“We were only gone a week!” JP protested, not believing her eyes.
The shoots had already grown several feet high.
“Why in the world would you want to grow bamboo?” Cierra asked.
Eva sighed. “Because you hate chopping down trees. Bamboo grows fast and is strong. Plus you can use it for lots of things. Some people look down on bamboo, like it’s poor man’s trailer trash, but its great stuff. I know a guy in Hawaii that makes prefab cottages out of bamboo. I wish I had pictures,” Eva grumbled.
Cierra glanced at JP. “We still gotta find the cubs a home. Wanna make a trip and visit Kelly and Laura?”
Laura was on the phone chatting with the nearest natural habitat zoo in California while Kelly sat at her desk with Cierra and JP.
Kelly had her search engine busy looking for the uses of bamboo and housing.
Kelly opened a website and gasped. “I want one!” she squealed.
“What?” The two women stood and looked over the ambassador’s shoulder. On the screen were photos of homes built with bamboo. JP had to admit they were beautiful but doubted they could build so many individual houses. They still needed large communal homes in order to have flow toilets.
“Pretty, but I’m not certain they’re practical,” JP commented.
Kelly asked what they were looking for then nodded. She dialed the number to the Construction Company and asked for Bill.
“Hey, Bill, Cierra is here and the council have some questions…”
Several hours later the couple returned to Mother Earth. Bill had promised to return in three days with more information and if possible, an expert in building with bamboo. He knew if they made any changes to the plans it had to be within the next nine days when they were due to begin the projects.
As for the cubs, the zoo had already sent a special transport van to the Embassy and collected the pair of grizzly cubs. Laura had made a deal with the zoo, accepting a donation of funds and the promise of providing veterinarian supplies in the future once they had a vet migrate to Mother Earth. She leaned back, pleased with the deal. She chuckled because Kelly had begun calling her ‘Radar’ after her favorite television character. Laura had to admit she was getting quite good at wheeling and dealing.
“What is that naughty chuckle about?” Kelly asked her partner.
“Oh nothing but my wicked sense of humor. The director of the zoo almost came right there on the phone when I told her we had a pair of California grizzly cubs we needed to find a home for.”
“I bet. They’d have the only existing bears here on the Old World.”
“She was ready to give me her first born for the chance to be the zoo that got them. I got us quite a sweet deal. I think the colony’s bank account should be in the eight figures now.”
“I’m glad she’s giving a lot of it away because it’s more than we will ever need for ourselves.”
“The people who lost their homes down south will get some help at least. We already arranged to send five million to them.” Laura sighed. There were just so many needy organizations in the world.
“I remember last year when we didn’t have a few hundred dollars left, now look at us."
“Fates are fickle. I refuse to plan on anything. We just work with what we have in the here and now.”
Kelly nodded. So many things could happen. Anything from Cierra dying to California having the ‘big one’ and dropping into the ocean. All any of them could do was hope for the best but plan for the worst.
She leaned over and nuzzled Laura’s ear. “Well, I have a plan. It includes you, me, and a bottle of wine while we watch the sunset.”
“Now that is a plan I can live with.”
The council members sat at the large conference table while Bill and his guest architect passed around blueprints and photos. Both men had dark circles under their eyes and Cierra didn’t need her psychic abilities to know they had little sleep in the last three days.
She looked at the newest designs for the quad homes and was pleased that the actual dimensions remained the same but the materials were the only difference.
“By using a bamboo framework rather than wood we can avoid the destruction of the local area trees. Also, with this plan you will only have to gather one third the amount of bark we had originally planned on.” Bill informed them.
Jenny brought up a point. “The construction is supposed to begin in six days. Can you get your hands on that much bamboo before then?”
“We already have. It’s being flown in as we speak. We found a company in Thailand to supply us with both dried cane and fresh. The fresh we use for anything that needs to be bent, such as roof trestles.”
Paul ran a finger along the blueprint. “And the roof, it’s not thatched in this plan.”
“Nope. The bark will be on the roof rather than the walls. We’ll use bamboo outside and cob the inside walls to keep out the drafts. It should only take about a week longer for each building but now the building ought to last three times longer than before.”
The women stirred at that bit of news.
The man with Bill cleared his throat. “Also, one of the Hawaiian companies donated two prefab cottages made of bamboo. They’re hoping they will be considered in the future as sub-contractors for Bill’s company.”
JP was about to say they didn’t need the cottages when Judy spoke up. “Great! We could always use a couple of honeymoon cottages or at least places where the couples can get away for some privacy.”
Paul chuckled and teased Judy. “You mean that you ladies are not always capable of keeping it down and would like a place to ‘let loose’.”
The women laughed. Cierra accepted the cottages and asked Judy to supervise where they would be placed. She reminded everyone that it would have to be away from the river so an outhouse and water pump needed to be dug.
“Better set up a schedule for the things too. The women will be clamoring for a chance to use them.”
Cierra shrugged. “Fine. Judy, it was your idea so you get the honors.”
The woman groaned but didn’t protest. They all agreed to meet in five days to begin transporting supplies and workers.
Joseph Proctor greeted some of his buddies from the construction crew.
“Hey, Proctor! How’s it going? How’s Ann doing?” one of the men asked.
“She’s good and so are the twins. Let me tell ya, I’ll be glad to see those buildings go up. The little houses are great for couples but get mighty cramped with two kids.”
“I bet. When’s the wedding?”
“The day before they say we can start moving in,” Joseph said with a twinkle in his eye. He had wanted his mother to attend but she had to wait until school ended in late spring. She was a teacher at a Catholic school in Florida. They had exchanged letters through the embassy and she was now accepting the fact that he would be helping raise two children not his own. The hard part was that she was old-fashioned and disapproved of Ann having the children out of wedlock.
The men laughed. “We’ll try and not have any delays then.”
More men poured out from the embassy. Some were there the year before but many were new to the company.
“That was so freaky,” one said.
“Yeah. I’m glad we don’t have to go through that security check every day.”
“They have to be careful.”
“I know that but I was beginning to doubt who I was when they asked so many questions then asked my friends and family about me.”
“One of the men shrugged. “At least we know who ever is here is safe and not some psycho with a bomb.”
“I dunno,” one of the men snickered. “My underwear might be loaded for bear.”
“I know who’s gonna be sleeping outside tonight,” his assigned tent mate commented dryly.
“Yeah, you, when I eat a bowl of beans tonight.”
Five days later, the crews and materials finished transporting later that afternoon. Cierra was exhausted and was grateful to return to the colony. She and JP ate and retired to their cabin well after sunset.
They opened the door and blinked. They had forgotten about the mushroom lamp and the room was lit with an eerie green glow.
JP whistled and walked into the small building. “It’s brighter than I thought it would be.”
Cierra agreed and placed Kiona in her bassinet. She lit one candle for extra lighting. “I need some sleep. You want first crack at the plumbing?”
“No, you go ahead. I’ll brush my teeth and get ready.”
Cierra took the candle and disappeared into the water closet.
“I feel like I’m in an alien ship,” JP muttered to herself.
The first of the quad homes had just been finished on the women’s side of the stream. Lots were drawn and the female pairings chosen were Robbie and Tracy, Pam and Eva, Brenda (the carpenter) and her partner Lisa (the saddle maker), and the newest couple, Mary Webb and Sara. Even though Mary was a short colonel in the Army there were no doubts that she would remain on Mother Earth when she retired. She had no plans on leaving Sara behind and planned on putting in her retirement papers in a few months.
The second home would be done soon and the planned occupants were Becky and Tina from Pennsylvania, Jonesy and her partner Whitney, Muriel and Roberta, and finally, Petra and Ellen, the later was Jonesy’s hunting partner.
The quad occupants had been hashed out earlier that year so the women would all be on friendly terms with a mixture of childless couples and with those with at least one child. By spreading out the children it made it easier for the parents to have help when they needed it and single women to get more experience with children. The second would have the fewest children but Buddy the parrot made up for it. With a life span of seventy plus years and the temperament of a two-year old, he gave everyone a hard time when he felt like it.
Cierra was going over the final stack of applications. She was attempting to not only choose women who were suited to such a life but also had skills they needed.
From her short list were two dentists, three carpenters, a chemist, two veterinarians, a person who made eyeglasses, a person who carved musical instruments, a nurse, an expert in acupuncture, a cabinet maker, a machinist, a seamstress, a metal caster, and finally, a wagon maker/restorer from New Mexico.
The village had room to bring in eleven women so she had to eliminate six people from the final list. Cierra already decided that she could only keep one from each occupation but that left 2 occupations she had to do without but which ones? The shaman sighed. As much as she wanted to keep the guitar maker she needed someone to make furniture and cabinets more. That left one more to omit. She glanced at the list again and finally gritted her teeth and crossed off acupuncturist. Now she only had to choose the best of the remaining occupations.
She ran her hand over each name, trying to get some impression about each outstanding applicant. “Kelly, I can’t decide on those who have duplicate skills. Can you see if any of them are willing to get here tomorrow to meet with me?”
“We already have one here. She’s at our hotel. Her name is…” Kelly picked up a piece of paper from her desktop and said the name slowly, “Yevgeniya Milaszewiska.”
Cierra blinked several times.
“She’s Russian, a veterinarian from near Vladivostok. She grew up on a farm and later specialized in horses.”
“Boy, wouldn’t that piss off a few people if we brought in a Russian?” JP asked.
“Yeah, it would. But I really don’t care. Give her a ring. If I like her we’ll let her join us and then I only have three more to cross off the list.”
Kelly grinned and dialed the hotel’s number and asked for the woman’s room. She had barely told the woman that Cierra would like to see her that the phone connection ended.
“I think she’s on her way.”
“She hung up on me without another word. As eager as she was to join the colony I think she’ll beat the taxi driver to death to get here fast.”
“I can already tell she’ll be a handful,” JP commented.
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