An old "crop duster" airplane cruised up from behind them and, suddenly, the prairie grasses and hay fields they had passed over erupted into flame. The last of our incendiary devices had been used to start many grass fires that quickly spread to a wall of flame behind them, being pushed by the increasing wind. All hell broke loose and they started to run as hard as they could toward the town... Just what we wanted them to do."

"It was all over in a little more than an hour. We fired our rifles until we feared the barrels would melt. Between that, the burning grass behind them, and the trenches with the burning fuel, they all died. Not a single goblin escaped."

"The next day we used the trucks to bring back the soil that had been removed and, after making sure every goblin was dead and safely in the trenches, we filled them back up. It was the most terrible thing I ever saw, but pretty much the most satisfying as well."

George put the microphone down then, and everyone sat in stunned silence for a few moments. One older woman asked, "Did you have to kill everyone? Couldn't you have captured them?" She seemed on the verge of tears.

George and Mutt looked at each other, but didn't say anything. Roger was standing nearby and put his arm around her. "How was that supposed to work, Marybeth? All of those people, to the best of our knowledge, spent the last year totally involved in every kind of murder, torture and theft. If they had not been stopped, they would have murdered Luke's people and destroyed their town as they did so many others. Who would have been willing to keep those murderers in a cage and provide them food, clothing and so forth for the rest of their lives? Should we rob innocent people for this purpose?"

Picking up the microphone, he made sure everyone present understood the question and his answer. "This was an excellent question, and one we are going to have to answer at times right here," he told the larger group. "We have to think about what we would decide to do if someone like Cole or Larry had been caught instead of killed. Think about it, my friends. We have to be willing and able to make some hard choices as our society grows and changes."

"The hour is late and we all have work to do tomorrow, he said. "Let's adjourn for now. Go in peace, my friends and neighbors. We'll talk about more of this in the days to come."

Betty watched Marybeth go out into the night with her friend Deborah. She realized that she hadn't really thought about the question herself and wondered just what they would do when faced with it, as they inevitably must be. Roger's warm arm around her waist made it easy to put the thoughts aside, just for now. But she knew they couldn't be put off forever.

Next: John goes to Denver
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: socalserf on June 03, 2010, 07:04:59 pm
Jeez, ML, that gave was awesome!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on June 04, 2010, 02:58:45 pm
Now I feel like a junkie waiting eager for my next fix. That was certainly an explosive part of the story.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 04, 2010, 03:06:03 pm
The ghost who is writing this isn't pushing me quite so bad today. <grin> I'm going fishing with my buddy tomorrow, and I have company coming Monday... so don't know when the next chapter will go up. Might be late as Tuesday.

But it is already in the works.

The old government will once again rear its ugly head.

As someone said after reading this... "where did all the real army, politicians and bureaucrats go."

We may soon find out.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on June 05, 2010, 02:32:39 am
Wow... Such a good story.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 05, 2010, 07:43:04 am
This story took another unexpected left turn last night! I just never stop being astonished at how LITTLE my own ideas are involved here. Weird. Anyway, this is just the start of the new chapter, and rough. I'll probably work it over and do some editing later, but it's almost time to go fishing!!! LOL

John Goes To Denver - Chapter 16
 
Another long, hot summer day was beginning the slide into evening when the road turned around a pile of rocks and John spotted what looked like another abandoned farmhouse in the distance, the setting sun in his eyes making everything hazy. He quickly pulled the overloaded mountain bicycle to the side of the pitted gravel road, grateful for any excuse to stop peddling for a while, and needing to check out the structures ahead of him in any case.
 
There was no other cover but the buildings in any direction, so he simply laid the bike down behind the rocks to reduce his exposure, then cursed when he realized he'd laid it down on the side where his binoculars were packed. He accepted how tired he really was as he wrestled with the bike, the pack and his weary limbs to free the glass, then turned his attention to the farm. He wished he could have found a little higher ground so he could see more, but this area was about as flat as any place on earth he'd ever seen.
 
An old windmill creaked dismally in the distance as the breeze began to pick up, and leaves remaining on the few living trees around the house could be seen waving in the wind. John turned up the gain on his special headphones, just to be sure, but he couldn't hear any sound of dogs, voices, engines or anything but the rustle of the grass and weeds at the side of the road. Deciding to get in closer, he would have missed the sound if he'd moved a moment sooner.
 
A groan, and then a distinct hiss, as if someone were moving painfully. Then everything but the breeze was silent again. John was trying hard to calculate the distance to the sound. Since the house was over 300 yards away, however, and John knew the limits of his equipment, he didn't see how the sound could have come from there.
 
Suddenly it occurred to him to look on the other side of the rocks. He was shocked to realize how exhausted he must be to have overlooked that possibility from the start. "Getting too darn dependent on these gadgets," he said to himself.
 
Leaving the rifle in its scabbard on the bike, he made sure his pistol was loose in the holster and got up cautiously. Scouting around the rocks toward the house, he almost stepped on a young woman laying in the shade of a tall patch of sunflowers. She groaned again, and her hand went to her breast beneath the torn and filthy dress, eyes tight shut and in obvious pain.
 
John cleared his throat, not knowing how else to announce his presence and not wanting to alarm her by touching her. It seemed stupid to ask if she needed help, since that fact was obvious.
 
Her eyes opened, and the look of terror there made him sad. He was just so damned tired of so much suffering and death. Crouching down, he offered her the newly opened bottle of water he'd had in one of his pants cargo pockets. Actually, it was the last one. But she was beyond seeing anything but the memory of the terror she had just lived through, he figured. She didn't scream or make a sound, just looked at him with blue-green eyes full of pain and horror.
 
Gently lifting her upper body to rest against his chest and arm, he got her to drink some of the water and her fear seemed to subside at least a little. The sun was just a red splotch behind the horizon and he knew night would descend in just a few minutes. So, laying her back down, he returned to the bike and pushed it upright, then walked it around to where she lay by the sunflowers. He took out a blanket and made a thin bed from it, rolling her side to side to get it under her when it became obvious that she couldn't stand.
 
He'd gone over her fairly well and couldn't find any open wounds, but figured she'd been raped and beaten nearly to death. He watched as she moaned a little while, then once more tried to get her to drink some water. After that she seemed to be sleeping, so he turned to take care of his own needs.
 
A small tarp took the place of the blanket for him, and he was grateful for the warmth of the summer night. One last package of jerky and dried fruit made his dinner, along with the last of the water in the bottle. Breakfast was going to be a tad thin if he didn't find new supplies pretty soon. He still had his empty canteen, and three other empty bottles, but the food and water were definitely all gone now.
 
Stars blazed across the heavens, and a sliver of new moon on the eastern horizon gave him vague comfort as he dozed. He knew he should stay awake and guard, but he also needed sleep to go on in the morning. Nature took charge, and he slept deeply, pistol in hand just in case.
 
His whole body was stiff and sore in the early morning. Reholstering the pistol, he looked at the girl and was shocked to see the blue-green eyes regarding him with obvious fear. She had evidently awakened almost at the same moment. He smiled and tried to reassure her.
 
Just for the moment, John had overlooked the fact that he was as dirty, raggedy and bearded as many of the goblins he'd encountered in the last few months, but it came to him as he scratched his thatch of uncombed hair and regarded the hole developing in the side of his hiking boots.
 
Grinning, he didn't know what else to do about it, so he told her his name and asked for hers. She looked deeply into his eyes, and said, "Mary" in a voice that told him how dry her mouth and throat were. He showed her the empty bottle, and asked, "can we get water at that farmhouse up the road?"
 
She nodded, but then looked around quickly as if expecting danger. She started to speak, but he held up his hand and she looked at him expectantly.
 
"Just nod yes or no and save your strength," he told her.
 
She nodded again, and he asked her if she thought anyone was at the farm now. She shrugged her shoulders, then said, "my people all dead." Tears fell briefly, then she took a few deep breaths and shrugged again, waiting for his questions. Her eyes grew hard and her brow furrowed with determination.
 
"Strong lady," John thought to himself. "Stay here while I go look at the place. I'll bring back water at least, if I can." She nodded again, then closed her eyes.
 
John put the strap of the canteen across his chest and fished out the empty bottles. Then turning to the bicycle, he unloaded everything but his rifle and the pouch of filled magazines. It rolled back to the road much more easily than it had moved for many days, but he knew he couldn't peddle fast enough to avoid being hit if there was anyone at the farm with a hidden rifle. It was a risk he had to take now, especially since he feared the woman couldn't be moved far for several days - and most certainly not on a bicycle.
 
The sky was clouding up in the south, and he feared there might be rain later in the day. The gray dawn didn't offer much cover, but his experience of goblins told him there was very little chance of being seen. They tended toward sloth in every way, trusting to brute strength and numbers instead of stealth or watchfulness. But he knew that all it took was one that didn't fit the pattern.
 
The heat and humidity had him sweating freely as he peddled in the early light, the farm buildings getting closer by the moment. He stopped to listen a few times, using the binoculars to sweep both the farm and the surrounding countryside. He saw only a lone horse in the distance as he rode into the yard and then into the open barn. At least he had some concealment here, he thought. A tall silo stood on one end, and a quick look inside revealed that it was empty, if still very odorous, and that there was a ladder inside that went all the way to the top. He wondered if he could see anything outside from there and started climbing.
 
The farm lay silent in the growing light, and though he could see two corpses in a side yard, there was no sign of alarm now. The bandits had seemingly moved on, and he was very grateful. Glad as he generally was to kill them, he just wasn't in very good shape for that kind of thing right now.
 
Climbing down carefully, and still silently, he then crept to the door of the house and looked in. He was shocked to see three more corpses inside, more  because they were goblins rather than that they were dead. A big, ugly man, shaggy with black curly hair, had evidently died with his eyes wide open, but some creature or other had removed the eyes themselves and his stare was truly horrible, even to someone as hardened to this sort of thing as John. The messy shotgun wounds in all of their chests didn't help any.
 
"This family put up a heck of a fight," he said softly. Then, entering and going carefully around the very ripe bodies, he stepped into the kitchen. The usual mess was scattered all around, but it looked as if someone had made a few meals after the bandits had gotten done. Some attempt had been made to sweep the floor, at least, and there were a few clean dishes in the rack by the sink.
 
Something attracted his attention out the back door, and he approached it cautiously, wishing he'd brought his listening device. The screen door had been ripped off, and the inner door was flat against the wall. A short railing went around the corner of the house, guarding a narrow deck about 4 feet off the ground - which meant that the house was actually built against a slight rise. There had only been a single step up to the front door. He scanned the trees and yard carefully, but saw nothing except a bucket that was on its side near the edge of the porch, recently turned over by the look of a circle of yellow grass nearby. That drew his eye to a storm cellar, doors tightly closed.
 
His hair stood on end just then because he heard the distinctive sound of a shotgun being pumped behind him and he leaped out the door just as a full load of buckshot shattered the doorway where he'd been standing. The gun cycled again as he rolled off the porch and onto the grass below.
 
"Don't shoot!" He yelled. "I'm a friend! Mary is hurt and resting nearby!" It never entered his mind that the shooter was a goblin. They didn't carry farm shotguns and probably wouldn't have bothered to use one. Only then did he realize that he had drawn his pistol.
 
"Put your gun down amd stand up so I can see you," came a gruff male voice. You don't look like any friend of mine, but if you've got Mary we can talk."
 
John didn't want to turn loose of his gun, but he didn't want to take a chance of harming the old man either. He holstered the pistol, then took off the belt and laid it on the porch. The old man grunted from his cover behind the  refrigerator and then stepped out, the muzzle of the old shotgun pointed right at John's chest.
 
"Where's Mary? he demanded, his breath catching painfully on the name.
 
"She's near those rocks up the road a ways, John said. She's hurt inside somehow and can't stand. Do you have a truck or something we could use to go get her? I rode in on a bicycle and couldn't move her."
 
The old man blinked, then swallowed hard. Waving the gun, he indicated they should walk around the house and he followed John from a safe distance as they went out to a shed beside the barn. He had picked up the belt and gun, and the the shotgun wasn't pointing at him anymore, but John was uncomfortable at being disarmed.
 
Well, relatively disarmed. The old man had only told him to put down the gun he could see...
 
The door swung open on well oiled hinges, and John was delighted to see an old station wagon inside. It looked well kept and clean. The shed itself looked so dilapidated that the bandits had probably not even given it a second glance. No other vehicles were in the yard, so they'd taken everything else.
 
"This was Mama's car," the man said, voice heavy with sorrow. We can go get my grand daughter easy. I'm sure glad those monsters didn't find it. He looked closely at John for a minute, then handed him his belt and pistol. "Let's go," he growled.
 
The key dangled in the lock, so the engine was turning by the time both doors had been closed. "I'm Jacob," said the farmer as he backed out of the shed. "What's your name?"
 
"John," he responded, "and something tells me you are a former Marine like I am." He couldn't have said why he thought that, but the old man's nod verified his hunch. He figured that too much recent sorrow and anger stood between that nod and further response just then, but he could see Jacob's shoulders relax just a little as he drove the old wagon up the road.
 
Stopping by the rocks, they went toward the rough camp, calling out to Mary to reassure her. She was still on the old blanket, but not showing any signs of having heard them. Jacob quickly knelt by her side and felt for her pulse, but John could see her chest gently lift and knew she was still alive, if barely.
 
Using the blanket and tarp as a sling, they managed to carry her between them as far as the wagon. They had to put her down and rest for a few moments then, but soon had her as comfortable as possible in the back of the old car and were speeding down the road. John had no idea where they were going, but the old man mumbled both prayers and gentlemanly curses as he drove.
 
Suddenly, the road began to run down a good slope toward a river he hadn't seen from the prairie. A curve of the river, full and rushing at this time of year, cradled a small town that looked almost untouched by the general destruction John had seen in so many other places.
 ****
 
The doctor came out of the room rubbing his hands on a green surgical towel. John couldnt' shake the notion that they had stepped back a hundred years or more in time somehow, for this doctor looked as if he belonged in another era. The mutton chop whiskers, gray suit with a stained satin vest, a gold pocket watch chain across his chest... every detail seemed to come out of a Civil War reenactment catalog. He greeted Jacob, and was introduced to John as Dr. Wright.
 
"She's resting now," the doctor said. "Dehydrated and bruised, but we'll have to wait a while to be sure she had no serious internal injuries. At least I could not see signs of internal bleeding, so we can have some optimism. She did lose the baby, however..." He placed his arm around Jacob and gently urged him to sit down again on the old fashioned bench.
 
"Do you think we could get her to the hospital in Scott's Bluff?" Jacob said, obviously unhappy.
 
"Now, do you really think that's possible?" the doctor replied. "It's more than a hundred miles, and we've no idea what conditions are there. She's safe here, and we can take good care of her." He paused a moment and then asked, "Where is Mable? Did Daniel come with you?"
 
"They are all dead," Jacob said grimly. Mary and I are the only ones left."

******
John and Jacob were finally persuaded to leave Mary in Doctor Wright's hands. Returning to the vehicle, Jacob looked at the fuel gauge and said he didn't think there was enough to get back to the farm.

"Can we get some here?" John asked, anxious to return for his bike and pack. They'd been in such a hurry to get Mary to the doctor that all of that had been left behind at the rocks.

Jacob just shrugged, got in the driver's seat and shut the door. John climbed into the passenger seat again, willing to trust the old man. He drove slowly back to the edge of town, then took a turn that quickly brought them into an industrial park, now mostly silent. But in one corner were a few men and two medium sized trucks. As they got closer, John could see that the trucks were being fueled, but not at any kind of conventional gas station.

"This is what's left of our farmer's co-op," Jacob said in answer to the unspoken questions. We had a good amount of fuel in an underground tank, and we've been very careful how we use it. A few folks were able to plow and plant this spring, and now are harvesting. Don't know if I can get a few gallons for this buggy, but we'll see."

Pulling up to the building, Jacob parked and went in. John said he'd rather stay in the car, and was glad just to relax there for a little while. He eased the pistol at his waist a bit, and put his hand in his pocket where the little gun lay hidden, then closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

Suddenly, the car door was wrenched open a heavy hand grabbed his shoulder, pulling him out and around to face them. All he could see was a big ragged man with a very red face. His attacker's hands were almost around his throat when he managed to pull the trigger on the pocket gun, and the big man staggered back far enough to give John time to clear leather with the .45.
Others were rushing toward them then, and John saw Jacob waving his arms wildly as he ran to intercept the wounded attacker. John held his fire, since the wounded man made no move toward him and seemed to be unarmed, but he remained on guard because he had no doubt that the big hands could easily have crushed his throat.

Jacob arrived and, with two others, helped the now pale and shaking wounded man into the office and seated him on the couch there. The 9mm bullet had entered high in his chest and exited just above the shoulder blade in back. It was bleeding freely, but not dangerously. Shock seemed to be setting in, however, and one man left quickly on a motorcycle to bring the doctor. Another held a wad of, hopefully, clean rags against the wound to help stop the bleeding.

John holstered the .45 and leaned against the doorway, watching the others. He figured someone would eventually tell him just what the hell was going on.

 
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on June 07, 2010, 05:07:32 pm
Moar Plz.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 09, 2010, 06:10:04 pm
Sorry, folks! My company didn't leave until this morning, and the ghost who is writing this seems to have taken the day off. I'll try again tomorrow. Time to get off line and get something else done now. Like washing a mountain of dishes and laundry! :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on June 09, 2010, 09:43:46 pm
Well, I'm back to writing mine. I know it isn't coming out in order, but I'm almost finished with chapter 1, and have started chapter 2.
If I hurry, I'll have the next chunk posted before yourn.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 10, 2010, 03:21:22 pm
Edit and some addition to Chapter 16. I'll be adding a little more tonight, then will start chapter 17 tomorrow.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 10, 2010, 05:48:46 pm
Chapter 16 continued...

Jacob and John were back in the wagon once more, headed up the road toward the farm. Jacob had already explained that the man John had shot was an old friend of his who had lost his entire family to the goblins and had assumed that John was one of them. "We've just got to get you into some different clothes and maybe a hair cut," Jacob said.

John grinned and nodded complete agreement. They had stopped to eat at another friend's house, so he wasn't in immediate danger of starving now, but he most certainly wished he could have a bath, a shave and a very long night in a real bed... and not necessarily in that order. He'd never been so exhausted in his life, and that was saying something. He was darn glad, in a way, that the Sergeant wasn't here because he was pretty sure he'd get much more exhausted than he was if that were so. But he also wished he could figure out some way to talk to Bradshaw. They probably thought he was dead by this time. There had been no working radio in town that Jacob knew of, so that would have to wait.

They passed the farm and went out to the rocks first so John could retrieve his pack, then stopped at the edge of the clearing so they could load the bicycle into the back of the wagon. Jacob considered going back into the house to pick up some things, but decided there was nothing really of any value after all. He had pulled up near the house, but began backing again when John saw movement from the side yard near the windmill.

Instantly, he was out of the car and crouching to get behind the cement wall he hoped would give him cover. He shouted at Jacob to get down, but the old man ran past him through the open gate and vanished behind the water tank at the base of the windmill. John just shook his head and cautiously approached, not really surprised to find him supporting another wounded man. Jacob had taken a terrible chance, but all was well that ended well.

"This is David, my son in law!" Jacob said, tears of joy filling his eyes. "Help me get him to the car! The doctor is going to have a very busy day today, and Mary will be so happy." John gave the man some water while Jacob made a rough bandage of clean rags over the long gouge in David's scalp. He was dehydrated and had lost quite a bit of blood, but they could find no other injuries.

A few minutes later the old wagon was buzzing down the road again with another patient in the back, the bicycle tied to the roof. John grinned and wondered how long it would take for Jacob to decide to establish an ambulance company, or if he'd go back to farming. He was also glad he'd not entertained any romantic notions about Mary. But most of all he needed to sleep.
*****

The next day, somewhat rested by a night in a clean bed after a good shower and shave, John indulged in as large a breakfast he could mange to swallow. They had stayed the night with the friend who had given them dinner the day before, and Gretchen the farmwife was delighted to see the biscuits, eggs and bacon vanish, hovering to keep their cups full of the dandelion root brew that now served as coffee. She and her husband were Mary's godparents, and in that place it meant something special. She couldn't do enough for the man who had saved the girl.

Jacob's friend Carl was telling them all about the co-op plans for any excess harvest they might have. They knew there would probably be a good market in Denver and surrounding areas, but they didn't know the conditions there or have any way to find out except to send someone out there. So far there had been no volunteers. John, of course, had not shared his plans but indicated that he was going that direction. The problem was how to let them know, since he had no intention of coming back.

"If someone here had a ham radio," John said, "I think I could easily pass on any information I discovered, sooner or later."

Carl thought for a moment, then said, "all the radios in town went on the blink a month or so ago, and I've not heard if any of them are working again. Worth asking around, by golly!" With that he bounced up and dashed out the door, hugging his wife along the way.

John pushed his empty plate back, and Jacob took a last sip of the brew before they followed the younger man out to the living area. Carl was talking excitedly to another man who had just come in, and they both rushed out and down the street without another word. Jacob settled into a worn chair to look at a map, but John knew that sitting down would mean he must fight sleep so he followed the others down the street, barely catching up with them as they entered a shuttered store.

An older woman sat behind a counter there, knitting steadily. She only nodded when Carl asked if they could try the radio, and the three men passed through a break in the counter to a back room with feeble light coming through a dirty window. The building had a generator, and John was glad to see a single small light bulb hung in front of an old ham outfit on a far desk. Neither of the others knew anything about the rig, so John sat down and pressed the power button, delighted to see all the dials come up. He realized that he'd not thought to look at the mast to see if it was in one piece, but figured that could be dealt with if they couldn't hear anything. Nobody knew the station's designated call sign, so John simply turned the dial to the frequency used by the ranch and started to talk into the mike, identifying himself with a code name.

At first there was only static, and a sweep of the dial revealed nothing else, but when he brought it back to the ranch frequency, John began to grin as Bradshaw gave him polite hell for waiting so long to check in. Reception was poor, but adequate to see the snapping black eyes in his imagination.

John didn't indicate his location, and Roger didn't ask. John had not told anyone of his real mission, and even Roger would only learn of it after its successful completion... if he lived, of course, but the code he'd used at first told Roger something major was afoot.

After signing off, John instructed Carl and the other man in the operation of the radio and told them someone needed to monitor it all the time from now on. He showed them the ranch frequency and said he'd use either that or one close to it to communicate with them from Denver. He suggested they'd be better off if they could find someone in the town who knew how to operate the radio, but to monitor it in any case over the next few weeks especially. He asked them not to say anything about their location, or about his visit, and they agreed without question, but it was obvious they were curious.

The next thing John needed was transportation. He had stared out from Luke's farm with an SUV, loaded with supplies and the bicycle. He'd planned to get as near Denver as possible in the SUV, then bike into town if necessary. The vehicle had lost an axle about halfway to the Colorado state line, and he'd been forced to abandon most of his gear to press on with the bicycle, so the idea of going the rest of the way on the bike didn't really appeal to him.

The other man stayed with the radio, and John went back to the house with Carl. He had an old truck he was willing to let go of, but he wasn't too sure what condition it was in now. It had not been started since shortly before the crash.

Opening a barn type door on a large shed at the side of the house, they went into a garage/workshop area to check it out. The dust was thick, and a side window was cracked, but the 25 year old truck looked to be in fairly good shape otherwise. After a quick trip to the co-op for a new battery, a little gas into the carburetor, and some vigorous whirring by the starter, the engine was turning smoothly. John backed it out carefully and they drove around the block, checking the brakes and gears. The tires were sound and even the alignment was good, so John thought he might be able to make it to his destination if he could carry enough gas and he wished he had the gas cans that had been in the SUV.

Carl actually did one better than that, however, and soon there were two drums of gas strapped into the truck bed, with a hose and hand pump so refueling would be fast and efficient. All that was left was to load his gear and the big basket of food Gretchen had prepared. Shaking hands all around, he wished he could say goodby to Mary and David, but knew that the sooner he departed the better off they would all be. He was a far greater danger to them than they could ever possibly have imagined, and he was running out of time.

Next: Truth AND Consequences
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on June 10, 2010, 06:41:59 pm
Thanks for another exciting episode.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on June 11, 2010, 01:01:09 am
Thanks for another exciting episode.

+1 on that.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 11, 2010, 07:50:11 am
You folks will have to dangle on the edge of the cliff here for a little while before you'll find out what John is up to. Seems the ghost is taking us back to the ranch for a little more adventure and community action first.

Hang on, folks! :) I'm typing as fast as I can.  :laugh:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 12, 2010, 05:20:25 pm
Well, this is a really rough one. I suspect it needs a lot of work, and please don't be shy about making suggestions. :)

Truth and Consequences

Roger hung up the headphones and rubbed the back of his neck. He was extremely glad to hear from John, but puzzled at his use of the old black op code. "What in the world is he up to? he asked himself out loud.

"What is who up to?" said Betty as she entered, putting her hand on his shoulder in the gesture he loved so much.

"John just checked in, but he used an old code from our service days and I have no idea where he is or what he's planning to do." He was scanning a map of the northwest on the wall as he spoke, and his eyes suddenly focused on Denver. It was just a hunch, and he knew he'd have to wait for more from John to know for sure. He hoped his hunch was dead wrong, but was afraid he was right.

"Don't forget the council meeting," Betty said, rubbing his neck muscles, wondering what had him so tense. "Did John say he was coming home?"

Roger looked at the time, noting that the meeting wouldn't start for another hour. He decided not to mention hearing from John. He would not share his premonitions with them or with Betty either. The fewer people who knew about it, the better. He sincerely wished he didn't have a clue himself, since he was completely unable to participate or help John in this almost hopeless venture. But he prayed that John would be successful. It would, ultimately, solve a lot of problems in the future.

"John is very busy now with a secret project and won't be home for a while," he told her. It's best if we don't even talk about it among ourselves."

Her eyebrows registered surprise, but she knew enough not to question him further. The girl who was on duty to monitor the radio was called back in, and they went their separate ways.

Roger went to the bedroom and carefully locked the door. Taking an old cardboard box out of the closet, he revealed a locked box inside as he lay the tattered lid aside. A hidden compartment in his belt produced a key which opened the metal box. He replaced the key carefully, knowing that the box would automatically lock when closed again. He had not looked at any of this stuff since he left the Marine Corps, and he knew he shouldn't even have any of it. In the confusion of the final days, he'd made off with some highly classified materials with no clear idea why he'd done so. Just another hunch that they might come in handy someday. And now he was very curious to see if anything here might shed more light on what John was attempting to do. Somehow there must be something he could do to help. Bert, John's closest buddy, had not made it back and Roger knew John was missing that devious little man badly about now.

Removing a small notebook, bound in navy blue, he considered the last few pages of cramped, handwritten text. Anyone else would have read about common military maneuvers and operational standards, but Roger understood the actual message being conveyed. This last had been a pipe dream sort of plan out of the special ops team he'd worked for and he wondered what had happened to his CO, Colonel Gray. He had not been on the airplane that brought him and the others back to the states and he'd never heard from him since, of course.

Carefully replacing the cardboard lid on the box, Roger shoved it to the back of the closet shelf, wondering if he ought to destroy the book instead of keeping it... But he couldn't imagine how it could make any difference either way.
****

The summer evening was fragrant with peach jam and other things being processed in the big outdoor kitchen set up just for the seasonal canning and preserving. Women bustled back and forth with tubs of fruits and vegetables to be canned. Children were busy hauling small wagons, some coming from the gardens with fresh stuff, and others full of pits and peels going out to the compost piles. A whole tribe of mid teen age boys and girls stood at long tables washing, paring and cutting the produce to be put into the jars. Some things were prepared to be dried as well, especially the herbs.

Betty stopped to observe for a few minutes, pleased that she no longer had to be involved unless she wanted to participate. Cathy and Maria had taken over the canning, while Deborah and two other women did most of the baking. Others directed the gardening, the orchard operation and the small livestock. Lauri still over saw any large scale cooking and her "crew" would lend a hand anywhere they were needed. Many of the family groups did their own garden, canning and cooking, but the community effort was so much more efficient. "Many hands make short work," Betty quoted. Her mother had said that so often to her large family over the years.

The breeze brought her the wonderful smell of newly cut hay, and the warm scent of sage from the far slopes of the valley where the cattle grazed. Dust in the east gave notice of a troop of young horses being brought in from a conditioning run, and the bray of a donkey from the big corral reminded her that Roger was probably down there to supervise the breeding of a new mare. He hoped to establish a good strain of mules, much more suitable for some of the work now being done by horses.

Ringing the old dinner bell in a certain cadence, she called him in to attend the ranch council meeting - and hoped he'd come promptly so he could get clean first.

The new community building, dug into the side of a south facing hill, was still incomplete, but the main meeting room had a floor and a roof now so had been in use for meetings and a few other gatherings for the last month. Everyone hoped the entire building could be roofed and enclosed before snow fell, but nobody expected it to be fully completed this year. They'd work on interior stuff all winter, and finish the rest after the spring work was done.

Entering by a side door, Betty noted that the table was ready and pitchers of water set around with cups. She wandered around, looking into the empty doorways of the side rooms. In her mind's eye, she could see the library, classrooms, a small dispensary and clinic, and a new birthing suite as they would be soon, filled with life and learning.

People began to enter for the meeting and Betty went from group to group just talking and, mostly, listening. They were all well aware of the weighty agenda before them, but most of their attention was still on their various tasks and mutual plans for everyday things.

Roger came in just as the group was getting seated. She grinned at his wet and slicked back hair as she moved to join him on the far side of the table. This was the first meeting with their new system in place, and though it felt a bit strange not to have Roger in charge, she was proud of her community now more than ever.

Malcolm, the newly elected leader was one of the oldest residents, a trusted elder and seasoned family man. He had successfully managed the original farm, seeking high and low to find and utilize anything or anyone to boost the productivity of the land. He had originally been a civil engineer, not a farmer, so the learning curve had been pretty steep, but the combination of what he had learned over the last two years and his other talents had made the farms a great success. His son, Jake, had been the driving force behind the electric generators and water projects that made the valley both more productive and far more comfortable than any of the original settlers had dreamed would ever be possible.

The brand new gavel rapped smartly against the oak burl that was it's holder and the meeting was called to order. Since paper was still a luxury, the agenda had been written on a large slate on both ends of the room so everyone could see it. There were no "minutes" of the last meeting, and there was no group treasury, so there was nothing to buffer the transition to the only item of business as Malcolm invited Roger to address the council.

"I'm sure you all know that this ranch has been in my family for many generations," he began. Everyone nodded as he went on. "But now you are looking at the last of the Wyoming Bradshaws. Betty and I were not blessed with a child, and - as far as we know - neither of us has any living family left.

Everyone knew that this was really just a preliminary disclaimer and were eager to learn what he had in mind. Rumors had flown for months, but this was the first they would hear from the Bradshaws what was planned for their growing community. Few, if any, begrudged the fact that the entire ranch was his personal property, but most had hopes of owning a chunk of it someday.

"We have drawn up a charter with the help of Sam Bassman our lawyer. All of those who have built homes here and have worked along side us for at least a year will be given full shares in the ranch as a whole, as well as title to their homes and lots. Those who have been working with us for at least a year, but have not yet had an opportunity to claim a lot and build, will be given that opportunity and an equal share in the ranch. It will be up to this council to decide how and when newer folks can join the charter, and how many more shares will be issued. Betty and I will keep the old ranch house, taking just two equal shares of the ranch. We've been good friends and neighbors through all of the ups and downs before, and it is our sincere prayer that this will continue for as long as any of us lives."

A stunned silence greeted this announcement for a few moments, and then the shouts of joy and appreciation rang like bells for quite a while. Most of them had leaped from their chairs and were pounding each other on the back when they couldn't get to Roger and Betty for hugs and handshakes.

When the pandemonium had died a bit, Malcolm once again sounded the gavel and brought them all back to their chairs. "We've got more to discuss here, he reminded them, and they settled in to take care of business.

"When we get done here tonight, copies of the charter will be brought in and everyone who is eligible will have an opportunity to consider it for a week. What we need to do now is make sure everyone understands the conditions. Then, we can work on any changes everyone finds necessary. Nothing is cast in stone right now, so hold your peace."

Reading from a stack of papers before him, he continued.

Preamble:
The natural condition of human beings is self ownership with personal responsibility for that life and safety. Each person has a natural right to the products of his work and ingenuity, and to defend his/her life and property by any means necessary without initiating aggression. While charity and cooperation are some of the natural building blocks of society, they cannot be coerced or mandated, so families and friends need to assume responsibility for those who are actually unable to take care of themselves.

Charter purpose and council limits:

The ranch council has one purpose only, to coordinate the efforts of the ranch shareholders to promote a productive and peaceful community by mutual cooperation and voluntary action. Resolution of conflicts or community actions must not violate the natural rights of any person. Those persons who do not wish to agree to the charter must leave the community.

Covenants and conditions:

1. No person has any right to initiate force against another human being, nor to delegate that initiation of force. Proven aggression in any form will be grounds for expulsion, with ranch shares and property rights extinguished on due process conviction. (See covenant #6.)

2. Shares may be divided among family members, including children. Only adults may vote, one per share. Children may petition to be considered adults at any time and there is no arbitrary age limit. They must be ready to support themselves independently and have demonstrated consistent self control and non-aggression in at least the year preceding the petition. Those accepted as adult by 2/3 majority of the shareholders will be free to assume adult responsibility and obligations, enter into contracts and so forth.

Ranch property or shares may be sold or bequeathed to family members, but cannot be sold to newcomers or outsiders without unanimous consent of all other share holders. This is not to limit property rights, but to make it possible to guard the community from being taken over by strangers and potential enemies. Those who wish to leave can either sell to someone in the community or abandon their shares and move on. Abandoned shares revert to council control and will be sold or awarded to others by unanimous vote.

3. All decisions that affect the whole ranch property and its operation must be decided by unanimous consent of the council. The council may, at their discretion, take a poll of all the shareholders to help decide any question, but the unanimous voice of the council will be final. Those questions that do not find a unanimous solution must be considered again at the next meeting or dropped. This will prevent frivolous and unnecessary actions from even being considered.

4. Shareholders or groups of shareholders may bid to operate the farms, livestock operations, power plant, roads and other essential services (originally provided by the ranch management). Prices and wages will be determined by the people involved, with the council available as arbitrator for disputes. A period of one year from the signing of this charter is provided for an orderly transition. Terms and qualifications for bidders are subject to the council and Roger Bradshaw during that year. Alternate services and competing enterprise set up is strongly encouraged.

Questions of liability, quality control, and other contract disputes will be resolved by arbitration. Petitioner and respondent will each choose an arbitrator, and those two will choose a third. The decision of any two of the three will be binding on all parties. Compensation for the arbitrators must be determined by mutual consent of the contesting parties and their chosen arbitrators before the case is presented, each side of the dispute paying half of the total for all three arbitrators up front. No extra gifts or considerations may be offered or accepted. In case of hardship, community members may offer voluntary contributions to help with the costs.

This process must remain a personal and private affair, but any shareholder is free to bring a petition to the council if a resolution cannot be found through arbitration or if the losing party refuses to honor the decision of the arbitrator. In such cases, the unanimous decision of the council will be final. No member of the council may serve as an arbitrator during his term of office.

5. The election of the council and its leaders will be conducted yearly. All 10 council members are 'at large," again to avoid factions and bickering. Any adult can nominate themselves or another who is willing to serve. All must be elected in a unanimous vote of confidence by all shareholders. Unfilled positions will remain vacant until the next election.

The council will elect one of their members to serve as their leader and other internal offices as they determine necessary. They may appoint a temporary officer for special purposes, such as the apprehension of a criminal or to oversee the removal of a stranger or former shareholder who is required to leave the community.

6. Only with proof of aggression or harm, any shareholder, guest or visitor may be brought before the council by his or her accuser (or a special officer of the council) to answer for his/her actions. Proof of guilt must be acceptable to a randomly chosen jury of shareholders as beyond a reasonable doubt, and each one accused must be treated as innocent until that proof is accepted. The accused may represent him/herself or ask another to represent them. Children who have not been accepted as adults by the community must be represented by their parent or another shareholder.

For theft or other non lethal crime, the accused will be allowed to pay full restitution - as determined by the council in consultation with the offended party - or to leave the ranch with their personal possessions only.

For a lethal attack or crime which inflicted grave injury, including rape, the whole community will be required to judge between banishment or execution. This judgment must be unanimous. There are to be no jails or imprisonment.

The most fitting punishment for any deadly aggression is death at the hands of the intended victim or their neighbors. For this reason and others, the right and duty to bear arms must never be infringed.

7. The provisions of this charter may be altered by submitting changes to the council for discussion and debate, and implemented only with the unanimous consent of all current shareholders.

Murmurs came from every corner of the room. The mood was solemn and yet glad. Everyone present understood the gravity of what was happening. It was a new beginning for their community. It was time for them to grow up and take full charge of their own lives.

Malcolm set the papers down, and motioned to some teens who had been hovering at the doorway. They came forward and passed out copies of the proposed charter. "There is one set for each family," he said. "There was no paper or ink to make more now, so please be careful of them. We propose to take one week to consider these provisions, and then meet with the whole community to finalize the charter. Please make your proposals for any changes in writing during this week and give them to a council member."

This was agreed to by all present, and the meeting was adjourned without further comment. Night was coming fast, and many had last chores to perform before bedtime. So everyone filed out quickly, talking and laughing with neighbors and friends as always.

Roger and Betty watched quietly, eyes moist with happiness. It was a dream come true.

Next: Under the mountain


Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 15, 2010, 02:44:52 pm
Under the Mountain - chapter 18

Sipping the last drops from his re-used water bottle, John pocketed it thinking he should leave. The cafe' was not crowded, but he'd seen the beefy young proprietor looking at him a few times and knew he couldn't stay longer without buying something. He didn't want to use his limited coinage at all, and most certainly not for the wicked "brew" that had replaced coffee since the crash.

His disappointment, however, was serious. He'd hoped to run into his old buddy Bert, but so far there had been no sign of him in any of the pre-arranged places. He didn't really have a lot of hope that Bert had made it out of Afghanistan, but it had been worth the attempt to hook up with him.

But time was up and he had to decide if there was any prayer of his doing the job alone. He got up and moved to the door casually, not wanting to attract attention. His bicycle was on the sidewalk, chained to a lamp post, but he had not let it get completely out of sight for more than a few seconds.

A skinny old man was standing in front of the bike when he cleared the doorway, and it took him half a second to realize that the "old man" really wasn't. Bert had done it again. He was a master of disguise and misdirection.

Bert turned then and smiled a little, but indicated he didn't want to be recognized so John blustered up as if to chase him away from his property. By signs they quickly understood each other and Bert moved off as if reluctantly. John knew that a message would be found in his pack when he had the opportunity to look without being observed.

The combination of the lock was stubborn for a few seconds, but John had already read the message left there in the numbers that were face up to start with. So, mounting the bike, he peddled out of town as if nothing in the world was important to him except the beautiful fall day. Inside he was both excited to have made contact with Bert and anxious to get to the job at hand.

A hobo camp outside of town near the old rail yard was well populated, as such camps had always been through the centuries. Regardless of the economy or police state, certain men (and rare women) preferred the gypsy life and the freedom of the road to steady employment and family ties. An old metal barrel had been filled with scrap lumber and set ablaze as the sun set, and the motley bunch that gathered around it was grateful for the warmth. Autumn in Colorado, at this altitude, was cold at night and all too soon the snow would begin to fall, so most of the people present were seriously considering their options and making plans to leave for a warmer climate.

John had pitched his camp on the outer edge of the area and did not approach the fire. His tarp was getting thin, and the blanket had vanished long ago, so he huddled in his coat and chewed some jerky he'd traded for earlier. He'd hated to part with his little pocket knife that way, but food was more important than a sentimental gift from long ago.

Suddenly, a small brown hand reached around his waist and deftly removed the stub of jerky from his hand. John was fast, and hardened by months of rough living and travel, but he wasn't fast enough to grab the hand before it vanished into the dark. Leaping to his feet, he nearly shouted with frustration and anger until he heard a slight chuckle and then watched as Bert appeared in the growing moonlight almost as if by magic. He was chewing as he sat in the darkest spot beneath a big bush that sheltered John's tarp bed.

"One of these days," John started, but Bert put his finger to his lips and continued to chew silently. A few moments later, after a big swallow, he said very softly, "not here." John nodded, then shrugged his shoulders, waiting for the older man to set the pace and take the lead. He knew whispers could be heard almost as well as plain speech, and would certainly attract more attention.

Soon, clouds began to cover the moon and the two men moved off into the dark casually, stopping in the center of a small clearing nearby. John knew that Bert had already made a thorough search of the area before he made contact, but watched patiently while a new round of the nearby trees was made just in case. What they had to discuss was absolutely not for any other ears.

The message John had found in his pack had been stark and yet meaningless to anyone else. Scratched lightly into the flesh side of the leather was: hobo. This had let John know where he would find Bert. The numeric message had been more complex. It directed him to be ready to move out immediately and that he would need to abandon all baggage.

Therefore, John stood in the clearing with the essentials in the pack on his back, wishing he had the tarp as a light mist began to fall. Someone would find the bike and the rest of his things in the morning. He wished them luck.

Carl's old truck had been abandoned just inside the city when it ran out of gas. John could still see the old basket that Gretchen had so lovingly packed with food. He sure could have used some of those thick ham and mustard sandwiches now, he thought, then cleared his mind for the task ahead as Bert ghosted to his side.

"I can get in pretty easy," Bert started, "but this is definitely a job for two so I'm very glad you finally showed up." The grin showed stained teeth in a sudden spot of moonlight, and John simply nodded. Now was not the time to share their stories. Shrugging his shoulders against the wet and growing cold, he waited silently for him to go on.

"You still have the disks, I hope," Bert continued. John's nod of acknowledgment brought another grin, and then he went on. "We need to remain absolutely undetected. Then, once we hack in it can't be reversed. He lifted his eyebrows then, the mist beginning to bead on his beard and hair, and said, "I'm glad you came. Let's go."

The mountain looked a long, long way away, and John didn't think much of the idea of walking that far, but he stepped out beside Bert without a word. They headed immediately for a woody draw, and soon were climbing over and around rocks that got larger and larger as they ascended the slope. Once they left the clearing they stepped on pine needles and other forest floor materials, leaving no trace - at least nothing that could be tracked by less than a 18th century Apache. The rain and wind, gradually increasing in volume, would eliminate any other trace of scent or track by morning.

An hour or more later, with the rain and wind increasing, Bert led them into a small box canyon at the base of the foothills, several miles from the hobo camp below. John was glad for a respite from the wind, but the rain continued to drip from the brim of his hat onto his chest each time he looked down to make sure of his footing. His chest was already very wet and cold.

Suddenly Bert stopped and held out his arm to keep John from going any further. John stood still gratefully, watching his friend in the dark as he seemed to fumble with a rock at the side of the canyon. A solid grating sound came from the rock wall, and a very dark doorway appeared as the rock slid sideways. Bert pulled John in with him quickly, and the rock "door" slid shut with another grating groan. Amazingly, it was not pitch dark inside as John had expected, and his eyes quickly grew accustomed to the faint glow of a line down the middle of the corridor in front of them.

Attaching a small electronic device to a thumbprint reader beside a doorway, Bert and John saw the little light blink from red to green. A split second later, the green light went out and the reader was dead. It had not been allowed to communicate with the main terminal and would never function again, but the booby traps had been disarmed and they could proceed.

Removing the device, Bert marched through the open doorway and down a dark hall, still following the faint light in the floor. He used the device to scan constantly, and John wished he had one of his own, but their brief time in the hall was uneventful. Reaching a closed door, Bert once again attached his device to a reader by the latch and, once again, the light went from red to green to dark in a tiny fraction of a second. The door would not open, however, and Burt handed John a small flashlight to hold for him while he examined both the door and the device. John couldn't see what he had done, but soon the door swung open and they stepped into what was obviously a guard room. Dust lay everywhere, and it was evident that nobody had entered the place for a long time.

An inner room held a computer station, and Bert sat down at it immediately. The device was plugged into the machine first, and then the power switch was activated. He grinned as the lights on the machine came up and the screen colored to display a pretty desktop picture. This had been a crucial point in his plans. If the power had not been on here, their task would have been many thousands of times more difficult.

Booting up the email program, Bert asked for the first disk John had carried for so long. The little drawer slid open silently, and then silently swallowed the poison pill. A standard memo template was chosen, and the entire contents of the disk were copied to the body of the message. It contained a very special worm program and only needed to be "read" by the automatic spam/virus software to be activated. No human eye ever needed to see it again. It would replicate itself and be sent to every other terminal in the entire complex within a minute or two, using all the other virus and spam software to spread it like warm butter on hot corn bread.

And then, all hell would break loose.

Within an hour there would be no security, no air exchange, no heat, no light. Nothing that was in any way controlled by these computers or electronic devices anywhere under the mountain would function. But this was just the first strike. Bert knew there were some separate systems and some fail safe backups. Their job was to get to those and they might be much more difficult to deal with than this had been. Not only that, but very quickly, someone inside this rat's nest would KNOW there was an intruder. The game was to move fast and stay alive long enough to finish the job.

Bert booted up the internal map of the computer complex. He was quite sure where they needed to go next, but wanted to verify it exactly. This was where the second person was needed. Both the backup and separate/dedicated systems needed to be taken out at the same time since they could instantly restore each other. They were kept in different places, an obvious safety measure. Bert was intimately familiar with the mountain complex, but John was not and would need careful instructions to get to his destination safely. He already knew what he needed to do when he got there.

Bert produced a second security bypass device and, after "teaching it" to accept John's code, it was tucked away as Bert drew a rough map on a piece of paper taken out of a printer nearby. He found a roll of adhesive fluorescent orange dots in one of the drawers and gave it to John with instructions to place one on each door jam he passed. "Sort of like bread crumbs so you can find your way back out," he said.

"Sure, John mumbled, "we just have to pray there are no birds to find them first," and gave Bert the second disk.

They shook hands solemnly and agreed to meet at the back door as soon as possible. Neither one of them had much hope of getting out, but they were both determined to see the job done first. They synchronized their watches and agreed on an exact time to insert the next disks. They had to be done together.

Using his tiny flashlight as little as possible, John began to follow his map and quickly lost sight of Burt when he turned down another corridor a few feet from the guard room. The air was already getting stale, or at least it seemed to be, and John began to hurry. The dust was thick here, and he didn't think anyone had been down this hall for years, but he was going ever deeper into this nightmare and the chances of contact grew with each step. With his raggedy clothing and scruffy beard, there was no hope of "passing" as someone who belonged here. Every twist and turn to his route was liberally decorated with the bright orange disks, and in looking back once, he was encouraged by their gentle glow.

Time seemed suspended somehow as he crept through the dark, ever watching the snooper device in his hand. He knew he'd only get a few seconds warning at best if the worm had failed to neutralize all of the security systems. They were supposed to continue to appear normal, but there was always a chance of one that hadn't been connected to the system - especially in the area he was nearing. Large signs proclaimed that unauthorized entry was prohibited and he had to overcome three separate check points to get in. A thumbprint device and a palm reader were easily eliminated, but the last point demanded voice recognition and Burt's gadget burped once before the lights on it went out.

But eventually the last door opened without any alarm or booby trap and John walked into an ordinary looking office at the end of another hall, this one not looking quite so dusty. There were actually some footprints in the dust in the outer room, but a sealed inner door had been specifically designed to maintain a "clean room," and John recognized one of the new "bio" hybrid computers Bert had told him about some time ago. This was his objective, and he was glad that the machine seemed to be hibernating.

Not knowing what sensors it might have, he instantly inserted the keyed device into a slot on the main box. This lighted the screen, which was a blank page showing only a blinking cursor in the upper left corner. The disk drawer opened smoothly, and when the time came, John inserted the third of the disks he'd carried for three years. He pressed the button and the disk vanished without a sound. If they were lucky, Bert had fed the other one to his target at the same time and they could backtrack to get out of here.

Bert had not told him what to expect, just to get out as soon as he'd placed the disk. So, that's what he did, peeling the dots off the door frames and walls as he went. No sense leaving the bread crumbs for anyone else to follow. He arrived at the guard room almost breathless, convinced that the air was getting stale even though there had not yet been enough time for it.

Since there was no sign of Bert, John went on to the outer doorway. He didn't know exactly what to expect, or how long to wait, so sat on the floor to rest and catch his breath, hoping it wouldn't be too long. Exhaustion and stress were catching up with him fast, and he suddenly realized that he was both hungry and thirsty. Wondering just what he might do about that, he closed his eyes for a second and sleep overcame him.

Swift footsteps woke John and brought Bert out of the dark through the final doorway. He hit the switch for the outer door and they both tumbled through. Shutting the door, Bert did something with his device and said that it was now sealed. Nothing known on earth would ever open it again. Then they sloshed down the slope, grateful that the clouds had cleared and the moon was bright. Avoiding the clearing and the hobo camp at the edge of the woods, they walked as quickly as they could north, finding a road at last. After a brief rest, they continued their moonlight walk without a word for some time.

Suddenly, Bert doubled over and vomited at the side of the road. John grabbed him to keep him from tumbling down the steep bank right there, then urged him to sit on a log on the other side of the road a few feet further on.

"What's up? John asked. "You sick?"

Bert shook his head, but didn't say anything, obviously overcome by some strong emotion. John sat beside him, more than willing to wait however long it took, but really anxious about the coming dawn. They needed food and water badly, and probably should get into some sort of cover before day break.

Deep breathing and a far away look on his face convinced John that Bert was processing whatever bothered him, so he sat still and watched in all directions just in case of trouble. He had lost the urge to sleep, but knew that wouldn't last long. Only a few minutes passed before Bert stood and continued up the road. John rose and followed him, glad they were at least moving again.

"Anther nest of vipers gone!" Bert said faintly. "Remember that's what we used to say when we finished a mission? I didn't think this would bother me, but it's hard to know that the vipers were all Americans this time. I set it up so they would all die and couldn't get out or communicate, and I'm glad - but it will bother me the rest of my life. It's better to shoot enemies face to face, when you get right down to it."

John didn't know what to say, especially since he didn't know what all had happened back there. He thought they were just killing computers and felt pretty strange to consider that there'd been more to it than that. And yet, some part of him did know that the ultimate goal had been the destruction of this particular nest of political and bureaucratic vipers. There really wasn't much hope for peace and liberty otherwise. He also knew that other teams had taken out other nests, and he suddenly hoped with all his heart that the viper tribe was wiped out. He knew the "war" would never really be over as long as there were human beings who wanted to control others, but he figured that they could go home now and at least rest for a while.

Next: Homecoming
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 22, 2010, 03:51:15 pm
I'm thinking this is the final chapter, but I won't know for a day or so.

Transitions

Angel looked around the room from where she sat on the edge of the braided rug where the teacher told stories. She didn't understand much of it yet, but she was increasingly comfortable with being there, especially as long as she could see Cathy or one of the others she knew well. She still didn't relate much with strangers and, if pushed, would simply begin to scream. Her coping mechanisms were still very immature.

Thirty toddlers were a challenge for the four adults, and those worthy ladies were glad to see the parents begin to come in, picking up their little ones. Cathy watched Angel from across the room, glad to see that she stayed on the rug this time instead of running toward the door the moment she saw Jeff. Today she stood up just in time for Jeff to grab her in a big hug, and he went out with her snuggled in his arms wearing a big grin.

Squeals and giggles soon filled the room, and then as quickly all was still again as the last parents and children left. Cathy joined the other three ladies and they sat down to do their post class evaluation. It was brief and informal, but they had discovered they could solve many problems early, or head them off completely, by doing this each day.

One of the teen age helpers began to straighten the books and put toys and supplies away. Another one carefully watered the plants on a window sill and checked on two classroom pets in their roomy cages. 

Gratefully lifting a mug of tea, Cathy remarked to the others that they would soon need to begin building a separate school if the ranch population continued to grow. The big community building finished last fall, seemingly large enough for all the intended purposes, was already crowded and scheduling things was becoming ever more difficult. Some of the classes were meeting in the covered picnic area at the park that had been built this summer, but cold weather would soon put a stop to that.

They discussed the possibility of remodeling the old barn for this purpose, but everyone eventually agreed that it would be far more practical just to build something new. The old barn would be used to house equipment and might eventually be converted into a workshop to repair equipment and engines - all of which was now being done more or less out in the open. Indeed, the new barn had been constructed with that in mind, every bit as much for the fact that there were now far more animals to be housed and crowded conditions in the old barn were not healthy for man or beast.

Georgia, the youngest teacher, suggested that the toddlers' class might move to the common room in the old ranch HQ building, and Cathy said it certainly wouldn't hurt to ask the Bradshaws if they would mind. That would give the rapidly growing combined first and second grade classes a chance to spread out from their cramped single room. This led to a lively debate over the relative merits of separating children into yearly grades, or the old method of leaving different ages to work together with the older helping the younger.

Janice, one of only three professionally trained teachers in the community, pointed out that the mixed age class worked fairly well when there were only a few students overall, but since the Ranch school now had more than 100 children -including the toddlers - enrolled, it was more efficient to give each teacher a more or less matched group of students. She went on to say that age as the arbitrary division had never been useful, and she was glad that they were able to form the separate "grades" based on readiness to learn and past performance instead. "Not to mention the fact that we provide a great many opportunities for different grades to work together and utilize the older students frequently to assist the younger ones. I think we've got a great system here," she said with a big smile.

Betty poked her head into the doorway just then to say hello. Janice took the opportunity to ask her if they could move the toddlers to the old common room, and Betty joined them to discuss the logistics. They realized that the "kindergarten" class, which included four and five year olds, used many of the same materials as the toddlers and that it might be useful to move them to the old building as well. This would open up even more space for the older children who did not need the toys or nap mats and other things used for the younger ones. This, of course, led to talk about a whole new school building, but everyone realized that such a project would take time and, since not everyone in the community utilized the school, might not find enough support right away. But they agreed it was well worth proposing.

Betty promised to make sure it was on the agenda for the next council meeting and, having hugged everyone, went out to see how the new ceramics class was coming along. They had built a big kiln that spring, and she was anxious to see what they were creating. Some large stoneware crocks had become a priority project when the ladies in the preserve kitchen concluded  the coming harvest would exceed the capacity of those they already had.  Nobody wanted to do without sauerkraut or pickles.

She looked into other doors as she went along, delighted to see so many people engaged in learning and doing... her vision in the unfinished building the year before had certainly come true. She knew that almost everyone now wished they had dreamed larger and built larger because they all could see they would soon be bursting at the seams.

Passing John and Bert with some students in the hall, she remembered how the two men had come in last fall, hungry and ragged from their adventures in Denver. Bert had stashed his vehicle north of town in an abandoned barn, and they had found it unmolested. Their journey back to the ranch had been mostly uneventful, except for the problem of finding fuel.

They had never freely shared the details of their time in Denver. Bert had been very withdrawn and moody all winter, with John as his only real companion, but Roger had managed to draw him out by prevailing on him to teach the high school chemistry class. Then John had agreed to teach electronics. She was glad to see Bert engaged in a lively discussion with John and two others about some point of science that had been diagrammed extensively on one of the conference room chalk slates. She made a mental note to ask about getting slates like that for more of the classrooms.

A strong, disagreeable smell drew her around a corner and into an outside porch where a big pot of something bubbled gently over a small fire. She remembered that this was an experiment in paper making and, despite the smell, hoped that they would be successful. There was almost no clean, new paper left anywhere in the community, and so far they had not been successful finding any.

None of the traders who had begun to make a circuit of the communities had so far considered it worthy of their time and effort, though she hoped they would change their minds by next year. They had carried only guns, ammunition and such things at first, but had soon been prevailed on to include such small and valued things as needles, thread and other once common household goods that were very difficult to produce without modern machinery.

Slowly, and little by little, the ham radio stations were coming back in many parts of the country and what had formerly been Canada. Communities were forming and growing rapidly, as well as a few manufacturing centers. The latter were mostly making use of industrial sites that had long been abandoned, of course, since starting such things from scratch would have been difficult even where possible. They had a long way to go before anyone would be ready to build automobiles or airplanes again. But they had certainly made a good start.

Roger watched as the last of the new interior walls of the barn went up and noted that the timbers were ready to build the hay loft above as soon as the wall was secured. The ladders were all finished as well, and he thought the main doors would be complete and ready to install by the end of the week. He shook his head and grinned, reminding himself that he was just an observer now, lending a hand at times but no longer in charge. Don was the builder here, and extremely competent. Roger was very happy to know that he didn't have to do or manage or plan everything, but the transition had been a little rough in the beginning. Letting go had not been easy, but he could see very clearly that it had been absolutely necessary for both the community and his own peace of mind. He knew that "control" was potentially deadly, even in someone who sincerely wanted only good for others - and he knew that he had not always been immune to that siren call.

He walked down the long line of stalls in the old barn, scratching and petting those horses with their heads out, appreciating the fact that the new barn design would much reduce the problems they'd had the last few years. They could now keep the stalls much cleaner and the stone foundations would not rot like the wooden ones had.

On a whim, he saddled his big gelding and rode out to watch the harvest start. Water gurgled in the ditches beside the road, now going eventually into a new large pond in the middle of the pasture land. It was no longer being diverted into the fields since they had been allowed to dry some for the harvest. The pond contained fish and provided an excellent water source for the cattle and horses. They'd have to keep a portion of it ice free for the winter, of course, but it would certainly beat hauling water from the well head. That had become impossible a year ago with the sudden increase of livestock brought by new settlers from the East Valley split.

The East Valley folk had decided not to adopt the Bradshaw charter and opted instead for a much narrower system based on the predominate religious group's tenets.  A number of those who had wanted to adopt the charter chose to leave East Valley and join the Bradshaw Ranch community. They had brought considerable talents and resources with them, of course, but the sudden increase in population - human and animal - had certainly stretched things a bit last winter. Roger could see that the birthrate alone was going to make that an ongoing challenge.

He was very glad that relationships with the remaining East Valley folk continued to be friendly and that they would be able to use the grasslands there for summer cattle range, but he knew they'd all have to work to prevent misunderstandings and problems. The core Valley people would probably continue to drive folks away with their rigid religious requirements, and Roger could see how easy it would be for them to blame his community for the consequences.

Even now they did not have the manpower to protect their own flocks and herds from predators, and Roger had negotiated a deal to provide security for their stock as well as for the animals his town pastured there. It had worked out this year, but anything could happen. He was determined to explore the land to the north, remembering that he'd found a remote pass to some high meadows just before he went to join the Marines. He had never ridden much up there since. A new summer range would solve many problems in the future, he thought.

The sun was low in the west as the weary gelding was being rubbed down in the main paddock. Roger led him to his stall and made sure he had plenty of feed and clean water. He loved to care for his own horse, but hurried a little as he left the barn, knowing he had only a little time to get clean and ready for the big meeting that night. It didn't seem possible that the first anniversary of the signing of the charter was only three weeks away. This meeting would be the first to evaluate the problems from the past year and consider any proposed amendments.
****
The gavel had sounded and the usual brief period of silence had been observed. The meeting had been called for early evening in the new park so everyone who wished to could attend. A small rough "stage" had been thrown up earlier, and rigged with the microphone and speakers. The council was seated at a pair of tables from the old dining room, and everyone else either sat on the grass or had brought chairs from home. Most of the children had been put to bed already, but a considerable number of them were being entertained with watermelon and games in the old courtyard.

The first order of business was a continuation of a discussion from the previous month about the security plan for the community. The guard posts had been left un-tended since last fall, leaving only the electronic trip alarms and booby traps in place. Since there had been no attack from outside, and no indication of roaming bands of goblins since the East Valley incident, there had been less and less urgency about perimeter security, but some people remained concerned. They believed that some form of dedicated security team, such as an old fashioned sheriff and deputies, was necessary for internal problems and frictions, even if the chance of invasion from outside was remote. They worried that, even though most people still went armed and were well trained in personal defense, eventually there would be nobody ready to respond if a real emergency came up.

Others, of course, were very skeptical and worried that any sort of police force could become a problem in and of itself. They remembered vividly the abuses perpetrated by the police before the crash, all in the name of safety and security.

Richard, Don, Jake and many of those now operating industries and businesses within the community were just as adamant that they needed a sheriff to help keep the peace as the steady growth of the town brought in strangers and potential trouble makers.  Speaking through Richard, they reminded everyone that there had already been an increase in petty crime and contract disputes, with more than a few resulting in people being required to leave the valley. He talked about a fist fight over a woman that had escalated into gun play last winter, resulting in the death of one man and serious injury to the other, as well as danger to innocent bystanders who had tried to break up the fight. Since it had been mutual combat, resulting in a death, the injured man had been required to leave as soon as he was able to travel. Richard finished by saying that such things were bound to happen, and that as of now nobody really knew what to do about it.

Mutt, Jeff, John and most of the other former Marines proposed a colonial style militia, complete with officers, required drill time and all the rest. They were much more concerned about the remaining danger of attack from outside. Over the summer, there had been reports from some communities in the far south of new outlaw gangs coming from the west coast and the old southern border. These raider/bandit gangs were said to be well organized and well led - unlike many of those in the past. Many small communities that had started to recover had been overwhelmed and many people killed. There was no telling if the new gangs would come north so far, but Mutt and his group didn't think it was a good time to lower their level of preparedness in any case.

The discussions had gone on all summer and two distinct groups had emerged. Only one real candidate for sheriff had come from the "pro" group, and Richard, a former sheriff's deputy, was willing to take on the job. Mutt had spent countless hours talking with people about it, and had found very little opposition to a militia, even among those who insisted they needed a sheriff.

Now the proposals had been made and a voice vote was called for on the first one, since they didn't have paper for a ballot. The roar of the "YES" was very loud and the waving arms indicated almost complete agreement. Only a handful answered the call for "NO" votes. Josh Cramer, the council leader for the year tried to estimate the percentage, but finally gave up and asked for the vote on  the second proposal. Many people were very surprised that the response was almost identical!

Bradshaw stood up signaling his desire to speak, and a hush soon descended over the crowd. He advanced to the stage and took the microphone, clearing his throat before he spoke. "I think we may have overlooked something in this debate, but it seems obvious to me now that we need both an internal and external security set up! I move that we form both a regular militia and a sheriff's department."

A dozen voices called out a second to this motion and many others began loud discussions. Josh banged the gavel to call them to order, then asked if there was any need for further discussion. Silence and negative nods greeted that request, and Bradshaw called for the question. Once again, Josh requested a voice vote and the positive response was obviously unanimous from the roar and the lack of response to a call for objections.

Roger returned to his seat, glad that the community had once again come together in harmony. He scratched his head, however, wondering what new problems this would bring. He knew that every action and choice had both intended, and unintended consequences.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on June 23, 2010, 02:52:19 pm
Very good read. And, you left open the possibility of a sequel should the ghost reappear.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 23, 2010, 03:17:16 pm
Very good read. And, you left open the possibility of a sequel should the ghost reappear.

Already banging out the first chapter...  ^_^  Danged ghost didn't even give me time to work on the last one and get it into shape...  Actually, I can see quite a series of stories on this theme. I may have found my vocation for life. LOL

Have not decided if I'll post this one or not...
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: LaughingBear on June 23, 2010, 03:18:28 pm
Well speaking strictly for myself, if the new one is anything like the first, I'd love to read it.

Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: gaurdduck on June 23, 2010, 04:18:12 pm
Well speaking strictly for myself, if the new one is anything like the first, I'd love to read it.



+1 on that.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on June 23, 2010, 09:01:55 pm
Same here.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on June 24, 2010, 01:24:00 pm
I hope she's just teasing with us boys and girls.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 24, 2010, 02:10:47 pm
Ok, ok.... Keep your shirts on. Here's the latest.  <grumble, grumble... slave drivers... >  :laugh: :laugh: :wub:

Book 2? or a new chapter of Consequences? 

Growing UP
Roger woke to find his tarp sprinked with new snow. Leaden, threatening clouds were coming down the mountain like an avalanche. He had made one last attempt to find the northern pass, and now he knew he'd made a terrible mistake. David's horse and bedroll were gone and though the new snow covered any track, Roger knew that he must have gone in the direction they'd talked about last night. David had wanted to make one last attempt, ignoring the older man's feel for the weather change coming.

Knowing that to look for David himself would be fruitless and dangerous, he saddled his horse quickly and spurred for the ranch trail. If a seasoned rescue team could not locate David before the blizzard struck, he had only a dim chance of survival even if he remembered all of his training and kept his head. David was only 15 years old, and fairly new to the wilderness.
*****

Linda tried to concentrate on her sewing, but her eyes kept wandering back to the window and the snow that had just begun to fall. The winter had just officially started, but she thought the clouds looked like a blizzard and wondered if Bill would be home for supper or if he'd have to work late getting the animals settled in for the storm.

She shifted her weight once again, trying to get comfortable with her growing abdomen. The baby wasn't due for another month, but she was beginning to hope it would come early. The doctor had said she thought there might be twins, which would account for the size she had attained, but had not been able to distinguish two separate heart beats. Without the diagnostic equipment of a regular hospital, they just had to wait for nature to take its course.

Expecting Cathy to come to visit soon, she decided to start the kettle boiling now. Moving around really seemed to help the most, and she regretted that she couldn't even walk outside, let alone ride as she so loved to do. She shrugged, knowing that this was only temporary, and then smiled as she remembered the joy in Bill's eyes each time he saw her. Yes, it was ok. She just had to be patient.
*****

Bill, inside the new barn, heard a horse coming fast and stepped out a side door just as Bradshaw's black gelding slid to a stop in the muddy yard. He was breathing hard and stood trembling as Roger launched himself to the ground. Tearing the muffler from his face, he yelled for Bill to start saddling horses, then handed the reins to a stable hand and ran toward the main buildings.

Soon the big alarm bell was ringing furiously, and people were coming from all sides to find out what the trouble might be. A dozen men were sent to the barn to help saddle horses, while a group of women began their old chore of loading packs and canteens. Betty helped to shepherd the children into the dining room while the men crowded into the old common room to hear the news.

"Big blizzard coming on fast and David is lost in it!" Roger breathed hard between sips of hot tea. His face was chapped and red where the muffler had not covered it, and his voice was hoarse. "We've got to get out there and find him as fast as possible or he may never be seen again! He's on my old gray gelding, which may help, but only if he will trust the horse and turn him loose." Putting his head down into his folded arms, his shoulders shook with suppressed sobs. "What a fool I was to go out so late, and even more to take that boy with me," he cried.

Don, David's father, looked stunned, and when Martha came in, he folded her into his arms without a word. She knew David had gone out with Bradshaw, and she didn't need a gypsy to foretell the danger to her son since he wasn't present. She was the sort who simply prayed instead of screaming, but the scream was certainly somewhere deep inside.

Don, with Jeff and the other militia members who were trained in wilderness tactics assembled quickly, slinging the packs over their shoulders as they rushed out to the waiting horses. Roger had shown them the last known location of the boy on his map, and now he had to let these younger and stronger men take care of the emergency. For the first time he really acknowledged his age and resented deeply the obvious fact that he couldn't lead them out as he had always done.

Betty's strong hand on his shoulder brought him up short, and he heaved a big sigh of release. No, he was still not always ready to relinquish control, but he knew he must get used to it.

The snow was falling ever faster as the rescue team headed out to the lake valley where their trail would begin. They had all been over the territory many times over the last few years and knew that the real difficulty would begin once they reached the mountain. Once the blizzard began, nobody had any doubt that they would have little hope of finding the boy.

Jeff pulled up at the point where Roger had told him he thought David had gone. He couldn't see much of the canyon above him through the snow, and began to despair. Their horses blew and stamped in the rapidly increasing cold, and the men looked bleak. He didn't even bother taking out the map. He was certain of his position, and saw no way they could accomplish anything by going in except to get lost themselves.

Making the most difficult decision of his life, Jeff finally signaled for the team to turn around and head back. The snow was almost blinding now, and his beard was stiff with ice. Urging the horse around, he waited for the others to get situated and then started on the back trail.

Suddenly, a weak shout came from the woods behind them and they were all overjoyed to see a very tired and bedraggled gray gelding step onto the trail behind them. "You weren't going to go off and leave me, were you?" the young man said through chattering teeth.

Don rode back quickly and took the boy up behind him. Someone else got out an extra coat and wrapped it around David. Within moments they were traveling as fast as possible in the ever deepening snow. David hugged his father as hard as he could, fully aware of his very close call and deeply grateful to be heading home. The tired horse that had been his salvation trotted wearily behind them, no doubt thinking horsy thoughts of his own warm stall.

Once back home, David was thoroughly welcomed, cosseted, loved, scolded and cried on by both parents and their neighbors. Roger slipped out to the barn. He rubbed the old horse down and pinned a thick blanket on him before heading back. He hoped David would learn something important through all this, as he had. 
****

The blizzard raged for three days, piling up more snow than anyone could remember having seen at one time. The temperatures dropped well below zero each night, not getting much above it during the day. The wood and coal piles shrank quickly, while everyone struggled to keep both people and animals from freezing.

That first afternoon, the horses were safe in their new barn, but the cattle out in the fields had been at serious risk and Roger hadn't thought there was a prayer they would all survive. The old barn had been quickly cleared out, and all of the pregnant cows had been bedded down inside. The bulls and remaining steers huddled around on the side, more or less out of the wind, and had been given all the grass hay possible since they couldn't graze. Keeping them all watered had been a chore, with snow melted in large tin tubs over small fires several times a day. At least they had not been forced to haul the water.

The forth day dawned clear and 20 below zero. The men were grateful that the wind had died down as they tended to the animals. Two of the steers were found to have died of the cold during the night, and others set to work processing the meat before it could freeze solid. It was an ugly, distressing chore, but they certainly could not afford to waste the meat, and the carcasses would have attracted wolves or lions very quickly if left where they fell.

The waste products were loaded onto a sled and dumped over the edge of the rocky cliffs where the first goblin attack had come so long ago. The local predators would clean it up there and not be tempted so much to come into the settled area. Then the meat was hauled to the HQ building and dozens of hands made short work of packaging it for future use and each participating family took some of it home with them. With their population now at just under 400, there was no longer any way for them all to gather when the park was four feet deep in snow, but the older folks remembered that this sort of thing had once called for a big stew and the joy of sharing a meal together.

Lauri carried her share home and set it to brown on the stove. Rubbing her arthritic hands to warm them, she fed the dog and started the other processes necessary for a solitary dinner. She'd had a boarder off and on the last two years, and missed having a companion very much. Hopefully, someone else might come along who would like to share her tiny cabin. "I'll have to ask at the bachelor's quarters," she thought.

The sky was red as the sun went down, telling the weather wise that the next day would be fair. Since the temperature had risen above zero, they hoped it would also get warmer.

Linda was delivered of twin girls on Christmas day, and Bill couldn't have been more delirious if he'd gotten drunk. But he didn't, and never would again. Sitting in the darkened warm room, he watched Linda nurse both babies in some sort of complicated criss-cross hold. He treasured them all so dearly and regretted only that it had taken him so long to come to his senses and grow up.

Later, when the girls were sleeping, he took Lisa from her mother and lay down on the cot beside the bed, cradling her in his arms. Linda arranged Lilly by her side and settled down herself to sleep.  The glow of the coals in the glass faced stove spread a warm light on the happy family, and Linda's old dog snored his contentment on the rug.

And so it was that the rest of the winter passed without alarm or serious disaster. The snow was deep and the cold extreme at times, but life went on. Peace, love and plenty; learning, hard work and struggle.. almost as if they were meant to go together.

Next time: The goblins return
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on June 30, 2010, 10:32:12 am
Here is another one. I have NO idea where this is going. LOL

Wolves

Dozens of people woke suddenly to the sound of wolves howling in the night. It was not that wolves had never been heard before, but that these were close and, somehow, their cries were exceptionally menacing. Men grabbed their rifles, going out to check on the herd, and women got up to comfort children who cried. It was early March, and the people of Bradshaw Ranch were praying for spring. It had been the most terrible winter they had ever known, and the loss in human and animal life was yet to be counted. The storage facilities were low on fuel and other necessities, since no traders had been able to come through since the blizzard in mid December. Everyone agreed that the last three winters had been increasingly severe, and there was much discussion about how to plan for the future since they had to assume it might well continue that way for at least a while.

In the morning, guards were assigned to watch the herds for the first time in years. The four footed raiders had killed and almost completely eaten a cow right inside the home pasture. Wolf sign had been seen before, usually one or two at most, but the tracks this time were of a full pack, an unusual number of very large adults.

Roger talked to the radio operators in the other towns around them, warning them of the wolves, but he couldn't raise the people in East Valley. This wasn't too surprising since they had never maintained close contact, but he was concerned when there was no answer day after day. Contacts from Minnesota to Montana reported unusual numbers of wolves as well, but the single North Dakota station - never really friendly - hadn't responded since November. South Dakota, so far, seemed to have been spared.

Children were forbidden to leave the main village without an adult, and riders were urged to go out only in groups of at least three, well armed. The old habit of going armed was revived and serious practice resumed with renewed enthusiasm, mostly dry fire and mock drills due to a chronic shortage of ammunition. Many of the newer and younger people had to be outfitted and taught the basics. Both the sheriff and the militia leaders made it very clear that they could be called on to help, but that each person was responsible for themselves and their families.

By April, two more cows died along with an older bull, and 6 wolves had been shot. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any fewer wolves even so. The nights were filled with the terrible sound of wolves fighting and rifles spoke often. As the snow finally began to melt from the hill sides, plans were being made to better guard the herd next year, as well as for a determined wolf hunt from then on. Nobody doubted that the wolves would return in ever greater numbers and they cursed the old government that had "reintroduced" those killing machines after their forefathers had spend more than 100 years eliminating them. God willing, the wolf species would someday be "endangered" once again.

Unusual weather continued through the spring, and it was almost June before the rains subsided enough to make the trail to the East Valley passable. The calves had all been born and it was past time to move the herd to better pastures. Nobody wanted to split their defenders between the two valleys, but there wasn't much choice. Once again, they had barely enough people to cover the work that was needed for survival.

Bradshaw was talking to some of the cowboys while they waited for Bill to return with the final word on the condition of the trail. They had decided to delay gathering the herd until they knew just what was happening beyond the short pass.

Bill and his men had been sent out that morning, and Roger became more and more uneasy as the day advanced. The sky was clouding over and the wind carried just a little bite as the sun went down over the badlands. Then, just before dark, the men began to straggle in, their faces drawn and ghastly.

Almost too upset to speak, Bill dismounted and grasped Roger's hand in a vice grip. The horror in his face and eyes was daunting.

"What in the world is going on? Roger said, steering the younger man toward the HQ building. Over his shoulder he told the others to get some food and rest. Mutt, Jeff and Richard all gathered around and helped escort the stricken Bill to a seat in the common room. Betty brought him a mug of hot tea and they waited while he got his emotions under control.

"They're all dead," he started. Puzzlement and shock warred with the horror on his face. "I couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like they must have gotten sick, or starved or something first. A few goblins raided them at some point, and then the wolves moved in. There wasn't a living being in the whole valley that I could find, though we looked hard. I was careful to stay away from the town and the people once I figured out they'd been sick, and I sure hope we didn't bring whatever it was. Those outside were mostly just skeletons, man and animal, stripped clean. They had one hell of a worse winter than we did." He shuddered again, and gulped the cooling tea.

So, that's where they came from," Roger said. We were very fortunate that the wolves had so much to occupy them this winter," he mused. We may not be so lucky next year." He felt it was terrible to be grateful for the misfortune of others that way, but there really was no help for it. The East Valley folks had clung to their place and ways, in spite of having far too few numbers or solid defenses. They had made their choices, and payed the price.

"Do you think it safe to drive the herds over there now?" Roger asked. "We've got to get them off this range as fast as possible, before the roots are destroyed. Damn, but I wish I had found that north pass last year!" He was immediately sorry he'd said it, remembering what that effort had almost cost, but he was even more determined to find it this year.

Bill said he didn't think it would be wise to take the herds to East Valley because they wouldn't be able to protect them from the wolves, even if there was no danger of disease. "We'll have to find something else for this summer," he said.
*****

In the morning, Roger led a small group of men into the lake valley and up into the mountains. There was still too much snow up there to drive a herd through, but it was melting fast and the mud was simply terrible. The horses were soon mud to their chins and the men were no better.

They had studied the topographical map carefully, and Charlie led the party between hills, rocks and rushing streams of water. Roger couldn't imagine why he'd not taken advantage of Charlie's talents last year and berated himself because he'd relied on his childhood memories instead.

It was almost too simple to believe. After a single night out, wet to the skin and exhausted with the mud, they climbed out of a low walled canyon and onto a broad, grassy mountain valley that shone in the morning light. Jake said they'd need to dynamite some of the rock and cut a little timber to make a trail suitable for the cattle, but it should only take a few days.

They'd still have to guard the herd carefully against the wolves, but everyone could see the signs of deer and elk moving back into the high country from their winter range on the prairie. The wolves would have their natural prey, at least for the summer.

Five days later, after some backbreaking work, the herd was on the move. A fairly large herd of horses went along, since Roger believed the winter pasture at the ranch HQ would need at least the full summer to recover enough to sustain the herds again the next winter. They would be flooded a few times during the driest part of the summer and, hopefully, not be taxed so much again.

A work party went to East Valley and respectfully consigned all of the human remains to decent graves; the animals to mass pyres. The cabins were burned as well, in hopes of destroying whatever disease had started the massacre.  They left the old "soddies" that had been used for storage, since most of them were empty and had been left open to the air.

Bert, trailing behind the group as they left, wept silently for over an hour. He had buried the last of the people, a small boy clutching a scruffy dog. And when the tears were done, he realized that - somehow - he had reached a new level of healing for the wounds his actions in Denver had left on his soul.
*****
Summer had been extremely fruitful and the storage buildings were bulging. There had been so much hay harvested, in spite of their misgivings, that a whole new shed had been constructed just to protect it. So many foals had been born that Roger was seriously considering trying to ship some out of the valley for sale before winter, and decided to find out who might want them in his next radio session. They would soon have far too many horses. And, as with so many other things, there were not enough people qualified to break and train them anyway. He knew he could get more for grown, trained horses and determined to explore ways to accomplish that.

The bottom line was that they just needed more people! Unfortunately, the steady trickle of new settlers that had been a hallmark of every other year had dried up. Most people had found a place by now, and the lifestyle in a mountain ranch didn't appeal to very many now that there were other alternatives available. The towns and cities to the south of them were doing well and still growing, with trade increasing all the time. Traders came from as far away as Iowa and Mississippi now, with a regular route established for  the mid west. Other traders came from what had been Canada, visiting the communities in Montana and one or two larger ones in North Dakota. There was growing warfare in the old south and southern west coast between the surviving inhabitants and the gangs of Hispanic youths, but they seemed to have no interest in coming further north. Texas and Oklahoma had merged, functioning as a whole new country in many ways and holding its own against the gang invaders.
*****

The fall hunt started in mid October, with wolves as the major prey instead of the deer and elk moving down toward the prairie. Of course, the wolves were following the herds, and so a full harvest of both was realized. The wolves normally followed the elk, but it was not known how many would remain to stalk the cattle in the coming winter.

November first dawned cool and slightly overcast, but no rain was expected. Dozens of people were out in the early light, busy getting ready for the coming festivities. A large group of traders would be there by noon, and the Bradshaw Ranch community had chosen to use that occasion for their first harvest festival. All of the people from the surrounding communities had been invited to come and bring their trade goods as well.

A large hayfield, newly mowed, had been chosen for the site and now open fronted tents were going up rapidly all around the perimeter. Tables and benches were being constructed from logs and long boards. Fire and BBQ pits had been dug near the center. Three spits were set up over the BBQ fire, and beef quarters were set to roasting. Big cast iron kettles full of beans, soaked over night, were to be placed on beds of coals to simmer through the morning.

Once the regular chores were done, everyone who could possibly find an excuse to be there lent a hand and the festival grounds bloomed as if by magic.  One large tent was dedicated to the brewers art, and almost everyone managed to at least sample the wares while the finishing touches were put on the camp. The variety of beers available, along with wine, cordials and a brash young whiskey, was heartening.

The cattle and horses had been brought down from the mountain pasture just the day before, and Roger supervised the choosing of several steers and quite a few horses for the informal rodeo that would be put on the next day. He and Bill planned to show the traders some new draft horses, as well as saddle and roping horses they had trained over the last summer, as much for pride as for the hope that some might be purchased. None of the usual rodeo events with wild bucking bulls or horses would be presented here, but there would be many contests that involved riding and roping, the ordinary working actions of the cowboys.

The craftsmen and women of the town were busy boxing up all the things they'd made over the last year, in hopes of selling or trading them for the many things they could not produce. A number of men had large piles of cured wolf hides and other skins to trade as well. The preserve kitchens and bakery took careful inventory, leaving only what they knew they needed to retain for the following winter and spring. The canned and preserved goods were overflowing the store rooms, so they hoped for a lively trade session.

Folks from the refinery town and other towns to the south began to arrive just after dawn. Roger, Charlie and the rest of the "rescue" crew were delighted to see Luke and his son among them. Almost every community they had visited on that rescue trip sent at least a few people, and the trade goods began to mount up.

Each tent around the grounds soon boasted its load of preserved or fresh food, tanned hides, hand loomed rugs and blankets, boots and slippers, and a hundred other things the people had produced from the bounty of the summers. They visited back and forth, helping each other carry the boxes and bags from the town, speculating on what the big traders might bring. Several older children were posted around the fires to ward off the dogs which, though well fed, were no less a threat to some of the meat hanging so tantalizingly close to the ground.

A rough stage had been constructed in one corner of the field, and a good number of musicians were practicing while others set up the sound system and speakers. A solar battery soaked up the increasing sunshine, and even the silly "testing, testing" sounded cheerful and bright.

By noon, the smell of the roasting meat and bubbling pots of beans and other succulent edibles was driving them all mad with hunger and, none too soon, the first caravans began to pull in off the road. Old friends greeted each other with hearty shouts and back slapping, while the new folks were met with joy and courtesy by Roger, Betty and various council members. Introductions were still going on when the bell was sounded and the cooks were nearly run down by their hungry neighbors and guests alike.

Two days of trading, talking, bragging, contests and games, a real wild west rodeo and enough food and drink to satisfy everyone followed. The nights rang with music, laughter and talk rather than wolf song, and the only rifle fire heard came from the target matches. There had been some talk about splitting the thing into a women's and men's match, but after one look at the ladies, it was never mentioned again. Everyone enjoyed the shooting, and there probably wasn't one of them that hadn't learned something in the process.

A council meeting was called for the last evening. The traders had asked for this especially because they had a proposal to make. There were 5 separate outfits represented, and they had chosen Daniel Black as their spokesperson for the evening. He owned the best known trader company, and fielded the largest number of vehicles and people all over the west. Cheers and greetings were heard from the crowd as he stepped up onto the stage and accepted the microphone.

"It has sure been a great pleasure to be with all of you," he began, pausing to sip the last drops from a tall glass. "Gatherings like this can't help but build our communities and encourage trade, so I hope other towns will consider doing the same in the years to come."

He had to wait while hundreds of people clapped and shouted agreement. Then, raising his hands for quiet, he continued. "We've been through a terrible time, and there are more terrible times to come, so we need to communicate and cooperate in order to rebuild our society. I don't think anyone here has any desire to go back to the police state insanity that brought on the crash, but we're going to have to be very careful that doesn't sneak up on us again."

Murmurs and conversations broke out for a few moments, and then subsided as he went on.

"Gatherings like this, and the success of communities like Bradshaw Ranch, prove that human beings can live in peace and prosperity together without politicians or rulers of any kind as long as we each maintain personal responsibility for ourselves and our families. We must always be on guard against those who would plunder us for their own ends, as has happened throughout history. We have an opportunity to live free and achieve more than any people or generation before us. All we need is the guts and determination to make that happen."

Cheers and whistles greeted this, and most of the crowd wandered off to begin packing for their journey on the morrow. Daniel stayed, however, and joined the council members around a dying fire. They watched a sudden display of shooting stars and, with growing awe, the northern lights that formed a majestic backdrop for them.

"What a magnificent ending to this wonderful week," Daniel said, rubbing his stubby beard. I hope it will inspire you to consider favorably my proposal. We have been wintering here and there as we could for the last few years, but more and more find that we desire a place where we can build our own homes." Looking at Roger he said, "You have talked often about not having enough people here, so we hope you might be willing to allow us enough room to build a base of operation and permanent homes for our families."

None of the council members could hide their smiles or enthusiasm for this proposal, and nobody even tried. None of them could even think of a down side to it. The availability of the East Valley had not been lost on Daniel or his people from the beginning, and so it was soon set that they would come back in the spring to begin building there.

Roger had no doubts that these hardy, disciplined and prolific people would make a complete success of their settlement and that everyone would benefit.

A lone wolf howled in the distance as Betty and Roger walked hand in hand toward their home. The cry of the wolf was a challenge and a warning. Liberty and prosperity required eternal vigilance. The consequence of failure would invariably be death and destruction.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: hangman on June 30, 2010, 05:10:34 pm
Very nice story line Mama. Looks like help coming.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on July 01, 2010, 05:21:04 am
Maybe.  What kind of trade goods do the traders have, and how good are they when it comes to origins.  Several communities dropped of the radio net, why?  The traders managed to survive, but how?  Sometimes one mans trader is another man's raider, look at the reniasance/new world eras.  Rais the spanish, trade the goods to the english/french, or any other leg of that triangle.........

I would expect to know the traders for several visits before being too enthusiastic about a new set of neighbors.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 01, 2010, 07:19:29 am
Maybe.  What kind of trade goods do the traders have, and how good are they when it comes to origins. 

I think I described clearly what the "ranch" people had to offer, but may need to expand on what the traders bring in. It was referred to several times as things that the ranch people couldn't manufacture - such as coffee, sugar, salt, needles, thread, fuel, stuff like that. Don't really understand what you mean by "origins." The traders are going all over the country where they can, picking up all sorts of things. Under the circumstances, I very much doubt anyone is going to be concerned that the needles were manufactured in China before the crash. They'll just be damned glad to have needles!

Quote
Several communities dropped of the radio net, why?

Who knows? I don't. Some may have just had too much else to do just surviving, and some may have lost the ability to produce enough electricity. As with other mysteries, some of these answers my show up later. :) And remember the solar storm that knocked out radios in a wide swath once. Many may have been damaged beyond the ability of the survivors to repair or keep repaired.

Quote
The traders managed to survive, but how? 

Obviously by being smart and having enough manpower to protect themselves from raiders. And, just as obvious, they were not "traders" before the crash. They survived somehow, where they were, and decided that being traders was a good idea under the new circumstances. Will have to explore covering this in their conversation with the ranch council.

Quote
Sometimes one mans trader is another man's raider, look at the reniasance/new world eras.  Rais the spanish, trade the goods to the english/french, or any other leg of that triangle.........

Sure, and each person and community would have to be wary of such... and take responsibility for their own defense.

Quote
I would expect to know the traders for several visits before being too enthusiastic about a new set of neighbors.

I thought it was pretty obvious that these traders had been coming around for at least two years. Can probably make that clearer.

Thanks SO MUCH for your input. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on July 02, 2010, 05:21:21 am
Okay- I tend to be a paranoid SOB.......
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 02, 2010, 05:59:46 am
Okay- I tend to be a paranoid SOB.......

LOL!!! Somehow, your comments stimulated the ghost, and the new chapter is all about your concerns re the traders. I thought it was going somewhere else... but I just never know. Thanks again. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on July 02, 2010, 07:03:50 am
Somehow, your comments stimulated the ghost,
Who knew that you could tickle a ghost's fancy. Learn something new every day. I'm looking forward to more.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 02, 2010, 04:08:17 pm
Eternal Vigilance

Evan, just 16, slipped quietly away from his family's cabin as the last of the sunset faded from the sky. He was excited to have finally gotten away without being noticed, and eagerly anticipated meeting his friends out beyond the old barn. Someone had said they'd stolen a small keg of beer, and another had bragged he had something good to smoke.

He didn't give a thought to his mother's warning that he was courting trouble, or that some of his friends were taking foolish chances. He didn't want to hear caution or wisdom or anything but the beat of his young blood and the sound of his own drummer. He was all set to fulfill the old maxim that good judgment is mostly a matter of surviving a lot of bad judgment.

Slipping into the gathering quietly, Evan soon realized that few of his friends were present.  Most of these men had come with the traders last year, along with a few drifters that had been taken in last winter, since extra hands were almost always welcome for the unending toil of building their town and getting the necessary work done to feed them all.

He took a mug of beer without qualm, but didn't like the smell of the fat, untidy cigar that was being passed around and handed it to the next person without a pause.

Two of the older men obviously had set themselves up as the "boss" and his second. Some, mostly the younger ones, were actually deferring to them in a manner Evan found disgusting, but he didn't want to give it any thought. The beer was good, and he didn't have any interest in being a toady to anyone, so he figured it didn't affect him.

But soon he realized that most of the conversation was composed of dirty jokes and increasingly vicious slander against Bradshaw and the town. Making an effort to listen more closely through the buzz of the alcohol, Evan soon decided that he didn't like what was going on, but he wasn't really sure just how to extricate himself.

He was glad he'd remained on the edge of the group, and decided to pretend to be drunk. Laying down behind a hay bale, he imitated a soft snore and was gratified to hear the two men who had been closest to him laughing about the kid who couldn't hold his liquor. They moved off, but just as Evan had decided to leave, it occurred to him that he should really listen as long as he could. He hadn't yet formed the idea of telling anyone about what he learned, just had always been one who liked to "know" and often heard more than he was meant to.

The moon rose, and the wolf song in the distant foothills reminded everyone that fall would come soon. The air got cool, and Evan almost fell asleep before he began to hear the real meat of the older men's discussion.

"You as tired as I am of all this goody council stuff and them working us to the bone day in and day out?" Simon, the "boss," was supposedly speaking to his friend, but most of the others gave grunts or words of agreement. "We should just up and take our share and get out of here," he continued.

A few wondered what their "share" might be and, more important, how they would get away if they got their hands on it. This broke down into half a dozen separate conversations, but Simon thumped on a log for their attention. Only a few even thought to consider just where they might go with this loot. Not one of them gave a thought to the fact that they might easily die in the coming winter without the solid backing of a well provisioned community.

The "boss" spoke ever more quietly, and Evan couldn't hear much, but he got the impression that this gang would soon decide on what they would take and how to go about it. He didn't think he needed to stick around any longer, so he very carefully crawled to the far corner of the barn, and then around to the open door. After a long pause to catch his breath and look for any sign of someone watching him, he rose to his feet and softly walked away toward the town.

Suddenly, a very strong, hairy arm grabbed his neck from the back. Stepping back, into the attack as he'd been taught, his elbow connected with the man's solar plexus and he went down without a sound. Turning, he saw his attacker on the ground, breathless and in a daze. He was about to continue to the HQ when a small figure sprang from the dark and hit the man over the head with a stout branch.

Blood spurted everywhere, and Donald was instantly covered with it. His face remained resolute, but he was obviously shocked at the results of his impetuous action. "I thought he was going to kill you!" he said, and tossed the branch aside.

"Come on!" Evan whispered frantically, "We've got to warn Mr. Bradshaw and Dad. Putting words into action, he grabbed his brother's arm and they both dashed down the path. "You go wake Dad," Evan commanded, "I'll get Mr. Bradshaw and the sheriff.

Donald vanished into the gloom between the buildings just as Evan began to pound on the HQ side door that led to the Bradshaw quarters. A light came on instantly, and he was glad to see that Mutt was there too. They urged him to get his breathing under control, and then listened carefully to everything he said without any interruption.

Mutt spoke quietly into the hand held radio, and nodded to Roger as he went out. Charlie arrived a few moments later and, after indulging in one "I'll speak to you later" look at Evan, departed to join his militia company. 

Roger thanked the young man for the information, and then suggested he might want to go home and reassure his mother since Donald's bloody condition was apt to have upset her. Evan just nodded and went out, briefly thinking about his father's probable reaction... but mostly processing a lot of other things like his growing rebellion - previously justified as just being independent - and how all that was apt to relate to his application for adult status. He hadn't really given it much thought before, and now he was worried.

Donald was already in bed when Evan came in, and he was glad that his mother didn't say anything except suggest he follow suit after she heard a little of his adventures. He had expected tears or scolding, and was humbled by her warm hug and look of patient understanding as he followed his little brother into the loft where they slept.
*****

Mutt and the militia had called on sheriff Richard to help round up the malcontents that night. The man who had been hit was gone, but the trail of blood led them to a corner of the old barn and a stranger who had a heck of a headache. He was in no condition to resist, and only a few of the others managed to slip away. Mutt and Richard conferred on the best way to contain the men, and decided just to take their names and descriptions before letting them go. They could not determine who had stolen the beer, and the only other actual crime committed had been the attack on Evan, so the bloody stranger was the only one locked in an empty shed for the rest of the night.

The news passed quickly through the community and soon came word that a special shareholder's meeting was to be held late that afternoon. All of the men who had been apprehended behind the barn were asked to attend and informed that failure to appear would result in automatic expulsion from the community. Some of the older men packed their personal property and left with Simon in his dilapidated old pickup after they were warned never to return for any reason.

Roger had communicated by radio with Daniel in East Valley. He had agreed to come to the meeting because his people were involved. Mutt had spread the word to all of the other towns around about the undesirables that might be headed their way.

The sound system was set up on the stage at the fairgrounds, the old hay field used for various community functions. There was not a single building large enough to contain even a third of the community now, so everyone was glad that the mild weather was holding.

The council president called them to order, and offered the traditional moment of silence, then gave the microphone to the sheriff. He gave a good summary of the situation and then called Evan and his brother to tell their stories.

Evan was horrified at first, and only a stern look from his father brought him to his feet. But as he mounted the steps to the stage, he realized that this was part of being an adult and he knew that he would never hide behind his family again. He'd waited all day for his father to explode, but nothing had been said - which made it worse. Charlie couldn't have said anything he hadn't said to himself already.

Glossing over his reasons for attending the clandestine gathering, he clearly stated what he had heard, and then all about the attack as he was leaving. He said he knew that Donald had struck a man who was down, but he hoped it could be overlooked because the boy had thought his brother was still in danger.

There were a few questions from sheriff Richard about small details, and one from a council member. Unasked, Evan apologized for his original participation in the ugly affair, and promised to devote the rest of his life to being a responsible member of the community.  Looking at his father just then, Evan was surprised to see the little half smile that marked occasions when he'd especially pleased his parents. He stood up tall then and marched down the steps with a new assertive stride, so unlike the slouched and bored disdain he'd imitated before. Evan didn't realize the change... but it was not lost on anyone else.

With the encouragement of his father and his old friend Bill, Donald then went up and told his story. Over the last few years he'd gotten more comfortable talking to other people, but seeing this many in front of him was almost paralyzing. His big brother had impressed him with his new found maturity, however, and for almost the first time in his life Donald wanted to be just like him. So, he stood up straight and told his story, his young voice breaking as he frankly described his anger and fear when the man had grabbed his brother. Roger questioned him gently and briefly, seeking to make sure the young man knew the difference between defensive action and aggression. Satisfied, he and Bill watched with pride as Donald walked down the steps, doing his best to imitate Evan. Charlie hugged Cathy, and they both displayed suitably modest grins.

Randy, the stranger who had attacked Evan, was brought forward and invited to tell his story. He stood there and glared at Richard and then at the council. "You all think you're so hot," he sneered. "Well, me and the rest of the boys won't forget this little caper."

When it was clear he had no intention of participating honestly, he was removed from the stage to be held in custody by the sheriff. After a sincere discussion of the options, a poll was taken of the shareholders. Banishment or execution were the only options, and they all knew it had to be unanimous. It took four votes, but in the end he was banished and warned never to return.

Then he was turned loose. His surprise was evident, but it didn't take him long to realize that every hand was potentially against him here. He would receive fair treatment, but nobody would have anything more to do with him and they would not hesitate to kill him if he threatened anyone else.

The three young men who belonged to the Bradshaw Ranch community were judged next. They all made abject apologies to everyone and vowed never to participate in such an underhanded affair again. The council took the vote, and all were reinstated. But the boys knew they would be watched for quite a while so it was a seriously sobering experience.

The other six followed Randy's pattern and either sneered or made threats. Only one vote was necessary for the shareholders to expel them all from the community.

A difficulty arose because none of the men had any transportation. Some had come in with Simon, and others with the traders, but none of them had any way to go anywhere else. The council discussed the fact that sending them away on foot might well be a death sentence, especially this late in the year. They also didn't like the idea of these malcontents hanging around the area, but nobody could come up with a better idea.

Daniel stood and raised his hand for recognition and the council was glad to hear what he might propose. Jumping up on the stage, he took the microphone and paused to organize his thoughts.

"I feel terrible that this happened, and partly responsible because some of my employees were involved. I never saw this Randy before, but I know his type and it would be a very bad idea to have him lurking around all winter. While they can obviously choose to just walk away from here, I offer to take them with me south. I have one more trip to make and they can work for me for the transport. Then I can leave them where they at least won't freeze this winter. It will be up to them to find another community or make it on their own."

The council and shareholders were grateful for this solution. The expelled men didn't seem to be appreciating it much, though they all agreed to it in the end. None of them were stupid enough to think they could face a Wyoming winter on foot, on their own.

As Richard left the fairgrounds with Mutt and the others, his thoughts turned to speculation on possible future mischief from Simon and his cohorts. They'd have to keep their eyes peeled, for sure.
****

The winter solstice came with a brief snowstorm in the early morning, and then the sun shown brightly on the fresh blanket of soft snow all over town. This was the second annual "Turning day," where young people were formally accepted into the community as adults. All of the votes had been counted long ago, and while there had been some anxiety by one candidate in the beginning, all nine of the young men and women had finally been accepted. Today they would be recognized by the community and make statements if they chose to do so.

Since there was no building large enough to hold them all now, the snow had been scraped from the fairgrounds and a large fire laid in the center of the field beyond the stage. The ceremony would not take long, and nobody wanted to miss it, so nearly every living soul in the community braved the cold and were soon assembled.

Just after noon the nine candidates stood on the stage with their parents or guardians, suffering the cheers, jokes and teasing of both peers and elders with varying degrees of embarrassment or feigned aplomb. As rites of passage go it was a benign and joyful occasion, and none of them would have had it any other way.

As was the custom, most of them spoke briefly about their plans for the future, and one couple announced their engagement. Shouts, cheers and good natured laughter greeted each speech, and none of the new adults had any doubt that they were accepted and treasured by the community.

After the ceremony, those involved went home to their personal celebrations and everyone else got back to work. Before they left the stage, Charlie had held out his open hand to his eldest son in the ancient traditional gesture of equals. One adult to another, they solemnly shook hands and then engulfed each other in a family hug. Charlie was a little shocked to realize that his son was now a bit taller than he was.

Donald had pretty much gone back to being just Donald, but he watched his big brother with renewed respect and love. He wasn't thinking about all the growing up he still had to do to reach his own "Turning day." His thoughts were of his latest experiments and the new place in the woods he'd found for his private musings and play. He would not be allowed to go there again until spring and the departure of the wolves, but that didn't discourage his active mind from making plans.

Cathy and Charlie walked toward their cabin hand in hand, as on so many other occasions. They joined with Jeff, Maria and many others in celebration of this vital milestone of their new life.

Evan trailed behind the rest of them, casting brief glances at a girl named Margaret in another group. "I wonder how I can get to talk to her," he mused.

Margaret was aware of the glances and smiled to herself. "I wonder how long before he talks to me," she whispered to her sister.

They laughed and hurried toward their cabin, eager for the fire and an opportunity to talk about the boys... as their ancestors had done since the dawn of time.

[Don't know if there will be any more right now. This might be a good place to quit, but we'll see what the ghost wants to do tomorrow. "I" have some ideas, but they've not done me any good before, so who knows? LOL]
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 07, 2010, 03:16:57 pm
New Beginnings

Betty woke to another day, unusually tired. She wasn't sleeping well, and she had been irritable for days now. Roger's place in the big log bed was empty, as usual these days. He had gone through a period of self doubt and adjustment as the community grew, but had now pretty much returned to normal. She wished she could do that.

Her mother had experienced an early menopause, and Betty was terrified that she was about to go through the same thing. Only 46, she dreaded the hot flashes and mood swings sure to come. The prospect of dealing with all that, probably for years, in the face of all her work and responsibility in the ranch community made her cringe and want to hide beneath the covers, but she resolutely put them aside and got up to start her day.

Lauri and her team were busy in the old community kitchen. The school was putting on a parent's night and they'd decided to have a pot luck supper along with it, so much of the cooking and baking were being done early. Many of the original settlers missed the old community meals and took every opportunity to get together like this.

Pacing with a cup of tea, Betty looked out the big east windows of the dining room at the falling snow. This February wasn't as brutal as the last two had been, but they would have more than sufficient snow pack for a good water supply, and the wolves had not been nearly such a problem this winter.

Suddenly somewhat nauseated, she dumped the rest of the tea and headed for the radio room. She had put herself back on the regular duty roster last fall when one of the girls who usually worked the radio had been sick. She'd realized she missed talking to all the other communities, so had stayed on the list.

Sitting at the radio, she went through the notes of the previous shift and scribbled some of her own as she talked to her assigned frequencies. There was no particular news, and everyone was as anxious as she for the spring to come - as always. She reached for a new pen and, not getting a good grasp on it, dropped it. When she bent over to retrieve it, she threw up the little tea she had swallowed earlier.
.
Roger happened to enter the room at the same time, and he rushed to her aid. "What's the matter?" he said.

"I don't know," she replied. "I'm just feeling crappy."

"Let's get you over to see the doc, honey," he insisted. And this time she didn't protest or argue - which worried him even more.

Betty endured the thorough examination and the worried look on Roger's face when they came out of the examining room. Rachel, the doctor, sat down at her desk and briefly reviewed her notes.

"From what you tell me, Betty, there is a faint possibility of menopause onset, but I'll lay my bets on something quite different. In my professional opinion - absent all the tests we used to have - you are about 3 to 6 weeks pregnant."

Absolute stunned silence reigned for at least a full minute. Roger had been holding Betty's hand and he suddenly realized he was holding on too hard so he tried to let go. Betty had gone rigid, then limp, but clung to his hand as if it were a life line. They both looked at the doctor as if they'd seen a ghost.

Rachel smiled, then suggested that Betty consult with the herbalist about something to control the nausea, assuring her that it was most likely temporary. "Simple morning sickness," she said.

Thanking her, they left hand in hand and went back to their room where they could speak privately. If Rachel was right, they would have a great many adjustments to make. Roger was torn between the wildest joy and terrible fear for Betty. He knew that a first child at her age was not either comfortable or particularly safe - and not safe for the baby either. They discussed the potential for Down's Syndrome and other things, then explored the changes that would have to be made in their living arrangements. Neither one even mentioned the idea that Rachel had been wrong. They knew in their hearts that she was right, however improbably it might be.
*****

That spring brought an absolute orgy of building and changes. A new home was started across the street from the original headquarters, which was soon almost gutted and the scene of massive remodeling. With walls removed and heavy columns installed to support the roof, the bulk of the old HQ was turned into a very large room that would serve as both meeting and dining room. The kitchen was expanded, and an addition went up to house the radio equipment and, hopefully, someday the computer.

Roger and Betty moved into their new home from temporary quarters in an old cabin as spring ended. The new place wasn't really very large, but it had a wide porch around three sides and they had been careful to leave a few mature trees at suitable places around it. Two bedrooms and an extra room for storage were a luxury Betty hadn't even dreamed of since the original conversion of their former home, and she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of both love and material gifts from the people of the community.

The beautiful pine floors were dotted with colorful home made rugs, and each window was delightfully draped with home woven fabric. Hand crafted furniture graced every room. Two easy chairs had been fashioned and covered with glowing leather. There were boxes of things she hadn't even had time to unpack, including a large number of baby garments, blankets and so much more that she would need.

Betty complained about not being allowed to lift or do much, but would not hear of giving up her shift at the radio. She convinced them, rightly, that she needed that activity and involvement now as much as ever.

For the first three months, Roger nearly wore himself out rushing back and forth between various projects and his wife's side, until she finally convinced him that she was doing well and he was being silly. She had only to ask, and any number of her neighbors would have done anything they possibly could to help her or give her company. She'd never felt so well loved.

Spring slid into summer and everyone was busy as usual with the farming, animals and building projects. The traders made their regular treks, and people went back and forth between Bradshaw town and East Valley. Half a dozen weddings were performed, and twice as many new infants as usual were welcomed into the community. There was talk of building a church, but the new school was chosen as a priority. The contributions for the school were sufficient to build, furnish and supply it for at least a full year and the teachers moved in gratefully. The previous building was given over to the growing medical community and remodeled into a clinic and hospital. The former meeting room was divided into offices for the various doctors, midwives, herbalists and other health practitioners. Betty's original dream of having a birthing center there became a reality.

The apprentice program was working wonderfully, and there were usually more positions available than young people to fill them. They had recruited so much from other communities that many of them started their own programs in order to keep their children at home. The rivalry was friendly, but serious, especially with the East Valley which was rapidly growing and might soon overtake the ranch in population numbers.

The council met regularly, but real problems were few because people worked out their differences privately or with arbitrators. Richard resigned as sheriff, to be effective that fall. He'd had so little to do that he wanted to go back to full time construction work. Nobody else was nominated, and the office would remain vacant unless another need for it arose.

The militia continued to meet and train, but their numbers had dropped off significantly in the last year as well. Mutt and his closest friends continued to patrol at night, and knew that many others would respond immediately if either wolves or goblins became a hazard again.
****

The old gray gelding leaned against the fence and watched the children leading the rapidly growing foals around the main pasture. He was fully retired now, having been injured in a wolf attack the winter before. The injury healed, but he was not judged sound enough to ride. Nobody would have dared suggest that he be put down, however, and Roger was not apt to ever forget that he had saved David's life.

Donald was part of the growing group of youngsters who worked for Bill after school and during other spare time. They were responsible for handling the foals and getting them halter broken. This was a tremendous service to the men who would later train them, and also to the foals because it reduced their stress and potential injury during training. Properly handled and cared for, they would have little or no fear of the men or the harness they would be required to carry when the time came.

The sun was dipping deeply into the west on a glorious summer day as the last of the foals were groomed and turned loose into their own special pasture to squeal and nip at each other over the grain ration. Donald lingered just a few moments to watch them, hoping that Bill might come out of the barn in time to walk with him back to the house. He loved any excuse to visit Bill and Linda, and to play big brother to the two pink and gold little girls.

Eventually, that hope died and he began the walk to town, tempted to go the long way around the new school so he could stop in to see his brother Evan, and Margaret his new wife. Seeing that the sun was lower than he'd thought, and knowing his mother would be anxious if he didn't come home on time for dinner, he decided against it. Swinging into an easy stride, he loped for home and came up onto the porch only slightly winded. He loved to run now, and was mostly unconscious of his growing stature and stamina. He was becoming an exceptionally well made young man.

Hope, now a precocious four year old, ambushed her brother and squealed with delight as he tickled her. Then, quickly going to wash up, he hugged his mother and grinned at his father as he slid into his place. It still seemed really strange not to see Evan at the table. Cathy smiled at all of them and settled the kettle of stew in the center of the table, then began to dish it out.

Next door, Maria was getting her children settled around the table for their evening meal. Boosting Elizabeth into her special chair, she called the other two children again. Angel didn't want to stop playing with the old dog, and Sean was jealous because he considered the dog to be his own special property. They fought like any siblings, and Maria could only be glad that Angel had become a very normal little girl, in spite of all the trauma she had lived through. At seven, she was becoming more and more independent and willful, but Maria could only see that as a good thing. She knew it worried Jeff sometimes, but his love for them all never wavered.

Down the street, just past the oldest storage building, Lauri and her dog wearily made their way toward her cabin near the center of town. She smiled to think that it had once been on the very edge, near the main road, but now she could see the twinkling lights of all the new houses and mobile homes that had been built or brought in over the last few years. They stretched out to the base of the foothills on the north, and around the bend in the road to the east and almost to the farms on the west. The broken land to the south was safe from building, she supposed, but time would tell. She thought they might have a thousand people in the town now.

Her new husband opened the door as she mounted the porch, and he smiled a quiet greeting as she described the fish she had caught that day. Bob was blind, and seldom ventured out of the house, but he was very interested in all the people and goings on in the town. His work room was always busy as people brought him things to be repaired or picked up completed jobs, and many stayed a while to watch his patient work using only the touch of his hands to "see" and fix the problems. His two busy apprentices kept things moving smoothly, and they had become almost like sons to the older couple.

Lauri hugged him as she went out to the kitchen and put the fish in a hot pan to fry for their supper. Bob had harvested some squash and snap beans from their little garden, so she set them to steam with some new potatoes and then set the table. The dog looked out from behind the wood box, taking in the good smells, but knowing he was not allowed to beg.

Bill and Linda worked together effortlessly after such long practice, and both girls were fed and put to bed in record time. Later, sitting out on the porch in the cooling evening air, Linda gave her husband the wonderful news that the girls would have a brother or sister before spring, and he was as happy as she could have wished. She wouldn't have traded her daughters for anything, but hoped she would have a single boy this time. Another set of twins would be too much.

Richard and Deborah watched their sturdy son, Adam, play on the floor with the big cloth "emapunt" he had been given for his birthday. He was especially intrigued by the long trunk and big floppy ears, and jealously guarded his treasure from the puppy that would have loved to chew on it. The stuffed elephant had been intended to help keep the youngster from playing too rough with the puppy, and Deb was very glad to see that it had worked even better than she hoped.

Eventually, Adam drifted off to sleep with his head cradled on the toy, and Deb gently bundled him into bed with it. The puppy curled up on the rug to wait patiently for its young master to resume their play.

And so it went, from house to house, all over the valley. People going about their everyday lives in peace and plenty. The farms were prosperous and well managed, livestock healthy and prolific, and children grew in both stature and character without any "authority" over them except that of their loving parents and cooperation from the community.

Fall came with the usual increased pace of harvest, canning and drying, hunting and slaughtering, moving the livestock down from the mountains, and all the other normal preparations for the coming winter. A late September morning also brought the start of labor contractions to Betty, and she was taken to the birthing center by a very worried husband.

The last month had been very hard on her, with swelling in her legs and feet the most troubling, but not the most serious. Her blood pressure had been much too high a few times, and the midwife had been grateful for the help of the herbalist and the old doctor as well. They were anxious to get her delivered, both for her sake and that of the infant.

Everyone in town was aware of the unfolding drama, and many prayers were offered for a safe and happy outcome. Many lingered as long as they could in front of the clinic building, grateful for the occasional progress reports from one of the young medics in training. Maria sat with her, taking turns with Roger holding her hands and moping her brow as the hours wore on.

A vigil was kept through the night. So many people who's lives had been touched directly by Betty's love and hard work stayed to watch, and many silent prayers were offered for the well being of both mother and child.

Then, just as the light began to creep over the eastern hills, a sleepy young man came out to let them know that the Bradshaws had a beautiful, strong son and Betty was doing well. The vigil became a joyful flutter as they scattered to spread the news all over town.

Mutt drew a cup of "the brew" from a pot on the stove and asked Jeff, "Did you hear what they're going to call him?" Jeff nodded and said, "William Robert, I think. That's both of their father's names and a good tradition."
*******

Thus ends the story - my story, but not the dream - my dream of a free society. I think there will be many different dreams and plans carried out, and no one of them will suit everyone. Just as there are many hundreds of different personalities and philosophies, there will have to be many different societies to provide the community they need. And there will always be a few who prefer the lonesome life of hermits, as well as misfits who only wish to prey on others. Utopia is not an option.

And remember, every choice and action has consequences.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on July 07, 2010, 04:02:37 pm
Good story Mama!  And a good vision.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 07, 2010, 04:21:06 pm
Good story Mama!  And a good vision.

Thanks! I almost feel as if I've given birth. Now to go through it and edit. I think I have a publisher. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on July 07, 2010, 04:33:09 pm
Good story Mama!  And a good vision.

Thanks! I almost feel as if I've given birth. Now to go through it and edit. I think I have a publisher. :)

I know the feeling.  I felt that way after I finished my book in November.  Now I have to update it to account for all of the Medicare changes.  :huh:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Tahn L. on July 07, 2010, 05:27:27 pm
A fine story and well told, holding the promise of hope for us all and mankind. Thanks MamaLiberty!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on July 08, 2010, 07:29:14 am
I sure hate to see the saga end! It has been a great story left on a positive and hopeful note for the future.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 08, 2010, 08:06:52 am
I plan to edit and revise it where necessary, then see if I can get it published.

But don't worry... the ghost has already indicated that a new story is brewing.  This community will be revisited five or ten years into the future.  We've often said that setting up such a community would be difficult at best, but that the real test of it would be how it endured, changed, adjusted to new conditions. It will be interesting to see what happens. At this point, I have NO idea. :)

So, stay tuned. I think I'll start a new thread with the next one, however.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: coloradohermit on July 08, 2010, 12:38:41 pm
But don't worry... the ghost has already indicated that a new story is brewing. 
(http://www.timebomb2000.com/vb/images/smilies/pinkelephant.gif)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on July 18, 2010, 10:52:45 am
Not quite done with the first chapter, but I'm working on it. Trying to divide the time between editing the last story, writing the new and all the other stuff I fill my life with. Had to take a whole day out to write a comprehensive range safety plan for a shooting event next week. Was asked to be the Chief RSO at the last minute!

I need this danged ghost to become a fully functional clone! Then we could get somewhere. LOL

Just thought I'd let you know that I've not forgotten all of you. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on December 20, 2010, 02:23:56 pm
Update... Final edit of the first book is in the can and I have a publisher. Just working out the details. Not sure I want to do all that, but we'll see.

Excerpts from what he sent to me:

"Our mission now is to reach non-gun owners. I will coach for free anyone of
good faith and freedom interest to get the word outside the liberty
community and to gain ever-increasing acceptance of second amendment values.

We have a long way to go, what with an international treaty looming and
other forces about ready to negate our recent court wins.

We need to win in the realm of public opinion and gain greater prominence in
libertarian, conservative and independent adults as well as Congress.

Talkradio appearances would not be for the purpose of selling a novel, but
for educating the listeners and breaking out of the gravitational pull of
the liberty community.

Speaking circuit would do the same. (You could also make some bucks in
speaking fees.)

I always urge writers to aim their content not at each other where they find
an automatic readership, but accept the challenge of writing for non-gun
owners for the purpose of involving them in their own self-rule.

 I work outside the
liberty community every chance I get. <snip> If I index the headline right, I'll get picked up by mainstream
websites. A lot of gunnies have a built-in audience and readership, but when
we preach to the choir (and sell books to each other) we accomplish little.]

<snip>The idea is to
go mainstream even though you have super connections among colleagues.

We need you every place BUT the liberty community... "

What do you think?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on December 20, 2010, 05:51:17 pm
He's right.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on December 21, 2010, 07:38:24 am
We'll see. Sounds like more than a full time job to me. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: iloilo on December 21, 2010, 09:03:39 am
Well, heck, I am just excited to be able to get the book!
Please keep us updated on all progress toward the day we can hold it in our hands!
Wonderful!
ff
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on December 21, 2010, 09:14:43 am
Well, heck, I am just excited to be able to get the book!
Please keep us updated on all progress toward the day we can hold it in our hands!
Wonderful!
ff

Well, the dead tree version may be a year away, but I've got an idea. :) My publisher wants me to get at least 6 or 7 people to read the book and send me a review that could be used on the jacket/cover and for publicity.

I'd love to send the pdf of the book to you. Just let me know.

Starting chapter 5 of the sequel today. This one isn't going anywhere nearly as fast as the first one, but it seems to have  more depth of liberty education content. We'll see. I'm going to work hard to keep it an entertaining story instead of just a rant or scold on libertarianism.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Docliberty on December 21, 2010, 09:34:10 am
ME Too?
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on December 21, 2010, 09:38:59 am
ME Too?

You bet. Send a PM with the email address you'd like it delivered to. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: iloilo on December 21, 2010, 09:57:28 am
ML, I'd be honored.
And,  it will just in time for the holidays, to give me a good reason to sit around and read for a few minutes each day!  Woo Hoo!
If you send a pdf, may I print it out and make any notes in the margins for you, beyond writing a review?

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. :laugh:   A new book to read!
ff
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on December 21, 2010, 10:20:51 am
ML, I'd be honored.
And,  it will just in time for the holidays, to give me a good reason to sit around and read for a few minutes each day!  Woo Hoo!
If you send a pdf, may I print it out and make any notes in the margins for you, beyond writing a review?

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. :laugh:   A new book to read!
ff

Absolutely! You have several email addresses, I know. Send a PM with the one you want me to use and I'll shoot that out to you today. About to leave here for a sudden trip to the city with friends, but I'll be back early. Supposed to snow again tomorrow, and we don't go out on the road then. :)

Anyone else want to write a review for me? Send a PM with an email and I'll get it to you.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Moonbeam on March 04, 2011, 04:46:06 pm
Holy Schnikes! I cannot believe I didn’t read this until yesterday! Can I just say: r   i   v   e   t   i   n   g…

There were a couple of sentences that really jumped out at me:

* Page 1: “Like hyaenas, the bandits had destroyed more than they used.”

I thought this summed it up succinctly how almost everyone knows someone like this…

* I knew as soon as Jeff went to help Maria out of the backseat that they would end up together! Not because your writing is necessarily predictable, but because that's what I was really hoping for – and you made it happen (I love it when authors do that!) *big, cheesy grin*

* Page 6: "Jake sat down heavily and clapped the hat to his head until he remembered he was indoors and took it off again."

Though this was a simple sentence, it just reminded me of an honest man doing something courteous in the midst of harsh times…

* Page (?): "The 20th century tyranny had not been able to kill the old pioneer blood after all."

Triumph!

* Page 7: "The entire place stank of blood, burned cloth and wool - and increasingly - the ugly smells of careless, dirty human beings."

Such a visual without having to go into great (or horrific detail)…

* Page 8: [George is speaking] "Unfortunately, the good citizens were not as well armed or trained, so even as they thinned the ranks of the soldiers and goblins, the carnage was incredible. I heard tales that many of the police and sheriff's officers did all they could and took very heavy losses, but if the ordinary people had not been so well armed none might have survived. I'm sure it will be no surprise to learn that more people died in the cities and places where guns were not commonly kept. I hope that's a lesson we never lose."

I thought this was a good summary for the “unprepared” without being too preachy…

* Page 9: The tired horse that had been his salvation trotted wearily behind them, no doubt thinking horsy thoughts of his own warm stall.

Aw, I just like the idea of “horsy thoughts!”

* I loved that Bill was rewarded for his humbleness! A wonderful wife and being on the ranch council. And Linda having twins tickled me, of course!! (Yes, I realize it wasn’t for my benefit!)

The Pioneer Spirit reminded me of the Little House series. I hope you aren’t offended by that. I am positively fond of that reading experience. I loved reading about how they did things, and the moments that challenged them. I also love that in the midst if despair and heartache there was love and generosity. So I compare your story in that regard…

I hope you do not think I am being critical, however, there were a few things I wanted to inquire about.

* On Page 5: “Cathy, having had two children before was calm and stoic.” [Giving birth to Hope]

I had assumed that this was her fourth delivery? She already had two boys, and one girl who died?

* On Page 7: Maria’s niece was referred to as both Angela and Angel. I’m sure your editing caught this along with Bert and Burt being interchanged…

* I may have missed it so please forgive me… I wanted to see Mutt have a good wife :)

* I wonder if you would consider bumping the age from 30 to 35 (might even be able to get away with 40) when Betty is reflecting on not having children? It has been my experience that 35 is the arbitrary (but oh so Magical!) age the medical community uses for high-risk pregnancies. Since this story is set in “modern times” and a lot more women are waiting to marry and have children, 30 might seem a throw back to yesteryear, KWIM?

* It might be too tedious - or boring for some, but I would like to know more details on things (a reflection of me not you). For example, how did they store the meat they hunted? Did they build latrines? If this is to be a story to educate the ignorant, such as I, or awaken the brain then it might be useful information...

* Being a girl (really!) I tend to want the “girly” details - sometimes agonizingly so (or to the agony of others!). I'm curious about the cabins and mobile homes and soddies. And the main kitchen - how was it set up and/or operated? Maybe there could be a brief conversation among some of the women as they take a break from their KP or while they work that provides more insight. I am glad you touched on some details for Betty's new place :)

* Will there be more to the prologue? Like what made them turn Roger's ranch into a gulch in the first place? And how did the original group form? What kind of things did they do to prepare? If this novel is to reach the “unprepared” it sounds like Cathy’s pre-crash life might be relatable to many women…

* I also wanted some of the more suspenseful scenes drawn out. For example, I really wanted some nail-biting moments when Bert and John were on their mission. I was expecting (my imagination – not a reflection on you!) them to almost run into personnel in the secret lair…

I realize that writing can be like filling a jar with rocks; then you go back and fill it with gravel; and finally some sand. So I hope you aren’t exasperated with me! I stayed up until the wee hours finishing what you posted. And I have been thinking about the characters wanting to know more about them and what they are doing. Great story-telling, Mama!!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on March 04, 2011, 05:31:54 pm
What wonderful feedback!!! I've been hoping and HOPING that someone would tell me these things. Bless you. I'm delighted with all the ideas and, it so happens, I'm starting a whole rewrite this week. What is posted here was simply the first draft, and a lot has been added since. I've had some other feedback and it's all been helpful, but this is the best yet. :)

But no, this book wasn't intended to preach, or to be a How To guide for gulching, though that is unavoidably part of the story. There are so many thousands of different possibilities that any one "guide" either has to be terribly incomplete or the size of a phone book. And I'm not qualified to write such a guideline anyway, but I will certainly expand on it some, since I'm sure others will be curious.

This book hopes to explore a few of the many, many potential ways that voluntary groups of people might work together to build new and free communities, and more in the second book, about how these communities might work together in spite of their differences, in peace - with prosperity for all as they fulfill, finally, the promise of freedom that we accept as the birthright of America.

I'm typing as fast as I can... :)

Thank you so much!  :love4: :love4: :love4:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Moonbeam on March 05, 2011, 04:11:05 pm
[Where's the "blushing" smiley?] Aw, shucks ML  :rolleyes: you are welcome!

You are The Ghost is creating a story that is pulling me in so I've become vested in their world.

* I agree that the story could easily become bogged down with minute details. I think there is room to devote a few paragraphs to the some of the main (and even passing) characters. This could easily be achieved by sharing what they are thinking or the conversations they have or the memories that are sparked in them. Maybe for somone's birthday or Christmas "celebration" they receive a homemade gift that is intimate or provokes bittersweet memories. Even some of the "minor" characters really intrigued me: Luke, the trader who took over the East Valley area, John and Bert. I would love to know more about Charlie & Cathy, and Betty and Mutt's pre-crash life...

* Please forgive me if it was mentioned: I've noticed in some fictional TSHTF writing, that places east of the Mississippi River are not mentioned or included as places that are re-built. I personally believe that there would be communites in the Mid-West and the South for example. And while these are not necessarily places that need attention, perhaps mentioning one of those states having a ham radio connection would be a nice thought. Of course, I am not privy to The Ghost's vision, and will value their creation :)

* The other thing that I like about your story is that it's not a story that makes me feel helpless or want to bury my head in the sand. It looks like it would be a great introduction for those who need to be reached, too (like my DH)...

Whatever The Ghost wants, The Ghost gets, m'kay?! We want The Ghost to have great success!!!

Okay, I think I'm done with my  :twocents:
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on March 06, 2011, 06:31:53 am
Thanks again, dear. Remember that this is a story centered on some Wyoming folks, so most of the rest of the country won't be involved too much, but remember that the second half will deal with various communities and, eventually, regional cooperatives, working together to rebuild and prosper -  so the east coast will come into the story at least some. They are already having some interesting new challenges, and even some "global cooling" issues. It's not all roses for our sturdy survivors, by any means. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Moonbeam on March 07, 2011, 09:25:50 am
Thanks again, dear. Remember that this is a story centered on some Wyoming folks, so most of the rest of the country won't be involved too much

Yes, I understood that :) Look forward to their adventures!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: DPR 2006 on April 04, 2011, 03:51:39 am
Congrats to you, MamaLiberty!  I've finished my book as well, and my brother-in-law is fielding it out to a publisher friend of his.  My brother-in-law is reading it now, and says that he likes what I've done.

Here's hoping that it all turns out profitable for us, not just monetarily.

Edit in:  I'm already working on a sequel AND a spin-off!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on April 05, 2011, 07:05:34 am
With filling in some detail and fleshing out you have your first book.   The begining with the Teo getting Wacky, the middle with the community gelling around its principles, and the end with the final solution on the old guard and with the malcontent folks.   Now you have a whole community like "Hardyville" congrats!   With a setup like that and a "sort of" reality around it, you have all sorts of possibilities!  Your ghost can maybe talk about things it wants to do in more detail.  I am curious as to HOW NASTY the guys in the mountain really were?  What is the traders life like and what factors lead him to moving his basecamp?   What are the other comunities the trader has seen like?

You got the good stuff goin'!
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 05, 2011, 08:19:56 am
Rarick, just finished a major rewrite of the first half. The second half is going to be a REAL challenge. To start with, there are just so many possibilities that my brain goes into overload and freezes sometimes. I have just wiped out an entire chapter that went down a bad wormhole and just didn't fit - after working on it for several days. The harder I worked on it, the worse it got!! The "ghost" must have had a head cold. LOL

There is more information in book two about the Denver thing, and other "rabbit holes" that were taken out, as flashbacks when an exploring group finds a breach in the Denver mountain complex. Also, climate change and some other speculation will be dealt with.

Struggling with technical details there, since I don't know much about the real "shadow government" situation and have to research or invent it. LOL  This is turning into partly science fiction, which is neat because it gives me a little more leeway.

Lots of other surprises. The inventors and entrepreneurs of the new world must learn how to operate in a free market. That's as much a matter of speculation as the tech stuff, of course, since a truly free market isn't going to be minutely predictable.

I'm trying to use logic and what is known to show both success and failure in the process as they operate without federal government to coerce them (or to be used to coerce others!).  And, of course, some groups either cling to or develop their own brands of coercive government (such as the failed East Valley religionists), so I'm exploring how those communities interact with others who are more free. Since the people are truly free to vote with their feet and leave a community they find too controlling or objectionable - and other communities are truly free to welcome them -  I think the operation of the free market is pretty obvious there.

And it is not all sweetness and light! Conflict and problems are to be expected. This is no Utopian dream story.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on April 05, 2011, 08:26:15 am
Freedom is a natural process-  there are aspects of predator and prey even if the predator is more like a venus fly trap.   Get aggressive with a fly trap- or a free person and ZAP prey and aggressor are the same critter.........  There is always going to be the darker side- it is necessary for a light side to exist..........it also keeps life interesting, a boring life is not worth living.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on April 05, 2011, 08:47:08 am
Indeed, which is a great part of the first book. The idea that we can just talk our way out of this mess is crazy.

One person who read it objected to all the death and destruction, especially the massacre of the goblin army and the bandits at the reservoir . I asked her just what she expected in such a situation. No answer so far. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 18, 2011, 07:01:00 am
Geez, now I'm gonna have to write one for my story. It's going to be hard too because I'm writing it in the first person, rather than second or third, which are the usual perspectives.

Nice to know the pre-story tho

Any particular reason for writing in first person? I've been a reader and editor for a long time, and I can only think of one story written that way that I enjoyed. Most of the time, if I see a story in first person I just close the book and forget it. The "person" is put into the position of reading the minds of all the other characters, for one thing, or the other characters never have any depth because they are being seen from only one perspective. In any case, it is a very difficult writing style. You might want to reconsider that. But I'd love to see your story. Please start a new thread if you decide to post it. :)
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Rarick on May 18, 2011, 07:13:18 pm
Indeed, which is a great part of the first book. The idea that we can just talk our way out of this mess is crazy.

One person who read it objected to all the death and destruction, especially the massacre of the goblin army and the bandits at the reservoir . I asked her just what she expected in such a situation. No answer so far. :)

Tell your critic to read Forschen's  "One Second After"..   I would not be the least bit surprised if that is the way a large majority of things turn out.  People do their damnedest to survive and remain human, but the expense is something like an 80% death toll...............   If your critic can't handle your fairly cheery stuff- the critic probably can't handle reality..........
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: MamaLiberty on May 19, 2011, 06:33:34 am
Tell your critic to read Forschen's  "One Second After"..   I would not be the least bit surprised if that is the way a large majority of things turn out.  People do their damnedest to survive and remain human, but the expense is something like an 80% death toll...............   If your critic can't handle your fairly cheery stuff- the critic probably can't handle reality..........

Indeed, and agreed. And yet, even I was horrified at times while I wrote it. The question that runs through each of those accounts of death and destruction is how congruent those actions are with the non-aggression principle the main characters mostly profess. Some actions are consistent with ZAP, and some might not seem to be. I think it shows that there may well be differences between the conclusions of libertarian hair splitting in idle conversation and some of the realities we may face. And some people just will do aggressive things regardless. Many will never be known except to the one who has to live with it.

Society needs the dreamers, the hard headed merchant, the explorer/adventurer, the warrior, the mothers and fathers, farmers and hunters, philosophers and mystics... everyone free to live, learn, grow, fail and go on... resisting those who would stand in their way or harm them... you know the litany.
Title: Re: MamaLiberty's new story
Post by: Griz375 on June 29, 2018, 04:57:38 am
Again...love it and keep it coming.



Just a small editorial note.   The stinger missile (used to blow up the car) is a surface to air missile and would not be used for that application.  A better choice would be the SMAW, a Marine specific,

S-holder launched
M-ulti-purpose
A-ssault
W-eapon.

Basically an updated, more powerful, re loadable bazooka.

Just sayin.   Ya know, for when you publish.   :thumbsup:

AKA - the Karl G - a truly sweet piece of kit!