A clockwork boy part 4

A Clockwork boy part 4

July 2nd 2200hrs, Skull creek Marina

They had made good time overall, Allen thought as he made his way along the rain slicked walkway towards the door of the Old Boat storage building. He glanced up at the night sky and saw the clouds that had brought the short rainstorm were already shredding apart revealing the spray of colored stars across the night sky.

Moving north along the coastline had been risky, considering the number of boats that had been moving around lately. However, moving at night had solved that problem, and once they had reached Pinckney Island they had swung east around the north end of the island making for the old Skull Creek Marina. That put his people north of the Blocking force that controlled the bridge to the mainland, but gave him almost a direct route straight at the Astoria Enclave on the other side of the island.

The bulk of their forces were camped on Daufusky island and would remain there, for one week then two hundred would cross the Caliboge sound and land on the south end of Hilton head, before advancing north to raid Harbor town.

Allen wasn’t really happy with that part of the plan, it divided his forces, weakening him over all. He had no choice either. The Scouts along the Caliboga sound side of Daufusky island had been watching boats in Harbor town coming and going, loaded with cargo on their return trips which meant plenty of loot for the taking, who they were trading with wasn’t important as this time. Appeasing his allies who wanted loot was and their hearing about lots of cargo moving in and out had their blood up. .

Once the Harbor Town Attack force was underway, the remainder of his raiders would follow the same course that Allen and the scout force had taken, linking up with them here at the Marina. Once they were consolidated again, the combined force would move against the Astoria Enclave. The blocking force would be kept under observation but left alone till Astoria was taken from there He would take his people assault the blocking force then loop south linking up with the team that had taken Harbor town then drive on and take the Pines.

He sighed softly, more tired than he wanted to admit then opened the regular door in the side of the storage building and stepped leaving the chill night air behind.

The old boat storage building, which was as large as a small warehouse and mostly empty. It had the advantage of no windows to let any light escape to warn any one wandering around out there to come up and take a closer look at the place. He wanted no warnings.

The other nice thing about the place was, that many of the boats stored in their racks had nice rooms, staterooms he thought they were called. Those rooms allowed his people somewhere half way decent to sleep while they were here, instead of on the ground.

All the bodies inside made the place warm, and it smelled like a locker room, but what could you expect in a world with out all the luxuries that people had once had, like deodorant and foot powder, He thought idly as he walked down the wide aisle.

At the far end of the building, Lindsey’s people had stung up lines and hung tarps to enclose the back end of the building where they had set up tables and chairs taken from the Yacht club. Which, Allen thought was where most of the advanced force would rather be. It was what he was now calling his CP.

Seated around the table, in the light of two oil lanterns, where the men and women who led the forces supplied by his allies to help scout the island, their leaders remained with the bulk of their groups on Daufusky. Where the other half of Allen’s people were waiting on the island under the control of Ted Rogers, a man he trusted implicitly. It said a lot about the groups and their leaders that only Allen thought he could leave a trusted Lt. to run the group in his absence.

The group looked up as he approached, their quiet conversations Trailing off into silence. He ignored the several looks of annoyance. More than one of them wanted to just charge off and strike somewhere to get some loot.

Only one man at the table struck Allen as capable and tougher than hell, The Sandy haired, one eyed Franklin Dieter who commanded only a small force of men, but they were tough men, men with a past, Allen suspected. In the old days he would have been one of the ones cheering when men like that had been arrested and executed. But not any more, of course back then I wasn’t the man I am today. If I had been I would be on death row myself.

He settled himself in a chair and took one of the old Beers that had been found in the Yacht club. Popping the top he smiled as the aroma rose out. I be damned its not flat, he thought as he took a sip then placed it on the table in front of him.

“I think we are all waiting for you to announce some Brilliant Plan” Frank said casually a hard smile flitting across his face.

“I suspect the only thing you are all waiting for is to be let loose to raid and pillage.” Allen commented.

“Don’t forget the raping, cant have pillaging with out the raping” Carlton Mueller said with a laugh.

Allen held his tongue, he had slid a long ways down but not that far, he didn’t find rape amusing or part of the spoils of war. But if he pushed that as a rule his loose Alliance would probably rip itself apart.

“Really, you have that hard of a time getting laid that you have to Rape” Georgina Bartlet asked, contempt oozing from her voice. She had been sent with twenty men and women who were part of a group out Atlanta that had ended up in Savannah just after Allens people had arrived there.

Most of the women in the group were Lesbians, had been in the old world too, and not the kind of women you wanted mad at you, Castration with a dull spoon was probably on their list of hobbies, Allen thought idly wondering how the men in that group had kept sane being around so many women that they couldn’t touch. Lots of lotion as my old buddy Bobby would have said.

“Wouldn’t have too, if there weren’t so many damn lesbo’s running loose with out a man to show them how to live right.” Carlton said flatly.

Georgina laughed, it was harsh tearing, ugly sound. “you’ve done such a fine job of showing women how to live right, you small Di’—-“

“Enough” Allen snarled slamming a fist onto the table, out of the corner of his eye he saw Frank’s mouth turn down into contemptuous frown at the exchange, the man had even less of a sense of humor than I do, Allen thought. “Carlton, your not going to be raping or anything else till we have enough information to decide on how to proceed.” Allen glared around the table. “all of you knew the plan when we set out, those of you sent by your leaders to head the small groups they loaned me to recon this island, knew the plan. So if you don’t like it, I can arrange to have you sent back.” Shot in the back of the head and dumped into the intercoastal more likely, Allen thought, I can tell their bosses they were killed in an ambush.

“I was Fucking joking,” Carlton said glaring at Allen. Georgina lifted the hand she’d had under the table and Allen half expected to see a blood crusted spoon clutched in her hand ready for action.

“Well it wasn’t funny” Allen replied. :”understand this, the enclaves are not some small piss ant town with forty survivors, they have trained soldiers as well as food and supplies. We are not going to just rush in and try to climb over the walls. Because when the smoke clears there wont be enough of us left to raid a preschool. We have to do this the smart way.”

“He is right” Frank said suddenly. “We have to do this smart if we want to secure as much of the supplies and Materials as we can with out destroying what we need as well as keeping our causality numbers low.”

Carlton rose to his feet, giving a Georgina a leer. “I am going to bed, and if you want to know what a man is like you let me know Carpet licker.”

Carlton didn’t quite storm out but no one, not even a blind man, could miss the fact he was angry. A few of the others rose and left leaving Allen alone with Georgina, Frank and Bill Voorhees.

“The man is a fool” Frank said into the silence. “he can see no further into the future than beyond his zipper.”

“at least there’s nothing inside his pants to block the view” Georgina said. For half a second Frank stared at her with his one good eye then gave a deep laugh.

Bill, who represented Oliver Byers group, gazed levelly at Allen. “I and Ollie are in all the way and we do understand why you want to do things this way. But we both suspect you have plans your not sharing with us as well”

Allen only shrugged. “what ever I haven’t shared has nothing to do with you or your people.”

“Its not all that hard to figure out” Frank said drawing Allen’s attention to him.

“What exactly do you think you have figured out.?” Allen asked, his voice calm. He had plans of course, just like half of his allies had plans to betray him and each other the moment they had as much loot as they could carry. Allens plans were more long range than that.

“I suspect you plan on something more permanent than wandering around looking for places to raid” Frank said, as he reached up and rubbed the scars around his empty socket. “any one with half a mind realizes that at some point raiding will end. Either through lack of supplies to raid, or ..” Frank said “or they will run into an organized well armed group like that Free Zone we have all heard rumor about.” There was an odd tone to his voice, Allen noted, like anger maybe it was hard to pin down. Possibly he had run into this Free Zone and hadnt fared well, Allen mused.

“Rumor is all it is, Come on, do any of us really believe there’s some huge group out there with tanks, soldiers and helicopter gun ships wiping out raiders and uniting every group of survivors.” Georgina asked looking around.

“No it is not all Rumor” Frank stated slowly as if choosing his words carefully. “last year, I was observing a small town, when a convoy of trucks and armored vehicles rolled in. I watched troops exit those vehicles and secure the area. I watched for five days as they unloaded supplies from the trucks, and then fortified the town for the inhabitants. I only left when they started sending out reconnaissance in force missions.”

Georgina clearing didn’t believe him, but she didn’t call him a liar, which was far more tactful of her than Allen had expected.

“it doesn’t matter to us, if this Free zone exists its not here on Hilton head.” Allen said “and Frank, you are right or rather I share that opinion that at some point we will have to stop raiding and stop roaming around and set up house somewhere, if for no other reason than to have a place to store all the supplies.” Allen said.

He didn’t tell them that he still seriously thought about taking over one of the Enclaves, the Pines was at the top of his list.

Savannah was a better place, it was stuffed to the gills with supplies, equipment and materials that would take years to deplete. But the Pines, has green houses and people who know how to grow food. with enough manpower I could hold both places, he thought, and If I did take it over I can make the bastards pay for years to come, he thought with some satisfaction. King Allen I like the sound of that, and every king needs serfs.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey

Couldn’t sleep so I thought I would write a little more. Henry is having another nightmare, I’ve hinted around about them but he so far hasn’t wanted to talk about them.

What I am scared of is that Father Brian and Jared are right, that the war isn’t really over. Oh the walking dead are gone and I doubt they will come. I want to believe that all the other supernatural stuff is gone too and not coming back.

If its not, if I am wrong then it is possible that the Dream walker is still trying to influence people to destroy us, or if not us per se, destroy any chance we have of working together to rebuild.

So that’s really the dilemma if Bowler hat is back and slipping into dreams what are his goals, that’s assuming of course it really is Bowler hat and not just normal dreams spawned by the nightmare experiences we all went through. We cant really know what he might be after only take good educated guess’s.

Jared always said that positive emotions, particularly Hope was something that the Dark was trying to destroy in us, with out hope nothing else would follow.

I was never into philosophy, but the more I have thought about that and the more I’ve seen I am starting to think that maybe Jared was right. But Hope is alive now! At least in the zone, and other places like here on Hilton head, people are finally seeing that they have a future and some are planning for it and as the number of communities grow, the hope of a stable, future grows and spreads to new places. Destroy the communities and you destroy the hope. I wonder if that’s the answer. To many damn questions and no real answers.

So on to other topics that are more down to earth. I stand corrected, there is wild game on Hilton head, I’ve seen ducks, deer, and even some chickens gone wild. Hercules tells me that there are turkey here too and that the Pines has only recently started sending out hunting parties armed with crossbows and has plans on domesticating deer so they can have a supply of red meat.

Oh and Stephanie, of all people, found a cat, the biggest damn cat I have ever seen in my life. its like the size of a three year old kid. Hercules said it was a Main Coon cat or something like that. all I know is she fed it some scraps and now its lurking around hoping for more. Damn thing will probably follow us. Henry found signs of wild dogs just before sunset, so we have yet another threat, though that damn cat will probably jump on me while I am sleep and crush me so I at least wont have to worry about wild dogs. Or maybe the dogs will chase off the cat, probably not considering how big the damn thing is.

Okay I am going to try and sleep some more, Night Lourdes, hopefully one day you will get to read this.

July 3rd, The Pines Enclave, Tuckers Studio

Tucker adjusted the wick in his lantern increasing the light hoping that it would drive away the gloom of yet another summer rain storm. I am so tired of storms, I guess I should be happy that’s it not another hurricane, he thought as he turned back to the papers spread across his desk.

He picked up a pen and idly tapped it on the desk top as he stared at the papers then shook his head tired of dealing with all this crap. At least this was far more satisfying work than some of the other things that he had to deal with.

He picked up a page and read “Amanda Taylor, age 32, former hobbies sculpting and needle point.” Odd combination of hobbies he thought as he laid it aside, he couldn’t see sculpting being worth anything other than for art and there might be a demand for needle point at some point in the future but not today. he jotted a note to himself on the margin to remind himself to get Cally Sterns a seamstress to talk with Amanda, she might have a need for needle point.

Of course all this stupid paper work was his fault, since he had started the program three years ago. It had sounded so simple back then, Ask people who had any kind of hobbies to write up a list of their hobbies along with their name and drop it off at the Studio.

Who would have suspected so many of them had hobbies that they hoped could be used or turned into a business. He sure hadn’t. The plan was supposed to have created more guilds or at the very least an apprentice or two that could learn a new skill and keep it alive for future need. It had done that but it had taken to long and had taken people and their time out of the loop for food production and other critical areas that had to be addressed before any other Guilds could be put in place.

They had finally reached that point, where not as many people were needed to work the greenhouses and the water pumps he had designed and had built which had taken away the need for every one to have to walk down and gather water using buckets freeing more time that can be used to do other things.

Which brought him back to the letters in front of him, with their lists of skills.
Many of those skills were not worth spit in a whirlwind, like scrap booking, at least Tucker so far hadn’t found any use for that craft. There are others on those lists that were just as useless, like who in the hell thought bird watching could actually contribute something to the Pines, obviously Jason Bright thought so. And coin collecting?, he thought judging by the handwriting and the name, Booger was a kid so that one was forgivable and at least he wanted to help some how.

But for all the really useless hobbies, there were gems scattered amongst them like John Bells talent for carving wood, complete with a sample that his note had been stapled too. There were a few stained glass makers on the list as well as custom jewlers, and craft beer brewers. And many more because the list was long, longer than he had expected. Many of the skills might not seem like much to most people but each had its place in rebuilding or at the very least were worth preserving the knowledge and skills for the future when it might be more relevant.

He smiled remember how it had gotten started, what was it three years ago, he asked himself. Linda Mayer and Bethany Green, who had both been potters, had approached him with the idea of setting up a pottery shop. They had been insistent that making pottery for the Enclave was a necessity and after listening to their arguments for almost two hours

When he had argued that there were plenty of old bottles, plates, bowls and what every else out there in homes and stores just waiting to be used, they had countered with it can all be broken and that the Pines had to have the capability to make more to replace what was lost. When Bethany had finally pointed out that his reasons for starting the Technical guild was just as valid as their idea in so far as if they didn’t start passing down this knowledge now when people finally needed to know they would have to figure it out on their own and that could take years.

He had then pointed out that they had no clay to use and both women had laughed apparently they had been part of a pottery group that used local materials to make their wares which had been sold in Boutiques and other places on the island as native wares to tourists. He had eventually agreed, given up some might say, and set about making ten manually powered potters wheels and modified a few old fashioned kilns to fire the products.

It had been the same way for the brewers guild, the brick makers who had spun off from potters and the glassblowers, each of those were foundations for modern technology and like in the past, if the Pines survived over the longer term, those same advances would occur.

Now he was looking at Leatherworkers, and people who knew how to sew and of all things a parchment maker. What he really wanted was to find some one who could weave, some one who knew how to make dyes, a cobbler, and some one who knew how to make paper.

I have the books that show how to do those things, but actually doing it, as any one should know, is a far different proposition than the printed word conveyed. Which leads me back to we need a printing press and ink, something that we can at least print broadsides on, and later a newspaper.

In fact a printing press putting out broadsides would really help with my current problem that Lourdes was so kind to have pointed out. The people need to know where I and each member of the council, stand on various topics and what we think about various issues. if we could print up broadsides outlining our position on a topic, and not by god use those idiot one line quotes that said nothing but sounded good, it would probably cut way back on the questions and fear so many seem to feel lately. .

Speaking of that particular problem, he thought pulling out his pocket watch and checking the time. I have an hour before the Town hall meeting that Brother Malcolm managed to put together at the last minute. Better hurry and get over there before Ben Can saddle me with an escort, he told himself

He gathered up his papers and stuffed them in the leather folio case, today’s meeting was one of the reasons he had spent most of last night going over the Craft lists and the notes he had made about each craft. He wanted to be able to present these and other things so that the people would get a better idea of the direction of his thoughts and where he and the others were guiding the Pines.

He looked up as the door opened and smiled as he saw Lourdes, who had chosen to wear a 1890’s styled gown of midnight blue and a white bodice fitted with steel inserts like a Corset and decorated with faux pearls and sapphire blue crystal. She smiled as she swept into the room with a rustle of skirt.

“You know appearing at this meeting dressed like a Manor born lady might not be the best of public relations” He pointed out. At least her dark hair had been pulled back into a simple pony tail that fell like onyx down her back instead of some elaborate hair style.

He hid his frustration, Ben had sent her to keep him from escaping. There was no way she would just show up an hour early at his place, just out of the blue like this.

she picked up the fitted dark blue military tunic he had planned to wear and eyed him. “You don’t think this is to much?” she asked holding it up and touching the high stiff collar.

“Touché my lady” he said smiling.

“I think Chris would look dashing in this” she said examining the tunic then laid it carefully aside. “Ramo and your escort are waiting downstairs” she told him as she settled herself on a Divan

I know it, Ben you devious crap basket, Tucker thought knowing there was no escape.

“I still have an hour” Tucker protested as he reached for his knee high boots.

“I believe Ben said something about being in place before you could slip out and miss your escort.” She explained casually, a smile of victory flickered across her lips for a second.

“There are times I really don’t like him” Tucker observed as he pulled on his boots.

She laughed lightly for a moment then smiled impishly. “Waylon I want you to know that you’re only mortal” she said.

“oh for gods sake” Tucker muttered then grinned as she chuckled.

“Seriously now,” Lourdes said “I am proud of you for taking this by the Horns Waylon and I will be sitting right there with you . So that I can kick you hard if you start to call any one a Bleeding Sodomizing Luddite”

“Thank you for that,” he said smiling though he was pretty sure she would kick him and he rather hoped she would, he was doing this because she was right and it was the right thing to do and getting insulting when he grew annoyed was not a crowd pleaser.

He donned his tunic and picked at the specks of lint no one but he could see till he was satisfied he looked properly dressed. Note to self we need to find sheep so we cam make wool and do something about growing cotton and possibly silk for cloth.

He glanced in the smoky mirror and grunted in approval before he picked up his folio and then extended his arm to Lourdes. “Even though I am sure you arrived early for the same reasons Ben did. May I escort you.”

She grinned and dipped a quick curtsy. “why I would be delighted good sir.” She replied. “and its not that I suspected you would try to slip your escort that I arrived early. I knew you would try to slip your escort.”

“I can not win for losing.” Tucker said fondly as she placed her hand in the crook of his arm.

“Lead the way, sir, you have a date with your public.” She announced.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey

Well I have finally met Franklin Coates, not what I was expecting to be honest. He is a tall thin Black man who dresses plainly and is as soft spoken as Pastor Wells, though you can sense steel about the man. I would say he is around fifty five maybe as old as sixty but fit as a fiddle as my mama used to say.

He arrived at our camp shortly after we met his welcoming party right around breakfast time. They weren’t rough or violent but made sure we were going to be friendly by disarming us before his arrival.

I Think Hercules Secord was pretty irate about that, but Wells talked him into behaving, thankfully. Coates men were well armed and deadly serious, Hercules would have ended up dead if he had pushed it and I would have to explain it to Tuckers people.

Anyway, the story as I know it. Coates and his people originally had been living in the old ‘downtown area’ Enclave till a fire swept through the place. They still had working vehicles at that point and were loading people onto trucks and buses since their only option was to escape the enclave. Some one panicked and jumped the gun ramming through the gate before every one was loaded and the undead poured in. They lost people that day to the fire and to the undead but still managed to escape. Coates didn’t say how many they lost but I gather it was a lot and not all Gullah.

Apparently they also had half their supplies previously loaded onto vehicles for just such an emergency and were able to find a place to hole up in, in Coates words ‘God was with us because two months later, before our supply and housing issues could become a problem, the undead besieging the new place just fell over one afternoon’

He said they stayed around that area a little over a year, when they decided to move and set up a new town for themselves that was better and easily defended against the raiders that were just then starting to attack.

Surprisingly Coates has invited us to their new Enclave later today. He wants to talk more and show us around. I get the impression that not all his men are happy about the invitation, but no one argued.

I tentatively mentioned the proposed summit and he seemed interested, so I will bring it up in our talk today.

Pastor Wells seems a little nervous about the meeting, which makes me wonder if there is a history between the two groups. I have nothing to base that on since no one in the Pines ever mentioned it or had a bad word to say about Coates, other than Coates and his people usually remained out of sight and doing their own thing. Which is not a condemnation in any way.

Ryan got word to me that he and Garret have reached the North end of the Island and have met a local named Jimmy, who is allowing them to stay in his lighthouse home and seems to know where the sixth Enclave is. In addition they also think they encountered two more scarred folks, both males and both in the process of trying to kill Jimmy.

1100 hrs, Broad Creek Township.

The Enclave was nothing like the Pines or even Harbor town, some one had bulldozed out a trench and used the trees, dirt, old vehicles and debris from the homes that had been in the way as a wall that follows Broad creek Marina way from just above the waters of the broad creek up to Marshland Road where it runs all the way down and turns to follow Tidewater Manor road all the way back to the Broad Creek..

Chris looked around with interest as they entered a gate on Simmons road, once a tree lined street. Most of the trees along the road and in the yards of the few homes along the street had been cut down, and gardens had been planted in the yards.

Like the Pines the Gullah were tearing down old buildings to salvage materials and building smaller better insulated places. Unlike the Pines, the new buildings were made of wood, some salvaged wood, some hand cut and planed.

They passed three small newly built homes, the window seals and doorframes painted blue, there were chickens and even a couple of goats running loose in the yards. Half naked children playing in front of some of the homes, stopped and shrank back at the sight of strangers, but seemed to relax when they saw the men Escorting Chris and his friends their mothers swept out of the homes and stood guard ready to get their kids inside in case of trouble.

Makes sense, Chris thought watching a couple of kids who wore only threadbare swim suits, clothes are getting harder to replace, and kids go through clothes fast, he thought with out any judgment on the matter. He had seen enough kids playing naked on the beach on Sullivan that he didn’t really think much about it other than to note it as an aspect of the society here.

Smoke rose from several cooking fires, each fire carefully placed away from the homes and ringed with rocks, old bricks or cinderblock to inhibit the spread of the fire.

Almost at the water, they turned and entered a parking area that had once served only two buildings one a large metal building that, judging by all the boats to the side and behind it, had once been a boat storage building, the second building was a single story cinderblock building that had housed a Bar and Grill. A thread of smoke rose from a stovepipe chimney that had been installed in the roof of the building. A group of men sat at a round table just outside the door playing a game of cards and talking loudly. The rest of the buildings all new, were scattered around the edge of all but the waterside of the parking area, and there were even a couple of new buildings that he could see down a foot worn lane into the woods to the north.

They were Rough buildings that would have been more at home in an old western or Civil war movie. Most were on the smallish side, a few were the size of old homes. Salvaged windows had been placed in some while others seemed to have what looked like waxed newspaper or waxed cloth stretched over the window frames in place of glass.

In front of one small white washed building Chris could see a group of women in home spun clothing, deftly weaving sweet grass into large baskets At another larger building near the water, a barn like door stood open revealing men stripped to the waist making the frame of a boat. They were singing lustily as they worked, sounding for all the world like they were having a good time. just outside the door, a completed small sail boat sat on a cradle ready to be slipped into the water.

Down near the boat ramp were several new lean too like structures where a group of men and women were cleaning fish with production line efficiency. While others were packing the cleaned fish into woven baskets to be carried to the smoke house. .

Chris and his group were led up to the largest of the new structures, a two story structure with a lot of windows, and articulated shutters made of plywood, to cover them in bad weather.

Coates stepped out onto the porch wearing a pair of coveralls with a carpenters tool belt around his waist. The sturdy work boots he wore were covered in dirt and saw dust. Sliding the hammer he held into the loop on his belt he smiled noncommittally and stepped down to greet Chris with hand shake. “Welcome to our home, the Broad Creek Township” he said with a gesture that took in the whole area. “Its not I reckon as fancy as a place like the Pines but its ours, mostly built by us as time allowed.”

“As long as people are happy, have food, a place to live and the roof don’t leak I don’t think it really matters if a place looks fancy or not.” Chris said looking around as a Asian couple emerged from one of the smaller buildings, the man carried a basket filled with assorted goods, they headed across the parking lot and across the road to a path that led deeper into the enclave. “Besides, no one is going to be building the old world type of homes for years, maybe decades to come.”

“So very true Mr. McCaffrey” Coates said pleasantly, he looked at the small group behind Chris but gave no indication of what he might be thinking. Behind him, Children rushed out and set up folding chairs on the covered porch of the building then vanished back inside smiling shyly at their guests.

“Sit please, Refreshments will be brought out, its not often we have guests.” Coates said waving to the chairs. “as long as you don’t mind Sun tea with out ice.”

Once they were seated, a woman wearing a brightly colored light blue dress with bright blue bands around the neck and hips brought out a tray with mason jars filled with Tea for each of them..

“Thank you.” Chris said as he took his glass, then to be polite took a sip and looked down in surprise at the cool, sweet tea.

Coates laughed, “we keep many of our drinks in large jars that rest in the water to keep cool. I had them bring some up for your arrival. We also make our own sugar from sugar cane to sweeten food and drinks.”

“ I am going to miss Tea when the last of it is used” Henry commented.

“Why? We grow tea plants here, there used to be a big plantation that grew American Tea out Charleston way as I recall. there are probably plants growing wild there just as here.” Franklin commented Chris didn’t miss the quick smile Coates gave him at scoring another zing. “We have always been farmers, weavers, metal smiths, jewlers and boat makers and many other skills besides.”

“Anything else you feel like sharing to get the shocks out of the way” Chris asked good-naturedly.

“Where would be the fun in that” Coates replied with a smile. “for now how ever I would like to address this Summit you mentioned to me earlier.”

Chris took another sip of the tea then nodded in agreement. “I agree business first” Chris said glancing at Pastor Wells then back to Coates. “Essentially what is proposed is that each of the Enclave Leaders meet …..”

1200 hrs, The Pines Meeting Hall.

There was a quiet murmur of conversation from the crowd assembled to hear Tucker speak, Far more than just the religious had arrived to listen. Which was fine with Tucker who sat with Lourdes on the small stage, sorting his notes one last time.

Hearing a clock chime he closed his folder, “wish me Luck” he said rising to his feet.

“Luck and don’t forget I will be ready to kick you.” She said softly giving him a pat on his arm.

He strode to the podium and looked out over the crowd, there were several hostile faces, but that didn’t come as a surprise, well at least not now. Ben Ramo stood off to one side, and ten Guardsmen were stationed through the room, at Ben’s insistence, in case there was trouble.

“Id like to start this by apologizing to you folks. Till a good friend recently pointed out, none to nicely that I and the council should do more to discuss not only issues with you, but talk with you about the reasons we support issues. In my case its about technology and your concerns.” Tucker said and to his credit he didn’t growl or snarl at the crowd and more importantly he kept his steampunk personae leashed so he didn’t sound like a manor born lord. .

“Technology brought the dead down on us” Some one shouted from the back. Tucker managed not to frown, more importantly he didn’t snap back an insult because he truly had no tolerance for ignorance of that kind.

“I realize that some of you believe that, how ever I do not. But!” he said hoping to forestall any protests and it seemed to work. “As part of the leadership its supposed to be my job, our Jobs to take your fears and concerns seriously and consider them instead of unilaterally making decisions.”

“No shit” some one else muttered loudly in the back of the room. Tucker actually smiled at the comment.

“Remember folks, we are feeling our way through this whole leadership thing. All of us were just normal folks before the dead rose so this is new, especially for me. I was an artist and a nerd who likes to dress up in funny clothes.” That got a laugh, and even a few of the anti tech folks smiled even if only for a second.

“I would like to address several topics which will lay out why I feel that continuing the Advance back into at the very least an Industrial society is to our benefit and poses no threat.” Tucker said his eyes sweeping the room, meeting the gazes that were directed at him. Some were belligerent, some looked eager to hear what he had to say, but the rest were just patiently waiting.

“Our situation on many levels is comparable to that of the mid to late 1800’s, on other levels it will with out help fall back to the stone age. Clothing, medicines, and a variety of other things are in the latter list, we have no way to make cloth, a very limited medical knowledge base, and limited skills to even construct basics like plumbing….”

He laid it out for them, life expectancy rate, disease factors, the impact of early deaths on keeping the rest of the Pines up and running. He had spent most of last night going through his library making notes to try and show them how much of an impact technology had on their lives at every level. Most seemed shocked at the idea that the life spans could fall to around 35 years, some didn’t seem able to process that fifteen and sixteen year old kids would become middle aged if the decline continued. Living seventy plus years had really been taken as a law of nature by them.

Like the bulk of the Modern American world, they had never paid much attention to the past and if they had, they had tossed out little platitudes, or even ignored the realities of that long ago age preferring to believe the depictions of Novels and Books, Tucker himself had been a little guilty of the same thing by his love of steampunk, but he had read the history and known the truth, but Steampunk wasn’t about the reality but the what if’s and the adventure of that age..

Now they were faced with the reality that their children or their children’s, children might be holding down jobs and supporting families at an age that the old cultural norms would declare abusive and disgusting and they didn’t like what they saw. Welcome to the real world, Tucker thought sadly.

He laid out the need for power, for sanitation, and every other need, not want, but honest to god need and hoped it was getting through.

He finished laying out the problems, their impacts and how to solve them, then took a breath and gave what he hoped was an easy smile. “I know that’s a lot to think about, and you will need time. So if any of you have any questions that we don’t get today, please come by the Studio and ask them.” He said then opened his folio folder and took the plunge. ”So the issue that so many want to know about what I am working on or plan to work on and why. So to start, I have plans on building several more Devices the first of which……”

Jeff House sat quietly listening to Waylon Tucker speak, He didn’t dislike the man, but his drive to bring back Technology made him dangerous. Oh sure the nightmare images of the future were just that nightmares, but God wouldn’t let it happen, at least Jeff didn’t think so. But the undead returning was far worse than the population dying off around thirty. It didn’t mean that Tucker wasn’t Dangerous and a threat to Gods plan.

God had been trying to warn Jeff for months now using the nightmares as the message. He felt the weight of the pistol tucked into the back of his pants, the pistol that would serve God if he only had the faith and the strength of will to do what God wanted.

He knew Pastor Wells would tell him this was wrong, but the Pastor was misguided, oh he was a good man but when God spoke a man should listen. But a man could have doubts as well and that was the only thing standing in the way of Gods will.

Ben Ramo watched the crowd, he didn’t really think there was much of a chance of violence, But there was a chance no matter how slim, and he was determined to keep Tucker and every one else as safe as he could. He only wished they could have disarmed the people entering the hall, after the undead, how ever that wouldn’t have gone over to well and Tucker, damn him, was right about that message that might send to every one.

Tucker was doing a good job, he thought only half listening to his friend discuss the reasons they needed things like running generators, and no one could argue that being able to store food for longer periods of time wasn’t important. But more importantly Tucker actually sounded like he cared about their concerns, and maybe he did. Once he got past his luddites are idiots mentality at any rate.

But no matter how eloquent Tucker was, no matter how sincere he was in the end Ben doubted that it would sway the group of anti technology people and that in the end they all might have to be forced from the Pines so that both they and the people in the Pines could live how they chose to. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but it was a possibility.

Pastor Wells should never have left, Ben thought. The man knew how to keep them under control, with only a kind word and that serenity that his faith bestowed.

1215 hrs The Pines Enclave
Gary House hurried down the street, not even noticing the people that waved to him as he passed. Many of those people saw the look of fear on his face and sat aside their tools and left their gardens to follow him. knowing that something was going on.

He had to reach Waylon Tucker before his son Jeff, when he had woken this morning and found his son gone he knew what his son had planned. He had feared it the moment Pastor Wells had left the Enclave with the Trader and his friends.

“Gary what’s going on?” Robert Kitchem asked as he caught up with the longer legged House. Robert had been Gary’s friend since they had first met here in the Enclave during the terrifying first days of the Rising of the dead.

“Jeff” Gary said simply.

“oh hell” Robert muttered matching his stride to Gary’s. Robert was well aware of Jeffs attitudes the prickly 21 year old was a firebrand that Pastor Wells had paid special attention too, making it his personal project to try and keep Jeff from going off the deep end. “Do you really think Jeff is foolish enough to do anything stupid?”

“Yes” Gary replied. Robert didn’t know about the dreams Jeff claimed to have. The dreams that he believed was God speaking to him. Jeff had only told Gary recently and Gary had not shared that information with any one including Robert and Pastor Wells, for fear that people might brand Jeff insane and demand his son be locked up or worse … and if I don’t stop him the worst might come to pass and I cant take losing my son on top of losing the rest of my family.

The public meeting that Tucker was holding was scheduled for today and Gary was sure that was were Jeff had gone, and it had almost certainly had already started.

He should have paid more attention to his sons growing stridency about technology being the cause of the apocalypse, and he should have paid more attention to the goings on in the Pines, but the truth was rarely paid attention to that kind of thing, meetings and such, because he was usually too busy.

How ever Jeff did, and though Gary might not be as enthused with Tuckers desire to keep technology alive, he couldn’t argue that it had made life here worse. In the end Gary had to trust that it was all part of Gods Plan and he had thought that Jeff had accepted that belief as well.

He was wrong, and he had known it the moment he found Jeff’s bed empty, a sealed note addressed to Gary tucked into Jeffs Bible and the missing pistol. Jeff still believed that Technology was what had caused God to send the undead and that Tucker was either a willing dupe of the Devil’s or actively conspiring to lead men away from the God to deliver their souls and flesh into the hands of the devil.

Like the Pastor, Gary believed that the Devil or as the Trader an his friends called it The Dark, had attacked Humanity like Job on a Grand scale and that God upset at what humanity had done to the world and itself had let that lesson be beaten into them. We have to change, and change our society, Wells had argued, We have to build a better world. What those changes were Wells could only point to the words of the Savior as a guide line and the rest would come if they only listened for the voice of god.

Jeff had argued with him about that but Pastor Wells had gently and firmly stood his ground. ‘Jeff, When the dead came, they devoured the Sinner and the faithful alike, the Catholics were not safe, nor the Baptists, Methodists or the assembly of God. No Denomination was spared, no religion was spared. I believe, that was part of the message to us and in time we will understand what we are supposed to do. But till then the only guidance we have are the red words, the words attributed to the Savior nothing else matters but those words . Strip every thing else away, including our opinions and biases and view just those words and you can not go wrong they are words of love and hope. And that is what we need sorely in this new world. Violence in the name of God is not part of Gods plan Jeff.’

But Jeff had disagreed, or rather Jeff had come to believe that God expected Man to rise up in violence in the name of God against those who stood in the way of gods plan and that Wells though well meaning was wrong.

But it had been those damned dreams that had driven his son to this point, his only living blood and Gary was terrified that he was going to lose Jeff now and even worse that his son would kill another human being.

I should have told the Pastor, or some one about the whiff of corruption that sometimes filled Jeff’s room when he has those nightmares, like something dark and dirty crouched there beside his bed. But Fool that I am I convinced myself that it was my imagination. Please do not let me be to late, he prayed as he saw the meeting hall up ahead and sped up.

Jeff sat his face impassive, his mind split between listening to what Tucker said trying to analyze every sentence to see if Tucker had even begun to come to god, and trying to ignore the insistent voice in the back of his mind that kept urging him to act in the name of God.

There were a lot of questions asked that Tucker fielded expertly, and Jeff could tell that even some of his fellow anti tech brothers were starting to listen to Tucker. He has the Devils silver tongue, Jeff thought.

If he keeps talking the poison will infect every one and then no one will be left to hear Gods desire’s. Please God show me what to do, give me a sign that I can not mistake, I don’t want to die and I don’t want to kill a man if I don’t have to. Please help me out here.

But there was only that little voice of his faith urging him to do Gods will to save not just the enclave from the return of the Dead but to save the world.

He never thought about all the technology out there just waiting to be picked up and used, or all the other survivors out there that were probably doing the same things as Tucker, he never even thought that there might be scientists and other experts still alive in shelters out there hard at work passing along their knowledge and trying to resurrect the old world and because he didn’t or couldn’t face that. He never considered that Killing Tucker wouldn’t stop a thing.

There others in the world beyond the Pines that would and probably were doing the same thing as Tucker and that all Killing Tucker would do, would be to destroy his own life and stain his soul with the blood of innocents and because he didn’t think about any of that, his fate was decided.

“….I believe that its not technology that brought about the end but people, we choose the paths of our lives, and many became lost in what ever vice or sin they were addicted too. I am not a priest or pastor, and not even…”

“how dare you presume to speak about godly matters” A voice shouted. Tucker turned his head and saw a young wild eyed man spring to his feet, pulling a pistol from behind his back. The rest of the room stood frozen, except for a handful of guards who were already in motion and would be too late.

It figures I was wrong again, Tucker thought as that pistol rose and lined up on his chest. in the back of the room a door burst open.

Jeff leveled the pistol, sick, roiling, fear rolling though him but his desire to serve God kept it at bay Even still his finger hesitated for just a moment as his eyes locked with Waylon Tuckers. Do it God Wills it, the voice in the back of his mind Shouted in joyous exaltation and Jeff fired.

Gary had burst through the front doors of the meeting hall yelling at the guards to follow him. he charged down the carpeted hall towards the actually meeting room, past a framed picture of the Declaration of independence. He heard a Jeff shout something and then he reached the doors, A guard at that door tried to stop him, but Robert Bless him yanked the man away so hard that the Guard flew into the wall with a crash.

Gary charged through the door to the actual meeting hall and saw Jeff standing tall and alone the pistol in his hand pointed at Waylon Tucker. “ Jeff don’t, Please” Gary bellowed as he raced down the aisle towards his only surviving child. And then his world shattered as gunfire roared, Tucker fell away from the podium.

Jeff’s aim was off, thanks to the surprise of hearing his fathers pleading voice, but the bullet still struck Tucker who went down hard, falling out of the line of fire even as Jeff had pulled the trigger a second time. Lourdes her mouth open as if to shout a warning or maybe scream, her eyes wide in shock had started to rise then fell over backwards like a pole axed steer. Jeff’s eyes widened in horror he had never meant to kill her. No Oh God why? The comforting voice of God that had whispered of peace and eternity in the presence of god began to laugh, a jagged soul tearing sound of hateful amusement and he knew as the first guards bullet smashed into him and the pain bloomed that he had been tricked.

One of Jeff’s friends leaped to his feet whether to stop Jeff or help no one would ever know, he had risen right into the line of fire of two Guards and was cut down by bullets meant for Jeff. But the other guards didn’t miss, Jeff jerked and twitched as he was hit, the pistol tumbling from his hand, then abruptly he collapsed.

“NOOOOO” The agonized cry was ripped from Gary’s throat as he pushed and shoved people out of the way, to reach his sons side. The last few people stepped aside letting Gary drop to his knees in his sons blood and gather the boy in his arms. He could see the pain and confusion in his sons eyes, and the horror of what he had done

“I’m sorry. It…it… wasn’t Go….” Jeff said then fell silent forever. Gary sobbed holding the corpse of his son against his chest rocking back and forth lost in his own private hell.

And somewhere unheard by a devastated father or the people around him, something laughed in savage delight at how things had turned out.

Ben sagged against the wall exhausted it had been a long damn day already and promised to become even longer. Tucker had survived, wounded but alive. Lourdes’s survival was up in the air. Gary House was a broken man, taken in by one of his friends who was keeping an eye on him just in case Gary decided to end it all. Poor SOB, Ben thought shaking his head again, then glancing at the door to the small room off the Meeting hall where Lourdes had been carried. He had no idea what was going on in there. Gerald Bashir was tending to her but that was all Ben knew.

He struggled to keep his own grief and anger buried deep, he had a job to do and he couldn’t do it if he let his emotions control his decisions. No matter how much he wanted to round up every one of those anti tech idiots and expel them from the enclave at the point of a gun, he couldn’t. It wasn’t really a solution and he knew that was going to be a topic of discussion at the Emergency meeting.

And because that seemed to be the prevailing sentiment in the Pines as well, killing the anti techers being the second most popular, his men were running ragged trying to keep the anti Technology adherents from being ripped apart by an incredibly furious Enclave population.

The only good thing that seemed to have come out of Tuckers meeting and the attack was several of the Anti Tech folks, stunned and shocked at what had happened, looked like they might actually be coming around to at least being able to live in peace with those who didn’t believe in their interpretation of Gods will. or it could be just an act and only time would tell.

He looked up as Gerald stepped out of the door to the side room where Lourdes had been taken. Gerald looked grim, and was wiping blood from his hands. His gray blue eyes were sunken and ringed, his dark hair lank from sweat lay against his scalp. Most people would have described him as a kind faced, gentle man.

Gerald had been a Veterinarian before the Dead had risen, and once the Army Doctors and Guard Medics had died, Gerald had become the closet thing they had to a doctor.

“Tucker was lucky and baring any complications will be fine.” Gerald said looking down at his hands. “ but you know that. How ever the bullet that struck Lourdes went deep, the one saving grace I can see at this point is that it was partially deflected by the metal ribs in her Bodice, which caused it to miss the heart and another half inch it would have punctured a lung. As good as that news is there are still all kinds of damage that bullet could have caused on its way through her body, which could cause internal bleeding as well, that I just don’t have the knowledge to diagnose. Nor could I find any bone shards during my examination so that’s a good.

But the bullet is still in there and needs to be removed, and there is always the risk of infection that could kill her.

She’s unconscious from shock I assume, which is a blessing since we have no pain killers. But I don’t even know if she will even wake up and before you ask, I don’t think we should move her out of the room”

Ben fervently wished once again that his Medic hadnt been killed two years ago.

“Yes, I have some of the hooch being sent over to use as disinfectant, and I sent Amber over to get the surgical kit. I also have to say that thanks to that book the trader brought us, I might have a far better chance to save her than if he hadn’t come.

Right now I have several people out looking for the herbs that the books says might help in addition, thanks again to that Trader, I used the instructions in that book and had some Saline IV bags fixed up a couple of days ago. Don’t worry, they have been sanitized and sterilized properly so the odds in her favor are now higher than before.

Beyond all that Ben I don’t know. I am not a surgeon, at least not a people surgeon. Hell I have been half worried that at some point I would end up accidentally gelding some guy instead of removing an appendix.”

“And if you don’t try and operate?” Ben asked.

“Honestly I don’t know, the bullet might move and do even more damage, there might even be more damage that I don’t know about and she might have internal bleeding that I have not discovered yet. There’s a risk of infection, in this case a big risk of infection. To be honest there are all kinds of things that could happen and none of them are good. What we need is a real doctor Ben, I am a Vet.”

“We don’t have a Doctor we have you Gerald. Tell me what you need and I will make sure we get it.” Ben snapped angrily, then forced himself to calm down, seeing the pained look in Gerald’s face.

Gerald had always pined after Lourdes, Ben knew but the only thing they had ever been was friends, and not the kind of friendship she’d had with Tucker either. Gerald had never complained, but had never stopped hoping that Lourdes would end up falling for him as hard as he had fallen for her. McCaffrey’s budding relationship with her, must have hurt like hell to, Ben thought but that didn’t stop him from doing his best to save her life.

Tucker lay in his bed, trying not to move to keep the pain down. So staring at the ceiling was about all he could do at the moment. it beat closing his eyes, every time he did he saw Lourdes laying still and pale in a pool of her own blood. I should have gone alone, in fact I should never have even set up that meeting and she would be knocking on the door right now, ready to give me a hard time

And that kid that had shot them both, try as he might Tucker couldn’t hate him not after seeing the look of abject horror that had filled Jeff Houses eyes as he saw what he had done. All this because of a bunch of damn machines, to think I used to believe that I could change things, make something better out of the ashes the walking dead had left behind, “God I am a fool” he said aloud tears tracking down his face.
He tried to turn his head and look as he heard his door open, half praying that it would be Lourdes. But the bolt of pain that ripped through him at the movement made him stay still.

“Hey Tucker” Ben Ramo said softly as he walked across the room, his booted feet thudding on the floor rugs. “Gerald says you should pull through.”

“What about Lourdes and the kid that shot us?” Tucker asked bitterly. Ben pulled a chair over and sat down beside Tuckers bed.

“Gerald is working on her, he doesn’t know if she will make it or not at this point.” Ben said refusing to sugar coat what was happening. And God it hurt to say that, but it hurt Tucker even more to hear it. “I want to send messengers to try and find McCaffrey.”

Tucker closed his eyes for a moment, knowing that if McCaffrey really did have feelings for Lourdes that news was going to rip him apart. And as much as Waylon hated to even think about it, it could jeopardize getting the summit off the ground too.

“What happened is a tragedy for every one concerned. But those talks are critical to the Pines.” Tucker said hating himself for thinking of his duty first.

“McCaffrey was trained as a field Medic or something like it at any rate. Erin Brinn mentioned it in her letters to us.” Ben said flatly. “and he cant be to far away, not after only two days. If McCaffrey can help, we need him here.

Gerald will try to operate, right now he is reading every book and manual we have been able to scrape up. I have a team heading to the nearest trauma clinic and then a hospital after that to see if they can find anything we can use.” He said rubbing at his temples.

“I am stepping down from the government” Tucker said suddenly. “this is my fault.”

“To hell you are Waylon, this is not your fault, its Jeff Houses fault and the people he spent time with who encouraged him. A steam engine didn’t make him try to kill you. He chose to do it.”

“not at the end” Tucker said remembering the look on Jeff Houses face. “at the end he was horrified at what he had done.”

“Oh please Tucker, I’ve talked to twenty people who all say Jeff was getting more and more militant, hell if you want to assign blame, its my fault for missing the growing extremism.”

“you didn’t miss it, remember you kept pointing out that some one was probably going to try sooner or later.” Tucker said bitterly wishing he had listened to Ben before this had happened. Security would have been tighter. “I over ruled you on the security arraignments and I even tried to dodge your security team this morning, which is why Lourdes showed up, to make sure I played nice. So you see its my fault.”

“I am not going to sit here and try to play a one up game of guilt Tucker. You’re to important to the Pines to walk away. You cant for Lourdes sake and for the Pines. And if you do Jeff House wins, its that simple my friend.” Tucker lay there staring at the ceiling, silent and thinking.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.

Coates gave us the grand tour, the place is so plain even ramshackle in places. You really don’t notice the incredible work they have done here. I have no idea if its an American thing or common around the world for people to obsess over appearance instead of substance. What ever they case, they eat well here, they are stable and like the Pines have a wide array of skills, that have benefited them.

I saw women working looms, more making natural dyes. Yet another group was making clothing from the cloth that came from the looms. I’ve seen carpenters, cabinets makers, boat builders even a small shop where an old man said to have been a big blues and jazz musician is making guitars and teaching several teen agers the art as he works. personal note, I traded some Ammo and a knife for one of his guitars, I think personally he should have charged me more, its got a sweet sound to it.

Another thing is its not all Gullah here, Coates took in as many people as they could when the Dead swept over the island and now there is a sizable population of whites, Hispanics and even Asians here and lots of children.

About half of the kids were born over the last four years which is a big difference when compared to the other Enclaves and places on the mainland with the exception of Sullivan at least and even there we don’t have a huge number of children that have been born since the world ended, the numbers are starting to rise however.

As far as medical goes, they have no real doctors and use traditional Gullah Herbal knowledge to treat sickness and injury, it must be at least semi effective because they have lost few to things like sickness and infection. Sadly, they did lose some. Every death amongst his enclave Coates seems to take hard, but the Gullah Deaths were the worst for him. there were never a lot of Gullah so every one of them that dies is another hit to a culture they have been trying to keep alive for as long as they have been around. And from what I have seen it’s a culture worth keeping alive.

Note.. Dumont will be amazed to read that last line, yes I have become much more aware of culture and appreciation of cultures so no more calling me an uncultured lout. We now return to my uneducated ramblings.

Most of the people are friendly but there is a definite group that is not happy to see us. Nothing we can do but trust that Coates can control his people.

“That smells Good” Stephanie said as large trencher trays filled with some kind of Rice dish were placed on the long table that had been set up under the trees. Something like Japanese lanterns lit by locally made candles hung from the branches of the trees above them.

“I would kill for Pizza” Henry said licking his lips, then winked at a pretty woman that was giving him the eye. “oh sweet chocolate honey” he muttered daring Chris to say a word.

“Pizza and Beer” Chris said ignoring Henry’s interest and attempt to get him to comment on his doggish ways. It was odd the things you could find yourself missing, he thought instead. “If Jared were here, he would have beer.”

Stephanie laughed as she nodded in agreement. “not even Ori has figured out where he gets it or where he keeps it.” she said.

“is that why I heard people calling him the Beer Genie?” Henry asked who had not been along on the long trek from Tennessee or even through the five years of hell being a recent arrival he didn’t know most of the stories.

Chris sputtered out the drink he had just sipped and began to laugh. “That would be it, the man would throw party to relieve stress after something major or any time he thought it was needed and there would be a cooler of beer waiting. Never a lot but Beer all the same.”

They turned as two guitars began to play a jazz tune. it was still unusual to find a community outside of the Zone that actually held parties. Most were still struggling to survive and didn’t have the food or the time to waste. But for all it might lack in technological progress compared to the Pines or Sullivan, it had enough of all the important things like food and shelter and had a population who were thankful for what they did have. .

They walked over to a crowd of children where a woman sat in the middle of the circle telling them tales, the current one was about Ber Fox and the children seemed to love it.

“six years ago, you wouldn’t have managed to get more than one or two kids to sit and listen to stories” Stephanie commented

“No Tv and no video games, they don’t have any distractions” Chris replied the story reminding him of his own childhood and bringing back painful memories of world dead and forever beyond his reach. He didn’t care about the Liberal cries of racism where stories about Ber rabbit were concerned, he had loved those stories as a kid and had dreamed of having a smart talking animal till he was old enough to realize that one they didn’t exist and that two a smart, talking pet could black mail him for snack treats and make his life a living hell.

“You might not know it, but those stories came to America thanks to the Gullah” Coates said from behind them. Chris turned to face the older man “they were ways to teach not only morals but to speak about the things being done to us at the time with out drawing down the ire of the establishment, so to speak.” Coates added.

Chris didn’t really know how to respond to that, Race issues had always been hard for him to talk about beyond expressing his abject disgust at the idea of slavery.

“I have to say this is probably the best reception I’ve had when visiting some one.” Chris said steering away from any rocky waters. .

Coates smiled in understanding, then nodded his head towards the story teller than towards the musicians and crowds of people, “this is who we are. A good people who refuse to give up, or to live in misery and darkness because things have grown rough. This Party is to celebrate being alive more than it is to greet you.”

“And I am the excuse to party, cant really complain about that.” Chris said glancing at Henry who had wandered over to the flirting woman and was currently deep in conversation with her.

Beyond Henry he saw two Asian couples and a older white couple dancing, while their friends and neighbors laughed and clapped. “This is a sight that’s not seen to often out there” Chris said nodding his head towards the mainland. “the Party that is” He amended realizing that Coates might think he was referring to something other than the real topic his mind had been rolling around. .

“I am not surprised” Coates commented. “Perhaps you would rather enjoy the party than make mental notes” he said with a slight grin.

“That obvious was I,” Chris replied with a matching grin. He was, he decided, coming to like Coates.

“I wouldn’t say obvious, not exactly at any rate.” Coates said then gestured towards the party. “Mingle, get to know my people. I think you might find them exceptional.” Coates said then headed over to talk with a group of men who stood near the Tea bowl.

“I wish Ryan where here” Stephanie said taking Chris’s arm. “He needs something like this.”

“If I had known,” Chris began.

“you would have done the exact same thing, We need to know whats up on the north end, Ryan and Garrett are the only way to do that with out delaying the rest of the mission.” She said softly. “But once we get this done I have a feeling these people will throw another party and that one Ryan can come too. So lets enjoy what we can while we can. Besides it looks like Henry has already started on having a good time”

Chris looked around and realized that Henry had vanished. “Oh that’s just great, I will not hear the end of the jokes and comments about this.” He muttered with a laugh. “now you know whats it like to be me, Bwanna. Oh pooor chris couldn’t even find a woman at a party…”

“Shut up!” Stephanie said with a bright laugh, that was very unlike her. “Lets party.”

By midnight the party, and it was a party was winding down, Because word had gotten around that Chris had traded for a Guitar people had pressured him into actually playing, thankfully he did know how to play or there might have been untreatable ear injuries.

Tired they were shown to the small house that was being loaned to them for their stay, Pastor Wells and Hercules were already there. Wells was making notes in his own Journal, Chris noted and Hercules was sound asleep.

“You left the party Early” Chris said to Wells as he sat down and pulled off his boots, longingly eyeing one of the cots that had been supplied for them.

“Yes, it was a nice party how ever.” Wells said. “I have never been much of a party person, crowds you understand. Not even Church socials like pot lucks. I understand of course they are great for morale and the spirit but Crowds were never something I enjoyed. With that said how ever I do think we in the Pines probably need to do something like this once a month from spring to the end of fall it would help relieve tension and stress”

“And probably result in a Baby Boom” Stephanie said as she toed off her own boots then peeled off her pants and shirt till she stood there in only a sports bra and boy shorts. If it bothered the Pastor it didn’t show on the other mans face. Which was just as well, Chris thought. The majority of people on and around Sullivan no longer really cared about Nudity or being seen in just their underclothes, a consequence of having spent so long living with a lot of people in tight quarter where there was very little to no privacy.

A sudden sound like a buzz saw, that was a purr started under Stephanie’s cot and then the cat emerged, tail twitching happily, ignoring Chris’s glare as it leaped up onto the cot to get a little closer to Stephanie’s hands.

“Possibly, but having more little ones running around would be a blessing as well as worrisome when one stops to think about feeding and taking care of them in this new world of ours” Wells said closing his journal. “and I let your cat in while you were out.” He said a twinkle in his eye as he looked at Chris who lifted a put upon gaze to the heavens before bowing to the inevitable.

Hercules had woken up by then and was listening to the conversation, he propped himself up on an elbow and turned his gaze on Chris. “Do your people have many kids?” he asked.

“Plenty and more every month.” Chris replied a slight smile on his face as he thought about the kids of Sullivan. Which at least kept him from thinking about the cat. “I really couldn’t say how many there are at this point it depends on what town your talking about. But where I live they seem to be underfoot a lot.” he said with a laugh. “though I know there are not as many as you might expect either.” He added a little more seriously.

“Does your leader have any?” Hercules asked.

“One, a boy he dotes on” Chris replied. He said remembering Jared chasing his son down the street as the child loudly protested having to wear pants. “but other places, places we’ve visited don’t have many kids. They are more like the kind of 3rd world nations you saw in movies. Ramshackle buildings made of sheet tin and old pallets, hollow eyed kids that sit in the dirt and dust and stare at the strangers passing through, drinking dirty water from old jars.

Don’t get me wrong those people are doing the best they can, but they had never learned the kind of skills that would have given them a leg up after the apocalypse. I mean realistically outside of some of the religious folks and survivalists who really believed the world as we knew it would end.”

“and those people Chris is talking about are to busy trying to survive to find a way to learn those skills through trial and error or using books.” Stephanie commented. She didn’t add that most of those places were doomed, either to die off eventually or to become absorbed by the first hostile organized group with skills that comes along. There was third option of course, the children of those groups would ‘end up naked savages hunting with pointy sticks and living in caves’ as Jared liked to say. And the zone had encountered at least one group that was well on its way to living just that way if they hadn’t been found and the Zone hadn’t helped them.

“Really the only places that seem to have a lot of kids are the more stable places, and so far we haven’t come across as many of those as we would like. Hilton head as a whole seems to be an exception thank god.” Chris stated.

Hercules gazed levelly at Chris for a long moment. “I want you to understand Mr. McCaffrey, I have kids. Kids that I kept alive when the world was going down the tubes and I will do anything to keep them safe and make sure they grow up to have families of their own.” Secord stated, he wasn’t being defiant or even given a warning though it was both of those things. He was telling Chris bluntly, where his priorities lay.

Chris started to respond, though he wasn’t really sure what to say when the door opened and Henry walked in looking disheveled, happy and upset all at the same time.

“Well if it isn’t the prodigal son” Stephanie said as she stretched out on the cot and pulled a hand woven sheet up to her chin. The Cat leaped up beside her and stretched out besides her rubbing its head against her chest and purring like am out of tune Mac Truck.

Henry moved to the only unclaimed cot and sat down with a sigh of relief. “do you even know what Prodigal means?” He asked Stephanie who grinned at him.

“I take it you met a woman.” Chris said rolling onto his side to look at his friend ignoring the by play between the two.

“Yes and she is a sweet woman too.” Henry said sprawled on the cot still dressed. “really pretty.” He said stifling a yawn.

“so why don’t you seem happy?” Chris asked.

“Oh I was happy, till some old woman they call Nana caught me leaving Tina’s house and started talking about some weird spook that was Riding Me. Kind of put a damper on the whole evening.”

“Weird spook?” Chris asked as a memory stirred in his subconscious.

“a Boo Hag” Pastor Wells offered. Before the dead had risen he had visited with and gotten to know several of the local Gullah in his visits to Hilton head and along the Gullah Corridor over the years. As a result he was familiar with many of their old tales and traditions. Despite his religious take on the matter back then he had found those old stories fascinating.

“Yeah that was it.” Henry said as he fished a small colorful cloth pouch out of his pocket and stared at it. “Gave me this and said to sprinkle some of it around my bed and keep the rest to throw on the boo hag when it shows up.. Also told me to put a couple of brooms around the room”

“Okay what is a Boo hag, and don’t tell me its some ugly woman that pops out of bushes to leap on your back and scream boo.” Chris said hoping to get some kind of answer so he could go to sleep.

“Its like a Vampire ghost, I’ve heard the legend before” Wells said. “its said to creep into homes , that’s why so many window and door frames are painted blue the color is supposed to keep a boo hag from entering, any way it comes in at night and sits on your chest, hence the term rides you, once there it sucks up your energy and steals your breath while using magic to manipulate your dreams and I guess its not just your dreams it manipulate but the person its feeding on.”

“heard that story once on a Tour” Hercules said sleepily. Having woken during the conversation “if you wake up while its there, it can steal your skin to hide in. The only way to kill it is to keep it from making it back to what ever skin it uses to hide in, before the sunrise.” .

“Sounds fun, Good luck Henry” Stephanie said with a laugh as she curled up and closed her eyes one hand slowly stroking the huge cat that lay beside her.

“Nice family tours you used to take” Chris said shaking his head giving the cat a steely eyed look that that cat returned. Evil ass hole, Chris thought watching as the cat worked its way under the sheet with Stephanie. Giving one last twitch of the Tail before that too disappeared, Chris was sure that twitch substituted for a middle finger.

“it was for Halloween, down in Charleston as a matter of fact. And one of the parts that really grossed my wife out, she had a weak stomach back then, was that you could tell when a boo hag was around was because it would get hot and damp, and there would be a smell like Rancid meat and Rotting blood.”

Chris sat there not letting the stunned surprise at hearing the description of that smell, Any one that had been mixed up with the Dark during the years of the War with the Dead had smelled it at least once.

He had personally smelled it more than once over the last six years. It wasn’t the smell of the undead. That was bad enough, but that smell! The signature cologne of the Dark was bad and it only came when the Dark or its servants were taking an active hand in something.

Chris had smelled it six nights ago, for just a second in the room he shared with Henry and had thought it was his imagination. He had prayed he had imagined it at any rate. Please do not let this be what it sounds like, Please let that smell have been my imagination and not the Dark meddling, I am really over the whole supernatural thing, he prayed silently.

“That would be Stephanie after eating a can of pork and Beans,” Henry said with a tired smile, though the amusement never really touched his eyes.

A hand emerged from under the sheet that covered Stephanie. it closed into a fist and a long delicate middle finger rose in salute then slid back below the sheet like a ship sinking in the ocean.

“Such a lady” Henry said, yawning again then was asleep a moment later, still clutching the pouch that Nana Higgins had given him.

0700 hrs, the Pines Enclave.

Ben paced in front of the door to the small room just off the Meeting room where Lourdes had been taken yesterday after the shooting, waiting to hear how the surgery that Gerald had started at 0400hrs had gone. The fact that no bad news had come out so far was a good sign in his book, but it did nothing to keep the mounting apprehension and fear at bay.

Adding in the complication of how McCaffrey was going to react if something happened to Lourdes didn’t make things any easier.

Like Tucker, Ben knew Lourdes very well, not as well as Tucker of course. But till McCaffrey he had never seen her dive into even a casual relationship aside from the deep friendship and occasional sex with Tucker. And if there had been any doubt about how she felt about Chris McCaffrey all he had to do was mention McCaffrey around her and her face would light up despite her best effort to appear emotionally distant.

And from the comments and looks he had gotten from McCaffrey when Lourdes had been mentioned he was pretty damn sure that McCaffrey had strong feelings for her as well. it might be a flash in the pan for both of them, but Ben suspected it was much more than that. just give her a chance to find out, he prayed resuming his pacing.

0730hrs Hilton head Airport.

The rain had stopped late last night as the last of the clouds had been forced from the area. Sunlight spilled down over the plane ramp sparkling on the puddles of standing water left by the storm. it was hard to tell just how much acreage the Airport took up but Ryan guessed it was well over a hundred acres.

Ryan and Garrett had entered through a gap in the sagging chain link fence and moved slowly down a taxiway, passing several the wreckage of several planes that had run off the runways or taxi ways years back, spilling luggage and parts of fuselage in a large area.

At least five C 131 transports sat on the parking Apron that fronted one section of Hangars, their ramps down and years of neglect evident from the dirty windscreens and debris littered ramps that they could see as they approached. It was the C17 globe master that sat beside them, that appeared to be still sealed that really drew their attention. That and the half dozen burned out military vehicles and a score or more of IFV’s parked in front of two hangars, whose doors gaped open revealing only dark interiors.

There were dozens of small privately owned planes scattered across the apron and even beside the taxi ways as well, unable to escape to the air in time they had been abandoned long ago when the dead had swept through.

He looked back at the distant cinder block building beyond the runway, that controlled some of the runway lights, where Jimmy Dooly waited. The old man had insisted on coming along, and despite his problems had kept up fairly well.

“What do you think?” Garret asked crouching and bringing his weapon up to high ready.

“I think the place has been stripped bare,” Ryan replied as he crouched beside Garret, a bone snapping under his boot causing him to grimace. They both gazed at the distant terminal and the planes that still sat hooked to the four Jet way gates, for ever waiting for passengers and crews who were long dead.

“its still a big place there might be something worth while inside.” Garret pointed out.

“True and it could hold more of Jimmy’s crazies too,” Ryan pointed out, they hadn’t seen any more since rescuing Jimmy but they hadn’t seen any thieves or raiders in a few days and he doubted those had just up and died off. Nice as that would be.

“The point of this recon is to check the runways and the military transports and only one looks like it might still be loaded.” Ryan said as he glanced past the fire station to the other grouping of hangers beyond then lifted his binoculars to get a better look. At least two that he could see clearly had wrecked planes in front of them and fire scorched walls, and no sign of people. it looked like those places had probably raced out of the hangers trying to escape only to run into each other. Probably one wreck had led to the planes behind them piling up. not that he would ever really know the whys and hows of the matter.

Garrett’s suggestion was worthwhile and though not part of their current orders, locating supplies was what Pathfinders were supposed to do in addition to everything else and if they were lucky they might find some stuff that would make this whole damn trip to the island worth while.

“How much you want to bet that the Guard set up a CP in one of the hangars” he said thoughtfully shifting his binoculars back to the closer cluster of hangers. “its probably stripped too,. But its worth looking who knows maybe the scavengers only hit the planes and not the hangers.”

he thought about that for a moment, everything that Chris had learned about the early days of the crisis here on the island had said that the guard had been trying to evacuate people, using boats and planes, so at least one of those hangers behind the Armor, probably more had been used to hold the evacuees while they waited for flights to where ever the Government had been sending them.

So a CP nearby made sense, it would have made dealing with any issues that came up quick and easy. But he also knew from long conversations with people like Ben Cross and Eric Stone that a lot of officers would chose some place more cushy than a mere hanger. Say something like the Terminal that already had offices their staff could use, lounges to sleep in and areas to store supplies that would place the Guards supplies safely away from any possible rioting evacuees.

It was a toss up really, the odds were against there being much of any thing left here, But the sealed up Globe Master argued that maybe there were supplies still safely stored some where under lock and key. Which really made him wonder why no one over the last four years had tried to force their way into the plane, it could be empty or it could be stuffed full of medicines and food. He wouldn’t really know till he got close and could take a good long look at it.

“So why not force open that honking big plane?” Garret asked echoing Ryans own thoughts as he looked at the Globe master.

”Maybe they didn’t have the right tools, maybe they got scared off. Maybe they figured it was empty. How in the hell should I know.” Ryan said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “What ever the reason is it doesn’t matter, lets check out that plane and then the hangers those armored vehicles are parked around. If we find anything interesting, there we might give the terminal a shot. But any sign of Jimmy’s crazies, and we scoot got me”

“Loud and clear 40 Mike,” Garret said seriously using the nickname Ryan had earned after his very first gun battle against a group of raiders who had attacker their camp.

“Then lets be about it” Ryan said using Eric Stones favorite phrase.

0800hrs Broad Creek Township

Franklin Coates sat under the trees, in front of his home at one of the trestle tables made by his second cousin, leafing through the Binder that Chris McCaffrey had given him.
While the rest of the Townships leadership sat eating their breakfasts.

To say he felt a bit of surprise that McCaffrey would not only hand something like this over to him was an understatement. Especially when you considered that they had included plans for something called a gasifier McCaffrey had explaining that it could run vehicles and generators as well as other types of equipment that they might need.

The real question was what did he, or his Zone hope to accomplish by giving them this knowledge. Granted much of the herbal knowledge, was already known to the herbalists of the Gullah. But rest was incredibly valuable to the Township.

He turned another page, eyes sweeping the neat rows of font. And exactly where did they get a copy printed by a computer, he asked himself. McCaffrey had commented that they had found a copy of the book in a library. So how did he end up with a binder full of three hole punched printer paper. The answer of course was as obvious as it was surprising, the zone had at least one working computer set up. which led of course to how was the power supplied, solar, generators and generators meant fuel.

So why would a group with power and presumably other high tech devices, be sending people out into the ruined world to make contact with other survivors, the choices were pretty much to rebuild society or to conqueror and frankly he didn’t really believe the conqueror idea. It made no sense at least not here and now, from what he had learned from Keith Wells last night, Harbor town was already dealing with this Zone which went a long ways supporting the Rebuild scenerio. The Pines was currently discussing the idea and now it was the Townships turn. It really didn’t sound like McCaffrey was scouting for an invasion force.

He closed the binder and thought about its contents as he ate his grits, it might sound like a stereotype to people outside the south, but Grits had been a staple of breakfast in the south for whites and African Americans for a long time. He liked his thick enough to stand a spoon up in and slab of butter melting on the top. How ever butter made from goat milk wasn’t his favorite, but it was better than no butter at all.

He chewed perfunctorily, eating grits didn’t require much jaw work then swallowed before turning his gaze to Ellen Walton, one of the Herbal Traditionalist of the Gullah whose knowledge had saved quite a few lives since the world had collapsed around them.

“What do you think about this?” he asked her.

“Aside from the fact it was written to help the confederate states,” She said with a rueful smile. “I cant quibble with a single thing I found in there, and if the instructions this zone of McCaffrey’s added for making penicillin and Saline solution are accurate, I think we can save a lot of lives over time.” She said eyeing the pancakes on her ceramic plate, which were made from cattail mill and only edible in her opinion because of the sugarcane syrup she drowned them in. but the Bacon, oh god the Bacon was pure heaven.

“Let me understand this” Carter Teague said from his place at the table, pushing fifty he could easily pass for mid 30’s. “Trade with this zone is not tied to attending this summit that Waylon Tucker is asking for.”

“Not in the least”

“Then why go to the summit, who cares what the others want.” Teague said he was one of the ones that was perfectly happy staying out of sight and away from any one else on the island.

“Its simple Really” Franklin said. “if we don’t go and the others decided to unite, we have no say in anything they do. and if they decide on who different areas belong to, and what can be done inside those areas we wont know about it or be able to argue our interests and if we attend and agree with what ever provisions they come up it allows us a way to keep tensions down and lessen chances that one group or another wont just decide to take what we have here.”

Teague grunted, not really accepting Franklin’s points, but that was no surprise he was an isolationist to the core. “I still don’t think we should have shown them where we are either”

“You do realize Carter that we have a little over two thousand people in here, which is a little hard to hide. The only reason no one has found us yet, is they have respected our wishes and not wandered around the area we claim and found us. The Pines and Astoria only sends messengers to the pre-approved spot.” That spot had been set up long ago to make sure the rare messages were delivered on neutral ground to keep tensions down, not to try and hide the Enclave. Coates thought, “sooner or later, some one will walk down that road and see the wall. its hard to miss.”

Teague shook his head his eyes shining angrily as he drew a breath ready to tell Coates exactly what he thought. .

“I have to ask what benefit is joining this unified island thing. aside from what you just mentioned.” Daemon Smithfield asked breaking in before Teague could launch into one of his patent vitriol spewing speeches. .

“Protected trade between our enclaves, a defense force drawn from all our groups to keep raiders away and to patrol the roads between the Enclaves as well as the adoption of the constitution of the United States and the bill of rights.” Franklin said. “There are other items too of course

“Had the constitution before cant say to many people paid much attention to it unless it suited their purposes.” Teague muttered.

“we are not going to drag up the old days, and all the old wrongs. From this point on we have the chance to actually control our futures if we act. Or we can sit here hiding from the others till its to late and what ever influence we might have had is only a dream.” Franklin said sharply. “I see no reason to waste days debating on what has to be the fairest political offer I’ve ever heard about.”

“Which is what makes me suspicious, no one in this cluster fuck of a world is that kind or altruistic” Teague growled.

“Language Carter, I understand your suspicions but we have to set an example at all times.” Ellen said, she was by far the most offended by blue language. The worst swear word she had been heard to utter was ‘Fudge on the occasion of breaking her toe after ramming it accidentally into a doorframe.

“Then its settled, we will talk with Pastor Wells about trade between both our groups and We will attend this summit with a list of things we want and things we will not allow.” Franklin said looking at the other five council members who had so far remained silent. Each nodded in agreement with him.

“I would like to have time to debate over this trade idea with the Free zone.” Ellen said changing the topic. “if McCaffrey is telling the truth and I rather believe he is, we can only benefit from it. But I would like to wait till their representative shows up at the summit to discuss things with all of us face to face. Besides, even if we rushed to a decision today, we wouldn’t see anything from this zone for weeks anyway. So waiting two weeks to make a decision just before the summit isn’t going to really impact us.”

“I think that once we debate it, we hold a township meeting to discuss the issues, and lay out the thoughts behind what ever decision we reach. Before we attend the Summit” Franklin added. ”Assuming the Summit actually takes place in two weeks, If I understood McCaffrey correctly only Harbor Town and the Pines have agreed, He still has to get to the Astoria Enclave and then Bakers Enclave and get them to agree and that could take two weeks of dickering.

Though I suspect that Gideon Snow will be thrilled enough that the Pines is pushing his original Idea that he might only drag his feet for a couple of days so as not to look to eager.” Franklin said, he had only met with Gideon Snow a couple of times two years ago, and though he didn’t dislike the man. He couldn’t say he was fond of Snow either. Snow was or had been one of the typical wealthy. Not inherently bad, but he only saw those around him through the filter of his own world and that made him less understanding of the harsh realities that some people who didn’t live in his world went through, of course the end of the world might have adapted his world view so to speak.

Regardless Franklin was sure that Gideon Snow had plans to restart the rat race and recoup his wealth if at all possible. Well some one has to get an economy started, he thought dryly hopefully we can stop him from bleeding us all dry. .

Baker was the wild card, if any one was going to draw out talks about attending the Summit it would be Baker. Franklin had met him during the Fight to remove the raiders from Hilton head, and that man had delayed and dragged his feet for as long as possible trying to get every concession he could while trying to get his every demand met he would .

What little bit Broad Creek Enclave had heard from people passing through after leaving Bakers Enclave, had sounded bad, but they were disgruntled and that always called into question anything people like that had to say. Franklin was no saint and would readily admit that, but he tried to live his life by not judging others and particularly not judging others based on stories told by people with an axe to grind.

And yes Baker had seemed a mite extremist in his beliefs, stubborn and proud, despite those same beliefs. But he had not shown any sign of being the intolerant witch burning religious nut that some people had claimed. Just a dour man who wasn’t going to trust any promise made at any summit with out getting most of what he wanted for his enclave out of it.

“Baker would drag out taking a piss if he though he could get a dollar out of it.” Teague said. There were chuckles around the table at that, even limited dealing with Baker gave every one the same impression.

“I agree with Ellen and second that idea” Franklin said. The others one by one agreed. Breakfast meetings were by far the best way to handle business, he thought as he turned to his pancakes, blueberry pancakes at that.

“Oh just to let you know, I heard from Tina Detry this morning on the way over here, Nana had a few words with Henry Franklin, McCaffrey‘s friend last night. Apparently Nana is under the impression that he is being attacked by a Boo hag” Ellen said shaking her head. “you might want to make sure McCaffrey and his friends know we are not superstitious rubes.”

Franklin nodded in agreement, as he took a bite of his pancakes and chewed slowly savoring the taste. Swallowing he picked up his glass and took a sip of goats milk before answering. “I think your right,” he said. He might believe in some aspects of the supernatural after the events of six years ago most did, but skin less spirits who rode their victims while sucking their breath out and stealing skins to live in wasn’t high on his belief list.

“I hate that Nana might have come off sounding insane” Ellen added. “she is eccentric, but not insane.”

“I’ve seen McCaffrey knock on wood, I rather doubt he will be casting stones about superstitions and myths.” Franklin commented. “now let me get back to my pancakes before they get cold and soggy.”

“How can you like those?” Ellen asked shaking her head in thinly disguised disgust that might or might not be feigned, ending the serious conversation portion of breakfast.

“How can you not” He replied between bites. “if you don’t want yours, slide them onto my plate.” He grinned hugely motioning with his fork.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey

Let me say, I have no idea exactly how the Broad Creek Township is run, occasionally they call it an Enclave too. Franklin Coates is the leader and seems to make the majority of the day to day decisions. A few comments last night at the party, seemed to suggest that there is some sort of unofficial and unelected group that Franklin works with on the big issues like the summit and trade with the zone.

I don’t know who is a part of this council for lack of a better word, but I am pretty sure I met them all last night, in casual conversation. They were probably trying to get a idea of what I am like before they discuss the proposal.

Coates did ask me last night, why I am speaking for the Pines, when I claim to represent another group not on Hilton head. I told him the truth, then made up the rest. I informed him that I was asked as a Neutral party to open talks, and that, Pastor Wells would be officially speaking for the Pines while I acted as a negotiator between the two parties. I don’t think that Wells was happy about that when I told him this morning but it is his enclave not mine. He took it gracefully at any rate and it lets me off the hook and back to the semi silent background I really like being in.

So this morning, I got up and outside at sunrise and watched six small fishing boats head out onto Broad Creek, and saw a group of kids herding goats talk about surreal People carrying tools and hand woven baskets headed east presumably towards their crops on the others ide of the Township.

I wonder where they got the goats and chickens, did they catch them once the dead were gone or did some of them already have them before the dead and took them into their original enclave, like that Mennonite guy that was part of Mikes group when we met them. I still wonder why Mikhail didn’t try to destroy that mans trailer with its load of chickens and other farm animals, that would have killed morale.

Anyway, before I could even pull out some of our supplies and get our usual meager breakfast started, Tina the girl Henry hooked up with last night and two other women showed up with fresh eggs, a slab of salted bacon, and something that looked like pancakes with blue berries. They didn’t taste bad, once covered in syrup and the Grits, damn I have not had Grits since the dead rose.. Damn them for ruining breakfast. And if those weren’t real grits I would be surprised.

Here is the kicker; they didn’t even offer to trade for the supplies they brought us. hell I would have given Stephanie to them for the fresh eggs and bacon. Apparently, our first breakfast is on the house, probably to get us hooked so they can take everything we have now that we are addicted. Evil but a good plan.

So hands down my little group voted this the best breakfast in six years, Stephanie is hoping to trade for the ingredients to make omelets for tomorrow. Like her I wouldn’t mind having to stay here a few more days, I like the place and its people, not to mention its food. I think its impressed Pastor Wells and Secord, which is good since they are neighbors with the Township.

Something to think about, Unlike Sullivan and pretty much anywhere else I can think of, no matter how rural, 3rd world or what ever other stupid description some people might want to label this place, its far from it. The bulk of them live in homes they have built, they eat better than we do, and they have industry that in some ways is better than our own. The bulk of our people are still living in Modern, poorly insulated and in some cases poorly built, homes, we have only just started building a few new places, preferring to use existing structures instead.

Our industry is dependent; for the most part on technology that we cant make more of. In addition, our food supply though good is not nearly as diversified as the Townships. As excited as I am about what the Pines AKA Tucker can bring us, there is even more on a different level that the Township can bring us. Assuming of course they ultimately decide to work with us and hopefully even join the Zone.

I think I might bring some grits back to the Zone, I suspect that I can become a very wealthy man selling to the right people, except Jared whose southernness is questionable since he has stated he hates grits. I bet he likes Eggs Benedict talk about betrayal

Now on to Henry and the Boo hag, it makes me uneasy. Elements of that myth strike to close to things I know happened in the past. While Tina was here, mooning over Henry this morning, I got a little more information. It seems that one of the traditional Gullah myth, or traditional beliefs, what ever, is that Humans have both a soul and a spirit.

When a person dies, the soul goes either to heaven or hell depending on their life, that part is pretty standard for most religions. But the spirit if it is good hangs around protecting its family and home, kind of like some of the asian beliefs on the subject. But if the person was bad or evil it can become all sorts of unclean things like a Boo hag. It really makes me think of what Jared says about Bowler hat, what he or it was.

And of course there is always the more likely possibility that a dream is just a dream and all of this is imagination and coincidence. Yeah right, but I have to keep an open mind.

I think if Lourdes were here, She would laugh and tell me I am being a fool.


11 thoughts on “A clockwork boy part 4

  1. Awesome work as always sir.

    Boo Hag… Boo Hat… Bowler Hat… Creeeepy! It conjured an image in my head of him leaning over a sleeping person with a marionette, the strings attached to the person’s dreams yanking them this way and that. chills…

    I hereby name the cat Buzzsaw. Enjoyed the tail flick middle finger. My cat does that shit all the time. She’ll dole out the stink eye then flick flick and walk off like she’s queen of the world.


    • LOL there were some pretty funny scenes in Eric the Viking.

      GRANDFATHER”Who have you been talking to?”

      ERIK “I met this girl…”

      GRANDFATHER “It’s always the women that start the trouble.”

      ERIK “She got me thinking…”

      GRANDFATHER “So? What’d you do to her?”

      ERIK ” I… KILLED her…”

      GRANDFATHER “Thats My Boy!”

      that scene gets me to laughing every tiime. MIcky Roony was a hoot in that.


  2. Eggcellent post! Not a boo to be seen…..except one in particular 😛 As for Buzzsaw, yeah, I have an ornery Tortishell that sounds like a coffee grinder when she’s happy…..Now on to ch 5 (yeah, I’m catching up 😛 )


  3. I am completely enthralled with these stories. It is amazing how little threads in the “Dark Tide” trilogy (I don’t know what else to call it or what you call it) are pulled into these stories. Please don’t ever stop writing. My fear is that you will get bored with the world you have created.


    • Thanks for reading Harold. Glad your enjoying them. I have so many threads and story lines floating around in the old noggin its not even funny.

      As far as my not stopping, well I hope not too, but Life has a funny way of getting in the way. I do need to at some point take a real vacation from this. Spend some time doing something that involves canoeing and camping. Thanks again for reading and I am glad your enjoying it. Have a good new year Harold.


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