The long house was nearly finished. It was slightly wider and longer than the other was. Each unit had a wooden wall separating it from the others. The walls between the units were filled with cob, providing a heavier wall than just the woven curtains that the barracks used. The outer walls were filled the same, with grass and woven strips of bark to block drafts. Families would have doorways made of blankets since they needed a way to allow the fireplaces to provide heat during the winter.
The four small brick fireplaces were built near the wall where the flow toilets and pipes were. Eva hoped they were close enough to prevent the water from freezing without overheating the outer walls. There was a 'hallway' along that side of the building about eight feet wide. Each family unit was only about twelve by twelve feet.
The glass blower had made small panes of greenish glass for windows that were set into cob. In the summer time there were sections of wall that could be propped up to let in fresh air. Maggie had made screens of melted metal that she had drizzled over a shallow pan of fine sand. The screens wouldn't keep out many bugs but it would at least prevent birds and small animals, such as squirrels, from entering the building.
Beds were built against the outer wall. The parent shared a bed the size of a double bed and two bunk beds made for children. A wall separated them to give the parents some privacy. The children had to crawl into their beds from the foot of bed. Their beds were only four feet wide since the wall between parents and the children was about two feet thick. It was consisted mostly of cubbyholes for personal belongings and clothing. Pegs had been driven into the cob for hanging outer garments and weapons.
At the end of the long house was a concrete tub that held four people at a time. The cement had been made with silica rich sand to make it waterproof and made as smooth as possible. The rough spots had been filed down with stones. A boiler provided hot water for the tub, the tubs used for washing clothes, and two primitive showers. The showers had to be filled with buckets and a cord had to be pulled to release the water. The bather had to lather up then pull the cord to rinse off.
The water drained into the flow toilet pipes and to the river. The boiler got its water from a second set of fired clay pipes that ran along the outer wall. Those pipes only had a small amount of water flowing through them but it was enough to keep the boiler full. Any excess water drained into the flow pipe drains.
Satisfied that they did all they could before the families arrived, Cierra and her bodyguards left the village and headed for the jump point to meet Jim. From there, their friend would drive them to one of his friend's warehouse where the waiting families could gather until they arrived.
There, Cierra would use her abilities to read the families before taking them to Mother Earth. They made the jump to the alley. Once there, they looked for Jim's van. They spotted it but also saw something else. Soldiers in combat gear surrounded their bearded friend, who looked stunned.
"Jump back, now, Cierra!" JP shouted.
"Wait! Please!" an uniformed officer called out, raising his hand. Cierra paused while the other women drew their guns. The man walked forward while his troops remained where they were. They didn't react to the women acting defensively, standing passively while their commander approached the group of wary colonists.
"May I speak with you Ms. White? I'm Major Winthrop. I know your experience with the military has been far from pleasant, but let me assure you that me and my men mean you no harm. We got wind of your plans today and wanted to make sure nothing happened."
"What do you mean by that?" JP hissed in anger, not about the trust anyone in uniform.
"Just what it sounded like. I am sure all of you are aware of the lure of your ability to travel between worlds. We're resigned to the fact that you had rather see us in hell before you'd allow us there. But you must understand that we can't allow anyone else to get hold of you either. All we need is one fanatical terrorist to get hold of you and we're all in danger. So do us all a favor and allow us to escort you to where ever you're going. We won't interfere or attempt to take you into custody, you have my word."
"Bullshit, there's no way--" JP stopped speaking when her mate placed her hand on her arm.
"It's okay, love. Let me determine what he is up to," she whispered. She turned to the Major. "Give me your car keys or something you carry with you a lot," she requested.
The man looked perplexed but did as she asked. He took off his wedding ring and handed it to the Shaman. She closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment then handed it back to him. "Thank you." She looked at her companions. "He's telling the truth. His orders were to escort us and not to interfere with us in any way."
"So you trust him?" Robbie asked.
"For the moment. Let's just get this over with." She turned to the Major. "I assume you'll allow our friend to drive us and you'll follow?"
The man nodded. "And some of my men will drive ahead of you if you'll tell us where you're going." Cierra told Jim to give the troops the directions then they all got into their vehicles.
"I still don't like this one little bit," Carey mentioned.
"I know, but I can understand his concerns. If our military was able to find out about this then anyone could. It doesn't hurt to have a few more people handy if there's trouble," Cierra reminded everyone. The rest of the short drive was in silence, each woman worrying about what could happen.
Jim pulled up to an older building used as storage. He got out of the van and drew a set of keys from his pocket in case the occupants locked the door. "Let me check it out first then you can come in." Several soldiers joined Jim as he pushed open the unlocked door and peeked inside. Satisfied, he waved the others inside.
Cierra entered the building and saw only three families. The fourth must have changed their minds and didn't come. She lowered her guard on her abilities and stuck out her hand, shaking hands with each adult. Satisfied, she asked if they were ready.
Each family, as instructed in the letter, had their belongings packed into rolling bins. The colonists rolled them together so Cierra could get a grip on all three at the same time. She would take as many people as she could then return for the rest. She had as many people who could place their hands on her bare skin and jumped.
The newcomers staggered slightly at the sensation. Cierra stepped away and told them to wait exactly where they were and not to move. She jumped back to the warehouse. Cierra moved several yards away from where she arrived and gave Jim a hug and thank you before gathering the rest to her. Once they returned to Mother Earth she allowed herself to relax.
The three families also allowed themselves to show their excitement. They asked if they had to push the carts to the colony. Cierra laughed.
"No, we just wanted make it easier to transport. Besides, we could always recycle the carts later. We have wagons ready to move all this, we just need to signal them."
Robbie pulled out a flare gun and shot it into the air, letting the waiting women know which way to head. It took them nearly thirty minutes to arrive. The carts were rolled up boards into the wagons. Everyone climbed up onto the wagons or behind riders and they headed back to the colony.
The families were greeted people of the village as they rode in. The adult newcomers were impressed on how large the village already was. Cierra got off her horse while others escorted the new families to the long house. It was now the time to take Carl and his family back. She waited patiently as Sharon hugged each family member and they said their good-byes. The Hollingsworth family climbed into the old bronco and Carl fired it up, making sure it would start. Cierra took hold of the door handle and jumped.
Carl sighed. "Thanks for everything Cierra. We'll remember our stay there for the rest of our lives." The four people waved good-bye and Cierra returned to Mother Earth. She walked over to the new long house to see how things were going.
The Cooper-Jackson family took the unit closest to the guest quarters. Shane and his partner Paul were from New York. Shane's parents had emigrated from Wales. His daughters were named Angelica and Sabrina, ages six and nine.
Rachella and Larry Stanford, was an African American family from Georgia. They had a boy and a girl, twins, named Lori and Larry Jr., both nine years of age.
The third family was Duane and Min McGaven. Duane had met Min in South Korea when he had been stationed there. They also had a boy and girl under ten years of age, named David and Lisa.
Cierra had chosen families with children under ten years of age so they would adjust easier. Teens had a harder time of it.
The families began unpacking their belongings, allowing themselves to settle a little in before lunchtime. On the list given to each family, the council had suggested bringing sturdy cotton clothing, work boots and sneakers, coats and jackets, hats and work gloves, and undergarments.
The families were also to bring bedding, candles and candlesticks, towels and wash rags, magnesium fire starters and paper for lighting fires. They also suggested pens and journals, books, extra eyeglasses if they wore them, drapes for dividing living space, hobby supplies if they had a crafty skill, sewing kits, cotton ropes, twine, and bows and arrows. They would also want for their own use decent buck knives and personal items such as nail clippers, tweezers, and nail files.
Each family was to bring for the Community's use a twenty-five pound bag of cement mix and fifty pounds of dried food such as rice or grain. If they could afford it they suggested bringing cast iron cookware. At least cast iron kettles to heat water for tea if that was all they could bring.
The families were warned that special items like herbs and sauces weren't available once they made the jump, so if they wanted any luxury item like steak sauce, bring it along. Luxury items also included toilet paper, hygiene items, soaps, toothpaste, and shaving cream.
Cierra was amused to see that one family had their cart piled high with toilet paper.
The cooking staff clanged the bell, letting everyone know that lunch was being served. Cierra offered to show them the way and promised them a tour later on. The little girl, Lisa, reached up and took Cierra's hand with a bashful smile. The Shaman smiled back and led the way to the communal building.
The group crossed the footbridge and to the dining hall. For now, the population was low enough to serve everyone. There would be a time in the future when another would need to be built for the community across the stream. The cooking crew issued the new families an eating set and served them lunch. Today they had greens, venison hamburgers on rolls, and a potato salad made with an Italian style dressing rather than mayonnaise.
The children ate the burgers willingly but picked at the vegetables. Sharon hid a smile, knowing soon enough the children adjusted to the healthier diet rather than go hungry. Even the adults rarely refused any food served them, especially in the summer when they worked hard and needed every calorie.
Lisa leaned against Cierra, clearly claiming the Jumper as her new friend. Duane nodded at his daughter and looked towards Cierra.
"She's taken a shine to you. I hope you don't mind. Just let us know if she becomes a nuisance."
"It's no bother. Besides, we all raise the children, not just the parents. You'll find that your children will spend little time with you other than bedtimes here."
The man stopped eating and cocked his head. "Oh?"
"It's nothing to worry about Duane. All the children are rather independent here but form their favorites, like it or not. We believe that the children are the responsibility of everyone of the community. The bond between people is what holds us together as a community. Every adult is a teacher and friend. Each child is a student. They are learning what interests them on any given day and in turn, teach the younger children what they know. Watch and see."
This made Duane uncomfortable so he brought up a hypothetical question. "What if a kid decided they wanted to live with someone else? Do the parents have any say in it?"
"It would depend," Jenny answered for Cierra.
"On what exactly?"
Once again Jenny answered. Cierra was happy to let someone else answer the difficult questions. "On the child's age and the reasons for wanting to live with someone else. If the child was over eight years old and the reasons good, we'd ask if the other adult was willing."
"Wait, are you telling me that if my kid wanted to go live with someone else I'd have no say in it?"
"That's correct, Duane. The children are born to you but they are not property. They are younger members of the community." Jenny saw the man getting aggravated and tried calm him down. "Duane," Jenny said gently, "Every parent wants to hold on for as long as they can. They love their children and never want to lose them. But sometimes children see someone they feel is a kindred spirit." Jenny pointed at Pam, who was sitting at another table with Angie, Carla's daughter.
"Angie spends every moment she can with Pam. She adores her and wants to be just like her. Angie's mother understands this and doesn't interfere."
"I bet she isn't happy about it though," Duane mumbled grumpily.
"Why don't we ask her?" Jenny went over to Carla and asked her to join them. She felt it was necessary to all the new parents to learn how things worked early on so there wasn't any surprises.
The woman sat down next to Jenny, who asked the mother without preamble. "How do you feel about Angie bonding to Pam?"
"How should I feel? My little girl found herself a second mom and she's happy as can be."
"Aren't you at least jealous that another woman stole her affections?" Duane hissed.
"Jealous? Oh, I think I was a little at first. But I saw how happy they were together and stood back. It's no different than if my daughter formed an attachment to my sister. We're family and that's all that matters. Angie doesn't love me less, it's just that she and Pam get along so well."
Duane sat back in surprise. The woman really thought that and didn't seem upset about it. He didn't know what to believe now. He hadn't been there long enough to form any attachments to the others. He was of an age when people didn't even go out of their way to learn their neighbors' names. Now it seemed that everyone acted as though they were one big family. His preconceived ideas didn't match the reality of the village but he wasn't willing to back out and leave. He's see how things went for now.
To Be Continued
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