As I left the community building I passed J.J. Parker and John Pierce leading about a dozen robots and heading south with the obvious intention of resetting the beams for the lower bridge. I could hear in the distance, probably almost a mile away the sound of the sawmills 20 horse power bio fueled engine; its amazing how far sound travels here without the constant undercurrent of the road noise and the rest of the sounds we were so accustomed to that we never noticed them.
I crossed the river on the upper bridge which hadn’t been damaged and followed it’s eastern shore as I headed for my freehold. My robot R. Hadrian was with me and I was carrying one of the shotguns from the armory. I hadn’t fired a shot in many years but I did grow up on a farm after all and in a time before hunting was effectively outlawed. I had enjoyed it at the time but gave it up as I got older. I had given no concern as the laws were passed making hunting first difficult and then impossible as the weapons were first registered and then required to be stored in secure governmentally controlled locations. Next more and more types were banned until we finally destroyed them all. At least in the U.S. the owners were paid for the value of the loss. Well maybe not the value but at least the purchase price.
The weapon I carried now was one of the first made in the blacksmiths shop on Alchibah. It would have been illegal on Earth even before the last round of laws were passed. It was in fact a sawed off double barrel 12 gage. Very crude with barrels made from seamless pipe brought down from the Mayflower, dual triggers and no ejectors, and no safety whatsoever except for the common sense of the person carrying it, and that was always the best safety anyway. But loaded with a slug in one side and double ought buck in the other a very suitable choice for close in personal protection. The stock was made from wood shaped by one of the robots from the local timber. It was equipped with a sling attached to the stock and a swivel just in front of the trigger guard but I chose to carry it in hand to get used to its feel.
I swung past the Historians freehold to see if the chickens and rabbits he had been raising survived. The house, which was quite a bit more substantial than what I had managed to complete, was gone; barely a trace just some stray timbers scattered about. The Hist, Rocco, and R. Asimov were busy re-erecting chicken coups and rabbit hutches. I stopped and talked to them for a while and the Historian explained that the house supported by posts set into the ground had tried to resist the flood whereas the animal cages were set on frames and just floated away when the waters washed over. About a third of the cages were smashed open and in a few cases upended so the chickens or rabbits inside drowned but in all about half survived.
I made good progress the rest of the way to my farm and after getting out of the forest and finally having a view to where my house should have been, to my surprise saw Buchanan, the Blade and a few others and along some nine or ten bots engaged in concerted activity surrounding my house which was for now about 500 yards east of where it once stood.
When we put my house up instead of driving posts into the ground Mike and I had set it on uncemented stone pilings. Like the Historians chicken coups the wave had washed it away but without damage left it half a mile to the east on the higher ground when the water receded. Now Buchanan was using pole pine rollers the bots and a lot of muscle to drag it back to it’s original location. I looked to the west where I should have seen Burt’s cabin and saw nothing but the marsh. It must have been swept down stream with the backflow.
When I reached them Jack took keen notice of my shotgun and sneered a bit. I think he was comparing it to the military grade weapons he and his men were carrying, but of that I took no obvious notice.
Buchanan spoke first while I was just getting ready to thank him and reading my mind said, “No thanks necessary Les, as you probably saw I lost everything and Jack and the boys offered to help put your place back where it belongs. I sure hope you don’t mind if we use it for a bit until I can rebuild.”
“Not at all Burt,” I was able to say with complete honesty, after all I really hadn’t expected to find anything left. “Take as long as you need Judith and I will stay in town. I don’t think she’s ready to come back here right now anyway.”
He told me they planned to make some improvements at my place, putting up a palisades and some earthworks making it rather fort like. I would miss the view but I expect Judith would appreciate the greater feeling of safety.
I thanked them all again and mentioned I was going back to town and check in with Sabbu to find out if there was any word about my son Mike and the shuttle.
“If there is be sure and let us know,” Jack said, giving me a strange look and in a tone of voice that made me feel very uneasy.
A half an hour later after stopping to talk to the gang resetting the beams at the lower bridge and I was back in Liberty City. Still no word from my son.