Colonist Diaries for Chapter:
8. Eye of the Storms.

8. Eye of the Storms

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Historian

When It Rains, it…
Day 33, Late Evening, Liberty

Waiting, with all the others, huddled in one of the few structures still standing, I jotted some notes for historical purposes.

The last 48 hours have been a living hell. It finally makes me wonder if this voyage of ours was a mistake.

There’s an old philosophy back on Earth, the GIA theory, that the entire planet Earth is a living organism.

If that is true, then it is also true that planet Alchibah is trying it’s damnest to reject us, the invading virus called humanity.

As always, I’ve gathered my notes into a chapter but will let the individual colonists tell their stories here.



Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by William Bartlett

Day 33, 5am, Takeoff

In the background was the low rumble of the jets and the faint vibration as our shuttle left the landing area and climbed for altitude. Janie, sitting in the right-hand seat, was entering control sequences and initializing them one by one as set up and ordered on her timeline checksheet. I watched the progress on the real time side and double checked each entry and then Janie made and validated the go command.

We had worked out the flight plan together and run through it several times as an internal simulation using the former lifeboats comp as the host. The experienced wasn’t quite as true to life as the simulators we had used on the Mayflower, having no visual or auditory inputs, but still excellent practice. My side of the control system was now in command mode and Janie’s side set for entry and verification. In effect what we were doing was pre-running the canned routine 15 seconds before the real system ran the exact same inputs. As each validation segment completed it was compared to the pre-programmed inputs and the double green check lights winked in agreement.

What would we have done if we didn’t get a double green? In this case we would have trusted the comps and their triple redundancy but kept a very close track of the next sequence and be ready to terminate if necessary.

The weather looked like it was going to get nasty later in the day. That’s why we decided on such an early start. This was an easy ascent with plenty of time between control inputs so we had plenty of time to spend looking out the front view screen. Nothing much for us to see in that direction but up, though we could select the screen view from any direction. Mike Reye and Laura Seaworth, sitting in back, watched out the side view ports as everything below became toy-like in the distance and the sky changed to ever deepening shades of blue, and then to black, as we rose above the last vestiges of the atmosphere.

“Ok Janie, we’re high enough, do you want to take over and from the autopilot and do a manual burn to put us into our orbital path?” I asked when the radar altimeter had us up at 60 miles.

“It’s what I’ve been waiting for,” she replied taking over the controls and punching in numbers copied from her flight notes into the loading queue for our pre-programmed orbit. It would have gone in automatically but this was the last chance for a preplanned abort and so a good place to do manual entry. I verified her numbers as they were entered and said, “Looks good. Watch the time tick… and enter.”

We were pressed back into our seats as the thrust vector switched from near vertical to more horizontal but we were still gaining altitude as the burn approached completion. I watched Janie as she watched the readouts and it wasn’t long till we had gained another 20 miles and were almost set for the polar orbit we had decided upon. The path display and everything else was in the green. I sent a brief message to those below announcing the fact.

The shuttle, which we had named the Dora, was only about half the size of the pre-nuclear drive Space Shuttles used by the old United States space agency. But it had twice the payload and twenty times the delta V and of course no solid fuel boosters. If we stripped payload for fuel storage she would have had a hundred times the total velocity potential. There was enough life support to keep a crew of 4 in space for at least 2 months or carry 8 for shorter durations . We had planed for just two days in orbit before we set her down the first time.

The shuttle was heading towards an hour and a half orbit taking us over both of the poles. This would let us scan in greater detail the polar regions that the Mayflower’s observation sats hadn’t been able to map with any degree of accuracy. Our plan was to spend the next 30 hours or 20 orbits completing our world map and then choose the initial landing site. We were firm in one thing though. The first touchdown would be no further than 500 miles from Liberty City. The weather was bad right now to the north of Liberty city with spring thunderstorms and much lightning. But the forecast showed that by the time of our scheduled touchdown the front should have blown far to the east. If anything went awry we would be close enough for easy pickup by one of the other fliers. Our preparation had been so compete that the chance of anything going wrong was miniscule at best. About another minute left on the initial burn and we would be in our comfortable orbit.

Janie looked at me and I nodded thinking, weightlessness would be fine with me and Janie but a couple of minutes after orbit one of us would need to made a quick check of our two young passengers and see how they were handling it. I made a mental note to keep watching them for at least the first several orbits because in those 20 percent of cases where ‘0’ gee intolerance does show up the symptoms are often delayed.

Fifteen seconds till shutdown. Janie’s hand hovered over the manual cut off; ready just in case, and then.

Alarms lit up the board! A muted thump followed by a crashing explosion and we were tumbling wildly! There was a tornado sweeping through the cabin as we lost pressure and our air swept out a rent in the aft bulkhead. I had time to hear the start of a scream from in back as I yelled, hoping my voice would carry, “Seal the suits. Now!…” and to Janie “I have the Control!” and slapped my visor down. As I wrestled with the controls, it wasn’t physical but sure felt that way, I found half of the thrusters were off line. I caught sight of, as we tumbled, the diamond bright glint of light refracted by the Hydrogen spewing out behind faster than it could vaporize. Thank god we were high enough above the atmosphere that there was not enough oxygen to react and cause another explosion.

Janie was shutting down every system, but that of the emergency thrusters, that showed red on her panel. And that was almost all of them. The main engine controls showed no signals at all as even the sensors were dead. I almost had the tumble out but we were still doing a lazy spin when the cabin lights cut off and we lost all power. Reflexively I hit the breakers and kicked in the backup.

The lights flickered then steadied and the controls, or what was left of them, lit up also. But much dimmer then before. Janie spoke into her suit mike, “You ok in back?” There was no reply. I motioned for her to go back and check. I had tried to talk to her over the suits com system but she hadn’t heard a word. I could hear her, but nothing else seemed to be going in or out of the network. By the time Janie got back and gave me a thumbs up I had the spin off and my pulse rate had started to come back down again.

Captains Travis and Monroe had both said “If you can survive the first minute of a disaster in space you’re probably home free. Just take your time and don’t make things worse. If you can’t fix it yourself someone will be along to help.” That might have been true for space but we hadn’t quite reached there yet. Fifteen seconds short, it might just as well been a lifetime. I could already sense and almost hear a high pitched keening whine, vibrating through the ships structure and into our suits as we started to reenter. From a pocket in my suit I pulled out a section of wire with jacks on either end and plugged one into my suit and the other into Janie’s and we could talk again.

Altitude 80 miles. “Is it as bad as I think it is,” were the first words she said.

“I don’t know Babe, but I sure hope it’s not as bad as I think it is. I used up almost all of the thruster fuel just getting us stabilized. The shuttle’s a naturally orienting lifting body so if none of the ablative coating came loose and nothing else breaks off we can make it down in one piece, but I sure don’t know about our landing.”

“What about the aerodynamic controls?”

“They’re shut down now and we can only hope they function when we get low enough to where we can try and use them. If this doesn’t work Janie…” and then I couldn’t say anything more. Looking at her I saw dark eyes tear up through her visor and felt the pressure of her suited hand in mine as we continued the fiery descent.

Altitude 60 miles. The body of the shuttle should have been level across the wings and slightly nose up but it was all too easy to tell we were canted about five degrees to starboard, and that was a dead giveaway that structural damage was affecting our aerodynamics. We were coming out of the zone of highest heating. I had used up the last of the thruster fuel in order to keep us only five degrees from level.

Altitude 50 miles. Speed 5500 MPH. Our tilt was at 9 degrees. I tried the ailerons. They seemed to move but no change in attitude. Too early, not enough bite.

Altitude 35 miles. Speed 3200 MPH. Tilt at 14 degrees. We were dangerously fast for atmospheric control but there were no choices left. If this didn’t work we would roll over and over till we broke up. She seemed to grab as I pulled the stick back and left.

Altitude 20 miles. Speed 1650 MPH. Tilt holding at 14 degrees and I started the nose down. We could see a blanket of storm clouds and flashes of lightning below.

Altitude 50,000 feet. Speed 600 MPH. I cranked in some left rudder and some down on the port flap. We leveled off and were headed in straight. There was a loud cracking noise in the back and then a sudden jump and the overall volume seemed to double, something else must have torn loose. I tried to start the air burners. Nothing, probably no hydrogen left anyway.

“So far so good.“ I said for Janie’s benefit. “Now all we gotta do is pray she stays together long enough for us to find a big, flat, soft spot to land in,” I said with a hint of, “We just might, maybe, make it through this after all,” in my voice.

Altitude 25,000 feet. Still level and speed down to 325 MPH. We were flying blind in the cloud layer. Nothing but a dull grey mist, no rain yet but flashes of lightning on every side.

Janie had cycled through the shuttles systems again and had repeatedly tried the communications gear. No go. She said in a tone of voice much calmer than I think I would have managed, “Except for emergency systems we’ve got most of the flight controls Bart but that’s about it. And only enough backup power for another six or seven minutes until we lose everything.”

Flipping my visor back up, I said, “And the good news is… We’ll be down one way or another long before we run out of power, this thing glides like a brick refrigerator. Check on Laura, and Mike, make sure there belted in. Tell them the landing might be a bit rough but that everything’s under control. Oh and make sure the Jeep and EmyCee are tied down too.”

“On my way,” she replied, unplugging the voice cable. She was back seconds later and strapping herself in. “They’re fine, a little shook up but otherwise ok.”

By now we were in the heaviest part of the rain showers. Outside the clouds had turned from grey to almost black and the lightning kept flashing and hail began pelting the windscreen in a staccato tattoo. The thunder was loud enough to hear through all of the noise we were making as we whistled towards the ground around. Even with the noise coming from the tail we heard the nearer strikes. Then even more rain and the Dora’s windscreen was completely obscured by the torrent.

Altitude 8,000 feet. Speed 200 MPH. We briefly broke out of the cloud layer and with the rain easing up could just make out the ground, now some 5000 feet below then back into cloud again. At 4600 feet we came clean once more and saw a washboard pattern of forest covered ridges with snow on the higher elevations, and one small river fed lake ahead and to our right. Not a clearing in sight.

“I guess it’s time to see if she floats,” I said, making the only decision I could. The lake, really just a wide spot in the river, was almost too close for touch down, but with the nose up and bleeding speed for all I was worth I managed somehow to splash in a couple of hundred feet from where it narrowed back down to the river mouth. Then I saw the rocks. Then nothing.

Sometime later:
Someone was swinging a lead filled cricket bat, striking me on the left side of my face, just above the cheekbone, again, and again, and again. As each new blow fell, and the pain ripped through, I could somehow tell the timing was exactly the same as the pounding of my pulse and beating of my heart. I tried to raise up–and mercifully– faded into black.

I don’t know how long I was out before I came to the next time. The pain must have receded a bit because I got my eyes almost opened and turned my head at least an inch or so before the waves washed back in and I passed out once more. The third time I awoke though I felt all warm and fuzzy, as if swaddled in a pile of blankets that was just too high and all encompassing to struggle against. Something was pressing on my shoulder, rocking me ever so slowly. I opened my eyes. Or at least one of them.

Janie? No that couldn’t be Janie, Janie had a face, with eyes, a nose and a smile, she wasn’t some kind of a faceless blur like blob. I slid away another time.

I would swear that it was on my fourth try I finally stayed conscious, but Janie says there were at least three more times that I don’t remember. Well… she was there and I wasn’t.

Missing in the Night

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Benjamin Family

Day 32, Late Afternoon

Emily and Jaisa walked slowly along the riverbank as the sun hovered just over the edge of the horizon, slowly setting. Both girls were undeniably beautiful in the twilight, each in her own way. Emily, with her milky skin and long, brown hair, was just starting to show a hint of her pregnancy. Jai walked beside her, lithely moving along the path, golden skin illuminated by the sun’s last rays, silky black hair braided, hanging just past her shoulders. A pair of heavy, rosewood handled revolvers rode her hips, with another partly hidden by her jacket. Her face was hard, but now that she was with Emily her eyes had softened, if only a little.

The two teenagers walked along, talking quietly, laughing and smiling. For Emily it was a relief to find that even here, on an alien planet with few more than a hundred and fifty other humans, she had friends. She had felt so alone at first, but her friendship with Jai had changed all that. In the month since they landed she had gotten to know (and like) most of the other colonists her age, but Jaisa had been her first friend, and she was sure she would remain her best. For Jai simply having a friend her age was a luxury she had not had since she was eleven, and that she had met someone she had connected so thoroughly with so quickly here, light years from Earth, was almost too much to be believed. The two had been through a lot in the one short month they had known each other.

A gentle breeze rustled through the trees up ahead, adding to the sound of the rushing river and the waterfall crashing a ways downstream. The breeze seemed to be bringing some perhaps not so gentle storm clouds with it. The girls wandered inland a little, nearing the edge of the forest. A small island of trees lay off to their left as well.

“Can you believe it?” Emily asked, sitting down on the grass. “Bart and Janie, married! I’m so happy for them. Sometimes you just know two people are meant for each other, you know?” Jai sat down facing her friend, her arms resting gently on her knees. She just shrugged.

“Oh come on, don’t you believe in true love, soul mates, all of that?” Emily prodded.

“I never really gave it much thought,” Jai replied. She sat in silence for a moment. “I suppose I do though. My parents had that, so I suppose I do. I take it you do too?”

Emily laughed. “You know I do. I just said so, didn’t I?” She got quiet. “I thought I had that with Jace. Maybe I did. I’ll never know for sure now, with him back on Earth.” She groaned. “I married him, eloped, and then I left the solar system. I’m never going to see him, never going to see my husband, ever again. What am I supposed to do, be single and alone my whole life?” She gazed off into the distance. “I loved him Jaisa. I love him. But there’s not going to be any reunion, any miracle bringing him here. What am I supposed to do, pine after him all my years and die lonely?” She managed a wan smile.

“I don’t know, Em. I’m sure everything’s going to turn out all right. It’s not like there’s a rush or anything. Right now the half a dozen or so eligible bachelors even close to our age are all hopefully too busy to think about pairing off.”

“I wouldn’t place money on that Jai. I doubt even Andy is capable of working your average teenage guy hard enough to get him to ignore girls like you and me.” She giggled. “And lucky for us the guys here seem to be quite a bit above average, too.” They both laughed. After they sat in silence for another few minutes Jai got up, extending her arm to Emily.

“Come on, we should go. It’s starting to get dark, and we should be getting back. Besides, it looks like it’s going to rain.” She hoisted Em to her feet, glancing up at the gathering storm. “That looks like a bad un. Guard duty tonight is going to be miserable. Lucky you get out of it on account of you learning to be a nurse, eh?”

“Right, ‘cause that’s a walk in the park, of course” Emily laughed. “Come on, you’re right. Let’s get back before we get soaked.”

Day 33, 7:00pm, Liberty Community Center

“I can’t find my Joey, I can’t find my baby!” the woman sobbed, clutching at Emily’s shirt. She was bleeding from a small gash to the side of her forehead. The Center was a wreck. Rain and hail was hammering on the roof and walls while the wind screamed its way over, under and around the building, creating a deafening, and to many there, terrifying din. Families were huddled together, children (and more than a few adults) were crying, every other person had some sort of a cut or scrape that needed tending to and there wasn’t a dry scrap of cloth to be had in the place. Several of the Young Guns and Guard members had taken on the task of shepherding this weary flock, doing what they could to make the storm bearable. And now this. Emily thought that everyone had been accounted for by now, certainly all the children.

“Are you sure Mrs. Dawson? Did you ch-” the woman cut her off.

“Yes, I’m sure! I’ve looked everywhere! Please,” she whimpered, “please find him.”

“I’ll find him, I promise.” She turned to Kiyoshi Maeda, one of the Guard members helping with the more minor injuries. “Could you get her patched up? Jai, over here!” she yelled to her friend as the man gently started tending to the woman’s wound.

“What is it?” Jai asked as she came over.

“She can’t find her son, Joey. He’s about four, sandy hair – I took care of him during the day care. She says she’s looked everywhere…”

“You know where her tent is?” Emily nodded. “Summer! Over here, now!”

“Sir!” was the only response the teen gave when she got there.

“Check Hanna’s for this woman’s son, Joey Dawson. He’s four, has sandy hair. If you find him get his mother and bring her over there, then report back here. If not, just report back and wait for me. Em and I are going to check her tent. If we’re not back in twenty let one of the Stuarts, my dad or Nash know we’re in trouble. Go!”

As they dashed into the night the full force of the gale hit them. It was damn near impossible to see where you were going or even walk, let alone run or rush. The rain drenched them within seconds. If not for the wind and hail they could have been forgiven for thinking they were running underwater.

They finally made it to the riverside tents, yelling for Joey the whole way. They dashed inside the Dawson’s tent. There was no one there, no Joey.

“Damnit!” Jaisa exclaimed, slamming her fist into her palm. “He was probably just at Hanna’s. And with the god damn coms out we have no way of knowing for sure. Fuck! All right, we’ve got five minutes to search the tents. He could be anywhere and we don’t have any frigging choice but to go back after that! Damnit!”

“Let’s search then. And I’m sure you’re right, he’s probably at Hanna’s right now. Come on.” Em replied, pulling open the tent flap and thinking it was a miracle the thing hadn’t simply blown away.

They seached in vain, struggling through the howling wind and pelting rain near the Dawson’s tent just north of the spaceport. As they headed back Jaisa started to get an uneasy sense in the pit of her stomach. She realized what it was almost too late. She felt them before she heard them. Time almost seemed to slow. She could see every drop of rain around her in exquisite detail as she whipped around, drawing her guns. It was almost as if the world had turned into a giant tunnel; she was fully aware of the darkened sky above her head, the mud beneath her feet and everything in between, all at once. As movement exploded from the high grass she was already starting to pull the triggers. The first bullet hurdled forward as the dark, sleek figures shot from the night, then the second, and the third.

The creatures were jet black, the size of catamounts, their hides a dull gloss underneath the splashing raindrops. The first three creatures crumpled to the ground with gut wrenching yelps of pain. She hated killing them. Hated it, but accepted it. They weren’t evil, just hungry. And she was just doing what she had to. She shot again, and again. They didn’t have hides, they had scales, she could see that now. Their faces were flattened, snake-like almost, with burning green eyes. She fired once more before one crashed into her, toppling her over. She shot it twice as she fell. She rolled backwards, sending the beast into the ground as she landed in a crouch.

What she saw next would haunt her as she tortured herself, loathed herself for being too slow, for breaking her promise to protect her friend. The rest of the pack was retreating into the storm, but one of the creatures had its teeth in Emily’s neck and shoulder, its claws raking her side and legs. Jai’s arms felt as if they were pushing through molasses, inching the revolvers towards their target. Finally she pulled the triggers, sending the thing sprawling off of its prey. Time snapped back into place.


One at a Time

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Les Reye

Judith Reye barged into the community building, the grounds around it were battered but due to the fort like construction the building itself showed now signs of damage. She charged straight through the meeting area, packed with noisy colonists and into the small windowless office and conference room where her husband was standing talking with Joe Fortson. Fortson had just been passing by looking for Andy Stuart, but had stopped just long enough to let Les know what had happened to Kathy Osborne and about the rumblers. Ignoring Fortson Judith demanded, “Lester! make them get in touch with Michael!”

“Please Dear, one moment and I will be right with you.” Les replied in a distracted tone, keeping most of his attention focused on the conversation with Joe.

“Don’t you even care that I can’t talk to our son? He can’t be reached and might even be in trouble!“ Judith yelled totally out of control.

“Not now Judith, not now! Mike is probably fine. Since the storm we’ve lost all radio communications with everyone. Kathy Osborne has just reported being raped, Joey Dawson and the Washington kid are missing, and Burke likely killed and eaten by rumblers. I can only handle one crises at a time!

“Oh dear, oh dear. It’s always about power isn‘t it?” The transformation of Judith Reye as she latched on to one of the lode stones of her personal belief system was instantaneous and near miraculous. “I am going over to see what I can do to help the poor Osborne woman. Get a hold of Mike, Lester, and I will talk with you later!”

As Judith left Les turned to Fortson and said, “Joe I am very much regretting being here right about now and,” with a nod to the meeting room, “ I am sure I am not the only one. Go ahead and get with Stuart on the rumbler situation and looking for the Washington kid. You should probably help out there. But first find Karl Nash and alert him about the rapist in our midst. And let him know that according to my dear wife he can forget the sex angle and confine the search to men lusting after power. Whoever did it wasn’t thinking worth a lick, or at least not with his brain. With DNA evidence, finding the guilty party should take all of a minute or two. Also ask him to try and organize some folks to take down any of the tents still standing. Half of the people outside just ran in here and left their tents full up and waiting for the winds to rip them to shreds. The bots should be able to handle most of the work on that detail.

“If you run across Sabbu send him this way. I am going to stay right here and try and work out some way to at least be an informational clearing house now that most of our communications are down.” He nodded once more to the main meeting area and said, “Now I have to have to start by filling in that mob out there on everything we know, or think we know, right up to the present point. And all I‘m gonna get back from most is what I should of known.”

“Better hope they have a sense of humor Les. But then that’s why you get the big bucks ain‘t it?” Fortson commented as he headed out the door.

Bam! Went the gavel. Bam! “Quite everyone,” Reye said. And as the room did quiet down he began reading from his notes.

Logistics Day

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 32 0430

The day started as expected, first the the call to Bill Bartlett and then the long slog with the Guns to bring this place up. I kinda liked the look on Hanna’s face when we turned on the lights and brought all the freezers up at once. Even better was when we told her that her Microwave oven was in play.

The first glitch was when we brought up the Lab / Hospital complex. The accumulator there had been stressed hard; with only the solar cells to provide a charge it took to the new feed like a hungry dog. We had red lights every where as the Lab control unit sucked charge out of the system.

“Alpha Group, we have to pause and let the Lab charge a bit. It’s 0645, those who wish to can go down to the Space Port and be in the ceremony; of course if you want to take a nap do so!”

Day 32 0700

Standing beside Mariana I thought Travis’s speech was short and to the point. During Lester Reyes bloviating I had to make a couple of snide remarks to Mariana.

“Shut up and thank your blessings,” she said. “Even he can only talk so long!”

“Thank God,” was my reply.

When the ceremony was over Ash and I immediately cornered Travis. His first statement was a doozie.

He produced an Ice Cube and said, “Monroe said here is the Manual Set; and if I have to teach Ash Andrews how to fly this thing or Andy Stuart how to maintain it, we are lost already.”

I gave him a grin and said, “Well give us the nickel tour anyway, when you produce this you should have the right to brag a bit!”

Travis said, “Note the increased shielding, guys. We applied an extra layer of lead for increased radiation protection but there’s also a network of copper substrate to bleed off energy weapon attacks. Best of all, though, Hibbes then thought to coat the entire ship with nano-paint. There’s a control on the dash console to change the color of the ship for better camouflage and concealment.

“What was originally the forward crash-bar has also been altered; we drilled the beams out and in one is mounted a laser cannon off the old Lancer.” Travis chuckled and then said, “The old Lancer. A couple months ago – minus cryo sleep – it was saving our asses from the Goonies! The other forward beam will hold the plasma ball gun the mad scientists are working on. There’s a hatch on of the body of the ship that pops up to reveal one of the 100 millimeter guns – also from the Lancer.”

Travis lit a cigarette and then continued, “We ripped out six seats to make room for additional fuel capacity and the ship stores of food and materials supplies – the emergency rations and clothing, medical, what have you, — are also mostly gone. The cabin is a lot smaller but the extra fuel, as well as some improvements to the engines, give you far greater range. The little galley is still there, though, and of course the john. Ash, your shield field plans are incorporated as well. These shuttles will never be as fleet as a battle cruiser but they are now tough little son-of-a-bitches.”

I paused to light up also, “Travis, I don’t know how we can thank you. I went into harms way in a lot worse. Remind me to throw the appropriate feast someday. Histy is waiting for you up at Hanna’s and we have work to do.

“By the way, it’s a whole lot easier to see up there now. The lights are on and all of the freezers are working. We have to go light up the rest of this place.

“Again, thanks Buddy.”

I told Ash, “Get over and move the Master Repeater, we will bring up the Control and Security Center as soon as we have the street lights going.” We both paused as Bart’s shuttle lifted into the sky.

“Damn,” I muttered, “I would rather be up there.”

Ash grimaced, “So would I, but like you said; you can’t defend a garden before you build it.”

I just stared at him; the Hound Dog had really come to ground. “Don’t worry, sooner or later it will be our turn.”

Day 32 1300

The work went on; nothing posed the challenge that the Lab / Hospital did. The rest was just dirt-ugly labor. We were testing the streetlights for God’s sake when Ash’s call that we had lost contact with the shuttle came in. Sending LT. Benjamin to finish the necessary power run; I went to the spaceport and was helping Ash download the camera data when Travis and crew arrived to return to the Mayflower in the colony’s old shuttle.

“What’s the energy here, Andy?” Travis asked.

“We lost contact with Bartlett’s shuttle and I am not sure if it’s because something went wrong; Bart just found something he wanted to go look at or it’s the communications problems we seem to be having lately. Anyway it goes; Ash wants the security cams downloaded before the local storage starts looping over last night.”

“What happened last night?” Travis asked.

“Tell you the honest truth Glen, I don’t know anything did. But, that naturally suspicious cousin of mine wanted to download the data before we lost it.

“We powered up the cameras yesterday and they only have 28 E-hours of storage before they start to overwrite the old data. If we hear from Bart we may never look at it if not well, let’s say it might get looked at hard.

“But, on a more cheerful note; do you guys have a spare growing room on the ship? One you could raise the temperature of a few more degrees? Cause if you guys can grow coffee, ya’ll got the cash crop from hell. I may humbly point out that someone has a supply of Arabica seed beans.

“You can reach her at Stuart M., whenever the comms get back to normal.”

Travis laughed and started for his shuttle.

I went up on the Alpha Group link, “OK, anybody who looks female. There is now enough hot water to do a real hair cleaning. Get outta here and we will see you the day after tomorrow. Guys, suck it up; it’s a fact of life.

“By the way, anybody who tells Mariana about this conversation is dog meat.”

To Save a Friend

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Benjamin Family

Day 33, 7:13pm

“Emily!” Jaisa screamed, rushing over to her friend. “Emily, talk to me!” She didn’t respond. There was already a stream of blood and water winding away from the fallen girl towards the river, mixing with the mud as it went. Blood was pouring from the base of her neck, her shoulder and her side, and it looked like she had hit her head as well. It was small consolation to her friend, but the wounds on her legs seemed relatively minor in comparison.

Holstering her revolvers, Jaisa quickly grabbed her knife. She was operating on autopilot; at some level she knew that if she let her mind or heart take over she wouldn’t be able to do what she had to. Emily’s life depended on her being perfect and being fast. She didn’t have the luxury of letting herself comprehend the situation. She flung off her raincoat and quickly took her shirt off and cut it into ragged strips, doing her best to shield it from the rain. It would be soaked soon enough, but better that it be soaked in blood than in water. She rapidly field dressed Emily’s wounds as best she could, which was unfortunately not saying much. With the newly made rags absorbing as much rain as blood she had no doubt that the girl lying before her had less than twenty, maybe thirty minutes to live unless she got her to the Lab.

She should have been faster.


Summer was furious. That Dawson woman was now happily reunited with her little brat. That Alchibah had attracted so many sheeple never ceased to shock her. It was her duty to protect them, one that she would (she suspected, for you never really know these things until the time comes) give her life to fulfill. But giving your life for another’s and risking your life because of a hysterical woman’s stupidity are two very different things. And now her Lieutenant and Emily, two of her best friends, were out in this blasted gale doing just that. She glanced at her com. Four minutes and counting until she’d have to tell Nash that they were missing. At least the damn coms were still good for telling time. Frack!


Jaisa had hoisted Emily’s unconscious form into her arms and was staggering as fast as she could manage towards the lab. Her shoulder was ripped wide open, blood running down her left arm and all over her side and back. She had left her raincoat forgotten by the tents and the rain pelting her bare skin made dark pink rivulets that flowed relentlessly downwards. All this went unnoticed amidst the adrenaline coursing through her veins and her desperate need to get her friend back to camp, and had she been aware of her wound she would not have cared. The question now was rapidly becoming how sufficient a substitute for blood adrenaline really was.

She heard a roar swelling behind her, overwhelming even the sounds of storm. Half turning to look she saw the wave rushing up the mouth of the river, engulfing the banks and tents as it went. She thought she had been pushing herself as hard as she could, thought she had done so on more than one occasion in the past as well. She was wrong. Charging up the hill now, the minor ache in her should forgotten completely, she thought she might actually outrun the edge of the crushing tsunami ripping the world apart behind her. About that too she was wrong.

7:21pm, Hanna’s

“All right, take Ryu and May and find them. And be back soon, damnit, I don’t want to have to send a search party after the search party looking for the search party!” Nash ordered Summer. He could almost literally not believe how bad a day this had turned out to be. He thanked his lucky stars that things, at least as this day went, seemed to be settling down. Jaisa was as capable of taking care of herself as virtually anyone on Alchibah (which was saying quite a lot, thank you), so he really wasn’t too worried on that count. It also seemed that the rumbler had decided to sit this one out. He sighed and started for the door Summer had just left.

The sound was immense. It was as if someone had gathered every rumbler that ever lived and decided to run them up the riverbanks through Liberty. The huddled colonists rushed as one to the windows overlooking the falls. Nash stared on in disbelief as none other than a tsunami brutally roared up the river, crashing itself to pieces as it hit the base of the falls, for an instant sending the river shooting back up the cliff. God he hoped no one had been down there. Then he went back to work.


She almost made it. Almost. The rushing wave just caught her with its last gasp as she clamored up Windmill Hill towards high ground. Even then it had enough power to pitch her and her precious burden through the waterlogged air and slam them into the mud. Somehow though, through some force of instinct or reflex, somehow she twisted herself so she bore the brunt of the impact, not her friend. Her body crashed to the wet earth, making an unpleasant squelching noise which she never got to hear. Her head hit the ground and everything went dark.

A Criminal Investigation

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by EAB

From the log files of Karl Nash.

Joe Fortson found me at Hanna’s shortly after I sent Summer, Ryu, and May out looking for Jaisa and Emily. He was carrying a heavy plasma rifle and accompanied by his Bot R. Dan Daily. I knew better than to warn him that plasma rifles were too dangerous for use in town. I was just about to go over to the community building to inform Reye that Joey Dawson had turned up, and that his mother was here with him,. After that I had planed on doing a quick survey of the storm damage before heading over to the Biolab. From up here on the high ground where the First Inn was situated it was impossible to tell how much if any damage had been caused by the wave that had just rushed up river and dissipated most of it’s energy trying to make the falls in front of Liberty City run backwards. That plan was put on hold while Joe told me about the Washington kid and Kathy Osborne.

It was just as well I hadn’t left yet because Andy Stuart showed up while Joe was finishing.

“Well I guess searching for the Osborne rapist takes second seat to the rumbler problem.” I said.

Andy informed me he wasn’t as sure about that as I was. The kind of fear and mistrust that that kind of a crime, in a community as small as ours, and on the verge of disintegrating anyway, was sure to hinder any efforts to work on the other problems. He then said, “That’s your Baby, I got Rumblers to kill.”

Fortson said he would be heading out with Stuart and I objected. “Joe we don’t have a clue about where the second rumbler is, what it’s up to, or where it might strike next. We’ve got to somehow secure the Liberty City complex and get our guard working again. To do that we need to make sure that any directions or orders given are followed. I think that’s gonna take a ‘Guy with a Gun’ and that looks like you in spades.”

Fortson thought about it a moment then said, “Yeah I see your point.” Then turning to Andy said “Good huntin’ Colonel Stuart. And try to remember you’re a little too senior to lead from the front.”

“What now Joe? Any thoughts?”

“Let’s do it this way. I’ll see if RoDan can get in touch with Gene Washburn’s bot R. Krebbs. If he can we’ll get Gene to boss the perimeter guard. Then we find Jack the Blade and get his people working on getting the tents down and policing up the wind and water damage. I don’t trust him on anything else. You and I will swing down past the community building, fill in Reye, and then over to the Biolab to see if they’ve come up with anything.”

“Pretty good plan for a ‘Guy with a Gun’. Let’s do it.”

On our way to the lab/hospital we passed the by northern part of windmill hill and saw the damage to the wind generators. It could have been worse. With Andy having completed the main feed run into town, one of the windmills had already been taken down with the intention of moving it further south to where we hadn’t yet run power lines. The blades had been removed from another but it along with the third generator were both still on their towers when the side of the hill collapsed. They hadn’t toppled exactly but slid down with the rest of the under burden during the landslide. Maybe, just maybe, we could make one working unit out of those two damaged ones. But that would be a job for later.

Arriving at the hospital we found a rather orderly chaos. I couldn’t tell if Kurt Kellerman or Mariana Stuart was in charge but that didn’t matter as they made a good team. Kellerman told me that he had given Kathy Osborne a sedative and she would be out for at least another six to eight hours and told me that Mariana had run the DNA tests. With a look on his face I couldn’t interpret he advised me to talk to her about them.

“Ok, Mariana, who did it?”

“Your not gonna like this Karl but there is no DNA evidence and the woman can’t recall a thing about her attacker.”

“What do you mean no DNA evidence?” I asked, “There’s always something even if the rapist uses a condom isn’t there? Hair, flakes of skin or even clothing fibers, something is always present. What do we need to do? Do we need to get DNA samples from everyone that‘s not already in the database?”

“No Karl,” she said expression very somber, “What I mean is that there really is no DNA evidence, none! Sure we can pick up some fibers and the indications of casual contact, about what you would expect from shaking someone’s hand or sitting in a chair recently vacated. But nothing even approaching what ought to be present in the case of a rape.”

“So is she faking it? Or having some kind of psychological reaction?” I asked.

“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Mariana said. “Kathy Osborne has all of the physical signs, including the tearing and abrasions I would expect from the description she gave of her attack. I know she could have just imagined this or even invented the story on purpose, but I can’t believe that she could have set up the rest of the physical evidence to be so, well…. convincing. After listening to the recording we made when she told us about it I’m sure you’ll agree that what ever is going on here is much more than some hysterical woman crying rape in order to get attention.”

“But if it wasn’t her for what possible reason would anyone else fake a rape that wasn’t?” Fortson asked.

I looked at him and replied, “I guess that’s the question you and I will need to answer. Isn’t it?”

“Yeah. So what next?”

“I think we get down to the river to see the damage there, and then head back north for a look at the scene of the crime.” I replied.

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it.” was Fortson’s response as he hefted the plasma rifle and we left the lab.

Say It’s Possible

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Benjamin Family

Day 33, 7:26pm

Summer, Maylee and Ryu were nearly at the spaceport when the east side of Windmill Hill collapsed in on itself, sliding, a liquid torrent of earth and stone, toward and over the spaceport. The cacophony was deafening, louder than even the tsunami itself had been. The three young soldiers skidded to a halt and watched in horror as the last hope of finding their two friends was washed away with the better part of the very first piece of land on Alchibah that a human had seen fit to name.

Ryu stared intently at the flow and started, “I…” but then trailed off, as if unwilling to tempt fate and proclaim hope again so soon after it was snatched away. Then all at once he was shouting and pointing, “I see them, I see them! There, pinned against the shuttle, the furthest one!” He started forward.

“No,” May shouted above the din, grabbing him by the arm, “there’s no way we can make it through there. We have to go around and wait for it to stop or we’ll be in worse shape than they are.”

“She’s right!” Summer yelled, starting away, along the edge of the hill. She turned and yelled over her shoulder. “May, stay there and watch them until it stops. We can’t afford to lose sight of them. As soon as we get to the other side go to the lab for help. Ryu, with me!”

As they rounded the far end of the hill, battling the still torrential rain and hurricane force winds, the slide stopped and it seemed as if all of the hill that intended to move had. The light coming from the lab was tempting, only a few hundred feet away, but it would have to wait. When they reached the other side they found that Jai and Emily had been moved only slightly, pushed into a corner in the hull of the shuttle. Jaisa had hugged Emily to her and seemed to have shielded her from the worst of it. They were better than waist deep in the hardened sludge, and what miracle had kept them from being sucked under or downstream no one knew. They were thoroughly caked in mud, though because Jaisa had been pinned directly in front of Emily it seemed that both had avoided having their faces fatally covered. The shuttle to which they were pinned was on the very edge of the slide – it tapered off to inches deep not twenty feet downhill from them. Jaisa groaned.

“Jai! Over here!” Ryu bellowed. She strained to turn her head towards his voice.

“Ryu,” she shouted as loudly as she could manage, “She, the mud, bl…” she shook her head to clear it. “Need to get out of here. Attacked. Emily’s loosing blood. No time!”

He charged onto the newly formed ground with Summer at his heels, sinking only slightly as he did. The clay-based mud had formed a dense pack that would be hard to dig through. They both knew they were probably risking another slide, but they had no choice. As soon as they got to their friends they started digging furiously with their hands and knives. Maylee had already disappeared from view, sprinting towards the lab.

Jai seemed to have been successful at shaking off her daze. She actually grinned. “Glad you two could show up. I was starting to think you didn’t care about us.”

“Well, we couldn’t let you get dead, now could we? Then the Colonel’d have more time to pay attention to the rest of us.” He glanced up briefly, grinning back at her. “And you know we don’t want that!”

She laughed. “Knew there must have been a good reason you came looking for us. Shit! This has been one hell of a day. A hurricane hits, then we get attacked by a friggin pack of catamount things, then there’s a god damn tsunami breathing down my neck. And as if that wasn’t enough we get caught in a mother fucking mudslide. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa Clause did a fly over so Rudolph could shit on my head right before the goonies nuked us!” Ryu and Summer both burst out laughing, but they were close to tears as well. By now they all had seen her shoulder and realized that if they didn’t get them out soon they were going to lose both of girls, and the work was slow going no matter what they put into it. She was doing what good leaders did when they had to – keep their soldier’s morale up when the odds were long. It was no “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” or “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” but it wasn’t bad for someone so new to the role. The one small consolation in the whole mess was that the thick layer of mud and clay seemed to have slowed their bleeding to a trickle.

Five minutes later they had managed to create enough of a gap that, with the help of the pelting rain, was enough to pull the now unconscious Jaisa free. Once that was done it was relatively easy to get Emily out of the muck. Summer gasped when she saw the extent of her wounds and then checked the girl’s pulse. It was faint, but still there. How much longer though? And where was the help May was supposed to bring?

“Take her. To the lab, as fast as you can. I’ll be behind you with Jai. GO!” Ryu took the unconscious girl in his arms and ran, heedless of the uneven, slippery ground. Emily had minutes, not hours. If he tried to pick his way safely to the makeshift hospital he might as well have left her where she was. Behind him Summer hoisted her charge over her shoulder and began making her way as best she could in his wake.


Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Kurt Kellerman

Day 33 9:03 AM

I had spent the last two hours treating scrapes and bruises that were more psychological than physical; when a breathless kid that must have been 10 years old came running up.

“Doc,” he said, “The Soldier Lady says she needs you on the path on the other side of the ridge down from the Community Center. She said to tell you Code Blue and STAT.”

I started towards our tent immediately to grab the Trauma Kit. In the tent I looked at the interior frame that I had thought Andy had been paranoid to have built. All I could think of was his continuing mantra, “Logistics Capt. How can I defend something that hasn’t been built. Logistics First, everything else second.”

Moving over the ridge line I could see that Mariana at least had a Primary Care kit.

“Good to see you Kurt,” she said “Sally and Hilde dropped off this pack and Sally is on the way to Treatment to get ready. We have a really bad one here.”

I took one look and agreed. “Let’s get a full board under her and find some way to cut that damn thing flush so we can transport her. Shit we are going to need a litter and two people who know how to carry one.”

Mariana calmly announced, “That’s taken care of, transport is on the way and I will handle the trim.”

I watched her show me one of those energy knifes that I had seen Andy cutting dovetails with. That darn sure should work. We got the board under her and strapped up; then rolled her over on the opposite side from the penetration.

Mariana then proceeded to trim the wood on both sides. Like the Surgeon people forgot she was I swear she took off one layer of skin on both sides. We then packed on all of the surface antibiotics we could. We then used field dressings to cover and stabilize the object.

We had just finished when Andy’s voice said, “I was told you need me here.”

“This Lady needs to get to Treatment and I mean fast,” she said

“That’s what I was afraid you were going to say.” Andy groaned.

I watched him squat down and pick the woman up, I could hear the breathing ramping up. I could see his eyes as the pupils distended. Suddenly he stood and began to move, he was a blur disappearing into the distance. It dawned on me why people thought of Mariana as small, you always saw her next to that huge man.

“Well, pack up; it’s time to go.”

I started packing our gear into my now nearly empty pack, “How long is it going to take him to get there?”

She just looked into the distance, “He’s probably there by now, we need to move.”

We went the short way over the top of the hill, and slid down the slope not twenty feet from the entrance to Treatment. As we entered Sally and Hilde had the woman on the surgical table with hers clothes cut back, sterile field started and two IV lines already in. Sally was laughing, “Andy said you two would be along in a day or so. He left with some kid babbling about somebody caught under a tree.”

Mariana dropped the outside clothes for a smock and was scrubbing without a word. I had to hustle to catch up. We finished and the nurses snapped surgical gloves on our hands.

“I’ll get this sucker out and you back me.” She said. “ Then you start closing bleeders and I’ll back you, you are better with a suture and we both know it.”

There was not much I could say as she took the energy knife and carefully cored the tree limb. As soon as the central core came out and the pressure released we were in a race.

Three hours later I was standing in the lee of the hill trying to keep a smoke going in the downpour and Mariana was trying to work kinks out of her shoulders. I told her, “Well, now it all depends on how well that miracle snake oil you made from the slizzard works; what are you gonna call that stuff?”

“Steal a line from old Sci-Fi and just call it quick heal. Beats explaining where it came from!”

I could not help but laugh, try telling some of the die hards that the miracle cure came from an extract from slizzard gonads.

The Day After

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Kara

Day 34 6:30 AM

Frak us all. It is the morning after the worst day of our Alchibah lives, and let’s hope forever more. It is literally a disaster area here. I look out and I don’t even know where to start. Luckily there are others who are taking control of their respective areas, so they can bark orders to those like me. Frankly, I want someone to tell me what to do right now, otherwise I’ll just crumble.

I don’t have much time. Didn’t sleep much and need to get back to the community center to see what is next on the list of things to do. Now that it is light again (beautiful day too, figures) I think we need to start seeing what we can salvage.

One thing is for sure, we are really going to need to explore more and find food. I have a feeling there’s not enough left that we can use.

Day 34 4:00 PM

It is a beautiful day, though a somber one. Fortunately, we got a little pick me up this afternoon. A flock of devils came to visit, and brought some “agi” for us. Agi appears to be a fruit of some kind — the skin is odd lavender purple and the meat is a lighter version of the skin. I ran them over to the lab and did a quick test.

Everyone was busy with injuries, but luckily Mariana has been showing me how to use some of the equipment and set up an easy program for me to use on this kind of stuff (less work for her!).

The fruit turned out edible so I started passing them around (with Dobi, the ring leader of this flock; he always likes to follow me around, often on my head). The agi taste strange, of course, but they are a welcome change to the usual grub and a perfect distraction from the surroundings.

I was able to find out from Dobi that the fruit came from the other side of the continent (SE of us), where the devils went when they sensed the storm coming (has anyone mentioned how badly we need a weather satellite??). Looks like a trip is in order once things calm down here — perhaps we can find more food there.

A Lack of Evidence

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by EAB

From the Log Files of Karl Nash

Karl Nash, Joe Fortson, Kara, and the Historian were already seated in community building’s office conference room, coffee cups in hand, the next morning when Reye arrived. The storms had stopped and most of the colonists were busy picking up the pieces, what ever they could find, and in many cases little enough of their scattered possessions. Only about twenty lost souls, still too shell shocked to move or do anything useful, were still inside the larger portion of the buildings meeting area.

“Sorry I’m late,” Reye said, “I got waylaid a half a dozen times while I was out getting a better look at the damages. I wish Connor and Mariana were here but this is about the rape and not a council meeting so no problems there. And about the flood, any idea how often that is gonna happen?” He shuddered while saying that last part..

The Historian spoke up first, “I wish we could talk to Bart about it because as I am sure you’re all aware he was the closest thing to an astronomer and meteorologist we have with us, but the shuttle is still out of touch. For that matter, so is the Mayflower.”

Fortson, putting down his cup spoke up, “And speaking of Bart and Janie I am beginning to get concerned. They should be in touch by now, nothing the storm caused could have affected them and the shuttle was hardened against the solar flare.”

“Another problem to deal with,” Reye said, “I’ll ask Sabbu to keep trying, but for now the reason we’re here is the Osborne rape investigation. Karl, what have you found?”

“Well we know that Osborne isn’t faking it and something did happen to her but aside from that not much more than when we talked last night. No additional direct physical evidence but Kara did a search through the robot data files based on timing and came up with some imagery of two figures, not one but two, entering just before Osborne went in. They came back outside about five minutes later and waited for her to leave.

“Now remember this is long range stuff from a couple of different bots, and with the storm and darkness, mostly infrared enhanced so it’s impossible to make out any kind of facial identification or do a clothing match. We can tell that Osborne left the area staggering and very unsteady. The two figures went back inside for a couple of minutes, Joe and I figure that they were doing a site cleanup to insure there would be no DNA traces, and then they left. But we have no imagery beyond them stepping back outside and have no idea in what direction they went afterwards. And that’s all we got. What we need to get us passed this stage is a motive.”

“Or maybe an informer,” Kara said, “If more than one person knows anything it’s no longer a secret.”

“Now there’s a thought,” Fortson said.

“Have you talked to Kathy yet?” Reye asked.

“We saw her about an hour ago but didn’t learn anything that we didn’t get from listening to the tape Mariana provided.” Nash looked to Kara and said, “Kara could you go over and talk to her? It’s possible she’ll tell it differently or remember something when talking to a woman.”

“Sure, I’ll see her as soon as we’re done.”

“Thanks. Right now though I am open for suggestions on a motive. Any thoughts?”

One by one the others shook their heads in negation, Karl grimaced and said, “To paraphrase the greatest detective ever, ‘If you eliminate the impossible what is left…’ well I am sure you get the point. Kara after you talk to Osborne, using every scrap of certain information, either corroborated by the robots or in some other technical manner, try and figure who couldn’t have been at the crime scene at the time of the attack. I wish we could eliminate all of the female colonists from consideration at this point, but since this was something made to look like the usual rape, and was something else in fact, we can’t do that for now. At least we can narrow down the list of possibles and then Joe or I will have to talk to each and ever one of them. And please, keep thinking about a motive.”

“Thank you all for helping out here,” Reye said, “I’ll pass on what I can to everyone else in the colony as rumor control, but I think it best we leave out the lack of DNA evidence for now but mention we are analyzing robot imagery taken while the crime was in progress, that might cause someone to worry or get nervous or let something drop or slip out that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Heck Kara, it might even turn up an informer, one can always hope. For now though I need to go talk to Jules Parker and make arraignments for a few more funerals.”

As they left the community building Fortson turned to Nash and said, “I’m glad I’m not in Lester’s shoes. I’ll check back with you in a bit but I gotta go talk to Sabbu because I am getting really worried about Bart.”

“Sure thing Joe, do that and I’ll see you later. I should go and talk to my wife and check on our personal situation but I think I‘m going to go and look up Buchanan first, I haven‘t seen him for a while and I think it’s time we had a talk.”

I tracked down Burt Buchanan by the lower bridge. It wasn’t much of a bridge anymore, half the planking was missing and most of what was left was twisted off the beams or splintered and askew hanging from only one bolt and even one of the iron beams had slipped from its foundation.. I don’t think he heard me come up from behind but even still he didn’t even start when I said, “Not much to look at is she.“

“Guess not Karl.” he said without turning, recognizing me by my voice I thought. “We can get it back in place pretty quick once we get new planking. What’s the status on the lumber mills?”

I told him I had just left Fortson and that Joe had said that the smaller one was buried at the foot of windmill hill but the other and the parts brought down from the Mayflower had been on high ground well away from the river and were in good shape.”

“So to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” he asked.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about Kathy Osborne.” His expression stayed totally noncommittal as I continued. “We don’t have a lot to go on, so what I am doing now is talking to everyone, and I do mean everyone, trying to find out where they were when it happened and if they had seen anything that could help in finding the guilty parties.”

“Guilty parties?” he replied with just a hint of inflection.

“Yeah,” I said. “Didn’t mean to let that slip out but we got some robot generated imagery taken while the rape was being commited and we’re working on it now trying to bring out more detail.”

“Well you can count me out of your suspects. I was at the First Inn the whole evening and lots of people will vouch.”

“Nothing personal in this Burt, like I said I have to talk to everyone. How about a list of everyone you are sure was at the Inn with you say from seven to seven thirty last night. If they were there but you aren’t absolutely certain they were there the whole time let me know that too.”

It took him only moments to rattle off a list of names and the list he gave contained only names I was already aware of and was pretty sure had spent the entire period of time at Hanna’s.

“Did anyone come in and act in a suspicious or unusual manner?”

“Karl,” he said, “Everyone either of us saw last night was acting in a an unusual if not suspicious manner.”

He had a point, and after asking him to let me know if he remembered anything else that could help I left; intending to talk to a few more people on my list. For the time being though I was going to stay away from Jack the Blade, let that one build up a little steam. I did turn round once after leaving and saw Buchanan still standing and staring out at the bridge and the waters below.

Get Ready, Get Set!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

I left Karl and Joe behind and drafted some runners to chase down the people I needed. I knew where one I needed would be and it was time to go check the ambush his daughter and her best friend had gotten caught in. I seemed to have picked up a devil on the way, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. They were almost like translators or local guides sometimes.

At least the site where it had happened was above the slide line caused by the tsunami. Damn what a mess that was going to be. The weather had messed up the site but, to a practiced eye the body pattern of the catamount like animals (the devil started yelling “varg, varg!” when we got near them) read like a book. Seeing a full eight of them down made me happy I had asked Mariana to do a few specialized blood tests for me.

The Lab / Hospital looked like a war zone when I came in but Mariana looked like she was just wrapping up. “How’s it going,” I asked?

“Better than I thought a couple of hours ago. Jai is stabilized and she’s going to be OK. Em is still touchy but I’ve moved her off of critical, the baby I have no idea. Don’t know if the shock or the quick heal is going to cost her that or not. And May’s fine – up and about. She’ll have a nasty bruise from where that stick hit her, but the only leftover from the concussion she’s got is a bad headache.”

I was amazed, “So I guess that stuff really works?”

“If you had not got us the power to start making this stuff we could have easily lost at least two by now!”

“But it’s not enough Mariana, it’s never enough. Now we got a legitimate threat the military has to handle when I should be helping Karl.”

She smiled and reached out to grab my hand. “What was that speech about Span of Control, you know it has to be this way. That’s why Karl is the Top Cop and you are the Chief Grunt, it was too big a job for one person and you know it.”

I muttered and then asked, “OK you win, and did you get those blood tests I asked for?”

“Yeah and you were right, she was way up in the Red and she got there fast.”

My turn to grin, “I thought so, you have no idea how close she was to getting off a shot on that slizzard. The physical evidence at the ambush site backs it up. By the way Sally.”

The RN came over, “What can I do for you?”

I reached out a grabbed her padd and hardwired it to my wrist comp. “Yeah, when Jai wakes up in the morning; make sure she reads this.”

Sally took her padd back and looked at the file. “I am just learning to speak grunt but this reads like it’s a damn miracle those two did not get eaten.”

“Yeah, and the miracle’s name is Gabriel Benjamin. You just cannot operate that high up without the skills and reflexes pounded into you. He did not produce a particularly socially graceful young woman but he damn sure trained a survivor. Anyway, pry Connor away from her and get him over here.”

As we were waiting for Connor, Sinopa and Ash came dragging in, looking pretty much like everyone by this time, bedraggled. I turned to Mariana, “Is Washington’s mom here?”

“Yes, they brought her down about an hour ago hyperventilating and I know what you want, already done!”

About that time, Connor came up looking beat to hell. “Sorry to drag you into this but, Jai needs the rest and I need your body.”

Connor gave me a weary look that slowly turned into a wry grin. “You’re right. What’s the problem?”

I gave the whole group a slow look before starting with a question, “CPT. Sinopa are you as tired of this damn rumbler as I am?”

“Oh, you know that’s a yes!”

“Good, you are in charge. LTC. Andrews and CPT. Benjamin will take your orders on this one. It’s just fed, so track the bastard down and kill it.

“CPT. Benjamin a second weapon for you in case the .30’s don’t take it down.” I then gave him a carrying case with a plasma rifle and three extra charge modules. “I assume you know how to operate it?”

“We avoided using them – too imprecise, too much power for most jobs – but yeah, I know my way around one. I’ll save the ‘where the frack did that come from?’ discussion for later.”

“Good. Get a salvageable carcass if you can but don’t take any chances. If you have to fry it down, fry it down.”

“What about the Washington kid?” Ash asked.

“Spotter and I will go get him. When we find him he’s probably going to need Medical attention anyway; might as well kill two birds with one stone. Let’s go!”

Go . . . 1. Get the Kid

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 33 Night

Mariana and I stopped at the tent to change gear. I asked, “What did you find out from Georgie and the Mother?”

“Not a whole lot,’ she replied, “the Mom was able to put his time of departure somewhere in the eye passage. He probably thought the weather was over and George’s head point was towards the North. That’s one tired little devil but after enough ‘flies’ he did repeat that Chris is in a cave.”

“Sounds about right,” I replied, “He does not know any woodcraft so he’s probably following the dig lines for the power grid. Those generally skirt around the rock formations up there that have cave possibilities. At any rate it’s the best starting point I can think of!”

We pulled up the hoods and shields, more to keep the water off the backs of our necks than to use the sensor suite. Only the infra-red was functional and our only comms were the short range sub-vocs that also went over infra-red.

Once we left the camp perimeter we were vary careful about our paths. We only left the woods into a trench line when we could come into it from down wind. After about three hours our search was rapidly narrowing to the area the grid crews had knick named The Knuckle. This area centered on the e-f 17-18 grid squares.

We knew we were getting close when as we were getting into position to move up the f-18, gap we found Chris’s robot. It looked like a truck had hit it but surprisingly looked repairable.

“Whatever hit it didn’t stay around to tear it up.” I said over the sub-vocs, “We have only seen one thing that can create that type of impact damage.”

She grimaced through her shield, “Yep we got two damn rumbler’s. Wonder why they are so close together? I thought Sinopa said they had huge ranges.”

“Damn if I know. Guess we can figure that out later. Maybe their ranges were separated by the river and we went and built them those handy bridges? Who cares, let’s go get the kid.”

We started moving slowly up the cut, opening after opening showed nothing. Suddenly Mariana tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to look at her. What I saw was Spotter in her hunch shouldered face down look pointing ahead and to our right. Following her pointing finger I scanned a cave opening, that had a heat source.

“How the hell do you do that?” I asked.

“Do I ask you how you disappear into the distance? We do what we do, check out the cave!”

Mariana Stuart

I came out of the sensory trance to watch Andy moving up to the cave mouth. He stopped took a careful look around the the edge of the opening and waved me forward. Moving up and looking I saw the southern exposure of what we had postulated as a rumbler.

“We are going to have to get it to turn around,” Andy said.

“Well, we could always give it a 7.62 hemorrhoid inspection,” I replied.

I watched Andy choking and gagging trying to keep noise discipline. “Yeah I guess that would work.”

He moved about ten paces in front of the cave mouth and unslung that damn cannon. “Anytime you are ready,” he said.

I crouched around the corner and started to sight in, “Damn I know why this one is here. That’s a female, look at the rear hips and exoskeleton placement.”

“Does that change the plan?” he grunted.

“Nope, she’ll just spin faster.”

I sighted in and squeezed off a quick three round burst, then dove out of the opening. I heard the bellow of pain and saw the front legs of the monster start out of the cave.

The world went silent as my earbuds squeezed shut under the overpressure I felt over every inch of my body. I saw the blood, liquid and pureed brain mass fly out of the ear of the rumbler and looked back to the flats.

There stood Andy taking that damn cannon off of his shoulder and the three clouds of smoke. Damn no wonder it hurt. We stared at each other for the 90 seconds it took for the earbuds to relax; then he said, “Go get the kid and let’s go home. Sun’s coming up and people are going to be worried.”

Let’s Go Home Kid

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

From the Log of Mariana Stuart

Day 34 Mean Nautical Sunrise

I slowly edged past the bulk of the rumbler pulling out the flash trying to find where Chris was hiding. It took about five minuets to find the slit at the back of the cave that a teenager might have been able to fit through.

I moved to the mouth of the opening and shone the light in. There curled into the corner sobbing and holding his ears was Chris. His head came up as the light hit him and the terror in those eyes was visible. I tried to talk to him and there was no response.

I thought, “Of course you dummy, he was in the back of this echo chamber when the big guy touched off three fast ones.” I reached inside the jacket and pulled out the small white slate and marker. I block printed:

It’s Dead
You can come out
It’s over

I held up the slate with the light pointed on it into the opening. I did not have to see him to feel the terror seeping out of that brain. He came out slowly like he was not sure if it was really over. When he saw the rear of the rumbler he stopped in his tracks.

Grinning at him I walked over and kicked it right square in the rear end, Chris visibly relaxed and we started out of the cave. When we got to the splayed foreleg that was blocking the path he would not climb over until I did first and reached back for him. It was like he kept waiting on it to wake up, right up till we got to the front of the beast. The great gapping hole the three HE rounds had left gave no doubt that this thing would never wake up.

I motioned for him to sit on a nearby boulder and gave him a quick once over with the field medic kit. Just as I was finishing Andy walked up handed me my expended brass and asked, “How’s the kid doing?”

“Just on the edge of shock and can’t hear. He was caught in the blast wave of that thing and that hole back there is like a natural amphitheater.”

Andy grimaced, “That was not fun I’d bet.”

I had to laugh at the look on his face, “It beats being breakfast for a rumbler. Watch him for a couple will you?”

I went over to the hulk and spent a few minutes taking fluid and tissue samples, then went back to the young man.

“Let’s get Chris down to Hanna’s and get something warm in him. That’s probably this best medical treatment he could get right now.” I wiped the slate on my sleeve and wrote:

Let’s Go Home Chris.

He stood and almost stumbled. I threw the butt of the White Feather on my left hip and reached out with my right hand to his shoulder to steady him. Just as I touched him he steadied and I looked to see Andy, Robar on his right hip and left hand under Chris’s shoulder.

For the first half mile or so we more carried him than he walked. By the time we moved into the town clearing, he was walking pretty much on his own but we left our hands where there were. Karl Nash was just slogging up from the lower bridge area.

“Karl,” I yelled, “could you get word to Harry and Linda Washington that we have Chris up at Hanna’s getting something hot into him.”

He looked pleased, “That would be the first pleasant thing I’ve done this morning. What happened the rumbler run off?”

“No Karl, she’s still laying right where Andy dropped her. We are going to need a bunch of bots to drag her back to the Lab.”

“She?” he exclaimed. “That explains why we have two of them. Dollars to donuts it’s mating season.”

We had Chris in Hanna’s and half a plate of Slizzard bacon, eggs and home fries in him when Harry and Linda burst in the front door. Linda was all over him and asking how he was and Chris was just looking dumbfounded. “Linda, he has some short term hearing loss. He should be fine in a few hours but, right now he can’t hear you.”

Karl looked at Andy with the stovepipe beside him propped against the bar and asked, “How many Andy?”

“Three but I’m not sure the third one was necessary. But after my take no chances speech to the other group, I didn’t think I should either.”

“Let me guess, Chris was down range from that sound storm. No wonder he can’t hear.”

I walked over to Hanna and asked, “Still got that private bottle of ours back there.”

“Of course Col. Stuart, by the way Kurt says he could use Dr. Stuart back real soon,” as she handed across the bottle and two glasses.

I motioned Andy over to a table, “Well, was it never enough this time?”

He grimaced, “Ask me after the other hunter/killer team checks back in.”

I stared him right in the eyes, “Do you know you are depressing as hell when you are in Command Mode?”

The Meeting After the Storm

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Liberty Council

Day 34 Morning
The number of colonists present was very noticeably smaller than at our last general Council session and the pre-meeting noise level dead silent in comparison. Lester Reye tapped once rather than pounded his gavel down and had everyone’s attention.

“Thank you all for being here this morning. I’m going to first talk about the current state of the colony after the events of the last several days and then Karl Nash will say a few words and we will open the floor for questions and comments. Please no interruptions or questions till that time.

The only sound was that of a baby crying, and Reye paused a moment looking at his audience as the mother calmed the child down. When the unnatural, even uncomfortable, silence returned he continued reading from his notes.

“Including those deaths caused by the storm we’ve lost to death nearly ten percent of our population during our first month here on Alchibah. The storm was directly responsible for five of those deaths We now number only one hundred forty nine. Eleven of that one forty nine are spacers. We have been unable to locate or to contact as of yet, William and Janie Bartlett, Laura Seaworth and my son Mike or the two robots they have with them. We haven’t given up hope, but I will not gloss over this, it does not look good. Another two robots from here in town are missing and presumed destroyed. Six robots have suffered enough damage that they can only be used as a source of spare parts.

“Eighty percent of the crops we had started will need to be replanted if there is sufficient seed remaining. This seems likely but until we finish our inventory we can not be sure. One quarter of all colonist personal construction will need to be rebuilt. At least one of our windmills is a total loss and we need to unearth the newly delivered shuttle craft, transport and the small sawmill before we can even assess the damage to them. The lower bridge needs extensive rebuilding and repair.

“We have eleven people either in the hospital or injured severely enough that at least for the time being they are unable to do any useful work. Two of those in the hospital are critically injured and unlikely to survive. Another nine of us are fit only for light duty. Understandably morale is very low in many of us who escaped with no physical injury. And if all of this wasn’t enough we have been reminded again just how deadly the native species on this planet truly are.

“And to make matters worse we have had our first reported incidence of a major crime. Karl Nash is investigating the rape of Kathy Osborne.”

Reye paused again, taking a sip of water, while all of that sunk in.

“I didn’t come here to talk of nothing but doom and gloom. On the plus side, the community building and structures built in Liberty City came through with little or only minor damage. We have discovered many new sources of food and starvation does not look to be a problem. We have more than enough electrical power for our current and projected needs, or at least till winter. What will happen next is our decision and responsibility. Digging out and rebuilding is our first priority. The future is still ours if we refuse to let it go.

Reye looked over towards Karl Nash and signaled for him to take over. Nash came up front as Lester took a seat besides the lectern. Finally a low pitched murmur could be heard but it too became inaudible as Karl began.

“I didn’t want this job when it was first offered to me, heading the police and local militia, and want it even less now. But I know, even though it may be hard to see after what we have just come through, that progress has been made.

The baby began squalling again and the child’s mother stood up as if to leave but as she neared the exit stopped and turning to face the front of the room said in a loud voice filled with both anger and pain.

“You can talk of your progress but my baby has no father and I have no husband. You can.. you will….” Her voice tailed off and her entire body seemed to slump as she turned once more towards the exit.

“Mrs Burke, please,” was all Nash could get out before the woman was through the door and out of the hall.

“Aldo Burke was acting as a member of the militia under my command, doing his job to the best of his ability and training but constrained by all that was happening around him. And yes I gave the order rescinding the requirement that two guards must be at a post at all times. Given the need for disaster relief and aid to those unable to help themselves I would do the same again. I may have been wrong but my decision was an honest one based on the facts I knew.

“This morning before this meeting began I offered Mr. Reye and the rest of the Council members my resignation, they declined to accept. Some of you may feel that a mistake on his and their part, please feel free to talk to them about it, but for now I have a job that still needs doing and will continue as best as I am able.

“I hadn‘t planned to do this but I will take the time now to publicly thank all the militia members who were on duty the last several days, those who instead of devoting all their time and effort to helping only themselves or their families worked for the benefit of all of us in this room. Aldo Burke was one who gave that last full measure of devotion and I will honor his memory as long as I live.”

Nash lowered his head as if in prayer, then looked up and started again.

“Everyone in this room by now knows at least the outline of the crime committed against Kathy Osborne. I have talked to many you already. And either myself or Joe Fortson will talk to those we haven’t gotten around to yet. We have some evidence and expect to develop more. This crime will be solved. What we don’t have is any kind of codified procedure for dealing with a trial afterwards.”

A voice broke in from the rear, “We don’t need any procedures, we know what to do.” All at once the quite hall became loud enough to notice as more than a few people began responding to the statement in hushed tones to their neighbors.

Les Reye took this time to stand up and say, “Thank you Karl, If you would like I’ll take over now.”

Nash, obviously relived was all to happy to return to his seat in the front row and clasped his wife’s hand as he sat down.

Reye just needed to begin raising his gavel this time and all eyes were on him. He set it down turned sideways without making a sound and said, “This concludes the official part of this session. I, along with several of the council members, will remain to talk to those who wish to speak to us. Karl has more important things to do right now. Let’s try to keep this next part short. Only stay if you have something which can’t wait. We will hold another formal town hall type meeting as soon as we have enough people lined up to form a committee of law and justice. All those interested submit your names to Kara. If we don’t get enough volunteers membership on the committee will be by appointment or random selection as determined by meeting vote. Is there anyone present who must make a statement for the public record at this time?”

“No…”, he said glancing about, “I suggest then we end this session now and I look for a second. Do I hear a second?”

A chorus of voices answered in the affirmative and Reye’s gavel finally did come down with a resounding bang!

Alive and Well..?

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by William Bartlett

Early Day 35
I could make out that I was in some kind of a tent built lean-to and Janie was putting branches on a fire just outside of the partially opened front flap only a couple of feet away. I mumbled, “Wha happen? Howd I geh here? Miik? Lauraah? They alright.” Janie was inside in a flash, looking as if I had come back from the dead, and I guess I had. It was a near run thing.

“Mike and Laura are fine Bart, they’re with the bots and will check in soon. It’s you that have given us all a scare.” She leaned over and brushed her lips against my forehead and continued, “It’s been 36 hours since the crash and we were afraid you might not ever make it back to us. Wait a second darling while I fix you something to eat and then I’ll tell you the whole story.”

Over the next several hours, between spooning warm broth into me and smiling. Janie described in graphic detail what had come to pass. When the shuttle plowed into the rocks the impact was all on my side if the cabin. Tough fiber reinforced syntha-steel crumpled like cardboard and my helmeted head along with the entire left side of my body took a major blow. The ship came to rest, hanging partially on the jagged boulders, about 60 feet from shore and in 30 foot of water. The shock and drag caused by the landing had torn open the Dora’s rear bulkhead and water was pouring in as she settled stern first then slid off the rocks heading for the bottom.

Mike, Laura, and the bots escaped with a jolt, shook up some but with no damage to the robots and only minor bruises to the humans. Janie said that she felt like she had been bounced around in a pinball machine and was on the verge of shock but when she saw me motionless with the side of the shuttle against my cracked helmet it was like someone else took over and she just went into automatic.

With the ship going down they all unstrapped and Janie blew the hatch on top. While the water kept pouring in the others grabbed what they could reach. Janie slapped my visor down and with the Jeeps help pulled me into the main cabin then through the hatch and up to the surface. Our suits were buoyant enough that making it to shore wasn’t impossible, just nearly so. My helmet leaked but Janie said she kept it mostly out of the water till she could drag me on land and pop the visor open again.

She told me how while she and Laura started making a shelter Mike and the bots went back to the submerged wreck and after multiple dives into the icy water were able to get two of the cargo compartments open and bring back much of what was inside. The other two compartments had been torn open and all of their contents swept down stream.

Despite the rain still falling they had managed a fire then stripped me out of my suit and gotten me inside and into a mostly dry sleeping bag.. That was the worst time of all Janie said, The side of my face was covered with blood and even after the bleeding finally stopped my pulse and breathing were erratic and no mater what she tried I didn’t seem to respond.

That was as much as she had been able to describe until I could stay awake no longer but this time drifted into a far more natural sleep.

Ten hours later:
When I next awoke I could feel the throbbing pain again; not as bad as before but bad enough. Laura Seaworth was seated cross-legged, looking very intent, and typing into her comp. I thought about it for a while and got a sentence ready to try out.

“Morning Laura, or is it afternoon?” My voice was slurred and it hurt like hell to talk. She gave a small startled jump then looked over at me and smiled. Her hazel eyes were shinny bright in the darkness of the tent as she brushed her shoulder length auburn hair backwards. Laura was fourteen and in a couple years or so was going to be an absolute knockout. With thoughts like that I guess I was gonna live after all.

“It’s,” looking at her wrist comp, “just after 11 local time Mr. Bartlett.” She spoke into her com unit saying, “He’s awake again Janie,” and then, “Ok, good.” I didn’t hear the other end of the conversation.

“Just call me Bart, its ok Laura I can’t stand on formality with anyone involved with saving my life.”

She blushed and said, “I didn’t do that much. It was mostly Janie and Mike,” and then she asked, “How do you feel?”

“Honestly not so hot. I’ve got a headache that’s on the other side of unbearable.”

She reached inside her parka and pulled out a small package and after pouring water into a canteen cup came over and gave me two pills. “Just regular strength painkillers,” she said. “Janie told us about the last time you woke up. She had you drugged to the max. At first even when you were unconscious you made an awful lot of noise at times and your pain was just tearing her apart. After last time, when you stayed awake, she stopped the injections and let me spell her. We were all so glad to know you were back.”

I struggled into a sitting position, and as the world stopped spinning, felt at the bandage covering my eye and the left side of my face.

“Janie said you’re not supposed to touch the bandages Bart. When she gets back she’ll take a look.”

“Where is she now?” I asked, still lightly fingering the cloth.

“Janie went out an hour ago to check up on Mike and the bots. She told me when I commed her that she was on her way in.”

I know I must have looked puzzled and Laura went on to explain, “We’re at the base of the bluffs overlooking the river here Bart. Mike’s up at the top on a small hill where there’s a view of the river valley and he has a fire going in hopes that anyone looking for us will see it. R.J.P. is up there with him acting as a sentry. EmyCee and I have been doing pretty much the same thing down here while Janie has been taking care of you.”

“Have you seen anything?” I asked.

“Oh we’ve seen a lot alright but nothing that’s getting us closer to being out of here.” she replied.

“Hey Quig!” Janie exclaimed, opening the tent flap.

“Jeez!, first it was Andy and now you. You hangout with the wrong kinda crowd Babe!”

I was feeling much better by late afternoon when Mike Reye came down from his lookout perch and was able to fill in more of the details of the Dora’s salvage, and he just shrugged it off as the words failed when I tried to express my thanks and admiration.

“How did it happen, Laura and I heard the explosion when the rockets blew, but why? What went wrong?”

I could only reply, “I don’t know Mike, everything was fine till the instance she cut loose and without the wreckage to examine we will probably never know.” In the back of my mind though some very dark suspicions were forming.

Good News and Bad:
If they hadn’t found us in almost three days, even with the weather as bad as it had been, I was thinking it unlikely we would be found at all. And certainly not soon. The sensors on the Mayflower and the orbital observatory were both up to detecting us. The problem had to be with the search area they were aimed at. The Mayflower was out of view and on the other side of the planet when we launched. With two comsats able to relay that didn’t seem like any problem at all. Our launch into a polar orbit heading north started out over land but as we gained altitude and the planet turned under us by the time of the explosion we were at least 100 miles off the coast and over the ocean.

All of the control, operational, and observational data for the entire flight was continually uploaded to the sats and hence the Mayflower so they always had a real time track of our progress. If a ballistic trajectory was calculated from the time we lost power and the telemetry shut down our splash point would have been 3000 miles north and 300 miles out to sea. And that had to be where any search effort was concentrated. There would also be close scans of the area on either side of the predicted trajectory.

But due to the damage we sustained and the tilted angle the Dora maintained during re-entry we drifted further and further eastwards from a true ballistic path. The good news was we came down, not 300 miles out to sea into frigid northern waters, but instead 150 miles from the coast in the landward direction. Our eastward descent also meant that we weren’t 3000 miles north but well short of that. But if the explosion that took out the engines left enough survivable debris, some would show up on the flight line where they would have expected us come in on and hence reinforce the search in that area and make it very unlikely that the spot where we did land would get any kind of a close scrutiny. And I wouldn’t have bet much on the likelihood that a small fire over a thousands miles from where we were thought to have been, and especially now when we were likely presumed to have died in the crash, would attract any attention.

That’s the way I later described to my fellow castaways what had likely happened, but being well inland we had no knowledge or the tsunami and the real problems back in Liberty City so I could hardly have been more wrong. Still it was a beautiful theory and since we hadn’t been found it was up to us to figure out our next step.

I would need better data to determine our exact location but had a plan on how to go about getting it. With the loss of the shuttle the only com-unit with the range and frequency response to link through the comsats was the military grade unit strapped to my left wrist; the one, mil-spec or not, that hadn’t survived being between my seats arm and the crumpling of the ships side when we hit the rocks. We had packed another ground unit but it wasn’t stowed in the compartments Mike and the Jeep had been able to salvage. Aside from being on the wrong frequencies every other communication device we owned, including the bots internal units, were short range devices. That was why Sabbu was so busy setting up cells back in Liberty City.

Good luck, planning, and a concern for weight distribution had caused us to stow our gear in such a fashion that in the two intact compartments along with some of our basic survival equipment both Janie’s and my pack and personal gear were recovered. Laura and Mikes gear was stored in the compartments that had ripped open and they lost everything but what was in each of their small carry on bags. I had been wearing my Glock and had two spare loaded magazines in the pouch clipped to the harness, and say what you will about it being a poodle shooter, (Oh I guess you would have had to read the old internet archives to get that reference), it was impervious to water damage and ultimately reliable. But better than that the Jeep had brought in the container into which our two plasma rifles and both of the Rugs had been packed along with 60 round worth of penetrators and expanders, slings and cleaning supplies.

We had food on short rations for perhaps a couple weeks but plenty of vitamin supplements and we knew that at least some of the local plant and animal life would be edible. The folks at the Bio Lab had put together a test kit which was in Janie’s pack, containing treated patches designed to turn color in the presence of harmful organics. The broth I had been drinking was prepared from the meat of a large otter like animal Mike Reye had captured by digging it out of a snow bank. He had cleaned the pelt and it was frozen now but if we were to keep it would need to be tanned. We had only two sleeping bags but we all were wearing ship suits during the launch. Once they were dry the skin-suit inner layer and outer protective covering, much like rip-stop nylon but ever so much tougher, were warm enough if the temp stayed above freezing. The outer suit pressure layers and their heating units went down with the Dora but even so it did look like we wouldn’t freeze. Very important smaller items included a mess kit, hand axe, and a 12 inch folding saw but most important of all both the Jeep and EmyCee had come through in perfect shape.

I was thoroughly impressed with the precautions Janie and Mike had taken to insure camp security, from the location chosen for the tent, made from the solar cloth tarps Janie and I had carried, to the stone wall barricades and open sight lines. I had managed to stand and get outside before it turned dark on that third day and saw that even the latrine was situated with security in mind. I told Janie I could take a watch outside the tent area that night but she knew better and insisted I didn’t rush things. The next morning when I awoke I figured I was at least up to 50%, and considering the alternative that wasn’t too bad.

What Next:
Janie was up on the bluff and Lara was outside the tent, Mike has stood the night watch and was snoring lightly as he caught up on sleep. I was using Laura’s comp, the only one that made it ashore, and trying to figure out exactly where we were. The comp was loaded with the easy version of much of the astronomical data relating to the Alchibah system and I had asked Mike to record bearings and altitudes along with time stamps if by chance it was clear enough to see either of the moons, Oliver or Carter, during his watch. I had gotten Janie to instruct EmyCee and the Jeep to do the same. Between the three of them and because the weather pattern which had been dumping alternately rain sleet and snow on us was breaking up, I had eight data points to work with.

It took a lot longer than it should have as fuzzy as I still was but by the time Mike awoke I had our location narrowed down to by my estimation to within fifty miles of out true location. A comparison of estimation with the recorded satellite imagery, which did show the river location, and I could even point out our campsite.

As Mike got up and made ready to take over for Janie I asked him to get us all into local communication and I described my findings. The short version was that we were 1640 miles almost due north of Liberty City and one hundred and fifty miles from the coast. The river that fed formed the lake we ‘landed’ in gradually increased in size and tending westward flowed into the ocean a few hundred miles to the southwest. The terrain south of us diminished from low mountains, kind of like the Appalachians back on Earth, to a high tundra and then, starting about twelve hundred miles north of Liberty to the mostly forested regions we were familiar with.

Mike and Laura let Janie and I do most of the talking but both, and Mike in particular, were free with comments when they had something to add. Mike did ask about the probability of our fire being spotted.

“Almost no chance,” I said, “Too many geothermal sources and lightning caused fires. If we could set off a really big fire they would certainly see but it would look like any naturally occurring forest fire and even if they examined it closely little old us would be lost in the noise.

Since waiting it out here, for the rescue that would never come, was out of the question, that left two us choices. Take the river to the sea and follow the ocean shore back, either by walking or after building some kind of a boat, or try a more direct overland passage. If we had been a larger party better supplied I think we would have split up and tried both ways, hoping that at least one would succeed and bring rescue to the other party, but that was out of the question in our present condition.

We just didn’t have enough information to go on. The satellite maps in Laura’s comp lacked the resolution to throw the decision either way. We decided to take the easiest course, just following the river down stream for the first seventy miles while it flowed generally south and then make the final choice where it’s direction changed to the west as it fell rapidly towards the sea.

I told Janie I was feeling good enough to take over for Laura and also that I could use the fresh air; she concurred. After Mike left to take over for her and she retuned to camp we resumed planning, keeping the com active so Mike could hear us while Laura slept.

If everything worked out, and my condition kept improving, we would make all the preparations possible and leave early in the morning two days from now. That would be at the start of the seventh day since the crash or Alchibah day 40.

Inspecting the Farm

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Les Reye

As I left the community building I passed J.J. Parker and John Pierce leading about a dozen robots and heading south with the obvious intention of resetting the beams for the lower bridge. I could hear in the distance, probably almost a mile away the sound of the sawmills 20 horse power bio fueled engine; its amazing how far sound travels here without the constant undercurrent of the road noise and the rest of the sounds we were so accustomed to that we never noticed them.

I crossed the river on the upper bridge which hadn’t been damaged and followed it’s eastern shore as I headed for my freehold. My robot R. Hadrian was with me and I was carrying one of the shotguns from the armory. I hadn’t fired a shot in many years but I did grow up on a farm after all and in a time before hunting was effectively outlawed. I had enjoyed it at the time but gave it up as I got older. I had given no concern as the laws were passed making hunting first difficult and then impossible as the weapons were first registered and then required to be stored in secure governmentally controlled locations. Next more and more types were banned until we finally destroyed them all. At least in the U.S. the owners were paid for the value of the loss. Well maybe not the value but at least the purchase price.

The weapon I carried now was one of the first made in the blacksmiths shop on Alchibah. It would have been illegal on Earth even before the last round of laws were passed. It was in fact a sawed off double barrel 12 gage. Very crude with barrels made from seamless pipe brought down from the Mayflower, dual triggers and no ejectors, and no safety whatsoever except for the common sense of the person carrying it, and that was always the best safety anyway. But loaded with a slug in one side and double ought buck in the other a very suitable choice for close in personal protection. The stock was made from wood shaped by one of the robots from the local timber. It was equipped with a sling attached to the stock and a swivel just in front of the trigger guard but I chose to carry it in hand to get used to its feel.

I swung past the Historians freehold to see if the chickens and rabbits he had been raising survived. The house, which was quite a bit more substantial than what I had managed to complete, was gone; barely a trace just some stray timbers scattered about. The Hist, Rocco, and R. Asimov were busy re-erecting chicken coups and rabbit hutches. I stopped and talked to them for a while and the Historian explained that the house supported by posts set into the ground had tried to resist the flood whereas the animal cages were set on frames and just floated away when the waters washed over. About a third of the cages were smashed open and in a few cases upended so the chickens or rabbits inside drowned but in all about half survived.

I made good progress the rest of the way to my farm and after getting out of the forest and finally having a view to where my house should have been, to my surprise saw Buchanan, the Blade and a few others and along some nine or ten bots engaged in concerted activity surrounding my house which was for now about 500 yards east of where it once stood.

When we put my house up instead of driving posts into the ground Mike and I had set it on uncemented stone pilings. Like the Historians chicken coups the wave had washed it away but without damage left it half a mile to the east on the higher ground when the water receded. Now Buchanan was using pole pine rollers the bots and a lot of muscle to drag it back to it’s original location. I looked to the west where I should have seen Burt’s cabin and saw nothing but the marsh. It must have been swept down stream with the backflow.

When I reached them Jack took keen notice of my shotgun and sneered a bit. I think he was comparing it to the military grade weapons he and his men were carrying, but of that I took no obvious notice.

Buchanan spoke first while I was just getting ready to thank him and reading my mind said, “No thanks necessary Les, as you probably saw I lost everything and Jack and the boys offered to help put your place back where it belongs. I sure hope you don’t mind if we use it for a bit until I can rebuild.”

“Not at all Burt,” I was able to say with complete honesty, after all I really hadn’t expected to find anything left. “Take as long as you need Judith and I will stay in town. I don’t think she’s ready to come back here right now anyway.”

He told me they planned to make some improvements at my place, putting up a palisades and some earthworks making it rather fort like. I would miss the view but I expect Judith would appreciate the greater feeling of safety.

I thanked them all again and mentioned I was going back to town and check in with Sabbu to find out if there was any word about my son Mike and the shuttle.

“If there is be sure and let us know,” Jack said, giving me a strange look and in a tone of voice that made me feel very uneasy.

A half an hour later after stopping to talk to the gang resetting the beams at the lower bridge and I was back in Liberty City. Still no word from my son.

On the March

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by William Bartlett

Day 39 - Preparations:
Mike showed me the path up to the top of the bluff, helping out very gingerly by and pointing to the proper foot holds in the steeper sections and making sure his help wasn‘t obvious. The bandage over my left eye had been replaced by a patch and if uncovered I could see out of it but the white was still lacerated and I would probably need the patch for another week.

When we finally made it to the top in what I expected about half the time he could have done it alone, I still felt like it was an accomplishment, and it was. It was to me a sure sign that even if in pain I would be able to walk out of here on the morrow when we started south and back towards Liberty City. I was a bit dizzy but overall very pleased. After I had assured him I would be fine Mike turned around and headed back down and I summoned the Jeep over for a close inspection and yes he was a sight for sore eyes.

“Hey Jeep, How ya been?”

“I believe I have missed your company but otherwise I have been fine Boss, and you?”

“Well thank you Jeep, and good to see you too, it appears that you’ve turned into a hero by saving my ass when you pulled me from the wreck. And do believe me when I say I appreciate it.”

“No thanks are necessary Boss. It seemed the proper thing to do at the time.”

After a close examination of the Jeep which revealed only a few surface scratches I gazed into the distance seeing the mountains rising ever higher above and the river valley spread out below. It was a fairytale sight, the way the land merged with the sky and the muted colors blended together. I could make out four tall white cloud like columns rising then blending into the towering gray clouds. That was Steam rising from thermal vents. Three were to our north and one to the east. And they just added another obstacle for anyone searching for us. The thermal signature of a fire would blend in with the natural hot spots. Riding the updrafts from the vents and turning in great lazy circles were large birds bearing about the same kind of resemblance to the devils we were used to as a hawk has to a hummingbird.

To say the land hereabouts was rugged just didn’t do it justice. Rugged wasn’t the half of it. There was much snow at the elevations above and what looked to be glacial ice meeting into the river at the northern most position I could see. There was of course much water cascading down river from the north. This far north of Liberty City it was still very early spring and the warm mid day temperature insured the spring melt was proceeding apace. The rushing water caused ripples on the wider lake like section below. Even in the absence of a wind it gave ample evidence of the river’s strength and speed.

I could make out a rapids where it narrowed back down again about a mile south of where the Jeep and I were stationed behind the rock buttress Mike had seen to getting erected. At least for now in this stage of the season rafting down stream wasn’t an option.

There was however a mostly narrow ledge paralleling the rivers course running along both shores. This was evidence of a once higher water level than today and from a geological era when the bottom of the river was equal to the ledge height. We could hike along that ledge and make good progress for a while at least. A couple of days and we would have to see what came next.

There was a herd of about 20 mountain goat like animals a few thousand feet higher up and once in a while I would see lone individuals traveling down a steep trail to the ledge by the river. I had a pair of binoculars and could study them closely. About the size of a large mountain goat; their six legged gait was an obvious improvement on the Earth design. They were covered with a mottled dull grey to black fur with patches of white that blended into the natural background. Even when moving the were not easy to pick out. Given the temperature now in the mid 20’s, and the fact that they were warm blooded, the Jeep had no trouble at all spotting them and pointing me in the right direction.

The trail the goats were using to reach the river was some 250 yards to the north of the rock berm and stacked wood shielding the signal fire. At an elevation about 50 yards up the slope from us it crossed over a slight ridge and disappearing on the other side until it neared the river again some 400 yards upstream and below us.

The weather had been improving all morning and at first in slivers, and then by patches, but now wide areas of Alchibah’s distinctive dark blue sky predominated. If one of the goats would cooperate and pass over the ridge at just the right time it would be silhouetted against the sky and I might be able to get off a shot. We could surely use the meat.

But as I said the animals natural camouflage was excellent and the rocky nature of the trail leading down towards where it passed over the ridge line combined with the distance involved made for tough conditions. The Ruger was zeroed at 250 yards but when shooting uphill I would need to aim low. I know that sounds odd to non-shooters, heck it sounds odd to shooters too, and I never believed it myself till I did the math but I wasn’t sure how low I should be aiming at this range and elevation. The Rug’s military optics would have taken all of the guesswork out of the equation but I had elected to keep things simple and hadn‘t packed them. Eventually after a four hour wait and missing two chances to shoot because of visibility problems due to a cloudy background I did get a shot off .

Aim point 2 inches low and I found out later I had just clipped the goat at its spine above the front most pair of legs. It dropped at once and tumbled out of view behind the ridge. I sent out the Jeep to see if he could bring it back and sure enough he reappeared after 15 minutes carrying the animal across one of his shoulders. I skinned and cleaned it, washing the body cavity out while still warm in fresh snow. About 45 lbs cut into chunks and wrapped back up in the pelt that would freeze over night and meat for the pot tonight.

I stayed up on top for a whole shift before Mike came up again, Janie had commed me every hour, and of course immediately after hearing the shot, checking up on my condition. I was feeling better every time we talked. The main reason for being on top of the bluff was to insure we could get a signal fire blazing in a visible location rapidly as possible should a search vehicle came into the area, unlikely, but that was all we could do for now and we had to keep trying.

When I got back from the bluff, bringing the wrapped goat meat with me, Laura and Janie had almost everything packed except for those things we would need that night. I decided to call Mike in early so that we would need to stand only a one person rotating guard that night leaving us all of us as rested as possible and ready to leave first thing in the morning.

The night went by uneventfully and near daylight R. J.P. came down from the bluff and topped up the charge in EmyCee’s batteries. It took less than an hour from the time we arose to eat, break camp, and head down stream. Seven days from liftoff from Liberty City and how many more till we would see it again?

Day 40 - Order of March:
The Jeep led out in front a hundred yards ahead carrying just a plasma rifle. I wanted to be sure he could react instantly in case of need. I was next in line with a Ruger in hand and Mikes carry on bag slung over my shoulder. My left side was still too bruised and tender to stand up to humping my pack and so Mike Reye carried that from his position as third in line. I hadn’t planned on doing much hiking when we left Liberty City to start this trip so the pack was loaded up to around 65 lbs and fortunately I included much more than just the bare essentials for a day trip.

I figured Mike might have trouble with the weight at first but given a few days I would be able to spell him, and soon, I hoped, be able to carry it full time. Mike also carried his Ruger and the pistol Andy Stewart had given him and also my plasma rifle; not because he had had any practice in it’s use but so that he could pass it on to me in a hurry if it was needed. Overall Mike was carrying almost 80 lbs, a brutal load but he had the size for it and was in much better shape than I would have guessed.

Next, and right behind Mike, came Laura, she had her carry bag and the fur wrapped bundle containing thirty pounds of the frozen goat meat. The bundle was tied up with cut strips of skin and with straps from the same material, fur side in, made a decent pack. I thought the weight too much for her but she insisted she could handle it. We would see.

I had asked Janie’s to try and keep 15 to 20 yards behind Laura but to close up and look to the rear whenever we stopped or if the pace slowed down for any reason. Janie carried along with her pack, loaded to better than 50 lbs, the other Plasma rifle. EmyCee brought up the rear 50 yards behind the main group. Emy carried, slung on her back, the container the weapons and ammunition had been stored in but now containing most of the miscellaneous camp supplies and items pulled from the Dora. To balance that not inconsiderable weight she also had a bundle of ready firewood roped together and tied on in front of her. As we stepped out I reminded everyone to stay alert and to remember the reason for a neck was to keep ones head on a swivel.

The temperature was just above freezing but rather than set out on a brisk pace figured it better to start out slowly and work up to more strenuous exercise. Another factor was that I wanted the sun to be well overhead by the time we reached the other end of the lake where the river narrowed down in a near vertical gorge as it passed beyond the area I had been able to examine closely from atop the bluff the day before.

We walked for 25 minutes then took a break for five. That was plenty enough to keep us warm and for those carrying unaccustomed weight, especially Mike, to get used to the strain. The lakes shore area though usually less than 20 feet was mostly clean bare rock though every place there was a sheltered section it became covered with potentially ankle breaking patches of loose stone and rock that we had to pick our way through with much care.

We spent just about a full two hours covering that first two miles till the lake narrowed down, but time well spent as we were getting used to the program. Alchibah was high enough in the sky that the shadows at the bottom of the river channel caused us no problem with visibility as we trekked along but the roar of the water in the boulder strewn rapids did made talking impossible.

The only things other than my rifle that I was carrying was my holstered Glock and Laura’s comp. Her comp was the only device we had with a large enough screen to let me glance at from time to time, and get a Jeep’s eye view of what lay in front of us, when the footing wasn’t difficult. It bothered me some that the Jeep in his position ahead was often out of view but nothing to do about that. At the short ranges involved at least we had no communication black outs.

All in all the morning passed rapidly and while still in the gorge, with the Jeep ahead and EmyCee posted behind, halted just after local noon for a longer break and lunch. Good thing we had brought fire wood with us because except for a couple of very small samples we hadn’t encountered enough driftwood make a difference, much less a fire.

I pulled the collapsible rod out of my pack after Mike had set it down and as quickly as the others had a fire going pulled in two smallish variants of the familiar trout. Not a big meal but quick when roasted and we would save the goat meat we were hauling with us for later. Scarcely forty minutes and we were on our way again.

It was early afternoon, but shadows were already beginning to form in the deep cut we were waking through, but in little more than a mile the steep rock walls hemming us in began to spread and crumble into a more gradual slope. And after another mile it was like coming out of a tunnel as the river cascaded downwards towards a vast open tundra marked here and there by rocky outcroppings fronted with glacial moraines and dotted by the infrequent clump of pole-pines. We had lost several thousand feet of elevation and most of the winters snow had melted off with only an infrequent patch or drift were still evident. Almost 9 hours of marching that first day, and perhaps15 miles covered, but a very adequate beginning, and with well known, safe, terrain behind us and knowing nothing of dangers ahead, a very suitable spot to stop for the night.

That first day’s travel set the pattern for many of those to follow. And in order to keep from repeating myself I’ll layout a typical days travel during our first month in reverse order of stop to start. After reaching the days stopping point I would walk an arc in front of where we would camp, covering all the ground to a distance of about 200 yards till I was certain I had found the best spot for the Jeep to occupy while acting as the nights forward lookout. While I was doing that Janie and Laura pitched the tent and did whatever else was necessary to set up. The Jeep’s guard spot being determined both he and I returned to camp and EmyCee would come forward so the Jeep could top off her charge.

Taking as much of this time as he needed Mike collected fire wood, cutting enough to keep a small fire burning all night long. He tried to collect more than enough so we would have some to take with us when we left in the morning but in areas like where we were stopped right now with wood scatted or scarce or if the weather was bad, he just make sure the fire would last the night. Next dinner and after eating with still an hour of daylight remaining, we were having a bit more than 13 hrs of daylight right now, I would get some sleep.

Either Laura and Janie, or once in a while Mike and Janie, would handle the first watch which lasted till midnight. I took over at that time and often caught another hour of sleep in the morning while breakfast was made and the others packed for the day ahead.

Privacy; we had little to none, and that took some getting used to. We copped in part by ignoring what we weren’t meant to see.

Laura and Mike got along well with each other and seemed rather to enjoy than to just tolerate the forced intimacy of our small group. Neither Janie nor I actively encouraged their growing friendship but we didn’t actively discourage it either. The one time I brought up the subject Janie said, “Their both good people Bart, however things turn out between them, it’ll be human natures decision, and nothing you or I do or think will matter in the end.”

Most days we hiked for eight to ten hours with a short stop for lunch, very rarely more than that. We never walked as fast as conditions might have allowed due to the need for constant security. The extra light at the end of the day was absolutely necessary for getting a safe camp ready well before dark. If we came upon an ideal location earlier, one that would permit us to get by with only one guard, we would stop much earlier, sometimes just after noon with as few as six hours in. We seldom moved as rapidly as we could have, caution being the key, so a good day’s travel was a little over fifteen miles and twelve or thirteen much closer to average but the steady progress was it‘s own reward. As we toughened up we would walk an hour or more between rest stops.

I kept hold of Laura’s comp while on the march or standing guard and kept the log files current. I had gotten so used to that every day it was second nature. We all did quite a bit of dictation into the device that the AI program would organize. I made copious notes concerning the terrain and geological strata and took many visuals as examples but found more than enough time for my personal log.

By the end of the first week I was carrying my pack full time with no troubles and almost no soreness and Mike had his own pack back. We found it washed up on a bank two days farther down stream. We never did find Laura‘s or anything else from the wreck. After that first week we stopped scanning the skies for signs of rescue.

Quit Complaining

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Hanna Parker

Quite an array of walking wounded had streamed through the Inn seeking shelter, food, and solace. Tearful reunions. Frantic searches. “Would you believe it, dear,” Jules said disgustedly, “someone’s whining about losing crops and his shirt. The last thing we need is someone moanin’ and groaning. We’ve got injured. Some colonists died. That’s worse than his problems!”

Smiling sweetly, I replied, “Tell him next time ……..
……… ‘ get insurance ’ ”

Overhearing the conversation, JJ burst out laughing. “Good one, Mom. And subtle, very subtle.”

Dig em Out, Leftenant

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 34 0900

We finally groaned our way up and out of Hanna’s place. Mariana and I split with her headed for the Lab and I wanted to see the landing field. Standing in front of me were Ryu and Summer.

“What do we do now Boss?” They asked.

“Go take care of your family, help somebody out and while you are at it get some sleep. They are not going to let Jai out of treatment until tomorrow, so you can’t go bug her.

“We go back to work in the morning, be ready. By the way, y’all done good in the storm.”

Next in line was JoAnn McKenzie, she and R. Digger were staring at the landing field. I came up beside her and looked at her face for a moment.

“Don’t worry girl, he’s been in rougher scrapes than this and he’s still here.”

“If he were flying a fighter I would feel better. Yes I know he’s wearing that Special Forces patch but, he’s a fighter jock at heart. How good can he be on the ground?”

“JoAnn, I ran his Q test myself and got a written reprimand for how tough I made it.

“He has a problem and I will admit I was part of it. He has never had anything handed to him in his life; Hell, he’s had to fight for every bit of it. I gave him hell on that Q course because I didn’t want to be accused of favoritism. I covered my butt and he took the brunt of it. I sent Gabe Benjamin to get him on the last leg, he made it to the line anyway. Sinopa will find that bastard, then Ash and Connor will put him down.”

JoAnn just stared at me, “Do you really think she can track that thing?”

“Shit, she can track a bad debt across forty miles of bad Georgia road. She will find him!”

“How do you know it’s a him?”

“Cause Spotter and I killed the female. Now take R. Digger and start digging out those ships. Hell, it beats sitting around worrying.”

She laughed at that one and asked, “What are you going to do?”

“Go play confessor for LT. Benjamin. Unless I am totally wrong, She is going to need one!”

When I got to the Lab Mariana had already taken over, “What’s the picture,” I asked.

“Well, Kurt is absolutely beat; Sally and I put him on a cot in treatment and He’s snoring to beat the band. We are going to kick Jaisa out in the morning. Emily is stable and we figured out what the frack was causing the heart monitor for the kid to alarm; She’s carrying twins and she’s not going to lose them.

“Carol Roberts, the wood lady is doing much better, Kurt hit her with a second dose of quick heal and that seems to have taken care of the slow bleeders. We have her kid Christine sedated and that’s under control. Hilde and Rachel have a ton of bruises and contusions up at the Community Center. By the way did I ever thank you for that land line between the Medical Centers, it’s the only comm’s working right now.”

“Logistics, Logistics followed by Logistics: besides laying Fiber to all the important nodes was Ash’s idea. Is Jai awake right now, I think I need to talk to her?”

I saw Mariana wince at that one, “Yeah, she’s awake and she’s taking it hard.”

I just rolled my eye’s towards the roof and asked, “Let me guess,she swears she didn’t do enough and it was all her fault?”

Marianas tone was as sarcastic as could be drawled, “Yep, first class case of self beat down. Almost as bad as two guys I know but, with the caveat that it’s her first time so it’s the worst.”

“I’ll do what I can, but you know she’s going to wind up coming to you before it’s over. There is after all only one female on this planet that knows Command Burden, oh Mrs COL. Stuart.”

I left Diagnostic and went over to treatment, Jai was propped up on one of the temporary cots.

“You must be getting better LT., I see they have kicked you out of the good bed.”

She gave me that hang dog look, “I guess, they don’t seem to have much for Em though.”

“Ah, Young Lady as close friends as you two are you are not in the Next of Kin notification chain but, as I happen to have an in with the co-chief pill pusher around here let me fill you in. Em is being kept under to keep her from tearing out a whole bunch of delicate stitch work; as they were afraid what the Quick heal would do to her kids they haven’t been real aggressive with it yet.”

Jai’s eyes bugged and lit up for the first time, “Kids as in Plural?”

“As in twins and she’s going to keep them. They have stepped up the quick heal and will probably wake her up right after they chase you out of here in the morning. So how are you doing, pretty rough I would imagine?”

“I should have done more, Em should not be lying over there like she was dead.”

“Bout what I expected young LT.; now I am not the one to help you with the emotional part. As you may have noted there is a slight difference between males and females that has nothing to do with the plumbing. Emotions get handled in much different ways; go talk to Sin when she gets back as you know her better. But when you get around to Command Burden, talk to Mariana.”

Hers eyes did get wide, “Cripes you mean me, cry on COL Stuarts shoulder?”

“No Jai, on Mariana Stuarts shoulder. Remember Sin is a Scout an Outrider. The only female on this planet besides you who has ever carried Command Burden is the Blonde Lady. Now as to action evaluation and Command actions, pay attention the Master is in session.”

I pulled up a chair and laid the Robar to the side, “Now I am going to assume that you were a good troop and read the report I had Sally show you.”

“Yes Sir, nothing much else to do.”

“Good, here is that report with no names; read and critique LT.”

She took the padd and began to read slowly as if describing actions done by someone else. When she finished she looked up and for the first time I saw tears in those young eyes. “Too many threats, from too many angles with too damn few rounds.”

“All Right, you get an A on the first part of the exercise. Now to go for the big prize, please explain why I am going to schedule you a Q course as soon as we can arrange it?”

This time she did have a totally dumbfounded look but after a few minute’s thought she slowly replied. “I would guess it would be because I never lost my wits. Even though we got caught by the tsunami I was still able to protect the civilian from further harm.”

“Well, that got a B+ but not a total bingo. You left out the fact that the troops under your command went through hell and half of Georgia to find you and dig you out. Not exactly a bad reputation for a young Officer. Oh and yes, I did get that speech you gave repeated to me. Not bad, you seized the moment and got them laughing.”

I took back the padd and started out but stopped and looked back over my shoulder, “But remember, don’t worry about Rudolph crapping on your head. Worry about him breaking off an antler in your butt.”

As I started out the door I heard laughter in the room, and one voice weak and unsure was Jai.

I ducked back into Diag. To find Mariana laughing. “Listening in on the patient monitor were you?”

“Oh God yes, I just wish I could have seen her face.”

“Yeah, me too. It would have ruined the moment if I had actually looked. Any who, when Kurt wakes up give him this, will you?” I pulled out the patch and handed it to her.


“Combat Medical, you think he’s ready?”

“Your call Dr. Stuart but, if he ain’t; who the hell ever was?”

Squashing Doubts

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Historian

Day 35, around Noon

“It’s just a badly strained muscle, Histy.” Nurse LeGuin said as she applied a self-adhesive heating pad to his lower back. “You’re not a young man anymore and you need to take it easy.”

“Given the situation,” Histy said, sitting up on the cot in the hospital room, “none of us can afford to take it easy.”

“Yes, but trying to help the others, shoveling mud out of the way on the landing field, is a darn fast way to throw out an elderly back.”

Kurt Kellerman stopped by, took a look, and said, “You’ll be fine. Just let Rocco do the heavy lifting from now on.”

“Thanks a lot!” Rocco said, standing nearby.

Kurt Kellerman said, “Has communication been re-established with the Mayflower?”

“Not yet,” Histy said, “The guys have finally got the local network here in Liberty limping back to a weak functioning state — I think the solar storm must still be active. There’s nothing from the Mayflower. I wish Travis was here.”

On cue, from the entrance, Captain Travis and Glenda Cumberland came striding in.

Travis said, “You rang? And what the hell happened to you folks? I had to land the shuttle in the field to the west of the landing field.”

Histy, Kellerman, and Rocco filled them in on the gory details of the storm, the tidal wave, and all else that had happened.

Kellerman then asked, “Any idea when direct communications will be restored, Captain?”

“The electromagnetic storms are still going strong, Doc. Until they die down, the three com-sats are useless and the dish on the Mayflower surface had it’s electronics fried. Hibbes is working on that now, when he and Chandler aren’t going out on joy rides in one of the shuttles. It could still be a week before the solar flares quiet down.”

“Any ideas about that wave we described?” Histy asked.

“No,” Travis said, “Bart might but he and his crew are off somewhere and communication with them is out, too, as long as the com-sats are down. They probably don’t even realize what’s happened here in Liberty.

“One thing, though,” he continued, “Darren Calver has noticed a lot of atmospheric dust just recently. It’s possible that a volcano erupted, although we haven’t seen it, or that a good sized meteor has struck the planet. Either way, that could mean things will be a couple degrees cooler around here for a month or two.”

Nurse LeGuin had been listening to all of this and finally spoke, “Captain, Histy, I don’t mean to sound like a voice of doom but. . . Maybe this whole thing is a mistake. Hurricanes, floods, raging monsters! Maybe we’re not meant to live on this planet. Captain, could the Mayflower return us to Earth? We’ll just face whatever music the authorities mete out.”

Historian gave her, and any other doubters present, a serious look and sternly said, “Now look. I know things seem bad and I’ve thought about this myself. We don’t know where the tidal wave came from but it can’t be a common thing or we’d have seen signs of previous ones. The same goes for the hurricane. You’ve seen all the trees that came down from the storm. Before the storm, we’d all taken strolls through the woods and there was no evidence of fallen limbs, rotting logs, or anything like that. If hurricanes were hitting this area frequently, we’d have seen all of that. My best guess is simply that a couple bad things happened to us the past two days but that they are rare events.

“We’ll rebuild, bigger and better than ever. As for monsters like the rumblers, others are dealing with them as we speak and further, are they really any different than the — the phrase ‘lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!’ comes to mind, — that early settlers on Earth’s continents faced? We’ll be fine. This is our world, now, and we as a people just need to get to know it a little better to understand it and live in harmony with and on it.”

Rocco said, “I sure wish we had some heavy earth-moving equipment to make things easier and speed construction up.”

“Unfortunately,” Travis said, “that’s all laying somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.”

Histy said, “We’ll be fine. Sweat-equity builds pride and when Liberty City is back on it’s feet, all of us can feel that we contributed to it’s rise and glory.”

Rocco said, “You should have been a politician.”

Historian said, “What makes you think I’m not?”

Get the Comms UP!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 35 Sunrise plus 1 Hour.

With two sections up already I was assembling the third section of the tower when Sabbu walked up.

“The young Aussie down at the landing field said you wanted to see me?”

“Yeah Sabbu, when I finish here and turn this thing on in the morning, you are going to need to reposition all your comm cells. This will be the new central node and you should be able to expand our envelope quite greatly. This one would never get certified by the World Communications Commission.”

“OK Andy, what worth a shit ever got approved by the WCC?”

“Sabbu, is that a trick question or an insult to my intelligence?”

“How about a trivia quiz with no correct answer, great for bar bets. Anyway what you got?” Without further talk he moved to the improvised weatherproof enclosure and opened the cover. “Cripes, for sure this thing won’t pass specs; what does it put out and where the frack did you get this thing?”

“First, that’s two of the circuit boards we used to distract security way back at the shuttle up to Lancer. Second, it puts out 500 Watts and I have a 12 dbi Dipole to chunk it into, once I get this damn tower up.”

“OK Andy, that takes care of the radio; but where the frack did this tower come from?”

“Scrap angle iron, supports from the inside of the cargo containers, excess support structures from the mining operation on Mayflower, and a base plate we bought off of Hibbs. We have been planning this since about Day three but, things kept getting in the way. It went up the priority list the last couple of days.

“We are going to side mount the omni for local at 35 ft. and on the top at 42 ft. is going to be a steerable Dish for comms to space.”

“I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record but, where the frack did you get a dish.”

“When we gutted the cargo container for the support ribs, Walt took the metal of the sides and manually beat it into a dish.” I grinned at Sabbu, “and I can gen up a cassegrain feed by rubbing two boy scouts together.”

“OK,” said Sabbu, “that’s the easiest dish to make but, why the rush?”

“Three reasons. We need it, it’s going to take Tim all night to tie into both nets and I still have a team out at risk. I can’t go stumbling around looking for them without comms.”

“All right, I’m convinced. What do you want me to do and where are we running the feeds?”

“Sabbu, I have every bot I can spare up at f-38 dragging home a slizzard carcass I need somebody to assemble the sections so I don’t have to climb up and down. The feeds go right here,” pointing to a pipe in the ground; “you are standing on the roof of the Security Center.”

With Sabbu to assist the tower went up quickly. We put guy wires at 20 ft. and 40 ft. to the support rods that had been driven by the bots when they poured the base in back on Day 30. Or back before the world changed.

We were ready to pull up the tracking pivot for the dish (a hip joint from a salvaged Mayflower excavation bot), when I looked down and saw Jaisa Benjamin finish the last lash. I kept my face carefully neutral and started the pull on the rope.

Pretending to watch the double pulley for a bind, I kept one eye on Jai; especially on her eyes. I could see a little glint there for getting something done but, there was a dark background there that could not be missed.

Mid-afternoon we had the antennas up, the cables connected and fed into the Security Center and I was dressing them to the tower as I made my way down. I was still high enough to see the female slizzard coming around the bluff to the lab with Sgt. Nug in charge of a 8 bot drag team.

Back on the ground I looked at Sabbu and Jai, “Well it’s on Tim now. If the team is not back by the morning, I go hunting.”

Sabbu grinned and Jai gave me a look of pure worry. “Jai, I don’t think they are in trouble but, they are still my command!”

Her look gave me my first hint of hope for a young girl who had been through hell.

We Find a Pet

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by William Bartlett

Lets call her an Uglasaur,” I said while holding the twenty inch long, tail inclusive, iguana like lizard thing and scratching it lightly on the wrinkled skin under it‘s neck.

“Bart! You can’t call him that. It’ll hurt his itty bitty feelings!” Janie exclaimed. “Gup… gup, gup, gup,” she said cooing at it. The words were no sooner out of her mouth when it nipped at my finger and a drop of blood began to form.

“Why the fat friggin little monster!” I yelled.

“Don’t say that Bart. See how quickly he stopped and drew back after tasting you. . . and how sorry he looks now? Gup, gup.”

“He’s sorry lookin’ alright. And what makes you so sure it’s a he and not a she?” I said, with one hand now clamped firmly on it’s neck and turning it over for a better examination. “I don’t see any outward sign of whatever sex it might be.”

“A He! Bart… women know these things… just ask Laura.”

“I’ll take your word for it Babe. Umm… Janie, can you sew stuff?”

She looked at me incredulously and said, “Bart… Anyone with the IQ of a warm beer can sew stuff.”

“Good cause it looks like my fingers gonna need three or four stitches.”

The way we came across the Uglasaur was like this… Halfway through lunch on the second day’s march, the Jeep sent a message. “Alert! Large animal detected, your position 350 yards south 20 stable.”

The twenty part told me that what the Jeep had located was 20 degrees clockwise or west of due south, the stable addition meant no, or very little, relative motion from the initial position where it was detected. I looked at the comp screen and could see the visual cross hairs in the center of the view but other than that only an infrared bloom and an interposing pattern of straw brown marsh grass.

“Weapons check,” I said in a soft calm tone. “EmyCee, close to me and watch the sides and rear threat zone.” That made sure with the Jeep locked on target we would still have coverage in case anything else showed up. I continued to monitor the comp screen for the 20 seconds it took Emy to reach us. No changes there but for small movements of a few feet or less in the infrared halo. “Janie, Laura, I’m gonna take Mike with me and move up to the Jeep’s position and try to get a better look. Mike keep a low profile and follow me.”

I kept the Jeep aware of our progress as it took us almost three minutes to cover the 200 yards to where we could see him standing behind a shoulder height boulder still fixed on the target. “Jeep keep the target in sight but work your way closer until you can get a visual lock. Take it slow and easy and try not to draw it’s attention.” I was sure Janie and Laura were listening to everything said.

As the Jeep moved off I turned to Mike and asked him, “How ya feeling, nervous?”

“Just a bit he replied,” eyes bright but no shake in body or voice.”

“Good thing, you should be feeling nervous its natures way of helping to stay alert and alive.” He nodded and I continued. “Soon as the Jeep has a visual we’re gonna follow to his position. It is very important that you do exactly as I say from this point on. No matter what happens, unless we are charged, do not fire, get your visor in place though and make sure it is set to darken automatically. Got it?” He nodded once more in affirmation.

I could see everything that the Jeep was seeing on the comp screen as he reached a position at the end of a small rise that slanted to within 80 yards of the target. The Jeep texted me a message reading “Visual lock,” and I touched the screens acknowledge icon. I motioned for Mike to follow and in a semi crouch reached the end of the rise and then both of us went prone.

It was one of the wolf like catamount things we had seen back at Liberty City, bothering something about half of it’s size. I think it was just toying with the adult uglasaur, but maybe not, later examination showed razor claws and needle sharp teeth.

As good a time as any for a test I thought as I spoke very softly into the comps input. “Emy, scan rear,” then to Mike, “Hold fire.” I could hear faint grunting sound coming from the fights direction, not at all like the yapping of dogs but more like a cross between a growl and low pitched screeching, Grrrrch… Grrrrch… The wind must have changed direction because the nearwolf’s spine seemed to arch and it turned pointing in our direction. “Jeep! Press the button! Now!”

There really was no button anymore, Sabbu has fixed that, just an internal switch activated when the Jeep heard the ’button’ command with his targeting cross hairs activated.

A blinding flash of light and target destroyed. I watched the Jeep lower his plasma rifle and then abruptly lock up. I said to Mike. “Fire one high. Now!” He aimed at a 45 degree angle up and let loose the trigger. Another flash and I just had time to tell him I would explain it all later before the Jeep was back on line. Then the Jeep was up again.

“Sync loss and reset Boss.”

I told him, “Not to worry things are under control.” Then I let Janie and Laura know everything was fine and we would join them soon. We walked forwards over the charred, and smoldering grasses and the burnt moss caused by the plasma bolt. A quick examination of the crisped remains of both animals and Mike, scanning the area’s periphery, pointed out the juvenile uglasaur crouched in a nest like depression that had shielded it from the blast. Must have been the reason behind the entire confrontation. The thing looked so small and defenseless that he scooped it up and carried it with us as we returned to the others. But first I had pointed out to the Jeep our future path and told him to remain stationary and on watch until he got the start signal.

For the several weeks it took us to clear the tundra and reach the more densely forested southern lowlands we continued to follow the river, keeping it close on our left hand side as an obvious source of water and a less obvious barrier to attack from that direction. I mentioned to Mike when we were four days south of the mountains that except for the river, and keeping it out of view, the generally ochre moss like vegetation of the surrounding plain put me in mind of the ancient dead sea bottoms of ancient Barsoom. When he looked puzzled I told him about John Carter and advised him that his literary education would need some improvement when we got back to Liberty City.

Rarely did a day go by without the sight of several of the nearwolves. We always saw them singly and I suspected the pack behavior we had experienced at Liberty City was something that only happened when under extreme conditions in winter when the lack of smaller game forced them to hunt larger prey. They, like so many Alchibean species, were evolutionarily somewhere between cold blooded and mammalian with a body temperature that adjusted to the animals needs. When they were hunting and active the Jeep never had a problem picking them up but when they were still and in wait they blended in with the background temperature in an infrared scan. Even so, at least in daylight, now knowing what to look for, they were only a minor threat.

The Second Month:
We had reached the southern boarder of the tundra and what had at first been occasional clumps of mixed pole pine and another tree, similar but with only a two inch diameter trunk reaching upwards about 15 feet to the start of the foliage, had become the edge of the forest proper. We were calling that second tree a stick pine though a lollypop tree might have been a more accurate description.

“Why not build a canoe Bart?” Janie said. “Coming from the land of Hiawatha, Gitche Gumee and all that canoes must be second nature right?”

Grinning I said, “That’s exactly what I ‘m sure I would do, despite the fact I’ve never even seen a canoe that wasn’t aluminum or plastic, if the local trees were suitable. A wooden canoe needs trees with bark that can be peeled off in sheets like a birch tree, and nothing here fits the bill. Or I suppose we could make something like a kayak or an old Irish curragh given the time and tanned ox hides or sealskin, but in a primitive, and more back to nature spirit I think what we’ll do instead is build a raft and call her the ‘Obabaamwewe-giizhigokwe’.”

“ The what?” Janie replied after chocking out the pronunciation.

“Well the modern spelling is O-bah-bahm-wawa-ge-zhe-go-qua.” I said spelling it out for her. “It’s Ojibwe for, ‘The Woman of the Sound [Which the Stars Make] Rushing Through the Sky’.”

“You’re making that up aren’t you Bart?” Laura asked in a tone showing considerable disbelief.

“No, no, no! My integrity is impugned, I never make up Indian names, especially when they’re Ojibwe! You could look it up.”

“I think I’ll just call it the raft,” Janie deadpanned.

Laura asked, “Just how much Ojibwa do you know Bart?”

“I like to think enough to get by with.“ I replied.

“He means enough to get away with.” Jeanie said as the last word.

According to our maps we had made 400 miles from the crash site or one quarter of the distance we would need to travel in order to reach Liberty City.

The river we’d been following continued southwards through the ever thickening forest for another hundred seventy-five miles or so, until it joined into a vast inland sea which was connected at it’s westernmost extremity by a narrow passage, like that of an encircled bay, leading to the ocean. The freshwater sea that we were all calling the Gitche Gumee, was roughly 150 miles north to south and 275 miles east to west and according to the sat photos dotted with literally thousands of rocks and islands. The river joined it at the northeastern shore. As far as we could determine the river was navigable all the way to the sea.

We were well into summer now and at this elevation the temps, both day and night were quite comfortable. While EmyCee helped me with the rafts construction, the Jeep, Mike, Janie and even sometimes Laura hunted to collect and prepare additional food for the trip, not just meat to be smoked, but those few varieties of vegetation we had recognized as edible. I was fairly certain there would be plenty of fish but a diet of nothing but would do nothing to stretch our mineral supplements.

How did we determine if something was edible? That’s where our pet, the Uglasaur, came in. Of 15 things we had seen it eat, and then sampled ourselves in very small quantities after having cooked first, only 2 had given rise to an allergic reaction. But most things Ugly would eat with relish. we found tasted so badly to our Earth based preferences that even if the thing might not kill us directly we couldn’t stomach the eating. We found three ‘veggies’ that we did collect though.

One was a variant of the potato like thing that the devils liked so much but it was much smaller, about the size of a walnut. Both of the others were berries of a type. As all three of these were small it took quite a while to collect enough for a meal and the berries didn‘t keep well at all, turning to mush in a couple of days. One thing about trees or plants with berries or fruits; we had the bots check them out thoroughly before we would touch them. No more Thompson Tree incidents.

The natural glue of the tree sap made construction of the raft much easier than otherwise would have been the case. We still used lashings but more to tie down than to tie together. When Mike suggested a sail I explain briefly about keels and rudders and such then told him he should look the rest up and we would talk some more. I did set four posts, two on the front corners and two about in the middle so that we could support an awning for protection from the sun. The raft was overall twenty feet long and eight feet wide and two layers of log thick. I had even thought about providing outriggers but stopped myself with the realization that if the water was rough enough to need them we would be better off just getting back onto dry land and walking.

We had determined to give our pet Ugly every opportunity to make the break for freedom, but no such luck. He could usually be found staring at me with his beady little eyes from a low rock positioned near the raft site, but whenever Janie returned to camp he would swarm all over her looking for a hand out. He’d done quite well for himself so far during his time in our care putting on about 5 more lbs and growing to 27 inches in length. I was starting to wonder how large he might ultimately grow.

Four days after we had begun construction and with the raft nearly complete, it was obvious Ugly would be coming along for the ride so I had EmyCee put together a cage of sorts propped up on legs that would keep it high enough above the deck to insure it stayed dry. Ugly wasn’t fond of water in quantities larger than he could drink
With everything ready we all took it easy, within the constraints of keeping up a guard, for the rest of the afternoon and evening and left at first light on the next day. It was day sixty six from our first landing on the planet.

On the Inland Sea:
The next two weeks plus, twenty four Alchibah days, were like a vacation. With the bots doing all the work involved with propelling the raft the rest of us just needed to take turns keeping a lookout and resetting the steering oar once in a while. It was a darn good thing the Jeep was powered by the nuclear batteries and could keep EmyCee charged because as heavy and ungainly as the raft was we would have made little progress if the human members of the expedition were responsible for rowing.

A couple of times we had tried to set a scrap of sail but found it a waste of time. In fact we often needed to take down the awning when the wind was strong enough that it was keeping the bots from making way or contrived to push us off course. We weren’t traveling fast, somewhere between two and three miles per hour, but very moving very steadily.

Each day provided fishing a plenty, I even got Laura interested in fly tying and developed some more new variants of my favorites. Every night brought with it a new small island to set our camp upon. The Gitche Gumee was obviously carved out by glacial action but the underlying rock was a hard granite and hence the average depth was no more than fifty feet. I had Mike doing hourly depth tests with a knotted rope and he located a few channels a hundred feet deep, some more, and one twice that depth.

The nature of the glacial erosion left thousands of small rocky islands dotting the surface. We could always find islands small enough, usually only a couple of acres in size, and often smaller, so that our initial security sweep was kept simple, but we made sure each one we spent the night on had a steep rocky cliff that needed climbing in order to reach our camp on top. We didn’t expect anything to come out of the sea looking for us but were taking no chances. Janie and I set up our small tent a short distance from the main campfire and lookout spot and with Laura and Mike doing much of the night guard managed more privacy than I would have thought possible.

The weather stayed warm and except for one day with a classic high wind thunderstorm. We spent that day ashore but other than that one time the rains were only short and mild sprinkles which in no way interfered with the enjoyment of the journey.

To help pass the time besides the fishing and my log entries I used Laura’s comp for several hours a day, adding to my general education in biology and geology. Mike and Laura each spent about four hours each on educational issues also. It surprised them both that the Jeep and EmyCee often knew more about a particular subject than Laura’s comp did but I was well used to that. By now though we were no longer talking about how surprised everyone back in Liberty City would be when we returned and instead had many a conversation speculating on how things were going there and planning and talking about what we would do when we got back.

Early on Laura had mentioned often about how rough this coming right after her fathers death must be on her mother, by now though she had come to some kind of internal acceptance that what couldn’t be changed must be endured and rarely mentioned it anymore.

The water level in the sea was high from all the spring snow melt and very fresh. It wasn’t until the last couple of days as we neared the outlet to the ocean that we could detect even a hint of mineral laden ocean water.

We did run ran across a new and particularly delicious food source, the Alchibaen equivalent of a cross between a crab and a sea turtle. More crablike than a turtlish, with eight legs and 4 eyes on short extensible stalks, but definitely filling the same ecological niche. The shell was made of bony overlapping plates rather than in a continuous piece and that would mean that they never had to shed them. The scaled shell was a lumpy mottled grey and tan color that blended in with natural terrain and made them very difficult to see unless they were moving. Luckily they didn’t seem able to couldn’t climb steep cliffs and were confined, when out of water, to the sand and rocky shore beach areas because even the smaller ones, those a foot in diameter or less, had pincers both large and strong enough to make short work of fingers, or in the case of the larger versions, and we saw several with a body nearly four feet in diameter, could obviously sever an arm or a leg in nothing flat. We decided that wading off shore probably wouldn’t be such a good idea.

Those that had reached an age where they were a bit over two feet in diameter reproduced by laying leathery eggs about the size of a hens and nested on shore guarding them till the hatched. We tried the eggs once but once only as they had a very strong and objectionable oily fish taste. Occasionally a devil, or a gull like sea bird we were calling a kite, would scoop one of the very small newly hatched ones up for a meal. When that happened the others in the area would set up a snapping and clacking that could be heard for a hundred yards. The first time we heard the sound Laura came up with the name snap dragons which we immediately started calling them. I had to wonder what kind of predator that shell and the pincers evolved to protect against. Luckily we never did find out.

Their top rate of speed was about like a slow walk for us and unless they were excited moved only about half that fast. They were sometimes active at night if the weather was warm enough or if disturbed from sleep and like most of the Alchebean species were cold blooded so not all that easy for the bots to detect. And they were attracted by fire rather than repelled. Yes a very good thing they couldn’t climb. But throw a smaller one in a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes and then crack the meat out of the shell and all we lacked for was melted butter.

As pleasant as the last two weeks had been it was with more than a little misgiving that we reached the Gumee’s outlet to the western ocean.

Can You Explain This Jack?

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 36 Late Afternoon

Tim Watson

I wandered into the Communications/Security section after finally getting some sleep. I had spent the entire night before bringing the new network setup on line. We now had a full public side and the order wire behind Snaketrap was now a full bandwidth network all it’s own. All we were waiting for now was the Mayflower to come back up.

One of J. J.’s firearms fearing trainees was working the consoles. It was a good way for them to put in some public service. “Go on and get some chow, I’ll take it for a while,” I told her.

I spent about an hour running system checks. We had full coverage in the city now and the fiber link from the community center to the First Inn was up. That was about all we were going to get until the sats came back up.

My attention was caught by a huge data dump coming behind Snaketrap, it turned out to be from Andy Stuarts bot; what did he call it, oh yeah Sgt. Nug. Not ten minutes later Mariana Stuart walked in the door.

“Well, what brings you here Doc?”

“The Lab comp is too specialized now to do what I need to do so I have to work on the main array.”

I was a little confused, “I thought all the medical stuff was at the lab?”

“It is,” she replied, “this is security work. I am looking at the video files from the night before Bart’s shuttle took off.”

“You suspect anything?” I asked.

“Nope, just my little nasty suspicious Counter-Intelligence mind. You did know that was my SOCOM job didn’t you?”

She flashed me that Doctors ‘This won’t hurt’ smile and I just laughed and gave up.

I turned back to my work getting the automated routines ready for the splurge of repeater moves that were coming. I happened to glance at Mariana’s screen, she had it in a 4-way split obviously looking at some predetermined event on a series of robot data streams. I heard her mutter “What the heck” and call up a series of video streams in time lock sequence.

Suddenly I heard her utter a stream of what I guessed were profanities. They were in at least 4 different languages and I assumed they were not complimentary. She started punching up a contact code for the new land line system.

Hanna Parker

I heard the of all things phone ringing. This new land line system carried everything including an old fashioned phone system. “First Inn, Hanna,” I said.

“Hi Hanna, Mariana here; do you have a minute?” Said Mariana Stuart in a tone that I had never heard from her. It was a low mixed drawl that was vaguely Southern, another part Midwestern and a small part clipped and guttural. It was soothing but, strange at the same time.

“Sure,” I replied. “What do you need?”

“Has Walt got that A/V unit set up for Karl’s survival classes yet?” She asked.

“Why yes,” I replied. “It’s ready to go for the morning why?”

“Turn on the control unit if you will. Not the display, just the control unit. I want to upload a couple of files to it.”

“I am not even going to ask why, but, it’s on now.”

“Thanks Hanna, I see it. Tell me, does Jack still come in for dinner at night?”

”Why yes, he should be around shortly. I don’t think he can cook at all.”

“Great,” Mariana drawled, “I’ll see you in a bit. Stuart Clear.”

I turned to Histy and Les coming in and ordering dinner. As they sounded like they were in a discussion of council business, I told them I would have one of the girls bring their food out.

Mariana Stuart

I logged out of the console and told Tim that I would see him around but first I needed a drink.

Where I actually went was to our tent. I pulled off the field jacket and sat and stared at the surroundings. After a while I moved over to my ruck and dug to the bottom. I pulled out two paper thin vacuum packs. I sat and stared at them for at least five minutes before I hit the valves that let air back into them.

I had not wanted to put these into our SHTF packs but, Andy had insisted. This was the Class B uniform I had worn on the day we got married and the day we retired. The name tag even read Stuart: Admiral Harrison had set that up. He even had the seamstress in the hallway at HQ waiting for us. As Andy had bent every Reg in the book to land us in Las Vegas I could not figure out how all those people knew. Bryce’s grin had been worth the sleepless night; “Girl, you are protecting the worst kept secret in the history of SOCOM.”

Putting that uniform on I realized why I hated it. There was no doubt that there was a female in it. I removed the holsters from the C’s that I had been wearing and adjusted the straps to put them in the speed rig on my hip and the shoulder carry. The non-standard AMT had to stay behind this time. Finally ready, I went out towards the First Inn.

Hanna Parker

I saw Mariana enter the main door and knew something was wrong. I had never seen her in an outfit like that. I knew very little about military badges and ranks, but that layout should be scary.

“Your normal?” I asked.

She grinned and said, “Maybe later, got the control for the A/V unit?”

“Of course,” I said as I handed it to her.

“Thanks,” she said as she turned on the display. Then turned to face the room with her left elbow propped on the bar.

“I kinda’ have a problem, I have some video I can’t explain, let me show you.”

The first video she showed was Jack ordering his bot into sleep mode followed by him ordering it back on line. Then she elaborated.

“If you look at the time indicators and compare it to this, it gets interesting.”

She then ran a video from cameras that I did not even knew existed.

The view showed Jack approaching the only first model shuttle with a package in his hands. She stopped the video and split the screen with one part showing a close up.

“I bet you did not know that Ash had Military grade cameras that Dave had ripped off of the Goonie cruiser pointed at the landing field did you?

“Look at the close up. That is clearly a block of C-12 with the metallic cover off so it can be molded.

“Let’s move ahead ten minutes, there you come out of the shuttle without the block of C-12.” She leaned her left elbow on the bar. “Could You Explain This Jack?”

Histy muttered, “And here I was, thinking it was the downed-coms preventing us from contacting Bart and his group. All the while, there was no one left to contact!”

Lester Reye

I felt I had to rise and intervene but I felt a hand on my arm. “Let it happen, Lester.” Said Histy.

Jack came out of his chair screaming, “You jumped-up, overreaching BITCH!” He was clawing for his sidearm as Mariana stood leaning on the bar.

Suddenly Jack’s head exploded and Mariana was in mid-air in some twisting turning maneuver that was turning her towards the side door when the room rang with a second shot.

Snapping my head around I saw Sally Kellerman with some kind of handgun in a two-handed grip and Jack’s constant companion falling towards the floor; a rifle falling from his hands.

I heard Mariana screaming.

“Sally, I knew he was there; I could have taken him.”

Kellerman turned to Mariana with a face like a ghost. “When I asked you to teach me, I swore I would never be that helpless again. He was going to shoot you in the back.”

Mariana started me right in the eye, “Les, I think we need a Council meeting NOW.

“Hanna, I am as sorry as I can be but; Clean Up on Aisle 4 and I will pay for it.”

Can I Just Sit with Her?

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Hanna Parker

“Jules, I’m beginning to feel like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke! I can handle the cleanup here at the Inn but I’m worried to death about the girls.”

“Me too, dear. I want to see them with my own eyes, not just a scratchy report … ‘found, being treated, and under observation.’ Can’t reach Linda and JJ’s off again.”

“Oh, Jules,” I sighed. “This is frightening. Never expected disasters or someone’s guts all over the place.”

“Now Hanna, take a deep breath. It’ll be okay.” He gave me a quick firm hug, and with that lovable glint in his eye said, “ ‘Scuse me…. Time to get out o’ Dodge.”

With a knot bigger than his stomach, Jules ran to the Lab. “Hi, Mariana. Looking for my girls… Karyn’s with the other kids, but I need to know about Liza and Emily. I know you’ll tell me straight.”

With a careful quick glance, she said, “We’ll keep Em for a bit. She’ll do fine; she’s young and healthy. And by the way, congratulations, Mr. Parker. You’ll be a great-grandpa … to twins! ”

“That’s a good surprise….for a change! Now tell me what you’re not telling me about Liz.”

Mariana paused. Even Linda and JJ didn’t know yet. “Sir, she will need some extra help. PTSS – post-traumatic stress syndrome. Kind of shell-shock from the storm and tsunami. But when she heard about Emily’s attack and injuries, it was too much for her. The best we could do was try to keep an eye on her. Right now, you’d be the best medicine of all for her.”

Jules went into the quiet room where Liza was curled up underneath a blanket in a lounge chair. “Lizzie, it’s Grandpa.” Vacant eyes didn’t see him. They bespoke of her presence on some other plane. Sitting down gently on a chair beside her, he waited several minutes, then placed his hand tenderly beside hers. In a hushed voice he spoke a few more words. Then stopped. And repeated the pattern. Gradually she became aware of his presence. Turned her head with such raw pain in her eyes that his heart broke into thousands of pieces. Her eyes beseeched him with the unasked question, “Em?” Summoning up more courage than he imagined he had, he said merely, “Okay.” More pause. “Em will be okay.”

Silence enveloped them both. Her fingers inched towards Jules’ strong hand, hesitantly touched it. He slowly grasped her hand, and held it with compassion. Liza took a long deep sigh, she shuddered, the tears began to flow, and her body shook uncontrollably as she sobbed. He gently rocked her. Then she uttered, “Can I just sit with her? Til she wakes up.”

Ah Liza, what a lonesome road it’s been for you.

An Investigation in Force

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by EAB

From the Log Files of Karl Nash

Day 36 - Evening:
Joe Fortson burst into the First Inn, weapon drawn and at the ready. Karl Nash was hot on his heels. He began his sweep, then paused and stepped aside, making room for Nash, as Fortson saw the bodies lying on the floor, Mariana Stuart standing over them.

A few quick words and an explanation by Mariana, then Nash turned to Fortson and said. “We certainly are going to need a council meeting soon, but first Joe, round up some support quick as you can handle it and I‘ll meet you at the upper bridge. We’re going to visit Reye’s farm. Get as many as you think you need.” Nash then turned back to Reye, “Lester I understand that Jack and the rest of his bunch are,” and with another look at the bodies he amended, “–or were–staying out at your farm. Am I right on this?”

Pale and shaking Reye responded, “Yes they were staying there Karl, but surely you can’t think I had anything to do with what was on the surveillance tape.” He couldn’t bring himself to say anything about what the tapes actually showed.

“No one is accusing anyone of anything Lester, but I want to make sure that if evidence exists, evidence of anything, it doesn’t simply disappears before we get around to looking for it. I would appreciate it if no one uses their com unit or leaves the Inn until Joe and I are back. Is that clear enough for everyone?”

Silence reigned supreme and as he prepared to leave Nash said to Mariana, who was looking like she was about to join him, “Please Mariana would you stay here and make sure anyone else that shows up stays, and that the bodies aren’t touched before Kurt does an examination? This could be very important.”

If anger could boil water they would all have been poached, but holding herself in check Mariana simply nodded.

Nash made the bridge just moments before Gene Washburn, Sabbu Akai, and Manuel Ortega reached the abutment with Fortson leading the way.

“I’ll take point, “Fortson commanded, “Let’s make time till we reach the marsh above the foot of the lower bridge. “We’ll figure out what comes next when we get there.”

They covered the distance in a little under twenty minutes and halted at the edge of the sandy area adjoining the marshland. It was getting dark rapidly now but there was still enough light remaining that after they skirted the marsh to the north and found a position to examine Reyes cabin from they could tell there wasn‘t any activity around the farm house. They could also see light from a fire and maybe an electric lamp that was illuminating the window facing their position.

Nash was letting Joe handle this and thankful for the opportunity. “Ok,” Joe said, “If Buchanan’s there and everybody’s home a max of six. Manuel get around back, Gene take the window on the side, Nash will back me up. I’m gonna give 10 minutes for you guys to get in position before Karl and I move in. It’s gonna be dark by then, so unless they got a lookout, and ain’t no reason I can think of that they should, we will be in place without anyone the wiser. I’m gonna bust through that door doin’ one of the no knock search routines the Goonies were famous for, and when I do Mannie and Gene, smash out the glass and point your rifles inside. But just in case ya gotta use ‘em, make sure they’re not pointed at me or Karl. We all clear on this?. . . Good, let’s do it.”

For the second time in the last hour Fortson burst through a door. As he did so this time he heard the smashing of broken glass and saw Burt Buchanan and four others seated at a table in the combined main room and kitchen playing cards. While they were still too surprised to say a word, and Nash kept them covered, Joe looked into the empty bedroom. Nothing.

“What the hell’s going on here,” Buchanan started to bluster.

“Jacks dead, and this is part of the investigation, don’t say a word, just be nice and calm and you all can accompany Karl and me back into Liberty city and we we’ll be happy to fill in the details for you.” Fortson said. “Manuel stay here and watch the place. Some one will be along to relive you as soon as we can handle it.” Then back to those still seated at the table, “If you gentlemen,” he said looking at the card players, “would follow Mr. Nash, Gene and I will bring up the rear.”

They all filed out in silence and with the use of hand held lights headed northwards. By the time they were back in Liberty City and reached the Community Building it looked like a Council session might be getting underway that night after all. But Nash was hoping the forensic results could be produced first.

We’re Here to Stay

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Sinopa

Day 34, just after midnight

“Go ahead, Sin. I’ve got a couple quick things to deal with here. Won’t be more than a minute,” I told my friend. Andy was right, we’ve lost too many people to the rumbler to let it go any longer. And if anyone could track it Sinopa could.

“The girls?” she asked. I nodded. “All right. I’ve got to pick up the .50 from my tent in any case. We’ll meet you where it got Burke.” She and Ash turned and left the lab as I went back over to Jai’s bed.

“Girls? I’ve got a job to go do. Are you going to be alright if I’m gone for a little while?” My two beautiful twins looked up at me, then back at their sister.

“Yeah dad,” Aya replied.

“We’ll be fine. Besides, Jai’s going to be ok,” Arra continued.

“But we’ve got to let her rest now, right?” Aya finished. I smiled softly. They almost seemed a part of each other at times.

“Yeah, she’s going to be just fine. Come on, Kaiya will take care of you while I’m away.”


The rain finally stopped well after dawn. The trail was still clear – nothing that big could move through a forest without leaving a pretty significant mark on the landscape. It was even clawing a tree up every mile or so (a territory or mating marker, I assume), making the tracking almost laughingly easy despite the rain. If I was right we were about ten hours behind it, meaning if we pushed we could make its resting place before the sun went down and it got up. There were too many ‘ifs’ in the plan for me to like it, but we couldn’t afford to let it go again, and we all knew it.

I hadn’t tracked anything with quite this sense of urgency in ages. We had to kill the rumblers in this area, that much was certain. We probably had fewer than a dozen weapons in the camp that could take them out, and even fewer people that were actually capable of using those weapons. It takes a special kind of person to fire a .50 without destroying their shoulder, and until a few hours ago we didn’t even know about the plasma rifles. Relying on guards obviously wasn’t going to work, so we had to go hunting or be picked off one by one.

As we continued on upstream (a ways in from the river so as to minimize the slizzard risk) the shredded trees grew closer and closer together. By the time we were by my best estimate an hour from the place it had bedded down they were coming every couple hundred yards, and some looked several days old. The more I saw the more I was convinced mating season had arrived, which of course explained the other one that had trapped the Washington boy.

Had I been sure my trusty old .50 Alaskan would drop the thing I would have had the boys stay put and ended the trip myself. The winds were working in our favor for the time being, but the risk of them shifting and warning the rumbler was too high, and while Connor is all right in the woods and I’m sure Ash can hold his own as well, the honest truth is that there are few people I would stake my life on being able to stalk a predator this dangerous, and they’re not on Alchibah. But I really had no idea what it would take to kill the thing, so Connor and Ash stayed with me.

What we saw when we arrived at the rumbler’s resting place about an hour before dusk was what I would imagine the apocalypse would look like. An area the size of a football field was simply destroyed. Every tree in the area had gouges ripped out of its trunk, and most of them were pushed to odd angles or entirely over as well. It was as if a tornado with claws had spun itself through the stand. And in the midst of all that wanton destruction the rumbler was resting peacefully. Snoring, actually.

The actual killing of the thing was amazingly simple, considering all it had put us through. We silently moved into place along the border of the dead zone. With Connor training the plasma rifle on it as insurance, Ash and I pumped enough lead and explosives into its head to kill a mid-sized whale. Apparently rumblers are at least as easy to kill as mid-sized whales. And that, as they say, was that.

After resting the evening and night a safe distance away from the kill site (in case its mate got bored of the Washington kid before Magic and the Reaper showed up) we headed back to Liberty. Or what was left of it. There was no doubt that frontier life was hard, and as wrong as things had gone in our first month on Alchibah you almost couldn’t help but think that the planet itself had turned against us. Like it was trying to spit us back out after realizing that we might be bad for it. But despite that we are here, and we are staying. The people that made this journey are a remarkable bunch, to say the least. I’m not sure what it would take to dislodge us from our new home, but I have no doubt it will take more than a tsunami, hurricane, mudslide and hostile population of dangerous predators. For good or for ill, this is our home. We will have to learn to live with it, and it with us.

One Snake Down

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Kurt Kellerman

Day 36 Evening

I walked into the Bar area of the First Inn expecting to see patients in need of help. What I saw was a War Zone, in the middle of which was Mariana Stuart comforting my wife. I walked over and asked incredulously, “What in the hell happened Sally, what did you do?” Then the hounds of hell exploded in my face.

Somewhere sometime, Col. Mariana Stuart had been a DI and I was getting the full glory of a DI in barely controlled rant mode.

“You will not question my Officers in such a tone again. You think the wrath of God is Andrew Stuart, wrong dickhead; I am what you should worry about. CPT. If you ever question LT. Kellerman in that tone again you will feel that wrath, do you understand me, punk?

“What LT. Kellerman was doing was saving my ass from a backshooter and doing a damn fine job of it.”

Then in a Soto voice that only she and I could hear, “That I did not need but, you son will never tell her that!” She followed that with a conspiratorial grin that told me all I needed to know. This butt chewing was more for Sally’s sake than mine. Drawing on that half vast store of military knowledge imparted to me by the male half of Clan Stuart; I locked my heels stared into space over her head and barked “Ma’am, Yes Ma’am, “ in my best imitation of the Young Guns.

“Very good CPT, “she barked. “LT Kellerman and myself cannot, under any stretch of the Code of Ethics, be involved in the forensics investigation that needs to be done here. However, Sheriff Nash has requested me to maintain security on this site until his return so CPT. As the Senior member present of both the medical community as well as Strike Force Alchibah. This is your site, LT. Kellerman and I will be at the Lab if Sheriff Nash needs us. Take Command Sir!”

With that she took one step back and snapped up one of those iron tight salutes that Clan Stuart and the Young Guns seemed to be able to produce in a heartbeat. As I started up with my normally untrained sloppy response, I heard Ash’s laconic drawl in my head, “Shit Bubba you got it down, when you need it it’ll happen”; as the first locked and cocked iron hard salute I had ever pulled off greeted hers.

Great, how was I supposed to do both jobs? Then in my head I heard on of those late night conversations with Andy over of course Stuarts Worst, “Delegate CPT., only do yourself what someone else can’t; if you train your people correctly, you can be in five places at once.” I punched my now working wrist comp, “Candidate Summer Pierce, CPT. Kellerman; Priority” Her reply snapped up in mere seconds. “Sir, Yes Sir. What can I do for you Sir.”

“Candidate grab at least one other troop and report to the bar at the First Inn, this will be a physical security detail and this will be the only radio transmission from this site until further notice, clear?”

“Sir, on the way,” was the sharp reply.

I sat my bags on the counter, pulled out the remote sampler, and fired it up to sync with the Lab over the landline. Before I had finished three people walked in the main door.

LT. Jaisa Benjamin said, “You called Sir?”
I turned to see her in her new rig and my mind went back to last night in the new Stuart household. Hell, it had started as a house warming party at the new Stuart digs when Andy had handed her that fancy new rig.

“Here you go LT. I can’t do anything about too many targets or too many angles but, I can affect too few rounds.” He reached behind the chair and came up with the rig she was now wearing.

“Fred may have been dumb and slow but he wasn’t cheap. This here is as good as it gets. You can thank Walt over there because neither Mariana nor I would have thought about ripping it off of him, we had enough .45’s to not want more. But, for someone as ambidextrous as you; it should be quite the thing.”

I had watched a light come back in those cold dead eyes that had been missing for the last few days.

Andy had made a simple declaration, “Walt told me to save these for my kid. Little did He know that we are not sure we can have any? So take this Girl, because you are as close to a daughter that I think I am going to see. Hell, which we may ever see.”

I watched Connor Benjamin fire up from his seat and stop in mid lunge as he saw the same thing that I did. A fire came up in those eyes that had not been there. There was no light of humanity in that fire but the cold hard stare of Duty was there in force. Damn, I thought there is a human in there after all.

I stood and watched that same cold fire in her eyes as Summer and Ryu broke for the doors. In that instant I knew what Andy was trying to build and I knew it had been done. Kill him; kill Mariana and Strike Force Alchibah will still come for your throat. It lived in Andy’s heart, and in Mariana’s. And by God it lived in the heart of Jai Benjamin and as I now knew in mine.

“Secure the communications LT. Benjamin, I have forensics to do!” With that, I turned my attention to the bodies.

I was just finishing up my samples and feeding them into the repeater when Karl Nash came into the room.

“Where the hell is Mariana Stuart and who the hell are those Daemons guarding the doors?”

Before He could move another step, the right-handed version of a Wilson Combat Masterpiece was under his chin.

Jai Benjamin was behind it and her voice was cold as ice. “You will not question the CPT., Sherriff Nash. We have been tasked to investigate a multiple homicide. CPT. Kellerman is in charge of that. Do you have a problem Sir?”

Karl asked over his shoulder, “Do you have a problem Joe?”

Fortson’s reply was short and sweet, “ Not with this damn thing pointed at my head!”

Joe was standing in the side door with Summer Pierce’s .45 stuck in his ear.

“Let them go Jai and Summer they are the good guys after all!”

Joe laughed and walked back outside.

I finished feeding the forensics samples into the repeater. When the results came in I looked at Karl and asked, “Tell me you control Jack’s residence?”

Karl replied, “Of course, what is the problem?”

“Some where in his quarters you are going to find a cryo vault, only it will not have sperm and ova. It will have rogue DNA that he used as his voluntary sample. Because the skin scrapings under Kathy Osborne’s right fingernails, you know the only part of her body that did not fall into the pond she almost drowned in or we would not have any evidence. Well, they did not match anybody on Alchibah, so no forensics but guess what; they match that dead ass over there. Mariana killed more than she knew!”

Karl acted faster than I thought he could, “Sabbu, Joe:” he screamed into his wrist comp. “Get back to Jack’s place, find me a cryo unit.” From is wrist comp came, “Sure thing Sheriff.”

Karl looked at me and asked, “When the hell did I become the Sheriff?”

I grinned, “About the time when you said you would be the Boss of the Guard. Count yourself lucky you ain’t Strike Force, Andy can’t kick your Ass!”

He just grinned and asked, “So what went down here Doctor?”

“This dumbass with the issue .45 in his hand drew on Mariana Stuart. That was his last dumb mistake. But he damn sure was part of the rape, I just wish we had something on the other person. When we find that cryo case that will give us a legal ground to take fresh DNA samples from the rest of that crowd.”

We stared at each other for a long period, suddenly his wrist comp chimed, “Boss we found a cryo box; call off them damn dogs we are coming in with it.”

“CPT Kellerman, care to call them off?”

“No problem, Strike Force; the Sheriff is in control of the crime site; we can Stand Down!”

“So, CPT, how do you control these Young Wolves?”

”Sheriff, I don’t have to. It seems COL. Stuart bet the ranch on duty and honor. It sure looks like he won that bet, hands down!”

Nash knew he was staring at one of the King Wolves!

Paying the Bills

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Captain Travis

Day 38, Evening, Mayflower Lounge

“That’s quite a story you’ve told,” Travis said to Hibbes, Chandler, and Natasi. They were seated in the lounge along with Monroe, Glenda, and Darren Calver at two tables pushed together. Drinks were before all of them.

“And you’ve entered this — ‘beyond‘ — several times now?” Glenda asked.

“Three times now,” Chandler said, “But it seems to be getting more difficult.”

Chandler said, “We’ve had to revise our theories a bit since our first excursion, Captain. While the fields the ship sets up certainly open a hole to the beyond, as we’ve taken to calling it, it’s obvious that the strong electromagnetic fields from the solar storm are widening that hole and enabling our ship to enter. Leaving is no problem and relies soley on our willing ourselves back. We don’t belong there and so this beyond is more than happy to help us out of it.

“As the storm dies down, we had to increase our own field but the transition took longer. Once the solar storm is gone, the window closes and we might not be able to enter beyond space at all unless we can envelope the entire ship in a field.”

Travis asked the obvious question, “Could you think of Earth and get back there?”

“No,” Hibbes said, “at the moment, range seems limited to the inner part of this solar system. We know this space. Earth, or it’s actual location, is too abstract at this range. In the future, with some sort of training. . . Maybe. Also, while distance is a limiting factor, so would knowledge be one, too. You can’t go someplace you haven’t been and don’t already know intimately. You can’t visualize what you don’t know. We can’t simply say, ‘Take me to Rigel,’ and expect to go there.”

“Hmphm,” Travis said.

“Why are you calling it ‘beyond‘ rather than your original ‘not-space’ designation?” Calver asked.

“‘Not-Space’ is an affront to my sensibilities,” Chandler said, “since we’re clearly someplace even though it’s not in our universe. So it’s Beyond, as in beyond our universe, beyond the fabric of reality.”

Travis said, “Well, this is all very interesting but of no practical value at the moment. There are far more pressing tasks I’d like you two to address. How is the upgrade to the final shuttle coming?”

“Fine, Captain,” Hibbes said. “We’re nearly finished.”

“Good,” Travis said, “I was planetside this morning and talking with the Stuarts. Even though we have to assume that the bomb that the late Mr. Jack planted finished off Bart and Janie’s shuttle, I still would like a coordinated effort to locate the wreckage. With our two shuttles plus the three on Alchibah, we can cover some territory.”

“Closure, if nothing else,” added Glenda.

“Two more days and she’ll be ready,” said Hibbes.

Turning to Calver, Travis said, “How’s the outside dish work coming, Darren?”

“We should have normal communication with Liberty’s tower by tomorrow,” he replied and then added, “The solar storm is almost over and I’m planning a trip to the three comsats when it is, to repair and reactivate them.”

“Good.” Travis took a pull on his drink and said, “We’ve had a request that you, Hibbes, and Bugbee can work on. Rocco and BJ are going into a business venture together. BJ has experience with ceramics, or something like that. They’ve decided to start a brick factory.”

Glenda said, “I thought wood was plentiful down there?”

“True, but given recent events, they want to offer something stronger for those who prefer strength over beauty. BJ has already built several kilns and there’s plenty of clay in the area they and Histy have staked out for their homesteads. They’ve already brokered a few deals. One with the council to supply enough brick to build a school house in the center of town. That’s in exchange for rental of the cargo bus for a couple weeks to transport materials to and from their business. Most of the colonists prefer wood for the natural look but several other deals have been cut with a few other entrepreneurs to provide furniture, clothing, what have you, in exchange for building materials.”

“Sounds like they’ll do well,” Hibbes said, “So where do we come in?”

Travis replied, “Well, renting the town’s cargo bus is fine in the short run but a bad business model. They’d like us to design a small personal craft for their own use. Sort of like a flying pickup truck! In exchange, they’ll supply us with enough brick and mortar to build our villa, our vacation retreat on the edge of the sea, as well as for our little in town bungalow.”

“I’d rather we built the retreat of wood,” said Glenda, “It just looks nicer.”

“Well,” said Travis, “Maybe we can do it of both, with a strong foundation or something. In the meantime, I see a ready market for such a craft for others as well. Should keep us in milk and honey for some time to come. Mind you, these are just for flitting around town. They don’t need anything elaborate or even shielding since they won’t be space worthy.”

Flitters!” said, Natasi, “I like dat. It good marketing name.”

Hibbes said, “I guess I’ll start work on designing the thing. It will take several weeks but besides fuel, we do need something else to trade in with those below if we’re to eat something besides chicken and tomatoes!”

“And I could use some new clothes!” Glenda added.

After another round of drinks, a card game started up.

Hibbes and Chandler wandered out of the lounge and while riding back to their rooms in one of the carts, Chandler asked, “We’ve got to keep exploring Beyond. Why didn’t you show Travis a picture of what we found on the last trip?”

“Because we don’t even know what it is. Besides, he’s far too practical, like most space jockeys. No imagination, those.”

Opening a folder he was carrying, Chandler took out a photograph of something strange and impossible, something that had no right to exist in the Beyond:


“Damn,” he said, staring at it, “It looks like some giant, obscene structure, trapped in our shuttle’s outside lights.”

“Yes,” Hibbes said, glancing at it, “Except that those limbs were moving!”

This Won’t Hurt a Bit!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Kurt Kellerman

Day 36 Evening

From the Log of Sally Kellerman

We walked into Primary and saw the on shift crew staring at us.

“We have the area,” barked Mariana Stuart, “Leave Now!”

I had never seen people move so fast. It was strange the effect that Clan Stuart had on people. It did not matter if it was Andrew or Mariana; when they barked people moved!

“Now if you would Sally, check on treatment and see who’s on duty over there. We can set up shifts based on who has been here the longest.”

I went to treatment and was pleased to find that most everyone had just arrived. The crew they had relieved had been practically wasted but we were well on our way back to normal.

Then Mariana brought in Jules Parker and we set him up for a vigil on Liza.

Back in Primary Mariana suddenly changed, the Iron COL. Was gone and the Dr. was back. Looking at the readouts for Bay 4 she grinned and turned to me. “Sally, you think you could go over to treatment and get a blood sample from Jules, we might as well check up on him while he is here.”

I gave her a puzzled look but hiked over to treatment, I was surprised how little resistance I got to a blood sample from Jules. When, I commented on it to Mariana on my return to Primary she surprised me with her reply.

“Oh, he’s been through our routine before. I needed a confirming sample before we continue his AH treatment.”

Flashing the sample she stared at the screen and mused, “Well, no changes. Take these two injectors and give them to him inter-muscular in the buttocks. They are like the ancient Gamma-Globulin shots, they are gonna hurt unless he lies on his face.

“Pull a cot up next to Liza and let him lay on it, He’ll be happy as all get out.”

Damned if She was not right. Jules took the two injections without a whimper. As long as he could hold Liza’s hand, he was happy. Back in treatment, I had to ask Mariana, “What did I just give that man?”

She just pointed towards the screen and said, “You tell me what you see?”

I studied the screen for several moments then admitted, “I have no idea, should I?”

“That’s the chemical formula for the most banned substance in UNWG control.” Mariana shook in anger before she continued, “They hounded me out of practice over this; Hell they hounded me out of research over this. That is the formula for a regressive Anti-Agathic regenerative drug. And this planet makes it easier to produce!”

“So just what did I just take part in?”

Mariana turned that Military smile on me, “Changing the damn rules. Hanna is next, then Histy; I will lie, cheat or steal. I don’t give a good damn. We are going to save them.”

I was totally stunned, who was going to affect this world more; Her or Andy?

And Lives Go On

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 40 Civilian Sunrise

Compiled from various Log Files

Mariana Stuart

“Come on JoAnn, it’s not that bad. Kara needs to explore those highland ranges for stuff we can’t grow down here.

“It’s not like you are going to be able to spend your days with Ash, you know he’s going to stuff his single-minded rear end into Monroe’s simulator’s until he is sure one way or another whether Bart could have landed that shuttle or not.

“Go up into the mountains for a couple of days and play. Cripes after all the problems we have had here, you think anyone is going to give you any grief?

“Judy’s going to need at least another five days to have all of the uniforms ready anyway. Unless you have given up your dream of the Grand Wedding?”

“Oh God no, Mum would kick my arse if I gave up that dream.” JoAnn exclaimed.

“Then embrace it Girl,” Mariana replied. “Because Ash damn well intends to do it up right. The boy just happens to be busy at the moment. Why don’t you hike your ass down the ridge to the cargo bus and go play! There just might be someone down there you know!”

JoAnn McKenzie

As I neared the Cargo Bus I saw the familiar face of Jai Benjamin in an obvious guard position. That face was still the cold ice of a Strike Force Officer but, there was a beginning of a human light in the eyes. Kara walked up and I asked, “You ready to go exploring?” Before she could answer Andy Stuart crawled out of the maintenance hatch.

“OK Ladies, this one is NOT going to go boom on you!”


“Thanks, Andy. I think I can speak for both of us that we really appreciate you checking. Try not to have too much fun while we’re gone!” I said smirking. I wasn’t sure how he was with joking around, as I’ve only ever seen him serious as hell. But he replied with, “And try not to get eaten while you’re gone,” with a grin on his face.

JoAnn and I were climbing to the hatch when I asked, “Was that the other half of Andy Stuart I just heard?”

“No,” JoAnn grinned, “That would be Mariana. But if you are asking if you just saw the other side of the Iron Ass COL., then you are correct. That’s his sick sense of humor for sure.

“At any rate, Liberty Security and Mayflower Control. Digger in the Cargo Bus lifting atmospheric for the Northeast mountains.”

From the speakers came two short bursts of sound. “Liberty Security, you are singing pure. Mayflower Control, transponder acknowledged.”

JoAnn looked at me, “That is the Iron Ass, nobody takes any chances anymore!”

Then from the speakers, “Liberty Security and Mayflower Control. Ghost going trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower.” Followed by the same two replies

Travis & Monroe in the Mayflower Landing Bay

“Monroe, Andrews on the Order Wire.”

“Good Morning, Ash. Do you have the probable explosion data ready?”

“Sure do, I am on my way as soon as I kick the tires and light the fires. Do I need to swing out by any of the comm sats on the trip?”

“No I don’t believe so,” Monroe replied, “As each one is in a daylight pass for five hours we get a starting diagnostics message. Looks like the flares drained the batteries and they need about a pass and a half to charge up enough to resume operations. We should have general comms by this time tomorrow and a deaf man could hear your tight beam.”

“Well, that’s Andy. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. On my way in five.”

Monroe turned off his wristpad and from the hatchway of one of the two shuttles sitting in the bay came Travis’s laconic drawl, “OK, someone going to tell the Captain what’s going on this time.”

Monroe turned and grinned, “If you give me time to punch your comm code I will. Anyway, Ash has the blast probabilities for the amount of explosives Jack was carrying coupled with the access hatch he entered all figured up.

“We planned to run it into my simulations developed off of Hibbs design plans and figure the severity of damage. If it does not appear to fit into probability class A, that they blew to little pieces. Then we will step down the flight simulators to Bart’s recorded reaction times and Ash will fly the simulation to quantify their chances.”

Travis thought for a moment, “Andrews is primarily a Combat pilot, why should you or I not fly the simulations. That would be a more comparative evaluation.”

Monroe grinned, “That was the question I was going to ask. When we get a predictive from Ash, will you fly a check ride to validate the findings? Getting part of your tail blown off is pretty close to Combat, we don’t want to go optimistic because our test pilot has been there before.

“I have one more question, I got an E-mail from Walt Davis; He, Sabbu and Dave are cobbling up Magnetic Anomaly Detectors for their shuttles and the cargo bus. They want to know if we want one for our shuttles, it’s on the Strike Force tab. Which by the way what the hell is a Strike Force?

It was Travis’s turn to laugh, “Sure thing. Second, tell Walt that I want one for everything we have that flies and third, wait till the upcoming wedding I think you will see.”

Greg Bugbee had been fiddling with some tools nearby and said, “Captain, are we really going to spend valuable time trying to find Bart and crew? There’s no way they could have survived a bomb explosion on their shuttle.”

“Young Mister Bugbee,” Travis said with a frown, “You’ve got a lot to learn about the brotherhood of spacers – and I do include Bart as a spacer since he went through the training during our voyage to our new world. We do not give up hope, nor do we write someone off, nor do we strand someone, until we know for a fact – A FACT – that they are dead. And even then, in that case, as fellow spacers and warriors Andy and Mariana and Ash will solemnly tell you in their own service, you don’t leave the bodies behind. You bring them back for a proper burial and deserved honors.”

“Sorry, Sir.” Bugbee said contritely.

“That’s OK, Mister Bugbee,” Travis said, “You will learn, and I know you will come to feel, that space, or the space around a planet, is a huge place and you have only your mates to rely on, in life, in emergencies, and even in death. So! Let’s get these two shuttles ready.”

“Yes, Sir!”


I was quite excited about the prospect of exploring, esp. because it meant I got to ride in a cool ship and look out at the planet. And of course escape from the craziness in town.

The ride was pretty uneventful. JoAnn was focused on flying and not crashing into the mountains, but was luckily receptive to my chatter.

“Sorry if I’m bugging you, I’m just so excited to be out and about like this. I’ll try and keep quiet now.”

“No worries, mate. As long as you don’t start pointing and saying “Oh oh oh!” I’ll be alright.”

Luckily I hadn’t done that yet, though I was close when I saw that huge waterfall on the mountainside. “Oh, oh, have you seen the pictures?” was my first thought, thankfully I did not blurt it out .

When we reached the other coastline, we circled and found a landing spot about halfway between a mountain and the coast. On the way down I was able to get a good look at the mountain, which was really a volcano, though luckily it didn’t look active.

Once we got out, we were overwhelmed with alien scents and we immediately started sneezing. We had the same response: “Frak!” Luckily it didn’t last long, and JoAnn immediately started looking for a camp spot. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop looking at everything around us.

We landed in a large meadow, surrounded by trees. When we were done securing a camp, we started wandering. I’ll spare you the details of the trip, as it was basically the same thing over and over: see new plant/animal, poke with stick (my ingenious secret method!), take one or two for analysis, move on to next new thing (which meant we didn’t get very far the first day!). At night I’d do some initial analysis and JoAnn helped me record the findings. JoAnn laughed at me and produced a remote sampler, “Now that the sats are back up, we are connected to the Lab. Mariana and Kurt promised me that someone with a brain would be on the other end.”

Monroe and Company on the Mayflower

Young Bugbee asked, “Why are we trusting that man with so much?”

Monroe leaned back and replied, “Go check out that field jacket he hung up, look at the right breast pocket.

Bugbee looked and said, “So, ten little silver pins; so what?”

“Mr. Bugbee, those are called Kill Pins. Each one represents a Space to Space kill. No other man alive has that many, there was a rouge that almost did named Cafferty. He even killed a friend of CAPT. Travis, Ash got that bastard with two MK 50’s up the ass.”

Bugbee looked stunned, “As I understand UNWG nomenclature MK 50’s were Nuclear tipped missiles. Why would you need two?”

“Because you don’t want to see two molecules in the same space. Learn this Mr Bugbee, the hierarchy of people you do not want to cross. COL Andrew Stuart, COL Mariana Stuart, CAPT Glen Travis, LTC Ashcroft Andrews and me. Do I make myself clear MR.?”

“Yes Sir, you do!”

“Mr. Bugbee I am not being harsh. A future Commander must learn to do a threat evaluation. Would you like to be Jai Benjamin?”

“No Sir, I do not believe I would.”

“Good man, better to be a Spacer than a Warrior any day!”

Kara and JoAnn

We found a whole bunch of stuff on our trip, though some things will be more useful to us than others. Here are some of the highlights.

First is tall, thick “grass” growing near the tree line in the meadow where we landed. It is buttery yellow, very much like straw. It should be good for making baskets and whatnot.

There is a very curious plant, shaped like an umbrella, about a foot high with a brownish topside and pinkish stem. It has a thick gooey underside that smells sweet and attracts various critters. Which is good as the plant is carnivorous — when anything touches the underside, the “umbrella” top snaps shut. The gooey underside is thick and tastes as sweet as it smells and we may be able to use it as a sugar substitute.

We found a crawling critter that is basically a sea cucumber on land (when touched or threatened, it throws up its organs). Initial results show the insides as highly poisonous, which we can hopefully use to our advantage (weapons, traps, etc. — I will leave that to the Wolves).

Our most beautiful find is a butterfly-like bug that has sails instead of wings, which are incredibly strong. If we can synthesize that material we could use it for anything and everything.

Probably our most useful find is the jumping spider/frog critter — it has a soft body like a frog, and long bent legs like a spider. (Shall we call it Sprog? Aren’t I clever?!) It lives in meadow and jumps above the reeds (which are a good 3-4 feet high in places!). Anyway, it is edible, but, no, it doesn’t taste like chicken (JoAnn says more like duck). So what’s so special? It is loaded with nutrients, and they’re plentiful, so we collected many of these guys.

One of the other great finds are these large, tall trees with long tendrils that reach to the ground. The tendrils are thin and not very wide, and have seeds stuck on them (think dot candy for you Earthers), which are edible. When roasted they are quite delicious, and when ingested they give you lots of energy. Coffee substitute anyone? (Let’s just hope it brews well!)

We were (literally) surprised by some mid-sized tree with balloon seed pods, which float into the air, pop and spread seeds to the ground. The first time we heard the pop, JoAnn threw me to the ground so hard I couldn’t breathe hitting the ground was bad enough; then she landed on top of me with that antique lever rifle waving in the wind. It took quite a while for us to figure out what the hell was going on until a second pod popped near enough for us to see it ourselves. I don’t think JoAnn found the discovery nearly as funny as I did. Anyway, perhaps the un-popped pods can be used as baby rattles.
We might have to hide the fact that the seeds make great tea because the next thing you know, you are wondering where the last two hours went and what happened to all the munchies.

Finally, we found a squat tree near the volcano top. The trunk is covered with thick, leathery leaves. Roots come up through soil (which isn’t very fertile and is quite solid) and look like tubes that collect water and air. We couldn’t get a whole sample of this guy (impossible to dig out, and the trunk is insanely thick and tough), but I bet there’s some things we could do with this guy (leaves for protection of some kind? Inside the trunk is watery flesh, like cacti, and is edible. And JoAnn mumbled something about wanting to go at this tree with an energy knife…whatever that is).

Luckily we didn’t run into any serious dangers and after the fourth day we headed back with our stash of goodies. JoAnn called everyone and we went back into flight!

By this time JoAnn and I were getting along well, but as we got closer to home things got quiet. We both wondered what we’d come home to: had the shooting of Jack and his henchman died down? Had the town heard from Bart and company? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Investigating Loose Ends

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by EAB

From the Log Files of Karl Nash

Day 37 - After Midnight
“How did a young whippersnapper like that girl ever get the drop on you Joe?” I asked Fortson when things had quieted down and we were out of ear shot.

“Things aren’t always what they seem Karl, Summer was so intent on doing what she thought her orders told her to that I don’t think she even considered the fact that the muzzle of my blast rifle, even though pointing downwards, was aimed in the general direction of her feet. Most people are unaware that even with a near miss the electronic nature of a plasma containment field propagating forwards will instantaneously paralyze the nervous system of any unshielded person standing close enough. Sort of like a Taser. If Summer’s finger had even twitched in the direction of the trigger guard I would have fired and she would have froze.

“But I think based on what she knew she was trying to do her best, so I’ll just mention it to Andy and he can upgrade the training along with letting the troops know that they don’t point weapons at friendlies. Especially if one of the friendlies was in charge of the investigation and had asked for the area to be secured in the first place.”

“Yeah I noticed that part too,” Nash said with a weary demeanor, Ultimately though the most troubling thing to me was that both girls; no not girls, I should refer to them as soldiers, were unquestionably willing to use deadly force against properly constituted civilian authority. That fact takes the possibility of a military dictatorship far enough out of the realm of the absurd that it bears thinking about. But not now.

“Let‘s knock it off for the night and tomorrow morning see what comes out of the examination of Reyes farmhouse. Whatever it is it will wait, and I better save any of my remaining energy to deal with Pam. I’m starting to feel just like she does about losing contact with Mike, Laura, and the shuttle, in fact after seeing the bomb probably worse. She’s so worried I can’t even imaging how the Reyes and Kathy Osborne are taking this latest news. I can’t take the time to think about it now and I need to help Pam stay calm rather than add to her present worries.”

“I’m with you there Karl. See you at breakfast.”

Day 37 - Morning:
Gene Washburn returned to the farmhouse the night before and stayed long enough to do a quick check of the house’s contents and then come back to Liberty City with Manuel Ortega when the promised relief showed up. Gene was sitting, nursing a cup of coffee, when Joe and I made it to the First Inn for breakfast. “Not much in the way of positive or unsurprising results,” he said, “Some clothing that matched that worn by the two involved in the Osborne rape, as much as the fuzzy video could permit a match. Most any other member of the colony has clothing that could be said to match just as well. But now you have two investigations going don’t you Karl.”

“Yes I need to try and find out the reason Jacks put explosives in the shuttle and if anyone else was involved. Jack’s comp survived the experience and Subbu and Ash went over it last night. They sent me a down load of their findings so I’ll want to talk to them further but already know quite a bit. What they found was interesting but not proof of anything. Jack made notations in a personal log and usually indicated what he was doing at a given time but almost never why he was doing it. The notation for the night he set the explosive charge simply said. ‘Personal Business’. There was no notation that would directly cover the time when Osborne was raped. There were a couple dozen entries that said, ’Meeting with Buchanan’ or ‘Working for Buchanan’ so I’m going to need to ask him what they meant. Remember Gene, none of what I’ve just told you goes further than this table. But you Knew Jack far better than Joe or I did so if you think of anything that could help, well you know what to do.”

“Guess I do, Karl,” he said and then threw back his shoulders and yawned, “First some sleep then back to the sawmill. I was there last night after leaving Reye’s farm and whatever else is going on we need to rebuild.”

After Gene left Joe asked me what I had in mind for Buchanan and the other four we had locked up inside Hanna’s stone walled lower level, “Think we have to let them out. It was probably a gross violation of my authority to have them held in the first place. If I have to I’ll try to get Lester and the rest of the council to support me by saying I was operating under the immunity of martial law due to the storm or something, but I was really just doing what I thought I needed to and flying by the seat of my pants.

“Another thing is that without a prosecutor or judge to make the ruling how do we formalize what ought to be obvious to everyone, that Mariana was acting in self defense and in no way committed any crime. Though I sure wish she had taken Jack alive.”

Joe, brushing his hand against the day old beard on his usually clean shaven face said, “Another can of worms, but one the Council will need to deal with, Let’s get out to Reye’s again and we can tell the guard to let Buchanan and the rest out in an hour or so. That won’t make things any worse and give us time for one last look see.”

Burt Buchanan came bursting through the doorway as Joe and I were finishing up. “This search is illegal. Where’s your search warrant. No one even has the authority to issue a search warrant. Nothing you discover will be admissible.”

Joe replied laconically, “Search warrant? Must have left it out in the cruiser with my badge and ticket book. And why are you so worried about us finding evidence Burt? It would make one think you had something to hide.”

“Bah! Preposterous! Both of you are acting like some kind of little tin gods and if you keep it up the rest of the colony will turn on you. Protection against unlawful search and seizure is implicit, assumed by the Constitution, and you should be brought up on charges.”

“Funny you should mention that Burt,” I said, “I reread the Constitution last night and it looks like the part about searches and lawyers, judges and juries, is still a work in progress. We’re done here now and will be on our way though expect to hear from me again.” And with that Joe and I left the farmhouse and went back to Liberty City. Burt’s four, what shall I call them retainers?, were waiting outside the door and silently made way as we passed through.

Buchanan had one thing right. Something needed to be done to codify civil and criminal laws and their enforcement.

Ya’ll Done Fracked Up!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 41 Local Noon

Jai Benjamin meet Summer Pierce at the start of the trail to the Stuart compound. “Uh Oh, the boss wants to see you also?”

Summer grimaced and asked, “What did we step in and when?”

Jai laughed and said , “Guess we will find out. Sin was no help, she just stood up slapped a fist into her chest and said We Who Are About To Die Salute You!”

Summer groaned, “Crap, if she knows what’s going on we are dead.”

“Lovely thought Summer. Oh well the COL can only kill us once I guess.”

“Here’s a lovely thought Jai. How long could Kurt and Mariana make it last?”

“Summer, were you born this damn fatalistic or did you have to work at it?”

We reached the door to see Sgt Nug standing guard. “I will inform the Colonel that you are here.”

Opening the door he announced, “Lieutenants Benjamin and Pierce are here Sir.” From inside came a booming voice, “Have them report Staff Sergeant.”

Summer almost tripped as she started in, SGT, whoops SSG Nug did not make mistakes. What the hell was going down.

The two entered the room to see Colonel Stuart sitting behind a desk with a link of the array propped up in front of him. As they snapped up their salutes and chimed “Reporting as Ordered Sir”, he looked up returned their salutes and began to speak.

“I am at a total loss to understand this report. It says here that two of my Officers slapped leather against the two Senior Members of the Liberty Guard. OODA Ladies sing it out in lockstep.”

Jai and Summer stated as one, “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act; Sir”

“So when did you two decide to turn it into Act then have a Brain Fart?

“Not to mention LT Pierce that, Gunnery Sergeant Joe Fortson could have taken that sidearm away from you and shoved where it’s dark and warm and the Sun never shines. He fortunately has a good sense of humor and knew you had fracked up by being too damn close to your target.

“He fortunately has chosen merely to remind you, that He will be teaching the Hand-to-Hand class next week and has cheerfully accepted you two volunteering to be the demonstration dummies. Of course there has been a change, LTC Andrews will be a bit busy so GSGT Fortson’s teaching assistant will be myself. Good Luck Ladies.

“Now let us proceed to your saving graces. A review of the tapes and statements by other personnel in the room, indicate that you two were in fact never told that the bar was in fact a Guard controlled crime scene and that Strike Force had been asked to provide assistance. That is why CPT Kellerman is having a long discussion with COL Stuart at the Lab as we speak. With luck and good pain medications he should be able to sit down by dinnertime.

“ However Ladies you also did not ask what the frack was going on.. That’s a dumbass on you!

“Your second saving grace is that according to Gunny Fortson, at no time did your trigger fingers ever enter the trigger guards. Nor, did the safety ever come off on your weapons.

“That cancels at least one Aw Shit; but you still have more Aw Shits than Atta Girls. Thus we are going to have a little exercise. As I stated this outfit is going to run under the old US Uniform Code of Military Justice or the UCMJ to you shavetail’s. A full copy of which is waiting in your e-mail. Receive it and send an acknowledgment NOW!”

I watched as they frantically punched at their wrist comps and two voices rang in the room; “Received and acknowledged Sir!”

“Very well Ladies, by this time tomorrow I want 2000 words from each of you on the proper conduct of a Joint Civil/ Military Criminal Investigation and God help your souls if I even think those papers might be a collaboration. On your own Ladies, on your own!

“Now Lieutenant Pierce, take these;’” as I tossed her the Rank pins of a 2LT, “and the next time I catch you out of Uniform give your heart to the Lord girl. Because your Ass will be mine!

“Now get out of my sight!” I was able to contain my laugh as two perfect Salutes ripped the air and I returned them with a casual wave as I said, “Dismissed.”

The door damn sure did not hit their ass on the way out when the back door of the room opened and Joe Fortson and Karl Nash came out with drinks in their hand.

“Oh Lord, Andy that was a vintage Ass Chewing if I ever heard one.” Joe laughed spitting up perfectly good booze.

“Somewhere at Fiddlers Green there is a Command Sergeant Major and a Chief Master Gunnery Sergeant that are toasting your performance right now. Those Girls are wondering why the wrath of God fell on them.”

Karl was kind of laughing also, but asked; “So why did you promote Pierce at the same time?”

Joe completely broke up then, “Karl, she completely got inside my OODA loop for sure or else that damn .45 would not have been stuck in my ear. Rule one in the care and feeding of young Lieutenants Karl. You kick their butts when they screw up; but never fail to tell them they done good. Those Girls may have gone over the line but, they done good!”

Karl laughed, “I think I am glad I’m the Sheriff and not a damn Warrior.”

Molding Society

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Historian

Day 50, At the RBJ Brickworks Factory

After building one small kiln and using it to create the bricks that then went to build two other, much larger ones, Rocco and BJ now had a vibrant operation going. Their robots would dig clay from the back of their properties and using crude carts , bring it to the open field plant where it was ground, mixed with some water, sand, and ground limestone. Rocco would shape the bricks in sand lined molds made of scrap wood, and allowed to dry in the sun for a day. BJ was the kiln master and would cook the bricks after smoothing the sides of them.

Their robots would stack the finished bricks on crude pallets made of tree branches lashed together, grading them along the way.

While I, whose property abutted and whose home was being built first — all of us were staying there — claimed some of the bricks, the rest were flown into town in the rented cargo bus and traded for other goods and services. The cargo bus was also used to procure sand and limestone from other parts of the township.

All over town there was rapid construction, both of bricks, more likely wood, a combination of the two, and other innovative materials that the colonists discovered. With the threat of the Rumblers gone, people felt more secure spending time away from the protection of Liberty Security and starting to build on their land grants. Other industries were also starting up and the farms were being replanted.

There was hope, not at all dampened by frequent chilling rains probably caused by all the dust in the atmosphere. On sunny days, and the sky was certainly hazy, there was still a warmth that filtered through.

My chicken pens were all rebuilt and I had a decent business going of fresh chicken and eggs. The chickens seemed to thrive on much of the local seeds budding from the local flora which was a good thing since the corn crops were nowhere near ready for harvest. Indeed, they were barely saplings.

Occasionally Captain Travis would pay a visit. He and Calver, under the direction of Captain Stuart, had run sorties in an attempt to locate the wreckage of Bart and Janie’s shuttle, the Dora. So far, there was no success but with only five shuttles and a very large continent, that was to be expected.

One blessing of the planet, that it was incredibly rich in various minerals and ores, also proved a hindrance as far as the Magnetic Anomaly Detectors installed on the searching shuttles was concerned. Still, since it appeared that no one could survived the sabotage, it was just a matter of continued search and recovery that would continue with time. And we had nothing if not plenty of time.

I watched as R. Asimov returned with another load of bricks and then, glancing at my wristpad, realized that a council meeting was due up in a few hours to discuss legal procedures and such that would shape our justice system. Time to get cleaned up with a dip in the lake.

After Action Report

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 41 Late Afternoon

“On that point Karl,” Andy said , “ why don’t you two pull up a chair and let’s talk about that. The Council is probably going to meet to discuss this very question.

“Who is going to give them recommendations other than the people right in this room?

“You hit it perfectly with that comment Karl, you need Cops and I need Warriors. Until we can define the Rules of Engagement or ROE, my people are going to shock everyone with their willingness to use Lethal Force. It’s what they are trained to do.

“We have to have some outside agent to determine when you can call in my dogs and when you can do a search in force.

“I don’t care if we call the position the Umpire, Judge or Chief Magistrate. It’s got to be someone who is out of the Command Chain and available. Neither of us can wait for a full Council meeting.

“Just for an example Karl. What were you doing putting Mariana in charge of a potential crime scene when she was the prime shooter?

“None of our house’s are clean after that little fiasco. Let’s do our best to get it right from here on out!

“So, what do you guys think?”

“Well Andy,” Karl began, “I can see how leaving Mariana there at Hanna’s looks in hindsight but, at the time I had some pretty good reasons. I recorded everything that happened that night so let me quote myself.” . . . “Please Mariana would you stay here and make sure anyone else that shows up stays, and that the bodies aren’t touched before Kurt does an examination? This could be very important.” He then continued.

“First off she was so hot that I wanted to give her something to do till she calmed down. What I was really afraid of was that she would insist on going with me and Joe when we went to Reye’s farm and I couldn’t have that because I suspected some would think her in some way responsible for the situation. If we had needed to use force at the farm, it could have looked bad.
“Second thing was that even though there was another member of the Council in the room, I wasn’t about to leave Reye in charge. Maybe not now, but in the past he had been entirely to close to both Jack and his crew.

“And I did say that Kurt had to perform the examination of the body. I wish I could have used someone not even related to one of the shooters, but there aren’t that many in the colony qualified to do that kind of an examination and at least he wasn’t there when it happened.

“So yeah, I can be second guessed and I might even have been wrong but with no time to waste, I made the best choice I could and I stand by it even now.

“But as you say we are going to be making some recommendations, and I’m sure taking some flack too, but my basic position is simple.

“Until or unless there is a planetary invasion by the UNWG or a civil emergency declared by the Council, the Militia does not act in civil affairs.

“The other night Jai and Summer should have been deputized in order to make it clear in what kind of capacity they were operating. But who was there to do it? I suppose Reye might have, but he was in a state of shock and if he had tried how far would he have gotten? And that’s why I agree with you that we need some published rules so we aren’t making it up as we go.

“I’ve had a lot of experience giving impromptu boardroom speeches, so if it seems like I know what I’m talking about just stop me ok?”

Andy snorted and then laughed for a moment then Karl went on.

“We don’t have the time to and I don’t have the inclination to write a comprehensive set of laws that can cover everything. Our population is so small that we can’t even adapt a reasonable version of civil law say from the 1950’s United States. We almost need the Greek Philosopher King but call him the Philosopher Judge. Someone who does right by nature and if he does it than it must be right.

“Well that isn’t me nor I suspect anyone else in the here and now. Still I almost think we have to delegate that kind of authority to someone but have a body such as the Council or maybe a Judiciary Committee that can overrule any decision made.”

Andy took a long pull on his drink, “Never meant to imply that you did not have good reasons and intents. Hell, everybody involved did. You had no way of knowing that Mariana’s medical Code of Ethics would not allow her to be part of the crime scene. Just as the Young Ladies I just chewed out did not know that it was a Guard crime scene.

“Joe you remember the old joke that the Military has a Standard Operating Procedure or SOP for taking a crap?”

Joe snorted and tipped his mug.

“Karl, I plan to train at least two people to be a stay behind force when we launch. Gotta plan for at least one lander getting past us, shit no one is perfect! That team should probably be cross-trained and sworn in as Reserve Deputies, that way they are Cops. The only way you ask for my Wolves, is as a SWAT team. That is pretty much a Combat situation anyway.

“I propose that each of our three disciplines and I will drag Mariana into this write up a set of recommendations to the Council, for what we see as our roles as to be presented on say a Day 50 Council meeting.

“And you have a good point Karl about the Great Judge. It does not have to be the Council, it could be a group of colonists who either know law or are just plain level headed. Jules and Hanna Parker come immediately to mind, although not at the same time. All we would need is that two or three, whatever number is picked. Stay in communications range during their tenure. Hell, if we can vote via comms, why not act as a Judge via comms.

“Now consider gentlemen and yes I use that term loosely. I have the shear joy tonight of informing Mariana that she fracked up the brief to CPT Kellerman and sweat waking up in the morning.

“Any further thoughts Gentlemen?”

“I screwed the pooch, and much worse than you did Colonel, after all I was there,” Fortson said. “There was a time, and not so long ago, we wouldn’t even be talking about mistakes cause I wouldn’t have let any happen.

“Karl and I are the only sorta authorized police we got and neither one of us plans on making it a career. We’ve got to close this thing down and get it to a just as needed basis. I could go with an appointed judge or judicial committee so long as it’s separate from the Council. That would rule out the Historian, but so be it.”

Karl said, “I’m with Joe. After the shooting, shuttle explosion and the rape investigations are finished Pam and I have to get on with the rest of our lives. I want to build sailing ships and explore this planet, not wait for the next crime to happen, so the Council and the people will have to figure a way. Let’s suggest the Judicial Board and put everyone on alert that unless they figure some other way of doing it that that’s how it’s got to be. Are we Agreed?”

I just picked up the bottle and asked, “Another round?”

In or Out

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by William Bartlett

Alchibah Day 68

The width and general form of the outlet from the Gitche Gumee into the western ocean made one think of the Mediterranean and Gibraltar but was really quite different. Between the two headlands there wasn’t a single imposing rock island but five islands large enough to be called by the name and innumerable boulders poking above the surface. The seas basin rose to a kind of shoal area seldom more than four foot deep all across the area and we had to beach the raft a couple of miles from the tip of the southern headland as the water depth and rocks had made passage any closer impossible. Our position was now about 1100 miles northwest of Liberty City and we needed to decide whether to follow the coastline south or take the slightly more direct inland route.

Mike and the Jeep went to find a path to the top of the cliff that rose sixty feet above our landing spot while Janie, Laura, and I did the unloading and disassembling of the raft so that we could salvage all of the rope used in her construction. Due to the easy passage we had arrived with more food than we had aboard when we started. There would be no need to stop and provision before continuing. We had humped most everything to the top of the cliff and stretched out the rope for drying. by the time Mike returned and made his report.

“Just the one mile hike to a spot where the Jeep and I could overlook the ocean took us over an hour,” he began. “And once we got there, as far as we could see, and I’d guess that was well over thirty miles, the coastal bluffs are completely covered with loose rocks, ankle twisting size and up. Cuts and ridges and no sightlines at all to show the best pass forwards. It’ natural ambush country for any native predators.”

We were playing the Jeep’s visual recordings through Laura’s comp unit as Mike continued and that imagery, along with the stored satellite views, indicated the same conditions for at least another several hundred miles going southwards.

“The wind were pretty stiff with lots of surf and breakers coming in and crashing the shoreline. Even if there was a good supply of timber on the spot, which there isn’t, I don’t think we could build any kind of sailing craft that wouldn’t be thrown right up onto the rocks and destroyed on the lee shore. And I didn’t see a single good spot where we could beach for the night either.”

That pretty much covered everything and my trust in Mike’s judgment had by now grown to such an extent that the decision immediately made to continue on the inland route. We stayed here just one night then packed up everything and left the next morning, heading away from the Gitche Gumee and into the heavily forested lands of our next stage.

On this side of the Gumee the forest was densely packed with trees whose trunk diameters were mostly three inches and under. Saplings filled any area they could get a hold on. The thin layer of soil covered the base rock that was at most six feet below the surface. This led to poor drainage and I was thankful for the mostly dry weather recently. Even so the ground was always damp and there were many small patches of free standing water several inches in depth. This wasn’t a swamp but very muddy and slippery none the less. The shallow soil meant that the a trees roots could not support anything much larger than we were seeing and there were many bare trunks that had fallen or been blown down making walking extremely tiring what with stepping over the fallen stuff, avoiding the surface water and trying to keep from slipping. The thickness of the cover meant we could not see much beyond fifty or sixty feet in any direction.

We stated south following a small stream actually not much more than a creek but it soon petered out to just some water burbling out of the ground. I had tightened up our spacing so that we all remained visible at least to the one in front and behind us. That cut the length of our line down to under one hundred fifty feet. Our pet Ugli waddled along some times behind but usually out just in front of Janie as if leading her way. His head in constant motion as if looking for danger. Occasionally when he tired she would have EmyCee gather him up and carry him for a while. He was too big now for any of us to carry, burdened as we were by everything else.

Progress was very slow. We were seeing quite a few small slizards and even stumbled across an aladillo and more than a few of Alchibah’s analogue for earthworms though they were a pasty white in color and about two feet long. With this much to eat I felt certain there would be larger more dangerous animals around to do the eating.

I hadn’t heard a thing till EmyCee’s voice rang out, “Motion Left! I spun in that direction preparing to fire but say nothing. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mike with his Ruger shouldered, then two rapid shots rang out.

Mike kept his rifle pointed but said, “Think I’ve got him. He’s down and stationary, it’s a catamount.”

“Hold in place everyone,” I said loudly, “Look around for any others. Jeep, Emy, keep scanning.” I still couldn’t see it, too much vegetation in the way. After a minute with nothing else detected I said to Mike. “Switch places with me and I’ll take a look.”

Mike’s first shot had struck the 110 lb. cat while it was about thirty yards out, the bullet entered right below the neck high on the chest between the front legs. It passed entirely though the body exiting out one of the haunches. I could tell by the skid marks that it had dropped at once. Mike’s second shot caught it in the hind quarters just as it slid to a halt. Some fine shooting but now I was wondering if the thing had any friends around.

I took some photos then called for Mike. “You killed it. You clean it.”

“Sure,” he said, reaching towards his belt for the knife that had been in his pack.

“No Just kidding,” I told him. “We have all the food we can carry right now and don’t need the extra weight. We do have two things to consider though. If we leave the body it might attract other predators or scavengers and keep them here till we are out of the area. It might even instill in some of them a fear of humans, and that would be all to the good. But on the other hand it could cause some to view humans as a possible source or provider of food. I not sure which case is most likely so the best thing, I think, would be to bury the body and get out of the area as soon as we can.”

While Mike dug the hole I stood nearby watching for signs of any others. Within twenty minutes we were on our way again. Later that afternoon Janie,. without an alerte from EmyCee, took out another larger catamount with her plasma rifle and this time there wasn’t enough left to bury. That one had come out of it’s lair in the rocks and was even closer than the last before Janie saw it. We were going to need a strategy to deal with them and real soon.

It was only an hour before dark now and we had not come across anything that remotely looked like a good defensible campsite. I tried to convince myself the area around us was at least marginally less dense, and the ground was a bit drier, than what we were used to and called a halt for the day. I had the bots taking down trees an clearing underbrush to form a rough circle about fifty yards in diameter and dragging some of the larger, up to 4 inch diameter, tree trunks to the center. There, while Janie and Laura kept a lookout, Mike and I notched and stacked them in a rough arrow head shape sixteen feet long and eight at the base the walls were just under three feet high. Using more of the lumber we roofed over all of it but the portion right at the point.

We had cut it fine but the bots had finished clearing and dragging the excess timber to three spots where we intended to keep fires burning all night and we were as ready as circumstances permitted by nightfall. We ate a cold meal of smoked meat and some of the collected berries because they were not going to last very long anyway, before retiring into our shelter.

With the fires burning the bots took up position at the point and base of the triangle but about ten feet into the woods though still with a view of the clearing. Janie would take the first watch, I would take the second and Mike the third. Each would last around three hours. Laura, not being a shooter, would get a pass.

The hole through our roof was the only entrance into the shelter and only large enough for one person to stand up in comfortably which Janie did while Mike and Laura fell off to sleep. Ugli was snuggled up next to Laura either for protection or the extra warmth. It had been an exhausting first days march in comparison to the ease of out rafting cross the Gumee, I scrunched up in front by Janie and began massaged her anklesand calf muscles while trying to carry on a conversation.

“Geez Bart,” She almost sighed, “You better cut that out, it feels so good its distracting.”

“Yeah I guess so,” I said giving one last squeeze. “I gotta say Babe I got the shakes myself when I saw how close the catamount got to you before you burned it. How in the world did you ever see it in time to shoot?”

“It was Ugli Bart, I thought he was acting strange just before the first one, the one Mike shot, but I knew something was up the second time. He had been moving his head back and forth but just before the thing charged out Ugli straightened out and went rigid pointing in the direction the catamount came from. I had my rifle up almost before the cat came into view.”

“Well the little bugger does have some finer points after all.” He had finally gotten used to me and had stopped nipping but Janie was still his favorite. “Tell you what, tomorrow why don’t you switch places with Mike and let him be tail end Charlie. Ugli in the center will be better overall than at the end.”

“Why don’t I switch with you Bart?” she asked, “Wouldn’t he be even better in front?”

“Not sure Janie but I am going to have the Jeep moving back and forth across our front again tomorrow making more noise and giving him a wider area where his sensors can pick something out. The cats are warm blooded but both attacks came from a covered position where passive infra-red didn’t help. Letting the Jeep see more has to be for the best.

“We haven’t seen any pack behavior yet, the are behaving as if they each have a personal territory to defend but we can’t count on that without one heck of a lot more experience. Anyway I’ll knock off for a bit. If you start to get to tired wake me early Babe.”

“Sure thing Bart, talk to you then.”

She woke me at the proper time and I stood my watch uneventfully and turned it over to Mike three hour later. Just before dawn I awoke to the sound of another shot. Mike had nailed another cat just inside of the clearing.

The next day we covered more distance and as we got further away from the Gumee the land was drying out and opening up. The Jeep saw two of the cats chasing them off. Somehow they could tell he wasn’t something they could eat. We saw no cats from our positions in the line, just the same run of the mill smaller stuff. On at least four separate occasions Ugli started acting up but no catamount appeared.

We set up a camp similar to the one of the previous night and the cat problem got dramatically worse. We shot four of them, three on my watch, two of them came in simultaneously and the second had launched itself and was airborne by the time I hit it. I used the barrel of the Ruger to swat it down and it thudded into the log wall of our shelter. The Jeep or EmyCee had spotted all of them in advance so no real surprises, still I was beginning to think staying inland and away from the shore for all it’s seeming advantages might not have been such a good idea.

When we broke camp the next morning I changed our order of march again. This time the Jeep was still out front but I had Emy following him dragging two of the cats tied to her by ropes behind. Mike was next and I took up the rear. I was hoping the smell of dead cat would act as a warning to others that it might not be save to get too near and it seemed to be working. But by the time we put up for the night all that was left trailing behind EmyCee were some very small scraps of dead catamount which we left piled in the clearing. Wonder of wonders, no attacks at all that night. Things might be looking up.

Our problems with the cats weren’t eliminated but were now down to something we could deal with. We averaged shooting one every other day with Ugli detecting about half of them first. Ugli was still putting on weight and now must have been nearing forty-five pounds and including tail almost five feet long. When detecting one of the cats he no longer froze but crouched and began creeping in the cats direction. He did at least still stay on good terms with all of us.

Three weeks travel and what I would estimate as almost 250 miles and we were coming out of the forest and into grass again. This time unlike the high country we had passed through when just leaving the mountains the land was much more like the areas of meadow we had seen around Liberty City. The grass was much taller having had time to grow to well over a eighteen inches high and it was strewn throughout with multicolored wild flowers. There were still clumps of trees but I would be willing to bet that before long we would find nothing but the pale blue/green grassland. The maps on Laura’s comp showed this terrain continuing on for another three hundred miles before hitting the forested areas again.

For as lush and green as the grassland was the map showed only one river flowing through. That river came from an area 600 miles to the west larger than even the Inland Sea that was covered with lakes of all sizes. It tended towards the ocean in a manner such that our path would not cross it until we had traveled another 180 miles. At that point it’s course took it in front of a group of three permanently snowcapped mountains that stood out from their surroundings like Kilimanjaro. We had all toughened up to the march to such an extent that I set an internal goal which I mentioned to no one else of reaching it in under the days.

Meat, with all of the catamounts we had shot wasn’t a problem bur we had used up the last of our vegetables several days prior to getting out of the woods. Ugli solved that problem for us almost at once by turning up some of the quasi-potato like things the Devils liked so well. And speak of Devils we still hadn’t seen any of them and other birds were only rarely visible. The avian species were much rarer on Alchibah than on Earth; less time to evolve I guess.

Back to dealing with water… There was a small, almost large enough to call a crick, leading from the forest into the grassland, but I felt certain it would not last long. What we did was take my solar-cloth tarp and line the skin bag that Laura had been carrying and then filling it up and tying it off. That held close to 10 gallons and weighed more than 80 lbs, something for EmyCee to carry. Canteens and the water bag that had been in Mike’s pack gave storage for another three and a half gallons. A gallon a day each was what I thought we would need so we would absolutely need to find more long before we reached those far off mountains. Ugli seemed to get most of the liquids he needed from the food he ate. I couldn’t think of one time even back in the forest where I had seen him even lap at all the free standing water there, We started out following the crick hoping it would last.

It lasted all of the first day and half way into the next. Our order of march was the same we used when leaving the mountains with the Jeep making wide sweeps in front of us. Even though we were moving at a rapid clip Ugli had no trouble keeping up and that was very good because he was getting to a size, around 60 pounds where I would not have wanted to burden either of the bots by having him carried. Once more we were seeing some smaller animal life but that first day nothing dangerous and nothing that attracted Ugli’s attention except in what appeared to be general curiosity.

Randomly cast across the gently rolling grassland were scattered the clumps of trees I mentioned. The groupings were small, sometimes only a solitary tree and then nothing for a mile or more. Usually though there were in stands of a couple dozen. Their shape was more like a willow than a pine. They weren’t particularly tall averaging 40 to 50 feet but the trunks were of a much greater size than the pines had been often 14 inches and up. The branching and fern like leaves on the larger samples started about ten feet off of the ground. There was usually enough fallen wood, dead and dried, on the ground to make a fire for cooking but we would cut one down in order to have enough to keep a fire going through the night.

That first night we stopped I was very concerned that we had no readily defensible campsite and no way to make one. Laura came up with an idea that seemed odd at first but worked out well. She suggested we sling hammocks and sleep in the trees. With the bots to boost us up to the first branches we could get them in place quite rapidly. It took longer to search the trees above for any dangerous tree dwelling animals, which we never did find but nevertheless kept looking for, than finish the rest of the camp. There were mice size brown furred mammalians filling the same niche squirrels did on Earth, but like squirrels the were also vegetarian. One running across your face in the night could snap you right out of a sound sleep though which I found out in a manner that almost dumped me to the ground.

I stood the middle watch again that night and after the three weeks we had spent under forest cover was enthralled with the skies over head, there was a dramatic aurora that wasn’t even washed out when both moons shone full. Twice as bright as any moonlit night on Earth I had to tear my eyes away to search the ground. Good thing Emy and the Jeep were not so ascetically inclined. At shift change scrambling back into the hammock woke everyone up but if that remained the worst of our worries things weren’t so bad after all.

Midway through our second day when the crick did give out by running into a small pool with no outlet we topped off all of our water containers and continued following the depressed course it had made when swollen by the earlier spring rains. That afternoon before setting up camp digging down three feet into the depression we got enough seepage to drink our fill and top off once more. Two days into the grasslands and using the Jeep’s eyes as my sextant I could calculate we were forty-seven miles closer to home. The night stayed warm, in the low 80‘s, and tomorrow would be hotter.

“Alert! Large animal, your position 1600 yards due east in motion.”

I looked to my right and knowing what to look for by the view the Jeep was sending to
Laura’s comp I could just make out dark spots poking out of the grass in the distance. At this kind of range and with us being at a slightly lower elevation the tall grass stood high enough that magnification revealed nothing but a few brownish colored humps that must have been the backs of whatever was moving slowly towards us.

There were some trees a quarter mile to the southwest and I told the Jeep to keep on our right hand as we angled over to take cover. By the time we reached the minimal shelter of the trees the humps had turned into the largest animals we had seen yet and there were hundreds of them. At a distance they seemed to move slowly but their rate of travel must have been better than our walk as the had gained considerably on us. Six legged, like the norm for Alchibah, they were near ten feet long and five foot high at the shoulder. I couldn’t see how low to the ground the main part of their body extended because the grass was too tall. Their heads, very flat and wide were low on the body on a short, perhaps foot long, neck They must have weighed in at well over a ton.

We wasted no time in climbing up two of the larger trees and it would have been comical watching the bots do the same if it wasn’t so important they get out of harms way because unlike us with our simian ancestry they did not climb well. By the time we were all at least 15 feet off the ground the ‘Alchelos’ were streaming past on either side of the copse and more were still appearing over the rise where the Jeep had first seen them.

“I looked down at the Jeep who was dangling. Arms wrapped around the branch I was perched upon and said, “Well J.P., I guess we are well and truly up a tree without a paddle now!”

The Jeep seemed to consider and try to parse that statement and giving it up simply said, “Yes Boss.”

Laura had her com unit set to video and was gathering in more images for the travelogue, nee horror movie she had been recording and working on since the day of the crash. This scene would have worked well on the big screen as they used to say. All’s well that ends well and after two days spent living like birds the Alchelos had passed us by and we were on our way again. Though Mike did shoot one of the trailers and we had meat again.

Wedding Day!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

From Common Diary Files

Day 67 Morning Alchibah

“The First Order of Business is that No One, I repeat No One; puts on a uniform before the Ceremony. That will be our little surprise to everyone.“Second; myself, COL Stuart, LTC Andrews and CPT McKenzie will be doing check rides for 2LT Benjamin, 2LT S. Pierce, Deputy J. Pierce and Deputy J. Parker Jr. on the run up to Mayflower.

“Third, CAPT Travis, CAPT Monroe and Cadet Bugbee will be running a round trip with their two shuttles and the Galileo to handle the other people attending. As I understand it a Cadet in the Space Arm is the equivalent of our Candidate. Therefore Cadet Bugbee will be given the courtesy due a Junior Officer, which ain’t much. But no one gets on his case understood?”

The room filled with a round of chuckles and outright laughs.

“Good, let’s get up there, shall we?”

Shuttle One filled with Jules and Hanna Parker, followed by Linda and Liza.

“I am sorry J. J. could not be with you,” Andy Stuart said, “but he’s busy getting his butt kicked by Mariana over on Shuttle Three.”

He actually got two smiles, ”Our son a pilot, it’s like a dream come true,” came from both of the older Parkers. Andy stopped by Linda, “If Ash didn’t think he was going to make it, he would have flown the check ride himself!”

Linda just gave him a tired smile back. Andy was still laughing as he slid into the right seat of the Shuttle.

“Ready to wind her up LT?”

Jai Benjamin’s face indicated that she was anything but happy. “I guess I’m as ready as I am ever going to be Sir.”

“Then take us up, LT. Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Reaper burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower.”

As Jai pulled the stick she heard:

“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Ghost burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”

“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Magic burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”

“Liberty Security and Mayflower Control; Digger burning trans-atmospheric destination Mayflower!”

Her heart thumping like a drum in her chest she heard, “Liberty Security; Roger Firebird Flight, all singing clear and Pure. Mayflower Control acknowledged Firebird Flight.”

Jai jerked her head around and before she could ask the question the answer came.

“It’s your call sign after all, that is provided you can dock this damn thing. By the way what does the formation look like?”

“It’s a little ragged,” Jai replied, “but it’s a diamond!”

“Who’s ragged,” Andy asked?

“JJ and Summer” Jai replied.

“Watch it for a few more moments, if it don’t shape up; I’ll kick Mariana and Ash’s arse’s. What you thought Ghost and I were going to trust the real Combat Pilots to anyone else?”

“Boss,” Jai volunteered, “Summer is terrified of LTC Andrews.”

“Of course, LT. That is the precise reason he is scoring her check ride. She has a confidence problem in the Hot Seat. Unlike someone we know, that’s the only place it shows, so we work on it!”

Jai glanced towards the right seat and saw COL Stuart but, for a fleeting second she had a second sight of a howling Wolf. What gave her a shiver was that she preferred the Wolf.

Jerking her head back around she remembered to call, “Mayflower, Firebird Flight requesting Combat Peel.”

“Firebird Flight. Combat Peel approved.”

Jai led them into a low pass around Mayflower. On the Second time by JJ Parker seconded by COL M. Stuart peeled off and went into the dock. The next pass peeled off John Pierce with LT McKenzie in the right seat. Next pass peeled off Summer Pierce with LTC Andrews in the Instructor seat. Finally it was Jai’s turn with the Chief Wolf in her graders seat.

Jai was lucky enough to grease in on the open pad and turned to the right seat for comment. What she got was a grin and an open hand with the Silver Bars of a 1LT in them.

“What do you remember about your Q course LT?” Andy’s smiling face asked.

“14 hours of shear pain and terror,” I replied “Followed by some Big Lug telling me to stand up and look behind me. May I be so bold as to tell the Colonel that my left tit still hurts from where He slammed home that Badge.”

He laughed, “You may LT., but just remember. You crossed that line, no one did it for you. No one who has not crossed that line has ever worn that Badge and while You and I live no one ever will.”

Jai tensed even with her hand reaching out, She now knew the burden the COL was asking her to take and She froze for a moment. Her brain raced for the proper reply then it dawned on Her, “SOCOM Sir.”

Andy grinned and dropped the Silver pins into her hand. “Now let’s go down there and embarrass the hell out of three people who should know better.”

We hit the bottom of the Elevator ride and Col Stuart froze in the door. His hand snapped up in a cold perfect Salute. “Permission to Come Aboard Sir,” snapped out that Command Voice we had all learned to fear.

A young man in a gray ship suit spun around with a confused look on his face; then his spine stiffened and a high voice rang out. “Permission Granted Sir, Liberty Arriving;” as my foot was just about to hit the deck his voice rang again: “Firebird Flight Arriving!”

I looked at Mariana, Ash and JoAnn hanging their heads in their hands and decided I was glad that I was not them.

CAPT Travis walked up and said. “Welcome Aboard Sir, sorry I have to run but, we have a scheduled flight to fly.”

Andy grinned, “No problem Sir, Master Kiyoshi said that He would be waiting with your package and would appreciate a ride up. Seems He wants to see His works on display.”

“Of course,” Travis smiled, “that would have nothing to do with His attachment to Miss McKenzie I assume?”

“I assure you, I would not know,” said Andy with a grin. The two shook hands and turned their seperate ways. Our crew was standing with heads down cause they knew they had done fracked up! Dear God, Thank You it wasn’t me this time.

Andy barked to everyone, “ Ladies and Gentlemen, it will take the CAPT 90 minute’s to make the turn around. Therefore you have two hours to get suited up and ready. Flight Commanders, Report to me.”

I turned and ran, pausing only long enough to ask CAPT Monroe what room I had been assigned as I looked over my shoulder to see three Senior Officers getting their Butts chewed by the Master of the Art.

Two hours later I was standing in the hall outside what used to be Hanna’s Place waiting for the call.

“Let the Party Enter,” rang Travis’s voice. I looked at Summer and nodded, we started around the corners.

We marched up the aisle like the unit we had become, this was the first time the people of Alchibah had seen the Space Black and Silver that was Strike Force. At the front of the room stood CAPT Travis in the Sky Blue and Gold of the Seattle Space Academy; after Colorado Springs had gotten Nuked in the Long War, there was no better and at his side He wore the perfect replica of the Honor Sword of the Valedictorian.

In the front row stood Joe Fortson in the gorgeous Blue and Gold that was the old USMC Uniform and his face told anyone who cared to look that it was his right to wear.

Then Travis barked, “Let the Groom enter.”

The sound system suddenly split with the sound of bagpipes keening ‘Scotland The Brave’ when Andrew Stuart and Ashcroft Andrews turned into the aisle.

Joe and everyone who wore or had ever worn a uniform stood and saluted as the two moved up at a slow march pace. Around their necks were the simple ribbons on a Sky Blue Field with Five White Stars that was the Medal of Honor. We all knew that the Boss wore it but, Ash. That was news to everyone.

As they reached their assigned places Travis called out. “The Matron of Honor will proceed.”

Hanna Parker started up the aisle accompanied by a noticeably more sprightly Jules Parker.

Travis spoke again, “The Maid of Honor will proceed.” I guess Mariana qualified as She had no children but if anyone who worked with the boss thought she was a Maid they were delusional. Still those five Silver Stars were impressive as hell.

Then Travis spoke in low tones, “My lady, come forward.” Then the sound system rang with the sounds of “Waltzing Matilda.”

As JoAnn turned into the aisle the room once more exploded in salutes and I heard Joe behind me, “Never been in the shit, my ass. They don’t hand those out for Good Behavior!”

This as we all stood and saluted a holder of the Victoria Cross.

Could I be stupid if I said the rest of the ceremony was an afterthought?

Two hours later I was in a redressed Hanna’s Place trying my best to get drunk when Ryu sat down and asked. “You can’t get Mike out of your head can you?”

Andy was looking from across the room when Jai finally let the tears flow. “No, if us Girls had not egged him in to taking the rank He might not have gone with Bart.  I know it’s not rational but I feel responsable.  I don’t know if it means anything but; the not knowing is killing me.”

Ryu looked at her, “You think it’s not hurting anyone else?”


Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Pierce Family

Day 37, dawn

Jaisa tore around the makeshift trail that the Young Guns had worn around the outskirts of Liberty over the past twenty days, her breathing heavy. This was her first day back on the track since the storm, and as usual Summer and John had joined her a half an hour ago in the faint pre-dawn light for the morning run. The other Guns had just started, filing in behind the sibling pace setters. Jai was far out in front, already a lap and a half ahead of her two usual companions, running as if possessed. She couldn’t stop playing the scene in her head, couldn’t stop herself from seeing Emily topple backwards with the catamount-like “varg” on top of her. The outcome was always the same. She knew Andy was right; she couldn’t have done any better, but what did that matter? She should have been able to stop them, should have been able to keep her friend out of harm’s way. And now she had fracked up in a big way again, drawing on the head of the god damned Guard.

Fifteen minutes later she had lapped the main group again. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps. She was on autopilot, her mind quiet for the first time since she woke up in the hospital three days ago. She peeled off of the trail towards the south, immediately flowing into the Korean forms her father had taught her years ago, then to Muay Boran, Capoeira, Krav Maga and back again, mixing and blurring the lines as she went. Anything to keep her mind at bay.

John Pierce
Day 53, early morning

I was really starting to get worried about Jai. I don’t know her as well as the Young Guns, but we had talked a bit on the early morning runs in the lead up to the storm and it didn’t take an psychiatrist to tell she was withdrawing from the rest of us. It seemed like all she felt she had left was duty, and she was pushing herself physically to the brink. She’s as fit and tough as Elana was at her top form, but every human body has limits and unless I’m completely off base she’s fast approaching hers. I think the other Young Guns didn’t want to see it, or maybe they were just afraid to try to talk to her about it. Her dad had tried to back her down, I think, but obviously had failed, and I’m not sure if Andy realized how hard she was pushing herself outside of her normal duties. I guess that’s all just to explain why I took it on myself to try to talk to her.

Since she joined us in the morning again she’s been starting her run earlier and earlier, to the point where she’s almost another patrolling guard on the last shift. By the time Summer and I get on the trail she’s already headed south to the base of the falls to start her martial arts training. This morning I headed down there a couple laps after the rest of the group had joined us, hoping to catch her before she headed back to town for breakfast.

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I got down there, but it definitely wasn’t what I saw. I turned the corner around one of the big boulders down there and just caught a glimpse of her diving off the rocks into the river wearing, well, nothing. I froze. Which means, of course, that I was staring straight at her a few seconds later when she broke the surface and pulled herself out of the water.

“Hello there,” she said flatly, picking up the towel she had brought and started drying off. I whirled around, apologizing profusely.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean, I didn’t know, I just came down here to talk.” I felt like I was in high school again.

“No harm done, we’re all friends around here.” She paused, “All right, you can turn around now, I’m decent. What do you want?”

I turned around and opened my mouth, and then shut it. What was I supposed to say? That I thought she might be detaching from reality and becoming self destructive? How the hell do you say that to someone you barely know? How do you say it at all?

“Right, ok then,” she laughed, patting me on the shoulder as she walked by, “you stand there. I’m going back.”

“Wait,” I blurted out, “I’m worried about you.”

She stopped, staring straight ahead, not looking back at me. “Well isn’t that sweet. I got news for you honey; I can take care of myself.”

“Not right now you can’t. I mean, I’m sure you could kill me with your little finger or something, but you’re hurting right now. I just wanted to let you know if you wanted to talk to someone who doesn’t know you as Lt. Benjamin first and foremost…”

“Get lost hot shot, I’ll be fine,” she shot back, but her voice was quavering as she took a step back towards camp. I took a deep breath and gently grabbed her arm. Not the brightest idea, I know – I felt like I was flicking a tiger’s ear – but I had the impression that it was then or never.

She swung around and slammed the side of her fist into my chest, hard and repeatedly, but she made no effort to pull away from me. She had started crying, slowly at first and then harder and harder, her blows weakening. Finally she started almost melting into me, leaning and crying into my chest. I wasn’t really ready for all this, but I did my best to comfort her. After a time she quieted down.

“Can we just stay here for a minute?” she asked finally, looking up at me. “Just for a minute?” So we did, laying down on the grass and listening to the river flow by.

I asked after a few minutes, “You want to hear a conversation I heard at Hanna’s yesterday? It was about you!”

“Who was it?” she asked.
“Oh,” I deadpanned, “only Andy, Mariana, Ash and Joe; nobody that counts!”

A light actually came back in her eyes, “Yeah, tell me.”

“OK, I’m quoting here.

“Andy said; ‘I love her like a Daughter but, I can’t let up. Her problem is insecurity, She does not believe she is good enough. Good God, when the vargs hit them neither one of them should have survived.

‘The only Fracking reason they did was that she is that good. The only problem is getting her to understand that. I could let up but, I swear that’s the wrong thing to do. It would only make her think I had given up on her. Anybody got any ideas?’

Jai interrupted. “He really said that?”

“Yup. Then Ash piped up. ‘I have been there; if you had let up on me I would have cracked. The only thing that saved me was ’someone’ decided that I was the Little Brother that she had never had. If Mariana had not started beating on me, I don’t know what would have happened.'’

“I just wanted to let you know where they think you’re at,” John finished. “And I think you know they’re right.”

Jai slowly pushed herself up on her elbow, looking down at this man who had somehow, at least for a few minutes, made things ok. She leaned down and kissed him gently, inhaling softly as she pulled away.

“Come on, let’s get back to camp,” she said, slipping her hand into his as she stood up. “Maybe we can catch the end of breakfast.”


Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Pierce Family

Summer Pierce
Day 53, evening

Andy had just gotten through giving us all a lesson in hand to hand combat, using Jai, Kurt and I as test dummies. Not the most pleasant experience of my life, let me tell you. But in an odd way it was actually sort of, well, fun.

“Anybody who wants to practice or compare notes, y’all have fun. Gunney and I need a drink!” Andy said over his shoulder, headed towards Hanna’s. We just looked around at each other, still trying to figure out what had just happened. Ryu was the first to speak up.

“Jai, looks like you’ve done this before. Care to try out a few things?” he asked. Jai agreed, and we all started breaking off into pairs, experimenting with the many new moves and tactics Andy & co. had just shown us. I got Kaye. He was a quick learner, but so was I. Cute too. Him, I mean. We traded blows and joint locks, generally throwing each other around. After about ten minutes Kaye stopped mid move, just staring over my shoulder.

“Jai ‘n Ryu are fightin’,” he said, slack jawed.

“I know. Now grab my wrist, I want to try that throw again.”

“Na – look,” he gaped. I turned around and stopped dead. They were fighting, or it looked that way. It was like watching a movie. Their movements were practically a blur. They weren’t calmly powerful like Andy’s had been; this was something else. Before long everyone had stopped what they were practicing to watch the two of us who already got it. I’ve come a long way since we landed, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to play at their level.

Just watching them was tiring. I mean it was literally exhausting trying to figure out what the hell was going on when they moved. Jai was faster than Ryu, although not by much, but Ryu made up for it with his additional power. The result was an intricate and almost incomprehensible flurry of near misses and partial hits. There was no real line between attack and defense. Everything just seemed to flow together. Kicks and blows, knees and elbows flew faster than I would have thought possible, but their eyes never left each others’. And they were grinning like maniacs. For the first time since the storm I think Jai was actually enjoying herself.

The fight came to an abrupt halt with the pair locked nearly side by side, Jai’s elbow a bare inch from Ryu’s neck and his foot almost touching her kneecap.

“Good match.” Jai said. “We should do it again sometime.”

“No doubt. And I’ve got to say, you’re the first person our age that has matched me. I’m impressed.” Ryu replied, disengaging. “Where’d you learn?”

“My Dad and my Uncle mostly, with a fair few other influences thrown in. You?”

“Almost the same, weirdly enough. We should compare notes. I’m busy tonight,” he continued, glancing in my direction, “so tomorrow?”

“Sounds like a plan. Now let’s all go get dinner. I’m sure everyone’s worked up an appetite.”


Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Pierce Family

Elana Pierce

I couldn’t get the ringing in my ears to stop. I was surrounded by deep darkness punctuated by blinding flashes of light and roar after roar of deep, deafening sound. Through it all I could hear John…

John! My baby brother was screaming and crying. I couldn’t reach him. I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t get to him. And suddenly I was being lifted. The giant protecting us lifted me right up against his chest.

“It’s going to be ok. Just huddle up against me girl, I’ll hold you. Your Mom and Dad and little brother are gonna be all right. It’s all gonna to be all right.” We were running. I felt something hot splash onto my cheek; blood. I was covered in it. The giant was covered in it too, but somehow it didn’t matter. I could just see my parents. He was right, they were ok. I looked up into the giant’s eyes and knew that everything was going to be ok.

A flash of fire and noise, bigger than the others, erupted to my right.

I sat up in bed, gasping, drenched in cold sweat.


Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 67 Late Evening

From the Diary of Mariana Stuart

I was setting in Diagnostic reading over the day’s files when I heard, “Ma’am do you have time to talk?”

I looked up to see Jaisa Benjamin looking fairly plaintive. “Good Lord Girl, you have to have Man problems. That’s the only damn thing that can put that look on the face of an attractive Young Lady.”

“Right, attractive. Sure I am.” Jai replied dryly. “Only the boys either treat me like one of the guys or are afraid of me! So what if I’m hot?”

The problem hit me like a bolt of lightning. “Girl, don’t you ever doubt yourself. Just because you can kick their asses doesn’t mean you should settle for less than you deserve waiting for someone who gets you. I did once and wound up with an Asshole for a Husband. Girl don’t commit till his voice sinks into your Bones. Screw attractive, the right One gives a shit. Damn, you don’t think Andy is good looking; but sure as the Gods He will defend any Children we might be able to have.

“Damn it Girl, do I look that damn beautiful to You? I ain’t no gift to the beautiful but, the only who counts thinks I am. Although landing a hottie certainly is not a bad thing.

“So who is it Girl?”

Jai was stunned, “I honestly don’t know. I’m so worried about Mike right now it’s hard to think about anyone else.”

“I don’t doubt it. Did you know that Andy is going to fly two sweeps in the Morning and his backup will be Ghost and Digger?”

Jai gaped and said, “But, they just got married!”

“And when a Friends life is on the line that means what?

“Girl, don’t you ever settle for anything less than a Gods Damned Hero.”

Close The Back Door

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 69 Evening

John Pierce

An invitation to dinner at Fort Stuart was not to be turned down. The food was almost as good as Hanna’s place and the booze was free. The only thing that bothered him was why the invitation had come over the public link and mentioned planning on the Dam project.

That was already planned and darn near complete. All four wheels were spinning and the Electro Forge was pouring metal. The only thing left was some shoring that was waiting on Joe’s crew to find the right trees.


I saw John come thorough the door with a bemused look that got worse when He saw Sin Blackfeather.

“Sit down everyone, let’s eat before we get down to business.”

After everybody was stuffed and on their third drink I bought up business. “What I am about to ask you to do is the dirtiest, nastiest and most dangerous job on the planet.

“I am asking you to be the stay behind Force. You will not even be able to admit that you are part of Strike Force before it hits the pot. I may be able to leave you some others but, that is still in the air.

“Sin, you know it will be a very dirty guerrilla war and if someone like a damn Buchanan knows what you are doing, they may try to betray you for gain.

“The only thing I can hope to promise you is that I don’t think they can get more than one Assault vessel by us. So are you game?”

John and Sin gulped and thought for a couple of long hard moments.

Sin was first, “Been there — Done that. This time can’t be worse. We might even get some Civilian help.”

I had to laugh, “We get the Ammo and Weapons plants going; I can damn near guarantee that.”

John was next, “I was damn set to go up there and fight. I would be some kind of hypocrite if I turned this down; wouldn’t I?”

I stared at him, “Some people might think you were smart Son.”

John absolutely collapsed in laughter, so much so that Mariana moved towards him. “Damn Boss, I am one of the Young Guns,” He gasped. “Nobody has ever accused any of us of the sin of excess brains.”

I am willing to bet that no one in that room got a full breath for the next five minutes. When I was finally able to talk, “OK you two talk to Judy quietly and She will make you a uniform, she is putting some interesting stuff in them these days. But you don’t ever wear it till it hits the pot.”

Reaching into the desk, I pulled out two sets of rank pins.

“Majors, you are the ones I trust with the life of Alchibah.”

Found Her!

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

Day 70 First Light

We pulled stick just after first light, “Liberty Control , Reaper Atmospheric; search sweep 22-104.”

“Reaper singing clear, Northwest Upper Slope plan confirmed; Good Luck.”

“I’m afraid we are going to need it Liberty Control. We are way down the probability list.” Turning to look at my right seat, “Ready for another boring day Jan?” She was the one shining difference in my routine at 15 years old She had caused some changes.

As I had told her parents Frank and Debbie Christopher, “I don’t think she has any military aspirations whatsoever. The only weapon she wants to talk about is a Deer rifle like her Mom.”

Debbie grinned at me, “Well, I was the one who grew up in North Dakota. The best times I ever had were hunting with my dad and I understand Unicow makes great steaks. It’s a pity I don’t have Dad’s old rifle.”

It was time for me to grin, “I don’t want to give anything away but, we are working on that.

“But. To get serious; Rich is an entirely different situation. He is driving Joe Fortson nuts with his questions. Should I try to discourage him?”

Frank sighed, “I am afraid it would do no good. His Grandfather was a Marine till the day he died. Not UNWG for sure, old USMC to the bone. Rich has said, ‘If I can’t be a Jarhead, might as well be a Spook!’”

It was my turn to laugh, “He’s got it bad all right. Those terms are fighting words coming from outsiders but, they are what we chide each other with. Only someone who knew what they really meant would use them that way. I’ll hold him off as long as I can and Jan just wants to fly. We are going to need Civilian Pilots and I think that’s all she wants to be!”

Two faces started at each other, then at me; “Mr. Stuart, if you can give this family that, then we will be happy for our twins!”

My woolgathering was interrupted by, “Madman, Madman 001 at 4000; formed Titanium at around 50 tons.” I whipped the shuttle into a 6G orbit turn around the Datum Point, listening to Jan’s grunted breathing. “Confirm mass and composition, Co-Pilot!”

I hit the repeater so that Liberty could hear our conversation, “Confirm the Datum Point as 50.6 Tons and 99.9% positive as formed Titanium and Carbon Steel. It’s somebody’s ship Pilot.”

“Liberty Security, Mayflower Control; confirm our orbit point and Reaper going to surface to confirm.”

“Liberty Security, got you to five decimals Boss. Mayflower Control, Datum Point confirmed. Good Luck!”

We screamed down into the nearest available clearance. “Let’s go Jan ,” I called as I exited the craft grabbing my water ruck. The contents had been made by Judy and Robert Davis to my specs.

When we got to the waters edge, I handed my wristcomp to Jan. “Please hold this and to keep your parents happy, turn around.” I got a very evil grin in return but, She turned around.

I got into the Slizzard skin wetsuit and the homemade goggles/snorkle combo and told Jan, “You can look now!” With that I went into the water, hovering over the Datum; I pumped up on Oxygen and kicked down.

When I broke the surface I was grasping for air and at the same time screaming, “Give me my wristcomp!”

Jan handed it to me and I screamed, “Liberty Security, Mayflower Control; Graylady Down, say again Graylady Down. It’s the Dora and the survival racks are stripped!”

From the Mayflower came Glen Travis’s cold voice, “ Say again Reaper?”

“Galloping, it’s the Dora and the survival racks are stripped. The Plasma Rifles are gone and more importantly, Mike Reyes weapons are gone. Bart and Mike are alive somewhere. When can you get here with the Galileo to do a retrieval?”

“What’s wrong with one hour from now,“ came the cold voice of The Galloping Ghost of the Belt.

“Not a damn thing I can think of Glen. Break private to Judith Reye.”

“What can I do for you Sir?”

“Ma’am, all evidence points to the fact that your Son is alive. We have found the Dora and his guns are not here. As much as you might hate me you have to agree; if those guns are not here He is still alive somewhere. If that is true, I will find him Ma’am.”

Judith Reye turned to her husband, “Lester, Mike is alive. As much as I hate to admit it , they found the Dora and his precious Guns are not there. What I do not understand is that damned Andrew Stuart just promised me that if Mike was alive He would find him.”

Lester grimaced, “Judith, I think we have chosen the wrong path. Glen Travis and Andrew Stuart are the ones who are going to save this planet. Buchanan and his crew are the problem. It’s time we woke up to reality. The real doers do; they don’t talk about it. All Buchanan does is talk, Glen and Andy do! As does our Son, or should I call him LT Reye; because if He makes it home that’s what He will be whether we like it or not!”

“Ash, Andy; got that recovery rig ready and can you get it here in an hour?”

“Shit, I was listening. Digger and I are lifting already. We are 30 minutes out.

“Bart or Mike never quit yet. Besides Quigley owes me a return punch, and I will walk through Hell to get it!”

Lets Make A Deal

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by Andrew Stuart

From The Logs of Ashcroft Andrews

Day 53 Late Evening.

“Snaketrap, Dr. Hibbes Private and Secure,” I requested.

After the normal pause came, “Good Evening, Dr. Andrews. I assume that is the persona I am addressing!”

It was my turn in the cosmic scheme to be confused, “Well, I guess that would apply; but where did that come from?”

Hibbes laughed as he replied, “I have had some long conversations with Larry Monroe. He has explained the difference between Dr. Andrews, the brash Fighter Jock LTC. Andrews and the persona I don’t want to meet called Ghost.”

I gulped, “He sorta’ has it right. But if half of what I think I understand about what you are doing up there is correct; you are going to need Ghost as a Test Pilot. But, I called today to do some business. You game?”

“Well,” Hibbes replied, “I am certainly willing to listen.”

“OK, you have a working CNC machine. Save for the forged support legs and the Automated Control section; the best thing a CNC can produce is another CNC.

“I am prepared to offer you the forged supports and Automated Controls for two more CNC’s in return for one for our use.

“We will offer up a non-competition agreement so we are not making the same things for this new economy. Are you game Sir?

“Don’t answer now. Talk to Travis and Monroe and get back to me. This will help us all in ways you cannot imagine. Think about it.”

Ten Minutes Later. . .

“Doctor Stuart? The Space Jockeys are agreeable to your plan. They’d even like to go a bit further. Send us the controls for three more and we will send you back two. Plus, as you know, I designed a small sort of flying station wagon. The Flitter you’ve seen Rocco and Historian bounding around in. We traded it to them in return for building materials for our planet-side residences. Well, it seems a lot of people have shown an interest in the Flitter and frankly, er, they would make a lot of money –credits, as it were—for us. They are, of course, not space worthy, just a better way to haul small loads around town and the surrounding area. We’ll give you the rights to it, as well as the second CNC.”

There was a pause and then Ash said, “In exchange for. . . .what?”

Dr. Hibbes could be heard clearing his throat and then Travis himself came on the line.

Travis said, “Let me negotiate this, Hibbes. Hello Ash, Time and manpower are at a premium for us here on The Rock and while it’s not much better for you guys down there, perhaps I could entice you with gathering your friends to put up our in town shack and our ocean front. Everyone is offering supplies to us in exchange for a Flitter but we just don’t have the time. We’ve got ships to build and other things to concentrate on. You get the second CNC as well as the six orders for Flitters and the rights for all future ones, and the credits paid for them JUST for putting up our humble residences!”

Ash said, “Just, huh? However, that works for us.

“I have just been informed that you will get a kick-back on the Flitter orders. ‘Patent Royalty Rates’ was the phrase that was tossed over my head.

Also, once our young firebrands realize what they are going to get from those CNC’s; your Roman Villas will be up in no time.

It is a deal Sir!”

A Discovery

Posted in 8. Eye of the Storms by The Pierce Family

Elana Pierce

I started the day not really expecting much. The past couple weeks have just been one day after another of drudgery with little to show for it. I’ve been scanning the surrounding countryside, expanding out from Liberty and focusing on any area that seems like it might have useful minerals. Of course it’s work that someone needs to do, and I’m the girl to do it, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious. I’ve always loved field geology, but all this pouring over satellite and aerial imagery is so…blah. Or at least it is when you don’t find anything. And all this time John’s been playing a pivotal role in turning Liberty from a camp into a town and Summer’s been out there learning new things and helping get electricity to the people what need it. And unless I’ve totally lost my touch as a big sister, they’ve both got something of a flame on the side too. To top it off, I’ve been having “those dreams” again, as John put it the other day after I had a particularly restless night’s sleep. All of which just made today the sweeter.

As usual, I had been getting a little help from Mark (Tilley – he used to work with computers, although mostly here he’s been learning to farm) downloading the info from the Rock and all. An hour or so after noon I was going over the data from the mountain range to our north when I noticed something odd. The densities over a several dozen square mile area were practically off the charts, with the center registering high enough that (at least according to all the geology I’d ever heard of) it virtually had to be a nearly pure deposit of one of a select few heavy metals. As far as I know no deposit even remotely this large or this pure of any of those metals has ever been discovered. After double and triple checking the data I finally convinced myself I wasn’t making a mistake. Well, there’s a first time for everything!

I punched my wrist comp. “Andy, this is Elana Pierce. Private and secure, if you don’t mind. Do you have a minute?”

“Ms. Pierce, of course,” came the reply. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I found some interesting up in the mountains that I think Strike Force Alchibah might be interested in at some point.”

“I’ll be right over.”

Ten minutes later…

I was just wrapping up my little presentation to the Col.

“So it’s virtually got to be tungsten, platinum, gold, uranium or one of only a couple other metals. It doesn’t look like it’s gonna take too much processing, so I thought it might make for some good high density ammunition. I only requested private and secure because, well, despite it being virtually worthless as a commodity I’m sure at least a few people would get pretty excited if they knew there might be about a zillion tons of precious metals just laying there for the taking.”

“Good thinking. The Council’s got to know of course, but the last thing we need is people grabbing picks and shovels and heading for the hills when there’s real work to be done.”

“My thoughts exactly Colonel.”

“Well,” Stuart said, “as we are going to be business partners; might as well make it Andy.

“Strike Force will prove up the claim for you for a portion of any Tungsten found as well as first dibs on that Tungsten. Then Andrews Tool and Die will offer a very competitive bid for the rest.”

“Why?” asked Elana.

“Without Tungsten it’s awfully hard to make Tungsten-Carbide Steel. That is essential for Tool and Die manufacture as well as Vacuum proof Weapons barrels.”

“Well then, assuming that’s what out there, you’re in business,’ was my reply.

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.