The original counsel met for breakfast and discussed both the short and long-term plans. They did this several times a week and openly spoke about what needed to be done. Everyone in the room was privy to everything and nothing was hidden. It was an odd way to conduct business but it worked. No one felt left out nor resented not being on the counsel. It wasn’t like the old system of the Old World where politicians made laws and the people had to live with them.
The colony of women knew that those making plans were going to get their hands just as dirty implementing them. They didn’t supervise; they pitched in right along side of them. There was no ‘privileged’ class among the women. Not even Cierra, their ‘queen’, hesitated to grab a shovel or hammer to help out. It would be a system that worked.
“Doctor Sanchez brought up getting a hospital building up. She had a valid concern. We’d like to think no one would ever be seriously injured but living in the wilderness is dangerous. We need to get it up and running—and it needs power too.”
“I thought we agreed no electricity in the treaty?” Carey mentioned.
Jenny spoke up. “I disagree. We’re not going to build a power plant and wire up the entire community—just one building. I don’t think the tribal leaders would object to having a light for that. Especially if one of their people needs an operation. I think if anyone still feels we are stretching the rules of the treaty we can bring it up at the trading event.”
JP added her two cents worth. “It’s nearly impossible to operate without some strong lighting and candles won’t cut it. Eva said we need at least one generator for an operating room. She suggested building a paddle wheel. We can use the wheel to generate the power somehow. Don’t ask me, I’m not an engineer, but she said she could do it. It is some components that are easy to build she said.”
“Then run lines between the two building?” Cierra asked.
“Yup. Eva told me she could design the paddle wheel gears to be doubly productive. One set of gears to produce power for lighting and the another to grind flour. I know Sharon and her girls would appreciate not having to grind wheat later on.”
“I bet she’s already got the plans drawn up,” Carey grinned. JP nodded. “Okay, do we have the building materials here to do it?” Carey asked, her hazel eyes full of concern. She didn’t want Cierra jumping if she could avoid it. Jumping to buy the electrical components would be bad enough.
“Let’s ask,” JP suggested and looked around for the engineer. “Eva? Could you join us please?” she asked, motioning her over. The slight woman excused herself from her companions and went to the counsel members and sat down.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“We wanted to know if you needed anything special to build that paddle wheel? Anything we have to jump to the Old World for?”
“Nope. We have scrap metal and such and I brought along raw materials for the generator with me—just in case. I had a feeling that it would be needed. I think between me, Brenda and Maggie we can get it running. Although it wouldn’t hurt for us to get our hands on a gas powered generator.” She held up her hands to stop the objections. “We can remove the engine and hook it up to the water wheel. Maggie could always melt down the motor for the metal.” Eva grinned. “I’m so glad Brenda brought along her old fashioned equipment. It’s worth more than gold here.”
“Feel up to getting a small crew together and start building the flour mill today?” Carey smiled. If need be they could always make a jump later and buy a generator but for now it wasn’t needed.
“Depends on how good you are with collecting rocks. We can’t build it out of adobe since it’s being built next to the stream. We’ll need to cut down some trees too. The building has to be strong enough to hold the weight of the grinding stones.”
“How big are they?” Cierra asked.
“Well, for starters, we aren’t going to make a full sized mill. That would require a two-story building and a larger stream. We talked about building it where the stream joins up with the river downstream but no one wants the hospital that far away. So we compromised and decided on one that will do just enough for our daily needs and that’s it. The wheel should give the generator just enough juice to run but not much else.”
“Sounds good,” JP commented. “Let’s go collect some rocks.”
· * * * *
A group of women were digging up rocks from the side of a cliff. One woman stood guard with a rifle. They didn’t want any more encounters with bears. They would take turns guarding so they could take turns getting a break from the grueling labor. The women were tired and sweating heavily in the midday sun.
Cierra dropped a large rock into the back of the wagon with a tired thud. What they had collected in the last four hours would barely start the project. JP walked up to her and tossed in her stone and let out a tired breath.
“You looked as tired as me,” she noted, pulling Cierra closer and giving her a kiss. The kiss was meant to be friendly but once began the two women continued with enthusiasm. The rest of the work crew hooted and told them to get back to work.
Cierra giggled and whispered to her lover that had certainly gave her a new energy then winked.
The crew stopped for lunch and wouldn’t return to the work site for a few hours to avoid the worst heat of the day. They brought the wagon back to the colony and unhitched the large workhorse and placed him in the shade of the lean-to so he could drink and eat. They hadn’t had time to build them proper stalls. That was on the long list of things to do.
JP pulled Cierra close as they walked to the communal kitchen. “I’ll be glad when we get the next batch of supplies tomorrow. In a few more days we’d be forced to go out and forage and hunt to put food on the tables.”
“I doubt we’d go hungry. There seems to be lots of wild fruits and veggies around here. I spotted some wild asparagus not far from here,” Cierra told her. Cierra’s face became worried. “About tomorrow, do you think we’ll have any trouble? After last time, well,” her voice trailed off.
“It was frightening. I don’t know how it will go. All we can do is pop into the storage unit and hope no one is there but Laura and Kelly. I want to do something, Hon. When we make the jump, let me and Robbie stand on side closest to door. If there’s any trouble we can block you from being darted and you can jump us right back out of there.”
“JP, I don’t want either of you getting hurt.” Cierra looked at her lover, even more worried than before.
“Cierra, they want you alive. The worst they will fire in our direction is tranquilizer darts and we wake up with a headache. No big deal,” JP reassured her.
Later that evening Cierra and JP returned from the bathing tent. The Jumper had been quiet most of the day, still fretting over tomorrow’s possible outcomes. JP noticed it and couldn’t seem to find the words her partner needed to feel better. All she could do was stay near her and give her all the support she could.
They entered their house and got ready for bed. JP got in first and offered her arm to Cierra, who quickly accepted the strong shoulder and snuggled close. Neither of them slept long enough, often struggling against the worries running through their minds.
JP and Cierra met with Robbie the next morning. After a quick breakfast they hitched up the wagon and saddled two horses for traveling to the jump site. They reached it by mid morning; the spot marked by bright colored plastic flags and an X painted on the ground. They knew the direction of the door in the Old World by the arrow painted within the circle. JP and Robbie moved to that side of the circle and faced in the door’s direction. They tied the horses and Elu to some brush. The dog whined when he realized he couldn’t come along with his mistress.
“Ready?” Robbie asked. JP nodded and Cierra held out her arm so both women could grasp it. She took hold of her talisman and concentrated.
Their views shifted. It took only moments to realize something was terribly wrong. The storage room door was open. No one was in the large storage unit but they could see soldiers standing about twenty-five feet away. No one was firing; they merely stood there, air rifles to their shoulders. That in its self was frightening and she almost jumped when her eyes spotted Laura.
The former teacher was being held by one soldier and had clearly been injured. Blood seeped down the woman’s shoulder and arm, the blood still dripping onto the ground. A huge bruise was forming on her cheek.
“Laura!” Cierra screamed.
“Ms. White, I suggest you step out of the building, slowly. We don’t want anyone hurt,” A voice said from a loudspeaker. The male voice didn’t even identify himself. Perhaps he didn’t want any civilians nearby to overhear them.
Cierra’s mind raced. Her brain thought of several ideas before she acted. First she estimated the distance between herself and Laura. She whispered to Robbie and JP not to let go of her arm then leaned against the huge pile of supplies with her bare shoulder. She jumped.
She yanked her arm away from the other two women and before they could even ask what she was doing, she ran forward about ten yards and jumped.
The soldiers had rushed forward in surprise. The soldier holding Laura up never saw her coming. Cierra had jumped just behind him. She spun around and punched him at the nape as Robbie had demonstrated in her defense class. He released his hold on the barely conscious woman. The petite jumper grabbed Laura and jumped once again just as several darts were fired in her direction. They were too late, the darts lodging into the stunned soldier or just past him. Once more the mysterious shaman had escaped their grasp.
· * * * *
JP felt her heart stop from fright as she watched her lover disappear. Robbie was next to her, cursing in a manner that would embarrass even the saltiest of sailors.
“I can’t fucking believe she did that!” Robbie screamed. “Mother-fucking bastards are gonna-“
Cierra jumped back, Laura held in her arms. The stunned women rushed to her side relieved that Cierra had returned but horrified at what they saw. Laura had been badly beaten. She must have put up one hell of a fight before they took her into custody. The older woman was handcuffed but that was the least of their worries. They had to get her back to the colony and fast.
Robbie looked at the wagon and knew the woman couldn’t take the rough ride back. She probably had some broken ribs and the bullet wound worried her as well.
“JP, take the hatchet and chop down some saplings. We need to build a travois and get her back to the docs.” JP nodded and rushed to do her bidding. “Cierra, get me one of my shirts from my saddlebag. We need to patch this bullet wound until we get back.”
Cierra returned quickly. “I didn’t see Kelly at all, did you?” she asked.
Robbie’s face was grim. “No. I’m hoping she realized it was a trap and got the hell out of there.”
“We have to get her too. She would wait at site 3, right?” Cierra asked, hoping Robbie believed it. She didn’t want to think Kelly might be dead or captured.
“I honestly don’t know. I hope so. The arrangement was that we’d fetch her tomorrow there if anything happened,” Robbie reminded her as she pressed the shirt against the wound. “Here, help me get her into the shade.”
They carefully lifted the slim teacher and took her into the shady spot under some trees. A few minutes later JP returned with two sturdy limbs. She and Robbie tied them to the saddle of one horse and searched the huge stash that had been brought from the storage room.
“Is this a Jacuzzi?” JP asked absently as they lifted the tarp. They rummaged through the contents until they found a piece of canvas that was wrapped around a bundle of copper pipes. They pulled it loose and tied it between the two poles to make a travois. The trio led the horse to the injured woman and gently placed her on it.
“Tie down the tarp. We’ll have to come back for it all later,” Robbie told JP.
The trip was agonizingly slow. They didn’t want to jar Laura and possibly injure her worse. When they were about 30 minutes away JP said she was going to ride ahead so the doctors could get ready. She gave Cierra’s hand a quick squeeze and took off.
· * * * *
Everyone was waiting inside the communal kitchen, waiting for word on Laura’s condition. The women spoke softly, like they were in a church or hospital, afraid to speak in normal tones. It had been several hours since Robbie and Cierra had arrived and they were all worried. Several women were at a table, holding hands and praying quietly. The colony had no formal church but kept faith in their hearts.
In times like this, Jenny thought, we need something to keep up our spirits. Perhaps we could form some sort of gathering for the community.
The door opened and everyone looked up. Dr. Rutledge walked in, looking serious. Everyone waited on pins and needles for Patricia to speak.
“We think she’ll make it,” the doctor said cautiously. She waited for the relieved group to settle down before speaking again. “Laura has a few cracked ribs from what we can tell. The most serious injury is the gunshot wound. We removed the bullet from her shoulder. It didn’t hit anything vital but it’ll probably give some pain when she gets older. Now, I don’t want everyone rushing over there to visit her. Give her a few days then you can visit in small numbers for very short periods of time. I want her to rest for now.”
Cierra stood and approached the middle-aged doctor. “Pat, is Laura awake? We needed to know if she knew anything about Kelly,” she told the woman.
“No, she’s under sedation right now. Maybe in about four hours you can talk to her. Why don’t you all just go ahead and fetch those supplies before some animal gets into them? Laura already paid a heavy price to bring them to us and I’d hate to see them go to waste,” the physician suggested.
Cierra sighed. It was obvious Pat just wanted to keep them busy so they wouldn’t worry as much. But she did have a good point. The longer the supplies sat there the more likely some curious animal would try and get into container.
“You heard the doc,” JP said loudly. “Let’s go get those supplies. Sandra, Carey, why don’t the two of you saddle up a few more horses? By the looks of that container the wagon won’t haul all of it. Maggie, do you have those little carts ready? We could use them today if they are.”