Cooper; new stuff added 10/03/2018

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by bodyparts » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:35 am

thanks doc !
:D

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by idahobob » Sun Sep 13, 2015 10:14 am

Three new chapters..........my, my, my. :awesome: :clap: :awesome: :clap:

Thank You!

Bob
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by 223shootersc » Sun Sep 13, 2015 7:36 pm

Doc, as always, a pleasure reading your work, need MOAr, please.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by KYZHunters » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:24 pm

Wow, great stuff. Wish I hadn't binge-read it.
crypto wrote:It's not that you were being "harsh" so much as a "douchebag".

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:01 am

KYZHunters wrote:Wow, great stuff. Wish I hadn't binge-read it.

Well, thanks for that. I hope to have another up this weekend. I got caught up in another story and this one fell aside for a few.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by jandlms » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:53 pm

doc66 wrote:
KYZHunters wrote:Wow, great stuff. Wish I hadn't binge-read it.

Well, thanks for that. I hope to have another up this weekend. I got caught up in another story and this one fell aside for a few.

Another story? The Mountain perhaps?????????? Seems a shame to just let such a great story just hang there.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sun Sep 20, 2015 12:57 am

jandlms wrote:
doc66 wrote:
KYZHunters wrote:Wow, great stuff. Wish I hadn't binge-read it.

Well, thanks for that. I hope to have another up this weekend. I got caught up in another story and this one fell aside for a few.

Another story? The Mountain perhaps?????????? Seems a shame to just let such a great story just hang there.
Noooo, but I have gotten back to that one, just not enough to post on it.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by 2now » Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:23 am

Great story! Nice to see a thought out plot line...and no zombies for a change.

Havign said that let me offer a few suggestions.

1. write faster.

2. Llamas are one of the quietest animal you will ever meet. I have owned several and they do little more than hum. Do not expect to alerted by the sound they make. There visual behavior can be quite clear that they are alarmed however, especially by canines that they have not been introduced to.

3. Old fashion farming is HARD work. Your characters will have a serious changed body after the kind of farming you have them doing. For example milking by hand twice a day will give you an awesome grip after a year.

4. if they are keeping cattle through the winter they will need feed. How are they cutting and storing their hay? pitchforks would be a tool they would highly prize, real scythes would be both rare and extremely useful. If they are using the trucks to move the hay it is one of the chores that would be in the front of their mind as a real PITA to have to do entirely human powered.

5. write faster!

Really a very fun read, well developed characters.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:16 pm

2now wrote:Great story! Nice to see a thought out plot line...and no zombies for a change.

Havign said that let me offer a few suggestions.

1. write faster.

2. Llamas are one of the quietest animal you will ever meet. I have owned several and they do little more than hum. Do not expect to alerted by the sound they make. There visual behavior can be quite clear that they are alarmed however, especially by canines that they have not been introduced to.

3. Old fashion farming is HARD work. Your characters will have a serious changed body after the kind of farming you have them doing. For example milking by hand twice a day will give you an awesome grip after a year.

4. if they are keeping cattle through the winter they will need feed. How are they cutting and storing their hay? pitchforks would be a tool they would highly prize, real scythes would be both rare and extremely useful. If they are using the trucks to move the hay it is one of the chores that would be in the front of their mind as a real PITA to have to do entirely human powered.

5. write faster!

Really a very fun read, well developed characters.

Thanks for the llama info, I've only been around them a few times. Good to know for the editing. The llama was put into the story because I have a couple friends who are homesteading, and one keeps telling the other to get llama's because the second wants to get alpacas. I keep telling him to just get goats. The friends who homesteads keep me up to date on their trails and tribulations, and I take vacations to help him out with the larger projects, so I do have a clue about the work which goes into this type of living, and I know that it sucks balls if you're not really into it, which is one of the reasons why I had Heidi state that she wasn't going to do that shit. LOL

Although I haven't gone into it here in the story, I've only mentioned it a few times, el Rancho de Montaña is a self sufficient ranch doing things "the old way" as much as possible, which is why I kind of keep talking about how they go up there for information on how to do things--and the number of people there; the cousins, and nephews, and aunts and uncles--it's the only way to make a big place work. El Jefe grew up on a ranch in Mexico--and he's the one they go to when they have questions; I might be hitting it in my own mind as I write, better than telling the reader. El Rancho has the ability to use horses--and has horses--and the machinery to use with the horses. They share out the equipment to the neighbors in exchange for labor. In my mind, that's what is making the community on the mountain a strong one. I think I might have to delve into that more with another story. I mention in passing them going to neighbors, having parties and such, but never have gotten into the mountain life, I guess.

The use of a gasified tractor is going to come into play at some point as well, since they are down to the last of their diesel reserves.

Thanks for pointing all this out though, it helps me with things down the road. I have a couple three more ideas for stories in my head with these characters, and I'm working on finishing up one right now that's gotten a little long for what I want to do with this series of tales, and I've had a couple of false starts when I tried to force the story line and had to go back and trash stuff which didn't read true to the characters. I've gotten it beyond the characters I wanted to keep it to, and after this tale, I'm going to bring it back around.

Maybe the view of the mountain community is the way to focus on the original cast.

Thanks again for the notes and the read!
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:26 am

This one took a little bit of writing. I kept trying to get the story to go one way, and the characters would go a different way. I had a couple false starts on some parts and trashed an entire section which just didn't fit. It might actually be a good aside story, but just not for here. So anyway, here is the latest installment. I might be done with this one for a little while, I don't know. I am going to go back and look at a couple other's I've started and see if I can get them going to a finish. Thanks for hanging n there.


A GRAIN OF SALT



They had rolled over the ridges of the hills surrounding the bay and the small city it surrounded, trialing wisps of smoke from the gasified truck and ready to be finished with that leg of the journey. The crew cab GMC was only so comfortable, the bed of the truck where the core of the still rested was always hot, and the trailer they hauled rattled and bounced and jerked at the truck over roads which had not seen maintenance since Before. David stopped the dual wheeled beast at a pull off overlook and disengaged the transmission, sighing heavily at the hissing sound the gas still made. The damn thing was noisy after relying on horses for the last several months. In the back of the truck, Boone and Not Tim stood away from the benches mounted there, happy to be off the hard seats and away from the still. Also crowed in the bed was the blue barrel of potable water for the journey, plastic tote boxes of food, and the camping gear they had yet to unpack for their stops. In the trailer, the three goats bleated their displeasure. David did not blame them for their displeasure. The goats were crowded in with the trade goods the others on the mountain had donated for the salt and whatever personal trade they could get from the lists Heidi and Leticia had been given. If they were able to get the salt without trading off the goods, the truck was going to be crowded indeed. Doors opened and the rest of the crew piled out of the cab, groaning and stretching and making about as much noise as the goats.

“I never thought we’d make it up that hill,” said Patricia, trying to stretch out her back.

“It was a little more than the truck wanted to do,” agreed David.

While the gasification process was a great thing, and travelled faster than the horses could, further than the horses could, and haul more than the horses could, it was still only a 50 mile an hour ride, and hauling the trailer and all the trade goods had taxed the beast. David was actually worried that they might not be able to make it up the grade with a load of salt. They were going to have to tinker with the truck a little to see if there were a way to get more power out of the system. He wished for a good diesel engine, which they had, but not enough fuel to make it to the salt plant and back. The diesel was more important back at the mountain where it could be used in the tractor to plow fields for next spring’s planting. Still in all, it was times like this that David missed gasoline. He doubted the horses they had would have been even able to pull the trailer up the long hill. If they were going to do more hauling with horses in the future, they were going to need to find draft horses, big ones.

Armando and the mechanic el Jefe had insisted go with them, Noe’, took the opportunity to open the hood of the truck and begin their series of checks on the engine and gasification system of the truck. Noe’ was an old school mechanic whose ministrations were keeping the truck running in top form. If anyone could coax more power out of the truck it would be him. Armando had been an engineer, and his interest was in the system on the truck and how it could be improved over what they had. The engineer had already identified several things he would change in the system which he thought could make the truck run stronger and more efficiently. The plan was to start converting tractors and harvesters at el Rancho over to the gasification system.

Tio, as taciturn and brooding as ever, took the opportunity to go over to one of the telescopes mounted on a post and peer through the eye piece. He gave a grunt of surprise to find that he could see through the low power magnifier and began to scan the city below. David stood beside him and gazed out at the collection of buildings below. The city was in a basin, of which they stood on the edge. A light forest of palms and orange and lime and lemon trees followed the slope to the edges of the city where the trees continued along streets and in back yards. They would have to gather up as much of the fruit as they could, mused David, if there was anything on the trees. The possibility of fresh oranges made his mouth suddenly water. He could not remember when the citrus came in season. They might have missed the harvest time.

As he looked out over the city, he was troubled to see that at least a part of the town had been scorched by fire. The path of the conflagration stretched from the shore and through the center of the main part of the commercial district, spreading out on either side to include the residential areas, stopping on one side where the four lane highway separated the buildings and on the other in a ragged firebreak along a canal which led from the hills to the bay. There were still boats and even a couple of freighter-looking ships in the harbor. From their distance on the hillside, he could not see movement in the areas which were not scorched.

“Ver nada?” he asked Tio.

“Nada,” answered Tio, leaning away from the telescope. “Pero estos son mierda. I need to get the good ones out of the truck.”

Tio stepped away to go to the truck and retrieve the big 30x60 marine binoculars they had found in a sailboat which they had found along the highway still attached to the trailer, but without the tractor which had hauled it. The thing was so big, they had spent the night in the cabins on the boat and then looted out the thing in the morning, clearing it out of the canned and dehydrated foods, the mainstay rations, the bottles of water, a nickel plated Winchester shotgun, the foul weather gear, and anything else they thought they might have a need of sometime in the future. On the way back, the plan was to strip the boat of sails and line.

Looking through the cloudy lens of the telescope, David thought he could see smoke coming from a couple of the chimneys in the town, and perhaps some movement on the streets, but he could not be sure. He was happy to see that there were oranges hanging from the branches and thought he could see lemons as well. Tio came back with the binoculars and leaned against the rail around the observation area.

“There’s people,” he announced.

“I thought I saw movement.”

“Maybe they’ll be amistoso,” muttered Tio. The men stared at each other, both remembering the small town where they had almost been ambushed by townspeople and escaped at considerable expenditure of ammunition.

“Maybe.”

Tio bent back over the binoculars.

Leticia and Heidi were standing at the front of the truck, their heads bent over the map which was unfolded across the hood of the truck. David walked over to them and looked over their shoulders.

“Did we get lost?” he joked.

“No, cabeza,” said Leticia. “We’re checking the map to see how we want to get to the salt plant.”

“I hope it’s still there,” said David. “There’s been a pretty big fire in the city and it looks like more than half of it burned down.”

Heidi and Leticia looked up from the map with worried expressions.

“No broma,” warned Leticia.

“No broma,” assured David. He pointed at the map. “It looks like all this, desde aqui hasta aqui, it’s all papelera, gone.”

Heidi frowned at their conversation. “English?”

“All this is trashed,” said Leticia, indicating the map as David had. She and Heidi studied the road map. “It looks like the desalination plant could be okay, if the fire was in that part.” She looked at David. “Did you see any people?”

“There was some movement,” he told her. “But not a lot.”

Heidi consulted the population graph on the map. “It says that there were 35,515 people in the city limits at the last census.”

“That was, what, five years before the shit hit, so eight, nine years ago?” calculated Leticia.

“There’s not that many now,” guessed David. “People leaving, people dying, the fire, there might be ten thousand now?”

“That’s still a lot of people.”

“We just have to get to the plant and get salt,” said Heidi firmly. She pointed at the four lane highway leading into town. “Does that look good? It’s a straight shot.”

“Ask Tio,” said David. “He’s scoping it out right now.”

They took the map and went over to where Tio was standing with Boone, who was taking his turn at looking through the binoculars at the city. Not Tim was laying stretched out on the ground, Patricia—who had come along on the journey because of her skills as Nurse Practitioner and her desire to reequip her dwindling stock of medical instruments and supplies—was doing a few yoga stretches and Hector, finally recovered from his gunshot wound, leaned against a palm tree with his rifle across his knees keeping watch on the road they had just travelled. David was glad to see that someone had thought to stake the goats out where they could munch on the grass and brush while the vehicle was stopped. He was also glad to see that Boone and Not Tim had remembered to open the pressure valve on the gas system so that they would not blow out a feed hose, again. It had taken the better part of three hours to find a hose that would work and then replace the split hose after that mistake. Thankfully there had not been a more serious system failure or the journey would have ended in an inauspicious manner.

Heidi and Leticia struggled with the map for a moment and then had it folded to the section they desired. Another instant was spent orientating the map with the view below.

“There’s a lot of damage—,” frowned Heidi, comparing the street map to the scene before them.

Leticia pointed out a road going through the town and then at a line on the map. “Is that this?”

“Si,” said Tio. “Esa es la carretera principal que atraviesa la ciudad.” He caught the look Heidi was giving him. “Yes, that’s it.”

“So the desalination plant should be about there?” she indicated a spot on the map next to the harbor and then tried to locate the same spot on the shoreline. Tio steered her gaze toward a collection of long pipes and tanks next to a squat factory looking building. “Looks easy to get to.”

There was a collection pond and lagoon which reminded David of the moats around castles partially encircling the plant. The waterways were connected to the ocean by what looked to be a flood gate. “There’s the evaporation ponds, or collection canal; I don’t know which one.”

“I wonder where the salt storage is,” muttered Heidi.

“It can’t be too far away,” said David. “Maybe one of those tanks is the storage. We won’t know until we get down there and look.”

“No time like now,” said Heidi. “Tio, did you see anyone around that place? Or any sign of guards or workers?”

“Nada. I saw nothing that even looked like people,” he told her. “But it is still eight miles away.”

“Let’s go. With any luck, we can get in and get our load and be out before we have to deal with anyone.”

They herded the protesting goats—the trade they were going to use for the salt—back into the trailer and Armando and Noe’ dropped the hood with a bang. Boone and Not Tim closed the relief valve and restoked the still. In a moment, since they had not been stopped that long, the pressure began to build and there was enough off gassing to start the truck. The diesel rattled and roared and soon they were all piled back into the cab and headed down the hill into the town.





They entered the town proper with no fanfare and drove straight through to the shore on the cluttered and broken four lane. They occasionally caught glimpses of people as they drove, groups pushing wheelbarrows or pulling wagons, people on bicycles, but no one seemed to be interested in stopping them for any reason. The smoke belching gasifed truck did get long stares as they drove by. It was as if the people were seeing something out of a dream or fairy tale. They stopped and stared at the truck until it was out of sight, their eyes open wide with astonishment clearly showing on their faces. That was in the sections of town where they fire had not decimated the buildings.

Where the fire had reached, there was nothing. No people moved among the shells of buildings. The structures were crumbling and collapsing on themselves, roofs had fallen down into the center of the walls, glass had shattered in the heat or was melted, or cracked and blackened. The air still smelled of char and smoke, and the rodents, feral animals, wildlife and birds, were visible scurrying in and around the wreckage of the buildings. Occasionally the bones of the victims were visible. Skeletons representing humanity of all sizes lay in the ruins, their bones bleached by the sun or scorched black and yellow by fire. David found himself wondering just how many had perished in the fires to have so many of the dead still laying exposed to the elements that the survivors simply had not given them a burial of some kind, even a mass grave would have been better than leaving them to rot. The stench in the city had to have been overwhelming at some point.

Patricia noticed all the bones and mentioned to them that the spike in disease in the aftermath must have been horrendous. She cautioned everyone about coming into contact with the people of the town and that they might want to reconsider any kind of trade involving personal wear. They did not, she warned, want to take any kind of pox back with them to the mountain.

When they reached the desalination plant, they found the gates were hanging open and David drove the truck directly into the plant area. There was no one there to challenge them, and the winds off the ocean carried a strong smell of fish and salt. The truck was guided through the broken pavement which had grasses growing up through the cracks. Here and there were the hulks of vehicles; cars sitting on spongy tires, work trucks with the company logo and utility vehicles were scattered in various places, stopped randomly as if the drivers had all suddenly decided at the same time that it was no longer necessary for them to be at their jobs. David found a place to park the truck, a location out of sight of the four lane and the road leading to the plant, as well as situated so that they could easily drive out again without having to thread the maze of rusting vehicles and pipe works. Once again, everyone disembarked from the truck and they stood around looking at the massive collection of pipes, the collection tanks that looked so squat from atop the hill now towered over them. Catwalks stretched across the expanses of tanks and along the piping. Next to the building there was a steam tower casting its shadow over the plant.

No one seemed to know where to start.

Heidi stepped up to take charge as the rest wandered about and stared at the mysterious contraptions around them. “Hector, can you climb up on that catwalk and watch the road? If anyone comes, you need to call out to us and warn us. Someone will be stationed down here at the truck too, so you’ll have back up if needed.”

“Si, I can go up there,” he told her. He limped to the stairs with his HK G3 slung over a shoulder and began to climb up the metal steps. Tio watched him for a long moment, as if he thought he too, should be keeping an over watch. Heidi had other plans for him.

“Armando, you and Noe head over there to the trucks, start pullin spare tires that look good, anything that might fit this beast, or looks like it’s in better shape than what’s on it. If we can drive out of here with a new set of tires, we’ll be that much ahead,” she said. “And look for a go cart, if we can get the batteries out of one of those, we can add to the solar systems we have up on the mountain.”

David was impressed with her though process. He saw Boone grinning.

“She’s smart,” said Boone.

“Tio and Not Tim, I think you two need to set up a defensive position over there,” she pointed out to the parking lot. “Some place where you have clear lines of sight out at the gate and along the fence toward the city. We don’t wanna to be surprised.”

“Who wants to stay with the truck?” asked Heidi, casting her gaze over the rest of them. “Somebody needs to stay here so that if Hector sees somethin, they can blow the horn and warn us to get back here.”

Everyone looked at the next person. Finally, David shrugged. “I’ll stay, I guess.”

“All right,” said Heidi. “Patricia, you and Leticia go into the buildin and see if you can find the nurses station or somethin like it, clear it out of all the medical supplies you can find. I’ll bet what you’re lookin for will be near the offices. Me and Boone’ll search out the salt storage.”

Picking up their rifles and bandoliers—an HK G3 knock off in Not Tim’s case, and a slim AR for Tio—the two men stood for a second peering out at the parking lot, trying to decide just where they would best have control over the area Heidi had indicated. Boone picked up his AR and Heidi slung her wood stocked HK MP5 over her shoulder. Leticia and Patricia both had ARs as well and they slung them over shoulders. Everyone exploring picked up small backpacks and books bags which were not only for items they found, but also contained a bottle of water, a small first aid kit, and some homemade energy bars. This had been one of Not Tim’s ideas before the left eh mountain, in case, he had said, they ran into a little trouble while exploring. Finally, Not Tim and Tio headed out across the parking lot as Armando and Noe did the same, the two mechanics toting a canvas bag of tools with them in addition to their own rifles. David and Leticia shared a quick kiss before she grabbed a flat pry bar from the back of the truck.

“Cuidate,” warned David.

“Siempre,” grinned Leticia over her shoulder as she and Patricia headed out along the front of the building to the main entrance.

“Which way?” asked David to Heidi.

The young woman looked around, trying to judge just where would be the best place to start.

“Let’s try the tanks, first,” she concluded.

They headed in the direction of the tanks. There were two tanks, on massive tank connected to a smaller one. In the autumn sunlight, it was much warmer on the coast than it had been up in the mountains, but the breeze made him glad he was still dressed for the altitude’s fall weather. The only sound the heard as they walked was the rustle of grass and the wind moving through the catwalks along with the loud cries of the gulls and other birds. If it were another time, it would have been pleasant walking with Heidi this close to the beach. Boone actually hoped they would get an opportunity to spend a little time near the surf, perhaps doing some fishing or just hanging out on the beach. Much of that depended on their success in getting salt, and the attitude of the cities surviving residents.

Walking around the first tower, they saw nothing which would indicate that it was a storage place for salt. There was not an opening at the ground level, but a catwalk circled the tower midway, and Heidi pointed out a man door in the side of the metal wall.

“We’ll have to go up.”

“If there’s salt in there, how do they get it out?” wondered Boone.

“Maybe when it was in operation, they connected hoses up to a vacuum system and pulled it out like that?” she guessed.

“Let’s check the big tower first, and come back.”

They walked under the catwalk and pipes to the bigger tower. It had no doors either. And there was not a door on the catwalk level. There was, however, a ladder going up the side of the tower to the catwalk level and then on up to the top of the tower. Boone and Heidi stood at the bottom and looked up at the ladder.

“Do we go on up, or do we go check out those out building?”

“Those don’t look big enough for salt storage.”

“They could be dug down, just coverings for a deep hole.”

“Let’s check them.”

They tramped over to the outbuildings. The garage doors were locked. Boone took his pry bar to the man door and with much grunting and leaning on the metal rod, managed to pop the door open. The stale air rushing out smelled heavily of motor oil and fuel. He pulled on the door until it was fully open and peered into the darkness beyond the door. He grinned at Heidi.

“It’s not salt, but it might be almost as good.”

After propping the door open with a nearby cinder block, they stepped into the garage area and began to explore. There were shelves of tools, spare parts for the plant, and small engines. Piping was racked in rows according to diameter. Along one wall were barrels with pump handles sticking out of the bung holes. Boone went to these and leaned down to read the fluid stained labels.

“Holy shit,” he said aloud. He called Heidi over. “Look at this, diesel.” He tapped the barrel. “Better than half full.” He read another one. “Transmission fluid. This one’s five-W-thirty, diesel oil. That one is straight thirty weight.” He stood up. “I’ll bet they used that in the workings of the plant motors. This shits gold.”

“We can’t take all of it,” said Heidi. “We want salt, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember,” agreed Boone. “But if we can get one of those trucks out there running, we can haul this stuff in the second truck. Hell, I’ll bet we could haul trailer of salt in the second truck and haul all this in the gasifier and be further ahead. The diesel in the tanks of those trucks out there should still be good; they are sealed up in the tanks. Get one that’s already full, and we’re golden.”

“Boone,” said Heidi, “salt first. We have to find the salt.”

He sighed. “Got it.”

Outside, the horn sounded on the truck. Boone and Heidi stood frozen for a moment before a second blast uprooted them and sent them rushing out the door of the garage toward where the truck was parked.
Last edited by doc66 on Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:30 am

Leticia and Patricia pried at the glass double doors to the office area of the plant. The deep lock was not budging and the frame of the door was flexing with the pressure they were putting on the door. Unexpectedly, there was a crack that sounded in their ears and the door frame bent under the flat bar, shattering the double paned glass in the door. The safety glass starred, sending spider webs along the surface of the glass. Squares of the crystal fell out of the frame and shattered into little pieces at their feet. The two women stopped prying and stepped away from the door.

“Well,” said Patricia as they moved away from the glass on the ground. “Don’t get cut.”

“No lo hare,” muttered Leticia, looking around for something to finish the job of removing the door glass. She spied a standing ashtray still full of sand and water and cigarette butts, the filters only, floating in the brackish water in the tray. Leticia pushed it over to dump the wet sand and water and refuse out of the stand. She then picked up the squat metal container and hefted it before throwing it against the glass and completing the job the pry bar had started. Leticia grinned widely at the satisfying noise the glass made when it broke into millions of jagged pieces and cascaded to the ground around the door.

“I found the key,” she laughed to Patricia.

Patricia shook her head at the mess. “Be careful stepping through there.”

“Okay, mama,” sighed Leticia. She covered her face with her forearm and used the pry bar to clear away the hanging glass from the frame. Once the glass was clear, Leticia shoved the pry bar into the outer pocket of her backpack and stepped through the frame, the glass crunching underfoot as she stepped into the stale air of the closed office. Patricia followed, her foot slipping momentarily on the glass as she stepped in, eliciting a small cruse from the nurse.

They were greeted with a lobby area hung with faded aerial pictures of the plant—probably taken when the place had first opened—glamor shots of happy workers surrounded by pipes and standing in front of clean company vehicles and the executives wearing hart hats and suits. Moving past the reception desk to a door behind the desk, Leticia pulled on the handle. It did not budge.

“Are you fuckin kidding me? Is every maldita thing bloqueado around here?” She pulled the pry bar out of the back pack again. This time the lock gave without much of a fight. They stepped through the door and into a long hallway which T’ed right and left from them and then ran straight back from where they stood. Doorways open and emptied out onto the hall. The two women stood for a long moment in the gloom looking at the dust space that smelled of salt and mildew.

“Where would you put a nurse’s station?” asked Leticia.

Pointing down the hall in front of them, Patricia said, “Close to the factory floor.”

They started down the hallway, each glancing into the offices they passed. The dark spaces were full of industrial desks and chairs, papers, and blank computer monitors. They passed a large break room with vending machines, and Leticia motioned Patricia into the long room. There were cafeteria tables with benches, and a wall with shelves and counter tops and two refrigerators. On the counter top were two industrial sized coffee makers and a half dozen microwaves. Near the microwaves were vending machines, still containing snacks and moldy sandwiches in plastic sleeves. There were also tubs of add water microwaveable pastas, soups, and popcorn. Leticia grinned at Patricia when she opened one of the cupboards. She reached in and held up a foil package.

“Coffee, mama,” gloated Leticia. “Two or three industrial size boxes of it. Y mira, dried creamer and sugars.” She pulled it out of the cupboard. “We’re taking this shit.”

Patricia came over and picked up the coffee packet. She put it to her nose and inhaled, trying to get the scent of the beans through the foil. “So you know how long it’s been since I had coffee?”

“A long fucking time?”

“A long fucking time,” agreed Patricia, opening other cupboards. “Instant oatmeal. Holy shit, ketchup.”

Leticia leaned against the counter and looked at the vending machines. “We need something to put all this in. And we need the nurse’s station first.”

“There’s all kinds of things we can get from here,” said Patricia as they moved out of the cafeteria. “I’ll bet in the offices or a closet somewhere there’s boxes of reams of paper, pens, pencils.” She grabbed Leticia’s arm and stopped her in the hallway. “Toilet paper and tampons.”

“Oh, madre de Dios.” Leticia sighed. “We’re gonna need a bigger truck.”

In the dimness Patricia pointed out a small sign hanging off a mount on the wall over a door. Nurse, it read. They high fived and went to the door.

The office was off the end of the hallway. At the very end, through another door with a large window set in the frame, they could see out into the floor of the physical plant facility. It was a dark mess of piping and gauges and levers and wheels and knobs. When they stepped through the door to the nurse’s station, in the dim light coming from a high window, they could see a couple of low examination tables, a small desk, and a row of glassed door cupboards. Patricia gave a low groan and went directly to the cupboards, muttering to herself.

“I don’t know what I was hoping for, but this isn’t quiet it.” She opened one of the doors and pulled out a vacuum sealed package. “Well, here’s a little something. Suture kit. I’ll bet they had a nurse practitioner here who bent the rules a little.”

Taking Patricia at her word, Leticia stood in the door because she had no clue what she should be looking for. She was about to tell Patricia this when the nurse gave a squeal of excitement and pulled a big red bag from under the counter.

“Do you know what this is?” She asked Leticia, holding the bag up. It looked heavy and expensive. Leticia admitted that she did not. Patricia set it on the counter and unzipped the top of the massive duffle. “It’s a jump bag, you know for when someone gets hurt out in the field, the NP can just grab this and have all the basic stuff to stabilize a person in the field.”

“Cool,” Leticia gave a nod out at the factory floor. “I’m going to see if there’s a cart or something we can put all this shit in, so we don’t have to carry it.”

“Sure,” responded Patricia absently. “I’ll start pulling everything we need out of the cupboards; which is probably going to be everything here.”

Leaving the nurse to her candy land, Leticia pushed through the wide door onto the plant floor. It was damp out there, and cold. The air was heavy with the smell of salt and mildew and fish and a dozen other odors she associated with the ocean. Above her, the skylights were clouded over from the neglect of the years and there were birds swooping around the rafters of the tall building. Rows and rows of pipes and valves and pressure tanks and gauges lay dormant, collecting grime and showing signs of corrosion. She walked silently through the huge space, glancing at various things that caught her eye and noting tool chests in nooks as she moved. They could probably use some of those tools as well, she thought to herself. They did not have room for all the things they were finding. They were going to have to be selective in their reclamation. Leticia finally found a heavy four wheeled cart shoved back in a out of the way area. The cart had big rubber wheels and a high push bar. Its deck surface was oily, but Leticia figured they could cover that before using it to haul things.

She pushed it back to the nurse’s station where Patricia had the surface of the exam tables piled with boxes and trash bags full of supplies.

“I got everything,” she told Leticia. “I didn’t look, I just loaded it all up. I found a supply closet with paper towels, toilet paper and even tampons and pads still in the cases.”

“The cart I got should carry all of it,” Leticia presumed, gauging the pile of things. “Let’s load it up and then get what we can from the cafeteria.”

They put the cases of paper goods on first, and then the trash bags of medical supplies---not as many as Leticia had first assumed—along with the jump bag Patricia had been so excited about. She showed Leticia a small red and tan tackle box. “Medicines, all kinds here. I had to break the lock on the cabinet to get to it. I don’t know how good some of it is, but we can hope most of it is still viable. It’s another no-no to have laying around. But all that’s in the past now, so who gives a shit?”

Once in the cafeteria, the first things they put on the cart were the boxes of vacuum sealed coffee bags. Then they began to place the foodstuffs in trash bags. Leticia had a good time prying the Plexiglas windows off the vending machines. When the plastic fronts popped off, they added the sheets to the cart as well; one never knew when a window come in handy. From the machines they took the microwave meals, the candy, and gleefully took turns trying to pry the front off the soda machine to no avail.

“Goddamnit a Coke would taste good,” lamented Leticia.

“Maybe we can come back with some dynamite,” joked Patricia.

They both laughed and then sat down on the benches to catch their breath. In the silence, Leticia thought she heard something.

“Was that a horn?”

Patricia strained to hear. She shook her head. “I don’t hear anything.”

“I don’t now,” admitted Leticia. “Maybe I’m hearing things.”

“Shall we see if we can get some cases of paper?” asked Patricia. “The kids would love that, and we could use the blank paper for all kinds of things.”

“Why not?” asked Leticia. “If we keep going like this, though, we won’t have room in the truck for salt.”

The two shared a laugh again and got up with a last look at the soft drink machine. “We’ll look for keys to that thing too. I’ll be the secretary has them.”

“Good call,” approved Patricia as they pushed the laden cart down the hall.







When Boone and Heidi arrived, they found that Armando and Noe were already standing at the truck where David was using the binoculars to peer across the parking lot. Both men had taken up defensive positions behind the big GMC and their rifles were pointed out at the distance where David looked. Four tires were leaning against each other nearby. Across the parking lot, Tio and Not Tim were crouching behind a big truck of their own, peering over the bed in the direction of the gate. Heidi and Boone slowed their run on reaching the truck, falling in beside David.

“What’s going on?” asked Heidi.

David pulled the glasses from his eyes and looked down at her. “We’ve got a dozen or more people on bicycles and other contraptions coming this way. Hector spotted them on the four lane.”

“Can you see them from down here?”

David shook his head. “Not yet. Let’s go up the catwalk with Hector. We’ll get a better view up there.”





“Not all of us,” said Heidi. She looked over at Boone. “You feel like playing ninja?”

Boone grinned. “Yeah, why not?”

Heidi pointed along the back of the main building. “Go that way, and come around the other side. Wait up at the corner and when they work their way toward us, get in behind them. If the shootin starts, you work them from behind.”

“You’re fucking devious,” complemented David, a little awed that she thought of the plan and marshalled all of them into a cohesive fighting unit. He would have walked out and meet them head on, assuming that they were simply there to talk. Heidi was showing more and more how capable she could be when set to a task.

Giving David a bitter laugh, Heidi spoke in sour tones. “I learned from some really good killers. In spite of our gettin out of Hartsville with our heads still on our shoulders and killin so many of them, some of those guys with the MC are military and cops; they fuckin took over my dad’s ranch like it was a military raid. We just got lucky and caught them with their pants down. I got a good stud horse that says we couldn’t do that again, now that we got away with it.”

“You wouldn’t have known it when we took them on up in the mountain, either.”

“Lazy,” repeated Heidi. “They were expecting three or four guys and no resistance. Next time, they’ll come like a fuckin bad dream.”

“That’s not encouraging,” said David.

She gave David a hard look. “It’s not meant to be. I played the stupid girl and asked a lot of seemingly inane questions; I learned a lot from those assholes.

“Now let’s get up on that catwalk and see what we’re dealing with.”

Boone divested himself of his backpack and pulled the stubby shotgun he loved so much out of the interior of the truck. He slung the thing over his shoulder and then made sure he had extra rifle magazines. Heidi gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

“You don’t shoot unless they do first,” she ordered him.

“That’s no way to win a fight,” he told her.

“You don’t do shit, unless—,” she reiterated.

“Unless they do it first,” he finished. “I got you.”

“Then get out of here, asshole,” she said to him as a sendoff.

Boone disappeared behind the corner of the building and Heidi and David climbed up the stairs to where Hector was watching the gates. He heard them come up and gave them a glance from where he was sitting with his big rifle jutting over the railing at the gates.

“Oye, chica,” he said by way of greeting. He pointed across the parking lot. “Que están en la puerta.”

“English, Hector,” she told him.

Hector grinned at her. “They’re here.”

Heidi took the binoculars from David and aimed them at the gate where just a couple hours before they had driven the old GMC and trailer through. There was an odd collection of people there; all of them riding some form of bicycle, three or four wheeled pedal carts, with a couple horses thrown in for good measure. The people on the conveyances were dressed in all manner of styles, from hippie looking folk dressed in multi colored wraps and dresses and cargo shorts to a few others in more conservative clothing of worn jeans and casual shirts. Heidi could not see that there were an abundance of firearms in sight, but that meant nothing. The people might have them out of sight at the distance they were, and concealed. The group had bunched up at the gates, and there seemed to be a heated back and forth discussion among the people. Heidi guessed there to be over thirty, and hoped that the bunch was not well armed and did not mean them harm; they could overwhelm the little group around the truck just in sheer volume of numbers if they chose to do so.

“They don’t have a clue on how to handle us,” murmured Heidi, handing the binoculars to David.

“They must get people down here very often,” guessed David.

“People probably see all the fire damage and say, fuck it.”

“Here they come, about ten of them, everyone else is hanging back.”

“Let’s meet them,” said Heidi. “We’ll go out there just far enough away from the truck that it’s not in danger, but still close in so they have to come to us and can be caught in our crossfire.”

Looking sharply at Heidi, David frowned. “You think it will come to that?”

“I hope not,” she told him. “Cause if it does, we’re fuckin dead.”

Heidi and David met the people on bicycles at the point of their choosing. Heidi had surreptitiously waved Tio and Not Tim back into their place against the truck when they had made as if to join the two of them at the spot where they were to meet the townspeople. Heidi had also made Armando and Noe leave the cover of the GMC and put them in a position where they could provide them with cover fire away from any stray rounds that might damage their ride. After all, if there was a fight, and they managed to drive off the attackers, they would need to truck to make their escape. David was seeing the young woman in a totally different light.

He and Heidi had a brief conversation about Leticia and Patricia being missing from the mix. Heidi had calmly dismissed their absence. “They probably did not hear the horn inside the building,” she told him. “And it’s too late to worry about them right now. We’ve got other problems.”

David just hoped the two women did not suddenly show up in the middle of everything and set a wrong tone. Of course, what tone Heidi was going for was beyond him; she had been very closed mouthed about her plans and the way she wanted to handle the situation. In his own mind, David settled for just standing and looking intimidating. He wondered how well he could pull that off. After all, he did not seem to be able to change his expression to the flat, dark humor achieved by Boone, and he already knew he was horrible at poker. As the biker riders coasted to a stop close to where he and Heidi stood, David settled on trying to keep a neutral expression and hoped that in addition to marshalling troops, the young woman was also adept at negotiation.

Several of the people kicked the stands down on their bikes and dismounted warily. The remaining five or so stayed on the bikes, looking around the desalination plant with wide and frightened eyes. There was a smattering of firearms among the people, mostly pump shotguns and a few handguns visible. One person had a bolt action rifle. He hung back and set the rifle on his hip, gazing in concern at the firearms carried by Heidi and David, the number of which nearly equaled those carried by the ten people who had come on the bikes.

A man and a woman, dressed so opposite in style that they almost seemed to have come from different planets. The man was wearing what had once been designer jeans over a battered pair of loafers, and a polo shirt now faded from its former glory from too many days worn under harsh sun. The woman wore a flowery skirt, a faded t shirt with the logo of a now defunct band, and Crocks on her feet. Both wore hats, though his was a baseball hat advertising golf balls and her was a floppy thing with a bill, and both had firearms; hers was a revolver in a nylon holster hanging low off the front of her hips, and his was an expensive pump shotgun meant more for shooting clays than confronting trespassers into the town.

“Good afternoon,” started the man, in his best in charge voice. He was in his sixties and the skin of his face fell away from the bones as if the flesh underneath had melted away. The man did not look like he was in charge of much of anything any longer.

Heidi said nothing, so David kept silent as well.

The man cleared his throat. “We saw you drive into town, a while ago. That was an interesting vehicle, steam powered?” He used the pronoun We more as a title form himself rather than to include those around him. “We thought we’d come down here and see if there was something we could help you with?”

“You can stay out of our way,” Heidi said to him in a flat voice that was belied by her seemingly friendly smile. This seemed to fluster the man.

“Well, you see, we were curious as there’s nothing here, not since the plant closed when everything feel apart,” he told them. “I should know, I worked here.”

“You did?” was Heidi’s response. “Then you must have been in the office.”

The double meaning of her words were not lost on the man. He looked flustered for a moment at being spoken to in such a way by someone who did not look to be out of her teens—and she wasn’t—and tried to recover by attempting to bully in a fatherly way.

“Now wait just a minute,” put on his most friendly corporate face with a stern tone in his voice. “This is not the way you speak to us.”

“I think that it is exactly the way I speak to you,” smiled Heidi. She turned to the woman.

The woman was struggling to keep her face straight, but having a hard time of it. She appeared to be in her thirties, and had probably been on the receiving end of the man and his bluster before.

“We’re here for the salt,” said Heidi. “We’re willin to trade for it if necessary. But if it’s been abandoned, like this guy says, then trade isn’t really needed.”

The woman let out a pent up breath and looked apologetically at Heidi. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. But there’s no salt here.”

“This is a desalination plant?” Heidi tried to confirm.

“Sure, but there’s not salt,” she said again. “Not unless you want to scrape whatever’s on the sides of the discharge canal left from evaporation over there. That’s not much, I can tell you.”

Heidi spared a moment to look confused. “Where did it go?”

The man, now that the conversation had swung around to something he knew about, gave a harsh laugh. “In the ocean, little lady. How do you think that it all works?” He gave an agitated sigh. “The brine is reintroduced through the canal, which allows it to equalize in temperature before reestablishment to the ocean.” He turned away from Heidi dismissively. “I told you there was nothing to worry about, Honeytree. They’re just a bunch of stupid lookie loos from out of town on a wild goose chase.”

David felt his stomach sink.

“Unless you have something else smart ass to say, we will be leaving you to your disappointment.” With that, the man went to his bicycle and turned it around, pedaling off toward the gate. Half of the bicyclists followed him.

“Sorry about him,” said Honeytree. “He was an ass when he was my boss, too.”

“You worked here?”

“I did. I was one of the technicians on the floor,” said Honeytree. “Not much more than a glorified gauge watcher, really. But it paid the bills.”

“So, explain this to me,” said Heidi. “I remember reading that desalination plants took the salt out of the water, and the by product—the salt—was sold off.”

“In some places, yes,” agreed Honeytree. “But this plant was only set up to remove about fifty percent of the fresh, potable water, the other half, it was reintroduced back into the ocean, like Charles said.”

“We good?” asked one of the other bicyclists.

Honeytree smiled at him. “Yeah, Norman, we’re good. These people came all this way to be disappointed.”

Norman nodded at the truck. “What’s that thing? How’s it run?”

Heidi, distracted for a moment, shook her head. “There has to be a salt source here somewhere.”

“There is, but its two days away,” mused Honeytree and then laughed, motioning to the truck. “Well, two days for us. For you, in that, a couple of hours.”

“You talkin about the salt mine?” said Norman. Honeytree nodded. Heidi perked up at this information.

“Where? Can you show me on a map?”

“Sure.”

Heidi turned and gave everyone the all clear. She looked back at Honeytree. “Show me.”

They walked over to the truck, with the five hippies in tow. Honeytree sent one of the riders back to the gate to have them tell everyone left that the situation was under control and they could head back to the Community.

“You said you have trade?” asked Honeytree cautiously.

“We do,” said Heidi. “For information about the salt mines, and even help getting there, we would be willing to pay.”

“What kind of trade?” asked Honeytree.

Heidi laughed. “Well, we’ve got some things, and three goats. A boar and two does. All young and in good health.”

“Young goats?” Honeytree said. “There might be something we can work out.”

“Tell me about this truck,” said Norman, again. “Is it steam powered?”
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:31 am

Boone watched the group at the gate separate and decided that if it came to a fight, he was going to work on the bunch milling around at the gate. They did not seem to be very tactically minded, and he believed that he could probably drop several of them before they even thought about finding cover. He was crouched behind a low concrete wall, with a truck near him, between himself and the gate to help break up his outline. Boone pushed the short AR over the top of the wall, and lay a magazine next to the rifle for an easy reload should he need it. The afternoon sun had fallen out across the water, making the waves coming in appear to be topped with crystal sparkles. For a moment, Boone was distracted by the glittering waves, and realized that he missed the freedom of his motorcycle and being able to pick up and go on a whim. Movement at the gate made him tear his gaze away from the water and he saw a large group start to head toward the building while the others stayed at the gate.

There went Heidi’s idea of his getting behind them, he thought to himself. He decided that if the shooting started, he would lay down fire at the ones at the gate to keep the large group from rushing to the aid of those who had headed over to where the truck was parked. He heard a scuffling sound behind him and for a second feared that the newcomers had the same thought as Heidi, and had worked their way around the perimeter of the plant to try and flank them. Pulling the rifle off the wall, Boone spun around ready to shoot and saw that the noise had been cause by the opening of a side door of the main building. Leticia and Patricia emerged with rifles at the ready. They saw where Boone was crouched and ran up to him, falling down behind the wall at his side.

“What the fucks goin on?” demanded Leticia.

“Company,” said Boone, jerking his head in the direction of the gate and moving so that he could cover the newcomers once more.

“Shit.” Leticia scanned the crowd. “There’s a lot of them. They hostile?”

“Fuck if I know,” Boone said to her. “But I’m here as insurance. Where the hell you two been?”

“Cleaning out the fucking offices,” said Leticia. “We found all kinds of shit. Patricia saw you sneaking past one of the office windows and we figured something was up the way you were moving.”

Boone grunted his reply. “The three of us can keep them pretty pinned down if needed.”

Leticia put her AR next to Boone’s rifle. “Let’s hope it don’t come to that.”

“Pat,” said Boone as the nurse started to reluctantly raise her own rifle. “You keep an eye behind us, make sure no one gets in behind us.”

Patricia sighed in relief and dropped down below the edge of the wall and set her back to it so she could watch the fence line and the beach. She admired the waves as Boone had been doing just moments before. “It’s pretty out there.”

“Sure is.”

“You think we’ll get a chance to hang out at the beach at all?”

“Doubt it,” said Boone, making a tsk sound as he gave his opinion.

“Too bad.” Patricia put her rifle in her lap. “I miss the boardwalk. All the fried food, the games and performers. We used to go and spend an afternoon there about once a month. Just hang out and drink beer and chill.”

“Shit,” said Leticia. “We’d ride the bus down to the wharf and make fun of la turistas. The fat blancos y su hijo. We’d watch them and make up stories about who was going to get robbed and how.”

“That’s pleasant.”

Leticia shrugged back at Patricia. “You’re blanca. You go and beber cerveza, we’d go and burlarse del blancos. The stupid ones were the fucking asiaticos. Running around all in matching camisas, and waving flags. Crazy fuckers.”

“Check it out,” interrupted Boone.

They all watched as a group of the bicyclists came back to the gate. A man in a faded polo shirt with a shotgun slung across his back waved his arms at the gathered and seemed to be giving orders to all of them. He remounted his bicycle and rode out of the parking lot, followed by a large portion of the others. Several of the more colorfully dressed stayed where they were. In a moment, another cyclist came to them and there seemed to be yet another conversation. Some of the remaining ones left, and the others rode back to the truck with the speaker.

“Must be over,” intoned Boone, dragging his rifle off the wall once more.

“You sound disappointed,” said Patricia.

“Eh, I’m always down for a fight.”

“That’s not what they said about you at the Barstow house shoot out,” Leticia teased him.

“Fuck you, beaner,” returned Boone. “I knew a loss when I saw one. I’m impulsive and reckless, but I’m not stupid.”

“Beaner?” Leticia acted shocked. “Oye, no mames, you’ll fuckin pay for that one, chingada.”

“Yeah?” countered Boone, enjoying the challenge. “You gonna put hot sauce on my tail?”

“Guey,” Leticia drew the phrase out like the chola she was. “Hijo de una puta, fuckin culero. Te cress muy muy?”

Boone began to laugh and found he could not stop. “Oh shit, that’s awesome. I have no fucking clue what you are saying.”

“Vales verga,” said Leticia, beginning to laugh with him. “Come on polla, before they start to worry about you and think you ran off all afraid.”

She stood and offered him a hand up. “Anciano.”

“One day you’ll have to teach me this shit,” Boone said to her.

“Anciano, old fuck,” said Leticia. “Repita, por favor. Anciano.”

Still laughing, Boone said, “Anciano.”

“Bien.”

Patrica sighed and got to her feet on her own. “Let’s cut through the building and get the cart. I think we got everything we could get.”

“We got more than we should,” agreed Leticia.

They went to the door the two had come through and disappeared into the building.



David and Tio met them in the factory floor where they were pushing the cart to the door near where the truck was parked. The two men looked over the cart piled high with cases of toilet paper, copy paper, the medical supplies, and the cafeteria food. David came around and kissed Leticia.

“What the hell is all this?” he asked her.

“We’ve been busy.”

“We’ve been worried, amante,” he told her.

“It’s fine, cabeza,” she told him. “We saw what was going on and backed up Anciano.”

“Anciano?”

Boone raised his hand. “That’d be me.”

David shook his head. “Well, leave this for now, we’ve got company and bad news.”

“Oh?”

“No salt here. Looks like this place didn’t evaporate off the water, it returned it all back to the ocean.”

The other three looked crestfallen. “So what are we going to do?”

“There’s a salt mine near here,” David told them. “Come on, Heidi’s running interference with the hippies for now, but I think she’s got a plan working.”

“Does it involve getting a couple trucks running?” asked Boone.

“I think so, yes,” said David.

Boone grunted and rolled his eyes. “She stole my idea to look smart.”

“She is smart.”

Grinning that infuriating smile he had, Boone agreed with David. “That’s why I’m fucking her; because it’ll rub off.”

“You’re awful,” Leticia told him.

They parked the cart by the door and stepped out into the fading sunshine. There were several people crawling over the gasified truck and Armando and Noe were talking specifics with a long haired man in an orange fleece and baggy shorts. With the help of the people crawling on the truck, Tio and Not Tim were changing out the slick tires for the good ones Armando and Loe had found. The goats were making a racket, there were people petting the goats and laughing and talking and it was all confusing. Heidi saw them and excused herself from a long haired hippie woman.

“Boone,” she said, standing on tip toes to kiss him. “I need you to do something for me.”

“Of course,” he told her.

“We’re gonna to strip this place down to the floor, that mother fucker pissed me off and here in a couple days when he realizes that there was shit here for the taking, I want it all fuckin gone, even the crumbs,” she snarled. “I want you to take Not Tim and Cio and go back to that garage and get all the shit you can out of there. Leticia, I need you to talk Spanish to Armando and Noe and get them to start finding a couple big trucks that work so we can drive all this shit out of here. I’m gonna to go with Honeytree and her bunch with the gasifier truck and see what kind of deal we can work out with them so they’ll take us up to the salt mine; I guess there’s a bunch up there who might object to us just showing up.”

“You know we have no clue what you are talking about?” said Boone.

“Just trust me, lover,” she smiled. “We’ve got this.

“We need to start up the gasifier and then swap out batteries so that Armando and Loe can start the trucks they want to get runnin,” said Heidi speaking rapidly. “I talked to them and I think they have the trucks all picked out. It was kinda confusin cause they insist on using Spanish every other word.”

“Baby,” Boone told her. “Slow down.”

“I can’t” insisted Heidi. “There’s a good chance that fucker is going to remember that there is shit he can use here and we’ll have a fight on our hands. I pissed him off enough that he’ll be angry for a while and not think about any of this.”

“Okay. I’ll get Tio and Not Tim.” Boone started to walk away. “You know, the best thing to do is just pack up and go get the salt.”

Heidi set her mouth in a thin line. “Go get that shit out of the garage.”

“You bet.”
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:34 am

They were parked at the place Honeytree called her community. It was actually what Boone would have called a Commune, with all the ex-hippies and people who thought they were, hanging out. In spite of what they tried to portray, they had the air of being slightly defeated by the lot that had been handed to them. While they all looked to be hippies, the truth, Boone could see, was that they had just kind of given up on their personal appearances. The clothing was shabby, not the colorful ensembles he associated with hippies, their hair was just long without being a statement of separateness or individuality, and he did not feel a joy in their countenance. He understood that much of what people believed about the movement was a fabrication. He had after all, been on the fringes of what was known as the Outlaw movement himself, and understood the lengths people would go to keep up appearances, however, the efforts the hippies usually took to buy into their own hype just wasn’t present. These seemed to be those people; existing simply because.

Boone had watched as they broiled fish over a big paella pan, complete with citrus slices and whatever else they could scrounge up for the little party they were attempting to throw for the mountaineers. Personally, Boone would have rather that the group just push on to the salt mines and avoid all the hanging out and socializing with Honeytree’s community. They way he saw them, they were a bunch of freeloaders who managed to exist beyond their usefulness. Their garden was a pathetic excuse for growth and survival, the fish they were cooking had not come from their efforts at fishing, they had traded a bunch of what Boone thought to be worthless pieces of handmade bric-a-brac to a fishing boats which had put in at the marina to scrounge a new sail. He had seen a bunch of crab pots hanging around the homes of the hippies and when Boone had asked them if they caught many crabs, the response was that they did not use the pots; they were decoration. Boone walked away in disgust and vowed to limit his contact with them.

They did not even have any surf poles set out along the shore.

He was now sitting on a concrete bench near where he could still see the fire yet be out of the circle of laughter and social commentary of the community. The bench faced the ditch and in the years Before, it had probably been a nice place to lean back and watch the world go by. Now it was just a damp seat beside an overgrown drainage.

He looked up when Heidi found him, a plate of food for him in her hand and another for herself in the other. She handed the plate to Boone.

“You hiding?”

“I’m—,” he paused and shrugged. “I am.”

“Why?”

“We shouldn’t have stopped here overnight.”

“It was getting late, we needed a rest.”

Boone disagreed. “We need to get the salt and get out of here. These people, they can’t help us.”

“Honeytree is going to get us up to the mine.”

“That broad is taking advantage of our services,” said Boone. “What she’s doing is using us to get information and knowledge on how to build that gasified engine. We could have found the salt mines with a little research.”

Heidi stared at Boone for a long moment, her face unreadable. “You think someone else should be in charge?”

Boone knew a loaded question when he heard one. He could say yes and anger her, or he could say no and she would come back with the assertion he needed to follow her lead. He sighed, setting the plate beside him on the bench.

“You’re being in charge of this expedition came about because you had a good idea. Everyone up on that mountain agreed to give you that chance,” explained Boone. “But pissing off that dude back at the desalination plant? That was not a good idea. It doesn’t matter how many guns we have, there’s only eight of us, we can be wiped out so fast—and no one back home would know for weeks we were dead. Throwing in with Honeytree just because she knows the way to the salt mines, that’s another decision that I just don’t get. Had you played the two so that either one was willing to help us out, we’d be in a better position right now.”

“How would you know what the fuck happened at the plant? You weren’t there.”

Not wanting to throw anyone under the bus, Boone side stepped the question. “Listen, you’ve just got to be smarter about some of this.”

“So you’re saying I’m stupid and I shouldn’t be in charge?”

“I’m not saying that at all,” defended Boone. “I’m saying you need to step back a second and assess the situation a little before you just act.” He waved a hand at the community. “Do you see anything here that’s redeemable about these people? They live this close to the ocean and they don’t fish. They aren’t gathering seaweed, their garden is pathetic—,” Boone picked up the plate again and held it out for Heidi to consider. “Half the food on this plate, we donated. The other half, they traded driftwood chairs for. Driftwood chairs, Heidi. They can’t even get their trade shit together enough to have anything worthwhile to eat. The only reason those dudes traded off that fish was because they had a good day. They’re probably going to burn the chairs.”

Heidi stood and took the plate from Boone. “Fine. Maybe you should take over and lead us out of here, since you’ve got everything figured out.”

“Heidi, I’m just asking you to step back and think.”

“Now I’m not thinking?” she demanded.

“I didn’t say that—,” struggled Boone, trying to recover the thread of what he had said and explain it to Heidi in a way that would make her not angry at him yet also see his point of view.

“Right, you just blasted every decision I’ve made since we found out there was no salt at the plant is all,” said Heidi. “You called me stupid, you made fun of the people who offered to let us crash at their place. Maybe you left something out?”

“Damn it,” started Boone.

“Fuck yourself,” said Heidi. “Cause there’s nothing happen with me tonight.”

She turned on her heel and strode away, the anger showing in her straight back and the set of her shoulders. Boone threw up his hands and sighed. He looked around him and realized she had taken the food she brought for him. He shook his head in exasperation. There was just not going to be a winner in this whole thing; not that he wanted to win against Heidi, but he did want them to get out of the beach town alive. Someone cleared their throat behind him. Boone closed his eyes and for a moment knew his words with Heidi had been overheard by someone in the community. He turned to defend his arguments to whomever was standing there.

Thankfully it was David and Leticia.

“Trouble in paradise?” half joked David.

“Man, you have no clue,” said Boone, waving to the bench where he sat. The two came over and Leticia sat on the bench while David leaned against the railing which separated the bench and pathway from the steep sided culvert.

“I think we do,” said David.

“You heard?”

“Yep.”

For a moment no one said anything.

“Was I an asshole?” asked Boone.

“Only if you were Heidi,” smiled David.

“Listen, ese,” started Leticia. “It is what it is. I was stuck in the plant and didn’t know what was happening, you know? Had I been there, maybe I could’ve stepped in a little. No lo se.” She sat sideways on the bench so that Boone could look her in the eyes. “Now we got to be on guard; that hombre she pissed off, he’s thought about our truck, he’s probably been back to the plant and knows we fucking looted that place. We need to be al acecho, ready, you know?”

Boone nodded. “How ready?”

“We need to set up watches tonight,” put in David. “Our trucks, that diesel we were able to get started, that thing is going to be tempting as hell to anyone between here and home.”

“If we don’t let Heidi in on this, she’s going to be pissed.”

“I’ll talk to her,” said Leticia, standing. “Come on, ese, get some food, it’s going to be a long night and longer day tomorrow.”



Nothing happened all night long. Boone had mingled a little in hopes of smoothing things over with Heidi, but she ignored him all evening. He did have what he hoped were meaningful conversations with several of the community about putting out crab pots and surf fishing by mentioning he had done those things a few times and they were in a great place for it. He slept fitfully in the back of the diesel truck, taking his watch in the wee hours to see the sun come up over the ridges surrounding the decimated city. After a quick meal on the left overs, Leticia and Heidi organized the group so they spent part of the early morning gathering up oranges and limes and lemons in big burlap bags, which the community helped them with; it was the one thing they seemed to be able to do well in Boone’s estimation, use resources they already had on hand. He wished that Josh was there to complain to, since it had been Josh who pointed Boone in the right direction when it came to surviving the end of the world. Although, he was surprised to see that a couple of the people had taken down crab pots and were blindly tossing them off a pier to soak, so they must have listened to his complaining a little. Boone had to wonder if they had baited the pots, because the crabs were not going to just wander into them in any kind of numbers; they would be lucky to get one or two by just setting out pots. He hoped they would not just crab fish; they could very easily wipe out the crab population if they over fished. In addition, the goats had been unloaded and left with the community, an act of what Boone could only describe as kindness since he did not feel they had done anything to earn the goats. Heidi and Hector were very explicit about the care of the animals and how often the things should be milked and the feed and care of the animals. Currently, the goats were grazing on bushes and grass around the community in a hastily constructed fence until the animals understood this was their home now. A couple of the children had been detailed to watch over the animals as well; there was a feral dog problem in the city which had been made worse by the fire. Boone doubted the animals would last a couple of weeks.

Since the diesel truck would pull better than the gasifier, they hooked the trailer up to that vehicle to make it up into the hills where the salt mine was. The bed of both trucks were full of people, the community had offered to help shovel salt into the trailer—Boone supposed that was the payment for the goats—and their bikes were loaded up as well since Leticia had convinced Heidi they should not come back to the town but leave from the mines—her original plan had been to bring back a load of salt for the people. Instead, the community had gathered up all the cloth grocery bags they could find with the intention of loading those up with salt and strapping the things to their bicycles.

Heidi was still giving Boone the cold shoulder, but at least she did communicate with him when he made the effort to speak. He hoped she would loosen up as the day progressed.

The trucks winded their way up into the hills, leaving the smoky smelling city behind. Boone was glad to be back in the fresh air of the surrounding countryside. As the trucks made their way through the pass, the scenery changed over and Boone began to feel a little better about the trip. He hoped the salt mine was everything Honeytree had said it was, it would be a shame to come this far and nor be able to complete the adventure as planned. They had gotten many things which they otherwise would not have been able to acquire; the medical supplies, such as they were, and the items looted from the supply closets and break room of the plant, but to Boone’s thinking, so far the best things they had gotten were the diesel truck and all the lubricants in the drums, the fuel, and most of all, the citrus. The mountain folk were starved for the taste of oranges and lemons and limes, and he himself had eaten more than his fair share over the last fifteen hours, as had all the members of the expedition.

The trip to the mine was about two hours by vehicle, which meant that the community people on their bike were going to be travelling all the next day to get back. Not that Boone cared, he was going to urge that they hit the road as soon as the trailer was filled with salt and the cover lashed down. He did not want to spend yet another night out on the road and away from their home. After the battle to get through the town a couple days ago and the near standoff with the people in the community, Boone was ready for a place where he could hang out without those worries. During the two hour ride, they passed farms which seemed to be working after a fashion, vineyards heavy with grapes and a few of them even had people out among the vines pulling the heavy bundles of fruit off the trellises. Every now and again, they when they saw people, the folks stopped and stared at the machines roaring passed them. The sight of the grapes made Boone wish they could stop and explore the area for a few wine cellars or maybe even vintners which might even have barrels sitting around aging. Sometimes, Boone missed a nice bottle of wine. Perhaps he could talk someone into coming back out this way with him when the weather changed and there was not so much to do around the mountain homesteads.

They pulled off the main road onto another wide and once well maintained side road. There was a sign at the entrance of the lane which announced that they were at the salt mine. Boone had been daydreaming so much, he had not realized the time had passed. He picked up his SBR AR and looked around at the area. It had once been fairly well kept from the looks of the place, but as with everything, the grass had grown up around the fencing, the bushes grew beyond what they had once meant to be until they were nearly trees themselves. The gate was unlocked and open, something which set Boone’s internal alarm off, and when he mentioned it, one of the community people told him that the salt mine was known to everyone in the area and they probably were not the first to visit the place. The explanation made Boone rest a little easier, but he still kept a look out; for what he was not sure.

They drove past the office complex of the mine and over the two story building, Boone could see a network of elevated conveyers, silo towers, and the dark opening of the mine entrance in the side of the hill. All around the place were massive mounds of salt, domes, some of which were a hundred feet in the air, had been left to sit. The ground around the mine was white from the salt running off the mounds in the rain and then when the water dried, the deposits were left where the water had carried them. The trucks simply drove up to the nearest pile of salt and stopped, backing in to where they could load the trailer easily.

Everyone piled out of the trucks and stared around them at the outskirts of the mine.

“Podríamos tener que correr , haría nuestro trabajo fácil,” said Armando.

“What?” asked Boone. Armando pointed to a bulldozer. “Oh, yeah, if you could get it running, it would make our job easier for sure.”

“Si,” smiled Armando. “You know the Spanish good.”

“I don’t know it for shit,” said Boone. Heidi was calling for all the people to make themselves useful and handing out shovels they had scrounged up around the city. Honeytree and her people were starting to open up the cloth bags as Boone walked over to the trailer. He went up to the mound of salt and discovered that there was a thick layer of solid salt over the dome. “Huh.”

“The rain gets it wet and then it hardens,” said one of the community hippies. “You just got to break through it.”

David appeared with the axe they had in the gasifier truck and began to break away large sections of the covering. Meanwhile, Tio and Hector were lining the trailer with tarps. Heidi came up to Boone and pulled him aside.

“Listen,” she said to him. “I kinda get what you were tryin to say, I talked to Leticia. So, I’m sorry I was kinda bitchy to you.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t explain myself very well,” said Boone.

Heidi nodded. “You was just tryin to keep us safe.”

“I was.”

“Well, when David’s done with that shit, you two keep watch?” asked Heidi. “I’m gonna have Tio and Hector do the same, but keep em close to the truck. You two maybe check this place out?”

“Sure.”

“’Kay,” she kissed him lightly. “Be careful.”

Boone happily returned the kiss. David came over to where they stood. “You ready to check this out?”

“Ready,” said Boone. He had to laugh to himself; he and David were armed as if they were single handedly going to be storming the gates of hell. David had his AR, a couple of pistols, and a single barreled sawed off shotgun shoved in the front of his belt; where that had come from, Boone was not sure as he did not remember the man having the thing before. Also on the man’s person was a hunting knife, a skinning knife, and a Kabar shoved into his boot top. Boone was not much different in his armament, he had his own AR, the old sawed off pump, his 1911 and Glock 17, a .38 revolver in an ankle holster, his own Kabar, hunting knife, and boot knife. These did not count whatever was in their pockets. Boone had to wonder to himself if they weren’t going overboard with the redundancy of their weapons.

They trudged along away from the where the community was starting to shovel the salt into the trailer. Boone noticed that Armando and Noe had gone to investigate the frontend loaders, perhaps to see if they could get them running, or maybe even to check the level of fuel still in the saddle tanks of the things. More diesel was always welcome.

Shuffling through the white dust made Boone imagine that he was on a foreign world, an explorer from another universe landed on this strange world of white hills and dusty valleys. He kept glancing around expecting to see aliens waddle out of the shadows. Though he had been only 22 at the time of the collapse, Boone had acquired a healthy knowledge of the world of science fiction. He enjoyed the old pulp days of the genera, Andrea Norton, Joseph Campbell, and their contemporaries, writing about worlds with other creatures as if that were going to be the norm, and not the exception to the exploration of space. He had to wonder if the 50 odd people floating around in the L5 international Space Station were still alive, or if they were now frozen in space, a monument to the folly of mankind—much like the world itself was becoming.

“Shall we check out the buildings?” asked David. “I’m not quite sure what Heidi wants us to do, other than make sure we don’t get ambushed.”

“By who?” wondered Boone. He turned to look behind them and saw they were out of sight of the trucks.

“Donno.”

The silence of the place had lulled them into a complacent stroll as they walked to the building housing what Boone suspected was machinery with which to run the elevated conveyers. David put his hand on the door and pulled on it, finding that it gave easily under his hand. Smiling, he swung it open and they hesitated for a moment to see who was going to enter the dark interior first. They comically went back and forth for a moment, each offering the other the threshold. When they looked back at the opening, they found themselves gazing into the barrel of a very large shotgun. Footsteps pounded up behind them and more firearms were shoved at them. Both men held up their hands.

So much for being heavily armed, thought Boone.

“Make a noise, and I’ll blow you in half,” came the command. David saw the man Charles, from the first encounter, step through the fence of barrels. “So you got Honeytree to bring you up here. I thought she might talk you into it.”

“We’re just here for salt, man,” said Boone.

“I know, hippie,” said Charles. “That’s why we’re here.”

“For salt?” asked Boone. He was bristling at being called a hippie, and the tone of his voice was sharper than he intended.

“No dumbass, for the fucking trucks,” corrected Charles stepping up to Boone and pushing the barrel of his long birdgun into the biker’s stomach. “You know what we can do with that steam engine?”

“A lot?” grunted Boone. There was no point in correcting the man as to the locomotive properties of the truck.

“A lot,” agreed Charles, stepping back to give himself distance and keeping the shotgun leveled at Boone’s midsection. The man nodded to someone behind Boone and the person began to yank at the AR and sawed off, fighting the slings that kept them to Boone’s body.

“Here, let me help,” said Boone. The man made a noise that sounded like “ha ha” and kept yanking at the slings. “Seriously, man, you’re only fucking things up.”

Charles gave another nod and Boone slowly pulled the slings over his head, each firearm yanked from his grasp in turn. The man taking them gave Boone a quick pat down, pulling free the knives, the 1911 and the Glock in the shoulder holster. Every time the man discovered another firearm or knife, he gave a curse of astonishment. Out of the corner of his eye, Boone saw that David was getting the same treatment, the pile of weapons were quickly growing on the ground around them. When the man stepped back, Charles catalogued the firearms and looked back at the two men.

“How many people did you kill for those?”

Boone kept silent, since he had killed quite a few for his firearms, and had no clue if David had done the same. Charles must have taken their silence as conformation of his suspicions.

“Don’t let them out of your sight,” said Charles. “If they look at you funny, shoot them.”

Boone laughed, wondering just what constituted a “funny look.” Someone shoved a hard barrel into his back and he decided that he did not need to know what they might consider an off glance. He kept his eyes glued to Charles.

“So what’s the plan?” asked David.

“You two are going to shut the fuck up and we’re going to wait for those dumbasses to fill up the trucks with salt, then I’m going to trade your lives for those trucks.”

“What makes you think we won’t come after the trucks?” asked David.

“Cause there’s another thirty of us in my group back in the city and eight of you,” informed Charles. “The odds are in our favor.”

It made sense to Boone. He glanced around at the men and women gathered there, nervously pointing their firearms at the two men as if they expected the strangers to go full ninja on them and start killing them with swinging fists and flying kicks. To a person the people looked tired and worn out, as if they had been up all night preparing for the ambush. Boone wondered how the group had beat them to the salt mines.

“You walk all night to get here?” he asked.

“Rode our bicycles,” said one. Charles shot the man a withering look. The man shrugged as if it did not matter. Boone ignored Charles as well.

“That’s a fuckin haul, dude,” said Boone, suddenly sympathetic with their plight. They had basically come up to the mine in the hopes that the mountaineers would be there. It had been a gamble on their part, and Boone respected that gamble. If they were unable to pull this off, it was going to be a long, depressing ride back to the city. If he hadn’t been caught in the middle of the situation, and reading about it in a book or seeing it on TV, he might have rooted for their success.

“Well, we won’t have to ride them back,” cut in Charles. He motioned to the dark space beyond the doorway. “Get in there.”

Boone and David obeyed. So far, the man said nothing about killing them outright, so there was no point in not following his directions for the moment. They stepped into the darkness to see two more people covering them with firearms. Charles motioned David and Boone over to where two office chairs had been placed in the middle of the room. Boone looked around at the interior as his eyes adjusted, happy to see that he had been correct in his assumption that the building housed the machinery for the mine. The confirmation of his assumption made him feel better about their situation; if he could guess the interior of the building at a glance, he could easily overcome their captors. The two sat in the chairs under the watchful eyes of their captors.

“Chilly in here,” commented Boone as he leaned back in his chair and shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, feeling the little .38 derringer there and glad that the man who had patted him down as inept at the task. It meant that he and David had a chance to act when the moment presented itself. The stupid two barrel weapon was really just a well-made zip gun, and Boone kept it cocked to fire in his pocket. The thing had a cross bolt safety which kept the hammer from falling if the trigger was pressed, and Boone slipped it off. He cast a questioning look over at David, who shook his head as if he could read the other man’s mind. Boone sighed and waited.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:36 am

David put his hand in his pocket and felt the little .25 there. He smiled to himself. The pocket pistol had been through so much. It had been dropped in water, caught in the rain, covered in sweat, and spattered with blood from contact shots without the benefit of a wipe down so many times that the surface of the little pistol looked as if it had been stippled. But it still worked every time the trigger was pulled, and David counted on that. He was down to his last few rounds for it and when those were gone, David knew he was going to miss the pistols presence. At the moment, he stood silent as Charles related to them how he was going to steal the trucks by trading them away as hostages and berated Boone. David had decided that the man’s plan was not going to come to fruition if he had anything to say about it.

He listened as Boone engaged someone about their travel to reach the mines and while Boone did so, David took the opportunity of the distraction to count the number of people standing around. He numbered six, including Charles, and added the two inside the building when they ducked through the door. There were probably ten or twelve, calculated David, and with Honeytree’s bunch, they had them outnumbered, but he knew they could not count on the hippies to back them up. Boone had been correct in his assessment of Honeytree’s community, David believed, and Honeytree was in this for whatever she could get. If that meant backing Charles at some point, David thought the woman would happily switch sides in the situation. He did not blame her, much; the tenuous grasp on existence for her community relied heavily on her ability to maneuver into positions which would benefit her community. If Charles and the rest of the city one day decided that the collection of hippies were more of a problem than they were worth, the community was finished, be it from an all-out physical attack or ostracization.

“You know,” David began when Charles walked by him. “This entire thing can be smoothed over; it doesn’t have to go like this.”

Charles stopped in his pacing. He looked over at the man sitting in the chair and gave a rough laugh. “Oh? I let you go and you’ll give me the steam engine and the other truck?”

“Of course not,” said David. “But we’ll help you build one.”

Shaking his head, Charles leaned down to stare David in the eye as if he could judge the measure of truth in the statement simply by staring at the other man. “Why should I believe that you would do this?”

“Because no one’s gotten hurt,” said David. “Right now, Heidi and Leticia think that Boone and I are out there walking around this place and telling each other bad jokes—“

“—Or talking shit about our women,” put in Boone.

David could not help but smile. “Or talking shit.”

“Is that what you are doing right now?” asked Charles. “Talking shit?”

“Not at all. Listen; back at the desalination plant you have everything you need to make a dozen trucks like we have,” said David. He looked around to see if there were others listening, people who might be able to convince Charles that there was a better course of action. A couple of the people were listening in. David continued. “You’ve got the pipes, the pipe benders, the gauges to regulate the heat, I’ll bet there even something around there that can make a firebox. It’s just a matter of knowing how it all goes together at this point.”

Charles sat back on his heels and thought about what David was saying. He was a businessman, whatever else he might be, he knew the value of negotiation. Charles was able to recognize the value of what David was saying to him. David pushed on.

“With a fleet of trucks, you could start trading in salt all over the state. It would be better than gold right now,” David said, painting a picture for the man which he hoped the man would be able to build on in his own mind. “You could bring in livestock, food—who knows what else—everything you can’t just carry in on your bikes.”

“Say I do this, let you walk out there and tell them we’re getting the plans for one of those steam engines,” said Charles. “What do you get out of it, other than your life? There’s got to be more to your proposal.”

“Of course; we get salt when we need it, as we need it.”

“So you can compete with my new enterprise?” scoffed Charles.

“No, I like it up where I live, I have no desire to go out into the world any more than I have too,” assured David. “But at the same time, there are many people where I come from who will benefit from having a steady supply.”

“You’re going to cut me out of an entire market?”

David knew that the man was starting to come around. “Yes. But, that small market is nothing compared to what you could have.”

“How do I get the plans and knowledge to build these steam engines?” asked Charles. “Are you going to stay and help build them?”

“I don’t know fuck all about building one,” admitted David. He started to spitball as he spoke, making it up to keep the man thinking. “But Armando and Noe do, they are here, now. With certain recompense, say a hostage exchange, they could stay and we can arrange their tutelage.”

“That’s a little medieval, don’t you think?” asked Charles.

“You have a better way to ensure the safety of our people?”

After a moment of pondering, Charles shook his head. “Who are you thinking?”

“You,” said David. “And three other people to be picked by us.”

“Now, wait a minute,” protested Charles. “First that little bitch tries to front me off at the plant and now you think that I’ll just go with you and trust you?”

“Careful,” warned Boone before David could interject. “She might be a little bitch, but she’s twice the man you are.”

“Obviously more of a man than you,” Charles scoffed and stood. “I could just take the truck now,” he declared. “I have you outnumbered, I have you as hostages; that cuts down on the number of guns out there. Plus, you can’t trust those hippies, the first sign of a fight, they will turn tail and run; you know that. I think I have the upper hand here. There’s nothing to stop me from just taking the trucks and reverse engineering that steam engine.” Charles turned back to Boone. “That’s what I do you know, I am an engineer. I could tear that thing down and probably build a better one from the parts.”

“You wouldn’t live long enough to do that,” said Boone.

“Is that a threat? You’re making threats sitting in that chair?”

“I’m telling you, you won’t live to do it,” repeated Boone. He sighed, and tried to recover the unraveling filaments of the negotiation he had started. “Listen; making threats against one another isn’t going to solve this. We can help you make these trucks, you can have a means to bring your city back to life.”

The door banged open and a woman came in from the bright sunlight making all of them blink in the glow from the door. She stopped as everyone stared at her and then once her own eyes adjusted, she walked up to Charles and in that moment, David knew that he had lost the upper edge which was momentarily his while negotiating with Charles. Charles leaned his head down as she spoke.

“The trailer is full of salt, I think they are getting ready to leave.”

“It’s time,” said Charles to the others in the room. The people began to shift nervously. Charles noticed their apprehension and gave them a comforting executive smile. “Everything is going to go like we planned; we’ll trade these two off for the trucks and be driving them home in no time.”

“Charles, we’re not going to give up the trucks,” said David.

“I think you will,” Charles replied simply.

“Get them up,” ordered Charles.

“Think about this,” said David as he stood.

“It’s time to stop talking,” Charles told him.

They stepped out into the sunlight and David and Boone found themselves back out in the bright light, blinking and taking stock of the situation they were in. Both men paused to try and buy some time, but were pushed by the barrels of the weapons carried by the people behind them. For a moment in the building, David thought that he had made a break through with Charles, but with the appearance of the woman, something in the man had flipped, and now it was going to go very badly for the city folk. Charles was counting on his numbers to carry the day, but David knew from experience with the mountaineers numbers were not that important when fighting a group of people who had come to be a cohesive unit as they had. Tio and Hector were out there, and they two men were the product of not only gang wars, but each had served on foreign soil in the military; David found Tio to be somewhat frightening if he were asked to tell the truth. Leticia and Heidi both had a vicious streak in them which made them fierce fighters, and Leticia had no give once she started down a course. Charles was going to lose, it was just going to be a matter of if David and Boone survived.

They were ushered along the path they had taken before getting caught, and soon were standing with Charles and several others from the city out where they could be seen by Heidi and the rest of the mountaineers. Charles made a great show of making sure David and Boone were front and center. He called out to Heidi, striking a pose with Boone’s SBR taking the place of the shotgun he had been carrying.

Heidi came forward enough to see the man standing in the open. The others seemed to disappear behind various pieces of equipment. Their disappearance seemed to throw Charles off his stride; he apparently expected everyone to stand out in the open as if they were in a TV western. The man recovered slightly.

“We got your men,” called Charles.

Heidi stopped, her HK resting in front of her, and her hands on the weapon, ready to start shooting.

“So?”

Again Charles paused. The capture of David and Boone did not have the effect he expected. “You want my terms for getting them back?”

“I’m gonna get em back no matter what you say,” Heidi told him.

“I have you out numbered,” explained Charles, attempting to recover some of the element of surprise he had expected to carry him through to the demands he wanted to make. “We’ll kill them.”

“You ain’t killin nobody if you ain’t by now,” said Heidi. “I been out numbered before, never stopped me from killin them first.”

“I’ve got you’re people!” exclaimed Charles.

“So give em back fore you die,” returned Heidi. “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Charles laughed at the situation. “Little girl, you think that those hippies will back you up? Those cowards are already getting ready to run. I’ve got twenty people here, you’ve already lost.”

“I ain’t counting on those hippies,” said Heidi. “I’m counting on your people bein not so willin to die for you.”

Charles stepped back to grab David by the jacket. He pulled David forward and pointed the rifle at the man’s head. David stuck his hand in his pocket as if he were readying himself to be executed. “You think I’m kidding?”

“I know I ain’t,” said Heidi. She stepped forward and brought the HK up to her shoulder.

Charles hesitated for a moment, caught between his incredulation that Heidi was not playing along with his power grab and that she was going on the attack. He half swung the rifle away from David to engage Heidi and then changed his mind and started to bring it back to David to shoot him.

Being only an arm’s length away, David pulled the little .25 from his pocket and shoved the automatic into Charles’s face and began to pull the trigger. Charles had a moment to look surprised before the rounds began to penetrate his face, breaking his cheek, exploding his eye, and shattering teeth. His own grip on David’s jacket held him in place as the rounds shattered through his skull. David shoved the man with his other hand, breaking the grip on his jacket and upsetting his balance as he died. The man dropped in the sudden violence of the move. Picking the closest of the captors, David turned to fire the last four rounds at one of the people supposedly guarding he and David. He shot the woman in the chest with all four rounds as she started to turn to run away. Over his shoulder, David heard the reports of Heidi’s HK MP5 and the rifles of Tio and Hector.

Boone, he saw, had grabbed the man nearest to him and had shoved his fist up under the chin of the man in a short punch. There was a puff of blood as the round exited out the top of the man’s skull. David saw Boone drop a derringer David did not know the man had and push the body away. As the man was falling, Boone grabbed the shotgun the man held; he was turning it on another of the captors, blasting the man in the back with both barrels as he started to run away. Suddenly there was no one left standing around them.

Heidi was yelling for people to stop shooting and to give up.

Suddenly, the area was filled with people throwing down weapons and putting their hands up in the air and standing. Leticia and Not Tim, Patricia and Armando, all ran forward to start herding the people out into the open. Boone looked around at the bodies lying about, staining the white ground red. There were six people, dead. He felt sick. It could have all been avoided if he had only been able to keep Charles focused on the benefits of negotiations, rather than the revenge to get the better of Heidi. As Leticia came by, she glanced at David with a worried expression, making him force a smile at her to show he was alright. Boone was kicking at a body when Heidi came up to him and threw her arms around him.

“What the fuck?” David heard her breath into Boone’s neck as she embraced him.

“We got taken by surprise,” said Boone, returning her embrace and then releasing her as the dozen other city folk were led to where Charles was leaking on the ground and being forced to sit with their hands on their heads.

Leticia came up to David and hugged and kissed him as well. “Mi amor, ¿estás bien?”

“Si, precioso,” he told her. “Así como puedo ser.”

Honeytree approached with a few of the hippies following her. “Is everyone okay?”

“We are,” said Heidi, defiantly, “but these guys, not so much.”

The people on the ground seemed to cringe.

“What the hell happened, Greg?” asked Honeytree to one of the city people.

“Charles said we could take the steam truck,” said Greg.

“Just like that?”

Greg looked at the ground. Honeytree looked over at Heidi. “What are you going to do with them?”

“Kill them,” said Heidi immediately.

“Whoa,” Honeytree told Heidi. “You can’t just murder people in cold blood.”

“That’s what they were going to do to us,” Heidi pointed out.

“No, no,” said Greg. He pointed at where David and Boone were gathering firearms into a pile and retrieving their own weapons. Along with them the other mountaineers were gathering up the weapons which had been dropped by the city folk. Boone and David stopped to stare at the man. “You were supposed to trade those guys for the trucks. That’s what the plan was, Charles was just bluffing. He wasn’t going to shoot no one. You didn’t do what he thought you would; the whole plan was falling apart when you wouldn’t give in.”

“I guess somebody should have told us the plan,” Heidi sarcastically spat back at the man. “Why the hell would you think we would just give in?”

“We had two a your people as hostages.” The man looked at Honeytree. “Wouldn’t you just give up? I mean, you care about your people, right? Don’t these people care?”

“Fuck you,” snarled Heidi, bringing up the HK and making the entire crowd duck their heads as if they could avoid her wrath by not looking at her.

“This isn’t right,” said Honeytree, stepping between the people and Heidi. “I won’t let you.”

“I don’t think that it is your call,” Heidi countered.

The rest of the mountaineers by now were standing in a rough semicircle with their weapons leveled at the people clustered before them. Their faces were grim and unforgiving. The eight of them looked ready to do Heidi’s bidding in the eyes of Honeytree. She drew herself up to defy the younger woman and what she suddenly saw as a blood thirsty band of vigilantes. The weight of their gaze fell on Honeytree as she positioned herself between as many of the city people as she could and the unwavering barrels of the mountaineers.

“No, I won’t stand for the murder of these people. They might have been wrong in what they did, but they’ve paid the price,” she said, motioning at the bodies on the ground. “These people have families and friends, and you can’t just kill them, not with me standing by.”

Several other of the hippies stepped in beside Honeytree. They looked frightened, but they held their ground. Leticia looked at Heidi.

“You know she’s right, bonita,” Leticia told her.

“They were going to fuckin shoot David in the face,” reminded Heidi.

“You got a lot of enojado in you,” said Leticia softly. “It’s over, we won. Let’s get out of here.”

Heidi looked from person to person, seeing that the others were simply ready to leave and go back to their home in the high country, away from all of the manipulations and trouble of the city.

“Fine.”

Heidi turned back to Honeytree. “They are lucky that you were here.”

“Maybe, maybe you would have done the right thing,”

Tio and the rest began to drift back to the trucks. Heidi looked out over the subdued and defeated city people. “You better be glad that Honeytree was here, maybe treat her a little better; she saved your fuckin asses.”

Heidi stalked away, her body taut with anger. Honeytree looked at Leticia and David and Boone, each in turn. “That girls got a lot of anger in her. She needs some help.”

Boone laughed. “Yeah? Next time you get the shotgun shoved in your gut.”

He followed after Heidi. David and Leticia paused midstride.

“Listen, this whole trips been shit,” said David. “We’ve been shot at, and ambushed, and generally kicked around. You’ve got to understand our end of it as well.”

“I get it,” assured Honeytree. “But just killing people in cold blood?”

“People who were going to rob us,” reminded Leticia. “Here and now, taking our vehicles, that’s as good as giving us a death sentence as well.”

“I know,” said Honeytree, shaking her head. “But there has to be another way, a way to justice, a way that keeps us from just shooting each other over every slight.”

“This was not a slight,” pointed out David. “This was highway robbery.”

Honeytree could not get passed the act of execution Heidi was prepared to meet out.

“How would you punish them?” asked Leticia.

“I don’t know, but I can’t see killing a dozen people.”

Leticia motioned to where the group was still seated on the ground, not ready to get up in fear that the two heavily armed mountaineers might open fire on them if they did stand. “Well, they are your problem now. Maybe it’s time for you to think of a punishment befitting their crime. After all, if they did this to us, they could very easily do the same thing to you. You might want to think about that.”

“What kind of punishment would you suggest?”

David looked at the bunch and then at the salt mine. “I think a month or two of carrying salt to the city would be a good start. Maybe some hard labor would change their attitude about taking something others have worked hard for.”

“How do I get them to do that?”

David handed Honeytree the ornate shotgun Charles had carried. She reluctantly took the expensive clays shotgun. “Maybe it’s time you had some law around here, Marshall.”

Honeytree laughed at that. “I’m the furthest thing from the law.”

“You’ve got a sense of justice, and that will count more than any deputizing anyone can do here and now.”

“What will I do about deputies?”

“You live with them,” said David. “Why not? Why not have the peace makers actually keep the peace?”

Leticia and David walked away from the woman. Honeytree watched as they climbed into the trucks and the vehicles roar out away from the salt mines. The other hippies gathered around her and the city people who had come up with Charles began to get to their feet. Honeytree looked over at the others of her community.

“Will you back me on this?” she asked them. For a moment the people seemed disconcerted and frightened by the question. “There’s no one else, it should be us. We have what it takes to bring this to our city. Will you back me?”

An old hippie who called himself Greenleaf nodded. “Hell yeah, it’s our turn to make the rules.”

He went over to the pile of weapons and picked up a rifle. One of Charles’s group called out to him.

“Hey, that’s mine.”

“The hell it is,” said Greenleaf, turning with the rifle in hand. “You all are under arrest.”

Other hippies picked up the weapons taken off the city folk and turned to face the stunned crowd.

“What the hell?” asked one of the city people.

Honeytree drew herself up and nodded at them. “You’re under arrest for highway robbery and attempted murder.”

The stunned people let themselves be herded toward the building where they had previously held David and Boone hostage. Honeytree made them carry the bodies of their dead comrades with them. In her mind, Honeytree was already putting together a list of ordinances for the city, she knew that there would be push back from many of the people, but she felt in time that she could win them over. After all, if she could clear out some of the problems, like this group in front of her, then others would see the benefit to having a full time staff of peace keepers. Maybe Greenleaf was right; it was their turn to make the rules.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 9/12

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:36 am

David and Cooper were salting down a ham. With the wine cellar the Cooper had, they figured they could maintain a cool enough temperature to dry cure the meat and hopefully, at least Cooper was hoping, they would also make something close to prosciutto. He knew the basic process of it, and was setting aside a haunch for the experiment. If it worked, next year when the tomatoes came in, he envisioned sandwiches with goat’s cheese, thick tomato slices, and thin slices of his ham. At the moment, they were working on getting as much of the meat put up as possible; they had not only butchered two of the pigs but killed three wild boar as which had been tearing up the back of the property as well. There was a lot of meat to cure. Of course, they were now feeding three households, consisting of eight adults and a child. In addition to the salt cure, they were smoking much of it as well. Bacon, sausage, and brined hams were going to go in the smoker. They were also doing the ribs and brisket of a pig for a harvest dinner. The fat that had been trimmed from the meat so that the salting would take was being rendered for stable cooking oil. It was a long process to get meat ready for storage. Thankfully they had a jug of corn beer to help the process along.

“So you’re really done going out?” asked Cooper.

“I am,” said David, packing the salt around a foreleg. The salt was damp so that it would form a crust around the meat, then when the moisture left the salt the salt would then begin to pull the moisture from the meat and preserve it. Cooper’s prosciutto would have the salt left on it for months and then it would be rinsed off and left to hang another several months. The others would be used as needed throughout the year. “Leticia and I talked about it and we’re done risking out necks for everyone else.”

“I’d go—,“ started Cooper.

“No, dude,” David said, stopping his friend. “Don’t. It’s just that it seems whenever there’s something to do out in the world, we,” here David made a motion that included the entirety of the homestead, “are the ones who go do it. El Jefe doesn’t send his people, no one else up here really volunteers to go out and take the risk, but we do. I’m tired of getting shot at, I’m tired of shooting people.”

“It was bad?” asked Cooper.

“It was worse than bad,” David told him. He leaned on the ham he was salting and tried to find a way to tell Cooper what he had experienced. “I mean, that guy, he had the fucking rifle right in my face. I thought I was going to die. If he hadn’t been indecisive when Heidi started shooting, I’d be dead right now. I mean, I don’t believe in God, but man, that was a time that the Cosmos was looking out for me.”

“What happened with Heidi?” asked Cooper to keep David from dwelling on his near death.

Letting out a barking laugh, David shrugged. He took a long drink from his mug and made a face. This batch of beer was a little sour. “Man, that girl does not give a fuck. Once she gets set on a path, she’s down it hell or high water. I would not want to be on her bad side; she’ll fucking talk you into a fight; Heidi would make a saint pull the trigger.”

“No shit?”

“None,” assured David. “I had that guy, Charles, damn near talked into the whole trade and Heidi got brought up and it was over.”

“Was that her fault though?”

“She managed to piss him right off first thing, and however she got under his skin, she stayed.”

Cooper looped a waxed line around the joint and took the meat over to a hook they had set up on the basement rafter, hanging it next to another haunch they had already prepared. “I think that it’s a good thing you stick around here. Besides, it’s getting to be the end of fall, the crops are mostly in, the butchering has started; I could use your help around here to get the place ready for the winter.”

David sighed. “Just what I wanted to do.”

“Hey, it could be worse,” said Cooper. “You could be living in that trailer still.”

“Is Sanjana really going to winter in that thing?”

“She’s probably going to move back into the house and help with the boy,” said Cooper. “Jessica want’s another child and truthfully, having Sanjana around to help has been the best thing. With two, hell, she can stay and babysit all she wants.”

“Leticia and I are talking about maybe having a kid,” said David out of the blue.

Smiling, Cooper congratulated his friend and then warned; “It’s a pain in the ass.”

“Yeah, but you know, deep down, she’s still a Catholic Latina and she was raised that kids are the blessing.”

“And you’re not getting any younger,” mentioned Cooper.

“Right?” agreed David. “Hell, we’re both almost thirty.”

“Old men,” put in Cooper. They both had a drink, for a moment thinking about how they had once been young. Cooper set down his mug. “Well, dude, it will be great to have you around and not running off to get shot at.”

“It will,” smiled David. “We can leave that to the kids.”

Cooper picked his mug back up. “To the kids.”

David laughed and they toasted the kids.



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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by Hudsonhawk777 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 2:28 am

Sweet couple of chapters. Thanks Doc


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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by idahobob » Sat Oct 03, 2015 4:32 am

That was really good! :clap: :clap:

I'll quit bitching at you for a while. :clownshoes:

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by bodyparts » Sun Oct 04, 2015 3:47 pm

great addition Doc . thanks .

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by 91Eunozs » Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:46 pm

:clap:

Really great updates...thanks!

Like a couple others on here, it'd be awesome to get yourself a good proofreader to pull out a couple typos and get this thing out there beyond our small corner of the interwebs. This is really good stuff.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by Johan » Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:42 am

Thank you!
Good stuff!
And plentiful!!! :D :clap: :clap:
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by doc66 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:50 am

LOL, thanks for the proof reading folks!

I get to thinking about other things as I write and then pass over stuff when I'm self editing--what little I do..... :awesome:
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by 91Eunozs » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:50 am

doc66 wrote:LOL, thanks for the proof reading folks!

I get to thinking about other things as I write and then pass over stuff when I'm self editing--what little I do..... :awesome:

:mrgreen:

Most are simple word substitutions that spell check won't catch...mete vs. meet, etc.

That said, man, this is so good I can't imagine folks aren't lining up asking to edit and publish this story as well as a couple other epic stories on here.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by complex57 » Sat Oct 10, 2015 7:06 pm

This has been a really fun read.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added 10/03

Post by doc66 » Sat Oct 10, 2015 10:09 pm

complex57 wrote:This has been a really fun read.
Thanks! There's probably more coming, I've been writing on some other things, but they are always in the back ground.
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