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.