Colonist Diaries for Chapter:
7. Sounds and Sights.

7. Sounds and Sights

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Historian

…The crashing sounds coming from the woods were already far, far off. There came another, distant roaring howl. Suddenly, the woods that had promised so much to the colony took on a sinister, frightening aspect. Many of the colonists began having second doubts about the voyage. Several children were sobbing. Families and friends held tight to each other. Nobody slept the rest of the night…


So much had happend, once again it seemed, in a very short time. I’ll let the colonists tell about it in their own words.


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Liberty Council

This is a reconstruction… based on meeting notes and the publicly available log files of the participants. –EAB

Morning …Day 13

About fifty of the colonists were gathered in the town hall for a hastily called Council session concerning the events surrounding Jack Seaworth’s death. The sun had crept above the horizon barely an hour earlier, and few had slept a wink since awakened by the shots and Jack’s last screams. The group investigating the scene had just returned to camp.

“I call this meeting to order!” Lester Reye shouted, banging his gavel. As the crowd quieted down he continued, “What happened last night was a tragedy. But right now what we are most concerned with is understanding what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. For the time being the fact finding and questioning may only be conducted by Council, representing the citizenry at large, or by those colonists delegated to the initial scene investigation.”

“Ms. Benjamin, perhaps you could start us off by recounting in detail what you saw last night.” Reye continued.

“As I said, I didn’t get the best look in the world at the thing. I can tell you…

Four hours earlier

She started jogging around the tents towards the north. How could she have been so absent minded as to miss the silence?

“Jack,” she said into the pad, “Jack, are you there?” Nothing. She knew what was going to happen now, and she was too late, but she sped up anyway, her legs churning under her. Then a single shot rang out and the night shattered with a scream of pure agony.

She rounded the corner she saw a beast that the denizens of hell would quake before. Its hide seemed the color of dried blood and its eyes glinted red in her light.

She started firing. The thing was a dozen feet at the shoulder if it was a foot, and half again as long with vicious horns atop its gruesome head. Fifteen shots ripped through the night into its hide, but it hardly seemed to care. As the clip emptied the beast shook itself as if shooing away a pesky insect and dropped Jack’s bloody corpse from its jaws. She released the magazine from her rifle and slammed in another, but the thing had already gone.

The meeting

“Now of course you didn’t hit it more than a few times. At that distance…? You have to understand, Ms. Benjamin, that we need all the facts here.” Reye interjected.

“I hit it six times in the head, nine in the chest, and placed them where I figured the vital organs would most likely be,” she replied.

Reye gave a skeptical look and jotted down, “Insists she could not have missed with any of the shots.” He then said, “Comments from the scene investigation team.?”

William Bartlett spoke first. “It was dark out, foggy as all get out, and as you explained last night the distance was about two hundred yards when you shined your light on the creature, saw it, and took your shots. With all of that in mind it is remarkable that your description of the creature is as complete as you’ve been able to make it.”

“What about your bot?” Bartlett asked, “Did it see anything?”

Jaisa went on to explain that she had stationed her robot further south and west of her position and it hadn’t time to get up to Seaworth’s guard area before the action commenced.

“Where was Jack’s bot when all of this happened?” Bartlett asked next.

“I don’t know, never saw it.” Was the response.

Kara quickly scanned the robot database and said, “R.121 — he hadn’t even named the bot yet — is listed as being in the general labor pool at the time Jack was killed.” She then added. “I guess he hadn’t gotten used to working with robots yet.”

Jack the Blade kicked in from the back in a mocking tone, “And now he never will.”

A sharp rap of the gavel and Les Reye spoke. “Quiet in the room. Everyone who wants to say something will get their chance but not until the facts have been established.”

The next question came from Connor Benjamin. “Were any of the other bots in a position to see what occurred? Or did their sensors detect anything unusual around the time Jack was killed?

Robot J.P., acting as the common interface for all of the robots replied, “Every robot, not in sleep mode or undergoing recharge at the time of the incident, has a record of hearing Mr. Seaworth’s shot and all subsequent shots. Two robots report hearing Mr. Seaworth’s screams. None register anomalous readings within the 30 minutes prior to the incident. Earlier in the evening, 47 minutes before the record of the first shot, R. Dan Daily, who was at the time 900 yards south and west of the incident location, registered something large in the forest far to the west of his location. The contact detection was ambiguous and weak; it lasted for 26 seconds and then faded away. As R. Dan Daily was acting as mill guard, and there was no approach made toward the lumbering operation, his instructions precluded leaving position to investigate. There are no other observations by any other robot which would indicate a possible connection with Mr. Seaworth’s death.”

“Yes then, thank you R. J.P.” Connor turned to Andy Stewart and asked, “Andy, could you fill us in on the conditions and evidence as you saw it this morning?”

“Jaisa didn’t miss; it’s just that she was firing issue penetrators, in fact she probably did hit with all 15 as I found no impact strikes on any of the trees. There was a fair amount of blood out there and DNA scans from the lab show it wasn’t all Seaworth’s. The ground where the body was dumped was still damp from the last few days’ rain, and though it was sandy there, it was just firm enough to hold some of the creature’s footprints. They were indistinct at best… about a foot long by eight or nine inches wide with faint lines still visible in a few indicating claws of some sort or another. More than two legged but just how many we couldn’t confirm. We were able to follow its path for about 150 yards till it reached a rocky area further north. Whatever bleeding it had been experiencing seems to have stopped by that time and we were unable to track it further.

“It is my intent” he continued, “to engage the skills of Sinopia and some equipment I dug out just before coming here for a further tracking effort.”

“Good. I’ve no doubt she can find it if any of us can.” Connor replied.

“Where is Sinopa? I haven’t seen her at the bar in a few days.” Hanna Parker interrupted.

Reye‘s gavel came down again, “You are out of order Mrs. Parker. Questions from the investigation team first. Your turn will come…. Please proceed, Mr. Stuart?— Mr. Benjamin?”

“She’s been in the field tracking and gathering data on the local animals since the eighth. She’s scheduled to be back this morning, so I expect we’ll see her shortly.” Connor replied.

“What? With that thing out there? She was supper days ago you naïve yokel!” Jack t B exclaimed.

“Order!” Reye shouted, banging his gavel. He was beginning to turn red and was clearly becoming agitated.

“I’m afraid I have to agree,” Buchanan chimed in. “While Jack’s outburst lacked a certain, shall we say, compassion, he is right. Even if she was a good hunter back on Earth there’s no way she could survive alone that long in the same forest as whatever killed Jack.”

As Reye raised his gavel once more Connor waved the next ‘order’ away. He said, “While I appreciate your concern, she’s fine. I’ve seen Sinopa sneak up on a wolf. I’ve seen her tend a wild grizzly’s wounds and kill a catamount with nothing but a knife. She’ll be here within the hour.”

“Alright, enough on these extraneous matters.” Reye said, and then nodding towards Kurt, “Dr. Kellerman will conduct an autopsy and the results will be appended to this report.” And then with a look at Jaisa, “Ms. Benjamin, do you have anything substantive to add to what we have already covered?”

Four hours earlier

She sprinted past the tents to Jack’s body. It was hardly recognizable as human, let alone as the man she had started the shift with. Andy and Mariana were already there, with Connor, Ash, Rocco, Joe, Ryu and the Pierces close behind. As the rest of the colonists streamed out of their tents the screaming and sobbing began.

“What do we do, what do we do?” cried one woman, grasping at Lester Reye. He just stared at her, bug eyed and slack jawed. The majority crowd was quickly falling apart.

“Everyone, please return to your tents. It’s unlikely in the extreme that the thing will be back tonight, but for safety’s sake please either return to your tents or go to Hanna’s and stay there until morning. And families, please stay together. We’ll be sending someone around to check on everyone shortly.” Connor shouted above the din, wearing nothing but boxers and an assault rifle.

“We’re setting up a grid with robots around the entire camp as we speak and will have our full guard contingent out, but for your safety, please don’t venture outside until morning.” Andy Stuart reassured the slowly quieting crowd.

“The Council will meet this morning at 5 o’clock. Please come, but for now we need your cooperation to make sure you’re all safe.” Mariana said.

The meeting

“No, nothing substantive, no.” Jaisa replied.

Pounding his gavel again, Reye said, “This session is now open to questions from the floor.”

They all started talking at once.

Lab Rats….”What?”

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Kurt Kellerman

Day 13: After the Meeting

Kurt sighed as he turned on the lights in the lab; this was going to be one long day. He was quite surprised when Mariana came in, coffee cup in hand, as normal; but now dressed in full chameleons with the Springfield slung on her back. She also had on one of her handguns in some kind of tactical rig on her left thigh in plain sight.

“What happened to Andy’s ‘keep it quiet’ mode,” I asked.

“Quiet and low key went out with Seaworth. Don’t scare the sheep changed to show you can protect them.”

I thought for a moment, “Yes, you are right about that but you are going to cause some confusion with that name strip.”

Mariana looked confused for a moment, and then looked down at a name strip that read Kearns. “Oh crap, you know I have not worn this thing since we left active duty. I flat forgot I have never changed it. I’ll take care of it later.

“You want to handle the autopsy and I’ll open up the rig for some possible strange stuff?” She said.

I grimaced, “Not real thrilled but, it’s got to be done!”

We worked steadily for the next two hours interrupted occasionally by Walt and John Pierce with questions about the new treatment and incubation areas they were putting the final touches on. Sally and Linda were moving the equipment in and setting it up; the two constructors were finishing the infrastructure. I had Connor Benjamin assisting to brush up his skills and Mariana brooked no interference.

Mariana came over and asked how it was going, “I pretty well finished up. It’s straight forward as all get out. There were a couple of what looks like fang penetrations but the cause of death was massive flailed chest. That thing has jaws like a hydraulic ram!’”

It was her turn to grimace, “Well that explains the scream, it wasn’t quick! But it was fast enough he didn’t suffer long. Damn, at least Thompson never knew what hit him; Seaworth knew!”

The whole time she had been talking, she had been taking off the field jacket and her wrist comp. She pulled a cable from her mil-spec wrist comp to the jacket and was digging through the power cables Walt had left hanging; obviously looking for one that would fit somewhere. Finding it, she plugged it into ‘The Field Jacket’.
Tapping a couple of controls inside the jacket, panels on the jacket suddenly turned transparent.

My roommate in undergraduate school had been a Military History major. Back then, I thought he was a jerk but I had learned to read awards and decorations from his wall posters. I recognized the Eagles of a full Col., the Combat Infantry Badge and the shoulder flashes. What stunned me was the Silver Star with the pips (whatever their real name was) for five awards.

I watched as she reprogrammed the name strip and asked, “What do you do to get those five awards?

She just grinned and said, “Staying alive around the Big Lug for 5 years!”

“Yeah,” I said, “just staying alive, right?”

“Well, where we went wasn’t exactly the Tea Social Society you know.”

She pulled the power plug and the name strip now read Stuart. Mariana moved back to primary to check the results of the tests she was running and I heard a strange comment.

“Damn Kurt, I know I put two tissue samples in here, how did one vibrate out?” She moved over a few feet and checked the scale readings, “What the frack, the weight is the same!”

She turned and stared in my direction with vacant eyes that clearly were detached from her brain. Suddenly they flashed cold and Black.

She spun for the door screaming into her wrist comp, “Reaper, Magic; the damn thing regenerates. Say again, the damn thing can regenerate. Pull Back, repeat Pull Back!”


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by William Bartlett

   Janie, Joe Fortson and I were at Hanna’s. Gene Washburn along with Lester Reye’s fifteen year old son Mike, escaping from his dad for a time, and a couple of others who had worked there earlier were at the mill. Joe and I had pulled the equipment closer to town and doubled up on the robot sentries. Gene was directing security for now and had an open channel comlink to the emergency alert system. We had to keep the mill going and that was the best we could do on short notice.

   “Joe, how did you feel about continuing to work out there after the commotion last night?” Janie asked Fortson. “Bart here just went back to bed and slept like a log.”

   “Bart slept like a log with you in the same tent,” Joe chuckled, “Well… I did start a few more illumination fires and sent out some extra bots. But the works gotta be done. I’m sure when the autopsy comes in we find all of Jaisa’s rounds just went through the thing leaving small holes but hitting nothing vital.“ Joe paused for just a moment then continued. “Sure the thing is big but can’t have near the size of say… an elephant back on Earth. If it had anywhere near that kind of weight the tracks it left would have been far more pronounced. I read a book once abo-.”

   “You… read a book?…” I spat out before he could finish.

     “Yeah Bart, I did, but just that once. I don’t know what came over me… Must have been an accident. Any way it was called ‘Hunting the Elephant in Africa’ by a guy named C. H. Stigand. Teddy Roosevelt did the forward. Maybe you heard of him?”

   “Wasn’t he once the police commissioner for New York City or somethin’?” I replied

   “Let him finish Bart, this is Joe‘s story.” Janie admonished me with just a hint of a grin.

   Joe thanked her and began again. “Back in the old days you’d be surprised at all the different types and calibers used for dangerous game hunting. Even for elephant some pretty small rounds were used with good effect. Stigand talks about one guy in particular that used a British .303 Enfield. Now this guy said that for a one shot kill on a charging tusker it was best to aim, and if you aimed there you better hit it, at the second wrinkle down the forehead of the elephants trunk. There were a lot of other places a good shot would take the animal down but it would take more time. And with something that large it’s easy to see you could pump in a lot of shots to non vital areas without slowing him down a lick. I figure that’s what happened with Jaisa last night.”

   “So what do we do now?” Janie asked.

     “Well for starters,” I said, “We better make sure that we have enough bots out to alert us if another one of those things show up and that the guards have the right kind of ammunition for the job.”

   Janie said, “Just who is in charge of the guards anyway? I know Andy Stuart is setting up a militia and I just assumed he was overseeing the guards too.”

   Joe looked over to me and I just shrugged. “Heck Janie, I don’t know either, Joe and I both, except for the first couple of days we were down, never stood another guard watch. Too much stuff to do at the mill. I figured Andy was in charge also, but I can’t see him letting Seaworth go out without having not just his robot, but a few more bots spread around for threat detection. What do you think Joe?”

   “I hadn’t paid it any attention either Bart. All I know is that when you or I were out at the mill we always had our bot outriders. Figured camp security was the same way but it looks like that precaution fell between the cracks. I can say this though, and I’d bet every dime I ever owned neither of the Stuarts were in the loop last night. Camp security must just have been manned by volunteers from the labor pool. And at least one, Jack Seaworth, was well intentioned but obviously unqualified for the job. Even Jaisa made the rookie mistake of having nothing but penetrators in her mag. I bet Andy gets that situation squared up in a hurry.”

   “That brings up a point I have been meaning to ask you about Joe.” I Said. “Why aren’t you working with the militia?”

   For a moment I could see he was thinking about how to answer and then he said, “It’s like this… Andy’s the right person to be in charge of the group he’s setting up for what needs to be done… And he did talk to me about it a while back. I found it almost impossible not to get involved, but… I spent too many years taking orders, and when I got retired from the Fleet Marine Force I vowed never again. It’s a game for the young. Even with someone like Andy in charge I would spend too much time thinking of how I would do it differently. Now don’t get me wrong I support him and if things get tight enough will sign back on. But for now, the way this planet is panning out, there is probably nothing I could do anywhere, where my experience and training might not make the difference between success and failure. And everything we do is important if the colony is to survive. What about you Bart… why aren‘t you in?”

   Janie started before I could open my mouth. “It’s my fault Joe.” Then she waved me off as I started to object. “I’m really embarrassed. I should have told you already. It’s the general tone of the colony that’s got me upset. I just want to get away from all of these people for a while.” Joe’s head came up and he looked right at her. “ No not you, and there are a quite a few of the others who are ok, but folks like Buchanan and the Reyes and especially Jack the Blade. And I hate to admit this but even Andy gets on my nerves at times. Rules, rules, rules. I convinced Bart that we ought to try to get away on our own, do some exploring or anything to get away from the camp for a while. We even talked to the Hist about it. He convinced me to wait a while but we are getting ready.”

   “Yeah I’ve noticed you working with Bart on your marksmanship. After last night though it kinda looks like it would be very dangerous, not sayin’ suicidal mind you, but very dangerous for a couple or even a small party to be out in the boonies on their own.”

   It looked to me like Janie was starting to tear up at that. She turned away briefly and when she turned back here eyes were clear again. Stern stuff my Janie. “Babe,” I said to her for the first time with someone else present, but Joe was family, “It might not be as bad as it looks.” Her expression became very intent.

   “First let me say something about one thing that’s really been bugging me… We’re not using the robots very well.” I could see I had both of their attention. “Oh, I don’t mean us, it’s the rest of the colony. The Hist and I, while on the Mayflower had four years to figure out what they could and couldn’t do. With Arte Clark dead that just leaves, asides from us, Captains Travis and Monroe with any real experience. Nothing available back on Earth even came close to them. The people here just haven’t had time to figure them out yet or what to do with them, and I see many folks who just don’t seem to even want to try. Call it “Fear of the New.”

   “That was at least part of Seaworth’s problem. But it goes beyond that. There really was no reason at all not to have a couple of dozen bots out as perimeter surveillance. They were in the pool, charged, and being used for nothing. Probably the farmers and those working on roads and such wanted to make sure they had a fully charged helper to use in daylight. But a bot just standing stationary guard uses very little power. It’s a mistake we can’t afford to make again.”

     “Now Janie, back to why we still might make a go of our exploration… One, we’ve got more bots then people to use them. If we take a few extras with us we wont be surprised in the middle of the night or at any other time. And two, Joe and I secured all of the weapons from the squad we took out prior to going for the cruiser and held on to them. They had a lot more stuff than just the ‘Rugs’ we’ve been using and you ‘ve been practicing with.”

   “I follow you there Bart.” Fortson began. “We picked up a couple plasma rifles and even some grenades and launchers. And sure, nothing but a hardened, screened target could stand up to a plasma bolt at under a couple hundred yards. For that matter any thing made of protoplasm or with a nervous system certainly wouldn’t stand a chance at twice that distance. But as I understand it, and I got it from you, the bots can’t use them, and unless Janie gets mighty good, mighty fast… Well I wouldn’t want to go out under those conditions.”

   “She is getting good, and pretty fast too. But I got another idea which will make this thing practical, and help out the township at the same time providing it works.”

   “Ok Bart, I’ll bite. What is it” Joe asked.

   “The bots… Let me explain. The reason the Jeep couldn’t harm any living thing is so deep in his programming that we can’t change it without ruining everything that makes him the Jeep. The Jeep’s ‘Brain’, if you will is tied into his sensory and servo-systems with an optical buss. We can, of course, disconnect the brain from the buss. That’s just what we do when we put in a new personality. All the systems are still there, just no way for them to do anything without control signals.”

   “But what if when the ‘Brain’, was out of the loop and we connected everything else, by that buss, into a general purpose comp system? Something that could read the sensors and act as programmed by us and not with the canned routines. Heck, those types of systems have been around for forty or fifty years. The way it would work is like this. The bot detects a dangerous target, switches to the other controller which takes charge, and Bingo! No more threat.”

   Joe‘s eyebrows raised a notch and he said, “That does sound interesting. But can you do it, and make sure it only shoots at what needs shooting, and does it every time?”

   I smiled and replied, “No I can’t… but with a little help from Subbu, and my old buddy Ash Andrews, it just might be possible.”


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Sinopa


“Elana, where can I find Connor?” I asked abruptly. The eldest Pierce was the first soul I had seen in five days, but more to the point she was the first person I saw coming into camp, and I had no time to waste trying to track my friend down. She was looking at me like she was seeing a ghost. “Elana, Connor!” I snapped. She shook herself.
“I’m so glad you’re ok. We were so worried. He’s at the town hall; the Council’s meeting. Oh god, you don’t know, do you?” she gasped.

“I know, I just don’t know who. No time though – I’ll find out from them. Thank you!” I shouted over my shoulder, running towards the town hall. As I reached the double doors people were just starting to stream out. As soon as they saw me the crowd started to murmur and edge away. I suppose to them I must have looked like some sort of primeval amazon, wearing virtually nothing, taller than most of the men and slathered head to toe in mud to disguise myself and my scent. More than one person muttered something about “alive” – I guess they weren’t expecting to see me again after last night. I had no time to worry about all that though. I walked in. The hall was mostly empty, but the Council, Jaisa, Rocco and the two Stuart men were still there.

“Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I know someone was killed last night, and I know what did it – give me the details so I can go do my job.” Reye and Kara did a double take, and Histy looked a little shocked at my appearance, but the rest took my entrance in stride.

“Jack Seaworth was killed in the northeast corner of the camp while on guard, Jaisa got there just after the fact.” Connor replied. “Did you see it or just the evidence?”

“I picked up its trail late yesterday and around midnight realized that it was headed towards camp. On its way back out it passed about twenty yards from me, fifteen miles out of camp – it used the same path in as out. It’s one big bastard – Jai, I didn’t see any blood. Where did you hit it?”

“Six in the head, the other nine across the chest. Penetrators, which I know was a mistake, but with six shots to the head I should have killed it firing anything but blanks. And no blood? It must clot fast.”

“Who else can tell me something useful?”

“Now wait a minute. What-” Reye started.

“Mr. Reye,” barked the sharp voice of Andy Stuart, “The Council Session is over. Let the experts get you enough information to make some smart decisions. Sin, you ready to run the back trail and get some solid data?”

“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all morning.” She replied.

“Good” Andy said, “Lets swing by my tent and then head to where Jai hit that sucker and work out from there. You knowing where it went will help; but we need some hard data on that beast.”

“Lead on Colonel!”

Just as we left the hall I heard Rocco murmur, “What a woman!” under his breath. Not intended for my ears, I’d guess. I certainly didn’t mind the sentiment though. We moved towards the tent area when the younger set stopped us. “Boss do we go work on the Hydro-Plant or what?” Ryu asked Andy.

“No Corporal, you stay down here today. I have a job for you all, leave Candidate Benjamin out of it; she deservers the down time and I don’t want her involved in this.”

He was the first one to snap a salute in Alchibah history, “Sir, yes Sir.” He then turned towards the young guns and started talking.

Andy ducked into the tent and came back out fitting a battery pack into his field jacket and attaching a hood arraignment to the neckline. Motioning towards the site, he started walking.

Sin looked at what she now understood was a hulking monster topped by only one other she had ever known. “You know,” she said, “The only reason I trust you is because Gabriel Benjamin said I could.”

Andy turned his head and looked at her, never breaking stride. “Angel was one of the best; I wish we had him here. But he ain’t here, we have to find a way to make this work with what we have. Corporal Ryu, Frago!”

The young guns clustered around. “What I want is a detailed search of 100 yards from the first blood spot we found. If you will notice from the interlace pattern of the trees, there is no way a round could go 100 yards without hitting a tree. What you are looking for is dings on the trees that are not penetrating impacts but, bumps where depleted rounds may have hit. I have sample bags and at least one medical glove for each of you. When, not if, you find an expended round; place it into the sample bag using only your gloved hand. Anything we find will go to the Lab for examination. I will back you up with the metal detection capabilities of my gear. Any questions?”

Andy was pleasantly surprised when the whole group snapped off a salute and replied in unison, “Sir, No Sir.”

Sin looked at him and asked, “This in 7 days?”

He just nodded, “They are good kids Sinopia, some of them will not make it as Operators. But we will need a solid stay behind force.


We reached the start point and spread out, while I pulled over the hood and engaged the sensors. It did not take long to find six blunted penetrators, but the others were nowhere to be seen. I also found some weird chitinous like debris that I bagged and tagged.

“Cpl Ryu, search the area for another hour. I suspect the other nine simply embedded in the thing, so I doubt you’ll find anything else, but it’s worth being sure. Then take the squad and take these samples to the Lab, then get back to camp and get your bots on charge. When you’re done try and get everyone to catch a nap, we are standing the guard watches tonight.” I watched his surprised face, “The sign the list roster at Hanna’s Place is not going to cut it anymore, and I am not going to be able to get this in front of the council in time for anything else. So tonight is a training exercise in proper guard detail.”

“You ready Sin?” We moved fairly rapidly, to the rocky where I had lost the trail in the early morning. As I was pulling the hood with the dynamic mesh over my face, “I’ll use the optics of the hood to try to find some strike evidence on these rocks, you keep me straight. Sound ok to you?”

“Of course. It’s about the only way we are going to find anything on this surface,” she replied, smiling.

I started a figure eight path across the rocks with Sin keeping the centerline of our path moving towards where she had seen the beast.

“Small strike here Sin, take a look.”

She moved over and knelt down, “Very light strike but look at the disturbance in the debris and the rock. The claws were sheathed and the foot flexed over this rock, that’s why we have any strike at all.”

I turned up the magnification and looked closer, “I think you are right, that’s probably why it headed straight for the rocks.” I paused. How the devil could she see that? “You’ve been holding out on me haven’t you? You saw the path right away. Well, lead on then.”

Sin laughed. “You seemed like you wanted to use your gadgets, so…” she shrugged. “And besides, it worked, didn’t it?”

She quickly moved through the rock field, pointing out the trail as she went. I had heard about trackers like her, but I always thought they were just tall tales cooked up by amateurs who didn’t know what they were talking about. As we reached the end of the rocky area and found our first real print in a field of low-lying cover plants Mariana’s comp call blasted into my ear bud.

“Magic, Reaper; don’t worry we are not going to catch this sucker today. I figure it’s around 40 miles away from here by now.’

Hearing only my side of the conversation Sin commented, “At least, more than likely farther than that.”

I said, “Good cause Mariana just told me why no blood. The darn thing regenerates and from her tone I gather rapidly.”

Sin whistled lowly, “That’s going to be tough – we have to figure out the kill shot fast. But the way this thing was leaving we know we can hurt it. I think Jai scared the living shit out of it.”

We started examining the prints we had found. Sin hit the big one, “Look at how these prints get larger and make less of a depression as it went across the field. The feet must splay out to provide better traction in the soft ground. By the time it gets to the other side most people wouldn’t see a damn thing.”

I was busy with my wrist comp taking pictures of the prints with a measuring grid superimposed. “Yeah, and back here the first print of each foot really tore up the ground. The sucker is heavier than we first thought.”

“Four thousand or so pounds, I’d guess.”

“Look at what it dug up though Sin. Does that look familiar?”

“Looks like some weird kind of potato.”

“Well, that’s makes two that think so,” I said as I quickly put 10 or 12 in my game pouch. “I have all the measurements and we need to get these things back to Mariana. Let’s call it a wrap, OK?”

“I could be where it is now by nightfall,” she said, looking into the distance, “but who knows where it would be by then? Yeah, let’s head back. And call up the usual suspects – I need to give my report on what’s out there. The rumbler is hardly our only problem.”

Could this be Friday?

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Les Reye

Day 13. . . 00:13:08:15

   “As I reached our tent I heard Judith shouting, “And you get back here right now!“ Stepping inside I saw she was still clutching her com unit. Mike being difficult again I thought.

   “Lester,” she spun on me. “While you stayed after that meeting Mike went out to the lumber mill. What could he possibly be thinking about? Go out there and bring him back, he could be in danger.” That’s what Judith said and her tone and expression got my attention even as I worried about other things.

   “Dear, he’s young and needs to get out on his own. He will be safe enough, I'm sure, under Fortson and Bartlett’s protection.”

   “The same as Jack Seaworth? Is that what you are telling me?”

   “Judy. Don’t do this, it’s not fair. No one regrets what happened last night more than I do. I was elected to the Council but no one made me God. The guard system was already in place and none of us questioned it. Mike will turn sixteen in another month. If we expect to have any influence over him when he does, this isn’t the time nor the issue to take a stand on.”

   “Les, you are acting like raising our son is the same as running the Senate. Mike’s just a kid who still needs our protection, not a political ally or opponent.”

   She was still angry but calming down. I figured it was time to change the subject. “Sinopa. ‘Queen of the Jungle’, came back into camp just after the meeting broke up. She and Stuart huddled together talking mostly about last night but I got the definite impression he is going to make a power grab to take over the township guard force.” That got Judith’s attention.

   “He can’t do that. . . Can he?”

   “I’m afraid he can dear, and he will, unless we can stop him before he gets started. Right now Stuart has his own private army and is expanding it rapidly. If he gets control of the township guard he’ll be defacto military governor and we can change our name from Liberty Township to Stuartsville. It might already be too late. We managed to get a land proposal out of Council and voted in the first day. Since then it’s been nothing but picking at nits with little or nothing to show. I am going to call for an emergency session tonight under the guise of a final report on Seaworth’s death. The real reason will be to get something passed giving government control over the military and guard. I look at the guard more like the police than an army of occupation which it might become under Stuart.”

   “And what if your plan fails Les?” Judith asked with evident concern.

   "Then I will have to resign dear and just become farmer Reye. I won’t head a puppet government for a military dictatorship.”

   “Are you going to talk to Buchanan about this?”

   I sighed and then said. “Much as I hate to, I see no choice. Burt has an uncanny political instinct, but more important than that, a voting block he controls. I’m going to go and talk with him now. There’s not a moment to waste, and I fear it might already be too late.”

Incident at the Lab

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Sin and I had just returned over the rock field when I turned and asked, “Sin, do you own anything resembling a uniform?”

“Well I might, why?” She asked with a mischievous grin.

“Because tonight’s meeting is gonna be a bombshell and we need to keep down anything Reye can bitch about.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she tossed over her shoulder.

I got to the lab to find feverish activity going on. Mariana and Kurt had evidently put everything on the back burner save the big beast. “I hate to add to the workload here,” I said, “but, can you run a soil compaction test on this sample for me?”

“What do you have?” She asked.

“Well, after it ran off the rocky area it ran across some plain old soft dirt and we got some good tracks. I need the compaction coefficient to establish a weight.” I said massaging my temples against the growing headache.  ”Oh and while you are at it, can you check out these?”  I placed the quasi-potatos on the sample desk.

“Sure, we’ll get it for you if you get out of the way. It’s getting crowded in here?” She laughed.

I beat it, outside I fired up my wrist comp. “Fortson, A. Stuart; Private please.”

“What can I do for you, ya broken down old spook?” He quipped.

“Think you could drag your over-age, bad ticker, broken down old Jarhead tail up to the Hydro site in the morning. I need a safety Instructor for a Demolitions class.” I handed back to him.

“Don’t you need to spend tomorrow getting this guard thing out of the crapper?” He asked in a surprise and a little wary tone.

“Joe, I can’t do everything; dammit not thinking about that volunteer guard roster is what got Seaworth killed. Besides, we have to get somebody in place and trained up; to lead what’s essentially going to be a police and pure militia.

“Joe you know I am an Operator, could you see me running a police force; besides I think you have figured out what I’m trying to do.”

“Let me see if I put my half vast collection of military brain cells together and throw a SWAG at this. How about put together a young team of fire pissers to take something away from somebody; probably when the good Capt. Travis yells help.”

“Damn, you ain’t half bad for a gyrene. But that means you better duck and cover buddy, cause they gonna be looking for somebody to run the thing.”

He flustered for about three second, “Andy, you asshole!”

Aye God, We Will Try

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Andrew Stuart and Kurt Kellerman.


I had just finished a very satisfying conversation with Joe Fortson when Walt waked up.

“Boss, we are ready equipment wise and Kurt’s ready to drop the bomb when you say go.”

I really started the massage on my temples; the headache was reaching epic potentials. “Well, Walt she can only kill me once. Signal Kurt and I will get Sally out of the way. Why does everything come at once?”

Walt grinned, “Who was it that told me no good deed goes unpunished?”

“One of these days Walt, I will pay you back.”

He laughed, “Not if this works, get me drunk as a skunk I will believe,”

“Right,” I said as I entered the Lab, “Sally, can I have a minute of your time?” I saw Kurt tapping Mariana on the shoulder.


“Dr. Stuart, could you look at something for me,” I asked Mariana.

“Well sure, we got the beast wrapped up. But can’t this wait till we give Andy the data.”

I grimaced, “Almost anything else, yes. This I think needs your expertise. Would you please look at this DNA scan? I popped up the scan from the swab from Hanna’s place on the right side of the screen.”

Her reply was a trained immediate response, “Hell Kurt, that’s a brood mare if I ever saw one. Shit we need her to have kids.”

I sucked in a big deep breath, “And this one, popping it up on the left side of the screen.”

I thought I was going to die right there, she came up faster than I could comprehend, I was staring right down the muzzle of one of those damn deadly Randall’s, “That’s my scan you SOB!”

“No madam, they both are. One is straight from the source and the other is filtered though the shit code your Ex buried in your Medical Chip.”

Her gaze was as cold as ice, “How do you know that?”

I gulped, “Because Ash pulled the same code right out of his personal files, and it matches to 10 decimal places.”

From behind her came, “Believe it Sis, and he ain’t through yet!” Both of us stared at Ash grinning for the first time on Alchibah.

“What do you two idiots mean?” she asked.

That was when I gulped. “The reason that the UNWG put me in the dog house was that I can kill that implant they put into you. Andy gave us the stuff to do it with, Walt built it, and Ash made it all work together. Give me ten minutes and I can kill that damn thing.”

I thought the tough old Colonel was going to faint, she damn near collapsed where she stood. She might have if Ash had not been there, how I never did figure out.

“It’s real Sis, He’s as good as he claims. Andy gave us the stuff for his rig and I confirmed every bit of it. You don’t think the wrath of Cuz would fall on anyone who messed this up. For God’s sake, breathe; this is your chance. Dammit, I don’t want to be the Prince of the Clan; let this happen and make me useless, please.”

She shuddered, “You don’t understand, I was convinced that it could not happen. Hell, we came on this trip knowing it could not happen. What am I supposed to do?”

I stayed as cold as I could, “Damn it, be Human. Live Lady, this is no damn guarantee it’s just a chance; that’s all we promise. This is going to be the same crapshoot every couple faces in their normal lives. All I promise is a chance to be normal.”

She stood slowly and shook off Ash’s help. “OK, what do I have to do?”

I gestured towards the door, “Walk over to Treatment, lie down on the table and be still for ten damn minutes! Even if I fail, it will do no damage!”

She looked at me with eyes like the damned, “OK, let’s give it a try. If I can’t trust family, I am shit outta luck anyway.” With that, she led the way out the door.


I watched the crowd move from the Lab over to the new Treatment area. “Sally, do you have any idea why the UNWG tried to destroy Kurt’s career?”

She was very intense, “No, that’s probably the only problem we have left. He absolutely refuses to talk about that.”

I groaned, “OK, I’ll take it slow. First, you know that the UNWG developed an active contraceptive implant that cannot be removed. And that they stuck it into women they claimed were genetically incapable of reproducing!”

She replied carefully, “Yes, I was aware of that.”

“Second, did you know that your Husband developed a way to kill those implants; in case the UNWG made a mistake?”

Her face was like a wounded duck.

“Third, did you know that the UNWG would not admit the possibility that they could possibly make a mistake?

“Fourth, did you know they threatened his ass to shut him up?”

She looked totally stunned, “I can not believe He would let a threat shut him up over something like that!”

I waited, “Sally, they did not threaten him. They threatened the one thing he could not live without; as I understand it they mentioned something about Troop Brothels in East Timor”

“Fifth, they put one of those damn things into Mariana based on a lie. He’s betting his ass he can do what he claims, because if he screws up and kills Mariana; you know what he thinks I will do!”

I watched as understanding slowly dawned on her face! The look was one that can’t really be described.

We just sat and stared into the distance. Then she jumped as Ash came out the door howling at the moon. “Oh God, something went wrong.” She said hollowly and turned to see me laughing my ass off.

“No Lady, that’s Ash’s bad imitation of a Tennessee Hound Dog barking treed. Everything went right.”

No Kidding!

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Hanna Parker

     We had slipped out of the meeting a few minutes before it ended, and Jules and I were nursing cups of tea at a quiet table at the Inn.
     “Yes, dear.” 

     “Before I saw Doc Kellerman, I was worried. Not sure if the ol’ ticker would make it.” 

     “Rather scary, eh?  Especially here.”  I gazed thoughtfully into the tea cup.
     “You and I hadn’t talked about it. About what we’d do if one of us became sick. I wouldn’t want you to have to fend for yourself here.”
     With misting eyes I looked deep into his own, “We’d do the same as we do now. We would take one day at a time …. together. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If something happens to you first, you’ll still be my breath as I grow old.”  We silently held hands for a lingering moment. Then Jules got up to get things ready for the influx we expected when the meeting let out momentarily. 

     JJ was  first through the door. When he saw me sitting, still deep in thought about other problems as well, he said, “Hey, Mom. Cheer up!  It can’t be that bad.” 

     “Oh, JJ! I keep trying to look on the bright side, but overall things aren’t going very well,” I said, dismayed.  “Now there’s another death, and another memorial service for your father to conduct.  I don’t see things getting any better.  There’s too much about this planet that we don’t know.  And it seems so dangerous.” 

     As we walked over to Jules, who was fidgeting with the stove, JJ responded, “I know how you feel, Mom, but things will get better.”  Putting a protective arm around my shoulder, he continued, “Honest, they will.  RJ’s one resourceful dude: he included seasoned pros to manage our defense against the unknown.  Let those guys figure it out.  In the meanwhile, I’d like you to focus on another issue instead.” 

     “It’s difficult not to be anxious.  But tell me, Junior, what’s on your mind?” 

     “Well, folks, the time has come:  we need a layout for the First Inn.  It’s almost next up on the construction schedule, and the best news is, we can build it strong…with rock!” 

     Jules look up from the coffee he had just started brewing and asked, “Sounds like you have a plan, son.  Do tell.” 

     “John Pierce’s sister, Elana, is a geologist, and she’s specked out a quarry site.  It’s just about a mile and a-half from here.  Cut stone together with fieldstone would make for quite a sturdy roadhouse.”
      “As soon as John and I finish at the Community Building, we could lay the foundation for the Inn.  Our assignment on the punch list is to encase the building’s 10-foot stilt supports with rock walls, to provide a shelter and a more secure storage area for supplies.  We’ve even started getting a supply of mortar in place.”
      “I think it’ll take us about a week or ten days… no, ten days is a week on Alchibah, so about a week to finish that project.  After this hands-on experience, I should have it down pat for the Inn.  So, what do you think?  Are you up for it?” 

     “Well, JJ, just between us, I can’t get out of this tent soon enough, and I’ll feel a lot safer when there are walls to protect me.  As far as a layout goes, your dad’s already helped me draft some rough plans.” 

     “No time like the present, Mom.  Get out those pencils and paper.  But this time use a ruler.” 

     As Junior was leaving, I turned to Jules and said,  “Imagine that, we’re going to be innkeepers!  Let’s make one of my proverbial lists.  We’ll need an eraser, too.” 

     Emily and Jaisa entered, laughing and whispering in soft tones.  I could see that Emily’s pregnancy wouldn’t be a secret much longer, with her waistline expanding ever so slightly.  Just the other day Linda asked what would we do for baby clothes and for Emily herself.  Now the idea was born:  we needed a laundry and a sewing room. 

     “Hi, girls.”  

     “Hi, Grandma.” 

     “Hello, Mrs. Parker.” 

     “I’d like your opinion about a problem we have.  It’s been preying on my mind what to do about mending clothes, recycling them, and even the need for a laundry.  There’s sew much to do here, and we need more helpers.” 

     Jai said, “Don’t look at me.  Not my job.” 

     Emily wasn’t so quick to turn down the question.  Actually, I could see her mulling it over.  I think she got my drift.  “Well, Granny, everyone needs a button or alteration now and then.  I never did much sewing, but I think we’ll have to be more self-reliant here.  I, for one, am willing to learn.  Count me in.” 

     “Is it allright with you if I invite some others to join us?” 

     “Yes, please.  Maybe we could even set up a swap shop.  Where on earth,,, uhh rather, where on Alchibah can I get baby clothes?  Might as well pass the word.  I’ll need all the help I can get…. No kidding!”

Council Meeting Militia and Guard

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Liberty Council

Day 13. . .00:13:15:00

“Bang!” Reyes gavel came down again. From the back of the room someone said, “We never should have given him that thing.”

“Quite in the house! I call this meeting to order for the purpose of determining what, if anything additional, has been discovered concerning Jack Seaworth’s death, and devising a plan so that something similar will not happen again in the future. I turn the meeting over to Andy Stuart. Sir…”

“Thank You, Mr. Reye.

“I have two items for the Council. The first is a personal Point of Order and the second is the formal report on the predator. May I proceed?”

Reye just nodded looking confused.

“Thank you Sir, I would like to request that the Council formalize the appointment of a Commander for the Guard Force and Civil Police. I am flat out stretched too thin for both jobs. The death of Seaworth proved that I have exceeded what the Military calls Span of Control.

“Alchibah needs two Military Forces. One is the Guard, which, for those of you who remember the old United States, is a combination of the State Police and the National Guard.

“The second is the Militia, which will be a small highly trained assault force whose primary job is to support Space Command Alchibah.”

“I am the wrong person to command the Guard. Of course, I will assist in the training of the Guard and remain in the Guard rotation as long as required.

“I see the Guard as being under the control of the Liberty Council. The Militia is under the control of the Federal Council. In both cases, the Commander answers to civilian control. It is my intention and basic skill, to Command the Militia. It’s what I have spent most of my adult life preparing for.

“I ask that this motion be tabled for a closed discussion of the Council and that Capt. Sinopia and I be allowed to present the scientific report on the direct threat.

“I await the Councils decision.”

Reye, recovering from his surprise, and looking at the other Council members, said, “The Council will be most interested in your proposals concerning a militia, however the Council has been expressly forbidden from having closed sessions. After our first order of business is completed, a motion for a closed session may be entertained by the meeting at large.”

“I am well aware, Mr. Stuart, that under some rules of meeting procedure, your motion would take precedence, however, in deference to the time already invested by the entire chamber, I feel that even if a closed session should be approved, we complete our original agenda first.”

“Do I hear Objections?” he waited. “Hearing none, I turn the floor over to Councilor Benjamin for a report on the rumbler.”

“Thank you Mr. Reye. I’ve received both Capt. Sinopa and Col. Stuart’s reports on the ‘rumbler,’ as the thing has been nicknamed, and have also reviewed Jaisa’s initial report. Here’s what we know so far. It’s four legged, approximately twelve feet at the shoulder and twenty feet long, and weighs approximately 4200lbs. This figure has been substantiated by both Sinopa’s expertise and a soil compaction test run by Mariana Stuart. It has claws, two horns and a jaw capable of producing upwards of at least 5000lbs. of force, making it two to three times as powerful as an american alligator. Its hide is described as a streaky mix of dark red and black, which, combined with the time of the attack leads me to believe that it is nocturnal. Because of this, the Council asks that all colonists stay within the perimeter of the camp after dark until we have dealt with the animal.

“We know it was hit last night with fifteen standard issue penetrators – not the ideal bullets for large predator control, but they were well placed and would have taken down any Earth animal. We’re not totally sure yet, but we suspect that it has some sort of an exoskeleton and, in addition, that it is capable of regeneration.” There were gasps and frightened whispers from the audience. “I know. I wish I had better news, but I wanted to put all the facts out there in plain sight so that everyone knows what we’re dealing with. I can say, however, that the person most qualified to deal with this sort of a threat, the person most qualified on this world or the one we came from, is right here with us, and right now she’s the only one who’s seen the thing up close. I’ll let her carry on from here. Captain?”

“Oh, please, does anyone here really believe she ‘saw it up close?’” Jack interrupted. “She probably saw it and ran like-”

“You would have?” Summer Pierce quipped, to much laughter.

“This from the man who proclaimed me dead.” Sinopa commented dryly. “Any more predictions Jack? In any case, as many of you know I spent the last several days exploring the surrounding area, trying to gain as much knowledge as I could on the local predators and herbivores – basically anything we either need to worry about or might be able to eat or domesticate. I’ll skip the other details for now, but I did track a pack of a catamount sized, nocturnal predator species in addition to the rumbler, so I would also like to suggest people not wander at night.

“I believe, and Connor concurs, that the rumbler is likely a solitary creature with an extremely large range, which means that it is entirely possible that we will not see it again for weeks or months. I have seen it run upwards of thirty miles per hour, though I suspect its top speed is far higher. It’s quieter than you would expect for something of its size, though it certainly doesn’t rely on stealth. Right now we frankly don’t know what it would take to kill it. I assure you, however, that I will. I would like to ask the Council’s permission to track it and observe it for a while.”

“I think we can get that out of the way now. Objections?” Connor said.

That vote was quickly called and passed by a majority voice vote… though not without some grumbling.

“That being dealt with we come to the second point of our original agenda. What do we do now to insure an event such as happened last night does not occur again? We are open for comments from the floor. Reye said as he began to raise the gavel, thought better of it, and lowered it quietly.

“Everyone was looking at Jack but Frank Turner spoke first. “It’s obvious the Guard needs organization and a leader The ‘Chief’s’ spot we are talking about will need to be considered a full time position by whoever takes it on, and require organizational experience. With that in mind I nominate Karl Nash.”

The motion was seconded even before Nash could raise from his chair to object. “Thank you Frank, I guess, but I have no police or military experience. Sure, I was in charge of a few organizations back on Earth, but my plan for Alchibah is to get the Port up and running and begin boat building.”

As he paused Joe Fortson stepped into the vacuum, “Karl, organization is the first order of business for any unit. It don’t even look like the roads gonna make it all the way through the port area for quite a spell. If the folks here go along with it, we can limit the initial term to six months. And you’ll have more than enough help on the procedural and training end.”

With obvious reluctance Karl Nash agreed to be considered. No one else was even nominated as the job looked to involve a lot more work than glory. The position was his by acclimation. His first action was to insist Fortson oversee the operational areas of the camp guard for the next week, or until it was operating in an acceptable fashion. Joe tried to resist but couldn’t wiggle out.

“We can now address the Militia issue. Councilor Stuart,” Reye said turning to Mariana, while glancing at a note she had handed him, “I see you wish to make a statement.”

“Mr. Chairman, We have found general agreement that the Township Guard, which will also be our police force, and our Militia, or standing army, be separate commands. The Guard reporting to us here, the Council, and the Militia reporting to the combined Mayflower, Liberty Township boards. It would be appropriate at this time to take nominations for the leadership of the Militia. ”

“I propose we establish a separate panel composed of two from the Council and three from the populace which may meet in secret session to examine those nominations and return with their recommendations. Determination of fitness for command is often brutal and best performed by a select group and in private. That said I nominate my husband Andrew Stuart for command of the Militia.”

“The fix is in I see, Mr. and Mrs. Generalissimo Stuart.” Jack the Blade immediately said from his front row seat.

Mariana turned and in a low cold voice stated, “If the fix is to keep your worthless, lazy, no good REMF ass as far away from the real combat force as possible; then you could say the fix is in!”

Once more down came the hammer, “There will be order! There will be order! And there will no further outbursts and that includes you also Councilor Stuart.”

Mariana glowered but said nothing even as her eyes kept shooting daggers at Jack. One of Jack’s henchmen put in Jack’s name and Buchanan nominated another but the results were a foregone conclusion. The historian proposed a straight up down vote on each of the nominees. If more than one received general approval there would be a run off. It was quick and dirty but when finished there was no need for a private session to examine credentials and make recommendations.

Andy Stuart was the Militia commander. He reminded all that the exact responsibilities of both the Guard and the Militia and how they would be directed by government needed to be codified in out constitution. And from his point of view he said it couldn’t happen too soon.

And on that note the meeting was adjourned.

If I Only Had a Brain

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by William Bartlett

   “You want me to do, what Boss?” The Jeep asked in a voice that if I didn’t know better, I woulda sworn was both emotional and incredulous.

   “You heard me, I want you to push the button and turn off your Brain.

   “That’s what I thought you said Boss. May I ask why?”

   “No you may not. Just do it Jeep.”

   Ash Andrews and Sabbu watched as R. J.P. slid his finger under the cover that protected the disconnect. His lower torso access panel was removed and optical fibers ran to a test device on the bench in front of us. I scanned the reprogrammer Captain Monroe had brought down from the Mayflower the previous day, then said, “Looks good, the Jeeps on standby with no incoming or outgoing connections.”

   We had tried this two days earlier using Jack Seaworth’s bot, R.121. That robot needed to be reprogrammed in any event, but R. 121 just wouldn’t push the button. The reason was obvious in retrospect. It knew what we were up to and the prohibition against harming another life kicked in. I pointed out that we had no intention of harming anything at this time and R.121 just paused for about 5 seconds, locked up, and then shut down.

   “Back to the drawing board, eh Bart?” Sabbu said.

   “Yeah I guess so. We’ve got to do this in a way that keeps the bots from knowing or suspecting why the button gets pushed. I have an idea but let me get 121 reprogrammed again and we will try again this afternoon.”

   They both agreed and later that day we got it to work, after a fashion. So long as 121, who I had renamed R. Vexatious, didn’t know the real reason for the button he would press on command. Right now the button was a dummy and didn’t do anything, but I had told R. Vex it was a shutdown switch and that had caused him no internal conflicts. I was very careful that Vex was not communicating with rest of the robot net while we did this. I was worried that even without us saying anything the other bots would figure it out. And once any bot knew something they all did.

   I used the programmer to shut him down and turned to Ash and Subbu. “Well that worked, what do you think… Can you guys set up a system to read his sensors and fire a plasma rifle?”

   Subbu answered first. “Take a couple of days but depending on what Ash comes up with I can probably make the interface.”

   “Well Subbu. If you can match up to a Mil-Spec R795 interface, I actually have what you need. Dave Webber was taking the guidance computers out of the new experimental space-to-space missiles on board the ship Van Vogt blew up. He only got out 11 so we have to be chary with them but if this works, we will have an automated defense system for the township. Based on that, I cannot see a problem with R. Vex as our prototype. Can either of you?”

   Getting two head shakes in negation, I continued. “These things are built on a rip off of Andy’s patent that created the array. They already have autonomous guidance and control interfaces so; it will take me about two days to hack the code to fit your target parameters. Which brings up two questions? First, do you have your parameters ready? Second, how will you keep Vex here from figuring out that he just shot something and refuse to do it in the future?”

   “I had to read the owners manual to see how that was gonna work Ash. It seems the robots have a double memory store one is a permanent record and the other is a temporary cache holding the last fifteen seconds of real time data. If the cache doesn’t agree with the permanent store the bot does a reset and tries again for sync.”

   “We can’t touch the permanent memory but when we switch out to your system we can wipe the cache. When control goes back to the bot he will be out of sync and hence reset, forgetting in the process the button was ever pushed. He won’t be able to do anything for the first fifteen seconds he is back on line until sync is reestablished, so we better make damn well sure it’s safe for him to do so when he does switch back.

   Sabbu replied, “Sounds like a plan.”

Back to real time:       

   We all waited while Ash and Sabbu’s installed hardware cut out and sent a signal to the system circuitry giving control back to R. J.P. The Jeep stood motionless for the expected fifteen seconds and then said, just like nothing at all had happened. Repeating his earlier statement. “You want me to do, what Boss?”  

   “Never mind Jeep.” I replied, “It was just a thought.” Turning to Ash and Subbu I said, “I think I can handle it from here but if either of you have the time and want to come along I am going to try this thing out in the field.”

   They were both busy so I told the Jeep to follow and went out to find Janie.

   Ash had told me that to put together a series of routines to do threat analysis, target acquisition, and fire control would have taken a team of programmers months to accomplish. But he came up with a far better solution. Let the Jeep take care of the threat analysis and target location, then have the Jeep locate the target in the middle of his visual field. When the controller that Ash installed took over all it would need to do was align the plasma rifle, or any other weapon we supplied, with the aim point, account for distance and fire. We were starting with the plasma rifle because it was guaranteed to be lethal and would not be affected by distances we were interested in. Another advantage of the plasma rifle was that the Jeeps nuclear pack could keep it charged so ammo would be virtually unlimited.

   When I reached out tent Janie had just gotten back from a check on the windmills. She told me that she would be more than happy to come along and asked, “Should I bring EmyCee with us?”

   “No, better not. Don’t want her to see this. We’ll be fine with the two of us armed.”

   We headed south well beyond Liberty City’s borders, beyond the windmill generators and Biolab, and out of sight of anyone else or their bots. I explained to the Jeep what I wanted him to do.

   “Jeep pretend that rock over there is a Rumbler.” I was pointing at a solitary boulder about 100 yards away.

   “Ok, Boss, the rock is a Rumbler. Is this what you humans call fun?”

   Janie got a small laugh out of that. I just said, “This is important, pay attention.” I had been using those words from the start to let the Jeep know we were in training mode and no banter was allowed. “I want you to place the rock in the exact center of your visual field and tell me when it’s there.”

   “Done,” he replied at once.

   “Press the button. Now!”

   The Jeep reached under the protective cover and then faster than the eye could follow had the plasma rifle shouldered and loosed the trigger. It’s a good thing Janie and were wearing adaptive goggles. If we hadn’t we would both have been temporarily blinded by the piercing blue bolt of ionized gases left by the discharge. There was a sharp crack! And the boulder had a pit almost eighteen inches deep, glowing brightly yellow, near white, at the center, and fading to dull red on the edges.

   I looked over to the Jeep. The rifle was lowered and as expected he remained stationary for about 10 more seconds. He then said.

   “What happened Boss? I lost sync.”

   “Jeep,” I said as casually as possible, “Nothing to worry about. “I just told you I wanted to have a private word with Janie and when you switched off your hearing sensors a bug showed up. It must be a glitch in your basic programming. Not too surprising considering how new all your systems are. We can’t fix it now, and so in the future, if it should happen again just ignore it.

   “Yes Boss.”

When we returned to camp I sent the Jeep back out to the lumber mill with a word for Joe that I would be out soon so he could get back to camp and get ready for his new, temporary, position as night guard supervisor. I had tried to talk him out of it but Joe still insisted on putting in four hours a day at the mill.

   Janie and I grabbed a bite to eat, stew again, and sat outside talking. “That worked pretty good Bart, what’s next?” Janie asked.

   “I guess I go let Ash and Sabbu know how it came out. There is one more modification I’d like to see made though. I want to get rid of the switch. It slows him down and could get hit accidentally. Something like the clench controls in the military battle suits ought to work I’ll run it by Sabbu and then we can see about getting EmyCee set up. And another thing. We need to come up with a way that neither of the bots can see the other bot use their weapon, or for that mater, anyone else’s bots see them in action. Right now we can’t even talk about this to anyone but Ash and Sabbu, cause if the bots do find out.. it ain’t.. a gonna.. work. But still, we made a big step in the right direction. I think we get to go exploring after all.”

We’ll Make This Work

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Evening Day 13

I hustled out of the meeting with a purpose, “Joe, Karl, wait up up a moment!”

They stopped and turned with worried looks on their faces like someone had just laid a world on their shoulders; which in a way the Council just had.

“Karl I don’t’ think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you,” I extended my hand, “Andy Stuart, looks like I’m going to be your counterpart.”

Karl shook my hand with a wry grin on his face, “Yeah, as quick as I figure out what I am supposed to do.”

“Well Karl, I am here to buy you some time. The Militia is set up to handle the guard rotation for tonight. I have to steal Joe from you for a couple of hours in the morning but I’ll be through with him at the latest right after Lunch.

“Joe we are prepared to handle the nighttime perimeter until your have you training in place. We are also prepared to do that training for you to the limits of our assets. I never said I could not train this outfit, just that I was the wrong man to lead it.

“Karl, Gunnery Sergeant Fortson here can show you the admin side and I’ll show you the training side.

“Sound like a deal gentlemen?”

“Better check your hand and see if any fingers are missing Karl,” Fortson said in mock seriousness. “This man has been known to engage in larceny both petty and otherwise.”

Karl Nash had already spread his hand palm up and started to look downwards before he caught himself. “That sounds to me like harbor in a storm Andy. Joe’s been saying that camp guard ain’t rocket science, just personnel and procedure, so it would be greatly appreciated if you filled in tonight and let Joe explain to me in on what you are doing and why.”

“Sounds good Karl and Joe can show you the admin side maybe better than I. Learn this early, good NCOs’ are worth their weight in gold. But as an Old Army Officers Manual once said, “Enlisted personnel while uneducated are low and cunning and bare careful watching.” Tossing Joe a grin I walked away reaching for my wrist comp.

Karl turned towards Joe, “And you two are friends?”

Joe just laughed, “Karl I am a Marine, He’s Army. It’s a traditional pastime!”

Guard Duty, Oh MY

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Night Day 13 - Morning Day 14

I walked away from Karl and Joe blipping my wrist comp with a message for Connor and Rocco. God if it weren’t for the age-old inter-service banter with Joe I would not have a place to let my normal mischievous sense of humor out.

Stopping by the tent, I changed into the full chameleon field rig and loaded up the full combat rig. Damn Andy I thought, you went and asked for this. I had been ready to do this anyway but, seeing Kurt’s face when I walked into treatment this afternoon. Clan Alchibah had a big chance of meaning more to me than I thought it ever would.

Moving into Hanna’s place, I appropriated a pot of coffee and a brace of cups and moved to my normal back corner table. Rocco and Connor came in about a minute apart and I waited till each had a cup in front of them.

“Thanks for coming guys, cause I am gonna need some help tonight. Our young Militia contingent is to get a training exercise in Perimeter Security tonight. Now the real security is going to be Sin, Ash and myself. Oh yeah, we will brief each team on station and dry fire train everyone except Jai. But, they are going to need a physical presence that they can see and take comfort from.”

I saw two very confused looks and with a gesture stopped the questions I knew were coming.

“We are going to teach them how to use the bots as surveillance systems and field of fire discipline. But, to provide real security Ash and I are going to spend most of the night using our field sensors to cover everything inside Sin’s arc. To use our sensor systems we have to be like this.”

I leaned back in the chair, pulled the grid mask over my face and keyed the Master On button. I wish I had had a camera running; the look on their faces was worth it. I knew they could tell where I was because the chameleon effect was not that good when you were sitting in a chair but it still had to be scary. I clicked the suit to off and pulled back the hood.

“We will be there on the comm. But, they need a visible presence to calm them down. Can I count on your help?”

Rocco was the first to reply, “Well if I can get a couple of hour’s shuteye first, I could handle the morning half. But, if you have those how well do they have to be trained?”

“Rocco there are exactly three of these suits in all of Alchibah and the only reason we have these is we were able to hide them from the UNWG. They don’t even allow their own people to have them; this is old U. S. technology and I figure we are at least ten Earth years from being able to duplicate them here on Alchibah. That of course always excepting the “Mad Doctor” pulling a miracle out of his hat.”

Connor chimed in, “I can take the first half no problem and Rocco, Jai’s going to be on both morning shifts so you only got one to baby-sit.”

Rocco nodded, “I can handle that.”

Seeing Ash at the door waving I stood and said, “OK, we’ll go with that. If you will excuse me, Ash says the games afoot.”

Ash had that same grin he had been wearing all afternoon, “Kid’s are here and ready Bots and all.”

“OK,” I said, “Ryu’s got some promise; take him up to the North side. Run through linking the comp to the bots sensors and dry fire procedures on the rifle he’s borrowing. You loaded with HE rounds?”

Ash looked insulted, “Just like you ain’t carrying Mariana’s Springfield. If fifteen penetrators did not stop that bastard I am gonna hit it right in the nostrils with 30 HE rounds to start with. If air can get in there a bullet damn sure can too!”

I had to laugh, “Might not be the kill shot but it’s a hell of a good place to start. We have to impress these kids so show all your stuff when you are training them.” I reached in my pocket and hit the sequence that turned my display panels transparent.

Ash sighed, “You know I am proud of my rack. But, seeing yours is awfully scary. Are you sure you want to hit the kids with all that?”

“Ash, most of them will have no idea what this stuff means. But they will understand that we have been there and done that. If it gets it into their heads that it’s time to listen, I’ll settle for that.”

Ryu and May’s shift went without a hitch; the only thing to note was that my opinion of May went up a notch. The kid was a sponge; she absorbed knowledge as fast as it could be poured.

Summer and Kaye’s shift went fairly smooth also. Kaye had a little problem with integrating the bots sensor ability but he caught on after a couple of reps. Working Summer through the steps I almost felt like I was dealing with the person Jai would have been without Gabe’s training. Encouraging.

I caught the edge of the change over between Connor and Rocco, “Rocco set your comp up on the audio link between the bots and listen to these two teach. It’s a free lesson in how to do it right.”

Rocco laughed, “I got a lesson in that back on the Mayflower. The most dumbfounded I’ve ever been was when Andy told Ash to give it up, and he pulled out that XD. That’s control; I would have shot me in that situation. I never have apologized to him for that. But, from what Capt. Travis told me; he’s not carrying a grudge at all. Where the hell did RJ find the people we have here?”

Connor shrugged and said,” Like Mariana said back on the Lancer, ‘from the same rabbit hole he pulled the rest of this miracle.’ I guess we just gotta make it work now.”

I moved up to the North side where Jai was set up for two shifts. “How’s it going Candidate?”

“I guess I am OK, Sir but, missing that Rumbler is still on my mind.”

Oh Lord, I thought; this is defiantly teaching time. “OK, first you did not miss. Reye might think you did, but you and I know better. Drop it you did not, I agree. But, that was because the thing was tougher than the ammo you had. That was my fault not yours and guess what; I thought 15 penetrators would have stopped most anything also. We have a challenge out there no doubt, but don’t let it beat you up. Now, you have this side?”

“Sir, yes Sir!”

“Good, see you at Hanna’s at dawn for breakfast.” With that, I pulled down the face screen and went away.

As the light was beginning to brighten the Eastern sky, I keyed the common channel for the whole crews wrist comps, “OK, chow call. We move out for the Hydro plant in 45 minutes. Ash meet me at Hanna’s place. Stuart out!”


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Kurt Kellerman

Day 14 Morning, Bio Lab

I was upset, I had hoped to beat Mariana in this morning, but there she was firing up the coffee pot. I was caught in the door with the case stuck square in my hand.

“I thought you had brought down all the medical equipment, what happened find some you forgot?” She asked with that smile that could break hearts.

“Not really,” I replied, “This is not medical and I don’t care what the labels say. This is all I have left of my Great Grandfather. I have to say that despite what Great Grandfather tried to teach me; I don’t know the first thing to do with any of this. I popped open the upper level of the clearly marked Medical Instruments case and motioned her to look.”

She moved over took one look and laughed, “And you thought you had no means of fighting back?”

“If you don’t know what they are and have no idea what to do with them My Lady, what good are they?”

She stared at me, “You really have no idea at all?”

“No, Dr. Stuart, they are guns that’s all I know. Flat out, honest; I can say that much and no more.”

She rocked her head towards me, “So why show this to me?”

I looked at the floor for a long moment. “Because I never want to be in that position again, and the only person on this planet I am not afraid to admit that to is you.”

“OK, let’s start from the top. The long gun here is called a SOCOM 16, it’s a civilian variant produced in the 1990’s by Springfield Amory. The two handguns are STI Spartans’ in mint condition. The Springfield is functionally identical to the one you will see on Ash’s back. Only difference is the stock; the Spartans are clones of Andy’s Colts. So what is the big secret?”

I gulped, “Col. Stuart, will you teach me how to use these damn things? Please?”

She didn’t miss a beat, ‘Teaching some one to pull a trigger is easy.” Letting that sink in, She looked me square in the eyes with those Ice Cold eyes; “teaching you to kill is a whole nother matter. What do you want to do; ‘Protect and Defend’ or Kill?”

I had the answer for that ready, “Whatever it takes to do the job your Husband asked me to do. Which path does a Combat Medic take?”

Mariana stared like someone who had been punched in the gut, “Protect and Defend, a Combat Medic has no reason to be in the Assault Wave. But, are you sure you want to do this?”

It was my turn to stammer and pause, “What is the difference in wanting to and knowing you have to?”

Her reply haunted me for days, “Honor!”

Hanna’s Place

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by William Bartlett

   I was at the lumber mill, cussin’ under my breath while welding a broken blade back together, when JJ. Parker came up with R. SirTom behind him pulling a cart. “Mornin’ Bart,“ he said, “Needed to talk to you so I figured I’d take a load of dried stuff back with me.”

   “Got just what you’re looking for,” I told him , “ RoDan will help SirTom get it loaded.” After giving the necessary instructions, and setting the blade welder to anneal, if the blade didn’t cool down slowly it would become brittle and break again, I turned back to JJ. “So what can I do you out of?”

   “Actually it’s for my Mom. I convinced her to start on the permanent First Inn and she and Dad have come up with a world of ideas. Some of her ideas are pretty extreme though, so I’d better fill you in on what she wants and you can tell me what you figure she can get.”

   “Well, to coin a phrase, 'A woman’s grip should exceed her grasp or what’s a heaven for'…Go ahead, tell me, what does she want? And where does she plan to build it?”

   “As to where she‘s going to build… at first she wanted to locate in Liberty City proper, but I convinced her that it would be much better to put it up on her freehold grid at [ac-19], after all that land touches the northeast corner of the city set-aside and has such a great view of the river. The road to the power plant and upper bridge will run right by it so most of the people on the other side of the river will pass it every time they go in or out of town. A near perfect location.”

   Picturing the spot I nodded, “Sounds perfect to me too. Don’t be shy now, go ahead and tell me what she wants to build.”

   JJ. gave a wry grin, took a deep breath, and began, “Oh, something about two or three times the size of the Community Building, with a cellar for storage and upper level to use as a dorm type boarding house, separate partitioned off kitchen, bar, and dining areas with large windows overlooking the river and a conveyor from the kitchen to bring out the meals, some private living quarters on the lower level and a foyer where people can hang their coats and store their weapons while inside. And of course a room for the daycare center, a couple of large restrooms, a covered area in the back to put the grills and hold picnics in when it rains and covered porches all around.” He had run out of breath and eyes opened wide looked at me.

   “Is that all?” I asked, returning his look, “You could tell her it’s been done before. Sounds a lot like the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island near where I grew up.”

   “Well I left out the parking lot and the fireman's pole between the first and second levels.”

   “I don’t think the Grand Hotel had fire poles,” I managed to get out before we both broke into fits of laughter. After we calmed down I said, “Say what you want about your mom, she certainly thinks big. And not to change the subject how’s the stone work going on the Community Building?”

   “It’s going good now Bart. Was slow at first but we’re moving right along and ought to be finished up by the end of the week. That’s when I want to get started on the First Inn.”

   “Ok then JJ,” I said, “this is what I think. What with all of the building going on right now, especially with Andy putting up the hydropower plant, plank cut lumber is at a real premium. So do the foundation and walls out of stone. I can get enough robots from the labor pool to do the work out here so I’ll send the Jeep to help you. I’m sure Janie will send EmyCee also and Joe should be out of the camp guard business so you should be able to use RoDan much of the time too. I’ll check with Gene Washburn, and unless I miss my guess, you’ll also get R. Krebs when he’s not out here. If you can talk your mother into keeping it down to say 24' by 50' for the time being with about half that much on the second story as their living spaces, what the heck, she can add on later and daycare should stay in the Community Building anyway, sometime in the next 10 days or so I can get you the material for floors and a roof. You’ll have enough site work and stone to lay that even with all the bots you can get helping out I should have the lumber ready before you really need it. So then, how does that sound? Think it‘ll make your mom happy?”

   “Better than I hoped for Bart. I think if I tell Dad first and we can both gang up on her, we’ll even be able to convince her that’s what she wanted in the first place. But how am I gonna pay you back?”

   “Don’t worry about that JJ.” I said with a smile, “When Janie and I start building our place, and we’ve been makin’ plans too, we’ll think of something.”

Graduation Day

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

I decided to start this day at Hanna’s place, her coffee was better and I needed to do some stuff in public.

The first was when Judy Davis came up and sat down, “That was fun to be a seamstress again, but here are the patches you ordered.”

I looked at what she gave me and called out to Hanna at the counter, “Hanna please note that those two unassigned Slizzard quarters are now the property of Judy Davis please.”

“Now Judy how are we coming on repairing and fitting those goonie suits?”

“That’s going to take a few more days; several of those suits took some serious damage.”

I had to grimace, “Yeah, when Magic stops someone it tends to do that.”

Judy looked a little confused, “Dr. Stuart is the kindest most gentile person I have ever met. I just cannot believe that she did that.”

“That Judy is because you deal with Dr. Stuart. You have never met her alter ego Col. Stuart call sign Magic; believe me when I say you don’t want to.”

“Nor I guess do I want to meet the Reaper,” she said calmly. “But Andy Stuart fits in the kind and gentile also. Why does Buchanan’s crowd try to undermine everything you do?”

“Because they really want to do everything they accuse us of. And they are smart enough to not want to meet the Reaper also. Our crowd, if you will, does everything we do up front and in public. They crawl in the dark, so you can take your pick. The only thing I can promise is that we will defend this place.”

Over my shoulder I heard, “That Ma’am you can believe,” said Ash.

Judy laughed, “That from the Man with the bad rep and the kind heart.”

“Good Lord woman, what are you trying to do? Destroy my image? I’ll have you know I worked hard at it. And I’m not that bad. But for a Fighter Jock it isn’t a bad rep to have.”

Judy just laughed, stood up, and walked away.

“OK Ash,” I asked, “where are we on the booze.’

He grinned, “The mash is ready to cook and Walt has all the coils ready so we could rock and roll tomorrow.”

“Great, if today goes as I hope tomorrow will be a rest day.” I handed Ash one each of the patches Judy had made and told him to put them in a pocket. “Ash you will know when it’s time to put those on.”

We took our cups to the counter thanked Hanna and went out front; the Young Guns were waiting for the order of the day. They were a welcome bevy of pleasant surprises for an old trainer. I have two clear-cut officers, even if one did need some more training.

“Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, here is today’s exercise. You are going to the Hydro site and you will stay undercover the whole way. You will get a 15 min. head start. If Ash or I tag you on the way, you fail this exercise. Does everyone understand the task and conditions?” All I got was a chorus of “Sir, Yes Sir.”

“Then move out, you head start starts NOW!”
Ash just grinned, “Graduation exercise I presume. We gonna go full kit on them and make it really tough?”

It was my turn to get a low evil grin, “You bet we are and I bet you we don’t tag a one of them.”

Ash asked, “Have they gotten that good this fast?”

“Ash, they have worked their tails off. This is flat out the best Basic Class I have ever seen. Mike Reye and Summer Pierce are surprises you would not believe. Summer moves to Candidate status as soon as they go through Walt’s little surprise today.”

“Good Lord, what have you two cooked up?”

“Well, I took the generator unit off of that 10 KW generator rig Dave pulled off of your cruiser and put a water spinner on it. That gave us enough power that he spent all last night setting up two 400 yard pop up qualifying ranges.”

Ash just gave me that infamous lop sided grin, “And you are going to pop it on them cold, I love it.”

“Yep, gear up. I don’t think we will tag one but I am not gonna make it easy.”

We pulled up the sub-vocal microphones and the ear bugs. Brought the head screens over and keyed the chameleon effect. Then my wrist comp chimed the end of the 15 min. timer. “OK Ash, let’s do our best to make their life miserable.” With that, we moved out up the trail.

About 2.5 miles up Ash commed, “I am getting some motion and I don’t think it’s your Kids”

“Me too, and whatever it is it’s too big for the Guns not to mention too many sources.”

At three miles I saw the first one, “Ash is that a damn Unicorn or am I dreaming.”

“Hell Cuz, that looks more like a Unicow. That looks like steaks on the hoof to me!”

“Me too Ash, I am shifting frequency’s; follow me this is going to be fun. Candidate Benjamin, if you are where I think you are you are about 45 yards closer to the big thing Ash calls a Unicow than I am.”

“Did you tag me Sir?” Jai’s voice asked in a concerned tone.

“Nope, just thought about where I would be in your situation. How far did I miss?”

“Sir, I am 43 yards from that load of hamburger and how did you know Walt had given me a sub-vocal mike?”

“Jai, who does Walt work for? One round Candidate, drop that sucker with a head shot.”

“Yes Sir, one shot, one kill!”

The .30 service dropped it in its tracks, the rest of the small herd disappeared in a hurry.

“Good shot Candidate, Ash can I borrow R. Nav? He and Pvt. Nug have a delivery to make.

“To all, exercise over. Ya’ll pass, gather by the Unicow.”

“Pvt. Nug, pass to R. Nav the details of a travois and pulling in trace. You will then take the carcass of the Unicow to the Lab. Drop it at the front door whether Dr. Stuart is there or not. Do you understand?”

“Sir, Yes Sir.”

“Then make it happen Pvt. Candidate Benjamin, move the troops to the Hydro site.”

I shifted channels and sent, “Mariana, if you think he’s ready, bring him up here and let him prove it.’

“On the way, and I think the sudden shock will be good; moving as we speak!” I could almost hear Marinna grinning over the link.

When we got to the Hydro site, there was Walt obviously tired but grinning for all he was worth.

“OK Boss,” he said, “here you go. Two full trainfire Ranges and here is the control unit. What you gonna do to these Kids?”

I grinned and handed the control unit to Ash, “Sgt, Davis, you and I are going to shoot the first course. The Kids got to see it work. Ash, can I borrow your Springfield.”

With a very serious look, he handed me his vintage Squad Scout, “Touch the sights and we may have to have a fight Cuz!”

It was my turn of course, “Unless you have gone blind, you are still one click of elevation above my sight picture. I think I can handle that.”

Gathering the Young Guns behind us with Ash on the Range Control, Walt and I proceeded to clean the 40 round Course of Fire.

I then took the control unit and announced, “Ash and Candidate Benjamin; you are up, take your positions.”

Ash and Jai cleaned it as fast as I could hit the buttons. The rest of the Young Guns were suitably impressed.

We started running them through the range as fast as possible. Mike Reye had just finished cleaning the range, I handed the control unit to Ash.

“Well Sgt. Reye, how does that feel?”

His eyes got big as he realized what I had just said. “Like I finally did something on my own. Dad had nothing to do with this and he did not grease the wheels on this for me. This is mine, I earned it and it tastes sweet.”

I just stared him right in the eyes, “Now I m going to tell you something strange. You have been hanging with Bill Bartlett, stay with him. Learn the woods; the wildlife and how to be a Scout; don’t worry about your Dad. He’s not really a bad person; a little confused and a prick, but not a bad person.”

He grinned back at me and said, “I know, I just wish He could get away from that Buchanan puke.”

“Go with Bart kid, we will take care of Buchanan. Come back the man you can be!”

His answer was the only one you ever got from the Young Guns, “Sir, Yes Sir.”

Just as I finished with Reye, Mariana and Kurt dragged in. “Good Morning Kurt, this is gonna be fast cause ya’ll have work coming your way. You are looking at a Qualification Range. According to the other Col. Stuart you are ready, let’s see OK?”

He just gulped and said, “I guess I might as well give it a try.”

We put him on the range with Mariana in the other lane and let the Young Guns watch them clean the course. No one was going to doubt Kurt Kellerman.

“Ok troops listen up, you see that mound of junk you have moved out of the way of where Our Power Station is going to go. That mound happens to be 70% pure Chalcopyrite. For those of you who missed a science class or two, that’s Copper. We are going to play let’s make a deal with the Mayflower, you have done good work here. Now I am going to make your day.”

I started moving amongst them, they were all wearing the field jackets that Judy had made. I slapped each left shoulder with Judy’s first patch


Ash, Mariana, and I stood in front of the group and very ceremonially lifted the panels on our left shoulders and removed the Earth patches, tossed them to the ground and stomped them. In unison, we replaced them with the Alchibah patch. We then lifted the panels over our left breast and ripped off the US Special Forces badges and replaced them with Judy’s second patch.


“OK folks, go home. Tomorrow is a day off. Do something with your family; have a life. Spend the weekend like normal people. AIT starts Monday, that’s when it gets rough. Kellerman, Benjamin; stay behind.”

As everyone started back towards town, I saw two confused faces. “Jai take these.” I handed her the collar bars of a 2nd Lieutenant and watched her face. “You might want to spend a few minutes this weekend with Candidate Pierce. She’s going to have it rougher than you did; she never had Gabe as a teacher. Summer is going to have a hard time but, she will make it.”

“Kurt, here you go, you surprised me for sure.” I handed him the twin Silver bars of a Captain; “Doc’s always start out big. Now go tell me if that Unicow is edible.”

“Ash, I need a drink!”

Seriously, how small can the world really get?

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Benjamin Family


Day 15, early morning

Two nights since Jack was killed and we’d seen neither hide nor hair of the rumbler, or any slizzards or anything else for that matter.  The lot of us on guard detail were on short sleep, but we could handle it for a while longer while the young guns got trained enough that they didn’t need such thorough babysitting.  Of course, Jack had been ex-military and had known what he was doing, so it was going to be a while before we let them totally alone.  I just hoped one of those kids didn’t buy it.  That would be more than the colony could take.  It would be more than I could take.

The last shift had just ended, the sun creeping over the horizon.  I had put the Tavor back in the tent, though I left the HK and one of the Pythons on and in plain sight.  Andy was right; what people needed now was reassurance, and when you might be attacked weapons in the hands of competent people that you trust (I hope the other colonists trust us) are reassuring.  As I was headed to Hanna’s for coffee (by now I had given in to the temptation) I saw something I hadn’t really ever expected to see again down by Windmill Hill.  Coffee forgotten I started jogging in that direction.  As I neared the man I slowed.

He was kneeling with his back to me under one of the few trees in the field, hand on the hilt of what was unmistakably a katana, staring straight ahead, motionless.  I had seen this once before as a child on a trip to Japan to visit a friend of my father’s.  I looked up.  Sure enough, on a leaf ten feet above his head and not three feet in front of him sat a glistening drop of dew, inching its way ever so slowly downward.  I kneeled, watching.

Minutes passed.  The drop had stopped.  Then suddenly it fell, catching the light as it sailed toward its fate.  The sword flew through the air, bisecting the shimmering drop, catching half on its blade and letting the rest continue undisturbed to the grass below.  The swordsman shook the water off, wiped the blade and gracefully slid it back into its sheath.  He stood and turned.

I bowed, hands at sides, looking at the ground. “Hajimemashite.  Benjamin Connor desu, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” I looked up to see an ever so slight look of surprise in the man’s eyes.  He bowed back.

“Maeda Kiyoshi desu, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” He straightened and extended his hand. “It is good to meet you Connor,” he said, shaking my hand. “I am Ryu’s father.  He has told me good things of you and your daughter.”

“Thank you.  And you have quite the son.  He’s turning into a real leader.  I’ve met few people his age as mature as he is.” I paused. “If you don’t mind me asking, is that a traditional katana?  I thought they had been outlawed.”

He sighed. “Yes.  This was made by my father.  I have two others made by him as well.  I had to leave my own katanas on Earth.  With luck, and if the gods smile on me perhaps I will make more yet.”

“You’re a smith?” I asked, stunned. “You were one of the five still allowed to practice, to make ‘art swords’ after the ban?” My eyes widened. “You’re Hayashi Maeda’s son?” He nodded curtly. “I have to show you something.  Come on!” I started walking quickly back to the tents with the confused smith in tow.  I couldn’t believe it.  Was the world really that small?

Life Goes On

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Les Reye

From the Log Files of Lester Reye

   There weren’t enough hours in the day for all that needed doing. When I first mentioned that to Judith she said “Of course not Lester, there are only twenty of them. Back on earth we had 24 and something ought to be done to fix that. Can‘t you pass a law to make our time system the same as the one we were used to? This may be a new planet but that doesn‘t mean we have to change everything!” I told her I would look into it.

   The death of Jack Seaworth and fear of being out of the protected area around Liberty City had almost put a stop to working on our farm. Guns, and the culture of guns, both Judith and I had always said, were a danger to the public, and should be, and rightfully were, at least back on Earth, illegal. Now I wasn’t so sure. Without some means of protection though, working at our future farm was out of the question. And I guess I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, when Burt Buchanan helped solve that problem.

   When Burt and I had our first meeting after the militia regulation issue was settled I was not at all prepared for his anger. Till this point he had always seemed cold and professional whenever we had spoken, that wasn’t how he behaved in public but I had come to the conclusion that everything he did in public was part of a larger act.

   “That bastard Stuart,” Burt said snarling with rage, “he didn’t follow the script. Now we are going to have to find another… and a more certain means to discredit him!” Buchanan was livid, I was momentarily stunned by the force of his anger. “Next time, if we decide to let him have a next time, he’s finished!”

   Shaking my head slowly side to side, and in a puzzled, wary tone, I said, “But we have civilian control of both the Militia and the Guard, isn’t that what we wanted?”

   He was like a kettle about to boil over, “It was only part of it Lester.” I could see the veins in his face and neck throbbing, “We also needed to eliminate his influence in the future. Now we may need to eliminate him!”

   As soon as those words left his mouth his entire demeanor changed like the flicking of a switch. A mask seemed to drop over him and instantly he seemed the Buchanan I had come to know. If I hadn’t been so shocked by the vehemence of his tirade it would have been scary, and when I thought about it later it was.

   “This is what we do for now,” he continued as if nothing at all was out of character in his earlier remarks. “We start at once, today, working your farmland, that gets us out of town and out from under anybody’s prying eyes. After that we begin to prepare for the next stage. We will get this colony structured in a sane efficient manner. But first the farm.”

   “But Burt, I can’t bring my wife and son out there, the danger is way too great until this ‘rumbler and slizard’ problem are dealt with.” Gathering up all my courage I said, “I just won’t do it!”

   Far from becoming angry again, Burt’s expression, and persona, changed once more, this time to one of, I can only call it, good natured natural bonhomie. “There’s no need to worry about personal safety Les, Jack the Blade will provide all the protection you will ever need.”

   So that’s how it was. With a couple of Jack’s supporters and their robots always on watch, Mike, when not at Bartlett’s lumber mill, and I began getting the farm into order. We had Buchanan’s help along with any of J t’ B ’s personal support group along with their robots whenever free from community projects. Progress was both more rapid and satisfying than I had any reason to hope for.

   Our farm was slated for mostly livestock, cattle and, well buffalo. Cattle I knew, the other might take some getting used to, though until the Peta laws there had still been a few small herds used to provide food for elitist and ostentatious consumption back home, so I was aware they could be domesticated to a degree. The farm was on the other side of the river and farther from Liberty City than any of the other colonist’s freeholds with the exception of the spacers.

   The fact that the lower bridge was in place just to our west made it a very good location providing the natural predators could be kept at bay. The land itself was a little too sandy to make good cropland but should be fine for the grasses and cover crops we would want for animal feed. There was also plenty of nearby forest for firewood and fence posts. I spent all of my time there when not involved with Township meetings, or the new thing, working on a draft Constitution.

   Mike and I were getting along better than we had in years, I could see he was starting to pay attention to some of the girls in the camp who were near his own age. I couldn’t say that came as a surprise. But Judith wasn’t quite ready, or maybe didn’t want to overcome her fears, and so spent most of her free time helping out at the Community Farm closer to town. The walk back and forth between the city and our farm was time consuming, but that, along with all the work I was doing, was getting me into the kind of shape I could have only dreamed of back on Earth.

   I was continually troubled, and starting to have ever darker and more uncomfortable thoughts concerning Buchanan, and deeply regretted the necessity of our continued association, but I pushed them into the background and decided to deal with the present and let the future look out for itself. No… that’s wrong… I knew something was terribly wrong and just refused to address it, but I was still certain that I could back out when the time came, and fix things if any of those things I wouldn‘t think about, should turn out to be real. And then I prayed it would never come to that.

Devil Dialogue

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Kara

With everything going on, the devils were a welcome distraction.  Every day I looked forward to lunch, so I could see them.  They got me wondering about how much we could learn from them about Alchibah.  They obviously had a language of some kind as they clearly named things.  But I wondered if it was just for them, or if there were other animals they could communicate with.  At the very least, I could see if they could help us with naming things.

So with Marianna's permission, I downloaded pictures of the samples we've collected.  I wasn't sure if the devils were going to understand what pictures were or if they'd even really see them very well, but I figured I give it a shot.  I just hope they wouldn't destroy my computer!

As if on cue, the devils arrived at lunch.  I had plenty of fries waiting for them (though seriously wondered if they were going to get sick from eating them so much, as who knew if they were even remotely nutritious for them).  They brought some Cappies and I gave them some fries.  I also had a picture of a Cappi on my screen.  I turned the computer towards the few devils that remained at the table, and I pointed to the screen.  The devils looked at me, then looked at the computer.  I pointed again and said Cappi.  They looked at me some more and I got concerned.  So I held up a Cappi, said Cappi, then pointed at the screen and said Cappi.  Still nothing.  I had a pencil and some paper for notes, so I drew a quick outline of a Cappi, and repeated the exercise.  Then I did it again and included the picture on the computer.  They immediately started saying "Cappi!  Cappi!"  So I then gave them some more fries and showed a picture of a basket of fries.  I said Fries.  They agreed, Fries!

I then moved on to a picture of a small slizzard.  I wasn't sure how they would react, assuming a larger slizzard would be a predator.  They looked and immediately said "Paac!"  After giving them their fries, I showed them a picture of a much larger slizzard.  They took a step back and hesitated.  I pointed and said, "Paac?"  They looked at me and said, "PaacPaac!"  I guess a small one isn't any concern, but the bigger ones are.  I also imagine they would end up saying Paac over and over again if they saw a big slizzard, like you would in a warning, and so the double name became its name.  At least that's how I make sense of it.

I did this many times more, alternating between plants and animals, and always rewarding with fries.  Hannah kept an eye on my fries supply, and always had more ready when I was low.  Which was good as the devils didn't seem to mind staying longer than they had previously.  They didn't have words for everything, as I suspected, but I a lot to work with.  "Lil'li" for one of the stream's fish, "Panna" for the tree that killed Robert, "Teh" for one of the pine-like trees, etc.

When it was time for me to get back to work, the devils seemed disappointed it was over (of course, I'm probably personifying that).  They flew alongside me on my walk back to the Lab squaking "bye! bye!"

I think I may have made some friends.  :)

Dear Diary…

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Benjamin Family

Arra Benjamin

Aya and I have a new friend!  We think his name is Shuk, but it’s kinda hard to tell.  He’s a devil.  Or at least that’s what people are calling them.  It doesn’t seem like a very good name for such nice birds, but everyone seems to like them anyway, so that’s ok I guess.  Shuk’s followed us around some the past couple of days.  He’s funny, and I think he likes us.  It might have something to do with the fries we snuck from lunch for him, but that’s ok too.

Everyone’s still seems really sad about Jack.  We never really got to know him, but I guess I’m a little sad too.  They don’t think we know what happened, but Aya and I are pretty smart when we want to be.  I know everyone thinks it’s for our own good, but I think it’s better for us to know what’s going on.

Dad’s been really good about it.  He made sure Emily came and got us right away after it happened to take us to stay with the Parkers for the night cause Jai and him had to stay out.  They’re both really good at pretending everything’s ok, but we can tell sometimes when they’re worried.  Jai expecially has been beating herself up over it I think.

School’s a lot of fun.  Mr. Parker and Kaiya (we have to call her Ms. Yamasak when we’re in class, but she lets us call her Kaiya outside of school) are really great teachers.  It’s cool to finally go to a real school after being homeschooled for all our lives.  Dad and Uncle Gabe and Sinopa and Okanai are really good teachers too, but it’s more fun to have other kids around.

I think Kaiya and Dad like eachother.  I mean, like like – like in the movies.  I think it’s great.  She’s great, and he’s happy around her, so it’s fine by us!  He still really misses Mom.  I dunno.  It’s weird.  He’s really happy around her, but he seems sad too.  I guess it’d be like if Aya died and then years later I got a new sister.  Would it be ok for me to like my new sister as much as I liked Aya?  It’s tough, but I think he should try to be happy.  He spends so much time taking care of other people that he forgets to take care of himself sometimes.

Well, we’ve got to go have dinner.  Maybe we’ll get to sit with Jai’s friends again!

Oh What a Day at the Lab!

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

From The Log of Mariana Stuart

I laughed as I walked into the Lab; the sight of Kurt nursing his hangover was great theater. “Well Dr. Kellerman, did we have one to many last night?”

“That’s CPT. Kellerman to you COL. and I damn sure did. I still can’t believe he popped these on me.”

“That’s what happens when you prove you can get it done to a man who believes in results. Your dumb ass did ask me to teach you how to use those things. Little did you know I learned how to teach from the three best there ever were.”

“Three, Mariana?”

“Andy Stuart, Gabriel Benjamin and Ashcroft Andrews. Do not cross anyone on that list, you are far from ready to play in that league. Shit, I would not try that crowd.”

“Mariana,” exclaimed Kurt, “I have seen your draw, you make my Grand Dads “Panther Quick” look slow.”

“But, you could see it,” I said. “Tell me did you even see Ash’s when he drew down on you back on the Mayflower?” Kurt just nodded no. “Kurt, he’s the slowest of the three!”

“Benjamin, is that any relation to the Benjamin’s we have here?”

“He is Connor’s adopted brother and Jai’s Uncle. You think she got to be the firebrand she is by accident?”

“Oh Lord, that’s why Andy’s dumping on her; she has Leader written all over her.”

I caught his eyes, “If your little experiment don’t work for sure; she is Andy’s adopted daughter. She will be his replacement, he won’t admit it, but I know it.”

Kurt stared at me for a long moment then, “Mariana I was not drunk enough that I could not run up your blood work from last night. I figure you have somewhere between sixty and ninety days to find a source of tampons or pads. Your enzyme and endorphin levels are already ramping up, that thing is deader than hell; that was the other reason I was partying last night.”

I slumped into the chair, it was real; I knew in my soul that Kurt would not lie to me, then the voice broke the silence.

“Ain’t that buggering interesting? Who’s the head Digger at this Military sawbones shop?”

I heard Kurt answering, “Ma’am this is not a Military facility.”

The statuesque Redhead answered, “Well damn Mate. I see a Full Bird COL. and a CPT. what the bloody hell am I supposed to think?”

Kurt laughed and came back with a great line; “This is a civilian facility that just happens to be staffed heavily by part time military. That’s our story and we are sticking to it.”

While she was laughing, I stepped in, “We leave rank at the door here, if you’re looking for the boss; it depends on what you want! By the way who are you and how did you come to know military ranks?”

She stared at me for a minute, “The name is JoAnn McKenzie, late 2LT of the Australian SBS; so those rank tabs are familiar. My only question is that according to my last briefing before we were dissolved, is that COL. Stuart was a male.”

“No,” I said, “While I was on active duty I went by Kearns, that was before we got married. Once again, what do you want? And what does the name mean to you?”

“Dear Lord Mate, you can’t be Magic and the Reaper. The UNWG swore you were dead,” JoAnn exclaimed.

My reply was short and sweet, ” Not Hardly Mate; now one more time, what do you want here?”

“Well, I heard the CPT. bragging at the bar last night and I was wondering if you could tell me why the UNWG hung one of those bloody things on me?”

I heard Kurt’s low “Oh Shit!” and immediately called Sally on my wrist comp; “Sally is Treatment fired up?”

“Sure Mariana, I just finished the run up self diagnostic, what do you have?”

“We have a female, early thirties; full body scan with a possible active implant. We are going to need a full workup on location of any implant.”

“OK, JoAnn get that gear off, open your mouth for that swab Kurt’s carrying and get next door.” I watched as she took off her gear and what a strange mix it was. I had to ask, “A lever action and two Ruger Super Redhawks?”

“Well, they at least use the same round they are all .44 mags!” She said as she placed them on the weapons rack Dave had built in just the day before.

I turned to see Kurt’s wry grin as he started the DNA scanner, “Never thought I would see a Bio-Lab with a weapons rack and no one think anything about it. Brave New World indeed.”

We traded mindless banter like that for the five minutes it took for Diag and Primary to start putting up results. Staring at the visual in Diag I asked, “You see any problems here? I see a couple of small glitches there but nothing to worry about.”

Kurt’s reply was kind of strange, “Nah, not a problem but I swear I have seen that pattern before.” He then started a comparison search of our database. The hit came up fast, “Yep, there it is; only the fact that this one is a male pattern is what had me confused!”

“Ok Kurt, who’s is it?” And the reply was the bingo surprise of the morning,

“Ashcroft William Andrews IV, my oh so interesting double recessive mutant. We are looking at a Female double recessive and I know why she got tagged. You see Ash lied to everybody but me, you did not get tagged as a cover for your ex; you got tagged to stop you from mating with this.” He then called up a fourth scan on the split screen.

I just stared and asked, “Whose is that?” Then the impact of what I was seeing hit me, “Dear God, that’s Andy’s.”

“Yep, the UNWG followed basic eugenics; stop the females is the fastest way to stop the line. All we need now is a basic idea of her IQ; I give you Dr. Andrews as a baseline.”

Just at that moment JoAnn walked in, like most Aussies I had ever met she was in her pants and bra carrying her upper garments. I asked her, “Just to get us a baseline what’s your education level, it’s faster than an IQ test.”

“Crikey, double BS Civil and Chemical Engineering wanted to go for a More of the Same but ran out of degree completion time.”

Just at that time the fates or my bad luck had Ash walk in the door, ” Hello Sis, I got some ohmygod I mean softbod, I mean software to put on the ohmygod I mean control unit.”

Kurt came to the rescue, “Ash the computer is back in primary as you well know. I don’t know what software you have to load; but that Lady has been tagged and I need some help.”

Ash’s face suddenly lost its slack-jawed look and assumed the Clan Stuart cold stare. “What do you mean by tagged and what help do you mean?”

“Dammit, she’s got one of those damn active implants and it’s a different model from the one they put in Mariana. I need some help with the correct harmonics.”

Ash was as cold as they came, “Five minutes for the upload, then I’ll frack that Bastard for you.” He turned towards JoAnn, “That I promise you My Lady!”

As Ash and Kurt moved into the back room I looked at JoAnn, “Would you get dressed please, I’ve never seen that dumbass like that.”

She started pulling on her shirt and smiled at me wistfully, “He’s kinda cute actually”

I just rolled my eyes towards the ceiling, “Dear God, two of them. Who did I piss of in a past life?”


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Pierce Family

Elana Pierce

I gazed out past the bay towards the horizon as the sun set, leaning on the bridge’s railing.  A gentle breeze blew the salty air towards me, like a memory of my childhood.  I’m so glad we made it here.  We had a good life on Earth, but living here, on the first real frontier the human race has faced in almost 200 years?  This is something else.  Truth be told I wish we could have waited for Summer to finish high school, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Other than that…no regrets.  We didn’t have a whole lot holding us back.

I felt John coming up behind me.  He was certainly a bundle of emotions since we got here.  Exhaustion, mostly, but a certain contentment as well.  I turned my head to greet him.

“No sneaking up on you, is there sis?” he laughed. “Thinking of California again?” I nodded as he joined me at the railing. “I know you too well.  The stories you tell…wish I could remember more of it.  Oh well, this’ll have to do.”

“Taking a break?” I asked.

“Yeah, a little one.  You too I guess.  We deserve it though,” he said, clapping me on the back.

“You certainly do.  You’ve barely stopped working since we landed.  Nothing you’re not used to though.”

He sighed. “One of these years I’m going to try relaxing.  I’ve heard good things.”

“Don’t make me regret letting you push yourself so hard.  After mom and dad died…”

“Don’t.  We’ve had this conversation a hundred times if we’ve had it once.  It was my decision, and I don’t regret it.” He stretched. “Of course, if I turn out all messed up in the head you know I’m blaming you,” he grinned, skipping out of the way as I took a playful swipe at him. “Come on, we should get back.  Race ya!” He took off.

“Damnit, get back here!” I yelled, sprinting after him.  Little punk.  He’s twenty and he still acts like he’s five sometimes.

“Ohhh, can’t catch me!  You’re too slow!” he turned around, charging backwards for a second.

“Just you wait ‘til I get you in the water again!  Get your scrawny ass back here!”

Ah, my family.  What would I ever do without them?

Second Sunday

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by William Bartlett

Day 17 Sunday on Alchibah:

     Jules Parker Sr. had put stone markers out on one of the three dozen surveyed city lots south of the Community Building in order to mark the corners of the church he, and a number of others, intended to build. The lots were on either side of what would come to be known as Liberty street, half overlooking the river, the others, larger, crowded the roads west side. The church lot was sited just where Les Reye had originally figured to build his mansion. That seemed like ancient history now. But it was on that spot, an hour after sunrise and before breakfast, Jules presided over a nondenominational service that attracted about a third of the colonists.

     Janie and I attended, not because either of us were particularly devout, but as a show of solidarity and respect. Jules wasn’t the only speaker and his words of hope and grace were sincere and heartfelt. No one spoke for more than five minutes or so and all followed Jules lead. Jack Seaworth.’s death wasn‘t mentioned. With his widow Michelle and daughter Laura sitting there it would have been far to painful.

     We closed the service by singing one hymn, Martin Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 46.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

     It was an eerily powerful experience, hearing all of the unaccompanied voices, clear and strong, in the still morning air. . . As the last words faded, the analogies with our present circumstances escaped none of us.


     We sat at one of the longer tables in the mess tent and talked about the plans for Liberty City. Eight of the lots surveyed were already spoken for. Every colonist was entitled to one lot, but the Council had voted to assign them, and necessary building materials, on the basis of relative importance to the community, as best determined by the city planning commission. The planning commission’s choices were subject to vote but they had all been rubber stamped thus far.

     The first structures would be the church, a general store, a woodworking and furniture shop, Sabbu’s electronic repair shed, a textile and clothing setup for Rajnar Singe, a combination mechanical repair and blacksmiths shop, a place to begin making glass and ceramics and a building to house and maintain the robots. Out on the north end of Windmill Hill we planned two large storage buildings. One was slated for food stuffs, as they became available, and the other, larger one, for anything that needed to be stored or worked on out of the weather. There were requests for other definite purpose commercial buildings, but for now at least their construction would have to be totally private in nature.

     The Council had given priority to the materials use but except for the two large buildings all construction labor would be private in nature and so would ownership. It was an unfortunate but, undeniable fact, that we didn’t have enough people to manage or do the work required for all of the trades and services we knew we would want.

     I had made a deal with the Spacers aboard the Mayflower. In return for bearings, shafting, and two circular blades, one three foot in diameter and one six, and miscellaneous hardware items, I‘d take care of the finishing materials for their dirt side building projects. The Town Council had already promised the basics. Gene Washburn, Joe Fortson, and I, had also begun laying aside, on our own time, beams and other materials for a private mill, but except for the largest structural pieces it seemed, in return for help in the future, we were passing most of it out as fast as we could get it cut. I guess we would just have to get the roof up and finish the rest later. That was something we would come to hear over and over again.

     But today was Sunday, and except for two hours on camp guard right after breakfast, a favor to Joe and Karl Nash, and good experience for Janie, we would do as we pleased.

     There were fish in the river, and having made a few modifications to my Caddis Alchibus, the day ahead seemed all too short.

Wheeling and Dealing!

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Morning Day 18

I slept in for a change, I barely acknowledged Marinna when she left for the Lab. Ash had to go to the Lab to install the last link of the Software Firewall, so we were not going to start the cook off till the afternoon. So for the first time in weeks I had a slow morning.

The one thing I had not figured out was what we were going to do with the 6 quarts of our test run. Our best test said it was 180 Proof, not for the faint of heart for sure.

I stopped by Hanna’s place for breakfast and got asked if I wanted to try the “New” home fries. As I could find no real difference, I asked what was new about them.

Hanna grinned, “Those are your new ‘Quasi-potatoes’. How do they taste?”

I mumbled around my mouthful, “Sell ‘em Hanna, they be good!”

Bart came in grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down. “Didn’t see you at the service yesterday?”

I sighed, “And you never will if it’s not a Funeral. Bart, I am not an Atheist but I damn sure am an Agnostic.

“Don’t get me wrong I believe in God but I have no use for any organized religion. I have spent most of my life fighting one religious fanatic or another.

“You know where the Christians have it wrong; God did all his planning first. The first words he spoke where “Let There Be Light” and then there was a damn big bang. He’s sitting around somewhere in space and time with a really, great brew in hand thinking ‘How are They gonna Screw this Up Today?

“Anyway I gotta go, see you around Quigley!”

I moved out of Hanna’s knowing jaws were dropping behind me. Then my wrist comp chimed, it was Kurt Kellerman. “Finally got your tests on the Unicow done and figured out why it took so long.

“The computer was rejecting the results because it was too close to an Earth result.

“That’s Beef Boss, so close the computer was sure we were spoofing it with a test run.”

“OK, thanks. Now I have to make a couple of calls, one I am going to enjoy, and one I won’t”

First, the one I wanted to make.

“Dr. Hibbes on Mayflower, A. Stuart; private and Secure Please.”

I waited on the normal delay for the Mayflower and finally got Hibbes on the line.

“What can I do for you Mr. Stuart?”

“How would you like to make a commercial deal that you can probably do in your sleep; remembering that the ground component will probably pay well.”

I heard a long pause, “Well Mr. Stuart what could you have that I would want and what do I have that you would want?”

I had the mental image of a hook setting in a Tuna. “Let me list it. I have fresh made Bourbon, several meats that are not chicken and a vein of 70 percent pure Chalcopyrite that I can start shipping up on a moments notice. “You have a motor winding shop, which you as well as I know can wind generators just as easily. I need three more 150 KVA generators and I don’t really care what they cost. Do we have a basis for discussion?”

“Oh Dear Lord, I would have to discuss this with Capt. Travis. Please hold a moment…”

A couple minutes later, Hibbes returned to the secure line and said, “All set with Travis. The Chalcopyrite will be a big help. There’s no copper ore in this asteroid rock and with all the circuitry we have to build…And you folks will be needing more simple wire for your projects, too. Also, Travis asked how his boots were coming?”

“Chalcopyrite is in plentiful supply. I got about two tons we moved out of the Hydro site. You have a smelter, I don’t. At least till I get those three generators in place.

“Tell Travis that I actually found a 2 Qt. Mason Jar that is full of a clear liquid that is not for the young or faint of heart. And, his boots are ready.

“So, like I said Doc; what’s your price?”

Hibbes thought a moment and said, “Anything that isn’t chicken does sound good. Plus, our ‘greenhouse’ vegetables are limited in variety and taste. Have you folks discovered any tasty plant products yet?”

“Oh yes Doc, I’ll happily throw in a load or two of the tubers we found as well as a load of tasty berries Kara discovered in some bushes growing by the river. So I think we have a deal?”

“I think we do, Sir. And don’t forget that homegrown bourbon. Chandler and I enjoy a drink or two in our late night brainstorming sessions.”

“Done deal Doc, tell Travis to give me his ETA and we will have it ready. Stuart Out”

“Jai Benjamin, A. Stuart open.”

“Yeah Boss!”

“LT. grab a couple of the young guns and go bust me a couple of Unicows. Then put your best tracker to follow the herd reaction, we just made a deal with Mayflower and I am going to negotiate with elements on the planet to utilize the herd.”

“Yes Sir, you are not going to send someone to ride herd?”

“LT, did you hear anything you, Summer and Ryu can’t handle?”

“Sir, No Sir”

“Carry On, LT.”

Then I had to make the call I did not want to make. “L. Reye, A. Stuart, Private please!”

“What can I possibly do for you COL. Stuart?” Was the Ice-cold reply!

“Sir, the Militia has discovered a bovine animal that the Lab has analyzed as an almost perfect replication of Earth Beef.

“I was wondering if you would like to take a shot at trying to domesticate it. The Militia will undertake to drive a herd into a holding pen of your construction.

“Even if this animal which is temporarily named the Unicow can not be domesticated; it could be an interim source of protein until we can get some Cows up via the tubes.”

I heard a confused voice ask, “Why would you offer this to me?”

“Lester, this is Andy talking. Put this in your memory; don’t ask me the question if you don’t want to hear the answer. I don’t like you that’s no secret, mostly because you present yourself as an Officious, Bureaucratic Prick.

“But, I have no reason to hate you or to call Blood Feud on your House. To me your one saving grace is that you are the Father of SGT. Mike Reye; no one who can do that can be completely bad.

“I don’t have to like you to work with you to the betterment of Alchibah.

“So, Sir do we have a deal?”

“Yes Andy, we do. I will contact you when we have the corral ready!”

“OK Lester, I will be waiting.”

I stood up from the bench outside Hanna’s where I had been sitting and as I turned to walk away, I caught the eyes of Buchanan. In them, I saw the very definition of hate.

“Dear God Andy, one of these days you are going to have to kill that Bastard.” I thought!

Out for a Run

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Benjamin Family


It had been yet another quiet night. I had been on watch since the middle of the night – the rest of the young guns were certainly progressing fast, and after their display at Andy’s little ‘graduation ceremony’ there was no doubt that they were well on their way to being able to hold their own. But shooting targets is one thing. Shooting a rumbler (as I can say from personal experience) is something else entirely. So I’m pulling double duty for the next while.

Summer had been on last shift with me. Andy was right, she was going to make a good officer. She was the only other one of us that had fired a gun before landing on Alchibah, which was something, but she certainly didn’t have my background. Which, all things considered, she should be thankful for. That didn’t change the fact that she had the stuff.

“So, I heard Elana mention that you run?” I asked. We were just getting off shift. “You any good? And what events, anyway?”

She laughed. “Yeah, I’m good. 1500, 3000 and 5000. You run?”

“You could say that. I’ve been missing it. Any chance you’re up for a little early morning training?”

”Abso-freaking-lutely! Let me just go get John – he wouldn’t miss a good run for the world. Be right back!” I watched as she dashed off. Yup, definitely a runner, born and raised.

I went back to my own tent, leaving the rifle and quickly getting changed. John and Summer were just getting there as I returned.

“So, what’s the plan?” John asked. “I haven’t so much as jogged since I got on the Lancer.”

“I figure a few laps around the main town clearing should do for starters. About a mile a lap. Think you can keep up?” I grinned.

“Don’t worry about us hotshot. Just don’t fall behind!” Summer shouted over her shoulder, starting.

They were as good as her word. Better. Truth be told I had never found anyone, even back with the resistance, that could push me. Until now. After the second mile John piped up.

“Enough with this jogging crap. You girls ready to start running?” Summer rolled her eyes. I grinned.

“Follow me if you can!” I shouted, sprinting ahead. After that it was all we could do to keep up with each other. I think John could have won, if he had pushed to his limit, but we were pretty evenly matched. A half an hour and five laps later we all started slowing down together. By then the camp was awake. More to the point, the other young guns were awake. One by one they joined us, pushing to keep up with our slowed pace. They weren’t runners, that’s for damn sure, but they were young guns. They kept up. As we rounded the bend halfway through our last lap I saw Andy and Ash looking at us. I could just pick out what they said as we passed.

“Would ya look at that?” Ash exclaimed, “Voluntary PT. Remember when we that young?”

“I can occasionally remember that far. Never thought I’d see the day again,” Andy replied, “Maybe these pigs can fly.”

Finally, Hound Dog Down!

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Ash Andrews

I left Hanna’s before Andy showed up; I did wave on my way out. We knew where we were going to be this day.

First stop for me was where our pit was going to be to find that Walt had beaten me there. “Sorry to put a Tech like you doing grunt work Walt!”

“Be sorry when I demand my share of the hooch,” He grinned at me. “What with Joe’s help your reference books and Andy’s energy knife; building these casks was easy. Charring them was a whole ‘nother thing. I think I earned my cut on that alone!”

“That you did Walt that you did, but we are not going to cask up the whole run today. We are going to cap off some shine out of each run to keep Hanna’s place running, as well as have some bargaining chips.”

“No problem Ash, I rather like the idea of taking my cut off the back end. Besides this stuff is so damn potent a quart jars gonna last me a month at least.”

“Walt what I want to see is when Travis takes a sniff from that two quart jar Andy has for him. Wonder if I can sneak a camera shot of that without making Travis mad?”

Walt came up spitting coffee out of his nose, “Damn you Ash, you better hope Travis don’t have a smoke in his hand when he opens that jar. I can just see it; the whole Command Element of Alchibah goes up in one ball of flame!”

It was my turn to come up spitting coffee and snot. “Damn Walt, I give Andy credit for more brains than that. No way he’s gonna let someone He likes open a jar of the pure with a flame in his hand. Buchanan or Jack on the other hand, well maybe!” I waved off further comment with a grin and left for the Lab.

When I got to the Lab, it was to the shock of my life. I was just launching into my explanation when my brain fried in place. I was expecting anything in the world than the Redhead standing there in combat boots, fatigue pants, and a bra. I know I sounded like a total idiot but all could think was, “Don’t step on your tongue idiot.”

Then thankfully, Kurt grabbed me and started me towards the back room talking about implants and harmonics when my brain went ice. I mumbled something back into the main room as Kurt closed the door.

“What was that,” asked Kurt, “I have never seen you like that.”

“I don’t know.” I replied in all honesty. “That was something new for me, by the way did I just promise a miracle and WHAT IS HER NAME?”

Kurt had the biggest SEG I had ever seen. “When you get your tongue back in your mouth, her name is JoAnn McKenzie and yes you just promised her a miracle. So do whatever LTC Andrews came here to do, then I need the undivided attention of Dr. Andrews, OK?”

I just moved to the Lab control unit and using Andy’s master unit transferred the firewall software to it. I gave it the start command sequence and waited. In two minutes, it flashed the all-secure sequence and the all complete sequence.

Checking my watch, I keyed my wrist comp for comms through the control unit. “Monroe, Andrews on the order wire, security check?”

“Ah, you are the reason Dr. Andrews that I have a ‘SNAKETRAP OPERATIONAL’ message on my console. I take it that I will vouch for my trusted units and you will vouch for yours, and may I add this appears to be unbeatable!”

“This means Capt Monroe, that we can control access to both major data centers and cold trace anyone who tries to access them. I am afraid that any threats are going to come from my side not yours but that you may see them first. Please keep any security discussions on the order wire not Wrist Comp traffic.”

“Rest assured Dr. Andrews we will not blow it from this end. Capt. Travis was rather adamant about that.”

“That Capt. Monroe I would not want to cross, Andrews out!

“Now Kurt what’s this about a new model implant?”

Kurt’s long face told me I really did not want to hear this, “Ash if this spectrum sweep is right, we are looking at a dual processor rig that I never expected. I am at a loss I don’t know if Andy’s rig can beat this.”

“Kurt, you have never been around a rig Andy designed and as I am learning, Walt built. Who did the sweep?”

“Sally and according to Andy and Walt, she is the best we have.”

“OK, then let’s figure out how to kill this bastard!

“It’s gonna be a bear, it’s not a dual; it’s a triple, let me think!” Sitting in front of the big display of Primary, I started banging keys and let myself drift into that other place.

Kurt Kellerman

I keyed the intercom, “Mariana can you come in here please?”

Mariana entered the room and stopped cold. We both watched as Ash was lost in a world where his hands seemed to be waiting on the display in front of him, unlike normal humans. “Yep,” she said, “It’s scary the first time you see it isn’t it?”

“What is that?” I asked.

“What you have been seeing in the DNA,” Mariana replied. “That’s what it looks like when Clan Stuart males go to that place we females can’t understand; freaky scary isn’t it?”

We both watched as Ash’s fingers blurred over the keyboard, knowing that he was waiting on the keys. Suddenly he stopped and spun around as the printer started whirring.

“It’s not a double or a triple,” He said, “It’s a damn quad. It’s going to take five shots in 7.1 seconds or less. The kicker is that I cannot predict what the last two have to be. It’s up to you Big Sis, I can’t help her.”

Ash Andrews

I walked out to the Redhead I meant JoAnn and told her, “My Lady I have done everything science can do, what you need is a little magic now!”

Mariana Stuart

“Kurt, you remember that pistol drill I taught you?”

“You mean where when you grunt I shoot. Yea, but what has got to do with this?”

“Because I am going to do what the Kearns Women do that the Stuart Men never seem to comprehend.”

JoAnn McKenzie

The cute guy who’s name I had never gotten, had just left when the COL and the CPT came out from the back. She said, “Get her ready Kurt, I am going to get Treatment ready.”

As she walked by I saw the name tag again and it dawned on me, “Cor Blimey, that’s Magic.”

Mariana Stuart

I walked into Hanna’s place to see Ash slumped over the bar with a coffee pot in front of him. I grabbed the stool next to him. “Unless She has less brains than I give her credit for, your ass is off the market right about now!”

Ash stared at me like a lost soul. “Five point six seconds Little Bro and Sally says there’s nothing left but a ‘Black Hole’.”

Ash was out the door like a guided missile. I turned towards a grinning Hanna, “Can I have about three fingers of something Old and Smokey?”

From Booze to Bot’s

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

I dragged myself towards Hanna’s place for breakfast. I was quite happy to see Ash leaving his tent alone, thank God. According to Mariana my worst fears about Ash were now constrained to the appearance of propriety, as His market presence was over. I would believe that when I saw it, I was the Hound Dog before he was. But damn if an ex-Aussie SBS operator could trip him, more power to them both!

Grabbing a plate of eggs and potatoes, I went to one of the outside tables. Ash drug up with a cup of coffee, “Not going to eat?” I asked.

“Nah, I grabbed a sandwich earlier. Karl asked me to check on the last guard mount. They are getting good at using the Bots’ sensors. They are getting to be a good tripwire warning system and fast; whether they are going to be able to shoot or not I ain’t so sure.”

“That’s all we can ask for Ash, they are essentially the Police; they are not Combat Troops.” I saw a face I recognized coming out of the kitchen area, “Hey Rocco, come on over.”

Rocco sat down his plate and coffee mug. “I wasn’t sure that I would be welcome over here after that first day on Mayflower.”

Ash laughed, “Rocco that was over with about the time Andy shucked the mag outta my XD. If I had meant you harm, it would have happened right there! Although, this might even the score!” That being said with a friendly grin, as Ash handed him a 2qt. canteen.

Rocco started to open the cap and froze as everyone for two tables deep around us who had a smoke lit started running. He extended his arms as far as they would go and twisted off the top; followed by his eyes watering, face flushing red and coughing as he screwed the cap back on.

Joe chimed in from a safe distance, “Rocco, if you need to peel paint off a bulkhead that stuff will do it,” he laughed as he went away with his plate and cup.

“Good Lord Andy, how do you drink this stuff?’ Rocco asked.

“Well first you talk to Hanna, ‘cause you need about two gallons of the distilled water she is putting out from that Sun still we built her. That will give you ten quarts of 80 proof raw moonshine. Also known in polite circles as Bourbon waiting to grow up; and it’s not too damn polite about it either.”

“Andy, I hope you are aging out some of this stuff; this could get old in a hurry!”

“No problem Rocco, only one third of each run stays raw. The rest is going into casks that Walt is making. This stuff is just to keep the Bar at Hanna’s going and of course Bribes.

“The key is Rocco don’t tell any spacer about this stuff. We have a good old country shenanigan ready for our friends.

“By the way how are you coming on the lights for the upper bridge?”

“I should be ready at the junction box by tomorrow afternoon, why?”

“Well, I have not let this out Rocco but we are going to test spin sometime tomorrow. We will put you a spur down to the bridge and set up a delivery transformer just below your junction box. Main power for the township is coming in on the grid Z-20, a-19 and b-18 line in behind that rock line. Wait just a second Rocco.”

“Cpl. Nug, Front and Center.” The robot moved smartly over and responded, “Sir, Yes Sir.”

“Cpl. Take Pvt. Mycroft with you and dig a trench from Mr. Rocco’s work location at the Upper Bridge to the main distribution node at the dam. It needs to be ready for LT. Benjamin’s wire team immediately after the test spin. Human lives are at risk without those lights, so get it done Cpl!”

After two in chorus, “Sir, Yes Sir’s” Rocco stared at me, “What are you doing Andy? I have already figured out you never do anything for one reason.”

I could only shake my head, was I that damn transparent? “Rocco I am trying to do my best Dr. Susan Calvin imitation!”

He looked dumbfounded, “Who the hell is that and why?”

“Well actually she was a fictional character in a series of books by a noted Sci-Fi writer named Issac Asimov. He predicted the use of intelligent robots and came up with the ideas that were actually used in programming our robots. Dr. Calvin was the shrink who always figured out why a robot did something no one expected. Her work and Asimov’s series revolved around the Three Laws of Robotics.

“1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

“What I am trying to do is build on that First Law basis, look at the secondary clause.”

Rocco thought for a long moment, “Through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Damn, are you saying a robot can kill something and not blow a gasket?”

“Yes Rocco, if that robot has had responsibility hammered into its little positronic brain it would have no choice. I cannot think of any circumstance that I could make a robot harm a human being. But drop a rumbler to save a child. Hell Yes, they can.”

Rocco just stared, “What are you doing?”

“What I always said I would do, Defend this place!”


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Historian

Day 21

Rocco, BJ, and I were strolling towards our land grants. Our robots followed behind, pulling makeshift carts laden with the precious lumber we had gotten when our allotment came due at the mill. For the present, there were only enough beams, posts, and boards for one small structure, not three separate ones. Since our grants were adjacent, it was decided that we would pool our resources and with our robots, build a simple cabin on my property where we would all live. Eventually, when more supplies were available — when our numbers came up again — BJ and Rocco’s residences would go up.

We had crossed the river by the lower bridge. Reye’s makeshift rope barrier had been cut and lay in the mud. As we headed North, it was noted with some amusement that — safety being not all that paramount after all — Les, Judith, and their robots were hard at work themselves on their own property, with a small cabin nearly complete and a crude corral fence erected nearby. Word on the street, if we had real roads, was that Les was going into the unicow raising business.

“My God, Histy,” Rocco said as we passed the Reyes, “seems Les was able to navigate the 12-foot wide bridge without the help of railing.”

I said, “Isn’t it amazing how the entrepreneurial spirit is able to overcome the ’safety first’ mentality?”

BJ said, “You mean greed?”

“Now, now, young fella’,” I replied, “No pain, no gain as the saying goes. All of us in this colony are going to be entrepreneurs of one sort or another. As soon as we get my camp built, and a proper chicken pen put up, I’ll be bringing my flock down. There might be competition for chicken meat, although I suspect that even with exotic new foods on this planet, nostalgia for our home world and it’s ways will insure that Buffalo Wings remains a popular item for years to come. Even old fogies like me have to earn a living!”

Rocco said, “You can take the maven out of the market but you can’t take the marketing out of the maven.”

“Hush, you brute!” I said, jokingly, “I’m a history teacher. Don’t forget that! Anyway, I have, apparently, an even bigger market to corner. It seems that all the critters on this planet, even the Devils, reproduce by live birth. I have the monopoly on good old-fashioned eggs. And nobody gets tired of eggs, scrambled, poached, or fried, for their morning meal.”

BJ said, “You had a leg-up on the others, being awake for the four years we slept.”

I said, “That’s four years you all didn’t age. I did and I was already elderly. I consider that a proper trade-off. And what do you, young Bradley, plan to offer the colony?”

“I’m a potter,” he said, “You can sell food, Hanna can cook it, but people will need a plate or saucer to eat it from, not to mention for their homes when they eventually get built. A foot-wheel and a kiln is easy to build. Plates and bowls are my specialty.”

“Don’t forget the mugs for brew,” Rocco added, his voice still a bit raspy from something that happened the other day.

We reached our properties. The spot was quite pretty, nestled around a finger of a large lake just off the river. We went to work…

Changes and Progress

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Captain Travis

Day 22

Captain’s Journal:

Things change. They always do. We had originally planned to outfit one of the lifeboats cum shuttle craft as a long distance sentry, to stand guard near the exit of the wormhole and alert us as to when the Goonies arrived. Now, with the signal from the original sentinel craft having stopped, it was imperative that we find out what was happening out there. The shuttle craft were simply to slow for that and besides, it would be a waste of a relatively useful ship.

In conference with the others here on the Mayflower, it was decided that we would send out the Surprise, the small personal cruiser. It was built for two, and two robots it would hold. It was built for speed, and by ripping out the unnecessary life support systems, we were able to outfit it with greater fuel capacity. In addition, with only robots riding along, rapid acceleration was possible. The robots could care less about G-forces.

We had already installed one of the laser canon on it, and we filled it with other spare electronic parts and converted the bunk to a work table. The idea, and it was a good one from Hibbes, was that as our technology advanced here on the Mayflower, we could communicate those things to the robots on the Surprise who could then build it right there within the cruiser.

The Surprise was launched without fan fare.


Another decision reached was that the Lancer cruise ship was now superfluous. It was big, and while speedy, lacked maneuverability and was wasteful of fuel. We decided to cannibalize it for weapons, parts, electronics, fuel tanks, and even the engines and life support systems. It’s not that fuel was in short supply, anymore, since the NIFT had returned yesterday with another load of Helium3 from the fourth planet. Still, as fuel demands increased both on the colony and here in the rock, it made sense to find ways to economize it.

Day 23

I was heading towards the cargo bay where the first of the newly outfitted shuttle sat ready. As I left the tunnel and approached, I spotted Hibbes and Monroe standing under one of the wings making final inspections.

This had been the priority project for all of us, all nine of us plus our 25 robots, converting the Lancer’s lifeboats to more functional shuttle craft. Originally designed to hold 10-12 evacuees in not very much comfort, they were agile for travel in both space and through atmospheres.


The crews had ripped out some of the seating and long-term life support systems. The shuttle would now hold four people although a bench off one side could seat another couple in an emergency, had enough air and supplies for a month long jaunt, and the fuel capacity had been increased four-fold.

The shuttle craft would never be especially speedy but we did increase engine thrust a bit. In addition, one laser canon and one 100mm projectile gun, both taken from the Lancer, had been installed. The 100mm popped out of a hatch on top. The laser was mounted above the cab windows Beyond all of that, an extra layer of shielding had been installed and the inside consoles made ready for installation of, whenever Hibbes finished building and testing, the EMF electronics necessary to implement Dr. Ash Andrew’s shielding plans.

As I pulled up my golf cart I said to Hibbes, “Wasn’t this thing a dull beige? Yesterday?”

He chuckled and said, “Like the floor, Captain, yes. And tomorrow it might be a dull blue. We’ve applied a coat of nanoskin paint to the outside. I figured it would come in handy down planetside. If Andy and his forces park them in a sandy area, or a grassy area, or hide them in the woods, the skin color can change to camouflage the ship. Just thinking ahead in case the goonies are on the way.”

I nodded and said, “Good work, Doctor.”

“Even in space,” Monroe added, “the shuttle can be made non-reflective black. Very hard to spot visually although granted, there will always be some reflection and light leakage from the large zirconium windows in the bow.”

“How soon till the other three colonist’s shuttles are ready?” I asked.

Monroe said, “Four or five more days. Are you taking this one down, now?”

I shook my head and said, “Nope. I’ve got those three large generators to deliver, plus I’m picking up a load of copper ore. These shuttles simply don’t have much cargo space, despite their size. I’ll have to take the Galileo.”

“That sure is wasteful,” Hibbes said, “a huge ship like the Galileo being used for a paltry couple tons of ore.”

I said, “You’re right, Hibbes, could you cobble together some parts from the Lancer and put together a couple of simple cargo vans, as it were. Nothing fancy, about forty feet long with just a couple seats, low power engines. Figure they should haul about fifty tons and be very fuel efficient. One for the colonists to use planetside to transport rock, lumber, whatever, and one for us to use.”

“I’ll have them ready in two weeks, Captain, as soon as the shuttle retrofits are complete I’ll start on them.”

“What about the X-Fighters?” Monroe asked.

“We’ve got time enough for those,” I said, “since whatever it was that silenced the Sentinel, it’s still a light year and a half away from us.” But I worried just the same. What did happen out there? The Sentinel had been operating for three-and-a-half years before going silent. Did the battery simply give out? Was the small craft hit by some space debris? Or was it our nemesis, announcing their arrival on this side of the worm hole?

It was still on my mind as I touched-down the Galileo later that afternoon at the Space Port in Liberty City. I had several people to seek out. Andy, of course, and Bart and Janie were going to return to the Mayflower with me to get some training in the shuttle craft. First, though, I headed to Hanna’s tent for some of her fine coffee…


Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by The Benjamin Family


It’s been just over three (Earth) weeks since I met Kaiya, but it seems like we’ve known each other for months. Everything has been like that here; every day reaches its end in what seems like a blink of the eye, but a week ago feels like a month and waking up from cryo feels like another lifetime. Time is funny like that. Anyone that tells you that time is neat and orderly, that every second, hour or day is equally as long as every other second, hour or day, is either lying to you or hasn’t been paying attention.

We were having dinner, talking about nearly mundane things – how teaching was going for her, how helping Kiyoshi start to set up the blacksmith shop and getting my vet practice going was working for me, things like that. “How was your day, honey?” sort of stuff. It felt at the same time wonderful and horrible to again have someone in my life that I could talk to like that. A big part of me hates myself for even starting to think about anyone other than Luana that way, but I honestly don’t think I have a choice in the matter. You can’t make yourself like or dislike anyone; your heart does what it will, regardless of what you tell it.

She kissed me gently on the cheek as she got up to leave. I watched her go, my fingertips where her lips had just been. I hardly even realized what I was doing.

“You look like someone just hit you between the eyes,” a woman’s voice said off to my side. I glanced over, unconsciously rubbing my hand along my jaw and dropping it to the table. It was Elana Pierce.

“What?” I asked, playing dumb and failing miserably.

“Her. I get why you like her, and I certainly get why she’s interested in tall, dark and relatively-handsome here, but what I don’t get is why you act like a love struck teenager around her. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m not flirting with you. You’re not my type.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Inquisitive much? And the answer is I don’t rightly know either, not that it’s your concern.” She shrugged, sipping her drink. “Alright. As long as we’re asking questions here, how ‘bout you answer one?”

“Fair enough. Shoot,” she replied.

“How did it feel to break that world record?” She blinked in surprise, then sighed, twisting her mouth in annoyance. I laughed. “So it is you. I know you must have heard it a thousand times, but those swimming golds? In the Olympics, the one place the WG still let the Independent States go toe to toe with them? They meant so much, to so many people.”

“Yeah, I know.” She sighed again. “I was just hoping that I could leave that responsibility behind and just be…I dunno, a big sister, a citizen, a geologist. You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

“Your secret’s safe with me.” I grinned suddenly. “Oh man, if Gabe were here! My brother,” I explained, “he’s a big fan. Might have made the Olympics himself, if he hadn’t joined the Navy. Man, if he knew I was meeting the Divin’ Dolphin, in the flesh!” I laughed, she rolled her eyes. “All right, all right, I’ll cut it out. And besides, it’s not like we don’t have other things to talk about. Summer and Jai seem to becoming fast friends, for one…”

We ended up talking for hours. Certainly longer than we should have, given all that needed doing. It turns out we have a fair bit in common.

The Best Kind of News

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by William Bartlett

00:023: Evening

Sitting under the roof of the nearly completed, (stage one), First Inn, Janie Cantarubias looked out of the south facing window, still unglazed, and watched the Galileo’s arrival as she wafted down into her berth at the spaceport on the far end of Liberty City. We had eaten dinner at the Inn, something we hadn’t been doing much lately, due both to lack of time and the desire to save up as much credit as we could for our own place on the point beyond the designated port area. And we were also saving for what would be needed to build the private lumber mill. Kara, through her position on the town council, had been keeping track of the labor hours being earned and traded back and forth and had authored several articles for the Alchibah Electronic News stressing the importance of keeping the ‘money’ in circulation.

Those articles made so much sense that we had started to preorder, making a down payment, or paying for in advance the total price of everything we could afford that we knew we would be needing for both projects. The payments had helped others in getting almost every business in town started, and those start-ups drove other spending and especially purchases of lumber. This market driven economy thing really appeared to work… though Les Reye, among others, was already arguing about taxing and other policies to as they said— “Adjust for the inherent inequalities and lack of humanity in pure capitalism.”

Anyway dinner was delicious, and, we had been able to firm up with J.J. the delivery schedules for the final couple loads which would complete this stage of the Inn’s interior and upper levels before Captain Travis made it from the port and entered the building. He stopped at the door, glanced around, and spotting us, gave a wave and a nod before heading in out direction. The dining area contained just eight tables but six were in use and the Captain paused for a word or two to with most everyone seated as he passed by.

Before he had even reached our table Hanna had bustled over, hands full, with a cup and a pot of steaming coffee. As he seated himself Travis took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and then said, “It might be the ships life-support or maybe the water but even with the same beans nothing I make tastes as good or has the aroma of what you serve here Hanna.”

“Why thank you sir,” Hanna replied, “You can be sure I will quote you on that in the Electronic News tomorrow.”

As Hanna refilled my cup and Janie, putting up a hand, declined. Hanna then told the Captain, in no uncertain terms, that he must have the Fish and Chips Special. “What’s special about it?” he asked.

“What’s special,” Hanna laughed, “is it’s all we are serving tonight except for rations brought down from the ship and I need to use up all the fish brought in today because we just cant keep it fresh two days in a row. Bart here,” she added, “helped Jules make a couple of fish traps so we are serving it fresh a couple of times a week and have even started to smoke some. I’ll give you a sample of that too. It’s darn good tasting and will keep.” With that she headed back to the far side of the room where Jules was watching the stove and the kitchen equipment set up and visible without the dividing wall in place. Only a matter of a few more days for that I thought.

“It’s good to see you Captain,” Janie said. “I hope you brought good news.”

“And good to see you also,” Travis said with a rakish glance that I wasn’t sure I appreciated. “But just call me Glenn when I’m dirt side and not on official business. And yes I did bring a load of good news down with me along with the rest of the Galileo’s cargo. For Bart I’ve brought down most of the hardware for the private lumber mill and the smaller of the two blades; the larger is almost completed, all of us on the Mayflower are going a bit stir crazy and seeing the planet down below, and it looking back at us so invitingly, we can hardly wait to get our building down here started and usable. But more to the point I think, as far as you’re concerned Janie; the news is we’ve got one of the lifeboats finished and retrofitted as a shuttle. The others should be complete in a couple more weeks. So if you and Bart can spare the time to come up to the Mayflower with me when I return tomorrow morning, we can get Bart up to speed on the changes and start you running sims and getting trained on all of their operational considerations.” And with an evil grin. “Plan on three of the hardest most demanding days you‘ve ever spent”

Janie’s smile lit up like a nova, “Thank you ever so much, you can’t possibly imagine how I’ve been wanting to hear that!” I was basking in her radiance when she turned to me and said, “Drink up Bart, I hate to leave the good Captain so abruptly but we both have a lot of things to do tonight if we are going to be ready in the morning, and that’s one trip I am not going to miss out on.” With that, and after I had gulped down the rest of my coffee, Janie once more assured Captain Travis that we would be aboard at first light, we left the Inn.”

Captain Travis let me handle the Galileo’s docking into the Mayflower, and as I watched it near, I reflected on the four years I had spent on board her while most all of the other colonists slept the time away. I had never expected to feel like this, but in some fashion or another, it was almost like coming home and as the ship latched into place Janie piped up loudly, “So what are we waiting for? Let‘s get started!”

Wedding Bells

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Hanna Parker

Day 28 From the Log Files of Hanna Parker

Jules and I were sitting down taking a short break from the Inn’s stage one completion when Bart and Janie ambled through the door and walked over to our table. We knew they had come back from the Mayflower yesterday and saw the shuttle’s touch down as they brought her in, but hadn‘t had a chance yet to speak with either of them. “Umm. Hi Hanna.” Bart said looking at me with an unusual expression on his face, “It’s good to see you but we came in to ask Jules a favor, kinda in private I guess, if you don’t mind?”

Jules, looking at me and offered, “Then how about sitting down, young man, and you too Janie…. Hanna could you keep yourself busy in the kitchen for a while? This sounds serious.”

While Bart sat himself on one side of Jules and Janie on the other, I said, “Certainly Dear. This does sound serious.” And with a grin and small chuckle I stood up in preparation for heading to the rear of the building.

Then Bart stopped me by saying, “No, don’t leave Hanna. It’s probably best if you hear this now anyway. It won’t be secrete for long.” I sat back down again and he continued speaking mostly to Jules, “I’ve noticed that you both seem uhh– contented – after how many years?”

Blushing slightly, I beamed as Jules replied, “44 years this coming… ,” he squinched a bit considering the Alchibah calendar and said, “Well soon.”

Then Bart just blurted out, “Maybe it’ll be same for me and Janie. Uhhh - sir, would you marry us?”

A smile splitting his face from ear to ear and placing his arm around Bart’s shoulder, Jules said, “Bart, I’d be honored” then he leaned over and kissed Janie’s cheek, saying “Congratulations, young lady! We wish you every happiness.”

Janie said, “It would mean so much to have a real wedding.” Then she laughed, “Not exactly like the one I’d dreamed of, but certainly a special occasion to remember and cherish.” I could tell they were deeply in love, and I hoped that would sustain them through life’s challenges here.

“Oh Janie that’s wonderful,” I said, giving each of them a hug. “Congratulations Again! Explain to us just exactly how you’d like to set it up and how soon? And another thing, Jules and I must host the party to celebrate.” I added.

Janie spoke first. “We want a small,” Bart broke in saying very small, “private ceremony and we will write our own vows.”

“Hadn’t even considered a party.” Bart muttered shaking his head and frankly looking a bit overwhelmed. “But in so far as when, the sooner the better.” He said with certainty.

Looking to Bart for agreement, Janie said, “Yes, as soon as we can make the arrangements, but shouldn’t we at least ask Joe, Eugene and the Stuarts to be there. I’d like Kara as my maid of honor.” And teasingly she said, “I know you’re your own ‘best man’ Bart, but unless you let Joe stand with you I can’t see you remaining in one piece after word gets out.” Then looking at me and Jules she said, “And yes, a reception would be fine, but please, keep it simple. Very simple!”

Bart was obviously uncomfortable but still smitten, and even as he could see the idea of a small private wedding unraveling nodded agreement.

“So, it’s settled then. A wedding there will be! And a party!”

At that moment, Arra and Aya, who had been playing on the porch outside, came careening towards us chasing a mechanical bouncing bunny, and overhearing our last few words they exclaimed in unison, “A wedding! A wedding! A Party! We want to come!”

Karyn, hearing the shouting, toddled over and said, “Flowers. I’ll bring pretty flowers.”

A couple days later, two hours after noon, with about a hundred and twenty of our closest friends gathered near and standing at the river’s edge in front of the First Inn; we would have had it at the church if it had been completed but it was still many weeks away, Jules presided over the ceremony. “We are gathered together here today to celebrate the union of William Prescott Bartlett and Veronica Jane Cantarubias in holy matrimony….”

It was a glorious spring day, actually early summer now, with a warm sun, gentle breeze, and wispy clouds in the sky. As they repeated their vows, I marveled at the young couple. They’ll be stronger as a couple, I though to myself, than if single. It had all worked out pretty well: Karyn picked a bouquet of wild flowers, Janie had a beautiful lavender silk sash draped over her shoulder, Jules read from my Bible.

To everyone’s surprise, as William finished saying his vows he slipped a simple gold band out from his pocket onto Janie’s finger. “My Mother would have wanted you to have this.” Then they tenderly kissed, and everyone clapped.

As we all walked back toward the Inn, the kids were gathered along the path, cheering, and throwing pod grass seeds at the wedding party; they were the closest thing to rice, though no one would want to eat them. Bart and Janie stopped at the door and greeted everyone coming inside.

A nice treat after dinner was a delicious cake that Emily and Linda had baked, artfully decorated by Liza. The best man, Joe Fortson, proposed a toast. Then my darling Jules stood, and clearing his throat said, “I usually keep my singing private in the shower or if public only at church. However, in celebration of Alchibah’s first newlyweds, I’d like to dedicate this song to them. And, looking more at me than at the happy couple, in his warm baritone Jules began singing the song he had written for me on our first day on the planet. The one that ended, “And I will never leave you love…no I will never leave you.”

Let The Spirit be With You

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Day 23: Morning

Andrew Stuart

I was just finishing up breakfast and a most unusual conversation. The last person I had expected to have a long session with was JoAnn McKenzie; Lord fifteen years ago, I would have been howling on her trail. Now I was sitting here talking about my cousin, the current Hound Dog.

“This has been fun, JoAnn, but I have to get out to the dam; after the spin test we made a bunch of changes. The Bots and the kids — no I can’t call them that — the Bots and the Troops made so much progress on extending the constriction and increasing the pressure head, we may get the full 150 KVA outta that sucker. We had to change the intermediate gearing to adapt; damn those Troops don’t know the meaning of the word can’t.”

JoAnn McKenzie

I was just preparing to leave when Ash came in the Bar area. I actually felt good about the way his eyes lit up like beacons in the night. He went over to the bar and grabbed one of those cups of coffee that I had seen Hanna make for him and Andy, how could anyone take that much sugar. As he sat down I asked, “Not eating this morning?”

“Nah, as usual I was out working with the last guard shift. Hanna snuck me a sandwich or two at mid-shift. Sometimes I think she’s what holds this place together. But down to more mundane things, what’s put that quizzical look on your face?”

“Your Cousin.” I said, “How could anyone that nice and with that sense of humor have a call sign like “The Reaper”?”

Ash’s face went colder than I had bloody ever seen, “That’s simple Sweetheart, you have never meet The Reaper, he’s a personality, not a call sign. Andy, like many that ran in the SpecOps crowd, suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. The key is he and Mariana have it under control; their alter-egos, Magic and The Reaper, only show up when they want them to. They were the most feared team in space or on the ground. There was only one combo more dangerous; that was when Angel and The Reaper teamed up two times. That was a sight to behold; if you can imagine somebody who made Andy look small, it was Angel.”

I sat stunned, “What would cause two blokes like that to team up?”

“Easy, these goblins involved abandoned children to mask their getaway. Magic and Wildcat went for the kids; Angel and The Reaper went for the assholes. Both teams succeeded in spades. Happiest I ever saw the four of them! Hell, on the second one the chief goblin tried to sneak out in a skimmer, Ghost nailed his butt with a heat seeker up the tailpipe.”

“Who’s these blokes named Wildcat and Ghost?” I asked.

Ash grinned, “Wildcat was Angel’s partner, and Ghost was Magic and The Reaper’s taxi driver. Another MPD asshole you do not want to meet. Say, want to do me a favor?”

“Maybe Mate, what do you need?” I grinned.

Ash laughed, “Now there’s an open question. Actually what I need is to borrow your Bot today and for you to hang around here and work with Hanna on our little joke. While you are doing that watch for Travis to land at the spaceport and let Andy and me know when he is here.”

“Well I think I can handle that; it’s at least an excuse to have a dozer day.” I keyed my wrist comp, sent R. Digger orders to team up with R. Nav for the day, and asked, “So what the bloody hell is the joke?”

“You and Hanna have to figure out how to make 195 proof Shine look and smell like real Bourbon. Hanna has instructions but she’s going to need a second pair of hands. OK?”

”Oh Dear Lord, are you going to try to get some bloody fool to drink that stuff?”

“Of course,” he replied. “Just call it a Redneck ritual! I gotta go, take care of yourself, Love!”

With that he took his empty cup to the bar and left. I just sat stunned by the last sentence. Still in kind of a daze, I went to the closet barstool and asked Hanna, “Do you have any idea what just went on here?”

Hanna gave me that knowing smile, “To steal a line from an old movie, ‘Hearts are breaking all over two worlds tonight, because unless you are a fool girl, he is off the market today.’ Did you happen to know that Ash’s call sign was Ghost?”

For once, I was totally stoned, “What the hell, why did he warn me off of the Ghost?”

“Take it from an old veteran, when they are trying to get you in bed all you see is their good side; when they are trying to get at your heart, you see it all.”

Day 23: Evening

“McKenzie to A. Andrews: copy to: A. Stuart: gentlemen Capt. Travis has entered the bar and is in conversation with Bartlett and Lady. Special Jug is prepared.”

Ash Andrews

I knew that from my location I could beat Andy to Hanna’s place. We had finished the trench to the homestead and had added our efforts to the main trench headed for town and were less than two hundred yards from the designated location for the sub-station. As usual I was wrong, Andy pulled up to the side door at the same time I did.

“What did you do speed all they way down here?” I asked.

“Nope, we finished early. I was almost here when I got the call, you ready?”

Andrew Stuart

I walked in the side door just as Bartlett was leaving the front door. “Well Travis, I think I owe you a pair of boots and Mariana is on her way over with them. Hanna says to get your meat out of her freezers and by the way, are you prepared to load 60 tons of ores?” I was quite pleased to see a dumbfounded look on Travis’s face.

“We figured if you were light on CU 29, you were probably light on TI 22. So we went and got you 40 tons of CU and 20 of TI. There has been a whole lot of digging going on down here.”

Just at that time, the other two members of Travis’s crew walked in and Ash came over from the bar.

“Can I buy ya’ll a drink?” He grinned with a bottle in his hand.
Travis looked at Ash, then at the bottle, then at me, and finally again at Ash. “I’m pilot on duty,” he said with a glint in his eye, “but I’m sure that Steven and Greg could use a couple swallows to wash the space dust out of their throats.” With that, he turned and headed towards the counter.

In the meantime, a few glasses were produced and Ash poured three fingers into each of them. Steven and Greg gratefully picked theirs up and with little fanfare proceeded to gulp their drinks down. What followed could have been a scene calling for an ambulance rescue squad – if it hadn’t been so funny!

There was a couple seconds delay and then both men gasped, their faces turning bright red as their eyes bugged out. There was the sound of both of them gagging and Steven fell to the ground, clutching his stomach.

Travis returned from the bar holding two glasses of water, giving one to each of the struggling men, saying, “I figured you might need this. . .”

Ash and I helped them back into their chairs while they gulped the water. JoAnn was coming over with a large container of additional water.

Ash was laughing so hard the tears were coming out of his eyes. “Sorry guys but we had to christen the still and since we could not find any damnyankees we had to settle for innocent spacers. Besides everybody on planet has been down wind from the still at one time or another they were not going to bite.

“Besides someone has been telling the story about ‘Never trust a redneck with a grin and a bottle with no label,’ to anyone that will listen.”

Travis grinned, “It was not me LTC Andrews; I have not been down here remember?”

I looked at Travis, “And where did you learn the ritual, Mars Colony or Seattle?”

Still looking like he wanted to laugh Travis replied, “Seattle, we had a good old boy from northern Georgia and he found an actual yankee to torment. He really was a good man to have around until Cafferty killed him in the belt.”

“Sounds like he was a fine upstanding Southern boy,” said Mariana as she entered. Handing Travis two boxes she said, “Bob threw in a pair of Chukkas to go with the Wellingtons and there ain’t a cockroach killer amongst them.”

Greg finally got enough voice back to croak, “You guys do this to your friends, dear God what do you do to your enemies?”

Ash looked at Travis, “Did you like that old Georgia boy?”

Travis looked puzzled, “Yes, he was a fine Pilot and a good friend!”

“Good Travis, because I put two MK 50’s right up Cafferty’s tail pipe after we chased him down. Does that answer your question Greg?”

Changing the tone quickly I told Travis, “My spies are telling me you unloaded my generators, now if I could just find me a Civil Engineer on this planet I could really get some stuff done.”

JoAnn was just coming back with a bottle labeled:


“Uh excuse me mate, what the bloody hell do you think I do for a living?”

Motioning to Steven and Greg I said, “This is the real stuff guys, it’s been cut down to 80 proof and ain’t half bad. Now Young Woman, what do you know about Hydro-Plants.”

Ash looked at Mariana, “I finally find a girlfriend I care about and he dominates her time.”

Mariana started laughing, “Come back and complain when she starts busting your tail up at the Hydro site!”

From where I was, seeing Ash’s face was worth the whole evening’s entertainment.

I Aim to Please

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by EAB

Compiled from original sources.

Shuttle landing. The view from Janies Point.

Painting by Travis

“Thanks ever so much Lar,” Janie said to Captain Monroe as we loaded the last of the items we were taking back with us into the shuttle and finished getting ready to undock and return to Liberty City. “I will even forgive you the final ‘graduation’ sim, as difficult as that one was. Three days worth of work and 70 simulated flight plans and I think I am almost beginning to be able to fly this thing.”

“My pleasure Janie.” Monroe responded, “We aim to please, and if you think you’ve had it hard, just wait till you hear what the next ‘ground pounders’ have to put up with. Seeing some of your, shall we say, ‘ingenious’, flight maneuvers, has given me ideas for about a ton’s worth of new modifications to the training program. I am going to take it as a personal challenged to make sure no other newbie makes it through the full course without crashing and burning at least once on every new lesson.”

Janie laughed and said, “At least don’t blame that on me, I only survived the first time on 20 of them. But do send the updates down to us. I volunteer to be your non-spacer guinea pig. How’s that for aiming to please?”

In a voice of doom imitation, or maybe it was an old time Boris Karloff, Larry replied, “You will come to regret that last statement.” And in a lighter tone, “You really need to take to heart the old prescription about never volunteering. I can say from experience it always comes back to haunt you and in this case Bart will be around as a witness.”

“You’ve stepped in it now girl,” Bartlett concurred, “I crashed so many times in Larry’s sims that I brought a first aid kit into the trainer with me.” And then speaking to Monroe, “Thanks from both of us to all of you Spacers, and especially for the larger mill blade, as soon as we get back down we’ll get it installed and start getting the timbers cutting for your downside building. After that I look forwards to seeing you all much more often.” He turned back to Janie and said, “You’ve got the controls Babe, I’m just a passenger in a hurry.”

Janie Cantarubias, completing her pre-planed descent stage, flew the new shuttle slowly upriver and set down at the Liberty City Spaceport 45 minutes later where a crowd gathered round to admire the first of the soon to be four colony run transports.

Janie’s Log:
When we landed the shuttle at Liberty Port for the first time, as soon as the pad was clear we had a mob waiting to get aboard her for a closer look. Jack and Michelle Seaworth’s daughter Laura headed the waiting line as I exited the port. “Go right in Laura, Bart’s staying aboard and giving tours. And don’t be afraid to ask any question at all, he’ll like that and he always likes talking to pretty young ladies.” Her somewhat somber look brightened as I she heard that and she went on in.

I walked over to Michelle, standing in back but not really with the group that was wanting to get inside for a better look. I felt guilty because I hadn’t found the time to talk to her after her husbands death, but there was just to much else happening.

“Morning,” I said breaking the ice, “it sure looks like Laura’s in love with the lander.”

“She’s always been crazy for anything to do with space travel. Jack and I had no doubt we would be losing her to the deep in one way or another. Now it’s the first interest she’s shown in anything since Jack died. It hit her even harder than it did me.” Michelle looked so sad and lonesome, beyond pain… somewhere else, where mere pain would be a welcome relief.

That’s when inspiration struck, at least it felt like inspiration at the time, “Michelle. I got to run this by Bart, but it looks like in a few days we are going to take the shuttle on a two day trip and shakedown cruise. I think Andy Stuart will be along too but there’s gonna be room for one more. Why not let Laura come with us? Even the anticipation will be bound to get her mind off it’s present course.
Watching Michelle’s expression change so abruptly, almost, set me to crying along with her.

Council Meeting:
“It has been decided then,” Les Reye said in his rolling oratorical fashion, “Bartlett, Stuart, and Cantarubias, will leave tomorrow in the new shuttle for a two day mapping mission . The purpose being to do first an orbital geological scan and then, depending on indications, a low level flight for verification. Data collected will be sent back to us here at Liberty and Elana Pierce will go over it from this end, and basing her determination and on the list of needed minerals, a one day landing and personal exploration will be made for the purpose of returning samples. The landing site will be no more than two hundred miles distant and if possible in close proximity to our river’s northern reach.”
Andy Stuart in addition to becoming current on the shuttle modifications will get a birds eye overview of the local terrain features and provide additional security at the landing area. Let it be so recorded.”

Burt Buchanan and Jack the Blade got together as soon as the Council session was adjourned.

Burt said to the Blade, “It’s time to do the bastard Stuart in. Give him any more time and even when we take him out of the picture his organization will be up and running and that is something neither of us want to deal with. It‘s a shame we gotta take out that simpleton Bartlett along with him but eggs and omelets and all.”

Jack replied, “So what’s it to be? A shuttle accident?”

“That would be perfect in more ways than one. But how do you arrange it? I know a small explosive device planted next to one of the hydrogen feed lines would do the trick quite nicely but fusing will be a bitch. We don’t know exactly when liftoff happens so a timer wont work, and with Sabbu monitoring all of the time the risk of him detecting the signal to a radio activated device is too great.”

“Just leave it to me,” Jack assured him, “An air bladder with contacts on opposite sides placed inside a vented tube and when she’s high enough the balloon’s expansion completes the circuit and no more Stuart!”

“Very nice Jack, you do have a way with these things. Any problem getting it completed and installed tonight?”

“Piece of cake Burt. By this time tomorrow Stuart and Bartlett are toast.”

Next Morning:
“Damn Bart,” That was what Andy Stuart said to me over the com net, “I got one more thing to finish up here at the power plant and I’ve got to do it myself. Just can’t get away. I’m sending Mike Reye along for the ride. He’s shaping up quite nicely considering the gene pool in his background, and a trip like you have in mind will do him a world of good. Wish I were going with you though. Stuart out.”

Hound Dog Down

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Day 29 Mid-Day

G. Travis: A. Andrews: Private.

“Good Day Doctor Andrews, what can I do for you?” was Travis’s almost immediate reply.

“I have a favor I wish to ask from you Sir and please hear me out. JoAnn and I need a wedding performed and neither of us is particularly religious. Don’t get us wrong — we are Agnostic, not atheistic. We would just not feel comfortable going through any specific religious ceremony.

“As Liberty does not yet have a functioning government, we can not yet have a secular ceremony. So my question is, Sir, would the Captain of the Mayflower be willing to officiate at a Military wedding?”

A pause and then a chuckle came over the wristpad and Travis said, “Why Ash, I’d be honored to join the two of you together in matrimony. I must tell you that this would be a first for me but I suspect I can find the proper protocols in one of the manuals here on the ship. A few questions come to mind. First, where and when? I suppose it should be on the Mayflower itself where I have the authority. The Lounge makes a nice spot and there’s space for dancing and celebrating, afterwards. Glenda and Monroe could cook up a fine spread of food.

“Secondly, would you two want to write any part of your ceremony or would you like it by the book, so to speak?”

I looked at JoAnn and she just shrugged, “Let me address your second point first. I have an electronic copy of the U. S. Joint Services Chaplin Manual and JoAnn has the Australian Forces equivalent, we would like to keep it by the book and as non-sectarian as possible. We will send you both via e-mail and throw ourselves on your mercy.

“As to your first point, we expect it to be at least a week. There are people who have to have uniforms made and we are going to have more guests than I expected. I may not be the most popular guy on Alchibah but, it seems JoAnn may well be. The Lounge would be perfect and we will supply the raw food if Glenda and Monroe would be so kind as to do the prep.

“We are at least going to have to wait until the shuttles are all on line and we have more pilots than Bart, Andy and I.

“I’m not too nervous but, I’d rather be in a dogfight facing three.”

Travis laughed and said, “Ah, come on, Ash, folks have been hitching themselves to each other since mankind crawled out of caves. You’ll be fine.”

“Yeah Right, anyway Ashcroft Out.”

“OK sweetheart quietly tell the Guns to see Judy Davis and get uniforms made. Andy has already given her a design for the new uniforms. Oh and tell them it’s on my tab.

“Now, all I gotta do is figure out how to tell Mariana without the whole damn city hearing her laughing.”

Civilization Glows in the Dark

Posted in 7. Sounds and Sights by Andrew Stuart

Day 31 Evening

We were sitting at the bar at Hanna’s place and I was buying for the whole Hydro Project crew.

“Ya’ll done good, all thats left now is to bring up the grid in a manner that won’t blow up those precious transformers. The ‘Mad Doctor’ done us right by those things, be a damn shame to blow them up cause we do something wrong.”

JoAnn looked at me with that classic Aussie stare, ”And exactly how are we to do that fearless leader. I am a Civil Engineer not a damn Electrical Engineer. I have never brought up a distribution grid and I am sure no one else has either!”

I was stunned, “John have you never done this?”

John took a long draw on his beer,”Nope Boss, I am a General Contractor. At this point I tell the Electrician to do his thing! How about Ash, has he ever done this?”

It was my turn to take a long drag on a stein of Stuarts Worst, “Damn, that means I have to be here tomorrow. The problem is, there is a valid security requirement on that shuttle flight tomorrow. I was supposed to take it and the best Young Gun to handle it is Sgt. Mike Reye.

“So, are you willing to grab this Candidate Reye? The Security screen I know you can handle, you are the best Young Gun at Security. But, if anything goes wrong you are the Strike Force Alchibah shooter on site. Can you handle that part Son?”

Mike sat stunned, I was not sure whether it was the job or the out of the Blue promotion. True to the legacy of the Young Guns he looked me right in the eyes and uttered one short sentence.

“Sir, Yes Sir!” At which point he was mobbed by about half of the females in the room.

Ah Damn, I almost wished he had refused. Raising my wrist comp; “L. Reye, A. Stuart: Secure and Private.”

Lester’s reply came quickly, “Col. Stuart, what could make you use a Government channel?”

“Sorry to disturb you Lester but it seems I cannot be on that shuttle tomorrow. It seems no one else on the planet has ever brought up a distribution grid and we just can not chance blowing those precious transformers.”

“But Andy, the security component is a quite necessary part of this mission.”

“Quite right Lester, that’s why I have assigned it to the best of the Young Guns at security evaluation. Officer Candidate Michael Reye.”

“My Son,” Lester gasped out.

“A legal adult and a volunteer member of the Alchibah Militia not to mention the best available member of said Militia for the mission at hand.”

“You have to forgive me if I am not ready for my Son to be a grown man.”

“Lester, show me a parent who ever is! Stuart Clear!”

I turned to the group, “Look out at the upper bridge and see those lights. Tomorrow we do that to Liberty, tomorrow evening Hanna can finally turn on all the lights in this place. Those windmills can be moved to outlying settlements till we can get distribution to them also. Already the surveillance that Ash secretly put on the port is working and tomorrow the Security Center will be up and running and we will be able to use it.

“Quite simply, tomorrow we turn this refuge camp into a damn Civilization. Now go get some sleep!”

I was having one last drink and bantering with Hanna when Mariana walked in.

“Stuarts Worst please Hanna. Andy you gonna get me power to the Community Center tomorrow? Hilde Garonde and Rachel LeGuin just passed their Physicians Assistant exams; the Primary Care Center is a go as soon as we have power.”

Day 32 Morning

First thing I had to do was make the call to Bartlett. “Damn Bart, I got one more thing to finish up here at the power plant and I’ve got to do it myself. Just can’t get away. I’m sending Officer Candidate Mike Reye along for the ride. He’s shaping up quite nicely considering the gene pool in his background, and a trip like you have in mind will do him a world of good. Wish I were going with you though. Stuart out.”

“Stuart to Group Alpha, everybody in telephone mode?” The replies poured in!

By the time Bart’s shuttle lifted off we had the Lab / Hospital, Community Center and Hanna’s Place on the grid. We were just starting work on the commercial buildings that were going up.

We had the street lights hooked up and the light sensors tested when the call came in from Ash.

“Andy, we just lost contact with the shuttle. I need the damn security center up NOW!”

“Alpha Group you heard the man. Let’s get it done.”

Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Probably.

All Contents (written or photo/artwork) not attributed to other sources is
Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.