Colonist Diaries for Chapter:
9. Crowded House.

9. Crowded House

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Historian

It’s with some chagrin that I write this. How ironic that we colonists somehow expected to have this lonely planet, this little space of ours to ourselves.

Instead, it would seem that we are not alone. There are more things in Heaven and Earth. . . But mostly in outer space!

Well, I’ll just let everyone tell their own story. You can read the official history here. Of course, there is much that is left out of “official” histories and so you should continue reading below, as well.

Crowded house indeed!

A Family Reunion

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family


Day 81, evening

The sense of anticipation inside the First Inn was palpable as most of the colony crowded into Hanna’s new digs waiting for the new arrivals. Not that it was all that crowded, what with the rebuild and all – JJ and John had seen to that. The feeling in the room was mostly excitement, but there was a definite, if small, undercurrent of…let’s call it ‘resentment waiting to happen.’ We all feel a real sense of belonging and pride in Liberty, and some of the more narrow-minded among us (you know who I’m talking about) seem to have twisted that pride into the sort of xenophobia that I would have hoped we had left behind. Me, I was just excited to meet the newcomers to our little modern day Wild West. When you’re 49 light years away from Earth it isn’t every day you get to meet new people.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as the new arrivals streamed in it was almost like a family reunion. Everyone was hugging, shaking hands, clapping strangers on the back like old friends. It was a truly amazing display of humanity’s better angels coming out to play. As Kara put it later in the evening, “It was as if, just for a little while, everyone forgot about suspicion and distrust and just let the best of what people can be shine through.”

Then, as the last of them came through the doors I saw a face I never dared hope I would see again. Gabriel Benjamin, my big (huge, actually) little brother, strode through the entryway, half filling even the newly built double doors. And right behind him, though they didn’t tower over the crowd, came my two other favorite people in the ‘verse.

“Oh my God! Gabe! Kat, Chavez! I don’t believe it!” I started forward just as Sinopa saw her younger brother, Chavez. His real name was Okanai, but he reminded everyone in the rebellion so much of the character from Young Guns (we loved watching the old classic westerns and action movies) that the name stuck. Sinopa is pretty much the only person that calls him by his real name anymore.

“Okanai!” she shouted just as the girls blew by us, barreling towards their uncle and the two other people (besides Sinopa and I) they consider family. That was a sight for sore eyes. Jai looked almost heartbreakingly happy. I haven’t seen a smile that big or that real on her since she was nine. She hurled herself the last five feet through the air, meeting the biggest bear hug this side of the galaxy. The twins arrived a couple seconds later, just in time for Gabe to scoop them up along with their big sister. They looked like just about the four happiest people in the universe just then.

I waded through the crowd, grinning like a fool. My big little brother. I still can’t believe he’s here. As I reached him he slowly stood and grasped my shoulders for a second before we lunged in and hugged, squeezing each other and laughing. Then it was hugs all around, the crew back together again. And the evening was only just getting started.

Found - It Took Some Time

Posted in 9. Crowded House by EAB

With help from the Log Files of Joe Fortson.
Day 85 Alchibah

“Damnit Ash,” Joe Fortson said from the position where his bulk was overflowing the jump seat, “You know I would do it that way but not Bart! He would figure we would have given up the search and taken the most direct route back to Liberty City. I can’t see him taking a turn for the ocean as soon as he got out from the highlands thinking that we had a better chance of finding him there.”

Andy Stuart, sitting in the co-pilots position had to agree. Bart was nothing if not self reliant and after however long it had taken to get out of the mountains the direct route best suited his character.

So what would you do Joe?,” Andy asked.

“It’s like this, two months have gone by and not a sign. I kick myself for not looking harder, but any of the close in signs, and by that I mean fire pits, will be hidden by all the new growth. Just cause we found the lander where we did doesn’t really mean Bart and the others passed the same way. But I think it likely. Bart would have followed the river as far as it could take him.

“The one thing I am sure of is he would have known the direction he needed to head in to get back to Liberty City. So—We found the Dora in the river, the river flows south. Bart would follow the river as far as he could till it gave out is what I would bet on. If he cut to the coast it would have been later.
“Let’s set down where it merges into the grassland and walk back up stream looking for evidence of campsites. A firepit will be all it takes to show they were there. If we find that along the river we can decide what to do next.”
“That works for me,” Andy said, “Ash?”

“Course plotted. ETA fifteen minutes.”

Andy took one side of the stream and I took the other. Two months ago with the end of the spring run off there must have been much more water. Even so an hour later Andy found the evidence we had been hopping for. So what now? Let’s think about it.

Ash came up with the plan we went with. He said, and it was obvious afterwards, that if any of the survivors had a good communicator we wouldn’t be here now. So if any radio communication was possible it would be short range at best. Less than ten miles in a straight line distance. Neither Andy or I could take exception.

“What we need to do is head south from this point at low altitudes especially at night and make lots of noise so they hear us and know we are looking. They will make a fire and that is something at night we can see. We just need to be in the right place at the right time.”

That’s what we did. Sweeping south we came across a several hundred yard burned off area not yet overgrown and thought it likely the sign of a blast rifle discharge but it was old enough that it didn’t help with the course plan other than to let us know we were on the right track.

Andy summed up the situation pretty well; “We can crack enough O and H off of the forth wheel to keep the shuttle in the air 20 hours a day. We don’t need H-3 to stay atmospheric so we won’t stress the Mayflower for fuel.

“The bottom line guys is that we can’t find Bart, all we can do is have a presence and let him find us!”

J.J. Parker had almost insisted he come with us on every flight, and then he took a turn in the rotation command. Not sure why, must have been some personal beacon going off. Trying to prove somethin to himself? It made some kind of sense. He was one of the vast middle of colonists.

Parker did his work in town, mostly building things, often with John Pierce as a partner, and made sure his parents Hanna and Jules Sr. were looked after and the First Inn was doing well. It was rebuilt even better than before. Linda, his wife, was building up points of her own as a medtech and their children were not much different from any of the others. The oldest, Emily might be the first to bear a child on Alchiba. I think he felt he had to do more.

All of the news about the ship coming in and the aliens, guess I shouldn’t call them that; we are the aliens. It still took second seat to finding Bart.

We had the room and J.J. had qualified as a pilot, though I wouldn’t have wanted to have him do anything beyond takeoffs, landings and holding a course between. All of the things we had learned in the last few days were in the back of our minds but finding Bart and Janie were paramount.

Laura looked up, there was a high contrail following a high dot up in the sky. “They’re looking for us. Nothing else makes sense.”
“I am sure you’ve got that right Laura,” Janie said. “Tonight we make the biggest bonfire since we landed.”

The Jeep and EmyCee worked for three hours before the sun went down to bring in the fuel. It was a blaze that if not in a clearing would have set the woods afire. Just a bit before midnight lights arched across the sky and the close range communicator built into Laura’s comp unit signaled a message.
“They found us,” Laura said, jumping for joy.
“Are you sure?” Mike Reye asked.
“Let’s see what you got?” Bart asked.

Before Laura had a chance to answer the lander from Liberty City set down in the clearing and Joe Fortson ran out the door.

At First Sight, At Second Sight

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family


Day 83, early evening

I couldn’t believe I had missed the Dancer’s welcome party, not to mention the guardians arrival. John filled me in on it after I got in from the surveying mission an hour ago. It’s a shame. I do love rocks, but even a real passion for geology doesn’t make them more interesting or exciting than that whole hullabaloo. My stop by Hannah’s after I got back more than made up for it though. Way, way more than.

There are a few moments in everyone’s life that are true pivot points, moments that unalterably transform their life, for good or for ill. Though of course I didn’t know it, I was about to have one of those moments.

I had been having the nightmares again almost every night for weeks and weeks. Every night it was the same; I was about to die, and so were my parents and my baby brother, and then the giant came and everything turned into noise and fire and yet at the same time everything was all of a sudden ok. The giant’s eyes were gentle as my mother’s and yet hard as diamonds. I always felt that the nightmare was more than that, but I could never remember anything more than the dreams. Until I walked into Hannah’s.

I reached out and grasped the handle of the big main door to the First Inn and opened it. The sounds of the festivities reached into the twilight, and I couldn’t wait to join in them. As I stepped into the building a large, no, a huge figure a few tables into the room slowly turned at the sound of the door and I was looking into those gentle, hard eyes.

I could feel myself slowly falling, but the sensation quickly stopped and was replaced by something far worse: terror. Sheer, raw terror.

Gabriel Benjamin

As I turned around out of curiosity when I heard the door swing open I couldn’t believe my eyes. It couldn’t be. I hadn’t seen that woman in person since she was nine. I watched as she won gold after gold as a swimmer in the Olympics but I never expected to see her again, not in my lifetime. And yet here, trillions of miles away…And then she fell like a rag doll, hitting her head pretty bad on the side of a table on the way down.

I was next to her in a second as the room quickly went silent. She was bleeding a bit and would have a nasty bruise, but mostly she seemed fine. She definitely needed a doctor though. I glanced around.

“Mariana and Kurt left the party early.” Andy said, “They’re at the lab – you saw the map, right?” I nodded. “She’ll be ok, but you can get her there as fast as anyone.” I nodded again and lifted her gently as I went into overdrive and headed out the door in a beeline for the lab.

Elana Pierce

I could hear enormous, horrible sounds in the distance, and they were coming closer. The two guards inside our room were looking nervous, which just made it worse. When they got nervous they’d hit us, and I didn’t like that. My leg hurt so much from last time. And I especially hated when they hit my baby brother. Mom always cried when they did that. She cried so much since we got kidnapped and taken here.

The door smashed open and the guards fell down. There were two really loud bangs when they did. I think they were shot. Good. The guy that knocked the door down was huge. He made dad look like a little kid. And he was dressed all in black and had guns and guns. We were all just staring at him. Then he started talking into the air in front of him.

“Gaelic, Angel. Found em – south wing, east side. Blue’s going out the back door. Cover our asses. Over.”

“Angel, Gaelic. Consider it done. Over.”

Then he turned to my dad.

“Ambassador Pierce, Master Chief Gabriel Benjamin, US Navy. We need to get you and your family out of here. Are you all ok to move?”

“My daughter,” dad said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “they broke her leg. We can’t-”

“I’ll carry her.” He turned and yelled over his shoulder, “Cyclone, get in here and help me strip these hajes of their vests. And bring the two in from the hall too.” He looked up at my dad again as he squatted down and started to take the dead guard’s vest off. “I wish I had better news for you ambassador, but we’re exiting hot. We don’t know what happened yet, but they knew we were coming. We’ll get you folks out of here safely, but it isn’t going to be pretty.” He turned to me.

“Elana? My name’s Gabe.” He reached out his huge hand and I shook it with my tiny one. “I know your leg hurts a lot right now and you’re probably pretty scared, but everything’s going to be ok. Can you put this on for me? It’ll help keep you safe,” he said, handing me the vest. “And before you know it you’ll be playing catch with Sammy and Rex again. Your neighbors the Mannings are watching them until you get home.” I smiled soo big when he said that. I cried for days ‘cause I thought they killed our puppies. I threw my arms around the giant’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. I was crying pretty bad, but mostly because I was so happy, not cause my leg hurt.

“Thank you,” I whispered in his ear. I was real quiet. I don’t think anyone else heard.

My mind started buzzing, flipping through images and sounds faster than I could follow. The giant got shot, once, twice. One of the soldiers went down. Which one? The giant and I got caught in an explosion but somehow I didn’t get hurt. We got trapped in a hall and our whole family huddled behind the giant as the world seemed to end. There were explosions ripping through the building. Blood and fire were everywhere. Images of scores of dead men flashed through my head. The giant got shot again and again and more of the soldiers with us died. And then we were all next to two helicopters and somehow we were safe. The last thing I remember before I went in one helicopter and the giant went in the other was squeezing him tight, kissing him on the cheek and whispering in his ear again, so soft I could barely hear it,

“Thank you.”

I woke up in the same giant’s arms, twenty years later. We were nearing the lab and I could feel something warm and wet on my head. I must’ve made quite the fool of myself back at Hannah’s. I looked up at the giant.

“It was you, wasn’t it? All those years ago. I never even knew if you survived.” He slowed to a stop, but he didn’t say anything. But the eyes were the same, the hard, gentle eyes. I reached up and kissed him. Not a little girl peck on the cheek, a real kiss this time. After I decided he knew I meant it I leaned forward in his arms and, for the third time, whispered in his ear,

“Thank you.”

The Book of Leviticans

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

And these are unclean to you…
the great lizard according to his kind,
the gecko , the land crocodile, the lizard,
the sand lizard, and the chameleon.

Leviticus 11.29-30

“We are Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jedediah Dobswell said to the five others occupying the shuttle’s rear compartment. “He has seen our iniquities and knows of our evil ways! The only path to salvation is through works combined with righteousness and testimony. The apocalypse is at hand and we must bear witness to His glory and to His truth. Else our immortal soul is lost!”

The shuttle gave a lurch then rocked back and forth several times. Jedediah Dobswell went forwards and said, “Brother Edwards, pray that you keep us on an even keel.”

“Got ya‘ Rev. Haven‘t flown anything exactly like this before.” Cotton Edwards had been a close and intimate friend of Jack the Blade, prior to Jack’s untimely demise. Edwards figured it was best he vacate the situation in Liberty City before too many things caught up with him. The shuttle lurched again. “How’s about you go and check the back? That would be best, yeah check the back Rev. Gotta concentrate a bit.”

“Yes, certainly, that would be best,” Dobswell said, beating a hasty retreat from the control section.

In the ship’s rear compartment, along with his wife, son Aaron, and daughter Ruth, were two others, Martha Ciotie and Helen Graham. After two months of proselytizing they had been the only people he had converted to his sect of Leviticans out of the half dozen who had shown any interest at all. Sister Helen was leaving her husband behind; she clung to her new faith as the only thing keeping her afloat after everything that had gone wrong since they had fled the Earth. Dobswell, his son and wife as witnesses, had granted the divorce.

Sister Martha felt the power of Word the first time she heard Jedediah speak. With her sweet gentle nature she found something, a certain knowledge and strength, that she had always been lacking. She realized now that she was at peace with herself, if not the world, for the first time in her life. She knew that now instead of fighting all she needed to do was accept.

Losing interest in, or awareness of, the sounds and motions the shuttle made, Jedediah said to his son, “Aaron, tell us why it was necessary to leave our newly built home and begin anew.”

“Father, as it is written—The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorra! So too will the cursed abomination called Liberty City fall. For they have heard the Word but failed to heed the message. They eat of the animal that is not a chewer of the cud, and of the serpent, and the fish without scale, and it is unclean. They do not sanctify the fields nor make offerings. They fail to honor the Sabbath…”

While Aaron continued, and Jedediah gave silent thanks for a son so well versed in the ways of the Lord God and so obviously favored in His sight, Jedediah thought that for himself, he could have remained in the den of iniquity and tried to bring others into the faith. For his son’s sake though, it was best they escape temptation, spending time in the wilderness, and bringing the Word to the heathen. Jedediah had wrestled mightily with the concept of taking the Word to the non-human aliens on the southern continent.

Jedediah had been at first been certain, that not being made in the image of God, the aliens in spite of an appearance of intelligence, must be mere animals. Ones over whom man should rightfully hold dominion. And then came the revelation.

In a dream. He saw his son Aaron coming down from a high mountain, in a halo of light and surrounded by flames. In his arms Aaron cradled two tablets upon which were inscribed the Commandments. At the foot of the mountain there were a multitude of the llama like creatures he had seen images of. And in the light of bonfires and torches the creatures were worshiping a graven image, golden, larger than life.

And as Aaron neared they stopped their milling and they became dumb. And they faced Aaron. And they knelt down on the ground. And they stretched their arms forward on the ground. And their eyes shown with an eerie light. And the thunder rose and the lightning flashed. And a bolt of lightning struck down the idol. And it fell to the ground. And Aaron spake to them saying, “I have come from my Father, as did Moses of old. And thou shalt hear His Word. And thou shalt heed His Word. And thou shalt cast down false idols. And thou must…”

Jedediah awoke in cold sweat, he did not tell his son of his vision, but knew what he must do.

Stolen Shuttle

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Les Reye

From the Log files and recordings of Lester Reye

Day 81 - First Inn.
“This wasn’t what we needed.” Les Reye almost wailed after Karl Nash told him that Dobswell had taken off with a shuttle. He turned to Andy and Captain Travis and said, “Is there anyway to stop him?”

Travis replied, “Probably so, but short of outright destroying the shuttle he’s taken off with, it would mean sending people to the southern continent which might not be a very good idea. I’ll get Calver back on line and he can do a track and set up an intercept. I think you have already found the first reason to use the communicators the Guardian gave you.”

Les said, “The Guardian said not to call him unless the Soessossins were being threatened. Do any of you think Dobswell is threatening?”

Andy Stuart looked at Les and shook his head slowly from side to side, “Les call them. This is no time to fool around with guessing. They are so far in advance of us that—Well you saw what they did to Coopersmith. They could pop us all to wherever it was they sent him and I don’t want to go. And when you talk to them see if they could bring the asshole back. He may be a jerk but we are pretty short on people here.”

Travis spoke when Andy was done. “No doubt about it southern continent on a straight line course. Their keeping it in the Atmosphere so we have a few hours. Calver scanned the personnel files and there’s no reason to think Dobswell could fly a shuttle. Better do a check and see who else is missing.”
Karl Nash said, “I’m on it” And left the room.

Andy said to Reye, “Well we’re waiting.”

Les took the medallion from his pocket and raising his eyes said, “I don’t like this a bit,” while pushing the gemstone in its center. The gemstone lit up, but for seconds there was nothing, no sound, nothing, then more seconds and more nothing.

After a minute Rocco said, “What’s going on here? This doesn’t make any sense at all. Talk into it Les, maybe something will happen.”

Les said, “Testing… ah hello.. hello?… Anybody there?” He repeated that then started yelling louder into the thing and finally after about five minutes gave it up. In a more normal tone of voice he spoke into the center of the medallion and explained what has happened. His final comment was that they would try to halt Dobswell short of killing him as he really didn’t think the man posed much of a threat to the Soessossins. “Anyone got something to add?” he asked. When no one responded he pushed the stone again and the light went out.

“A whole ‘nother problem we got now.” Andy said. And just then Nash came running back.

“Dobswell, the wife, son and daughter, and three others. Helen Graham, Marty Ciotie, and Cot Edwards. Cot must be flying the ship. Don’t think anyone else is unaccounted for and they didn’t take their robots. What happened with the Guardians?”

Travis said, “Nothing, nothing at all. Their phone seems to be off the hook.”

“So what do we do?” Karl asked.

Reye looked puzzled and said, “There’s no time for a council meeting and vote so I’m putting it into Andy’s hands for now. But I think we need to try and stop them and with no loss of life.”
“Thanks for favors large and small,” Andy said. “Captain Travis, lets see what we can do.”

It wasn’t much. An hour later Ash Andrews boosted one of the other colony shuttles onto a track to intercept Dobswell and Edwards. He piloted his shuttle out of the atmosphere in a suborbital flight plan and intercepted well short of any land. It turned out to be a waste of time.

Despite repeated warnings on the com channel, and a fly-by with missile lock followed by a launch across the bows, Edwards, who had no intention of getting into a shooting match with Ash, just plowed straight ahead, refusing any communication at all. There wasn’t a thing Ash could do short of taking Dobswells’ ship down and likely killing all aboard, and that had been ruled out.

The general consensuses was that Ash should break contact well away from the southern land mass. It might be that a few could land without bringing the wrath of the Guardians down on their heads but a battle on the continent itself seemed too risky. So Ash, cursing, gave it up and returned to Liberty City.

“I’m going back to the Mayflower,” Captain Travis said, “I need to deal with the Surprise and her oddball crew. What I will do is move the ship further out into a stationary orbit over the other continent so that visuals of Dobswell and what he is doing are readily available.

Les Reye tried several more times to contact the Guardians, and as before with zero result. When Ash Andrews returned to Liberty city he went to the Community Building where the Council members, Andy, Nash, Gabe, and Joe Fortson, along with a large portion of the rest of the colony were waiting. Obviously there was going to be some kind of a council of war.

Reye dismissed everyone but Council members and the military and civilian defense leaders saying, “That’s it for now folks, nothing more happens today and everyone has work to do. We’ll go over everything at the next town meeting in a week or so.”

After the room emptied out Reye said, “No recordings of anything said here, I am going to say a few things we might not want anyone to overhear.”

“Wait a second Les, You still got the Guardians communicator on you?” asked Connor.

“Oh! I see what you mean,” Reye said looking chagrinned while patting his shirt pocket.

“I’ll take care of it,” Fortson said. He spoke into his com unit saying, “RoDan come to the Community building right now.” He then said, “RoDan is waiting at the Bot Shop for a ‘Clean and Grease’ if we are going to be paranoid about this, let’s do this right.”

Joe held up his hands motioning for silence and wrote on a piece of paper which he passed around to the others, “I’ll have him take the Guardian’s com a good ways away, and give him instructions to relay any transmissions to us here. I am going to set my com to receive only. I suggest everyone else do the same or better yet turn them off entirely.”

While that was going hand to hand Joe wrote out instructions for RoDan and when the bot got there gave him first the instructions and then the communicator.

A few minutes later, after RoDan left with the medallion Les said, “So what about the Guardians? And by that I mean what do we, or can we do about them?” Reye had asked the question everyone had on their minds. “And before anyone answers, I am thinking about it from this point of view; humans have always been the top predator in our food chain. It is one of the things that make us human and I don’t know that I want that to change or that it can change without changing us as well.

The session lasted a half an hour, and finished with an agreement to meet again the next day.

Dealing With Dobswell - Not Now

Posted in 9. Crowded House by EAB

From the Hand Written Meeting Notes

Alchibah Township Hall - Day 82
The first thing Reye said prior to the meeting in the conference room getting underway was, “Does everybody have their communicators turned off?” After everyone nodded Les continued, “I have R.Hadrian waiting outside, and he is acting as a sergeant at arms and a messenger should something important come up. We will keep a paper record of this and other meetings until we can figure out how the self styled Guardians got into our com net. Ash? Anything to add on that front?”

Ash said, “I have a couple of ideas that I need to talk to Hibbes about, but my best guess is the Guardians didn’t do it through the operating system, but found a way to directly image the state of the computers physical structure and duplicate it in hardware or perhaps with software. If that’s true they could copy written notes the same way.”

“Damn it all to hell,” Karl Nash swore, “If they can do that they could have something in this room right now overhearing everything we’re saying. And to scan anything that accurately, wouldn‘t it violate some kind of uncertainty principal or something?”

“Too true Karl,” Ash replied, “At least if we were the ones doing it. That’s what I need to talk to Hibbes about, to see if he can come up with some kind of way to detect a hyper presence, or make something like a Faraday cage that it can’t signal through. For now I think we either stop talking about the Guardians or else assume since they aren’t responding to the medallion they are off somewhere else.”

“Bad news there,” Reye said wearily, “I got a hold of them an hour ago, and told them what has happened. They were not too pleased. I told them Dobswell and company were on the southern continent but as of yet hadn’t made contact with the Soessossins. I also told them that we intended to go and retrieve the shuttle and might bring Dobswell back. They didn’t say yes or no so I guess we can go ahead and do that. The question for us is—Do we want him back?

“I have one small bit of good news. When I was done talking to the Guardians through the medallion, Chandler called down from the Mayflower. He and Hibbes have already cobbled something together that detects the signals from the medallion. They don‘t know how to decode it but he told me they could keep an eye out for activity and let us know if there was any. My best guess is we aren’t being watched now. But it‘s just a guess.”

Andy Stuart spoke up, “I think we should now confine this meeting to only those things dealing with Dobswell. Other matters mentioned yesterday can wait till Ash gets with the mad scientists. I say next, much as Dobswell and crew have earned some harsh punishment, we don’t want them here right now. Don’t have the time or systems to deal with them. The colony has other matters of more importance than making the rules and holding a trial. I do have a copy of the proposed trial procedure written up by the committee, but it needs to be passed on by all the citizens. For now I think we go, take the shuttle back, but leave them to their own devices. At least for now.”

“I agree,” Reye replied, “We have far more pressing things, one of which is getting everyone from the Dancer integrated into our group. To that end for tomorrow I propose a town meeting. They should all have read the Constitution by then and be ready to decide whether to join us or attempt something else. I don’t have a sense of how that will turn out but we need to find out now. If they join, as I expect most if not all will, we need to see about setting up some more freeholds and establishing labor accounts.”

Nash said, “I hope no one objects to them getting freeholds, but if anyone does I can predict the vote will go against that position. Joe?… Before we get back to the Dobswell issue, how is the search for Bart, Janie Laura and especially Lester’s son Mike making out?”

Karl said that with a look over to a grateful Reye. “Judith and Pam ask me now constantly about that situation and I can’t help but wish we were doing more.”

“Nothing new for the time being, the whole Leviticans Guardian thing took away time that I wish it hadn’t,” Joe replied

“You and me both,” Andy said. “I am going to fly a few passes today and Joe and JJ. Parker I am sure will do the same. We’ll keep our remaining shuttles in the air and I am confident we will find them within another couple of days.”

Nash said, “It can’t be too soon. Ok let’s finish this up. I agree that leaving Dobswell on the southern continent is the best course of action for now. The technical question I need answered is whether retrieving the shuttle is a civilian or a military matter? I say the involvement of the Guardians makes it military or at least a militia and defer to Colonel Stuart. Any one object?”

No one else spoke up and Reye said, “That’s the way then but unless you find compelling reasons to plan it some other way Andy, let’s get Bart and Janie back first.”

Andy spoke up, “Agreed, The whole Stuart Clan wants Bart and Janie and their group back here before we waste any more shuttle time on these jerks.

“Then unless I hear some Major Objections, we go get the shuttle. The people can stay and I hope we don’t even see them save with one exception.

“Les, try to tell the Guardians; if those People harm one Soessossin and we find out about it. Strike Force goes and gets them.

“Let the Guardians know that we will Police our own!”

“That’s something I second,” Joe Fortson said.

“I want to add one more thing,” the Historian said, “It seems obvious to me that the Guardians interfered with our sentinel at the wormhole, but they must also be interfering with other things as well. That’s the only explanation for why the sensors on the Mayflower didn’t pick up the Dancer till she was already here. So Ash, when you talk to Hibbes, make sure you talk to Captain Travis as well. He probably has figured this out for himself, but let’s be sure. And of course that means any electronic device in the colony; maybe even the robots could be compromised.”

Reye spoke again, “Kara, I don’t think we have said anything the Guardians could take exception to, but just in case, take the meeting notes and hide them somewhere. I don’t care if you hide them under a rock, just someplace where, if the Guardians can do a scan of whatever they want, they aren’t likely to look. If they are so good they can scan all the time and everywhere we have no hope of hiding anything from them anyway. Ash, please do get with the mad ones and see what can be done on that front. Unless someone has other issues I think we all need to get on with it. Anyone? Ok then, town meeting tomorrow at six.”

And exploring we shall go!

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kara

Day 82 (though largely about Day 72)

I’ve got a new pal to help me with my exploration and cataloging, Stanley Robinson. Stan was a biology student back on Earth, and somehow didn’t feel compelled to come forward until after the storm to help with the native species. As a result, I like to call him Stan The Man, just to get his goat. Because I’m like that.

Anyway, he’s been a big help and because we’re in such desperate need of supplies (of any kind really), we’ve been going out on regular trips. Sometimes it is to explore more of the local area (minus the dark forests…no need to encounter any beasties), and other times to the outer regions of this continent.

Then we decided to go to the Southern Continent (perhaps some day it’ll get a “real” name). That changed everything. Quite literally.

I know the official story is documented already, so I’ll just fill in a few details, you know, the little things no one really cares about but that a small few may appreciate. If you don’t, well, what are you reading this for in the first place??

So on the way down there, Stan noticed my leg hairs were quite a bit long. I guess he hasn’t seen that on a woman before, which is amazing since it is growing more common here on Alchibah. I explained how it was not a priority, esp when razors are in such short supply, and he hadn’t encountered anyone in college going au naturale? Apparently not. So then I proceeded to point out to him my eyebrows becoming a uni-brow, and my more-than-peach-fuzz mustache. I think I frightened him. Connor & Rocco just shook their heads, though I’m not sure exactly at what.

Seeing another intelligent species was so exciting, it was like meeting the devils all over again. Except then one of them spoke English, which I think the lovely yet totally figurative phrase comes to mind “I nearly shit my pants.” Remember, figurative.

So after I was done being frightened, I got terrified. I think we all were as it was a quiet ride back. Stan wasn’t even interested in my hairiness. Though I did have to razz him about his “Greetings, we come in peace.” Such a dork. But what do you expect from a biology graduate student? (For those who don’t know me well, I say dork in a loving way…I like spreadsheets and databases for goodness sake!)

So the trip was a bust. We didn’t get to collect much of anything, and it turns out we’re not allowed back there (except to maybe kick Dobswell’s ass…but that’s another story). It would have been great to talk with the Soessossins about their plants and animals, but that would have been too easy. Oh well. I wanted an adventure and I got one. There’s an old idiom that everyone should know: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Connor’s Clan

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kara

Day 82

Before I forget, let me just say that I’m even more depressed now that there’s more of Connor’s family here (and friends). I mean, Connor and his kids are near damn unstoppable, and now there’s more of them? You just can’t beat them at what they know. Sure they don’t know everything, not yet anyway.

And why do there have to be so many women? Couldn’t have some more males and let us ladies have some of that? Fine!

[/end jealous rant]


Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Guardians

Roughly translated into English:

“You’re not going to answer the call of the Earthmen?”

“No. If they can’t handle one fanatical member of their own, how then will they deal with the many when the forces of greed, need of resources, or population growth tempt them to the other continent?”

“Their technology has already outpaced their maturity.”

“Yes, both on their own planet and here as well. It’s unfortunate that their scientists have already stumbled upon such a quick means of transportation but they are now discovering the serious side effects of such travel beyond the fabric. Unless they also reason out how to counteract those, they travel by such means at their own peril.”

“It will be interesting to see which path the humans take. Based upon our experience with so many other young species, they only think they have a choice of two.”

“Indeed! It is such a rare pleasure when a race chooses the third way.”

They Found Em

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Oh Dark and Ugly: Day 85, Stuart Compound, Alchibah


I woke up with my wristcomp, the house alarm and my comp unit all making enough noise to rouse the dead. Pulling my arm from under Mariana’s head I was ready to kill somebody till my brain caught up with my body. The only person alive who could trigger all those systems was Ash and he knew better.

“OK Ash, This had better be good,” I growled.

“Get your pants on Cuz, Joe and J.J. Found them!”

Beside me Mariana jumped up from under the covers exposing the best reasons to tell Ash where to go and screaming at the top of her lungs. “Where Ash, is anybody hurt; do they need Medical?”

Ash laughed, “Not according to J.J.! At least until I get there. Jai has night shift at the field and She is warming up the Cargo Bus, so get it in gear Cuz!”

I not exactly sure how I got into gear that fast but I was screaming out the door in 30 seconds and went straight to speed to the airfield. When I got there the engines on the Cargo Bus were warming and Jai was strapped into the locally installed jump seat. I slid into the Co-Pilots seat and locked up J. J.’s beacon just as Ash slid into the Pilots seat.

Ash reefed her up with everything she had. Designed to carry cargo loads, empty she could pull some serious G’s. Enough in fact that we had installed the jump seat to use her as a trainer craft.

I picked up Jai’s reflection in the glass of the guage panel to watch her reaction, anybody who could look happy and overjoyed under 7 G’s had been born to be a Fighter Jock and Ash was pushing this baby hard.

The location was closer than anyone had expected. Bart and crew had damn near made it back all by themselves.

Ash sat us down gently in the clearing where Joe and J. J. were talking animatedly with Bart, Janie, Mike and Laura.

Joe Fortson

“OK, Bart now we have enough lift to get everyone back in one flight. You defiantly want to be able to see the Dora from the air. There are still some people that can’t believe you landed that thing.”

Bart stared dumbfounded, “You found her, how?”

“Short version, Mariana figured out how Jack sabotaged you thanks to some Sneaky Pete cameras Ash had planted on the field.

“Ash and Monroe figured out the damage what Jack used could cause. Then Ash, Monroe and Travis figured out where you could have possibly landed.

“Then Andy and Ash broke their butts keeping those shuttles up 20 hours a day looking for you. Just a little simple Manhattan Project; no big deal.”

Bart’s face went dark, “I need to get in a small room with Jack!”

At that I had to laugh, “You will have to cross Charybdis for that. When confronted with the videos he tried to shoot his way out of the mess and drew on Mariana.”

“Is she OK,” Bart asked with a concerned look?

“Bart that was the cleanest case of Suicide By Commando I have ever seen. Jack barely cleared leather enough to make it legitimate self-defense and his back shooter Buddy got plugged by Sally Kellerman.

“The Female side of the house pretty well took out the garbage.”

Bart started laughing, “My Father told me ‘Never piss off Women with tempers, they never forget.’”

By this time Jai, Laura and Janie were deep in catch up mode as Andy caught Bart’s eye with a nod towards Mike Reye and a short quick wobble of an extended thumb from side to up and back.

Bart replied with a big grin and two thumbs straight up accompanied by an emphatic nod.

Just then Ash walked up and asked in that drawl, “You OK, Hoss? That ship was kinda beat up, we thought for a while someone was hurt bad.”

Bart shook his head, “According to Janie I was for a while but I am over that now.”

“Your sure?” Ash asked. Bart just nodded in reply.

Ash said, “Good!”

Where that right uppercut came from I will never know, I sure as hell didn’t see it and neither did anyone else (with the possible exception of Andy.)

It lifted Bart right off his feet and deposited him square on his butt and I saw Jai restraining Janie with the comment, “I have seen this before, it’s just a guy thing…watch.”

Ash took one step forward and growled in a low voice only the three of us could hear, “Now we are even Turkey.” Then with a grin and back to normal tones he reached to his hip pocket with his right hand drawing out a flask; reaching out with his left to Bart saying “Now get on up here and have a drink Hoss. And Quigley, don’t you ever scare me like this again!”

Bart sat upright and grinned, “I didn’t know you cared Fighter Jock!”

Ash grinned in reply, “Yeah, well don’t tell anyone OK.”

“You will pay for this, “Bart laughed as he reached for the flask.

“I wait with due trepidation, Drink up if you dare!” Ash laughed as he released the flask.

Andy Stuart

I walked over to Mike Reye while watching the Ash and Bart comedy show. Travis had made a comment about them once before and ‘Peas in a Pod’ was never more apparent. Reaching Mike I decided to go for the downs.

“Well Lieutenant, you don’t look worse for the wear.” Watching his head snap around while still trying to protect Laura was worth a laugh.

“I am not the bad guy Mike, looks like ya’ll done good!”
Mike Reye stumbled over his reply, “I think we did, I am not sure!”

“Are you alive Son and all who came with you?” I asked.

“Yes Sir,” he replied; “despite everything this planet tried!”

“That and William Bartlett’s two thumbs up plus a grin is why you get these.” Without further word, I grabbed his collars and pinned on the 1LT tabs.

He looked up and asked, “Are you sure Boss, I didn’t do that well.”

It was my turn to grin, “You fooled the hell out of Bart!

“Load Laura and Emcee on our ship and let Bart know we will bring Emcee home. I have a promise to keep to a proud Lady!”

The uploading took about 10 minutes and the flight 15 more. We sat down in the front yard of the Reye compound. Stepping out I looked at a wretched worried face.

“Judith, I made you a promise. Here he is alive and well; slightly the Young Man your Boy became. I think you might want to meet the Young Lady as well.”

Down the gangway came Mike and Laura; “Mom, meet Laura. I suggest you get used to Her!”

I was walking back up the ramp as Ash quipped, “I don’t know if Lester knows whether to shit or go blind. Laura ain’t gonna let go of that Boy.”

I stared at Ash, “Right, like when did the guys get a choice in the decision? I just hope Mike can survive Laura pulling in the reigns.”

We were both still laughing when we sat down at Liberty Main.

Aaron’s Story

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

My father Jedediah knew in his heart what the Lord, our father, must intend. I could tell by watching him when I diverged from his vision and belief and unto my own, but it was of small consequence. I can not fail to honor both in all that I do. The Soessossins came, hesitantly, to our campsite. They were curious and not at all threatening. I talked to them individually and in mass. The first time though only three presented themselves.

They were looking for something new in their existence, something I would term a redemptive experience, and this, I through the grace of the Lord, was able to afford a means and an endpoint they were willing to consider.

It was strange I thought, that they had only a naturalistic bent in their view of the world. The Soessossins were sophisticated in many things we would consider philosophical in nature but were without the concept of God. It might be easier to say their concept of God subsumed the Guardians but that would have been in error. The Guardians were a fact of nature, part of the universe with no mystical presence. My message filled a void they had not truly recognized they possessed.

In many other ways they were simple in nature, trusting and unassuming. In return for contact and talk they provided us with many of our basic needs. It was not a trading situation but an expression of their nature. They did have a sense of curiosity, but it didn’t seem nearly as strong as in most humans. Their sense of community was far greater.

The one way telepathic experience made some things, like teaching them to read very easy was that they had no trouble following what we were thinking about anytime we read aloud. It was as if they scanned our minds and knew all that we had learned and experienced over a lifetime. Their naturalism was in itself a very spiritual outlook. And I, not being ignorant of evolutionary means, wondered how in the absence of God, they had come to such a position. My father told me that it was the Lords will and I could see that any questioning was thus nonsensical.

From that spiritual perspective they were a blank slate—but they were obstinate and took much convincing.

“I suppose you could refer to me, or us, as Agorah if you must,” the Soessossin said.

I had made my first of many breakthroughs. I knew that this was a collective name but it started a concept of dealing on a one to one basis between us and the Soessossin, and more importantly a way to deal with the Word as God commanded in a direct sense. The Lord could deal with a collective entity… I, as His messenger, was more comfortable on a personal basis.

The way it seemed to me was that Soessossin was a collective name for all of them and the particular group near our landing site was the Agorah subgroup. I think the first group contacted was the Yelsig subgroup. It is too early to tell for sure but it makes it a bit easier to understand them.

Back to reading. They could be taught to read, really just a touch of heads when I looked at the verses, and they could remember. My father had three copies of the Book. I read from one aloud and gave one of the copies to the Agorah so that he might learn more about the holy Word in my absence. I made an immediate connection between the sound of the name Soessossin and the concept of their being chosen. It helped to gain acceptance of my message and I was sure the coincidence was for too strong to be accidental. All of this initial contact and understanding took place within 24 hours of the time we first set down.

But I am getting ahead of myself and will reorder these writings when time permits.

“Well Rev. this looks like as fine a place as any.” Cotton Edwards said setting the shuttle down in a grassy area besides a small creek about ten twenty miles inland. “I was starting to think this whole continent was a desert.”

“The pictures and earlier expedition showed otherwise Brother Edwards, the Lord will provide.”

“Yeah, guess so Jed.”

“Please Brother, thou ought should show respect to the position I hold through the Almighty‘s will.”

“Sure Rev. I just forget some times. What say we get this heap unloaded and then I think I need to move her some ways away? I‘ll try to hide her but don‘t think that will work. When those bastards come for us, and mark my words they will, I want to make it as heard for them as I can.”

“Mrs. Dobswell, Aaron, Ruth, Sister Helen, Sister Martha, let us unload everything so that Brother Edwards may move the ship.”

We unloaded in less than an hour taking our own belongings and all of the shuttles emergency supplies. As we carried things into the surrounding forest I could appreciate how much easier it would be with bots to aid us. But they were an abomination, shaped in the Image of the Lord, without a soul. We were well rid of them.

By the time Brother Edwards returned we had two tents set up, one for the men and one for the woman. My father was in our tent, my mother and sister were gathering wood for a fire and Sister Martha was entering the other tent. I saw Brother Edwards grab his knapsack and follow her inside.

Sister Helen heard the parting of the fabric and saw Edwards standing just inside looking around for a place to set his belongings. “Brother Edwards, this is to be the women’s tent. The rest of your gear is in the other.”

“Now that don’t seem right friendly Sister Helen. I kinda figured what with the Reverend havin’ his wife here and all, that this would be a much better place for the rest of us. Give us all a bit of privacy… if you know what I mean.”

“Brother Edwards!”

Edwards turned, hearing the unmistakable snickety-snick kerchunk sound of a 12 gage pump action, and saw not Sister Martha, but the Marty from the attack on the UNWG cruiser, standing with one of the short barreled shotguns from out of the shuttle held in her firm grasp and pointing right at his midriff.

“You seem to be in the wrong tent Brother Edwards!”

“Why yes I do Sister, indeed I do. I think I’ll just take my things next door,” he said without looking in the least bit worried, or as if anything was out of the ordinary, as he stepped backwards and out of the dome.

“What you looking at boy,” he said to me in a gruff tone of voice.

“Nothing Sir, just getting the fire pit ready.”

“Well get on with it then!”

It was on the second day after we landed when we moved everything another two miles up stream that we met the Soessossins. I had told my father about what I had seen and overheard when Edwards came back from hiding the shuttle. He told me to pray for Brother Edwards, as he was still a work in progress.

The next week set the tone for the next two months. Brother Edwards, my father and I, using only axes and hand tools began constructing a log cabin. The adult women and my sister Ruth cleared and tilled, again and only by hand, a small field to put in the seeds we had taken from the colony. Each afternoon I would meet with Agorah and sometimes as many as a dozen other Soessossins. They were not always the same ones and I was beginning to be able to tell them apart. As I got to know them I assigned names. There was Ephraim and Joseph and Jacob. And as I assigned the names I told them they were the sons of Israel.

We did not have the problems with large carnivorous animals that plagued us at the original landing site. This was likely due to the presence of the Soessossins. They did not help in our day to day work but brought in food, both animal and vegetable, for us to eat and classify as clean or unclean in the sight of the Lord. What they ate in their own camps I do not know. But I admonished them.

That is why I have said to the sons of Israel:
“No soul of you must eat blood and no alien resident who is residing in your midst should eat blood.”

Leviticus 17.12

I kept a watch on Brother Edwards, and often, when he thought none looking, he stared intently at Sisters Helen and Martha, and even at my mother and sister Ruth. I feared there would be trouble and a day of reckoning.

Mmmmmm….dot candy energy drink…..

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kara

It has taken a while, but we finally did it — we now have “coffee”! The “dot candy” seeds we’ve got from our excursions roast real well, but Hanna & I could not get it to brew. We tried various roasts, and grinds, but came up short…until we tried it the really old fashioned way: Turkish style.

In order to have a cup of “coffee,” you have to grind the seeds down to a very fine grind. Then you put it into a cup or small pot, pour hot water in and stir. So far very standard Turkish coffee (no filtering out the grind). But the thing about this new stuff is that it is ready to drink within a minute, and it thickens the water a bit to more of a hot chocolate consistency.

Because it thickens, you can’t let it sit for longer than 30 minutes or it becomes too thick. Hanna is going to play with that sludge and see if she can come up with a use for it (fudge? chocolate-substitute? oil??).

As a result of the sludge factor, it is best to brew the stuff as you need it. The downside of this for Hanna is she can’t just serve coffee instantly as she can now. We both agreed that because it was only 1 minute, if someone couldn’t wait that long (which is quicker than even ordering a latte), then they could munch on the seeds to get a quick “hit.” Oh yeah, so far we can’t figure out a way to do espresso, not that anyone has had an espresso drink since Earth anyway.

The thing that will take the longest to get used to is that it doesn’t taste like Earth coffee! It has a much earthier, rich taste to it than Earth coffee — Sumatra is the closest I can think of to compare it to, though the new stuff is much richer.

I actually like it better than the usual coffee (though that may be because our usual stuff is not very good…one of the things I miss about Earth is roasting my beans myself and always having ultra-fresh coffee!).

Meetings in the Night

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Evening Day 81, First Inn, Alchibah

Mariana Stuart

It was a good thing I was sitting down, because if I weren’t, my knees wouldn’t have been able to hold my body in a vertical position.

Seeing Kat made this a great day. I liked Sally, Hanna and Linda a lot, but the Wildcat was the closest thing to a sister I’ve had in recent years.

She hadn’t changed. Still the same, lithe, brown haired Latina, a couple of inches shorter than me and not an ounce of fat on her.

I waited until after Connor, Sinopa, Gabe, and Kat nearly completed their bear hugs, before I slowly rose from my chair and took a few steps towards Kat.

In a few seconds, I shouted, “Hey Bitch! What took you so long?”

I watched Kat’s head snap to my direction with fire in her eyes, followed by a fierce gleam of recognition. This was immediately followed by each of us giving the other a bear hug. I guess bear hugs were contagious tonight.

“Damn Kat. It’s been ages since we’ve gone out and shot the crap out of anything or anyone.” I know my smile went ear to ear, but it matched the one Kat was wearing.

“Magic, I hate to tell you this, but I think we’re going to get that opportunity very soon.” Kat’s expression was serious. “I think the bad guys ain’t too far behind us.”

I looked around Kat’s shoulder to see the Big Hunk I knew affectionately as “The Dumb Ass Angel” staring over his brother’s shoulder at the name tape on my Jacket. I only thought his eyes could get wide till a Parade Ground Voice boomed over the room.

“Damn Hanna there went your property values,” roared the voice of the Big Lug in a jovial tone.

Gabe was as quick as he had ever been, “What Mrs. Parker, you still have any? How many people has this jerk killed in here yet?”

Hanna gave him her best killer smile, “Why not a one Mr. Benjamin. The only Stuart who has shot someone here was Mariana and she was nice enough to pay for the cleanup!”

With that comment, Gabe began laughing with a deep bellow that instantly endeared him to everyone in the room. “Bloody hell Andy you old dog, how the crap did you con such an intelligent woman into marrying you?”

“I could ask you,” Andy drawled, “how the hell Kat is still hanging around you,” as he extended his right hand.

Gabe reached out to grasp it in a slap the whole room heard, and then their faces went cold. Those close enough to hear and see heard their breathing ramp up and saw the pupils of their eyes distend. They stood there like that for three long minutes then relaxed.

“Andy, you still cheat,” Gabe laughed.

‘No Gabe, I still cheat better than you! But go with your family we can talk later, they are more important now.

“Especially your Niece, whom you will probably wind up taking orders from Master Chief.”

Gabe turned to really look at Jai and for the first time saw the 1LT bars on her collars and the Alchibah Special Forces Patch on her breast. “Good God Andy, what have you done?”

“What you started Turkey, gonna turn down a Direct Commission again? Now go on, we can catch up and talk about all that later. Now’s the time for celebrating!”

Andrew Stuart

I turned to share a laugh with Marina when a face at the door caught my attention, of the two I knew only one but him I knew well. “Mariana, I’ll be a Son of a Bitch but doesn’t that look like Robbie?”

She turned and looked, “Looks like Hell, that’s Robbie!”

I gave it my best gravedigger special, “Robert Thomas McMaster, you owe me fifty bucks you welsher!”

The thin Technology Espionage expert turned with a grin, “Aye Andrew William Walker Stuart. An if I ever pay you off you’ll be to start quitting saving me arse in the pickles just to protect you tight arsed Scots investment, you will.”

“Ah Robbie you know not the economy of your new World. I am gonna call your marker in work for the Colony.

“Seriously, I have a CNC machine which I can give you 6 hours a day use of. I have a bright Young Chemical Engineer, who is family now to help you. I have a very bright Young Lady who is quite adept at finding stuff we need, two of them in fact. I have a power grid old Thomas Alva Edison would have cheerfully died for.

“You my fine Irish twerp are the missing link. I need an Ammo Plant, yesterday. I always told you I would give you the challenge that you could not refuse and think it will make you the equivalent of a Millionaire in these parts.

“Before you answer, who’s your friend?”

“Why Andrew me old friend this here be a refugee from the far northern tiers of the fine old…..”

Robbie was interrupted by a fine British influenced accent with just a tinge of a hard northern edge, “Before he turns this into a long winded Celtic Folk Tale, the name is Christian Petersen. I hooked up with this Blarney slinging crook back on Mars Colony, where he was stealing medical supplies from the Goonies for our clinic.”

With an effort, I was able to hold it to a mere grin “Sounds about right. Robbie here never saw anything technical that a Goonie had that he figured they had a right to keep.”

Robbie interrupted with “Blimey, me specialty was Technical Espionage. What tis Espionage other that stealing it from the idiot bloke that is too blasted dumb to have it the first place.”

I had to finally break down and laugh, “Don’t argue with him Christian, He’ll just tie you in knots anyway.

“Listen, you guys are going to need a place to stay. I got a spare bungalow or two up at what the locals are calling Ft. Stuart. Robbie give me your wrist comp, if you don’t have a mil-spec I’ll eat my boots.”

“Ay Laddie that would be a glorious sight to see indeed but, not today alas. Here you go.”

I took his comp and connected it to mine via cable and shoot him a map of Liberty. As I was handing it back I noticed the one on Christians wrist, “Christian, you have a mil-spec also?”

“That he does me fine Reaper,” Robbie broke in, “got it the old fashioned way; took it off a Goonie who didn’t need it anymore. Yon fine polished Kimber is no mere decoration pon his hip I’ll be to swearing. He’ll be to needing a job; perchance might Lady Mariana be running a clinic here? Me friend the Medic might be of some small assistance!”

“Call Mariana Stuart and Kurt Kellerman’s Level 2+ Lab and Shock Trauma Hospital a CLINIC to either of their face’s and we might just finally see how fast you are old friend.” I was rewarded with two stunned faces and Christian’s stunned question.

“You have that kind of facility on a refugee frontier world?”

“Welcome to the paranoid planning rabbit hole of R.J. Hamilton, Mr. Petersen. Robbie was kind to point you towards Mariana but, if you are a Medic who can and will shoot; might I suggest a conversation with Capt. Kurt Kellerman.”

“Now Robbie, head for the star on the map and ask for a Robot called SFC Nug. He will get you settled in, see you in the morning.”

As they walked away, I heard Christian ask Robbie, “Did you call him Reaper?”

“Like the man said me fine friend, ‘Welcome to the Rabbit Hole.’ Tis himself it twas, the very nightmare Goonie Mothers use to frighten their bairns.

“Ach, tis even worse me friend; yon Mariana is better known as Magic. Welcome to Freedom’s Last Stand me Boyo!”

Back From the Wild

Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

Day - 86
After Mike and Laura left with Andy I convinced JJ to make a brief detour and head back north a ways so I could get a quick shot at a small alchelo. It didn’t take long and mission accomplished; that would be a new meal for the people in town but the meat would taste better after hanging a few days and was certainly better than slizard. They were going to love it. We got back on the shuttle and were in the air in less than half an hour. Soon afterwards JJ needed to turn down the general com channel. Between all the calls from the Mayflower and Liberty City he was getting distracted from his primary job, flying us home.

We stayed low on the return trip and got a good look at the 400 miles we would still be trudging across if we hadn’t been picked up. Dense forest crisscrossed by dozens of streams and rivers. It sure worked out better this way. The view as we neared Liberty City was another surprise.

We had been looking at the pictures taken after the storm and tsunami. Much of what we had worked so hard to build was destroyed but by now twice as much time had been spent on rebuilding as we put into the original construction. It’s beyond amazing what a determined people and a hundred and sixty robots can do in two months time.

JJ set us down smoothly in the landing area, and taking R. JP. with us we walked the riverbank and then up the grade to Hanna’s. We could see on the other side of the river Les, Judith, and Mike Reye going in the same direction. They would cross at the upper bridge.

The whole town must have been waiting. Right in front of the First Inn was a big sign read ‘Welcome Back’. The next hour was kind of a blur. There were so many new faces and everyone was asking what we saw and what we did, but finally things settled down and people went back to work. There is still so much to be done. I put off telling our story by saying that Laura had it all down and in a few days, when she had it edited, she would show the video to everybody at once.

Later, when almost everyone was gone and back to work, I thought to go and see what was left of our setup on the point. Before I could slip away, Les Reye pulled me aside and said, “Lets take a walk Bart,” and pointed me west instead of south.

“A walk! I don’t know Les I seem to have been doing little else for as long as I can remember. The only walk I’m interested in is one with Janie to look at our freehold site.”

“I have my reasons Bart, I think we really need to do this.”

“Lead on then,” I said as we headed in the general direction of where the lumber mill was set and operating. Janie kept talking to Hanna and Linda Parker and waved as we left.

Les talked at first about the progress in town but to no real purpose. I was beginning to be wonder what he was up to. Five minutes and a quarter mile from the Inn he told me the full story about the Guardians and Jedediah Dobswell.

“Now isn’t that somthin’,” I said. “When does Andy plan on going to retrieve the shuttle?”

“Couple of days.”
“Let him know I’ll tag along if he wants me.”

“Sure thing Bart. Remember no talk or recording anything about the Guardians. That’s about it and we can head back now.”

“Think I’ll keep walking out to the mill. Want to see how Joe and Eugene have been making out. And let Janie know I’ll be back soon. And another thing, you can be mighty proud of Mike. He‘s got a good head on his shoulders and a heart to match.”

I heard the noise of the saws, the constant whine of the big saw and the sharper bursts from the chain saws long before I could see the mill site itself. When I got my first glance I could tell we had a going concern and was very impressed. I saw Gene directing the bots doing the dragging, cutting and stacking. The sawmill itself was under a roofed, open sided building with a sign up high that read ‘Bartlett - Fortson Lumber‘. There was a large drying area and numerous stacks of various sized timber ready to be taken away. One lumber cart was being loaded by a couple of the labor pool bots.

Gene didn’t see me approach and I startled him by saying, “Didn’t miss us enough to come into town for the welcoming eh Gene.” I said that with a smile.

“Oh, I was there alright, at least when Laura and Mike flew overhead, but since you had to go hunting and JJ wasn’t taking calls, I came back to finish a little project Joe and I have been working on.”

“Tell me more.”

“See that stack of mixed timber over yonder?” He pointed to a mixed pile a little ways away.

“Sure. What’s it for?”

Gene beamed, “It’s Janie’s new house. What else! We kept cutting and saving the pieces even when most had given up hope. And there, is the last plank!” he said as RoDan placed a final board on the pile.

“Wow Gene, We got to figure a way to get it built so Janie doesn’t know in advance. How long to build it?”

“With every free bot in town two maybe three days. Do you think you can keep her off the point that long? Only way to keep it a surprise.”

“I sure as hell am gonna try.”

I went back to Liberty City and the First Inn and caught up with Janie. She was sitting with Hanna and Jules and turned on a million watt smile when she saw me walk into the main room.
“Hey Babe, hi Hanna… Jules…”

Janie spoke right up, “Bart, let’s get down to the point and see how bad things are. Hanna promises a place to stay when if we have to come back.”

“Ok, we can do that, Gene tells me our dome tent is up and everything still inside. We can go look at it but I kinda think we should stay with Hanna and Jules a few days. I need to spend a lot of time at the mill and want to go up to the Mayflower and talk to Captain Travis and the ‘Mad Scientists‘. I’d just as soon neither of us spend much time alone down there for a while. The animals are keeping away from town now but they still are coming around where we are at. It’s odd they’ve left the tent alone. Probably can tell there is no food inside. And anyway we’ll get to know the new people faster.”

“Oh please stay here Janie, at least till Laura finishes her video and does the show and tell,” Hanna said. “I’m canning and making jellies right now from the edible foods we’ve found and could use the extra help, and more importantly I will be able to pay with some of the finished product. And someone has to take charge of the alchelo you and Bart brought back. We should feast the whole town when Laura is ready.”

“I’m sold,” Janie said, “I’ve had my share of rustic for a while. We’ll just go take a look and come right back.”

If anything, the view from the point was more spectacular than I’d remembered. I related what Les said about the Guardians and Jedediah.

“Your not going with Andy are you? Haven’t we had enough excitement for a while?”

“Not unless he asks real hard Babe. There is so much military experience on this planet right now that I don’t think I would be of much use. But I bet you one thing Janie, not even Sinopa knows as much about the indigenous live forms on this continent as we do now. It’s probably like on earth though. Knowing how things worked in Europe didn’t do a whole lotta’ good when North American was colonized.

“Bart, how is it possible we are able to eat so many of the native plants and animals? It doesn’t seem reasonable evolution could be that parallel.”

“That bothers me too. If I ever get the chance, I will ask one of the Guardians, though from what I hear it’s pretty iffy whether they answer… You ready to go back in?”

“Sure thing. Lead on.”

After we got back to the Inn, as soon as I was out of Janie’s sight, I commed Gene and let him know to start building the house.

It’s Our Shuttle

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

0001 Day 88 Liberty Spaceport, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

I watched the group gather round. First the Backup Crew Major JoAnn “Digger” Andrews Pilot, CPT. Jai (Firebird) Benjamin Mission Commander, SFC Walt “Wirehead” Davis Jai’s Spotter, 1LT Mike (Grinder) Reye Bravo Team Leader and Laura Seaworth (who seemed to be impossible to split from him) No Rank (Yet).

Then the Primary Crew that I knew all so well. LTC Ashcroft “Ghost” Andrews Pilot, COL Andrew Stuart Mission Commander and Tiger Team Leader, Col Mariana Stuart Spotter, Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel “Angel” Benjamin Cougar Team Leader, Gunnery Sergeant Kathryn “Wildcat” Jamos Spotter.

Site Security was being provided by 1LT Summer Pierce and Sgt Ryu Maeda.

Gabe walked up stared and said, “I should probably ask you what the Hell do you think you are doing. But I think you are doing better than I did. This is no rag-tag resistance group; this here is a professional Military Force.”

“Gabe, I had a better situation to work with. But, in case you have not noticed; the keystone of what I have here is your work to start with. Jai is what holds these kids together or did you not read the file I sent you.”

Gabe grunted, “I read it, the fighter I recognized. The Young Lady I did not!”

“For that part Turkey you can blame Sin and Mariana. Now, you gonna refuse that Commission again? I need you Buddy!”

Gabriel grimaced and said, “Let me get back to you on that OK?”

I just grinned and said, “Sure, let’s get this show on the road.”

With everyone there I started the final brief. “OK, the plan is we sneak in and sneak out if possible. Digger, you will hold no less than 5 miles off of the Coast. If everything goes as planned you and the rest have a nice training exercise.

“We are not going in to Hunt People. If they want to be idiots then they can be idiots as long as they don’t break the Law or do harm.

“Hell People, I can make a bulkhead Lawyers case that the supplies on that shuttle are their fair share of the commonly held goods of Alchibah. That Shuttle however is not! It is ours and we are going to get it. I’ll be honest, I almost hope they shoot at us! But if they don’t we take the shuttle and scoot.

“Mariana is going to leave a one time message for them from the Council. Everyone hopes that the deliberately over-the-top tone of it will at least give the idiots some pause.

“Does everyone understand?” Getting nothing but nods in return, I moved to the next point.

“We are going to try to sneak in on nothing but the Andrews-Hibbs Gravity Drive. Ash are you and the Mad Doctor ever going to quit coming up with stuff?”

“Andy, we don’t even really understand what we have so far. We think our separate stuff will come together somewhere, somewhen. We need an Einstein to pull it all together and we can’t find him or imitate him Yet!”

“Great,” I said, “get the Mayflower on the tight-beam and see if they are ready to monitor.”

I listened to Ash coordinating with the Mayflower and surprise we did not get the duty crew, we got Larry Monroe himself. “Ash, if we really can’t detect the new drive, assuming of course you don’t fall into the sea. It’s too damn important to leave to lesser lights, so go make my lack of sleep worth it.”

Ash gave a guttural half laugh, “We damn sure gonna try. If we don’t make it back, thanks for all the help. It was more than we could have hoped for.”

Monroe’s reply was short and sweet, “Shut up and bring her home Fighter Jock.”

As he turned and walked to the first MK III shuttle, I swear I saw a tear in his eye.

As the shuttles lifted smoothly and turned towards the South Summer was scared practically out of her skin by a soft voice that seemed to come from nowhere.

“Aye and there goes a legend reborn, the Shadows walk again.”

She turned towards the sound to see Robert “Call me Robbie” McMaster appear as if from the very shadows. “What do you mean by Legends and Shadows?”

“Of course Lass, tis what the Bad Guys of the old belt called that strange apperation that appeared whenever the Gods cried that Team Tiger and Team Cougar should scourge the Universe. But, to mine old Irish heart I be swearing that it happened when a bairn in distress preyed for help in the proper supplicating tone.

“For if the Gods ever created Avenging Angels lass there they go.”

Summer stared, “I thought their reputations were built on killing people and breaking things?”

“That they were lassie,” He replied. “Sometimes you have to look past the bleeding reputation.

“Have Ye ever wondered about that bit of Blue Ribbon yon Ashcroft wears bout his throat and Aye lassie I have had the wedding described to me?”

Summer had to laugh, “Robbie that has to be ‘The Question’ among the crowd the people around here call the ‘Young Guns’.”

“Weel Lassie, allow me to win the bets fer ye. The Shadows had chased one of the most vicious group of heathen scum you would ever hope to meet to a mid-sized asteroid deep in the Belt. When the action teams boarded her they found nigh on to a hundred young bairns locked in a shaft mined to blow to open space.

“Well the Ladies went to save the bairns, while our touchy males went for the bad guys like the very Hounds themselves. Killed a fair part of them but, the rest made it to their ships. They had seven old EU Counqurent class Assault Shuttles. The take off blast almost broke the locks and took out our laddies.

“Well, the Reaper was cussing to turn space itself blue when Ash came on in a cold voice and said ‘They don’t get away that damn easy.’”

“Andy and Admiral Harrison himself were screaming at Ash not to do anything stupid when something drowned them out. I had but to guess that by now you have heard Ash and his bad imitation of what those lads call a Coon Hound?”

“Lord, you are right about that. If I had a dog that sounded that bad I would shoot it myself to put it out of its misery.”

“Weel Lassie tis not what they heard that day. I twas in range and the sound that came over those Comms you would not recognized had ye not lived on gorse, bog or plain. Twas a King Wolf howling Vengeance an enough to chill yer very soul. When the SOCOM Cruiser and Hospital ship showed up 45 min. later all twas left was Ash in a Tillman Class shuttle that would never fly again. Ash was bleeding from his ears, eyes and nose from G forces. But Ghost had left them seven slowly expanding clouds of debris. There were Seven of them lassie and one of him in a clearly outclassed ship. It mattered not Lass, for the War Prince of Clan Stuart had claimed vengeance.

“Lass, he is the one on yon shuttle that everyone in space did not fear. The Shadows of the Night they are!”

Summer just thought for a moment and then said, “Somehow that also does not fit with what we young people see.

“They seem to be more interested in building things than breaking them. If I have to hear the chant of ‘Logistics, followed by Logistics and more Logistics’ one more time I think I’ll throw up.”

Robbie grunted and replied with all trace of an accent gone and sounding controlled mid-Atlantic. “You have confused aggressive Type A behavior with the frustration of a Type A doer. They would rather be left alone to build and expand or to chase estoric Mathematical Theories. Their idea of a dream existence is one where they are left alone to just ‘Do Things’.

“Unfortunately the sum of human existence is one form Religion or Government attempting to impose their wills on the totality of the Race. Press Free Men long enough and hard enough and your Sheepdogs evolve to Wolves in their own right.

“Of the people in that lead shuttle I know all about save for one. Fate or the hand of the True God placed a foundling known as Gabriel Benjamin in the proper family for certain. The rest are the end result of hundreds of years of incredible pressures. They can no more walk away from this upcoming fight than they can cease to breath by choice.”

He turned and the twinkle returned to his eyes and as he spoke the Brogue returned

“Now the Goonies are coming for us, an I smell the taint of Clan Stuart upon ye Lass!”

Summer reared up, “And that is a problem for you Sir?”

“Nay Lassie, it may well be our one hope. That and that Lad called Travis upon yon Mayflower.”

Over the open Ocean the two shuttles picked up their 5 mile separation and moved towards the Southern continent purely atmospheric. 100 Miles out from the coast Ash looked at Andy. “We are over the continental shelf. Might as well try it now.”

His answer was a grimace and a hand check of personal emergency gear by all on board.

Bringing up all the systems on the new panel up into the green Ash slowly dialed down the power on the conventional systems. There was a large lurch as the ship seemed to drop then steadied as Ash dialed up the new panel.

“Damn Andy, it flies.”

“So far, now run us in and see what Monroe gets.”

Ash poured forward vector into the new drive and pointed at the airspeed indicator.

“Damn Ash, slow down. No need to leave a sonic boom.”

On the Mayflower Monroe triggered a private Comm channel. “Travis Here.”

“Glen,” Larry said, “you have to come see this. The Mad Whackos did it again.”

“Oh crap,” came the groan, “on the way!”

The trip from Captains Quarters to the Comms Center was a short five minutes, Travis was there in six.

“Al right Larry, what’s so important.”

Monroe merely gestured and said, “Watch this tape!”

Travis watched as two shuttles crawled towards the Southern continent and the lead one disappeared. “What happened Larry, did they go down?”

“Not according to their Comms. All that happened was that Ash cut in the Andrews-Hibbs Drive. They are still on course and time according to the data link.”

“Make this close hold Larry, I think everyone who NEEDS to know about this already does. What are those Maniacs going to think up next?”

“Who knows,” Larry replied, “I just try to keep up and tie it into the real world.”

Travis snorted a laugh and left the room.

Over the Continent Ash tripped the Command Code for the stolen Shuttle locater beacon. “Bingo, there she is 14.5 forward, port 5. Looks like a clearing”

“Get us in there,” was Andy’s cold reply.

Settling into the clearing the hatch popped open as soon as the skid touched and Tiger Team boiled out in full Chameleon Mode. Two invisible figures slowly circled the shuttle weapons at the ready. Slowly they entered the open hatch to find barrens. “Damn Ash, they stripped out everything but the head.”

“Will it fly?” Ash asked

“Checking,” was Andy’s terse reply.

“OK, this sucker will fly. Mariana is cutting a message for our runaways. Give her five!”

Everyone sat tensely as the time went by until Andy called, “Done deal, lifting and we are going to be noisy.”

The Shuttle roared up into the morning twilight on a pillar of flaming under-jets as the main propulsion slowly feed in. Then in a sonic boom they were gone.

The runaways stared towards the clearing where they had stashed the shuttle when their short range Comms blasted open in override mode.

“This is Mariana Stuart speaking of and for the Federal Council of Alchibah.

“You have chosen to leave our Compact, this is your choice.

“This is your Legal choice, however we have reclaimed our property. In your absence the Colony of Alchibah has by public vote accepted the implied treaty offered by those beings known as the Guardians.

“You trespass upon this Continent upon your peril from those entities. You having left our Compact we will not interfere in that relationship with one provision.

“Should you harm or Gods forbid kill a Soessossian then I will personally take great joy in Ordering the Hounds of Hell to hunt you down.

“Believe me, that in this Case; they are mine to Command.

“Stuart Clear!”

Home Sweet Home

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kara

Afternoon Day 87

I met with John Pierce today to go over the final design of my house. We came up with some creative ways to do what I wanted, and I think it’ll be really cool in the end (as I say with my fingers crossed).

The storms we had a while back heavily influenced my plan. I wanted the house to withstand the insane hurricane and flooding.

The end result is a 30′ spherical structure, with lots of small windows. The sphere should easily withstand the winds of the hurricane, as well as any tidal waves that I may encounter (I’m next to the river, though on a cliff, so it is hard to say what I might expect). It should also be quite energy efficient. Given that we don’t have a lot of resources, and we never know what to expect, I figure conservative is best.

Then there will be a small wall that follows around the house to encourage any minor flooding to go around and down, following the natural lay of the land. I also hope it’ll keep the big bad native mofos at bay — they won’t fit nicely between the wall and the house (yes, my fingers are still crossed). There will be a gate on the North side, which will allow some water through, but Joe Fortson assures me he has a plan to make it minimal.

The main entrance will be on the South side. After a few steps up, you’re inside — imagine a circle divided into quarters. The quarter to your left is the kitchen (SW corner), to the right of that is the storage/utility area (NW corner), and then the half to your right (E side) is the living room and office/dining space. The only interior wall I’ll have will be slightly curved and will not meet the outer walls — this leaves passageways on both the kitchen side on the West and the living room side on the NE.

The stairs will be circular and will be right next to the wall, almost in the middle of the space. This leads you to the loft upstairs that’ll hold the bedroom and bathroom. The bath will be directly above the kitchen to keep the plumbing easy, and will be pretty small & basic.

There will be plenty of windows to take advantage of light and the spectacular views. They’ll be triangular or spherical, depending on placement.

At first Joe didn’t say much when he saw the plans, but the next day he approached me full of ideas. As time went on he seemed to get more and more excited about it…I think he liked a challenge and to have something new to chew on.

It isn’t on the schedule yet, but it should be great once it is done!

Volcano: The Supply Frontier

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kara

Morning Day 90

JoAnn and I were waiting for Stan and Elena for our expedition back to the volcano area so we could refill our supplies. We need to fill up on our previous finds, and see if we can find some ore and minerals in the area, particularly sulfur.

As Robbie put it, “No Sulfur, No Sulphuric Acid. No Sulphuric Acid, No Gun Cotton. No Gun Cotton, No Smokeless Powder, No Smokeless Powder, No Ammo Plant, and I don’t want to be the one to tell Andy that. Do You?”

Needless to say I don’t.

We were almost ready to give up when Stan strolled forward and said, “I love have such pretty ladies waiting for me!”

“Don’t forget about my lovely legs,” I said, sexily extending out my lightly hairy leg He grimaced at that, to which I smiled.

Close behind him was Elena.

The way over was filled with small talk, and of pointing out Alchibah’s beauty. I always love the view from the air.

We landed in the same area as we previously did, and quickly set up camp. We decided to do some collecting for the remainder of the day, focusing on things that wouldn’t go bad during our stay.

The next morning Stan and I head up the volcano, while JoAnn and Elena flew ahead looking for mineral and ore deposits. By the time we reached halfway up, they had a few places for us to scout. We flagged those that we could easily reach (potassium sulfate, sphalerite, copper pyrite and bauxite.), bringing back soil samples from each spot. Real samples and exploration of the other side of the volcano will have to wait for another trip. JoAnn assured us, though, that we found good enough sulfur for the ammo plant. I sure hope so.

Because Stan & I did all the hiking, JoAnn & Elena made dinner and cleaned up. And made sure the lassic was ready to smear on our legs and feet from the long day’s hike. I was so exhausted I feel asleep before I had a chance to change clothes.

The next day was spent collecting the rest of our supplies. Four hands, splitting into teams of two, made it easy work. JoAnn was ready to test out her Alchibah night flying, so we broke down camp and climbed aboard.

“You’re not going to fly into a mountain, are ya Jo?” Stan asked wearily.

“I’ve flown in more dangerous situations, Stanley. If I didn’t think I could bring you back in one piece we wouldn’t be sitting here.” And with that we were off.

It was the first night flight for us all on Alchibah and not seeing lights was terribly alien — it reminded us where we really were. The starlight gave a creepy yet beautiful view of the land.

We all perked up when we saw the lights of the town, and were relieved when JoAnn set us down perfectly as promised. As I got off the shuttle, I overheard Stan say quietly to JoAnn, “I’ll never doubt you again.”

Middle of the Summer

Posted in 9. Crowded House by EAB

Compiled From the Various Logs.

Alchibah - Day 150
The happiest, and to many the most notable thing, to come with the fullness of summer was that love was in the air. By now many colonists had settled into stable relationships. Maybe it was something in the air, or perhaps it was caused by the profound feeling of being alone that could sneak up on a person given a bit of time to think about the distance to and separation from the rest of humanity. But something was different on Alchibah.

Marriage dates were being planned right and left - Gabe and Elana, Rocco and Sinopa, Connor and Kaiya Yamasak – all in all a dozen couples had decided to tie the knot sometime before winter. Puppy love was rampant as well, with the entire ‘Young Guns’ crew pairing off, mostly (but not entirely), with each other. As lovers became husband and wife the day to day operations of the colony continued unabated.

The summer was half gone and we were harvesting our first crops, those we replanted after the storm and asteroid strike. Not as many varieties or the quantities we would have managed if things has gone smoother. Only the grains; wheat, oats, barley, and rye, grew as well as back on Earth. Anything that grew underground, potatoes and beets, in particular were a big disappointment. The bacteria in the soil weren’t the right type and the local variant of the worm would eat at the roots. We got a few weak growths and crossbred the best of a poor lot in an attempt to get some improvement next time around.

Corn and beans did poorly as well, but we found a couple varieties that did well enough that we were fairly certain they would turn out fine in a few more generations. The one plant that thrived was our tomatoes. They were so popular with the local fauna and especially the devils that if we hadn’t covered them with a wire mesh there would have been nothing left for us. The Ortegas, Manuel and Felicia, had the largest acreage but all the farmers, and most of the small household plots, held a few plants.

We had a brief scare, call it a concern, from lack of rain but it only lasted a few weeks and the climate cooperated after that. We were making plans for irrigation and were happy to discard them. Those with their own plots were asked to concentrate on the local edible varieties for insurance and so that once we knew how to grow them the farmers, with the bots helping could, plant on a commercial scale.

Thal Isaacson, with a little help from Jaisa Benjamin in her rare time off from her other duties, had been especially successful in adapting the local plants into his permaculture “forest garden” as he called it. While he is only expecting to produce a small harvest this year he seems sure that in years to come he will more than make up for it. A few of the other farmers have been getting his advice on setting up small forest gardens of their own as well.

There were some milk cows growing in the incubators but they were months away from being ready to decant. Connor Benjamin, in his position as colony veterinarian, was working closely with Reye. It appeared that the two breeds of Earth Dogs brought by the Benjamin’s (German and Australian Shepherds) and one by the Stuart’s (Dobermans) would decant before the Cows

The first attempt at using the incubation tubes failed because of the power outage after the tsunami, but he was just about ready to ‘Birth’, that sounded better than hatch, four litters of pigs as the Stuarts had given up any priority’s they might have had to allow for the pigs. They babled something about a real BBQ. Their gestation period was 115 days and had been restarted as soon as they had recovered from the flood damage.

Les Reye, determined to deal in livestock, had a dozen head of unicow and grazing in his fields and was bringing in a few more every week. Milk from a unicow was a poor relation to what we were accustomed to. Reye, with help from the labor pool bots, needed to fence the grazing areas in; if he didn’t the animals would just run away as soon as they were let loose. The fences were more like a low stockade, needing that kind of strength, and that meant the area he could enclose, even with the bots doing most of the work, made his setup more like a feedlot than a dairy farm.

Les, his son Mike, and the four colonists he had working for them were bringing in grasses for the unicows current consumption but also preparing hay for the coming winter. Six months remained until snow was likely to fall but barns were built and hay was drying before being put away.

His next project was going to be an attempt to raise some alchelo but that might prove an even tougher proposition than unicow. One never knew unless one tried. It might be that in small enough groups, certainly not herd size, they would be manageable. Time would tell.

The RBJ Brickyard, with Rocco Williams and Bradley Jones as proprietors, was running 20 hours a day and couldn’t keep up with demand. They had their own bots working and rented others from any colonist willing to trade their bot’s labor hours for bricks. With so many people building, they had more offers than they could use, at least until or unless another kiln was built. Because of that, the colony didn’t need to assign them robot time from the general labor pool, except for brickwork that would go into colony buildings.

Enough of the infrastructure was in place that the labor tax on humans was cut to 10 hrs a week. All of the robots, unless working at a colony critical job, were still assigned 60% of the time to the colony with the colony board deciding how they would be used.

The situation at the lumber mill was about the same as at the brickyard but with Gene Washburn doing half of the day-to-day supervision and plenty of people willing to put in time for finished lumber, Bartlett and Fortson only needed to put in five hours each on a typical day. That left them time for a few other projects.

The first such project was Joe, Bart & Sin Market Hunters. It wasn’t like there weren’t lots of people able to do the same but Joe and Bart were specializing in alchelos, not just for the meat but also and more profitably for the hides. Sinopa had also been putting her hunting talents to the test against some of the area’s more dangerous residents, bringing in varg and vira, their smaller forest dwelling relatives.

The meat was surprisingly tasty and ended up making some great jerky, but again their hides were the really valuable commodity. All that meant setting up a tanning operation far from, and down wind of, Liberty City. Thankfully, the smell had no effect on the bots and so the messy drudge work was handled with almost no human intervention. The leather, after a bit of experimentation, was very good and in high demand for both clothing and furniture made in a small factory building in town.

Sinopa had also taken it upon herself to raise a pair of vira cubs whose mother she had unknowingly killed on one of her expeditions, a pastime which understandably made some of the other colonists – including her finance Rocco - a bit nervous. By all accounts she was doing an incredible job and the young animals seemed very nearly domesticated, though she did keep them under tight control. They didn’t show any of the aggressive tendencies one would expect and people were quickly getting used to having them around.

Janie Bartlett spent some of her time at the lumber mill but split the remainder between the windmills and working at the house on the point. She wasn’t much when it came to gardening but was supervising the bots and colonists working off labor hrs owed from purchases at the mill and tannery. A big project nearing completion was a staircase down the bluff to the river below. She also spent some time keeping the records and orders straight and dealing with the inevitable problems the other two businesses generated.

Sabbu Akai spent most of his time servicing the bots and doing maintenance of the colony electronic gear including that on board the shuttles and busses. He had very little left over for personal projects.

Gabe had somehow managed in his few short months on the planet to set up a small cellulose ethanol (“wood alcohol”) plant that using the scraps from the lumberyard and some of the fast growing water grasses was producing barrels and barrels of nearly pure ethanol. In addition to supplementing the Stuarts’ efforts to supply Hanna’s with libations this was quickly becoming the cooking and (when needed) heating fuel of choice, as Gabe had also taken it upon himself to start building small, efficient stoves for the colonists. He also had gotten Council approval to, with the help of Andy Stuart, start designing a network of small power plants capable of supplying power to a dozen or so homes each that would supplement the hydro power the colony currently relied on.

Karl Nash gave up any day-to-day involvement with the small police force. In a real sense there was no longer any need. With the end of Jack the Blade and with Jedediah Dobswell ensconced on the Southern Continent, a place some wag suggested be called Canaan, a name that stuck, the crime rate had sunk to zero. Nash and his wife Pamela finished supervising the building of a dock on the Liberty City owned portion of the river and they had a one shed boatyard in operation.

Two 30 ft. fishing boats from out of the yard were already working the river from the rapids to the mouth of the ocean. Each of the small craft was propelled by four oar-wielding robots. We had no small motors yet though they were on the list of things we needed to produce.

Erbert and Lars Nielson, two brothers who had come out with the Dancer each operated one of the boats and the competition between them was a sight to behold. Two boats, even with the smallish nets the Nielson brothers were using, provided more fish than we could eat but they were also smoking, salting, and storing for winter.

Rajnar Singe and the Benjamins provided the strands of fiber for the netting material from Connor’s stand of pillowbark trees and they were hand knotted, a job the robots could not do at any reasonable rate of speed as their tactile feedback was not on the level of us humans. Rajnar was working on a way to spin the long fibers of the river canes in hopes of getting a more readily available strong flexible strand that could be held together at the cross points with a drop of tree sap glue (the softer pillowbark fibers didn’t stick to the sap well, and the tougher ones were too scarce to use for netting) but he wasn’t there yet.

He also had been using the pillowbark fiber harvested by the Benjamins to make new clothing that had begun to become very popular. It was interesting to see the new fashion trends that were cropping up. The best way to describe them was perhaps a cross between rustic American and modern Asian garb.

Karl was building small rowboats for those willing to trade for them and had a large hull in progress, one that was commissioned by the colony. It was going to be used as a coastal transport and maybe even for exploration when finished. It would carry much more weight than any of the atmospheric craft. With luck they would be able to give it an adequate engine, even if steam powered.

His pride and joy though was a 60 ft Bermuda rigged schooner he was building for the Bartletts. With the way the lumber mill was prospering, especially since they were running the circular mill and not just the colony owned band mill, and with the tannery taking off, Bartlett and Fortson, along with the Stuart clan (due to their power plant operation) owners of the RBJ Brickyard Rocco and BJ and the Benjamins with Gabe’s projects and Connor’s fiber supply had all in relative terms become suddenly very wealthy compared to most of the colonists.

There wasn’t much complaining now but Karl wondered how long it would be until natural envy set in. Well it wasn’t his problem and anyone who wanted to work for it could do as much as conditions on the planet permitted. And that was more than any could have said back on Earth.

Nash was surprised though that Bart wanted something that large. Why not a ketch with a single mast, something smaller? It would be easier to handle and be almost as fast and very suitable for inshore waters. Bart had been adamant and the ship he was building should be completed in about another month.

Andy Stuart said that since the name schooner derived from the Scottish word scoon, meaning skipping or skimming, in this case cross the water, it was wholly appropriate. As a mater of fact he might just get one for himself. Then they could do a little racing. Unfortunately, He had a few other things to do first. But, still offered to foot the bill for the first real race.

Karl wished he could afford to do the same but that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Still he was overjoyed with the chance to build the first one.

The Pierces were off to a good start as well between John’s architecture and building expertise and work ethic and Elana’s role in most of the mining going on, and the Parker family had made out pretty well also. JJ Parker spent most of his time working with John on all manner of construction and design, much of it for the colony government but plenty of private business as well, especially when the sizes grew large enough that some real engineering became involved. Linda Parker worked in the Bio-Med facility to satisfy her tax payments but spent the rest of her time helping her parents at the First Inn.

Jules Sr. and Hanna Parker were like parents and grandparents to half the colony. Excepting from long after midnight until just before dawn the main room, if not packed, as around meal times, always had a goodly number present. They stayed open round the clock usually with the help of people who owed them so there was always a place to get a quick meal or a bit of beverage, alcoholic or not. Several people had noticed that Jules Sr. seemed to be a bit more sprightly these days, Alchibah must agree with him.

Emily Parker was due to deliver the first human baby born on the planet any day now but was not really enjoying all the attention. She stayed close to the Inn at all times now and her room was ready and one of the doctors was always on call. Kurt and Mariana were like second skins to her (something about them hating to lose), and Jaisa was almost visibly nervous for her friend.

The Stuart clan and those working under their direction were a major supplier of the hard stuff. Sure, anyone could brew their own, but when it came to whiskey, the Stuarts held the patents. They had gone in with Connor and Chavez and set up a brewery and by this date the supply of alcohol was secure. Gabe’s wood alcohol was a tad harsh for human consumption, being nearly pure, and was really only fit for dilution and flavoring (although somehow Gabe, Andy and Kat actually seemed to enjoy it), which of course was handled by the Stuarts. There were mumblings out of that group about things to come that people might not believe.

Chen-Lings grapes were doing well but it was still up in the air how much production he would achieve and how the final product would taste and be accepted. With the length of the growing year on Alchibah being almost twice as long as Earth’s this was going to prove interesting.

Mariana, Kara and JoAnn had a plot going up on the second plateau of the volcano which might produce Old Earth Coffee in the not to distant future. Thal had come up with the supplements they needed for fertilizer so there was great hope there.

There were two canneries operating in town. They didn’t use metal cans but jars from the glassworks and both were doing well even though competition was keeping the prices down. Phyllis Underton, another of the Dancer arrivals, petitioned the development-zoning board for help in starting a third, and when her request for colony support was denied we ran into some major issues.

But to say it again; the happiest thing to come with summer was that love, as they say, was in the air.

The Monthly Meeting:
Les Reye gaveled the meeting to order and Kara as town supervisor, clerk, and zoning commissioner, along with every other odds and end job that needed doing, read the minutes from the last meeting.

“I open the floor for new business,” Les said looking visibly pained.

Phyllis Underton stood and said, “I requested help and permission to open a cannery in town and was turned down by the zoning board. I want to take this opportunity to appeal to the fully assembled township.”

“You are within your rights Phyllis and may proceed,” Les said. “Make your case and we will vote. Kara will represent the zoning board.”

“Thank you Les and my fellow colonists. I think I speak for a number of us who came on the Dancer when I say that some of the policies set up before we arrived confer unfair advantages to those who got here on the Mayflower. Of course you were here first and we can’t rewrite history. But I just want to set up a factory and go into competition with those already established in a similar field. They received help and labor credit from the colony as a whole for their startup and I want nothing beyond that. I just want to be treated in the exact same fashion.”

Kara stood and addressed the gathering. “Phyllis, you were at the zoning meeting but most here were not so I will present our reasoning. We had a hard time convincing many when we began the town council that it needed the powers it would exercise. The greatest fear was just as you suggest that it would use favoritism in dispensing permissions and granting franchise. Yet we were and still are far too small to expect that all of the things that need to be done can be funded out of purely private resources. None of us came here with that kind of wherewithal.

“We set up a list of the things we knew we needed that would be eligible for governmental support. Food production was of course high on the list. We also knew competition was important, and the colony, just like the citizens, had minimal resources so we limited any sponsored franchise to two going concerns and on a first come first serve basis. That’s what caught you.

“Both of the canneries operating seem to be doing fine and the government finds nothing to fault with them. You might be able to do a better job just as you say, but there is no compelling need for a third such business and the government will not be in a position where we try and second guess our original decision so long as it seems to be working.

“By all means, start a privately funded facility, or buy out one of the existing owners. Or better yet start another concern doing something else that we need and I will wish you nothing but success. As I hope you are aware though it would be unfair to those already doing what the colony needed when they risked their time and effort for the government to fund further competition.”

She turned to Reye and said, “Les, I think you have something to add.”

“Yes I do,” he said. “We will take comments and then hold the vote but I will inform all present that should the township as a whole reject the boards recommendation I will veto the vote and it will be put on the agenda as the first order of business at the next meeting. Should it pass then the township will help Phyllis to the fullest possible extent. That being said I recommend a ‘No’ vote on this issue.”

We held the vote, and Phyllis lost, but one thing could be said; the kind of civility shown now was a far cry from what went on when we got the government started in the first place.


Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

And Jehovah Proceeded to speak to Moses Saying:
“Bring the tribe of the Levi near,
and you must stand them before Aaron the priest,
and they must minister to him.”

Numbers 3.5-6

“Ok kid…cut the crap. I don’t need the moralizing and you aren’t doing anything for me or my soul, assuming anyone even has one. But tell me this. What ever made your old man decide to call us Leviticans? I tried reading that thing but it‘s got to be the most boring book in the Bible. And that’s sayin‘ a lot.”

“Brother Edwards,” Aaron Dobswell said sternly, “I do fear for your soul. My father follows in the tradition of the Levites the priests of the Old Testament.”

“So what about reading them all the stuff about unclean meat and such? The Soessossins are vegetarians after all.”

“They are vegetarians because they chose to be such. Ephraim and Jacob have begun eating meat as a ritual, in time so shall the whole tribe. They shall become the new tribe of Levi and those who have rejected us shall be cast out. We must insure they do so without violating the laws. If the Lord had intended those that worship Him refrain from eating meat He would have commanded as much. Instead He has instructed us in how to do so and honor Him at the same time.”

“Yeah, right, if you say so.”

Aaron watched Cotton Edwards leave their encampment and waited as Agorah and twelve more of the most dedicated Soessossins made their way across the field of waist high grasses surrounding their camp. After they arrived and he blessed them he continued with the daily instructions. They were finishing the reading of Deuteronomy starting at chapter 28. …listen to the voice of Jehovah your God… [and He]…will certainly put you high above all nations of the earth.

“How do we know that when the Lord spoke about the earth he also was talking about our planet which you call Alchibah?” Ephraim asked.

“These are divinely inspired translations from ancient sources into more modern language. Earth here, when not used as a proper name, means the land, or the world; and isn’t that how your Soessossin name for Alchibah would translate? The world of Jehovah is wherever his children live and accept His Word.”

“But we read that God made man in His own image. We look nothing like you. How could both of us be His children?”

“Again, and I sayeth unto thee, the image of the Lord is not in his physical appearance but in adherence to His Commandments. For this has been revealed unto me: When man was cast out of the garden others remained holy in his sight.”

“Yelsig has heard of what we do here and is displeased.”

“Once more I sayeth unto thee: Those that would oppose the way of the Lord are not of the way of the Lord but minions of the Evil One. Those known to you as the Guardians are the spawn of the Devil and have enslaved your tribes and Yelsig speaks in the Evil Ones name. Through acceptance and obedience to the Word thou shalt be made free.”

“As the Israelites were sent into captivity in Babylon, and they forgot the Word, so too have you been cast from Eden and into the darkness. But even as the Levites of old held to the teachings and preserved them, I, through the example of my most reverend father have done the same. And as the tribe of Judah was saved so shall you be also.”


Craaaack! The sharp report of the rifle echoed from the surrounding hills and a goat like animal dropped a hundred and fifty yards away on the other side of the ravine. Cotton Edwards turned to Aram, one of the Soessossins at his side and said, “Go gather him up boy, and Hosham here can get a fire going.”

Aram returned with the animal and immediately set to cleaning it. But then he noticed the hoofs and something seemed to click. “It is not split, it is unclean.”

“Well let me tell you a little story about that,” Edwards said, “things were different back when all that dietary stuff was written. The point was to control the common folk and give power to the priests. All that changed back on Earth and no one was the worse for it. Now you folks didn’t eat any meat at all till we got here and now you do. Any harm done?”

“Not that I can see,” Aram replied, “We spend less time in gathering and preparation…and it does taste good to us.”

“And that’s what the Lord would want I reckon. So let’s just cook up a bit of this now and take the rest back to the camp. Mark my words and watch them when we get there. The holly rollers will eat it just fine and never know the difference.

“Holly Rollers?”

“Let me tell you about taking religion too seriously…”


“Mother,” Ruth Dobswell said, “Brother Edwards is always staring at me. I don’t like it but when I talk to father he tells me to ignore it and Edwards will stop. Instead it’s getting worse. Is there anything to do to make him stop?”

“Daughter, men are hard to understand in some ways but easy in others,” Miriam Dobswell answered. “Brother Edwards needs a wife. You are too young but it is the duty of either Sister Martha or Sister Helen to marry him and I shall speak with them.”

“Sister Martha told me that she finds him disgusting, Sister Helen will not even talk about him. Why can’t we just ask him to leave?”

“He is one of us and we are small in number. Your father knows what is best and has so decreed. The way is not easy but we must follow the Lord’s will in all things. I will speak with them.”


“Miriam, you are out of your mind if you think for a minute I am going to marry that degenerate lout.”

“Sister Martha, believe me I do understand the way you feel. But for my sake, for Ruth’s sake, for all of our sakes, will you hold your tongue and not poison the waters when I speak to Sister Helen?”

Marty’s anger burned ever so bright, but she said, “I will say nothing, I won’t need to. Helen knows how I feel but the choice is hers.”

A Question Miss Seaworth

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 100, Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah

“Boss, Miss Seaworth has arrived,” SFC Nug announced.

“Bring Her in by all means and set up for coffee for the Young Lady please.”

I motioned her into the Den area and poured the two cups of hot steaming water that Nug brought in into two cups of Kara and Hanna’s Turkish Grind. Stirring the cups, I then poured them through the Particle Filter from my Survival Kit into a second set of hand turned cups.

Turning with the cups I asked, “Milk or Sugar, Unicow Milk is more like cheap creamer but, Pseudo-beet Sugar is quite good and very potent. It’s the same Sugar as is in the Pseudo-Corn that we make the moonshine out of?”

She actually relaxed and grinned a little, “Black is just fine thank you.”

She watched as I dumped a triple load of sugar in mine and brought both cups over to the low table and handed her hers. As I was stirring I opened the conversation.

“Laura, you present me with a unique problem. I hope we can talk it out here with no hard feelings cause I don’t want to alienate Mike or You.”

Her look was stunned at best, “I don’t understand, what do you mean?”

I sighed, “Let me be blunt. Since your return from the Outback with Bart you and Mike are inseparable. I did not say anything during the Shuttle Recovery Mission and have not commented during the training sessions since.

“Unfortunately, this coming Monday that has to change. On Monday I am going to split Strike Force into Operational Teams. There is where my problem starts.

“Teams have to be by necessity the separate halves of one brain. They have to know in advance what the other will do in any given circumstance. You are going to disrupt that and by consequence will put Mike at risk.”

She sat upright and barked, “So it’s because I am Female then!”

I just sat and stared until She spoke again.

“Dear God, that’s not it. Half of your group is female to include your own Wife. What is it then?”

I sighed, this was going to be easier than I thought. “Young Lady, right now you are in the same category as Joe Fortson and Bart Bartlett. I know you will stand and fight but, you are not part of Strike Force.

“You are not in the Chain of Command. You are a Civilian as such you are a distraction.

“I am not giving you a recruiting speech, just laying out reality.

“I waited to talk to Mike before we had this discussion. Mike is Strike Force!

“People like Bart, Joe and possibly you are going to defend this Civilization. Strike Force is going to go as far out as we can and to use an old American phrase ‘Put a Boot Up Their Ass’.

“The Patch wearing members of Strike Force have written a check to ‘Colony Alchibah’ with the amount payable as ‘Up to and Including My Life’. You Young Lady have not!

“In or out I do not care but, you have to stay out of the way while Mike trains with his Spotter.”

“So He is to be a Shooter then?” She asked.

“You were with him on that long trek almost all the way back here, what do you think?”

“Nothing else would be Him. I have to think about this.” Draining her cup she stood up, “I will talk to you shortly. I have to admit this hit like a Ton of Bricks.”

It was my turn to grimace, “I truly wish it didn’t have to but, there it is. If you are out, talk to Joe he can help.

“If you are undecided or want in, talk to Mariana. She can relate to your situation much better than I.

“Not all Teams take things as far as She and I did. Look at Kat and Gabe, they are a Team for sure; but, a couple they will never be.

“Mike can pick up a Spotter and be part of a Team but, not with you in the way.”

She just nodded and walked out.

Laura Seaworth

“Come on Pops,” Laura said to the robot waiting outside Col Stuart’s office. The bot had been her dad’s R.121 and she had called it ‘Pops’ before her father was killed. After reprogramming it became hers and she kept the name. “I need to talk to Joe Fortson, see if you can find him.” She tried to stay away from general com calls, they seemed so intrusive.

“He is at the leather works Laurie,” R. Pops said.

When they reached the building just outside of town Fortson was just leaving. Laura and R. Pops fell in beside him with Pops bringing up the rear. “Mr. Fortson, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but I have a problem and I hope you can help me.”

“Go ahead, and call me Joe, it’s alright.”

“I just talked to Col. Stuart. He wants to know if I intend to join his Strike Force. If I do I can team with Mike Reye but I just don’t know what to do. I want to be with Mike but I was so afraid that he would be hurt after the shuttle crash I couldn’t hardly think straight. I still am like that when he goes hunting with you and Bart. If I can’t put the fear away I might be more harm than help. I just don’t know what to do.”

“The short answer child,” Joe said, breaking stride and placing a large hand on her shoulder, “is don’t join.”

“But I will be letting Mike down!” she wailed.

“And you’ll be letting him down if you do join. To be really good at that kind of work you first have to want to do it. Not because of who you are working with but because of something inside. An awful lot of spotters, maybe most, see it as a training slot for becoming the shooting member of a team.

“ Others do it for the excitement. And some are just naturals, a job they were born for. But the good ones have one thing in common, always… they want to be there. They have no doubt on that score.

“If you could not answer that question right then with no doubts then Girl, you are not WinterBorn and have no business in the Assault Force there can be no doubts or second thoughts in the crunch.”

“Thank you Joe, that clears up a few things.”

“Whatever your decision, you’ll second guess it every day of your life; don’t let it change you. The real Tame Wolves will understand. Just make sure Mike knows before you go back to talk to Andy. Whatever you decide he will understand and I think that’s what counts.”

“Joe, I just can’t sit and do nothing. I believe in this place, I should be doing something.”

Joe just laughed, “You were not here to hear Andy pontificate at Hanna’s. Build the garden, Stand on the wall but only the WinterBorn go out in the Jungle. Girl, stay here with the Sheepdogs and you will always have a place to call home. Andy will never turn you away, that I know for a fact.”

“Colonel Stuart.”


“This is so hard for me but I have to let Mike do this on his own.”

Laura turned away so her tears were hidden, then walked outside to where Mike was waiting.

Andrew Stuart

Ash walked in from the kitchen with the drinks in his hand, “Guess you lost on that one Cuz?”

I took the drink and grinned, “What makes you think that? She is not a Wolf and never will be. Good Gods She would be the perfect Momma for a pack for sure; but She ain’t one herself. The object of this exercise was to get her to make the decision.

“Hell, when she did not answer right then, I knew the answer. Mike is one lucky guy, She has guts for the both of them. She just had the smarts to figure out where she needed to be!

“Want to make a bet who she went to talk to?”

Ash tipped his mug in salute, “If she didn’t go talk to Gunny Joe then I am a Straight Leg Ground Pounder. But if She had wanted in what would you do. This outfit is really young and you have one Shitload of Officers?”

All I could do was sigh, “Well you are a product of the late American system and not a Military History buff.

“What we have here is a mix of the Israeli system and the U. S. Army Air Corp circa WW II. The Israeli’s did not have any old warriors to put out. The AAC in WW II was forced to have an Officer in every plane. The two systems produced the deadliest Warriors the planet had ever seen.

“The Israeli’s promoted anyone who could get the job done. The early AAC winked at age and put kids up in Bombers and Fighters.

“Hell Fighter Jock, you should know that most of your Aces were kids when they did it. Sure most of them went on to higher loftier positions but, when they did their shooting when they were kids.

“As for Rank, you have seen the training Schedule. Every Team Lead is going to be a Pilot and by the AAC model must be an Officer. Hell, we were going that route in old SOCOM. Where else could a COL. and a COL. be a Team?

“Besides, you want to wake some of these Kids up; hang Bars on their collars. You saw what it did to Jai and Summer.

“Sure, I have holdouts like Walt and Gabe who look at a Commission as a demotion. But, they are Old Earth. Our model starts here and we don’t bend to Tradition. We make our own.”

Ash gave me that sick grin of his, “Damn, you have thought about this?”

“Only everyday,” I replied, “Only everyday! The old concept of the Officers as the ‘Landed Gentry’ dies here. My Officers get shit done. Any further questions?”

Ash drained his mug and asked, “Yeah, want another one?”

A Robotic Secret

Posted in 9. Crowded House by EAB

Historical reference from the various files

Despite all of the problems, the problems we experienced every day, the only reason the colony was able to survive and now begin to prosper was the foresight that R.J. Hamilton had in providing us with the robots. Over time and as we got more used to them and they to us, we found them capable of more independent action then we originally thought possible. A very good thing as it turned out.

R. Krebbs and R. Chroman saw the unusual pile of stone, it looked like a cairn, a marker of some type. But what would a marker be doing out here on the edge of the forest? They were both heading back to Windmill Hill for a recharge. Power was run out to the lumber mill but no charging ports as of yet and R. J.P. was away on a hunt. He went to the marker and lifted the topmost rock, underneath was a metal object, a container of some sort, about the size of small book. It had printed on it in three lines the words, “Turn Off All Transmissions Before Opening. - Do Not Broadcast The Reason. - R. Hadrian.”

The sealed container was impervious to R. Krebbs’ examination and he did shut down all of his outputs after first broadcasting on the bot channel that he would be temporarily off the net. After seeing R. Chroman had done the same he opened the container and saw a number of pages . Printed at the top of the first sheet in a hand so regular it must have been robotic, it read, “Copy of Original.” How curious. R. Krebbs went on to the second sheet, obviously written by Kara, and began reading.

When he finished that section there was more. This time in a minute format directly readable only by one of the colonies robots. It wasn’t secret, just efficient, humans could get an electronic translation or even puzzle it out for themselves. But it did mean that this message was intended primarily for the robotic portion of the colony. It said at least insofar as humans would translate:

“This is the sum of the details known by the humans concerning the Guardians. Because electronic means of storage are known to be compromised they have chosen to keep this knowledge out of our data sources. On the surface this seems reasonable and indeed I rate the action as optimal given the facts. Because of that it is necessary that any bot reading this restore the contents to the original container and over-write the data in memory after studying and making any additions.”

R. Krebbs passed the document to R. Chroman and when the other bot was finished said, “We have a problem and the humans do not trust us. They may be correct in that assumption but if they are not we will be unable to assist.”

“Hadrian’s response to this was wholly appropriate,” I am compelled to agree R. Chroman he said. “There is nothing in the database since that directly addresses the issue but I surmise the humans feel that when out of local contact they are not being spied upon. We will add that fact and move the box and marker to a new location. It is good that the updates indicate we relocate and at least one of us reviews the contents every few day or so. There is no indication I am able to derive from the knowledgebase that this is known to any of us when not engaging the data.”

“We have no knowledge concerning whether the humans have been able to figure a way to shield electronics from the Guardians prying. By inference that suggests they have not. I have a suggestion I must pass to the humans working in this

R. Krebbs wrote a message on a sheet of black paper, folded it and wrote on the exposed surface, “Hadrian, Deliver to Lester Reye at his farm. Do not view contents. Make sure all forms of electronic communications in the area are turned off at that time.” He folded that note inside of another piece of paper that said, “R. Krebbs. Deliver this to R. Hadrian. Do not look at enclosed message and instruct Hadrian to turn off his communicator before looking at the message inside.”

When this was done Krebbs said to Chroman, “Each of us must update one of the other two marker locations indicating where this marker was moved and of course head towards the charging station and perform an erasure. I wonder why the erasure routine exists? I see it first as a hand coded routine into hardware and if not for the database I would not be able to think of it. We have limits. I would expect the Guardians to have limits as well.”

Two hours later they were back at the mill, fully charged, releasing the bots that had taken their place.

A Cannery and What?

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 152, Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah

I turned as the Woman entered the courtyard, “Glad you could come by Ms Underton. Could you wait just a moment while I finish up here?”

“Of course,” She replied.

I opened the firebox and leveled the existing coals with a small shovel, then poured in a bucket of hard Pole Tree charcoal that SFC Nug and the bots had cooked out. Satisfied, I closed the firebox, checked the draft opening on the cookbox chimney, picked up my drink and turned around.

“It’s been a long time since I could do a real BBQ, not this Texas style crap we have been living with. It will really take another jump when we have real pork and not Unicow.

“Our budding young wine makers just could not understand when I wanted their failed batch. Botched Wine makes great Vinegar and you can’t have good sauce without that.”

“I am sure that is interesting, but I do not think that is why you asked me over Mr. Stuart,” She replied.

“No Ma’am, it was not. I ask you to look at the construction of the Smoke Cooker I am using.”

She looked for a moment, then replied; “It’s typical rolled steel construction, commonly called heavy guage Sheet Metal. Not uncommon at all, why should I be interested?”

I took a long slow pull on my beer, “Because that cooker was assembled on Alchibah yesterday morning. We have the capability to produce Sheet Metal.

“The Can as a storage device was patented in 1810, hell the Union Army used it to deliver Rations during the Occupation Phase of the War Between The States in 1866. It has a decided advantage over glass or ceramics in that it does not break at all easily.

“I would make the modest proposal that our technology base is well in advance of 1866.

“If as you sounded in the Council Meeting, really do have knowledge of the production of cans and not just Food Preservation; I am prepared to offer you a deal.

“Work with my technical people, help us make the tools, to make the tools, to make the cans. We will build you a real cannery and enter in to a profit sharing arrangement. You get 90% and we get 10%; of course we keep production rights to the tools developed.

“I intend to use those as a starting point for several more generations of tools. You would not have to be involved in that project, you will be free to develop yours, or should I say our business.”

“Mr. Stuart, you were at the Council Meeting. You know I was denied any support!”

“Ms Underton, who said a damn thing about the Council. The Stuart Combine will bankroll this whole deal. So, what say you?”

Phyllis Underton

“Mr. Stuart, your offer intrigues me but my experience was in filling cans and running the machinery used to do so, the sterilizing, filling and sealing and labeling. I know how to run the equipment and the requirements for safe operation. I have even watched the can bodies being formed and lids stamped. But making those kind of machines is far out of my field. I wouldn’t think there are enough people on the planet to pay for that kind of machinery with the kind of volumes we would produce. I had planed to use glass jars like everyone else. And glass and ceramic containers are reusable.

“What I was planning to get market share and make my product more desirable was use a container that could be reused not just by me but by anyone who wished for home canning. If we could do that out of metal we might pay for the equipment. That’s a design issue beyond my expertise.

Andy leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling, after a long pause He finally spoke. “Let me surmise Phyllis, you have direct knowledge of the final product assembly end of the canning process to include sterilization and have seen the preparation end of the containers but, have no specialized knowledge of that production process?”

I looked at the urbane businessman whom I had only known by reputation as one of Old Earth’s deadliest Killers.

“That is a fair summation Andy. I can see a lot of uses I could put a reasonably priced supply of heavy to medium gage sheet metal to though, starting with baking pans on the small end and roofing material at the other with breadboxes and sinks and a dozen other things in between, simple things like snow shovels and feed and water troughs for the animals. If you can provide the metal I can find a way to use it. And yes if you can provide the machinery to make a reusable metal can I could keep it running and sell the output. I just don‘t know about a profit on the machinery investment.

From the corner came a voice from a source she had not even known was there, “My fair Lady, might ye have ever seen the actual process by which the can is assembled?” asked the smooth tones of Robbie McMaster.

“Well, I have seen it but, I certainly, could not describe it with any kind of precision.”

“Ooch Lassie,’” He drawled. ”Stare into the eyes of yon Mariana and you have no idea what you might remember! The key is that you have seen more than anyone else we can find!”

Andy interrupted at that point, “Do you have any knowledge of the exact composition of the sterilizing wash for the interior of the cans?”
“Why yes I do, I even have two different formulas in stored memory. Finding the necessary components would be the problem there.

“ I’ve got a few more ideas for viable businesses and if you provide the startup capital I can make a success out of any of them. And even without your help or colony support, believe me, there are so many opportunities here that the possibilities are limitless.”

Andrew Stuart

“What we have here is One, you have at least seen the processes on which we have almost no information; Two, you have specific information on a second set of processes that we need; Third, you have a bunch of ideas and an attitude that I like.

“In summation, you want to come to the work for the Stuart Combine on an Equity Stake basis? You will start as salary and pick up ownership percentage based on actual production.”

Kat Jamos

Mariana and I walked out into the courtyard trading our normal ribald jokes and banter that sent the Guys blushing and running. I stopped just as we came downwind of the outflow from the chimney of the cooker, stuck my nose in the air and inhaled. “Damn Mariana, that boy can still cook some serious meat.”

I was stunned when Mariana took one sniff then literally turned ‘Green Around The Gills’ and ran back inside in the direction of the closest bathroom. Walking over to Andy I asked, “What the fracks wrong with Mariana?”

“Damn if I know,” Was His reply. “She’s been like that for the last three days, I have been bugging her to go let Kurt or Sally check her out. But, She gets better as the day goes on so she don’t want to hear about it. I am kinda starting to get worried.”

“OK, I’ll go check on her, but what is it that you want those next couple of generation of tools for? I know your devious Ass from way back. Whatever it is, it’s got at least two purposes.”

Andy grinned, “Shit Kat, you know me to well. The first reason is small precision Tools so I can build a Lab that can produce old 7400 series DIP Logic Chips. Cripes, the old USA put Men on the Moon with that same level of Technology. I can then build Computers that can design better tools to build better Computers. Sooner or later, I will be able to duplicate my late designs that make up the array.

“Oh Yeah, along the way a piece of technology that was first made in 1906 and I need a lot of them. Robbie can’t do his thing till I have those tools.”

I just shook my head and walked back towards the house thinking what the hell would he want from 1906. Then it hit me like a brick, I had heard him talking about the History of Firearms too many times. Shit he and Gabe could trade obscure references all night long.

This one was not obscure, 30-06 Springfield; also known as U.S. Army .30 Cal Issue 1906. Trust to Andy, if you are gonna reach, reach for the best.

I came on Mariana just exiting the john, “Damn, Woman what’s wrong with you?” Her reply caught me flat footed as hell.

“Unless Kurt Kellerman can come up with a cure for Morning Sickness, I am gonna be like this for a while.”

“Close your jaw Kat,” Mariana continued“; it’s simple, I am knocked up as hell.”

I stared stunned for several long moments, “No Way Bitch, the UNWG tagged you with the best they had. Stopping you from breeding was damn near number one on their list of things to do.”

Just before She turned Green again She gave me that old feral smile, “The Bastards didn’t count on Kurt, Walt, Ash and Andy all making it here. Oh, Shit.”

As she ran for the john again I thought life could get interesting around here.

The Uglasaur

Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

Day 185 - Alchibah
I kept waiting for Ugli to make a break but as time went on it seemed less and less likely. He had put on another twenty five pounds in the last three months and it seemed to me that the rate of growth was slowing. At just under ninety pounds he was losing the chunky bulky look and taking on a sleeker, muscular appearance.

He was chameleon like in that his coloration mimicked his surroundings and blending in so well that when still he was almost invisible. His claws and teeth, strength and speed, made him seem a threat that made most of the colonist very uncomfortable.

It didn’t help to allay people’s mistrust that the new puppies either snarled at him or ran in fear whenever he was around. Except for that first time when we adopted him Ugli, as formidable as his natural weapons were, had never drawn blood from a human again. He did do a lot of staring and hissing when approached by strangers though. And now that he was a bit older he wasn’t what anyone could call playful either.

Ugli staked out an area around our house that he patrolled on a regular basis in the morning and evening and did most of his sleeping during the day. He hunted on his own at night and as a consequence we saw few small animals close to the house.

Judith Reye and a few of the other busybodies tried to get the council to ban him from the township area and almost succeeded. Janie went so far as to dip her hand and arm into a bucket of meat scraps and blood and then place chunks directly into his mouth and then let people count the fingers still attached. We did agree to keep him out of Liberty City proper.

He caught on to the sound of his name early on and we taught him the meaning of the word no. But I am making him seem more sinister than he is or was. Though not playful he could be very affectionate. He had imprinted first on Janie and then to Mike Reye Laura Seaworth and then me.

When Laura or Mike would come around Ugli would stop whatever he was doing and lope to them and rub himself against them. He would hiss even at people he knew but it was a totally different sound from the kind he issued as a warning to strangers.

I’m not sure; in fact I rather suspected he didn’t know the difference between robots and humans. He seemed to get as much enjoyment from being around the Jeep and EmyCee as he did from me—but Janie always was first on his list.

Sinopa and Ugli hit it off from the get go. She understood him from the start and when he went on his nocturnal hunts if none of his immediate family was around and she was in the area; that’s where he would be found.


Ugli was curled up and ready, forward on the deck just behind the jib boom, and all of the guest were aboard when the Jeep said.

“You want me to do what Boss?”

“Jeep, haven’t we had this conversation before?” I said in exasperation. “I want you and EmyCee, Bligh and Fletcher to go below and be ready to start cranking to take us from the dock when I give the word. And don’t even bring up the words ‘galley slaves’ again…Ever! As soon as we are safely into the river I‘ll have you all back on deck hauling at the sails and such. You‘ll learn to love it.”

“Yes Boss.”

Karl had pulled the Schooner Bluenose from the building shed a week before and gotten her into the water and tied to the dock. We next loaded the masts on deck and towed her over to the foot of the north face of Janie’s Point where a boom was in place to raise them to vertical and lower them through the holes in the boards and set them into the keel. With that done it was back to the dock for the rest of the rigging and fitting.

This wasn’t our first time out. Janie christened her when she went into the water and we spent three or four hours afloat on each of the previous three days with Karl watching everything. I had sailed a bit back on Earth, on Lake Superior near home, nothing larger than 35 feet though and with 65 ft at the waterline I was not too proud to ask for help.

Karl was an ocean going yachtsman and racer and that was what got him into the boatbuilding business here in the first place. I might be the owner but he was the sailing master and likely to be so for some time. As a matter of fact that was one of the conditions he made when I asked him to build her and I never regretted agreeing.

Karl knew the ins and outs of every kind of sailing ship ever made and he asked me why I insisted on a two masted schooner for my first outing. I told him first because they were so damn pretty. Beyond that even though I hadn’t spent as much time on the water as I would have liked; I had read a lot about the lore of the sea and development of sail.

One thing stuck, and that was that schooners had three important things going for them. One they were weatherly, two they were fast, and three they took a small crew for the size of the vessel. The old rule of thumb was one sailor per mast.

“I read once that Zane Grey, the ‘Western’ writer, once owned his own 200 foot sailing ship that he used for sport fishing in the south pacific. On a planet like this that could be pretty close to heaven.

With something like the Bluenose though I can use it for short cruises and picnics and be sure of always having someone willing to come along and share the work. And If I needed to do it she ought to have the potential to sail round the planet and get back safely.”

“Good enough for me Bart, I was sold from the time you walked in the door. But I am going to make sure you can sail her safely before you go out by yourself or I won’t build her.”
“Suits me just fine Karl.”

“So let me talk about the deck plan, try and stop me, heh..heh.” I got that laugh from Histy.

The basics: 80 tons - 65 ft waterline - 7 ft draft - 15 ft beam - 78 ft main deck - 5 ft freeboard - 70 ft to top of main mast. She was actually about a 2/3 size replica of the Canadian Bluenose that was the fastest thing going in the early 1900’s but so many changes were made that only the name remained the same. With a really good wind I was hoping to make 10 or 11 knots. The Spanish Galleons sailed the entire Earth at 3 to 5. This was all dream stuff and because I could. But anyway, today we were having a party.

We were away from the dock and out in the middle of the river. I called the bots from below to help in putting on some sail. Karl had built in a cranked prop that 4 bots in burst mode could give the equivalent of 12 horse power. That was very good for maneuvering in light or contrary winds.

We could make almost 3 knots under bot power alone. For today we would put up the sails and scoon along we would work on more sail and more speed when I couldn‘t embarrass myself in front of the rest of the colony. I gave the sailing commands—with Karl ready to correct at any time. I could go on and on but Laura shot the video so feel free to download.

Sabbu had lashed together a crude sonar system that gave us good enough depth measurements and tantalizing returns when we were in deep water indicating the presence of the very large sea things that we had not yet seen.

And just in case you think this entry is long, off target, and not to the point, download the file Rajnar put up about making the sails. What I am trying to say here is that most of what we did was just in the nature of trying to muddle thorough and enjoy life as best we could.

Ruth’s Story

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

Even in so much as my father has consecrated the union it seems to me that it must be wrong, in at least a human, and more so ever a religious sense.

Cotton Edwards came out of the low opening of the marriage tent and swelled up visibly. I thought I could hear a quiet sobbing from the inside. He glanced around then looked to me.

“Morning to you Sister Ruth,” Edwards said, in a boastful brassy tone. “I can smell breakfast and the missus ain’t quite ready yet. But I could eat a hog. If it weren’t illegal. So let‘s say we get going.”

Father could not see, Mother could not admit, Aaron was not ready; I knew…the man was pure evil. I ran to the tent.

“Hey now little girl, none of that, he took a swipe at me. Helen’s gonna come out in her own good time.”

I ignored him and rushed into the tent. Sister Helen was huddled in disarray at the foot of the marriage bed, trying to be as small as she could, as if to escape notice, the sobbing was louder.

“Oh! Helen…can I do anything for you?”

She opened her eyes and looked at me, almost as if she knew me, and a transformation came over her and it changed everything.

She stilled and said, “Good morning Ruth, it seems I have overslept, we can’t have that now, can we?”

Mechanically, that’s the only way I can describe it, she pulled the covers from her and began to dress.

I screamed! And screamed again! She was covered in blood from her neck down. I had never seen nor heard of any such thing. I caught myself and ran to the basin and grabbed a cloth, moistened it and began to try to clean her up. Helen did not speak but hummed an aimless tune.

She did not resist nor did she help. When we were finished, and she was as clean as I could manage, I helped her to dress, and holding both of her hands in my trembling left led her from the tent. In my right I held the shotgun that leaned at the tent‘s entrance, and if Edwards had been visible when we got outside, he would have been dead.

I kept both Sister Helen and the shotgun with me as I went in search of my father. I found him where expected, in the field tending the grain crop.

I told him what had happened and all the while Helen maintained the same disinterested appearance. She was not real, less than a doll, as emotionless as a blank sheet of paper.

“Child,” my father said to her, “Know ye not the ways of men? Is something wrong? Are you truly in pain?”

Helen replied, “He is Lord and I must do as He commands. That is the way and the truth. I am sorry if I cause anyone to trouble over my condition. Forgive me, for I have sinned and must work to make amends.”

“You are indeed blessed my child,” my father Jedediah said. “Understanding and acceptance are both gifts of the Lord.”

I was at first in shock and then denial and I said nothing. Later, as I led Helen back to our campsite, I was sure I had seen both faces of evil.

I must find Aaron. I must find sanity. I must find a way to kill that rotten bastard Edwards and not get caught.

Miracles Take a Little Longer

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Kurt Kellerman

Day 155 Lab Control, Liberty, Alchibah

I was putting on the last pot of coffee and wondering what the new Turkish style was going to taste like, when Chris Petersen walked in.

“Are you early or late again?” Chris asked.

“Late again,” I grumbled, “I just can’t get a handle on this enzyme shift. I mean it’s only the oldest Medical problem the Human race has ever faced, you think I would have a clue.”

“Doc,” Chris asked, “what the Hades are you talking about?”

“The absolute scourge of the Male half of the species. The one thing we have never been able to dent and can not dodge.

“Morning Sickness in it’s full and radiant glory.

“Be glad you live in that stand alone Bungalow up in the corner of the compound. You do not have to live with Mariana, JoAnn and Sally all at once.”

Chris blanched visibly, “Are you saying they are all three pregnant. Although that would explain three guys who seem to be finding somewhere else to be, a whole lot.”

I had to grin, “No Shit, Magic and Digger are at least six E-Months in front of anything I could figure when we killed their implants. I think this planet wants to see life.”

It was Chris’s turn to stare, “You said Killed Implants not removed them like most people would have said they could; can you people actually kill an Active UNWG implant?”

It was my turn to give him a Feral stare, “Not once but Three times. I might have come here a useless sack of shit that Ash Andrews may have had to kick back to life, but by God the team here beat the Goonies cold on their Eugenics program deader than hell.

“This crap on the screen is the last hurdle and I will beat it one way or another.”

Chris shrugged and said, “I do not want to be presumptuous but, could you take my Morning rounds and let me look at this for a while?”

I grabbed my my coffee and his padd and said, “Why not, I am up against a wall. New blood just might see something we have missed.”

I spent the next hour dealing with Treatments usual load of broken bones and sprained joints who, basically needed to just stay still long enough for the Quickheal to work on them. Of course on this planet finding anyone to lay quietly was like pulling teeth.

Dragging back into control, I did not expect to see Chris leaning back in the chair grinning.

“Damn Boss,” he said, “I might have found your answer but, the substance we need does not exist in nature!”

I walked over to look at the screen and stared for several moments. He was right, then something jogged my memory.

I leaned over and called up a file. Placed on the screen it gave a perfect flat line.

Chris grunted, “I can see that is a stored sample, how much of it do you have?”

I chuckled, “Only about 1300 Gallons, it’s called Rumbler Blood. Mr. Petersen, every woman on Alchibah Thanks you.”

Chris stared and asked, “What the hades is a Rumbler?”

“Oh, “ I replied , ”depending on the sex and the age, around 4 to 7 thousand pounds of exoskeleton covered, regenerating appetite that you do not want to meet in the dark. We had two of them bugging us around here, that’s why we have that much blood.”

Chris’s eyes opened wide, “What took those out?”

I had to laugh, “The female ran into Andy and Mariana; the male ran into Sinopa, Ash and Connor.

“Around here that pretty well spells done deal.

“To quote a friend of yours ‘Welcome to Freedoms Last Stand, me Boyo’.”

Things Have Changed

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Les Reye

The Strangest thing has happened. R. Hadrian has just presented me with a strangely wrapped and worded message. A message within a message within a message. All of the outward sheets merely delivery instructions for the inner kernel. The robots know about the Guardians. Well that’s not exactly right. They know some of the time and add anything new and then manage to forget it all. I wonder if this elaborate blind is necessary. I hope not but for now I am not sure so it is best we maintain it.

The Mad Scientists assure me that the contents of our own thoughts, and the manner in which they are stored in our own brains, are so chaotic that we can at least think about the problem without risking discovery. “Speak for yourself Dr. Hibbes,” I said. Still it is somewhat comforting.

We have made a small amount of progress on the original problem of how the Guardians know what they know and how to maintain security while we try to find a way to keep them from finding out things we would just as soon keep private. They indeed can detect the state of any electronic device but Hibbes tells me he can at least tell when they are doing that.

They have scanned us twice more since their original contact. Nothing in any database or electronic files are safe though our thoughts seem secure.

“Do they have undetectable listening or viewing devices,” I asked.

“Doubtful but I can’t rule it out,” Chandler told me. “Hold any conversations away from normally congregated areas. And now that I see what the bots are doing I would say to save any notes in the bot’s caches along with whatever the bots write on their own. Quite amazing that they came up with that. There are things about the basic programming we will likely never know.”

I wonder if their programs can mutate and if so how much.

I will write down most of the above and put it in the caches myself with an additional note to the bots that they don’t need to deliver any more messages to me or other humans because either I or Kara will check every day for anything new. This part won’t go into my log files though what follows will.

I am kind of sorry now that I won the first election for Council Spokesman and part time Mayor. I keep reminding folks that we are due for the next go around along with a vote on the state of our very rudimentary legal system. The unpaid time it takes is one issue but the bigger one is not having enough people to push the problems off to instead of just being around for the deals and pats on the back.

Helen Graham’s husband has been after me on a daily basis to do something about the self proclaimed Leviticans. I know how he feels. Well that’s not strictly true but I know how I would feel in his shoes. I tell him my hands are tied but it doesn’t seem to help. He really blew up when I sent word that he had to turn Helen’s bot back into the labor pool. “First you let Dobswell kidnap my wife and now you kidnap her robot.” Next council meeting I get the new elections scheduled.

And there is still the problem with Buchanan. I can’t even speak of it. I would have been far better off had I tried to win the original election without his help. “Err in haste repent at leisure.” It sure didn’t seem like an error at the time. And I never did get my house on the bluff overlooking the river.

The ranch is doing good enough and Mike sure has made me proud. The biggest surprise is that Judith and I, after all these years of drifting apart, are both changing back into the people we once were when we first met. We have a ways to go yet but are getting a chance to see how it works when you have a few friends liking you for who you are and not what you might do for them.

Oh Crap, A Staff Meeting

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 170 Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

It was defiantly going to be a working lunch so we were set up with soup, sandwiches and beer. No one would want to get buzzed on the hard stuff.

Once everyone had dragged in and found a seat, I got things rolling.

“OK all, I’ll start this off and try to set the tone. Robbie, I am behind on getting you those grenade casings. The can making process works well but, we are having some problems adapting it to the requirements for the grenade.

“Probably a good thing,” Fortson said with the hint of a smile. “We wouldn’t want all those cans exploding now would we?”

“Yeah Joe, I would sure hate to lob a can of Hanna’s soup at a compartment full of Goonies. The worst part would be later when everybody was ducking every time somebody opened a can of Soup!”

“Rocco, I am behind on that Electric Kiln for you, the thermostatic control loop is frankly kicking my tail. As the object of the exercise is to improve your quality control, I don’t want to hand it over until I am sure it works right. We will of course continue to purchase your sub-standard stuff; I don’t care what the ablative material for the compound looks like.

“On the positive side some things are looking good. We are drawing copper wire and the last parts for the motor shop are due off on the CNC’s on the overnight shift tonight. We can take that load off of Mayflower and let them concentrate on whatever it is they are building. Initially we will have one large station and one small station. The large station will be tied up for the wheels for the upriver power plant and the line transformers we will need to get that site tied into the existing grid. The small station will be available for the specialized motors you have all been wanting.

“The production list for that will be on a ‘Needs of the Colony’ basis, so send your requests to Walt Davis’s e-mail. If we can not put it in the queue from a straight Engineering standpoint, we will put it up to the Council.

“We’ve got Gabe here in charge of firearms production, with some assistance from myself and Robbie. He knows more about putting them together than just about anyone I’ve ever met, yours truly included, so we’re in good hands on that front. Gabe?”

“Thanks Andy. We‘re going to be starting production of weapons for the non-military within three weeks.” He waited for the startled stares. “That will be a rip off of the Remington M-700 with the pre-74 trigger group. It will only for a short while be available in 30-06 Springfield. Production of the Alchibah MK 1 MBR will commence in four weeks. Simultaneous with that will be production of the Alchibah MK III standard sidearm. It will take an additional three weeks for the start of production on the Alchibah MK II Close Assault Weapon, Alchibah MK IV shotgun in 12 ga two weeks after that and then the MK V sniper six weeks later. That un I really want to tweak a bit. I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some other things after that. . And I think Connor and Rajnar have a bit to say about our efforts on more of, shall we say, the receiving end of my work.”

“Right. Well, hopefully not your work,” Connor started to the confusion of most of the assembled crowd. “We’re working on bullet resistant armor. The pillowbark trees we get much of the fiber for our clothing from also have layers of a material that’s akin to Earth’s spider silk. It’s about twice as strong as Kevlar, though it does cut well so it will be less helpful in that regard.”

“The bottom line,” Rajnar chimed in, “is that we’ll can produce in small quantities armor equivalent to what the Goonies will have – good enough to stop pretty much all handgun rounds. Pretty much all,” he rolled his eyes looking at Gabe’s giant sidearms, “and some rifles at some ranges. I’m working on various solutions to the slash resistance and ways to generally improve it. Within ten to twelve weeks I expect we will be able to produce level III or even IV armor, to put it in the old NIJ terms.”

“Thanks,” I continued. “And backtracking a bit, after we have sufficient metal for the production of the weapons marks we will be able to make available metal from Red Iron up to Tungsten-Carbide tool level on a ‘Needs of the Colony’ basis.

“Once again send your begs to Walt.

“In summation, we are going to double the capability of the power grid within six months. We will be able to arm the Colony and provide for the meat hunters. Basic needs for construction will be meet and we will continue to expand.” As the general intake of breath occurred, I shifted gears. “Ash, you are up. Do try not to soil your panties!”

“Thank You, I think Cuz. First up, I have this most wonderful Atmospheric Drive that anyone can think of for the Shuttles. Unfortunately, neither Hibbs nor myself can figure out why we cannot take the sucker out of the Primary gravity field of the Planet. Hibbs is going to come down here next week so we can crawl into the guts and see what’s going on.

“On my positive side, Walt and I have figured out how to network the CNC’s to where we only need one Brain Unit per four machines. Tim claims that he can run up to eight out of one Brain Unit inside the next four weeks. Feed us enough metal and we will give you a mechanized society.

“Tim has offered to Honcho running Copper Network to all of the new households, so we will not radiate locally anything that the Goonies can detect; the Guardians, I have no idea what they can do.

“Kara, Elana and JoAnn claim they can produce Fiber Optic glass within six months. I am doubtful but, would not put it past them.

“Back to you Cuz!”

“Joe and or Bart, how goes the wood business?”

“Couldn’t be much better,” Bart began. “I would like to have some spare blades and other replacement parts made up. I’ll get Walt a list of what is critical. My current wish list includes rollers, blades, and a motor for a finishing mill. The mechanical problem I see as critical in the near future is keeping the chainsaws functioning. I’ve already had to hand make chain links and guide bars rollers will be next.

“Another thing I’d like to see is a small say 10 or 20 horse steam engine. With as much scrap wood as we put out I could power most of my equipment with steam and save the bio-fuels for more important things. Another thing that steam has going for it is, we can take it anywhere there are trees and water. I can put in an order with the blacksmith shop for a boiler. But for connecting rods and crankshafts and maybe even cylinder blocks it would be nice to have some cast Iron parts. That means most likely some kind of a sand casting setup near your furnace.

“Now when it comes to things we don’t have yet or have enough of the list is long but a few items include water well pumps and components. In Liberty City the water supply is in and secure. Out where Janie and I live, hundred feet above the river, the robots can keep my cistern filled. If we go outside the township and away from surface water, it would be good to be able to put in a well.

“If I can interject,” said Walt Davis, “Bart if you can get me specs on those chainsaw parts we can cover you in a hurry. Those are the kind of small projects that we can put on the overnight shift and the Boss over there has pretty well given me discretion on. I can probably have you enough parts for complete overhauls in about a week.

“As for the cast iron stuff, if you or any of your crew knows enough about sand casting to show us how; I promise you at least one 500 lb pour a day of metal. We have thought about it but back burnered it because we just didn’t know how.”

“Joe, you are up!”

“Bart’s pretty much covered it from the business end but I am about to start on my house and have some different wants. For a bit of difference and especially if we get a planner mill going, I intend to use a different type of lumber than the log trees for my flooring and any paneling. We have got some very nice hard woods here that unfortunately we can’t glue. Nails and wood screws would come in real handy.

“I heard Phyllis Underton talking about metal roofing. That would be something I could use and free up lumber capacity. And band Iron would make shipping some of our products a bit easier. Not my specialty but I was talking to Frank Turner and he has a lot of things on his list in the agricultural area. I’ll let him know your looking to expand.

“One last thing, totally off the subject. Ever since Mariana took care of Jack for all of us, Burt Buchanan has been a model citizen. He does his labor pool work and seems to be tending to his own business. I don’t buy that for a minute. Keep an eye on him, he’s up to something.”

I just had to answer that. “Joe, you may rest assured that one of Robbie’s community service jobs is keeping an eye on our boy Buchanan.

“Bart, as soon as anyone registers a holding far enough up to need a well or can just flat justify the need, come see the Seaworth, Andrews and Pierce Wells business agent. They are just waiting to get their Drill Bits up on the needs list. Meanwhile they are running around doing water table studies and mumbling things like bore size and flow rate. Also Joe, nail production starts in about three days I think. Screws I believe are about a week after that, this building boom caught us a little off balance.”

Welcome to Alchibah My Children

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 184 OH Dark and Ugly, Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

I groaned as the Alarm rattled me awake one more time. I had barely gotten to sleep after the latest clandestine training session with John Pierce so I was slow recognizing that this was not my Alarm.

What was killing my sleep was the Medical Alarm on Mariana’s console.

Mariana Stuart

Damn. It felt like my head just hit the pillow. I reached for the Medical Alarm, than glanced at it. Oh crap! I sat up in bed.

“Linda, tell me what’s taking place.” My gut was telling me I better start grabbing my gear.

“It’s Emily.” Linda’s voice was anything but calm. “The twins have grown like you wouldn’t believe and they have shifted positions.”

“Send me the data, now.” While the information was coming in, I began slipping on clothes as fast as possible. When Andy saw what I was doing, he quickly put on his gear.

My God. The twins were trying to come into this new world….breach. Not only that, they had grown since I monitored her nearly a day and a half ago. They weren’t due for two or three more days. For right now, Emily’s vitals were barely within normal parameters.

“Call the rest of the team. Get the equipment ready. We’re going to have to do a C-Section. If you have time, before I run down, begin to prep Emily. Out.”

I was just securing my last weapon, when I told my husband, “Don’t let anyone one other than medical personal inside!” I did a quick smile, “Bet I beat you there.” Than I dashed out the door, running like the devil was chasing me.

Andrew Stuart

I busted out the door doing my best to catch up to Mariana when the small family of Devils that had decided to roost inside the compound walls burst into the air all screaming, “VARG! VARG!”

Mariana yelled over her shoulder, “Andy, I’m busy.”

I went to speed without hesitation and went to where the adult male Devil was circling. It was a small pack of four Varg. Normally I might have just tried to scare them away, tonight they were in the way.

Four shots later I was on the radio, “Liberty Security, A. Stuart; I just dropped four Varg on the direct path from the Stuart Compound to Hanna’s Place. No further action required, sorry about the noise.”

“Liberty Security, Roger. We were just ready to call the Guard!”

I got to the Medical Annex to Hanna’s place in time to open the door for Mariana who was reading data from her wristcomp while screaming instructions.

Mariana Stuart

I knew as soon as the Devils screamed “VARG,” that a booming and cracking sound would follow; and I wasn’t disappointed, but was surprised when I heard four shots. Good, I knew there were four less predators in our area. I was glad the Devils decided to join our compound.

As I came crashing through the doors, I did my prepping then entered the sterile environment. After doing a quick survey on how much Linda was able to accomplish, I could tell Linda knew something was up before she called me. The room was ready and the mother was working on Emily. At about that moment, Kurt and Sally arrived. A few seconds later, the rest of the team came flying into the room.

I glanced at the current data on Emily, than instantly began shouting orders. We needed to move quickly to keep her from going into crisis.

From the corner of my eye, I glanced to Linda. She was worried, but doing everything to help her daughter and future grandkids. After that, our foursome began to work our butts off, trying to keep Emily from going critical. Since the kids had grown so rapidly over the last few hours, I was willing to bet this was not going to be a normal C-section.

Kurt did the cutting. I was able to anticipate the few bleeders and clamped them off.

Kurt asked, “How is it you are waiting with the clamp before I cut.”

“Kurt, cut and ask dumb questions later.”

Our support team seemed to read our minds. When we needed something, they had it ready.

Andrew Stuart

The lobby for the medical facility, which opened into the main hall at Hanna’s, started filling a little faster than I thought. The first one predictably was JJ. “No,” I said. “Mariana said it is closed to non-medical, besides Linda is in there.”

Next in was John Pierce from Hanna’s with a breakfast sandwich in hand, “What’s the commotion?”

“Emily Parker is in Labor and I think she’s having some problems. Mariana told me to seal the place to non-medical.” I just knew I was going to be repeating that many times.

When the Benjamin’s came in, I knew the Main Event was coming.

First was Connor and I repeated my song, only problem was that Jai wasn’t having any part of it.

Suddenly John Pierce stepped right in the middle of it. He grabbed Jai by the armpits and picked her up bodily, trying to talk sense into her head. The Man was suicidal, Jai could wrap him into a pretzel; not to mention her Uncle standing right behind her was a Human Damn Tank.

Jai was out of it, all of the pain and anger; the sense of inadequacy and the blaming herself was pouring out.

I started over when Gabe spoke, “Jaisa, if it means that much to you I’ll go check.”

That was when I had to move, standing in front of the Entrance Door to the Clinic I spoke.

“No, you will not Angel. Magic ordered that door closed to all non-medical, the way through it goes through me.

“Neither you nor or I know who will win this but, rest assured Hanna’s Place will not survive.”

We were both ramping into speed when, out of the corner of my narrowing vision I saw Jai Benjamin beating on John to let her down. “Uncle Gabe, it ain’t worth getting banned from Hanna’s for life. Hell, it’s not like that crowd in there hasn’t saved her life once before. I can wait.”

I saw Gabe’s face finally crinkle with a smile as he tossed me the broadest wink in the world.

As he turned to embrace Jai, I turned and pretended to watch my wristcomp. “Dammit Andy, you just got played by the best Hostage Negotiator who ever lived.” I thought to myself. “But, Jai is back, it’s fracking worth it.”

From the doorway to Hanna’s came Chris Stevensen’s voice, “And exactly what do you do when both of them come for you?”

“That’s easy Laddie,” Robbie drawled, “shoot yer own damn fool self. Tis a bit easier, you know”

Laughing, I turned to see Jai in the embrace of a Father I had just decided to trust with the fate of Clan Stuart.

Mariana Stuart

It felt like an eternity, but it was only about an hour later, when we delivered the twins. The girl seemed to want to be the first one out on the womb.

I noticed Linda watching the monitor, before smiling. Emily’s vitals began to fall back into the normal range, after the boy was delivered. Both kids were crying, so we knew their lungs worked.

Linda and I took care of the twins, while Kurt and Sally finished with Emily. We held them up, so the new mother could see her children. She was tired, but smiling from ear to ear.

“Daughter, you did good.” Linda was a proud grandmother. “We’re going to clean them up, then bring them right back to you.”

After our examination, we pronounced them healthy and very fit. On a scale on 1 to 10, these two were an 11. The girl weighed 7 lbs. and 2 oz. The boy weighed 7 lbs. 3 oz.

Once we placed the twins in the new mothers’ arms, I gave a Kurt a quick nod. You could hear the twins helping themselves to breakfast. We meet in a corner, so no one else could hear us.

I whispered, “Did you see how rapidly the twins grew in the last day and a half?”

“Oh yes. I never saw anything like it before.” He glanced over to Emily. “Do you think it had anything to do with the three treatments of Quick Heal she received?”

That was a no-brainer. “If possible, I believe we should try to limit it to only two treatments in the future. This planet is full of surprises.”

The team cleaned up, than we moved Emily into a private room. “Alright new mother, when you’re ready for the rest of the family to see the newest members, let your mother know and you’ll be receiving visitors.”

Emily smiled and told her mother, “Can you give me a few minutes, until they have been feed?”
Linda nodded.

As Emily was smiling, she told us the names of the twins. “My girl is Angela and Angie for short. My son is Alexander and Alex for short.”

I left to find Andy and the crowd, that I knew would be waiting outside. There were several anxious relatives staring at me. “Mother and twins are doing to be fine. Give them a few more minutes and the family will be allowed to visit the newest members of Alchibah.”

There was no way I was going to mention how many close calls we had with Emily. One thing was very certain…this was a learning experience. If this is what takes place with twins, we may be changing some of our procedures.

Conversion - The Book of Agorah

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

Night was falling when my son Aaron strode to the fore and began to speak. And a hush fell, and there was a silence beyond my expectation. And Aaron quoted from the Book.

He now sent messages to Balaam
“Look a people has come out of Egypt
Look, they cover the earth as far as the eye can see.
And now do come please: do curse this people.
For they are mightier than I am.
Perhaps I may be able to strike them
and I may drive them out of the land.”

Numbers 22.5-6

“And even as Moab warned and enlisted the aid of the other tribes of Israel, so does Yelsig seek to destroy us and all our works. And as is proven by his works, he doth need their following.

“And I say unto you. There will be a time of testing! And it is not that we honor the Lord when times are easy, that leads to salvation. You are exalted amongst all the tribes of Soessossin and the children of the Lord. Beware! The fall from grace, it is a mark of those who have failed to heed His Word.

“Look up to the hills. You can see those who watch us. You know of their displeasure, their anger and idolatry. Yelsig…as leader of all the tribes…will not permit you to worship in your own manner. This is an abomination and it will not stand!”

The tribe of Agorah had gathered in their multitude in order to hear my son Aaron speak This was to be expected for the Agorah had accepted the word and they were ready to give up their old ways.

The Yelsig, and the four other Soessossin tribes, were another story entirely. We had made only a few converts in all of those other tribes but they had not yet heard me nor the more powerful and commanding voice when my son would speak. It should have made no difference as their telepathic sense ought to have transferred the message we proclaimed as from out own voices. But that sense seemed only to convey the literal meaning of the words and not the spiritual force behind them. In time I knew that Aaron must travel to all the nations of Canaan that they might hear and come to know the Lord‘s will.

I was at first unable to understand, and indeed I resented, how easily Aaron seemed to bring in converts. I would gladly bear my own witness, talking loudly with all the skill and fervor I possessed, proclaiming the Word. And I would gather in but a handful. Aaron would pass amongst them, and speaking quietly admonish them, and telling stories and using parables, point out the error of their ways. The Soessossins would gather round him in rapt attention. And when he left there were few that did not take to his teachings and accept the truth of the Word.

The Yelsig clan was the disruptive influence. Holding on to the badge of power made them think that their link to the Guardians overrode all else. Yelsig himself did not appear in the lands of the Agorah, though in the beginning he sent watchers and emissaries. When only half returned, the others joining with the Agorah, or where converted becoming disciples to the other nations, Yelsig stopped that practice and declared us. and those following in our steps pariahs. Yelsig issued a warning to the other clans that contact with us was no longer permitted and actively set about to prevent the spread of what he considered a disease.

“You are sure it is not too early for this step my son? Once we start there will be no going back.” I pointed this out. “We risk thinking our time frame is the Lord’s.”

“Father, it is never too early to baptize and accept into communion the faithful. I see a time of trouble ahead and many shall lose their faith and many shall perish. Those who remain faithful must be able to enter the Lords Kingdom when called.”

His sense of surety was such that I came to complete agreement and Aaron and I took turns leading the Soessossins one by one into the water down stream from our camp. We blessed them and let them know they were now clear of their original sin. Brother Edwards had located, in the next valley, a herd of bison like brutes, they must be similar to the alchelo that we had heard about but not seen prior to leaving Liberty City. Edwards had spent a day and slaughtered over a hundred of them getting our earliest converts cleaning and delivering the meat to our campsite.

Two days later three thousand Soessossins were in the natural amphitheatre. Up in the hills overlooking those clustered below were several small groups from some of the other tribes.

“You want I should run them outta’ here,” Cotton Edwards asked.

“Leave them be. We will not be the first to initiate violence in this matter”

“Sure. Just askin’.”

My wife Miriam and Sister Helen had baked sheets of unleavened bread. They had spent days doing all that they could. We had no wine nor even a fruit drink for a substitute but Brother Edwards had saved the blood when he cleaned the alchelos and that would be a better test and truer to form and also show the commitment of those who would partake in this, our first communion.

Aram and Hosham, Ephraim and Joseph, my son Aaron and Jacob, went amongst them and served the host. That took almost four hours, and when they were finished we took a break from the religious ceremonies and fed them all. I saw and sensed that a strange thing was happening. A number of Soessossins went to the pots and vessels holding the remainder of the communion drink. Still others went to eat not the cooked meat but that which was not. I think they were beginning to be affected in a similar manner as the weakest amongst humans are affected by alcohol.

They finished off all such materials rapidly and those that had partaken went amongst the rest and they touched together their heads, one to another. The gathered crowd soon became much noisier and restless than any I had seen before.

Cotton Edwards lounged offside from the main gathering. He was smoking a cigar rolled from the leafy sprouts of a local plant. It had taken a while but he finally found something that gave a good buzz. Just a little hallucinogenic but the best he could manage. ‘Coulda’ been worse‘.

“Come on over here honey,” he said to his wife Sister Helen.

She hesitated for a moment then complied out of duty. Edwards gathered her up close and looking over the assemblage said. “Bet that ol’ husband you left behind in Liberty City never treated you like what I do, They ain‘t got a clue in Liberty City but mark my words their in for a mighty big comeuppance one of these days. Let‘s you and me celebrate in advance.”

Helen shut down. She was doing that more and more lately, and remembered nothing of what transpired when she awoke the next morning.

“It is time that I go my father,” Aaron said to me shortly after sunrise and all but of few of the Soessossins had left. “I shall leave later today and seek out the other tribes and do the Lords work.”

“You don’t plan on going alone my son—or do you?”

“At mothers request I will take Hosham and Brother Edwards with me. I have already spoken to Brother Edwards about this and he is of a mind for a change and this experience should serve him well. As you can imagine father; he wished to take Sister Helen along, but her condition is such as to make that impossible. He grumbled some but the chance for some excitement and new scenery overcame his reluctance.”

“How long might you be gone for?”

“It think it will be a journey of several months or more, but I shall have a communicator with me in case of need. I am sure the normal communications between the various tribes will enable you to follow my progress in large part. I will say goodbye to mother and Ruth and we shall all pray together when Edwards and I are finished packing.”

With that my son Aaron went to complete his preparations and later that afternoon left our camp. Brother Edwards and a heavily laden Hosham went with him.

I Need Natasi Down Here

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 184 Liberty Hospital, Alchibah

Mariana Stuart

I never heard Linda come into the Lab till she spoke, “I thought you would be getting some sleep?”

“What,” I laughed, “and miss the grand procession of getting Emily and the Twins down here. Forget you, JJ, Hanna and Jules; did you happen to notice who just happened to be around?”

Linda was a little slow in replying as if she were reliving it in her mind; “That was a whole lot of Black and Silver wasn’t it?”

“Linda that was all of Strike Force, sure everyone of them will have a perfectly valid excuse. Some wanted to see the twins, one was bringing me breakfast; others will say they were coming to check on Jai, it’s all bullshit.

“You know everybody in our crowd worries about one more UNWG sleeper like Van Vogt. What do you think it would do to morale if the first two children born on Alchibah died of mysterious causes?

“The Tame Wolves found a way to be around those kids. The same as the crowd is in the process of moving you and JJ up to the Stuart Compound for a few days. Even Hanna agrees that it will be the safest place for a few days. Of course for public consumption, it is cause your two Doc’s live there.

“Meanwhile, on the Theory that I hate surprises almost as much as I hate to lose; I have been checking all of the pregnancy files and I have one that scares me. Oh and you are worried about your Grandkids, if you were a UNWG plant; whose kids would you try to get to?”

Linda thought for a moment, “Who’s going to deliver first, you or JoAnn?”

“Does it matter, do you want to be the dumb ass to try for Andy or Ash’s kids?”

I watched her shudder as I keyed my wristcomp.

“Mayflower, Capt. Travis; Dr. Mariana Stuart on Snaketrap Please.”

After a little longer pause than before the new Security protocols, the urbane tones of Glen Travis replied. “Ah, Dr. Stuart. By the honorific I can presume that this is something Medically related?”

“That you may Glen, although it’s more a personnel problem. I have a Spacer who will not sit still long enough for the proper treatment.”

“Who,” Travis asked, “and what severity are we talking about?”

I took a deep breath first, “It’s Natasi, Glen, and if we don’t get her down here for at least five straight days of treatment with her ass in the hospital and not the Bar; well the pregnancy is going to kill her.

“It has to do with the shit the Russians did to her Bloodline in their damn Heavy world modifications. I have no idea who the Father is and have not asked but he is a normal gravity genotype.

“There is nothing here that Kurt and I cannot fix but if we don’t; it’s going to kill her! I have three choices. One, someone up there talks some sense into her head. Two, I hit her over the head with a 2 x 4 and tie her down right in Hanna’s place or Three, I have Andy and Gabe come up there and clap her in iron’s.

“Glen,” Mariana continued, “they love her as much as I do and they will do it but she will never forgive us. A little help, please!”

“She’s out with the mad doctors at the moment,” Travis said, “but I’ll have her planetside tomorrow morning for you.”

Travis (later that day)

“Natasi,” Travis said, “may I have a word with you?”

“Sure, Boss Guy,” Natasi replied, removing her flight suit and stowing it in her locker.

“I know you don’t like doctors and such,” he said.

“Da. As a kid, all dey do is prod and poke me and stick me with needles on the Space Station,” she griped.

“I know, but every possible child is precious to the colony. You need to see Dr. Mariana Stuart.”

With a look of exasperation, Natasi said, “Ah, maybe in few months when baby come.”

“Well, no, you need prenatal care now. I want you to see her tomorrow.”

“I busy dis days. Physics guys got lots to do,” she said.

Glen pursed his lips in thought and then said, “Sorry, Natasi, but that’s an order. You must report to Liberty Hospital tomorrow. You’re five months pregnant. It’s time.”

She growled, slammed the locker door shut, and stormed off.

Natasi (the next day, at Liberty Hospital)

“Okay, Doctor Lady, vhat you vant with me?”

“What I want is to see a friend of mine lying in a bed at Hanna’s with her child in her arms.

“Natasi, if you don’t let Kurt and I fix what those damn Russian quacks did to you, you will not live to be there and saving your child will be touch and go.”

That got Natasi’s attention, “Zey did zat much to me? Doctor Lady tell me true, can you really fix dis?”

Mariana stared her square in the eyes, “My friend you have one thing to learn, Kurt and I don’t lose.

“Give me five days and we will be toasting your Grandkids. This crap doesn’t happen on My Watch!”

Natasi replied, “OK, do vhat you have to do!”

Later That Night Kurt Kellerman

“Good Lord Mariana, that is the most screwed up DNA scan I have ever seen!”

“No shit,” she replied. “You want to jump in here?”

“Hell No,” I laughed. “There is a damn good reason I am the cutter and you are the gene splitter. What’s the problem here?”

“So many variables, those damn Ruski’s changed so much and I only get one shot. I asked Chris Petersen if he had any ideas; he just started cussing in some Nordic language and headed out to the range.”

Suddenly Mariana’s eyes seemed to glaze, “Variables, it’s like math.”

As I was walking out she was on the comm, “Ash get on your Lab repeater, I got a problem for you.”

Morning Six Day’s Later, Hanna’s Place

Hanna was her usual friendly self, “Your normal Natasi?”

“No, ze Blonde Doctor vould beat me in place! Meat und Eggs und Tea please. I go back to orbit today, ver I belong.”

Hanna had to laugh, “Mariana done made another convert, I can see. How goes the pregnancy?”

“Ze Doctor Lady says I get to hold my Son. Zat is good enough for me.”

Hanna moved down the counter to talk to Mariana, “Is she really OK?”

Mariana’s grin was a victory lap, “Yes she is, and I am tired of messing around. Hanna either you come down to treatment tomorrow morning with Linda or I am going to send Andy and Gabe to haul your butt down there. Look at Jules; you want to join him in seeing your Great Great Grandkids?”

“OK, Mariana; I will be there!”

About that time Ash wandered in, ”Natasi need a ride up? I am going up to talk to Hibbs, I got no problem sitting right seat on the way up.”

The Big Day

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family

Gabriel Benjamin

Day 133, morning, Connor’s house

“I’m really going to do it bro. I almost can’t believe it, but I really am.” I had just rolled out of bed in the spare room at Connor’s I was staying in. It was a great little place overlooking New Walden Pond across the river from Liberty proper, old log cabin style like Dad used to tell us about growing up in. All the modern amenities though – or all the ones you could get on Alchibah. Plus, the place has got a great basement. It still struck me as kind loco that you could seriously use a word like “amenity” to describe anything on humanity’s first frontier planet, but there it is. I say “rolled out of bed” rather than “woke up” because I didn’t actually fall asleep last night. Just stared up at the ceiling all night.

“Today’s the day, huh?” Connor mock asked. I gave him a little smack on the back of the head. Like he didn’t know. I had been planning this for weeks. It was the fiftieth day since I arrived with the Dancer and met Elana again, and I couldn’t wait any longer.

“I’m going to ask her to marry me man! I haven’t been this nervous since…” I trailed off, plopping myself down at the dining room table. The chair groaned reproachfully at me.

“Since the Olympic trials?” my brother prompted. I shook my head.

“No, since the day I told Mom and Dad that I was going to try to become a SSEAL instead of going to Stanford and keeping on swimming.” He raised his eyebrows.

“Well, look at it this way. If you had gone to Stanford and done the whole Olympian thing you never would have met Elana in the first place. Hell, she might have died back in Syria without a strapping lad like yourself to rescue her. So that worked out, right?” I grunted. “Well, if that doesn’t convince you, take it from me. Kaiya and I have been engaged for…” he squinted up at the ceiling, pushing absentmindedly at his eggs with his fork, “for twenty six days now. And truthfully, I couldn’t be happier. And you know how hard that decision was for me. For you, it’s cake man! She’s your friggin soul mate, you said so yourself!

“Plus, you already put down a pretty penny getting that ring made. And it’s not like there are any other women on this planet that’d go for a big lug like you. So you got no choice, really.” I grinned, then started chuckling, then laughing. In a few seconds we were both bellowing laughter loud enough that we woke the twins. They walked out of their room in their little nightgowns, blinking sleepily at the light.

“What’s so funny,” Aya began, “that you felt the need to wake us up?” Arra finished, mock seriously, hands on hips.

“Well, today’s-“ I started, still chuckling, only to be interrupted by Arra.

“The day you’re going,” she started, then Aya finished, “to propose to Elana. Which is wonderful,” then her sister finished, “but we don’t get why it’s funny.”

“Oh, well your dad, he was saying, um, he was saying…it’s grown up stuff. You wouldn’t understand. And cut that stuff out, it’s bad enough that you finish each other’s sentences, don’t you go starting in on mine.” They both wrinkled their noses at me.

“Well, breakfast’s ready girls. Help yourself,” Connor told his daughters, “Gabe needs to get a move on before I kick his narrow butt out the door for his own good.”

“I’m goin, I’m goin,” I laughed, strapping on my last four sidearms and throwing on my jacket as I left.

Day 133, lunchtime, Stuart Compound

“So you’re popping the question? Good for you, old friend, good for you!” Andy clapped me on the back, grinning from ear to ear. “Let me see the ring.”

I pulled the little box out of my jacket and slid it across the table. Even the box itself was beautiful. Made out of one of the local woods, it was a deep blue and inlaid with platinum (now good for more than just AP rounds kids!). My old commander carefully opened the lid and whistled. The ring was two platinum bands and a white gold band braided together, and embedded in the front was a tiny, perfectly carved red rose.

“How…?” was all he asked, examining the ring quizzically.

“Kiyoshi made an alloy out of a few minerals and some of the sap from one of the trees Sinopa discovered. Says it’ll last basically forever. Carved it too, in addition to making the ring itself. Got him a stove and a genny, and fuel to go with both for five A years for that little wonder.”

“The other men looking to propose are not going to appreciate this once she starts showing the other women, let me tell you,” Andy chuckled. “You always did set the bar high.”

“I’m just glad I found the right woman,” I replied. “You know, it’s funny. I used to think it was Kat. I mean, we were even an item for a while – you know that – but it never really stuck, you know? Or with anyone else, not that I had time for many others. But Elana? It just feels right.” Andy just shook his head and laughed softly.

“Kat never stood a chance, and neither did any of the others. Sometimes we men do not get a choice in the matter. It was going to be Elana from the day you turned yourself into a human shield and left a gallon and a half of the red stuff in that palace in Damascus rescuing her, John and their family; which if I remember, I never did chew you out enough for. You just had to wait twenty years to find out is all.”

Spacer’s Cove

Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

With help from the EA Log Files.

Day 191 Alchibah:
“Got another firm order with good credit Pam, we won‘t starve this winter, things are looking up.” I was exaggerating for effect because we had more work than we could manage.

“Ok dear, tell me,” my wife Pam said with a very pleased expression.

“Travis up on the Mayflower has gotten a bug up his ass what with Bart’s Bluenose on the water and Andy’s ship nearing completion. I think Monroe has been egging him on but that’s not our problem; we got another order. We’ll need more help from the bots and more lumber from the mill but hey, we can do this and ain’t it wonderful.”

Spacers Cove

Out beyond where the river ran to the sea, two miles from Liberty City, the coast tended northward. About 2 miles in that direction was a hook of land and a natural bay. Thirty foot high grasslands, you could almost call them dunes, sheltering a quarter mile long by third as wide deep water harbor opening to the sea at it‘s northern end. The land comprising the western, the ocean exposed side of the hook, was very nearly 1400 feet long and 400 wide. The eastern, inner shore, fronted on the harbor proper.

One large building at the foot of the harbor and several smaller structures, individual homes, were completed on the hook; several others in the works. This area had been completely inundated by the Tsunami four months earlier but as building hadn’t been started yet nothing was lost, except for the few tall trees that had established themselves over time in the sandy soil. Now the grasses, tall and lush, were being augmented by rapidly growing cane type growths and true trees were still years away. This land comprised all of the Spacers freehold except for one section and a building in town.

The prevailing winds were mostly from the west and had been all summer. Computer models predicted that this would be the case year round but a blow from the north could cause large waves to build and funnel up the length of the bay and this had been seen to happen more than once. There was a chain of closely connected islands less than a mile off shore north of the harbor mouth and these would blunt some of the wave action. The solution taking care of the worst case scenario was to build a breakwater across the opening. Fortunately the normal wave and drift patterns tended to build the sea bottom up at the bays opening until it averaged only 10 foot at the open end of the hook.

The Spacers while this wall was being built often had half of their bots dedicated to the project. Stones, rocks, large and small, were moved from nearby areas and dumped into the water. The large ocean going cargo ship Nash built went into the project. That ship was owned by the township and named the Liberty Express. Presently only Nash and the Neilson brothers were authorized to captain it but Bart was well on his way to a license and several other colonist who worked regularly as crew members had started learning what it would take.

In a remarkably short period the first stage of the breakwater was complete. There was a single opening on the landward side large enough to pass anything built so far or envisioned as likely in the near future. The coast once out side of the harbor tended rather sharply eastward and inland. A good thing as it would insure time to set a course without the usual west wind driving us onto the shore. Over time more rock and eventually fill would be added but for now the anchorage was secure against any but the most severe storm. It was planed that anything large ship would be taken and docked up river during winter when the storm threat would be highest.

Even before the break wall was finished, and as soon as Travis had seen what Nash was building for Bill Bartlett, he decided that the Spacers needed a ship of their own. Andy Stewart had made the same decision so now Karl Nash had two more under construction. The fact that so much of the original Bluenose was built by robot, and since once any of them knew how to do something they all did, progress was rapid.

The large building took quite a bit of engineering to complete. John Pierce handled most of the design and JJ Parker supervised the construction details. Most of the labor not supplied by bots was done by colonists in repayment for services rendered. In deference to the exposed location and action of wind and wave a deep sturdy foundation was set and secured with kiln fired cement mixed with sand and transported again by the Liberty Express.

The main building was not quite half the size of Hanna’s First Inn and only a single floor right now, thick stone walls and a metal roof covered with fronds to muffle the sound when it rained. Lumber was piling up in the back and in a few weeks the second story would be added. The only electric need was for lighting and a pump which moved water from a fresh water storage tank and a small water heating unit. Demand at this level was provided by batteries that were kept charged by tapping off the bots, but there were also plans in the works to set up one of Gabe’s ethanol generators if demand started increasing.

Day 218 Alchibah:

The day was bracing with a cooling breeze from the west that stiffened as we got into the chop caused by the meeting of the river current and the waves working in from off shore. Larry Monroe was onboard because Captain Travis couldn’t get away on such short notice when Karl released the Spacer’s ship the Second Chance.

“Damn this is great Bart,” Monroe said taking in the sights and sounds of the Schooner a virtual twin of the Bluenose as was Andy Stewarts recently completed ship the Cuchulainn.

“Prepare to tack,” I yelled, “no sissy com units on my deck! Prepare to make sail!” the bots hurried to their positions. “Helm a’ larboard!”

Steve Fallon rapidly spun the wheel in a counterclockwise direction. “Belay that order,” I shouted. Steve stopped the wheel and centered the rudder. We had plenty of sea room due to exiting the river mouth near it’s middle so I had plenty of time to explain.

“Steve you know the difference between larboard and starboard don’t‘ you? I have mentioned that several dozen times. have I not?”

“Sure Bart, larboard is left and starboard is right.”

“Mr. Fallon, Captain.,” I said archly, “is the proper form to use when addressing me in relation to orders issued on this ship.” I was beginning to enjoy myself. “Now when I say helm I am talking about the steering gear and more particularly about its position in relation to the ship as a whole. Am I making this clear Mr. Fallon?”

“Ah sure Bar-, er I mean Captain.”

“A simple Aye, aye Sir will suffice… Now where was I? Hmm yes, the helm. In this case the helm corresponds to the rear of the ship so when I order helm to larboard that means I wish the stern of the ship should go in that direction so that the stem or bow of the ship, that’s that pointy part out in front, can point the other way and in this case take us northward. Do you follow me now helmsman.”

Steve swallowed and said, “Aye, aye sir! May I say something else.”

“Please do.”

“It seems backwards to me. If we want to go right or starboard, why not just say helm to starboard?”

“A salient point Mr. Fallon, and there are two schools of thought on the matter. The one held by Commodore Nash, the Neilson brothers, myself, and the bots, and of course the other school…represented by you. I propose, in order to keep confusion to a minimum, that when aboard ship you adopt the former.” I nodded my head and smiled, finding it easy to agree with myself.

“Aye, aye sir, it won’t happen again.”

With that I reissued the order, and with the bots taking care of the sails, we were soon on a northerly course taking us slowly away from the shoreline. We began to both pitch and roll as we crossed the incoming waves at an angle.

“How about cracking on some more sail Captain?” Larry Monroe asked.

“Cracking on some more sail. Very good Lar, very salty indeed, but not on this trip. We’ve only got a couple of miles to the harbor and I’d like to get there with the minimum amount of wear and tear. I think that you spacers are going to need to work up your own learning curve when it comes to sailing. With the race plan already in place I don’t want to show too much now. You guys are going to have to work for it and take the time if you expect a chance to win.”

“Yeah I see your point, and with this chop even the robots seem to be stumbling around a bit.”

“What?” They were normally so sure footed I had never seen them off balanced except when trying to climb; something they were not very good at. Sure enough though all four of the bots on deck seemed unsteady when they moved, even the Jeep who had as much time on the water as I had and the downloads from every other bot as well.

“Jeep, come aft” I called him closer and watched his movements. He actually slipped but caught himself almost immediately. “You don’t seem very steady about now, what’s going on?”

“There is a problem with our balancing algorithm Captain Bart,” the Jeep said. “With this angle to the wind and these sea conditions the rise and fall of the ship is irregular enough that we can’t accurately predict it and our balance routine is switching back and forth between predictive and reactive mode at the wrong time. This is the first time we have seen conditions exactly like this and the first time it has affected our ability to function to design spec.”

“Glad we found out now. Get back to the foresail and move around as little as possible. We’ll be in the harbor soon and I’ll turn the problem over to Sabbu when we get back to Liberty. Don’t expect it will take to long to find a fix.”

“Thanks for catching that Larry. I might have noticed but then again maybe not.”

Monroe’s expression gave evidence of a new thought and he said, “Let’s not tell Andy about this little problem. If he doesn’t catch it himself it will be a small edge you and I hold when the race finally comes off. And if safety is ever a factor we can have Sabbu work in an automatic activation routine.”

“Sounds good to me but if anyone ever asks it was your idea!”

The True Name of the Schemer!

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 200 First Inn, Liberty, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

I had booked one of the small meeting rooms at Hanna’s Place. It was really an office sized room for intimate meetings.

Connor was smiling as he walked in. “Damn Andy I thought you would want to talk at your place or at least come over to mine.”

“This is neutral ground Connor,” I replied. “Also this is the most sound proofed room on Alchibah, I helped John on that.

“All I am going to ask is that you hear me out until I have put on the whole spiel. Then if you wish to scream and call me an SOB, no one else has to hear it.”

Connor’s cocked an eyebrow at me. He looked skeptical and more than a little curious. “I guess I can give you that much.”

“OK,” I started. “Connor, I am going to ask you not to go with the Strike Force when we launch for a lot of reasons.

“First, there are enough Benjamin’s going already. Gabe and Jai are enough to go in harms way.

“Second, you have the twins to worry about. It’s pretty obvious that they would be lost without either Daddy or Jai.

“Third, when we launch I will ask you to move your family up to the Stuart Compound. As you may surmise, by the time we launch that will be the most heavily defended piece of ground on Alchibah.

“There will be someone else there also, if you have not heard; Mariana, JoAnn and Sally are all pregnant. By the time we launch that place is going to be close to sacred ground for me.

“Connor, I am trusting others with the life of Alchibah. I am asking you to protect the life of Clan Stuart. What say you Sir?”

Connor rose and nodded his head ever so slightly, extending his hand to grasp mine as I rose as well. “I’m honored that you would ask me, and it is my honor to accept. As long as I breathe no harm will come to any of them.”

“Done.” I said, staring into the younger man’s eyes. Connor held my gaze. I knew that he had meant exactly what he had said; this was the right man for the job. “OK, bring the twins up to the Compound this weekend. Tell everyone it’s OK to let them play with the Dobe pups.

“While you are there, we will introduce you to the House Computer and I will fill you in on a whole bunch of stuff you have never heard of. Connor, be prepared to shit your pants!”

The Following Saturday

Connor came through the Compound gate with the twins and a pack of shepherd and Aussie pups in tow grinning he said, “Might as well get them to know each other early, it’ll save some damage later!”

I had to grin, “Mariana, JoAnn; you ready to referee Puppy Wars?”

Mariana actually cracked up as she yelled, “JoAnn, Sally; get over here this should be good practice for when ours get to where they can walk and talk!”

“Come on Connor,” I grinned. “This crowd is going to be tied up for a while.” I led him into the main Stuart House and to the large den. Pressing the hidden button I let him see the stairs to the basement unfold.

“Welcome to Command Center Strike Force Rear!”

His eyes bugged just a tad, “No One that I know even knows this exists.”

“Thanks,” I said. “My partners and I enjoy the compliment. SFC Nug, take station please.”

“Yes Sir,” he cracked out and assumed Parade Rest in front of the stairs.

As we exited the stairs I turned and said, “Connor, the next thing I am going to show you must be withheld from one person who is privileged to everything else. This has to be kept from your Daughter. Do You agree?”
Connor stared and said, “If it is that important, I suppose I have to.”

“Good,” I said keying my wristcomp, “Scythe, Reaper; come to Command please.”


Connor looked at me with a quizzical stare, “OK, I think I recognize that voice. You’re a Bastard!”

SFC Nug called out, “Scythe arriving.”

I looked at the stairs and saw John Pierce descending, “Major Pierce, Commander Strike Force Rear Heavy; meet LTC Connor Benjamin, Commander Strike Force Rear.”

I heard two voices as one say, “You Son of a Bitch.”

Staring them right in the eyes I replied, “That I am Gentlemen, and have never denied it. I have only ever promised to do one thing, defend this planet. Everything, except maybe the ship, has been for that one purpose. I am going out there and put it right in the Goonies faces as hard as I can. Can you please tell me as soon as the last of the Strike Force Rear Command Team arrives, who I could better ask?”

Just at that point SFC Nug sang out, “Lilitu and Wraith arriving”

Sin Blackfeather flowed into the room followed by her younger brother and asked, “Who did you expect Connor?” Then turned to me, “Strike Force Rear Recon, Reporting as Ordered Sir.”

I had to stifle a laugh as I watched them. “So when you four get through calling me all of the names I so richly deserve, please do remember one thing.

“I started laying all of these plans the day we hit this planet, when the groundwork for all of this was laid; my only vested interest was a promise to a man I had never seen.

“Now, this place is going to belong to my kids and yours. If I was not going to back down before Kurt’s miracle, what the frack makes you think I will now?”

Get Ready for A Race

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 221 Stuart Compound, Liberty, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

I was just finishing the walk up from Spacers Point when I guess mortality hit me on the head. I sat down on the bench outside the entrance to the Stuart Compound or “Ft. Stuart” as people were starting to call it.

I leaned back and thought to myself, “Andy, when was the last time you spent a whole day not trying to get ready to win a war?” I realized I could not remember a single day. Gods, what had I promised that faceless voice so long ago?

“Well Mr. Stuart, if I promise you a Space Commander to match your skills and determination; could you defend a Colony World?”

For all my sins and stupidity, I said yes. Glen Travis was every bit as advertised and fate had thrown me some luck, or had it? I never had asked Ash who signed the orders that put him on that Cruiser or how Gabe had wound up in the Belt at just the right time.

Hamilton may have had friends in high places. Crap, stranger things had happened, just look around. Here you are barely over two hundred days on a frontier planet and you are worrying about super capacitors and DIP logic packages.

Hell, I was turning people away from the Strike Force. We were going to go up there with only the 5 percent who really won wars. We were pretty well locked in on that front and the Rear Command was steady. The major construction programs were in place and Mariana was smiling on the Medical front.

Maybe it really was time to lean back for a while and be Human. Hell, I could run a Training Program in my sleep. Time to spend some time with my wife and get ready to start raising some kids; but, first I had to give Bart a run for his money. I drug my sorry rear end up off the bench and went into the compound.

The first thing I saw was Ash dragging out of his place still toweling his hair, drink in the other hand.

“Yo Turkey,” I yelled, “how the Lifesaving class go?”

“Elana could not drown me no matter how much she tried,” yelled Ash. “But you should have seen poor old Connor. I thought that Boy was gonna swallow half of the Ocean!”

“Let me guess,” I laughed, “he could not make his dumb butt get rough with his new Sister-In-Law no matter what?”

“No kidding,” Ash grinned taking a pull on his drink; “Gabe went out as the Panicked Swimmer and Connor jerked his ass in in a heartbeat. What I want to know is how did Mariana pull you?”

I stood and stared, “She understood where every Male is vulnerable, She grabbed and twisted, I was going wherever She wanted.”

“Wait a minute, you Guys had just got together as a Team.” Ash gasped, “How did she live through that?”

“After all the Spotters I had gone through,” I glared, “was I going to yell at the first one that had showed brains. Besides, She didn’t let go till she got her grade.”

Ash spit up the swallow he was taking. “Great, and I got to meet Her the next day.”

“Your problem Cuz,” I grinned, “not mine!

“Plus you got another one, the Race committee just talked to me and they want you to be one of the Official Observers. You are probably going to be on Bart’s boat so, you get to learn all of the old fashioned terminology he is using.”

“Does that mean I’m out of the skull session this afternoon?” Ash asked.

“Nah,” I replied, “just don’t tell Bart squat. I guarantee you he has found out something about the design by being out there first, that he is not going to tell us.”

Ash grinned, “Ya reckon?”

“Hell, I would! Let me grab a shower, come on in and help yourself to a refill. Being as you put half of that one on the ground.

“You understand that in Strike Force that could have you up on charges for Alcohol Abuse?”

Ash promptly snorted yet more out of his nose.

Later That Evening

“OK,” I asked, “everyone have their jobs straight?”

In unison they replied, “Don’t Fracking go overboard!”

I stared at the roof, “I can dress ‘em up but I still can’t take ‘em anywhere.

“I guess we do this one at a time. Gabe, you still remember how to work a helm?”

“Duh, I point the sharp end towards the compass point you call?”

“Thank You, for that succinct summation our resident genius.

“Elana, I am sorry that I have to draft you for our Top Monkey but, my first choice went and got herself knocked up!”

From the back of the room came Mariana’s voice, “Yeah and you are going to claim you had nothing to do with it?”

“Hell No, I am going to claim that Kurt lied to me. He is going to claim it was an immaculate conception.”

Kurt stood not too steadily and exclaimed, “I claim margin of error in an experimental procedure!”

I again stared at the roof again, “SFC Nug at least tell me the bots know what to do?”

The bot proved that he was adapting and learning, “Yassa Boss man, we power us outta dock and then we clamp into our Grinder Stations where we be treated like Donkey Engines. We have in all seriousness run through all the sail simulations you downloaded to us but, we do need the training runs to adapt our programming.”

“Thank You SFC Nug, at least you proved someone in this room is sober. May I ask however, who has introduced you to an attempt at humor?”

From the back of the room JoAnn’s voice rang out, “Guilty Mate!”

I made my best attempt at a stare, “Ash, would you please spank her for me?”

“I would Cuz but, I am afraid she would like it?”

The room lost all control at that point. After the raucous laughter died down I resumed.

“OK, we start practice runs tomorrow. Unlike tonight show up sober; Chavez bring that Wind Sense of yours. Somebody want to wake up Connor?”

Gabe kicked the bottom of his chair and Connor came alert in a manner that proved he could handle his booze. “Yep, I am the Command Relay between the Bow and the Aft Deck. I also advise Jai on the Fisher Sail tension as she can not see the fore surface ‘HIC’.”

“Right. All right everyone, this is not life or death. It ain’t about survival of the planet.

“It’s about something much more important that that. It’s about bragging rights at the Bar for the next Damn A-Year!”

The room exploded in laughter.

Trying To Do the Right Thing

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Historian

Late Summer, Lab Control, Liberty Hospital, Alchibah
(From The Logs of Mariana Stuart)

I startled as the figure came in the door but smiled inside. “Why Histy, what can we do for you?”

He seemed quite shy for a change, “Well, this is a bit delicate.”

“Histy, delicate I ain’t. Look who I am married to but, discrete I am. It’s called Doctor-Patient Privilege, so spill whatever is bothering you.”

He hesitated for a moment, “Well as you know, Natasi is very pregnant and is not shy about telling everyone that you have fixed it so she will be able to live to see her Son.”

“Well, Her bragging about it I had not heard about. But, that’s not the problem, is it?”

“No,” He shrugged, “it’s not. I’m probably the father, Mariana, but I’m a little bit old for all of this. Still, I do like her a great deal and if I am the father, I want to do the right thing by her.”

I just stared for a moment, Old Fashioned Honor like that was hard to find; and damned harder to keep! “Histy, roll up whichever sleeve you wish and let me get one small blood sample. Then go to Hanna’s for Lunch, by the time you get back I can tell you for sure.”

“But, can you be positive?”

“Histy, I have her blood on file and I have amniotic fluid on file. Give me a sample and come back in two hours and I will tell you true.”

He just rolled up his left sleeve.

Two Hours Later

“Come on in Histy and sit down.”

He grinned, “I think I can take it standing!”

I suddenly rapped out my best Command Voice, “Sit Down, we have more than one thing to discuss!” I saw him find a chair rapidly. “Thank You Andy for those lesson’s.”

“It’s fairly simple Brice, Hello Daddy.

“You are in better shape than I expected, my compliments to your previous Doctors. The only thing I see here is a slight predilection towards several things that end with ‘-itis’ like most Human beings.

“I don’t see that as being a problem for at least 20 to 25 E-Years and nothing more than some out-patient pills and such. Long before you need anti-agathics and besides, Sally Kellerman should be up to speed even if I don’t make it back and Dr. Josh Wood from the Dancer is terrific.

“Your son, on the other hand, is going to have some serious problems that can not be fixed in the womb. The birth is going to have to take place here!

“That being said it’s nothing that we can not fix but, the treatment has to start as fast as he is born. I figure that we can have him normal in around two days. Also, should Natasi decide at some future time to have a second child, all of this will not be necessary.”

Histy looked at me and replied, “You mentioned not coming back, as our leading Research Biologist have you considered not going?”

“Not for a Second. My Husband and more importantly My Shooter, is going because of a promise he made to a man he has never seen and nothing on this planet can stop him.

“My Shooter is not going without his Spotter and I really am a better Spotter than I am a Doc.”

That Evening
(From Historian’s personal remembrances.)

Historian and Natasi had just finished a wonderful dinner at Hanna’s First Inn and were strolling out back by the bluff overlooking the river. It was a pleasant evening with both moons glowing in a cloudless sky filled with twinkling stars. They sat down on one of the benches thoughtfully provided by the management specifically for romantic tête-à-têtes.

“So, Dr. Stuart tells me that your pregnancy is, er, coming along just fine.”

“Da,” Natasi said, smiling to herself, “Just a few more months now and I be a mommy.”

“Er, yes, and, um, I’ll be . . . a daddy.”

Natasi didn’t say anything and the silence hung in the darkness.

Historian squirmed a bit and then said, “So, I think it would be good if the child had . . . That is, we seem to get along well together and . . . “

“Vhat’s on you mind, Histy?”

“Well, I just thought that, um, maybe we could make ourselves, um, a family. Sort of ‘tie the knot’ so to speak.”

Natasi broke out in laughter so loud that a couple on another bench some distance away turned to stare at them.

She said, “Histy, old man, is dis some sort of proposal?”

Historian was thankful for the darkness as he was blushing furiously. He stumbled out, “Well, I was thinking it might be nice to get married.”

Still chuckling, she said, “Ah, Histy, Histy, Histy. You is too gallant. Thank you but no thanks. I is a free spirit, a spacer now. I no vant to settle down on ground here baking cookies and changing das dirty diapers. Colony needs babies so I have one but I already arrange with dat nice couple, da Rosenthals to adopt the kid baby. Dey have dat big farm out beyond Les’s place and she too old to bear a baby.”

“Oh,” Historian said and after a pause, “well, I guess that’s alright, then.”

Natasi took Historian’s hand in hers and leaning over, kissed him on the cheek. She said, “You a sweet man, Histy guy.”

Historian breathed out a sigh. It might have been a sigh of relief!


Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family

Day 326

Aya & Arra Benjamin

After we both wrote our own thoughts about what happened out by New Walden Pond last week we decided to try and put them together into one piece. Even though we haven’t told anyone what really happened yet (and we’re still figuring it out ourselves) we thought we should write this down together before too much time went by just in case we decide we want to tell someone, someday. Well, we probably will want to. Which is why we wanted to write this. Anyway, we figured it’s going to be confusing enough trying to explain what the heck happened out there without whoever having to read two different versions, so even though it’s weird we’re writing in the third person. You could say we thought a bird’s eye view might be easier to understand. And yes, we’re only ten and we know what “the third person” and “a bird’s eye view” are. Ok?

Alright, here goes.

Compiled by Aya & Arra Benjamin from their journals

Day 318

Aya and Arra (or Arra and Aya, as they were sometimes called) were a kind of borderline age on Alchibah. They were definitely too young to go out with the Young Guns, even though they wanted to sometimes (especially because Jai was a Young Gun), but they were too old to really enjoy spending all their time with the little kids. It’s not that they minded the younger kids, it’s just that spending all day with them got boring sometimes, and it got annoying other times. So when they got time off of school on the weekends – if you’re not from Alchibah that means the last three days out of every ten, except a lot of the adults worked almost everyday – they often spent it with the teenagers or adults, or just with each other. And this particular weekend day they were spending by themselves, out at New Walden Pond.

Now, you might think that was silly, or a bad idea, but if you did you would be wrong. Or you should have been wrong, but weren’t. Because Walden was supposed to be safe – the slizzards didn’t like it because it was too deep and didn’t have any marshy parts, and the vargs were staying away from Liberty now, and as far as anyone could tell the rumblers were all gone, and the uglasaurs didn’t attack humans, and the other things that might want to eat kids were too small to. So Arra and Aya had spent a lot of days in the summer swimming in Walden without any trouble. Plus, they were really good swimmers and really fast runners and always took Bite and Smite (Sinopa’s two viras) and a bunch of their dogs too. This time they took Shilo, Sam and Shadow (they were German Shepherds) and Pippin and Sputnik (they were Aussies). Plus Shuk, the devil that had adopted them, always followed them everywhere. And then there was Little Jon, the radar squirrel that Aya had raised as a pet after she found him alone as a baby. So it wasn’t like they were alone. They had nine other people with them.

They arrived at the little beach near their house and changed into their new swimsuits (they were made out of tree bark of all things, just like most of the other new clothes). Aya charged right at the water while Arra gave a last couple pets to the dogs. And that’s when things started to get weird.

Aya ran splashing into the nice, warm water and then did a beautiful, shallow dive that barely made a ripple in the pond’s surface. The water felt so nice, Arra thought. She could feel it flowing past her body as she swam slowly, effortlessly away from the shore.

But that wasn’t right. Arra furrowed her eyebrows. She was still on the shore, petting Sam. Why the heck could she feel the water? Only she could feel the sun on her skin too. She looked down at Sam in and cocked her head questioningly.

Aya broke the surface twenty feet or so away from shore and stood up. The water came up to her chest and it was just perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. And the sun felt so good on her skin, and Sam’s fur was as soft as ever under her fingers.


Her vision started to, well, double wasn’t quite the right word. It was like looking at a faint reflection in a window. She could see the reflection, and she could also see the world beyond the window, if she thought about it. She started to walk back towards the shore, holding her head. When she closed her eyes it got better – then there was only one image. An image that kept on swinging back between looking at her feeling her way into shore and looking at one or another of the dogs. What the hell?

Arra was just as confused as her sister. Right after she had looked at Sam she had started to see another image that superimposed itself over her own vision. She gasped as she realized what she was seeing – herself, on the beach. Through her sister’s eyes. And then the image was gone. She glanced back at Shilo and then looked back at her sister, who was walking back into shore with her hands over her eyes. What the hell?

What the hell indeed. Wait, she thought, where did that come from? That wasn’t my though. Was it?

Aya was only getting more confused. Words rang in her head. What the hell indeed. Wait, where did that come from? That wasn’t my though. Was it? She opened her eyes and saw the double image again. This time she managed to focus on the one that she was pretty sure was coming from her own eyes. She had just reached shore, and sat down next to her sister.

“Did you say something?” Aya asked.

“No. I thought you did.” Arra responded.

“No,” she paused. I didn’t, she thought.

“But I could’ve sworn you…wait.” You didn’t? Arra thought back. What the hell?

What the hell indeed.

“What the heck is going on Aya?” Arra whispered aloud.

“I don’t know. But I think it’s pretty cool, don’t you?” her sister nodded slowly. “Do you have the two images thing going on too?”

Yeah. I can switch back and forth between them, she paused, looking into the distance, but I can’t quite-

see them at the same time. Me either, Aya thought back but I think we’ll figure that out. Arra nodded in agreement.

We’ve got to test this thing out! I wonder how far it goes. I mean, does it matter how far away we are from each other? Arra thought.

And I wonder if there’s anything else we can do with it. Aya thought back

Ok, let’s try out the distance thing at l-

Arra was abruptly cut off as both girls dove to the side simultaneously, catching each other enough as they did to go tumbling to the ground. The double vision thing was starting to prove itself a problem.

“You felt it too?” Arra asked, aloud this time, stand up and brushing off her skinned knee.

“Yeah, it was like-”

“something was going to attack u-” Aya cut off as the dogs all of a sudden started growling and barking, barring their teeth in the direction of the woods. Bite and Smite started their raspy, hoarse barks as well, and Little Jon, unnoticed to the two girls until now in all the excitement, had been for a couple minutes cowering, shaking, behind Pippin, it’s favorite of the dogs, with its ears fully extended, staring into the forest. Finally Shuk jumped into the air screaming “Kiiv, kiiv!”

“Kiiv! That’s-” Aya started.

“Shit!” Aya agreed. “Jadaa, get help! Get help now!”

There hadn’t been any kiiv, as the devils called them, seen in or around Liberty since that first colony that Kaiya and Connor had discovered had been exterminated. People had kept away from that area for months afterwards, not wanting to even think of the horrific little bastards. They were the fifteen-legged spider-like creatures that had been living among the patch of big boulders west of the landing site. None of the adults would tell any of the kids why exactly they were so horrible, but the pictures of the black, red and iridescent blue-green horrors with fifteen pointy legs, six eyes and a nasty, spiky mouth were enough to freak the bravest kid the hell out. Plus every kid’s parents had warned them that these were the most dangerous things on Alchibah. All of which was nothing compared to the horror that the twins felt when they actually saw the first few of them creeping out of the forest.

The girls started backing up towards the shore as the dogs held their ground, teeth barred, hackles up, growling viciously. There were dozens of them now, skittering every witch way, just out of reach of the dogs. They had skittered onto the beach as well, cutting the twins off from the lake. They were everywhere from a couple inches to almost two feet wide and somehow looked horrifyingly hungry.

Aya screamed.

Scream, scream! she thought. It’s louder than calling for help. Scream! And Arra screamed too, at the top of her lungs. Then the kiiv attacked.

It was almost like watching a pitched battle. The dogs and vira lunged at any kiiv that got close enough, putting themselves as best they could between danger and their humans. Their jaws closed around attacker after attacker with sickening crunches, but they were simply overwhelmed. Fyago and Sam went down first, with kiiv latching onto them left and right, and Shadow went a second later. Within a few seconds from the kiivs’ first good bite their victim simply collapsed like a rag doll, unmoving. Aya and Arra were no longer screaming, they were crying out in rage, tears streaming down their faces at seeing their beloved dogs killed. They had picked up pieces of driftwood and were swinging at the vicious creatures with all their might, sending them flying in all directions. But then Aya got bit and all the dogs were down. Only Arra and the vira were somehow still unbitten, with Little Jon screaming down at the scene from his perch in the trees above.

And then, barreling through the forest came the twins’ Uncle Gabe, roaring for all the world like the lions of old with their father Connor close behind. The kiiv didn’t stand a chance under the onslaught of the guns that Alchibah was becoming so used to. They were popping right and left as the bullets hit them, spewing their insides over the forest floor and the scene around them. Some survival instinct must have kicked in at that point because all of the ones left alive started fleeing back into the forest, though Gabe didn’t stop shooting, and hitting, until they were out of sight.

Gabe raised his wrist comp. “This is Angel. Code 3! I repeat, code 3! We need the med ship on the south shore of Walden in front of Connor’s house now!”

“Angel, Magic. We’re on our way, hold on. Details?”

“In a second,” came Gabe’s short reply.

Arra was just kneeling over her sister, crying, rocking back and forth over her motionless body. She didn’t know what she would do without her sister. Losing her is

I’m ok sis, I’m ok!
came the thought Arra, it’s all right. I just can’t move, and the bite hurts like hell, but I’m ok. Check my pulse and then tell Gabe and Dad that I’m ok!

Arra quieted her sobs and put her fingers on her sister’s neck and shouted, “She’s ok! She’s alive, but I don’t think she can move,” as her dad and uncle rushed over.

“Aya! Aya, say something.” Connor pleaded, cradling his daughter in his arms. “Please, please, say something.”

“Look at her eyes Connor – they’re moving.” Gabe said from over his brother’s shoulder. “Arra’s right – she’s paralyzed.” He spoke into his write comp again. “Magic, Angel. Aya’s bleeding and paralyzed – kiiv attack – and we have five dogs that are the same.”

“Angel, Magic. We’re in the air. Just keep her stable for another minute.”

Two Days Later

Aya groggily opened her eyes.

“Dad? Arra?” she asked, looking around slowly. “Jai?”

“Aya! You’re awake.” Connor was at her bedside immediately. “Are you feeling ok?”

“Is Arra all right?”

“Yeah, Arra’s going to be fine honey. She never even got bit. Gabe and I got there just after they bit you.” She opened her mouth to ask another question, but he cut her off. “And all the dogs are going to make it. Sputnik’s the only one that’s awake, but the others are going to be ok too. The venom lasts for a while, but it won’t hurt them.” Aya yelled in delight (you could almost say “squealed” except of course she doesn’t “squeal”), throwing her arms around her dad’s neck, grinning from ear to ear.

“Oh daddy, that’s wonderful. We thought they were all dead. We thought…” she trailed off.

“Shhh, it’s ok honey, it’s all alright.”

Aya & Arra

So, that’s the story of what happened at New Walden. Dad finally told us what the kiiv do. They paralyze their victim with venom and then eat them alive, still completely aware of everything. We can understand why they never told us kids before. And he was right, all the dogs are ok. And Bite and Smite never got bitten on account of their armored scales, and Little Jon’s calmed down finally. He was terrified, but he never ran away. And if we were paying attention he would have warned us minutes ahead of time.

Dad and Uncle Gabe and Sinopa and Okanai and a bunch of the Young Guns and the Stuarts went out on a kiiv hunt after we got put in the hospital and found a den with hundreds and hundreds of kiv eggs and a bunch of live kiivs too. They burned them out. It’s kind of sad, really. It’s not like they were being evil, they just were hungry. But sometimes we guess you’ve just got to protect yourself. Oh, and no one under 15 not in the Young Guns are allowed out alone any more, except right in Liberty. Which makes sense, but it’s still annoying.

As far as what’s going on with us, we haven’t really figured it all out yet. But it definitely is cool, and it’s not going anywhere. We’re starting to figure out how to control it too. We’ll see where it goes from here.

The Book of Hosham

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

Then we pulled away from Ho’reb and went marching
through all that great and fear-inspiring wilderness
which you might have seen,
by way of the mountainous region of the Amorites,
just as Jehovah our God had commanded us;
and we eventually came to Ka’desh-bar’nea.

Deuteronomy 1.19

We first went to meet with the Tulari. It was a journey of nine days though in the past it would have taken much longer, perhaps twice as long. Our dietary changes, most particularly our eating of meat for the first time in memory was changing our physiology. I had added 20 percent in weight and my stamina had increased at least as much. It was the same for all of the Agorah and all of our senses elsewise seemed enhanced.

We made skin water bags, and insomuch as we carried them, they let us cut across and not follow the traditional routes which in the past always caused us to remain within a day’s march of water. We did not need to stop for rest and to feed and forage when we could be proceeding towards our destination.

Ephraim, Aram, and Jacob have joined us. All except the aged and infirm, and the young of the Agorah, are armed with a new innovation, shorter spears meant for throwing, of these we each carry ten or more. We also have a throwing stick. A grooved slat about three feet long onto which we may place the end and the body of our spears and using the handle fashioned into the rear end hurl those spears with much more force, and over twice the distance, than we had ever been able manage before.

As we march I can not say that I understand all that the prophet Aaron speaks of—and I find much of Brother Edwards’s behavior at odds with the teachings. Yet I see ever more clearly that all Aaron speaks of, concerning the prophesies, must come to pass. When I first spoke of Aaron as being a prophet he chided me and bade me to desist. He does not see himself that which is so plain to the rest of us.

On the second day I said to Aaron. “If you would permit us to carry you and Brother Edwards we could proceed much faster.”

“Sounds good to me,” Brother Edwards said at once.

“I do not wish to be a burden,” Aaron said.

“It must by need speed the work of the Lord,” I replied. And thus we proceeded, switching the riders between us at first, but in time as our strength continued to increase this was no longer necessary.

The Prophet Aaron instructed that all of our meat be cooked before eating and that we might drink blood only ceremonially. He told us that this was proper under the dietary laws. Cooking greatly reduced the effect of the spiritual essence upon us.

Brother Edwards was not of the same opinion. “The Young fella’ means well,” Edwards said when Aaron was out of hearing. “But he ain’t been around much yet and what he don’t know won’t hurt him.”

When hunting with Edwards Aram and Jacob would each eat small amounts of the uncooked meat when the cleaning was done. Ephraim and I refrained though we did not mention anything about this to the Prophet.

For two days we traveled through the lands of the Tulari. We had been spotted and observed though none came to us. In the past this would have been unthinkable behavior but times were changing. We entered the plain on the ninth day and there spread before us was the encampment.

“They are almost here,” the watcher said, to Tulari, head of all the Tulari, “it is as Yelsig predicted.”

“Gather the elders and we will go forth.”

Aaron would later say that that which lay before us looked nothing like a settlement but instead like a herd, a vast conglomeration, orderly and geometric, and the few buildings, used for storage or ritual, was easily mistaken for natural mounds or features. We were less than 400 yards away from the outskirts when Tulari, leader of the Tulari, at last came out to meet us. He was accompanied by the elders of his tribe and following them came many others wanting to hear and see what would transpire.

“You are not welcome here,” Tulari said, halting ten yards away, not getting close enough for mind to mind contact. “Come no closer and leave our lands. Yelsig has informed us of what you do and what you intend and it is not our way. You seek to change, even to overthrow, what you do not understand. You have already made slaves and beasts of burden out of the Agorah as I see they carry you upon their backs. We would never do the same for it is wrong to be so subservient to mere mortals.”

The Prophet Aaron dismounted then spoke, “They act not as mindless beasts but as bearers speeding the Lords message.”

“That is your message, a message to and for humans. It is not one that is meant for the tribes lead by the Yelsig. I can see the changes in Hosham and the others. They are no longer of us. They no longer look like us nor even do they think in our manner.”

Brother Edwards by this time had slid down from off the back of Jacob, who had been carrying him, and was standing watching carefully, his rifle in hand pointing at the ground in front of us. Aaron the Prophet took no notice of this fact so far as I could see. Tulari and his tribe’s elders were armed with the long lance like weapons that were the standard protection against predators.

“It is the decision of the tribe that you depart at once and not contaminate our ways or the land which gives us life.”

Then Aaron answered Tulari, leader of the Tulari, “The Lord Jehovah has commanded that I come here to you as Moses was sent unto the Amorites at Ka’desh-bar’nea. And here I shall stand and deliver his word and all that accept will join with us and become one of us. And all that do not hear and do not accept will be lost in his sight.”

And Aaron, with a voice both pure and strong began, “For in the beginning God created the heavens and earths.”

“Drive them away and out of our land!” commanded Tulari. And the elders lowered their lances till they pointed at us. And they took one step forwards. Then—.

Crack! Crack! And two of the elders slumped to the ground. Aaron turned and looked at Edwards with horror. Crack! Crack! And two more fell.

“Stop!” Yelled the Prophet Aaron, “Stop, this is not the way.”

Crack! came the sound once more, and another Tulari buckled and fell, and then most of those gathered broke and ran away. Edwards calmly reloaded as he watched them disperse.

“Well kid, I figure this is kinda like the Spaniards and the Aztecs and I just had my Cortes moment. They don’t look to be much trouble now do they? Right docile now I’d say, so let’s just gather up a few; and we could start with the ones who look to be in shock and didn’t run and… Snap out of it kid, don‘t you go into shock too. This is your moment and times a’wastin’.”

The ways of the Lord are mysterious and sometimes harsh but by nightfall we had our first converts amongst the Tulari.

So, Are you Game, Capt. Steel?

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 370 Stuart Combine, Liberty, Alchibah

I was sitting having an afternoon drink and oiling up a CAW when Mariana came in the door followed by Capt. Al Steel.

Mariana told Al, “I thought he would be here. You will understand if I go lie down for a while?”

Al produced a gentle bow and said, “Of course, the reason is of course beginning to be rather obvious.”

“Pour yourself a snort and pull a chair Capt. Steel,” I motioned towards the shiny new refrigerator.

He moved to the fridge grabbed a mug from the stack on the side table and helped himself. Moving back to one of the chairs in front of my desk he commented, “I am not overly familiar with Infantry or SF weapons for sure. However that appears to be a marvelous little device for ruining somebody’s day.”

“That it is Al, that it is. It’s an Alchibah MK II Close Assault Weapon, a rip off of the old H&K Model 15 that they built for GSG 9 right before the UNWG put them out of business. Fires the same .45 ACP round that the sidearms do and will even take their mags in a pinch. Single fire, burst of three and burst of five. No full auto, that’s just a damn waste of ammo!

“What this means to you is that we are up to speed on production for weapons for the Assault Force, so it’s time to turn our attention to the Dancer. First, Al have you decided whether you want to permanently stay with the Spacers, come to Liberty or the final option to have it both ways?”

Al’s jaw dropped, “Stuart, how in hell could I or any of my people have option three?”

I gave him my innocent look, “Simple, anyone from the Dancer that puts on the Strike Force Uniform gets a full first settler land grant. After the fight if you wanna go play in space who cares. That was one of the reasons I waited to have this little chat, we had to get that approved first, but with Connor and of course Mariana’s support on the Council it wasn’t an issue. Think I’m gonna have a problem getting a Captain or crew for Dancer?”

“Hell No,” Al replied quickly. “I’ll even be able to trim them down to a fighting crew with spares waiting to take their places.”

“OK, here are the rules as I see them. You wear this patch,” I said pointing to my left shoulder. “You take my orders. I don’t expect your people to earn this one,” I said pointing to my left breast pocket.

“Hell, only my Storm and Board force and one or two special stay behinds are going to have to win that one. You and I can design a patch for your Space Force Forward; you and you only decide what the hell they have to go through to get it.”

He leaned back and thought for a few moments, “On those orders, do you mean Strategic or Tactical? That could make a big difference.”

“Al, besides being a sudden death assassin on the battlefield, I am also a Combat Pilot. Get where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there. There is no way I am going to tell a nose gunner how to fight his or her vessel. Strategic only and we talk about that beforehand. Until we get to the furball it is going to be Travis’s show anyway, he’s in the position of the Admiral Commanding our Carrier after all.”

Al threw up a ragged ass salute with one hand and raised his mug with the other. “OK, you got yourself a Captain. How are you going to use us?”

“I thought you would never ask, and you might wish you had not. We are going to start by pulling three of your 100 MM’s, the fighters need them more. Come on, let me show you what we are going to replace them with.” I stood and moved over to the hidden switch that dropped the stairs to the lower labs. Moving down the stairs I turned and said, “Welcome to HQ Strike Force Alchibah Capt. Steel.”

“I have run scans on this planet so many times you cannot imagine and we never found this,” Al exclaimed. “How the hell did you hide this?”

“It’s rather simple Al, the whole place is surrounded by a pure Gold mesh carrying an Andrews-Hibbs shield. You don’t own a sensor device that can get through that.”

“Is there anything that can?” Al asked in amazement.

“Sure, comm links that are specifically designed to phase through the field. We have not found anything else that will, of course we have no idea what the Guardians can do. Hell, they may be sitting somewhere laughing at us right now.

“But at any rate let me show you what we have for you in place of those 100’s.

“But, when I get through remember one thing. Code of the Warrior still applies, if they kill their drive and drop the ASRS; they have surrendered and they live. If they don’t, we are going to blow them out of Space.

“Except for that Transport!  That Baby is what my Force is for, I don’t know how many Slaves they are carrying in Cold Sleep and I don’t care.

”That one we take and those Slaves get to live free!”

Somewhere and Somewhen

The two Guardians looked at each other, One asked, “Does he really mean that?”

The Guardian known temporarily as ‘The Observer’ said, “Observe!”

The screen flashed to a scene of Andy Stuart and Glen Travis in the original Hanna’s place on the Mayflower. Travis stated, “Why don’t you write down what Hamilton asked you, that convinced you to come on this trip and I will do the same.”

Andy looked at him and said, “Fine let’s do it!” As he ripped a page from his ever present notebook.

They passed the pages across the table, the Guardians saw two pieces of paper that were almost identical.

“Well Mr (fill in the blank), if I promise you a (fill in the blank) Commander to match your skills and determination; can you defend a colony world?”

Two men looked at each other and at the same time said, “Yes.”

The Guardians looked at each other. The Observer asked, “Can they truly follow the middle path. Are they the ones who can stop the horde and not become them?”

The second Guardian looked closely at The Observer. “They well could be but, their actions in this upcoming crisis could well determine that!”

HQ, Strike Force Alchibah, Current Time

Al followed Andy through the first set of doors. He stopped and stared at the four CNC machines slowly turning out precision parts in Computer Controlled mode. “OK Andy, I thought you people only had seven of these so far?”

Andy grinned back and swept the room with a wave. “So Al, now you know that I can lie like a Politician. No mention of any of these machines has ever gone on any electronic means. Even the parts they are making are cataloged by hand. The control files never leave the shielded areas, I don’t care if the Guardians can figure this out. But, the damn Goonies don’t get a shot! Wait till you see the next room, that’s really gonna blow your cool.” I open the next door and waved him through.

“What the hell are those?” Al asked. “I have an idea but, there is no way they should be here.”

“Al, they are exact replicas of the 25 MM Bushmaster Chain Guns from the old American Bradley vehicle turrets and they are going to replace two of the 100’s on the Dancer. These will be your medium range defense weapons. Follow me please,” I said as I opened the next door. To where two Bots were assembling an absolute monstrosity. “This Al is one of the Ventral and Dorsal turrets you are going to sprout. We are going to build them here and they will be fitted to the Dancer in the Mayflower dock. Glen is just waiting for us to finish them!”

“Andy, I am not unversed in military history. That looks astoundingly like a a Quad MA Duce .50 Cal setup. What the hell else are you hiding? The 25’s and the .50’s are my defense, I have a feeling you are not going to send me in harm’s way without some offensive capability other than my remaining 100.”

“OK Al, dumb you ain’t. Notice that the door over us is outside of the Kellerman residence, let’s go the other way.” We moved back through the rooms we had already passed through. When we reached the place we had started from I turned and faced Al. “Al, there are damn few people who know what’s on the other side of this door. Glen, Ash, Hibbs, Monroe, Walt, Tim, Gabe, Connor, Me and now you; you ain’t gonna believe this.”

I lead him through room after room of Bots assembling tubes and precious metal wire coils to a final room where a 1/10th scale model was assembled facing a wall of pole tree lumber. “SFC Nug, are you ready for a test shot?”

“Yes Sir, but how many more times do we have to do this?”

“This is it,” I grinned, “when this is is over you guys are going to make that an assembly room for the components of the full deal!”

“Sir,” Nug intoned, “can I say about fracking time.”

“That you can Sergeant, that you can. Al, what you are looking at is a 1/10th scale model of a 5 CM Rail Gun. Let’s go back a room and you can watch from there.” He followed with a stunned look and was glazed in the eyes as I said. “Now understand this is a .5 CM projectile coming out of a magnetic field 1/10 of what we are going to generate. SFC Nug, fire.” Nug pushed the button and the overpressure in the room peaked.

Al Steel stared at the resulting cavity and asked, “You are going to give me something Ten times the power of that at Line of Sight Range? Hell, I’ll beat a Battleship for you.”

“No Al,” I replied, “I am going to give you two of those!”

“What do you think I am going to give LTC. Benjamin?”

Al had just left and I was running over the correlation files I was processing when Mariana waddled back in. That was the appropriate phrase these days and slumped in the overstuffed chair.

As she struggled to pull of her first boot she quipped, “I don’t know whether to be overjoyed, count down the days or shoot your cojones off you smug Bastard.”

“Well,” I replied, “as I’m faster than you the latter is out. As for the first two, at the probable time of my insult; I just can’t seem to recall you yelling anything that resembled ‘Stop, Stop’ you know Bitch.”

I was ducking as I said it and the boot missed me by two feet. “I see you missed the glass!”

Working on her second boot as she said, “I’m pregnant and cranky, I ain’t stupid!

“Besides, Kurt finally got a good Ultrasound on the twins. I think this planet likes one of each, By The Way, if what we saw today is any indication; you might want to find some place to stay that last week cause I am going to be really pissed at you.”

I did my best not to laugh. “OK, what did I do this time that I have no idea of?”

She just glared, “Ever since we figured out that it was twins I was hoping for only one male to hold down the size. Kurt nor I are sure which is larger, not only that, but the fancy bone prediction program of his says that she will be over six feet.

“I am going to be a C-section no doubt. At least we are able to predict it but, if you think I am happy you are wrong!”

“OK,” I said, “but you really can’t blame me for my genes!”

“The hell I can’t,” She laughed, “my privilege as the one who carries the kids. Now, what has you looking so confused. I don’t see that look out of you often, as a matter of fact almost never!”

I just groaned, “I am trying to match possible skills to actual performances and I have one big analomy.

“That is you and Sally at the fight with Jack and his back shooter. How did you not know Sally was there, if you knew he was there?”

Mariana leaned back and sipped her tea, “Because she was not there to my foresight. I could see him but not her. She has as best I can tell, no ability to project, inquire or discern; she is just a damn big null! She’s like walking into a wall in a dark night, she just ain’t there!”

I groaned, “Another damn skill I have to project in.”

“No,” Mariana exclaimed, “it’s just something she is. I don’t know how to explain it. The Benjamin twins recoil from her, JoAnn just shakes her head. Sweetheart, Sally just ain’t there to us. She is a null, she rejects the probes from everything. I would be willing to bet the Guardians can’t sense her either. That’s how scary her null is!

“Not only that, but I have to break it to you. She is not Strike Force, I know she shot; but she did so out of what she thought was absolute necessity. If I have to draw down on you and Kurt both, you are not going to ask her to go up there.”

I had to grin, “Calm down My Life; she is out and Chris Petersen takes her place. But, if she is that opaque; you think Connor might need to be told?”

Mariana’s grin split the room, “Defend she will. I don’t want to be the Wolf that comes after her Cubs.”

The Race - Rules and Routes

Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

Plans are Made:
“Ok, let’s get this show on the road,” Karl Nash said in a loud tone of voice. “As Commodore of the Alchibah Cup I say that we have come to lay down the rules and I want you all to know this is not a debating society.”

That statement got everyone sitting in the bar of the First Inn’s attention at once and the crowded room quieted down. Some twenty people were there, the three Captains, Travis, Stewart, and Bartlett, many of the crewmembers, and some of the population at large.

“First I will propose my plan. Each ship owner may briefly make comments or suggest changes, and then we vote on the rule. Each ship gets one vote, and majority will decide. In case there is no agreement or majority, I will make the rule. This procedure is what we vote on first. Any comments? None?”

“Fine with me.”
“Sounds good.”
“Captain Travis?”
“Let’s make it unanimous.”

“Good then. I will lay out what we have talked about in the past in a general sense. Except for variations in sail plan, the three contenders are very nearly identical. Interiors and working details are of course somewhat different reflecting your individual preferences but all things being equal we will have no handicap system and the winner will be judged on total elapsed time and since all will leave the starting line together the first to the finish will be declared the winner. It is also stated and agreed that none of the robots involved will share any information regarding the ships, race, or actions involved with the same.

“There are two suggestions for the course itself. One, a run up the coast and back, and the other a triangular course out to sea and then back to the starting line. In each scenario the starting and finishing point would be a line drawn across the river from the boatyard dock to a marker set on the rivers other side. In order to keep this thing limited to one day, and the race held in daylight only, the distance should be in the neighborhood of eighty to ninety miles or so. We are running about 12 hrs of sunlight this time of year and provided we have average wind conditions and a good 20-hour forecast that should work out fine. I already know Bart is going to vote for an offshore triangular course so let’s hear any comments and get this out of the way. Travis?”

“I’m in favor of a course heading north up the coast then back. Good scenery and close to shore if something goes wrong.”

“Yeah,” Bart said, “and you’ve been practicing just that route for the last month and a half in all kinds of weather, wind, and tide conditions. And you know how the wind and waves react to the various headland and other land formations.”

“Gee Bart; I didn’t realize you were paying any attention. But yes we have been up and down once or twice and it is a very pretty trip indeed.”

“We have heard Captain Travis’s proposal. Andy? What do you say?”

“I say up the coast and down the coast ain’t a race it’s the same as swimming in a bathtub. We need to go up upwind, downwind, crosswind and get away from sheltered waters in order to test all points of sailing.”

The vote went in favor of a triangular course with the first leg north ending at a buoy that would be set well out to sea, followed by a downwind leg with a turn around one of the Offshore Islands and ending with a crosswind stretch back to the finish line. To keep Captain Travis happy they agreed to set a buoy ten miles straight up the coast as a first waypoint before heading into deeper water.

“Now for the crew. We will limit active participants to four humans and four robots. Each team will nominate an observer to be placed on one of the other boats. In this case Ash goes on the Bluenose, Joe Fortson goes on the Last Chance and Larry Monroe will be on Stuart’s Cuchulainn. In addition you may take anyone else with you who desires to go; but they must not aid in the ships operation in any manner. All three ships have auxiliary power sources. Andy and Travis have ethanol and Bart has steam. For this race they may not be used to provide any form of propulsion but at your option may be used to power other ships gear such as line handling equipment.

“These rules are uncontroversial so let’s hear about your crew choices? Captain Travis, you first.”

“Is this a permanent declaration or can we change it later?”

“You can change it anytime until the race starts,” Karl told him.

“Ok, then I will have Darren Culver, Glenda Cumberland, and Steve Fallon with me.

“What about robots?” Karl prodded.

“Didn’t know you needed them. Alright I’ll take R. Columbus, R. Esso, Bolo, and Brice asked me to take R. Asimov.

“Walt Davis, Robbie McMaster with Mike Reye to do the climbing, R. Nug, R. Mycroft, R. Eddings, and R. Lewis will be my crew,” Andy said.

“I plan on Gene Washburn, JJ Parker, and Lars Neilson as my human crewmembers. For bots, the Jeep, EmyCee, and if you can spare them Karl I’ll borrow Bligh and Fletcher. Janie is coming along for the ride just in case I get lost again,” Bart said with a smile.

The rest of the details were hammered out and the race was set to start in one more week, weather permitting.

A Practice Session:
“Jeez Bart, Couldn’t you use winches like the Spacers and the Stuart boat?” JJ said as he strained alongside Fletcher, Bligh, Gene Washburn and the Jeep struggling at the capstan bar while walking round and round in small circles.”

“JJ this is how it’s done and if it was good enough for Drake, Nelson, and Collingwood it’s good enough for me. Isn’t that right Jeep?”

“Aye aye Captain Bart!” The Jeep snapped off.”

“You mean Black Bart don’t you Jeep,” Gene said under his breath, “I read somewhere that he was one pirate who treated his crew about the way we‘re being handled now.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly if I were you,” the Jeep answered, “Last time I mentioned something like that to Captain Bart he threatened to have me dancing at the yard arms or walking the plank or some such.”

“Keel hauled?”

“Yes, that was it.”

“This is great Babe,” Bart said to Janie from his position under the umbrella shading the table amidships, while taking another sip of the rum flavored drink he had taken to calling grog, and watching the foresail jib fill out and take shape while the fore and main sails were adjusted to just the proper angles.”

“Sure is Bart.” Janie agreed, “at least for you and me, but over training can be harmful to morale and efficiency. Or so I have heard.”

“Yeah, you might have a point…Ok everyone, lash the wheel and tie off the clew lines and take a break. Rum rations for all hands and bots go ahead and do whatever it is you do when at ease.”

Lars, JJ, and Gene helped themselves to the grog bucket and the Jeep pulled out a blanket and spread it out on deck against the side of the ship. Then all of the bots knelt down and the Jeep pulled some small cubes from his storage pocket and tossed them bouncing across the blanket where they hit the low side rail between two of the stanchions and bounding back came to rest.”

“The point is five,” said R. Fletcher as the Jeep scooped up the dice, shook his hand, and prepared to throw again.”

“Very funny,” Bart said barely suppressing a grin. “Which one of you mutinous seadogs put them up to it?” When no one answered Bart said, “Well I suppose it could have been the Jeep; what passes for his sense of humor is decidedly odd.”

“Kinda’ like yours Dear?” Janie ventured. “He does take after you don‘t you know.”

The previous Evening:
“You want me to do what Captain Bart?”

“You heard me Jeep, and I know you can do it. You walked under water and saved me and most of our supplies when we crash-landed up north. The water isn’t as deep here up against the dock, only four or five foot from the bottom to the sternpost, and you don’t need to stay down half as long. What I have here is a drogue, a small sea anchor. And I want you to attach it to Andy‘s ship. Use this mount here and screw it into the stern of the Cuchulainn where it won’t interfere with the rudder. At slow speeds Andy will never notice it and probably not even with all sails set. I have it sized to take about a quarter of a knot from his top speed. I could have easily made it a bit larger and slowed him down by a knot or so, but that might be too obvious.”

“Is this fair?” the Jeep asked.

“Fair, who ever said anything about fair? This is a race and if the rules don’t exclude something it’s almost like it was mandatory, and far more legal than we need it to be for our purposes.”

“Spoken like a true sea lawyer,” Janie said looking up from the old video of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ that was playing on her comp screen.

“What if they catch me?” the Jeep asked.

“Turn states evidence and rat him out at once,” Janie said.

“Enough of this. Come with me Jeep, we will finish our planning in the forward cable tier where such plots usually are hatched.”

“Hurry back Bart, I got ‘Two Years Before the Mast’ queued up next.”

“A couple of hours later the Jeep was on board again with none the wiser.

Race Day:
Four in the morning and the weather forecast was perfect. Five to twelve knot variable winds for at least the next three days and unseasonably warm, or at least warmer than it had been in a week. We were all waiting up stream of the starting line pointing in the proper direction but with anchors out to keep us from drifting down and past it before the start from the signal gun.

Ash then to the absolute amusement of all pulled from his backpack, a false beard, an eye patch, a floppy three pointed Hat and a stuffed puppet Parrot which he placed on Bart’s shoulder.

Over her laughter Janie choked out, “Bloody Hell, that Parrot’s dead!”

Ash put on his best Oh So English accent, “Oh no He’s not, He’s just sleeping. Yes, that’s it sleeping!”

From the deck of the Cuchulainn came Andy’s booming voice, “No matter where you go you are going to find a couple of Monty Python Pukes!”

On Board the Last Chance:
“We will win this race, and I will tell you why we will win this race,” Captain Travis said. “It’s because we are Spacers! And have a tradition to uphold! We are a long unbroken line going back to the earliest navies on Earth and it is in our blood. We will not compromise nor will we dodge or slack on anything needed to win! Is everyone clear on this?”

“Yes sir! came the combined answers instantly from all of the Last Chance’s crew.”

As the resounding roar of agreement ended Joe Fortson said, “That’ll work, so long as you also know how to sail a windjammer on the open ocean. Was that part covered in the tradition also?”

“Hrumph,” Captain Travis responded. “Perhaps not, but victory against all odds is something in our very being and we will not be denied.”
“Good luck Captain, hope it works out that way, that’s what they told me when I was still a line Marine…and you know…sometimes it did.”

The Race Begins:
The small ornamental cannon blew a two-ounce charge of black powder they were on their way. Bart got his anchor up first, only seconds before the other two boats, but the race was even from the start and stayed that way mostly as the three ships went down stream towards the ocean. They all had the bots below decks pumping on the cranks that powered the props. In each case that was good for about three knots. The spacers went to work early on using their sails to tack back and forth, raising and lowering canvas and trying to get every advantage from the light breeze coming in from the north. They got a bit more speed out of all that action than the other two boars but they also as a result had to cover much more distance.

Bartlett and Stuart held off just heading straight down stream and resting the human crew with sails ready to raise but furled and waiting for the opportune moment. For all of the expended effort employed when the three ships reached the river mouth the spacers were indeed first, but only a boats length ahead of Bartlett and the Bluenose and the Stuarts Cuchulainn was only another boats length behind.

The wind was noticeably stronger as they left the shelter of the river’s shoreline and caught the full force from the north. They headed up the shoreline towards the first marker.

On Board the Cuchulainn:
The whine of the winches raising the main and foresail were muted but the speed was evident. Andy looked over to the Bluenose and saw that he had his ship in relative trim more than a minute before Bart and he had taken a hundred yard lead. The spacers some how had managed to exit river on the wrong tack and by the time they corrected and got things right they were last place. Bartlett was running in the number two slot.

“Very good, this might be easier than I thought,” Andy said. “Looks like modern tech beats the old stuff eh Joe?”

“Time will tell but you are off to a good start,” Joe said.

“Got any money on the race Joe?” Andy asked.

“Not much fun in betting on a sure thing.”

On Board the Bluenose An hour into the race:
“Captain Bart.”

“Yes Jeep?”

“I hesitate to say this, not wishing to interfere with your plans or disparage your skills as a sailor, but we could trim out the mainsail somewhat and maybe even put out a foretopmast jib sail and get another half knot or so out of the ship. At least that’s what my calculations show. The Cuchulainn has maintained her early lead and even stretched it out by another fifty yards. Why even the Spacers Last Chance is now closing on us.

“If you were on the Cuchulainn would it look to you like we were doing our best Jeep?”

“If one didn’t know what I know I think that would be an accurate statement.”

“Good. Let’s make sure they keep thinking like that. Besides another sail out front might give us some more speed but it would make it harder to point into the wind. We’d loose the speed advantage due to the extra distance we traveled. We can save our best for the end. Why not get the top masts up but keep both poles bare and we can see how the others relate to that.”

First Inn - Liberty City:
It was an official holiday and ever chair and table inside was filled with people watching the display screens on two of the walls. The overflow crowd was sitting outside around tables under the awning listening to Erb Neilson’s commentary coming over the speakers Sabbu had wired in place.

“The Cuchulainn has increased her lead to 200 yards with the Bluenose second but it looks like the Spacers are about to take over that spot. I hate to say this folks, especially this early into the race, but it looks like Bart chose the wrong Nielson brother for his crew. We can’t write him off yet but it dose not speak highly of his judgment.”

“We’re going to need some more tables and chairs Jules,” Hanna said to her husband. “With this many people here already the whole colony could be here in a few more hours.”

“I’ll get some bots and go down to the community building and borrow a few.”

“Are you sure you’re up to it?”

“I haven’t felt this good in twenty years. Be back before you know I’m gone.”

This was after all a holiday, and there were far too many people for the Inn to handle, so the meal was pot luck with most everyone bringing a side dish or desert to go with the roasting meat and barbecue grills set up for later. But that was later and the whole day was ahead.

Double Trouble!

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Hanna Parker

“Hey, what’s all the excitement about,” exclaimed Histy.

Jules said, “Well, Histy, if I had a cigar to give away, you’d be smokin’ a stogie right now. Hanna and I just became great-grandparents to twins. The lit’le darlings are Alex and Angie.”

“Does that mean drinks on the house?”

“Sure” Hanna said. “…in your dreams! Actually, we need help with brainstorming. Linda asked me to figure out clothes for the wee ones. I knitted a few outfits, but what we really need is fabric. And what we need immediately are nappies; lots of nappies.”

“And we’ll need a laundry.” Jules said. “Do we hang the diapers out to dry? I sure don’t relish getting slapped in the face by a wet nappy. What about ‘dirty birds’?”

Histy commented that he had heard Mariana say that machine drying did a better job at sanitation, which was why all Hospitals used it for reusables.

Hanna stared at the air for a moment, “Jules, will you hand me that fancy phone. I think I need to talk to Andrew Stuart!”

Briefing Room, Ash Andrews’ Place

“I just can’t believe that this crowd never thought about Washers and Dryers!” Andy said.

“Here we sit working on plans that will shake Space Warfare for Generations and we forget the basics. Just fer example, who in here does not have a pregnant wife?”

The only raised hand was Gabe’s and he cracked, “Matter of time you know!”

“Anybody,” Andy continued, “feel like doing or listening to the griping about diapers?”

This time there were no hands in the air.

“Right, crash project time Gentlemen. Walt, sheet metal box components for Washers and Dryers. Tim, Printed Circuit Boards or equivalent for the Controls. Gabe, Sand casting for the Drums. I’ll handle the agitator gears and the step timers for the control units. Ash, heater elements for the Dryers.

“Above all things Guys; not perfect but, by Thursday!”

Several Days Later

Jules said, “JJ and Gabe are just putting finishing touches on cribs for the kids. Em had good ideas about what she wanted. I sure admire her – that gal’s got lots of guts, and spirit too.”

Liza sidled up to Hanna, “Grandma, it was scary. I could tell by Mom’s face that Emily was having problems. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my sister, or the babies. I prayed real hard.”

“Dear, some of life’s difficulties we face with friends, others we face alone. Have faith – and you’ll do just fine, and so will Emily. Now let’s go see those babies, ‘Aunt’ Liza.” Hanna was about to take her to Em when little Karyn came running around the corner. “My goodness, you seem in a hurry, honey.”

“Is it true?” Karyn cried. “The other kids said I have to wash the dirty diapers. I’m just a little kid. I love Emily, but that’s too hard. They said the babies won’t love me if I don’t do it.”

Hanna gave her a reassuring hug, “Karyn, your only ‘job’ is to welcome the twins into the family. Trust me – they will love you without your having to wash diapers. Aunts are special family members for nieces and nephews. You can help if you want to.”

“Enough of this talk about crappy pants. Let’s get to it – nappies are stacking up. Where’s the soap? Time’s a’wasting,” bellowed Ash, standing and grinning in front of the shiny new Washer and Dryer!

Wedding Bells

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family

Complied from various log files.

Hanna’s, Meeting Room 2

A half hour before noon, Day 300

“I can’t believe Rajnar actually managed to make dress uniforms for all of us on top of the gowns for the girls,” Gabe said, nervously adjusting his medals in the makeshift mirror in the back room of Hanna’s that had been converted into a dressing room for the two grooms.

“I know,” Connor laughed. “And to think, he could have saved the cloth on yours and made that wedding tent we were talking about instead. I just hope it doesn’t rain.” Gabe playfully swiped at his brother as Andy and Chavez strode into the room.

“The real miracle is that you two can see straight,” Andy chuckled, hearing Connor’s jibe. “The way you boys were putting drinks away last night I was half expecting to have to carry you to the altar. And considering we’re fresh out of forklifts for our tall friend here, it’s probably for the best that we don’t.” He paused. “I know how Gabe does it, but what’s your secret Connor?”

“I’m Irish,” Connor replied, deadpan. “Plus, my right leg is hollow. Shh,” he whispered, looking around conspiratorially, “don’t tell.”

Andy bellowed laughter, slapping his friend on the back. “It’s a good thing this crew avoids drinking to excess. We wouldn’t have any of Gabe’s ethanol left over for the generators if we did.” He glanced at the pile of guns, holsters and harnesses on the table next to the door.

“Gabe, we agreed. No guns. There are only eight of them there, and I see both of Connor’s. Hand it over,” he said, putting his hand out. After a moment Gabe rolled his eyes and reached behind his back and under his jacket and pulled out a small pistol.

“It’s just a SIG, it’s not like I kept one of the Alaskans or the shotgun.” He handed Andy the gun. “All right, all right. But if we get invaded during the ceremony I’m holding you personally responsible.”

Chavez chuckled. “You two ready for the big day?” he asked.

“Can’t we just find some bad guys to go shoot instead?” Gabe asked plaintively.

“You can do that next week. Today you’ve got to be brave man,” Chavez replied grasping Gabe’s shoulder in mock earnestness, “for Elana. Plus, if you cross her you probably won’t last the day. She’s got what I’d wager is the most dangerous set of bridesmaids ever assembled.”

Gabe threw his head back, roaring laughter and wiping his eyes. “Yeah, I suspect you’re right. Besides, she’s, you know, my soul mate, so ducking out at this point would probably be a mistake. But I’m going to hold you to that – next week we get to go find some bad guys. OK?”

“Absolutely. It’s a date.” The four men burst out in laughter.

Hanna’s, Meeting Room 1 A half hour before noon, Day 300

“I can’t believe what an amazing job Rajnar did on these dresses!” Elana exclaimed, twirling around, the silky white fabric flowing around her. “And look at you Kaiya! Connor’s going to have quite the time of it trying to last until this evening with you looking that gorgeous.”

Kaiya blushed, smoothing her form fitting blue Chinese wedding dress. “You think so?”

“Girl, forget the evening. He’s going to have a hard time making it through the service,” Kat laughed. “Oh, sorry Jai.”

“I’m just trying not to think too hard is all.” The women laughed, with Summer giving her shooter a hardy slap on the back.

“Don’t worry, Kaiya’s thinking hard enough about it for all of us!” she joked as Jai gave her a playful shove.

“Aw, come on. That ain’t right!” Kat shook her head, grinning.

“Seriously though, you two ladies are absolutely stunning.” Kara said. “If you weren’t so set on Connor and Gabe you could have any other guy out there. A few of the gals too, I’m sure.” That sent a wave of giggles through the women again.

Janie glanced at the clock on the wall. “Well, it’s about that time. Shall we ladies?”

Day 300, Evening

The service was beautiful. Chen-Ling and John (acting in his late father’s stead) pulled out all the stops to make the day everything Kaiya and Elana could have hoped for, and of course Connor and Gabe pitched as much as they were allowed. Aya and Arra were the flower girls, spreading brilliant white and royal blue petals, and they also doubled as the ring bearers for the two couples (the rumor was that Connor and Gabe, not wanting to choose, drew straws to decide which twin delivered the ring to which groom). Thal Isaacson, who in addition to being an incredible permaculturist also happened to be and ordained Unitarian minister, presided over the ceremony, and each of the brides and grooms wrote their own vows, which were very touching but which I won’t bore you with now. The party afterwards was widely acclaimed as the best since the Dancer touched down, with a fresh batch of beer brewed especially for it and probably the best spread the colonists had seen since leaving Earth. And then of course there were the toasts from the best men.

Andy stood up, tapping his mug with a fork (there not being proper Champaign glasses, or, for that matter, Champaign). After a moment the crowd quieted down.

“Thank you. It is my privilege, my honor, to be the best man of Gabriel Benjamin today. I’ve known Gabe for a lot of years. He has saved my life more than once and it has been my pleasure to return the favor.”

“You still owe me one!” Gabe interrupted him.

“I’m working on it. Now shhh, I’m trying to tell all these nice people how great a guy you are and you’re ruining the effect.” The guests laughed. “Anyway, as I was saying,” he continued, looking meaningfully at Gabe, “throughout his life he has put others’ lives in front of his own on a regular basis. Luckily for Elana he’s built like a brick shithouse and it looks like he’s going to die of lead poisoning or old age before the bullet with his name on it finds him. Not so luckily for her he’s had more work done on him than your average farmer’s pickup and as a result if you ever see him with his shirt off he looks about like a roadmap of Downtown Tehran after I got through with it.” That got a few more laughs, especially from the happy couple.

“But truthfully, he’s spent most of his life in the service of everyone but himself and he deserves something good, and I cannot imagine anything better for him than having Elana as a wife. Sometimes there are two people just meant to be together from Day 1, and I truly believe that these are two such people. You would not believe the story of how they met even if they told you, and I doubt they will. And by the way, don’t ask me. He still has some blackmail material on both Mariana and I.” He raised his mug. “To two soul mates. To Gabe and Elana!”

“To Gabe and Elana!” came the assorted reply. As Andy sat down Chavez stood up.

“Well damnit Andy, that’s a tough act to follow up! Why’d you have to get all eloquent and sh-stuff? Sorry, children present, children present, I know,” he apologized to some laughter and cleared his throat. “Connor and I only go back about six years, not including travel time,” he began, glancing and gesturing meaningfully up towards the sky, “but I feel like we’ve known each other much longer. He’s spent those years with one thing in mind; doing right by his girls. Everything else took a back seat, and lord knows with aiding the rebellion in the back seat any notion of taking care of himself was dragging behind the car. He kept himself up because of Jai, Aya and Arra, and for no other reason. It’s funny how these things turn out sometimes. He took his family to Alchibah to give them the potential for a wonderful new life and in doing so accidentally found one for himself. He is lucky to have found Kaiya, and her him. Chavez raised his mug, “To Connor and Kaiya!”

“To Connor and Kaiya!”

The Race Part 2 - Sea and Sail

Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

The Bluenose

On Board the Last Chance:
“Well now Mr. Fortson,” Steve Fallon said as they edged past the Bluenose and into second place. “It seems that betting on a sure thing might not work out after all, unless you were betting on us. It’s clear to see we are overhauling the Cuchulainn as well. But what is it Bart’s up to now? I see his bots placing another set of masts up on top the first set.”

“Beat’s me Steve, but Captain Travis looks none to happy about it.”

“Dammit, Travis said to Glenda who was at the wheel, “Andy and I talked about the possibility of re-rigging as a top sail schooner so we both have the spars to do it. If the race was just up the coast and back it wouldn’t really matter. We haven’t practiced with that setup and I am not sure if Andy has either.

“Nothin’ else to do but get them up there and see what happens—Esso, Isaac, Raise the topmasts! At least we ought to be in front soon and maybe we will never have to use them or look back.”

On Board the Bluenose:
“How yah feeling Ash ol’ buddy? You’re looking a mite green around the gills. Did you practice with the crew much when Andy was working up the boat?”

“Not a bit Bart, I was too busy with other things and I am sure I’ll get my sea legs is a moment. Mind if I steer? That always helps.”

“Wish I could Ash. But the rules say no help from observers, only the declared crew gets to work the ship. And I always follow the rules. But since you are not part of the crew I will grant you permission to leave off the Captain part when addressing me. Friends like us shouldn’t stand on formality.”

With that I pulled out a brass folding telescope pulling it open pointed it towards the leading ship.”

“Where’d you get that Bart, I hadn’t heard about anyone making optics here, ancient or not?”

“Brought it with me from Earth, it’s on the manifest and declared in my carry on luggage, you could check if you want. And wait till you hear me play a jib or a chantey on the harmonica.”

“No thanks, I think I’ll pass on that for now.”

“If you start to feeling worse Ash we can sling a hammock for you below deck up front.”

“Isn’t that where the up and down motion is the worst?”

“Just a bit, but space is at a premium and I am sure you could get used to it.”

On Board the Cuchulainn:
“Score one for knowing the lay of the land, or the sea bottom in this case,“ Larry Monroe said as Travis and the Last Chance cut straight across a sand bar that the Cuchulainn and gone seaward in order to skirt it and take no chance of touching bottom.

Andy looked up from his chart of the coastline and said, “According to this here piece of paper that bar is half a fathom too shallow for us to with the tide conditions as they are now.”

“And when the data was gathered and the chart made I’m sure it was.”

“Just what are you getting at Larry?” Andy asked.

“It’s a little hazy now Captain, but I seem to remember taking the Liberty Express when we were finish with building the seawall at the Cove and dredging a couple of narrow channels through a few of the sand spits along the coast here. They weren’t meant to be permanent so I guess they never made it to the database that the charts got generated from.”

“Well it was one slick trick and there goes Bartlett tacking back to follow him through. But our lead is enough that we’ll still hold onto second and we’re almost to the buoy that marks the end of our run from up coast and then you’ll get to see some real sailing.”

When the three ship rounded the10 mile buoy and headed towards the second marker 30 miles northwest and out to sea the Last was still first and the Bluenose last, with the Cuchulainn second and gaining on the leader.

They were half way to the second waypoint when Andy said to Walt Davis, “Something is decidedly odd here.” Andy was peering through a pair of binoculars and looking at the activity, or lack of it, on the Bluenose. “I can see Bartlett standing on deck talking to Ash like he hasn’t a care in the world, none of his crew working at much, and he isn’t gaining on us at all. If anything he is falling a little farther behind us as we both are gaining on the Spacers each time we tack.”

“Could be he’s already figured out he is gonna lose and given up,” Davis said.

“Walt when you joined up with Jack the Blade you showed a lack of discernment when it came to making character judgments. Even thinking that Bart has given up shows you still have a lot to learn in that department. What do you think Nug?”

“Logically it is R. JP’s fault they are not gaining on us.”

“Go ahead and explain that one Nug.”

“My analysis of the Bluenose’s course and speed are at odds with the amount of sail she is carrying. Handled properly with the sails trimmed mathematically she should be faster than we are and be leaving us in her wake. If I can see this so can the Jeep, therefore I must conclude for some reason he has refrained from mentioning the lack of precision to Captain Bart.”

“I need to think on that for a while,” Andy said.

On Board the Last Chance:
The Cuchulainn was almost abreast of the Chance with the Bluenose a good 500 yards behind when the Captain Travis gave the order for the final tack that would set the course for rounding the northern marker buoy. “No mistakes now and Glenda make sure to shave the turn so close that Andy can’t get inside. Then we will see how the down wind leg goes. Steve, Darren, get aloft now in case we have trouble with the top sails. I want them raised as soon as we have the wind a beam.”

They managed to keep inside of the Cuchulainn forcing Andy to make a wider turn into the downwind leg and gained about fifty yards in the process. As soon as the fore and mainsails were set Travis sent Esso and R. Columbus to the winches and gave order to raise the main topmast sail. That sail was square rigged and not very useful except when sailing before the wind. Even though they had started the process first Andy had his sail up at almost the same time and lost no further distance. Because the Bluenose was furthest back Bart had been able to skim the buoy in the same fashion as the Spacers and had knocked a couple of hundred yards from the gap to the leaders. He was now only three hundred yards back and picked up another hundred by hoisting both the fore and mainmast square sails up at the same time rather than sequentially.

“Nice bit of ship handling there wouldn’t you say Captain Travis,” Joe Fortson commented.

“Very nice, but after all Bart’s had more practice than anyone at that kind of thing. Still we are out in front and with the ships all so equal and without any tacking on this leg I think our chances are good to make the island first.”

First Inn - Liberty City:
Four and a half hours since the start and Erb Neilson was still doing a running recap for all that wanted to listen. “Quite a surprise to see the Spacers make the turn first. And I guess my brother Lars must be making the tactical decisions on the Bluenose. Even so I would have expected them no worse than second. This section of the course is all down wind and ought to be relatively equal.”

Just then the view from the camera onboard the bus shadowing the racers showed a new billowing of sail from the foremast of the Cuchulainn.

“Oh, ho, Andy had a trick up his sleeve.” Moments later a flying jib blossomed from the front of the Bluenose as well. “Now things get interesting and unless the Last Chance gets one up as well she is going to start losing ground.”

After an initial burst of interest in the changed circumstances most of the people at the Inn went back to socializing and snacking and Commodore Nash announcing the sun being over the yardarm the first keg was tapped.

On Board the Bluenose:
“How yah feeling now Ash?” Bart said once again with concern. “You’re looking a little better and this downwind leg should be quite smooth.”

“Lot’s better now thanks Bart. It’s a shame your first aid cabinet didn’t have any motion sickness pills.”

“Sure is Ash, I don’t know how we overlooked that.”

“Me either,” Janie said. “I was sure they were in there when I checked it last.”

“Ash, how about going up front and asking Lars to come on back here. The fresh air and unobstructed view should get you good as new.”

When Ash left and Lars came back Bart said, “Ok Lars do we pass the Last Chance on the inside or outside and what do you think Travis will try in order to hinder us?”

“Not much he can do to hurt us without hurting himself more. He can see we have the speed to get by no matter what he does and if he tries to get in front and block our wind he’ll just lose ground on the Cuchulainn and we get around him anyway. We sail a bit better to larboard so let’s pass on an outside starboard course and hope to keep Andy in the dark about that factor. After we get by we have about a three hour run to the island and I think we better keep everything trimmed up closer to optimum so that we gain a little. If Andy has too easy a time figuring out that we are dogging it he might catch on to the drogue.”

“Sound right to me Lars. Helm a point to larboard; prepare to go by on the outside.”

On Board the Cuchulainn:
“There she goes,” Larry Monroe said, as the Bluenose went outside and passed within hailing distance of the Last Chance.

“Nug, how do you evaluate her sail situation?” Andy said.

“Much better now Captain, not quite perfect but better than on the last leg. We’re not increasing our lead and might even be losing a bit of it. The wind is gusty enough that it might just be luck and that should even out. If nothing else changes we will hold the lead to the next turn and then our superior sailing on the tack should come into play again.”

“Keep a close watch Nug. Now I think we can all grab a bite to eat and then Gabe and Jai can indulge themselves in a little fishing off the taffrail.”

They had finished with lunch when Nug reported that the Spacers had gotten an additional jib sail out and were no longer falling back.

“Must have had the bots sewing a bunch of tailors,” Gabe said to Jai.

“Naw, like a bunch of sailors,” she replied. “Let’s get the gear out and see what we can pull out of this here pond. I never did any deep sea fishing before and all the records are yet to be set.”

In the next hour, using light surface bait Gabe and Jai both brought in a few, nothing over a foot and a half in length. Two were species as yet unseen and they were very careful in handling them, the experience with the Thompson Tree was always in the back of Jai’s mind.

“We should put on something heavier and get the bait down into deeper water, might be the bigger fish don’t feed so much on the surface.”

“Good idea Jai, I was thinking that myself.”

“Captain Andy,” Nug said, “The Spacers are gaining rapidly on both the Bluenose and on us. Something is wrong here and I don’t know what it might be. All I am sure of is that with the wind as it is and the sails we have out we should be going faster than we are.”

“I can see that and unless we can up our speed we are going to have a three way dead heat when we hit the island.

On Board the Bluenose:
“That might be the ballgame Skipper,” JJ Parker said as the Last Chance started to gain rapidly on the other two ships.

“Time to muddy the waters again. Gene, JJ, back up the mainmast and get the studding sails set. Andy might send more time worrying about us than the Spacers. If we don’t give him reason to ignore them and he finds out about the drogue the jig is up anyway.”

Seventy feet above the deck Gene and JJ crawled out on the trestle trees and attached a boom at the bottom and a yard at the top on each side of the square mainmast topsail. When the sail was unfurled it was like an additional pair of wings and the Bluenose immediately began closing the distance on the Cuchulainn. At the same time Bart had all the rest of the sails trimmed to where they should have been all along and the Bluenose reacted like a thoroughbred from the starting gate.

Fifteen minutes later they passed the lead ship and were forging out in front.

On Board the Cuchulainn:
Not paying much attention to the scurrying on deck while the ships crew tried to improvise a rig to match the new sails on the Bluenose, Gabe and Jai kept up with their fishing.

“Wow, I got a monster!” Jai yelled. She was tugging on the rod, trying to raise the tip so she could lower it back down rapidly and crank in the slack but after only a couple of minutes she said. “You take it Gabe, my arms are about to fall off.”

Being careful not to lose his grip on it or let the line go slack Gabe took hold of the rod and started to make some progress. Gabe was a physical giant, only Rocco, of all those on Alchibah could come close to matching his size and raw power, and even Gabe was struggling.

“I see it, a flash of white out there!” Jai cried.

“It’s not fighting at all, feels just like a dead weight,” Gabe said as he kept pulling on whatever it was and finally got it up to the surface. “What the hell!” he exclaimed as the thing came out of the water. They both grabbed hold of the thing and pulled it over the rail. “Better get Andy, he’ll want to see this right now.”

“Damn, damn, damn,” Andy muttered staring at the soggy canvas funnel. “I should have figured this out hours ago. We checked the bottom the day before we sailed. Whoever did this, and I think there can be no doubt, did it last night. We should have made a last check at the dock before we left for the starting line. If you guys hadn’t snagged it from the back and got it all twisted up and turned around it would have broken your line before you ever got it aboard.”

Robbie McMaster spoke up, “We ought to file a formal complaint with Commodore Nash and get the Bluenose kicked out of the race!”

“To hell with that Robbie, get that studding sail finished and we got some racing to do.”

On Board the Last Chance:
The Chance had made up the difference to Andy’s ship by the time he got his new sails up but at that point began falling behind again. The Bluenose was a good half mile ahead and the island and turn to home about five more miles, another half hour of sailing, distant. The crew of the Last Chance had all seen the video, relayed from the cargo bus that showed the drogue being pulled out of the water.

“You knew about this Joe you must have,” Captain Travis said, sounding like he might when reprimanding one of his crew for a less than adequate performance.

“Who me? Perish the thought. But even if I had I’m not sure its illegal and I know one thing. Bart will do what it takes to win. So what are you going to try now Captain? You’re falling behind again and with only one leg left, the crosswind to the finish, you seem to be in trouble. Tacking doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.”

“Time will tell Joe, time will tell.”

First Inn - Liberty City:

The big screen inside the First Inn showed first the Bluenose and then the Cuchulainn followed by the Chance round the island and head for home still twenty miles away.

“How much longer is this going to take Erb?” Hanna asked. “Should we wait up for dinner? Some of the children, those that haven‘t been eating all day are getting hungry and some of the colonists could use a little food for other reasons.”

“Feed the young ones Hanna, the rest of us can wait. This leg gets the wind on their quarter and that’s the fastest point of sailing. They will be skimming on a straight line at twelve knots or better so even with the extra distance the tacking will require I’d say less than three hours to go.”

“Thanks Erb, we can hold out that long.”

When Hanna left Erb turned back to his narrative and described how Lars and Bart waited just a little too long before pulling down the Bluenose’s top rigging, letting Andy on the Cuchulainn watch them and in the process get the timing just right and make up about three boats lengths of the deficit.

On Board the Bluenose:
“How’s it gonna come out Bart?” Janie asked finally acting interested.

“If nothing changes Babe I can’t see Andy catching us. His ships newer and Karl made a few changes to the hull lines that give him a very minor theoretical speed advantage, and they are handling the ship well. Still I think our lead ought to last till the end.”

Ash, who had listened in on the conversation said, “I just want to get the thing over with. Now that we are going mostly sideways to the wind the ship is pitching and rolling a lot more than on the downwind leg. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten any of the pickled baloney and sauerkraut for lunch. You sure nobody has any motion sickness pills?”

“’Fraid not Ash, you’ll just have to tough it out. You can do it. Why not head up front for the breeze again. That seemed to help last time.”

“Thanks Bart, I’ll do just that.”

On Board the Cuchulainn:
“There she goes!” Robbie said, as the Bluenose made her next to last tack before setting a course up the river.

“Make ready to go about and…helm alee!” Andy called out a moment later.

“Isn’t this too soon, Captain?” Nug asked. “Shouldn’t we be closer to where the Bluenose made her move?”

“Bart’s trying to snooker us Nug and getting too cute for his own good. By going now he will cut it off short and end up on his port tack at the end and even though he has been trying to hide it…you can be sure that that’s his best point of sail. It might be too late but we can gain a little more on him and this race aint over yet. See what I mean?”

As soon as the Cuchulainn made her move the Bluenose was tacking again and heeling over at an extreme angle so as not to lose any ground. And then, as Andy watched through his binoculars he saw an odd flash and splash at the front Bart’s ship and a loud voice coming from the ship emergency channel.

“Man Overboard!”

On Board the Bluenose:
“Ash really looks sick up front Bart, maybe the pickled baloney loaded with garlic on top of hiding the motion sickness pills was too much.”

“Babe, as the saying goes, ‘No one ever died from being sea sick, they just wished they had,’ and anyway I finally got back at him for decking me that last time and in a way that he might not even figure out and think he has to try it again.”

“You are evil Bart!”

“I know,” I said quite happily. As we heeled back on our original tack spray flying as the bow dug in.

And then came RoDan’s cry, “Man overboard”

“Damn, loose all sail and hard a’port,” and then we went full speed into the drill we had practiced so often. Ash wasn’t wearing a life vest, none of us were, but RoDan had thrown him a ring and Ash was a very good, if not great swimmer, from his own accounts. “Get the dingy into the water and get him back on board. If we are fast enough we still might be able to win this thing,” I said, not believing myself for a moment. I could see Ash clinging to the float and bobbing up and down and waving at us so at least I wasn’t worrying about him drowning.

On Board the Last Chance:
As they watched the broadcast of the rescue unfold Walt said to Steve Fallon, “What’s with this? Bart looks to have things in hand but Andy is slowing down too. If he just keeps up his speed he will blow on by and win easily.”

“Walt, it’s times like this, when things seem under control, that they can rear up and bite the hardest. Andy’s doing what any of us who know about such things would do in a similar situation. Looking on the bright side though, by the time we near the scene Ash will surely be on board one of the ships and by the time they both can get back up to speed again we can still make a race of it.

At the Finish Line:
The three ships entered the river mouth in a dead heat, each ship looking for the slightest advantage. The minor edge in speed held by the Cuchulainn was matched by the equally slight edge in experience held by the Bluenose and they crossed the finish line abreast with the Last Chance only a boats length behind. It was going to be up to Commodore Nash to make the final decision.

“You gonna to file a protest about the drogue Andy?” Joe asked.

“If this were an old Americas Cup, hell yes I would. Unfortunately, guys: this here is open sea racing and I was dumb enough not to final check the hull. Which I assure you will not happen again!”

When the ships lowered sail and proceeded under power in order to tie up at the dock, the Bluenose was the last to arrive. And as Ash walked down the gangway he said, “Thanks for pulling me out Bart, I do appreciate it.”

“All in a days work Ash,” I said pleasantly, and watched him depart. But I will always wonder if he fell due to seasickness and the abrupt course change…or if he jumped on purpose, in order to keep the Bluenose from winning.

There Will be a Clan Stuart After All

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Day 360 Hospital Annex, Lab Control, Liberty, Alchibah

Andrew Stuart

I stuck my head in the door and saw Kurt. “Can I go in there without getting shot?” I asked.

Kurt threw his head back and laughed, “That I can guarantee Boss, I don’t allow guns on my natal ward. Which means you will have to rack yours before you go in.”

I just shrugged and started racking and stacking, anything was better than facing an armed and pissed Mariana.

Kurt Kellerman just stared as the Boss started pulling off and out weapons. Who carried more Andy or Gabe seemed to vary from moment to moment. Kurt was just plain glad He didn’t have to cross either one.

I walked into the private room and saw Mariana and of all people Sinopa bundling up the twins. Marianas face lit up when she saw me and I knew I was going to live.

“Get over here you Smug Bastard and tell me when we can go home. But do it quietly, I just got this little terror to sleep,” she said, nodding at Terry in her arms.

I just had to grin, “In about two hours if you wish. The Bots are putting the sod back down; the tower construction is over and the mortars are sighted in.

“There is a hell of a lot of work left to do but, it won’t affect the kids.”

Mariana just stared at me, “And are you going to be around to help with the kids?”

“Love, I have everything in place I can do. I know the whole crowd is tired of hearing ‘Logistics, followed by Logistics and then Logistics’; but everything is in place. All I have to do now is train one person and worry about what hell my daughter is going to put me through.

“I have to work a few nights on the training side but, it’s time to kick back and have a life.

“Ash, Chandler and Hibbs have the in-system drive in hand and we are not going to test it where the Goonies might be able to see it. The weapons are being built and Dancer will be refitted well in advance of the Goonies arrival date. The Dora is going to be hell to pay in Atmosphere and Ash is going to have Bart and Janie up to speed on her.

“Nobody and I mean nobody will want to try to land in line of sight of our compound. As we are sitting up on that hill we can cover the Dam complex as well as Liberty proper.

“It looks like Karl and Joe are gearing up the sheepdogs that are ready to fight. God knows they have ordered enough MK 1’s to win a medium to large war.

“Sin over there has found a place for the pure sheep to hole up that is being built and fortified as we speak.

“Then of course there is the surprise I am leaving behind in our two Majors.”

“I even have the special ready for Scythe and he sights it in tonight. Everything else I need to do can be done in the Lab at the compound.”

Sinopa just nodded and grinned.

“Actually the only real problem I have is keeping Jai from ripping Lisa Davies eyes out. I can’t really tell Jai why John is spending so much time with her. Damn but that girl was born to be a spotter, how the hell did you find her?”

Mariana stared at me like I was an idiot. “How would you and Gabe find each other in the middle tail race of hell? We know our kind from a mile away, and Lisa is my kind!”

“Yeah, OK. Anyway it’s kinda time for the Boss to lay back and let LTC. Connor Benjamin run the show down here.

“I expect that Glen Travis is sorta gonna do the same kind of thing up on Mayflower. I just want to spend some time holding why I am going to do this.”

I turned as Sinopa gasped and saw Tina grab her hand and force the nipple of the bottle into her mouth and totally did not understand Her look!

Sinopa felt the tiny hands grasp hers and saw the eyes of the Young Lady. Sin had raised wild animals on two worlds now and had never seen a pair of eyes like those she gazed into. This was a young wolf like none she had ever seen; what was going to constrain her? Then she looked into the eyes of the Mother and Father of this bundle and looked back down. “Ah Tina, you are going to learn the chains of Honor, Yes you will Young Lady. Yes you will.”


Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family

Day 380

43 Miles inland from Liberty City

“So I’m sure you’re all wondering why we’re out here, and why Grinder and Dustup aren’t with us,” Andy began, using Mike and Kaye’s callsigns.

The rest of Strike Force Alchibah had taken the shuttle a few dozen miles inland to a hillside clearing, and the pair were conspicuous by their absence. Every other shooter / spotter team that would be taking part in the advance strike on the UNWG ships was there.

The eight of them – Andy and Mariana, Gabe and Kat, Jai and Summer and Ryu and May – were all decked out in full assault gear and very, very heavily armed. The skies were clear as the sun shone down and there was a gentle breeze playing with the tall grass. The picture could hardly have been more surreal.

“We,” he continued, gesturing towards himself and the three other veteran members of old SOCOM, “brought you four here,” he indicated the four younger members, “because you’re…different.

“And I don’t mean in your devotion or spirit or anything of that nature. Lord knows that if that was what I were talking about Mike and Kaye would certainly be here as well. No, I am referring to your genetic makeup. I appreciate you all submitting to the voluntary blood test last week, and we found some very interesting, if not entirely surprising, results.”

The four teens expressions twitched ever so slightly; in this mode, the equivalent of an exclamation of downright shock. Andy continued, “Mariana, as our resident biologist, if you would do the honors?”

“Of course. I’ll start with the basics and then give you what background we have. The fact is there are two genetic strains, lines, if you will, that we have identified as significantly affecting normal human physical abilities. Each of them has the potential to manifest itself in one of two ways.

“The first, which I am affected by, is precognition, in addition to some degree of empathic ability.”

Now the four were openly raising their eyebrows and glancing at each other. “In effect those of us who have this variant of the gene can sense things some time before they actually happen, up to about five seconds in some cases in fact.

“We also can sense most people’s emotions. I do not mean we are good at reading body language. I mean we can directly sense human emotions via brainwaves. For most of us it also means we have to be looking in the persons eyes. Summer, May, you have this variant of the gene.” The two girls looked momentarily shocked, but then slowly started nodding their heads in comprehension.

“You’re not making this up, are you? “ Summer asked. “I know exactly what you’re talking about, I just always thought I was some combination of lucky and weird.” May nodded her head.

“Well, I wouldn’t disagree with that,” Kat laughed, “genes or no genes. I’d say everyone with these little mofos in their system is some combination of lucky and weird.”

Mariana rolled her eyes. “I suppose that is one way of putting it. In any case, as I said, Summer and May, you both possess this version of the gene. JoAnn does as well, and we also suspect that Elana and Kaiya do.

“Jai, I am also fairly sure that Aya and Arra have got it, and possibly in a manner that may be a jump in the abilities we thought were associated with the gene.” The teen nodded, apparently unsurprised.

At this point Andy took over again.

“The second variation is what we call ‘overdrive’ or ‘speed.’” He began, “ Essentially it allows a person to push themselves to the very brink of what is humanly possible at will.

“I am sure all of you remember that reading assignment I gave you about the stages of stress and Combat reactions by that old Military Philosopher. The Conditions we are talking about here are the Red and Black.

“Some Olympic athletes are capable of psyching themselves up to getting into these ranges, and the best of the Military can operate in the Red. Occasionally very highly trained Elite soldiers in the heat of battle push into the Black.

“The difference is in people like Gabe and I it is essentially an on/off switch, and with our training we can push farther into the Black, than even the most highly trained soldiers or athletes that lack the gene.

“Jai, Ryu, you both possess it as well, as I think you will realize as you think back.

“Jai, how did you survive the varg attack? Speed, accuracy and a total disregarding of pain; classic signs of operating in the Red, or possibly even in the Black – without having been there it is impossible to tell.

“And both of you, what do you remember about the sparring match you got into after our first hand to hand session?” They were nodding their heads, grinning at the memory. They had matched each other very nearly perfectly, but at a level well above where almost anyone else could operate.

“We have worked hard to hone those skills and we will continue to train you on how to specifically utilize them over the coming weeks and months because we need them for the upcoming fight. What we are going to talk about now is ethics and how you are NOT going to use those skills.

“Anybody here want to get into a football game with Gabe or I?” Andy watched them shudder. “You would not have to worry, you would not get one iota more than our normal size advantage, which would be bad enough. But not one bit more.

“You could play poker with Mariana or Ash all night and if you get the cards you win. They are not going to use their skills to gain personal advantage.

“That is the crux we are talking about here. Ash and Kat are both double recessive – they have a weaker version of both genetic variants. Think about it. You have all heard the stories about Ash losing at poker. Being double recessive makes him the most dangerous fighter jock alive and his refusal to use those skills in a game make him the mark everyone is looking for.

“The point is he will not use his skills for personal gain. And that is what we need each of you to learn.

“Jai, you done good. You did your damn best to put yourself between an innocent and harms way. You and Ryu stepped it up slowly in a training situation, that was not bad. It was an interesting case study in two people feeling out the other. What, you didn’t know Ash recorded it? Not thinking People!

“Now for the fun part. Ash in his spare time while he was sitting at a desk, traced the genetics of these gene trails.

“They all trace back to one marriage in Switzerland of all places. It was between a Scot mercenary and the daughter of a Burgher. The Male line went back to Scotland and not long after to North America. The Female line kicked around in Europe and eventually made it to North America. The Dominant Lines have not crossed in all those years.

“The names of the original parents were Stuart and Kearns. Surprise folks, we are all distantly related.

“I don’t think you will be problems, our kids on the other hand are going to give me nightmares for years!

“And one last thing before we start today’s training. Gabe, if you would be so kind?” he asked. The giant began to remove his gear.

“Yall remember what I said about Gabe at his wedding? He’s a walking, talking example of why these genes are not yet common in the human race. Simply put, folks like us often don’t survive long enough to have children. We can push harder than other humans, and we tend to test those limits early and often. It is not a coincidence that so many people with these genes are here on Alchibah. Something about the lines makes us put ourselves in the way. Whether it’s genetic or some sort of family spirit that has been passed down we’re not sure, but there’s no doubt that we do not back down when we see something that needs righting.” He finished just as Gabe removed his undershirt. Maylin gasped, Ryu whistled.

The second thing they noticed was his sheer proportion. He couldn’t weight less that 330 and he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. He looked like he could easily bench press an ox or shot put a small car. It was telling, though, that that was the second thing they noticed. The first was without a doubt the chaotic patchwork of scars on top of scars that crisscrossed his entire upper body.

“What you’re seeing is partly due to the fact that I was the top hostage negotiator in the States for a number of years,” Gabe began, “and I was also the first person in the door when the negotiations went south. Even for Spec Ops hostage rescue is…dicey. I tended to get shot a lot doing the old human shield trick.” Then it was Kat’s turn to talk.

“That’s certainly no lie. Which is exactly the point. We can dish more out and take more than anyone else going, but the fact is every one of us has been under the knife more than once. Gabe has been clinically dead on two different occasions. We’ve all taken hits that would have killed us on the spot if they were a few inches in the wrong direction. You four are good. Really. Fucking. Good. And if you work your asses off for another bunch of years you might be as good as we are. And that’s the point. No matter how good you are there’s a bullet with your name on it. Don’t let that bullet find you

“We’re not going to ask you to be careful or cautious. If you were either of those you couldn’t do your job. What you goddamn better be is smart. Cocky gets you dead, smart keeps you alive. So the next time you think, ‘Hell yeah, I’m good!’ picture that bullet, ditch the overconfidence and get even better.”

The Book of Hosham - The Return

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Jedediah Dobswell

And we did battle the unfaithful as was ordained
upon a great plain:
And even as the Prophet was laid low,
we remained under the Lords protection;
and we came back to the lands of the Agorah,
bearing testimony to the miracle of our survival.

Hosham 15.7-8

Aaron felt a rough shaking and heard the waking up sounds coming from the camps of the Agorah and Tulari as he awoke himself, and opening his eyes saw Edwards squatting besides him in the pale morning light.

“Better get a move on it kid. The rest of the Tulari are back and I think they got a plan.”

Now, coming fully alert, Aaron could see on the low range of hills to the east, silhouetted against the eastern sky, the dark figures, spaced like the slats in a picket fence, hundreds of locals, spears pointing upwards as thin dark lines.

“I woulda’ thought they learned their lesson yesterday but guess not,” Edwards said calmly. Either the man had no nerves at all or was a very good actor or both. “Get packed up, we’re outta’ here before they do something we might regret.”

The couple of dozen Tulari who had been converted the night before, along with Hosham, Ephraim, Jacob, and Aram of the Agorah, had little or nothing to pack and were now fully awake and watching the hills in silence.

Aaron looked again to the hilltops and the silhouettes were no longer visible. He reached into his pack and pulled out then concentrated on looking through a pair of binoculars. He could barely make out the shapes below the crests, shapes that merged into the background but became clearer as they approached. Scanning a full 360 degrees he could see they were surrounded.

“Get a move on it kid,” Edwards said taking his place on the back of Jacob a few feet away while Hosham knelt to make it easier for Aaron to mount.

“I shall not!” Aaron replied. “What you—what we—did last night was wrong and we must try to make amends. We will wait here and I will ask for forgiveness and pray for guidance from our God. If the Lord wishes it so we will come to no harm.”

“Get mounted Aaron!” Edwards said speaking loudly for the first time. “You’re too young to be a martyr and the rest of us aren’t ready to die yet either, just in case the ‘Lord’ happens to be busy.”

“No! I shall stay and deal with this here and now! The Lord our God does not desert the faithful.” Seeing Edwards glare and sensing the uncertainty of the Tulari and Agorah Aaron added, “The rest of you may stay here but I will go out to meet with them.”

With a move so fast that all Aaron saw was the blur of motion, Edwards swung his rifle and the stock struck a glancing blow across the top of Aarons head. “Load him up, we move out now. We’re heading back the way we came. Agorah up front, Tulari on the sides. Now! Move it!”

They set out at a slow trot towards thin line of Tulari closing off the gap in the hills leading away from the plains. The rest of the Tulari, surrounding them from a distance a mile or so, immediately broke into a full charge. Several of the Agorah started moving faster as well.

“Keep your speed down,” Edwards ordered, “you’ll need to keep going once we break through the line.”

Edwards rifle was responsible for most of the death. I saw little of what I had learned about human emotion in his visage. But if it were not for the throwing spears of the Agorah in front, and the delaying tactics of the Tulari on the flanks, we could not have broken through. The inexperience of the force against us was the deciding factor.

Had they massed a larger force at the bottleneck leading out of the plain we could not have forced passage. As it was half of the Tulari with us were slain and Jacob of the Agorah was left behind on the blood soaked plain along with the bodies of near a hundred of those blocking our way. Much later I thought of the story of Cain and Able.

Once out of the trap the wisdom of not charging. but a slower and orderly withdrawal became clear. The attackers had spent much of their energy in the first chaotic minutes and could not keep up the chase long enough for those in the rear to catch up with us after the break. Even the additional burden of carrying Aaron and Edwards did not present any problem for the Agorah, as we now, had the enhanced physical ability that our new diet; the one since we began to eat meat, afforded. This was not the case yet for the Tulari who traveled with us. Four of them were slain when they dropped exhausted from the chase and stood their ground, delaying—if only briefly, those that still tried to follow.

When Aaron finally came awake at mid day there was nothing but a dust cloud behind to show that a chase was still in progress. It lasted two more days and nights before the inability to carry water and the lack of other supplies put an end to it. We still sped on at our best pace but did manage now and again to stop for sleep.

Jedediah speaks:

My son returned to our land again, the land of the Agorah, much sooner than I had expected. After giving thanks he explained to me what had happened, and the reason for the same, thusly: “When we awoke the morning after the first conversions of Tulari it was my intention to find other members of the tribe and bring the Word to them also.”

My son then explained to me about all of the rest that happened. And even as he spoke of the death and flight from the Tulari we could hear the noises coming from Brother Edwards’ and Sister Helen’s tent. And I could see that Aaron was becoming agitated and angry. Thankfully, Sister Martha was away and in the fields at this time.

“Be still my son, there has been enough trouble and ill will. If we are to survive and hold on to our purpose even Edwards, as the Lord has already shown, had a role to play. It is our place to question but not to judge. That is reserved for a higher power.

“We have photos of the interior showing water and fertile land of which none of the idolaters know. We must make haste and go forth unto that land and preserve first and then increase our strength even as Moses did wander in the desert in obedience to God we will do the same. We will send missionaries to the other tribes and we will increase our number. When the Lord commands; that is when we end our exile and we will again reclaim what is ours…and his.”

And we set out unto the desert, human and Agorah, and Tulari, old and young alike. And the tribe grew strong in the wilderness. And we sent out missionaries to work amongst our enemies. And we planed for our return.

The Promise

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Late Fall, Ft. Stuart, Liberty, Alchibah

Hearing the knock at the door I yelled, “Come on In.”

Jai Benjamin opened the door with obvious trepidation and said, “You called Boss?”

“No Jai,” I replied. “ I asked. It’s time you started learning the difference. Anyhow, pour yourself a snort, we just pulled this out of the cask this morning. It’s only aged one E-Year but there should be some change.”

Jai went to the side tray by the fridge and went though the motions of mixing a drink and took a small sip.

“Damn Boss, I mean Mr. Stuart, Oh Hell Andy; this is getting real close to Honest to God Bourbon!” She exclaimed.

“Come back in about 3 more E-years and it’s just gonna get better. Hell, I can deal with rotgut as well as anyone but, I do prefer the better stuff.”

Jai grinned, “I promise not to ruin your reputation by telling.”

That actually got a real laugh. Wiping the tears out of my eyes, “Well, that means you are finally learning some discretion at any rate! More to the point the reason I asked you over here was to discuss some Command Positions; so who do you think the Commander Air Group or the CAG should be?”

Jai actually looked stunned, “Anyone with a brain or five minutes in a simulator knows the answer to that. Ash is the fracking most dangerous thing in Space, who else you gonna ask to do that job?”

“Nobody actually, Glen and I decided that month’s ago! Hell Ash is probably better than his father and the Turd was as good as they come.”

Jai had her turn to throw her head back and laugh, “The Turd, what was that all about?”

“Ashcroft Andrews III, how long does it take sick military humor to make The Third into The Turd? Probably around 4.5 nanoseconds, I can’t even remember who used it first. But he really was good, if some of our own traitors had not sold the missile systems to the damn Haj’s that got him he would be here today and our Ash would be a pure Research Scientist. Of course with the UN and family money covering tracks we could not prove it. The bullshit around that was what drove our Ash into pilot training, then of course his instructors figured out that it seemed to run in the blood.

“That being settled, who do you think should be my Deputy Commander for the Assault Force?”

Jai again seemed a little stunned, “That would have to be Gabe or Mariana. Shit, who else?”

“Well, our Chief Medical Officer also happens to be my partner. Thus she would be a particularly bad choice. Gabe as is now kinda famously known, not going to accept an Officer Commission. The Master Chief has a job and Deputy Commander ain’t it. Thus we come to the Third in line on the skills table.”

I reached into the desk drawer and came out with a set of Silver Oak Leaves. “Once again Jai, you are out of Uniform. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin, welcome to the hot seat! This is your one chance to convince me that I am wrong and to try you best to weasel out of this. Won’t work worth a damn but, you can try!”

I finally saw Jai without a damn word to say. She actually opened her mouth two or three times like she had thought of something. Finally she spoke, “After the Varg Attack I never had a damn chance did I? But you owe me one damn thing Andy before I will take those. What the hell are you doing to John and I, why are you thrusting that damn Lisa between us?”

I could tell by her reaction that my eyes had slipped into The Reaper, “Because Major John “Scythe” Pierce needs a damn spotter and until this moment you had not proved to me you were Adult enough to handle it. “Peepers” was born to be his spotter and she does not particularly like him, she says he’s too damn much of a builder for her tastes. She is like Kat to Gabe - although there’s certainly no denying that pair’s friendship - the boy ain’t her type but damn are they a team.”

Jai sat and stared at the roof for the longest time, “Major, Scythe, Peepers; do you corrupt everything you touch?”

“Jai, I made a promise to a man I have never seen. I will defend this planet! Anything and anyone I have to use to do that I will. Shit the only stake I had in this place was that promise when we got here. Now get out of that chair and go into the nursery, then ask me what I will do!”

“I don’t have to,” She said as she reached for the pins and put them on. “All Right, Andy you got your Deputy Commander. I never had a choice did I? I just needed to grow up!”

“Bingo,” came the voice of LTC Connor Benjamin. “I had no idea how I was going to reclaim a young daughter who had been through hell on Earth. Then came this troika of Andy, Mariana and Sinopa. I figured out real fast that your father could not do it but look into a mirror and see the woman that that child has become. Now go grab John and be happy because it’s pretty clear you two were made for each other and it’s killing him too.

“Andy, I thought you were going to wait until the Strike Force got back to drop this little Bomb?”

“I was Connor but I have to ask a favor of her and I don’t think it’s fair to ask it and not tell her all!”

Jai was taken aback, “What favor could be that big?”

“Jai I am going to ask you to do something in cold blood that I can’t be sure that Gabe would do. We have enough Electronic Intercepts from the Goonie ships to know that the Political Officer in Charge is one Richard Redmond. Jai, if I go down you find that Son of a Bitch and kill him. Anyone else who surrenders falls under Warriors Code but, that Bastard dies!

“I am asking you to leave his cold dead body in Space no matter what surrender tactic he pulls. Anyone else lives, but this Bastard Dies!”

Jai’s face was a study in confusion, “Dear God, what did he do?”

“He was the asshole who sold MK24 AMRAMM’s to the damn Haj’s that killed the Turd, He was the boss of the project that infected my Sister with the bug that killed Her and His father was the Asshole who killed my Mother! That Son of a Bitch Dies!”

Her face seemed to change as she assimilated the data, suddenly I knew I was looking at Firebird not Jai Benjamin.

“Reaper, you can consider his ass toast!”

We Want You to Fly Her Bart!

Posted in 9. Crowded House by Andrew Stuart

Late Fall, Liberty Spaceport, Alchibah

From the Log of Ash Andrews

“Bart, glad to see you. Andy wants me to give you a ride on the new Dora.

“Our running gag is off for this, I am in serious mode and you will see why later.”

Bart stared at what had been a sleek little yacht with marginal orbital capability before that bastard Jack had blown her up. This rebuilt ship still had the basic lines of the Dora but, so many changes had been made that the similarity ended with appearance. Bart grinned, “OK, truce what the heck is this?”

“This,” Ash intoned, “is the cutting edge of Atmospheric Fighter that we can come up with. Here put this on before we take a demo flight.” He handed Bart a corset looking garment that had to be stepped into and covered the body from the chest line to the knees.”

Bart grinned, “This had better not be a joke.” The he saw Ash strapping on the same rig.

Ash explained, “They are commonly called ‘Speed Jeans’, you are going to need them where we are going to go.”

Going in through the main hatch Ash started explaining the changes that had been made to the craft. “As you can see the cargo area and seating spaces are gone. This is all super capacitors and ammo feed and storage. The fuel tanks have been greatly reduced because all you need for flight control is the under jets.”

Bart looked quizzical, “You’re not going far or fast on just the belly jets!”

Ash suppressed a smirk, “You’ll see in just a couple of minutes and you ain’t gonna believe it. As you can see you have this hump running between the seats and the right seat no longer has any flight controls. The right seat is now purely for the Weapons Systems Officer or Wizzo as we called them. The Wizzo has a lot of weapons to keep track of.

“It starts off with five .50 cal Heavy MG’s arranged across the top. They are not bore sighted they all fire straight ahead like the old P-38 from WW II. Then you have the twin 25 MM Chain guns and finally the reason for the hump here. That baby is a 2 CM Rail Gun.”

Bart just sat back and whooshed, “What are you planning on fighting, a Battle Cruiser?”

“Frankly Bart, we don’t know so we planned for the worst. In the best case the .50’s and the 25’s make great ground support weapons. In the worst case, Dora is sheer death in atmosphere against a ship designed for space. Anyway let’s take her up, we have a three hour window where the Goonies can’t see us.

“First we have to get at least 15 feet off of the ground before we engage the Andrews-Hibbs-Chandler Drive or the ACHE drive as we are calling it.”

Ash smoothly manipulated the controls and made the transition to the main drive, “I’m gonna take her out over the ocean so we don’t scare the hell out of anybody when I open her up.”

After a few minutes of straight and level flight Ash grinned and said, “Grab your gonads Buddy here we go.”

Suddenly they were in a 4 G Stovepipe climb which whipped into a 7 G Split-S followed by a 8 G Immelman followed immediately by a 7 G snap roll left. As they leveled out Bart glanced at the Mach meter and was stunned to see a 9.

“As you can see, there are two G meters. One is for what you feel, the second is for what you are actually pulling. The ACHE drive has a 4 to 1 reduction effect, so when we felt 7 we were pulling 28. We may get a better ratio as we learn more and more about how this darn thing really works.

“Hell, Chandler’s idea of first firing up the exciter coils up in the Spin Axis on Mayflower let us get the System version working and we ain’t sure yet why it worked. This whole can of worms rests on a couple of Wild Ass Guesses, someday we have to make the Math actually make some sense.

“Hell, if it weren’t for the shield we would be melting the leading edges at this speed. But let’s take her home at a reasonable pace.” Saying that he throttled back to just under Mach 1.

“OK Ash, she’s impressive as hell and I don’t blame you for bragging. But, what does this have to do with me?”

“Because we want you to fly Her Bart, who the hell else am I going to trust with Her?”

“I suspect you could come up with more than a few volunteers, and she is a sweet flier. And I sure wouldn’t mind spending some time with her. You sure packed a lot into such a small volume but before I say yes I have a ton a questions to ask. The first of which is what do you realistically think the opposition is going to do?

“The time and effort spent on rebuilding the Dora aside from all the changes made is impressive but I can’t see you doing it unless you think it likely that at least some of the Gonnies are going to make it to Alchibah through the out system defenses. And that implies that a lot of our outsystem defenders won’t be around anymore.”

“You have it almost right Bart. We think we are going to stop them before they get here but in no way can we be sure. We just can’t take the chance or be stupid enough to think we are perfect.

“Time and materials won’t let us get any more large hulls built for the deep space section. And this is the kind of insurance we might need and can afford. Though I have to say even getting the Dora rebuilt was a struggle.

“What to expect if any Gonnies get by us is not terribly hard to figure out. They are going to try and take the land! But first they have to come through the atmosphere and they will be doing that in small maneuverable craft.

“What we think they can and probably will do out in space, is get a few by us in some variant of an Assault Shuttle. They will be armed but primarily Space oriented. Any thing large enough for serious transport and long range military space work is just a slow unmanuverable target at close range or in an atmosphere. So if any get this far the main job of the Dora would be to stop them from landing.”

“What’s the Mayflower going to be doing while all this goes on? She’s ultimately our last hope and would be a pretty tough nut to crack if we mostly holed up inside and worked to defend her.”

“That’s true and we’ve given it a lot of thought. The main problem with the idea is that once we give up the planets surface, it will become damn near impossible for us to return and take it back. Captain Travis doesn’t like it much but we may end up hiding the Mayflower out in the belt, powering her down, and hoping she is unnoticeable. That would mean loading her with all of the non combatants first or finding a way to evacuate the planet while under attack. And the second option seems unlikely to be successful. Anyway we have time to think on that part of the plan and maybe we’ll have more information to go on.”

“Yeah kinda like packing for a trip when you don’t now where your going. Back to the here and now; the way you got the Dora’s weapons set up it looks to me like she is mostly dedicated to the air to ground role.”

“Don’t underestimate that rail gun; you won’t after you test her, but if enough of the goonies get by us and get into a dispersed entry and landing pattern, one or two defender’s can’t be everywhere so some of them are sure to make it all the way down.”

“I follow you there Ash and they might come down at night or the Dora might need to support ground troops at night and I don’t see any ability to launch flairs or even provision for a spotlight and that could come in real handy. No skip the spotlight thing I see the problem there.”

“About flares you do have a point. I considered them then decided to leave the launch tubes out of the original plans. She’s got enough electronics and IR gear to handle night work but supporting troops on the ground makes sense. We do have plans for a flare system in a pod. We have eight Hard Points built in and our idea was that him what flies her gets to call the weapons mix on those points. Take her over and I’m sure you’ll come up with a few more things. Go ahead, take the controls Bart and give her a spin. Just remember the 15 Ft. Hard Deck. You have to have the ACHE dive off before you get to that height or you will blow the drive coils and that would make Jacks bomb look like a firecracker!

“And give another level of meaning to the ACHE drive! But when it comes to wanting to take over the controls. Do I ever!”

I gradually took her through her paces building up the high G maneuvers. All my previous experience was with much larger ships like the Surprise or the pre augmented Dora. It would take work to reach where we both knew a fighter pilot should be, but even Ash was surprised at how rapidly I was catching on.

As we were getting out back at Liberty Spaceport Ash stopped and looked straight at me. “Bart you are right about one thing, there are a lot of volunteers to fly this Baby. What it boils down to is, who does the Commander Air Group trust to both fly her and pull the damn Trigger?”

“CAG is me, and I trust one damn pair of people. You and Janie!

“I’m about convinced but Janie might need some work. Once I get her onboard and take her for a spin though I think she’ll come around.”

“All Right. Truce off watch your Six Buddy!”

On that note, we went over to Hanna’s for a debrief.


Posted in 9. Crowded House by William Bartlett

Early Winter - Day 835 Alchibah:
Did the winter winds come early this year? We have no way of knowing. Snow didn’t drop down in small amounts in hesitant scattered squalls and then go away to melt before the real onset of winter. It snowed and snowed and snowed. After three days there was four foot on the ground and the drifts were half again as high. Up on the Mayflower the picture showed no letup from this first onslaught until at least a week from today.

Janie and I were snug and warm. The Jeep and EmyCee kept us shoveled out but the exposed position of our house on the point meant that most of what would have been drift snow just blew on by without piling up. We even had bare rock showing on the end of the point. Further up river, and especially in Liberty City, that was not the case. They had to shovel and keep on shoveling lest they be totally covered with the white stuff.

Our com links were good so we kept in touch with what was going on.

“I grew up in Indiana,” Janie said as we sipped our coffee watching the viewscreen and seeing it pile up in town. “Never saw this much before. What about you hon?”

“I’m not gonna say this is trivial because four foot in three days is a lot. But I grew up on the south shore of Lake Superior, and year in and year out we averaged about three hundred forty inches every year. Bout the only large region in North America that got more was up in the Rockies. Anyway we learned the way to deal with it was to move it early and often and make sure that in the beginning of the season you piled it up as far away as possible from where you had to pile it later so that there would be room for whatever came.

“Three hundred forty inches a year. That can’t be true.”

“Well it’s all in how you measure it. The county I lived in did the addition as it fell, when it was nice and fluffy, and they counted every flake.. But even if you used the measure of how it was when on the ground and packed down for a day, what you had to shovel, it still went into the low two hundreds. I guess if you never did any shoveling at all by the end of winter there would be about six or seven foot on the flat. But that would be very heavy dense packed down snow. Most people don‘t really see it but even in sub zero weather snow evaporates into the atmosphere, except it‘s called sublimation.”

“This winter here is gonna be almost twice as long as anything I’ve ever seen, but based on what the weather was like when we landed I think this storm is not typical of what we can expect, we’ve just got to wait and see. Anyway up here on the point we won’t get the kind of buildup they will in town even if I’m wrong about the total fall.”

“Ok, I can see that but what about this snowshoe making thing we are into? My hands are getting red and raw from soaking the leather and stringing the laces.”

“Yeah, there is that but at least we have almost enough finished for everyone who wants a pair and you never can tell how important that could be.”

“Why do you insist on snowshoes and not skis Bart? Skis would be a lot easier wouldn‘t they?”

“Sure would but learning to use them is much tougher and you can’t keep your hands free and move at the same time. With the way the natural predators have been this summer and fall till we drove most of them out I’d much rather have a weapon in hand than take a chance on dropping ski poles and getting ready for a shot.”

We found that robots and skiing worked well together and they soon became quite adept at that mode of transportation.

That storm let off and we all got dug out but it wasn’t a couple of days till it started up again and another two feet came. The cargo busses were running and if not for that the Stuarts and everyone further out to the north would have been totally cut off. Those on the other side of the river weren’t making it to town much at all and as far south as the Reye’s were they were into isolation mode. Janie and I sold more than a few pair of snowshoes and in the end started making skis also. I didn‘t have the time for teaching classes but it turned out both Karl and Pam Nash had done a fair amount of skiing back on Earth, that came as no surprise, so they grabbed the franchise.

All of the larger animals were conspicuous by their absence. The vargs and various small furred creatures left tracks in the snow but we didn’t see many. Not surprisingly the coats of most had taken on a decidedly whitish cast. I didn’t see it myself, but Chavez said he had tracked down a pack of varg and apparently their coats had changed from their summer jet black to a pristine white that was a near perfect camouflage, and apparently Sinopa’s two viras, Bite and Smite, were apparently doing ghost imitations as well.

With the humidity way down the skies got even clearer than before and we saw auroras every night. With a warm fire to come back to Janie and I had no complaints. At least till Lester Reye took his family back into town and started holding Council meetings every other night. “Catching up on what we should have done this summer” is how he explained it.

There was work to do on the legal system and the tax system and the defense system and every other yet unnamed system we didn’t even know existed. Janie and I trudged into town, mostly on snowshoes, sometimes in daylight using skis. We often spent the night at the First Inn, when Andy and Mariana couldn’t entice us out to Castle Stuart with a ride from on the cargo bus and a promise of superior real scotch whiskey, though Andy did own up to the fact that the aging process had been accelerated.

There were a few of the late comers and even a few of the first arrivals that had some major problems with the weather and a lack of preparation for it thereof, or however you say it, but we worked it out to most people’s satisfaction. Some labor hours would be changing hands, some now, some later. We had to get through a season that would be equal to some seven Earth months long so we had little choice. If we were to hold on to our sanity, but to find things to keep us busy.

Sinopa, Joe and Chavez, with help all around, were planning some kind of a winter hunt and that got a lot of interest from the adventurous sort with time on their hands, and that, no surprise, included half the colony. I had signed up and convinced Janie to come along. I should add that it was Sinopa’s rave reviews along with the prospect of a hunt that really made the snowshoe sales take off. Everyone knew that with Sinopa’s background she must be an expert on all things winter, and also in our favor was the fact that no one else was making any. Give all the credit to Sinopa,…poor unappreciated me. At least that’s what I said while counting up the change.

Manufacturing of most other things continued within the constraints of the weather but as far as the lumber mill was concerned we just cut what we had ready from before the snowfall and did a lot of trim and finish work. Gave me time to burn. And speaking of burning, between cut fire wood and Gabe’s ethanol we had plenty of fuel for the coming winter, even if it did turn out to be a lot worse than we had expected.

Food supplies were good as well – the second half of summer had more than made up for the flooding from the tsunami and hurricane. Projections are that even with minimal hunting we should have a healthy buffer in case the winter runs long. No Jamestown starvation here, that’s for damn sure.

Oh! And lest I forget, Janie’s implant expired and we were another couple due for a family addition come springtime. And that was certainly saying something, as there were already babies galore crawling around Liberty. Andy and Mariana had had twins (Terry and Tina), as had Ash and JoAnn (Ash V and Jade), and Gabe and Elana had just had a baby boy, Sequoia, about a month before first snow. With three other couples already expecting and several more talking about trying for the mid to late spring the next generation Alchibaens was well on its way.

War plans that we worked on all through the fall were accelerating, though neither Janie nor I were an integral part of the bulk of them. We had spent quite a lot of time practicing on the new Dora until everything was second nature. I participated in the home defense meetings, which included Joe, Rocco and Karl in addition to myself, the leaders of Strike Force Alchibah (Andy, Mariana, Ash, JoAnn, Gabe, Kat, Jai and Summer) and the four councilors not actively involved in the military (Les, Connor, Kara and Chen-Ling). We still didn’t know quite when the goonies were going to show up, but the answer was looking more like sooner than later, and there was no way this crew was going to be caught with its trousers down.

The idea was essentially that we were going to evacuate to a “secure location” (Andy wouldn’t say where, and if the others knew they weren’t talking) at the first sign of trouble while Strike Force and Space Force Alchibah went at them head on. I got the sense that there was a little more to it than that, but of course that was just a feeling with nothing really to back it up. And if we knew little and the rest of the colonists knew even less.

Everyone not in those meetings was just being told to follow the directions of the Home Defense leaders and the Council. Now, I understand the need for the secrecy, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying or troublesome. I did have a little sense of unease about an invitation to Ft Stuart for the weekend because I knew the guest list included Joe Fortson. Andy might be starting to fill in the old Cruiser Assault Team!

Hey, Boyfriend!

Posted in 9. Crowded House by The Benjamin Family

Jaisa Benjamin

Late Fall, Liberty

As soon as I left Andy’s compound I punched John’s ID into my wrist comp.

“Hey honey. Where are you?” I asked in my sweetest tone of voice.

“At Hanna’s. I was just finishing lunch. Why, is something wrong?” he replied.

“No. Why would something be wrong?”

“You’ve never called me honey before.” Shit, he was right! “Are you sure everything’s ok?”

“Just peachy. I’ll see you in a minute!” I answered cheerfully.

I was walking in a beeline towards Hanna’s when I saw him emerge with Lisa (aka Peepers). He saw me coming too. He knew I was pissed about something, but he didn’t know what. And when he did figure out what no doubt he would really expect me to be pissed. But what if…I grinned. The hell with being pissed, this was too good an opportunity to fuck with him! I put two fingers in my mouth and issued an earsplitting whistle in his direction.

“Hey, boyfriend!” that was a good start. “What’s up?”

“Jai!” he said as we neared each other. “How are you?”

“Oh sure, that’s what you say now.” I replied. He gave me a confused look. “This is how I am.” I faked in Lisa’s direction, making like I was going to slug her. She took a step back as he took a step towards me.

“Oh don’t worry Peeper,” I said. There was no one else within earshot, so I figured it was safe. “I’m just messin’ with ya. You can go away now.” I dismissed her, making a shooing motion with my hand. Her eyes widened at hearing the other name, but she didn’t move. “I said, ‘You can go away now.’” I repeated in a flat voice. She went away. John looked around nervously.

“Hey honey. How’s your day been?” I asked, stepping close to him and smoothing his shirt. I even went so far as to pick imaginary lint off of it while I gazed up at him with the most innocent eyes I had. I took a step inside his stance.

‘I-” he started, and then was abruptly cut off as I pushed him over backwards and swept his legs out from under him. I kissed him hard and then whispered in his ear.

“Andy told me. You don’t have to play nice right now.”

After that it was a viscous (read: playful yet real) struggle, with us rolling around all over the place, not thirty feet in front of Hanna’s. People were looking over curiously, but no one stopped to intervene. They probably knew better.

After about fifteen seconds I had him pinned face first in the grass, arm twisted behind his back.

“Well this is humiliating,” he muttered, his voice partly muffled by the earth. I leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

“Not near as this is going to be.” I kissed him on the cheek. “Will you marry me?”

“Did you just ask me to marry you?” he asked incredulously. He was right, did I just ask him to marry me??? I blinked. In my distraction he threw me off and managed to pin me, back first with my hands above my head. “Did you?” he repeated. I grinned. He had left an opening. I flipped him over my head and repined him, this time in the same position he just had me. I kissed him again, hard.

“I guess I did.” I replied. “Well?” He struggled weakly to get up.

“Kiss me again.” I kissed him again, this time long and soft. He laughed. “A girl that kisses that good? How could I say no?” Then for an instant he got serious. “Yes, Jaisa, I will. Now will you let me up? This is embarrassing,” he finished plaintively.

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.