“Oh my God, it is a Jacuzzi!” JP exclaimed. What were the girls thinking?”
“Who cares?” one of the other women grinned, “This is better than the huge horse trough we were gonna use.”
Eva spoke up. “You do realize we’ll have to place this thing where we want it and build around it? There’s no way this thing would ever fit through a door.”
“Hey, look what I found!” another woman squealed. “Perfumed bubble bath and bath salts! Once we have this tub set up you’ll have a hard time getting everyone out of it, that’s for sure.” Everyone nodded in agreement. They had so few luxuries that the idea of a Jacuzzi was heaven.
JP chuckled. “Yeah, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime we need to empty it out so we can lift it into the back of the wagon.” She grabbed the nearest case of can goods and pulled it out of the huge green Jacuzzi.
In short order the tub was emptied and tied down into the wagon. Maggie had two small carts built and planned on a few more. The two-wheeled carts were made to strap to a saddled horse and pulled like a rickshaw. They wouldn’t carry as much as a wagon but more than what could be tied to the back of a saddle. It gave the advantage of mobility without placing all the weight on the horse’s spine.
They placed the large mechanical devices on the carts in attempt to keep them from getting jostled and broken. Judy’s loom was carefully wrapped in a canvas to prevent it from snagging on shrubs. The colony was going to plant both cotton and flax this season. Next year they were hoping to buy a small flock of sheep for the wool.
The weaver’s skills were valuable. They didn’t want to replace all their clothing with leather as the garments wore out. The current loom was for only built for one count of fabric but Eva and Brenda promised to build another one once they saw how this one worked.
The next thing repacked were the supplies for the potter and glassblower. They didn’t know when they could go out and explore to find the raw materials for their trade and so they had brought along enough to keep them busy for a short time.
Boxed supplies were repacked back inside the Jacuzzi. The women saddled up and headed back to the colony. It was nearing sunset when they returned. The rest of the community helped them unload, hauling the food supplies to the kitchen and the rest to ‘courthouse’. The courthouse was nothing more than a storage unit at this point in time.
“I won’t be able to reach the books once we fill it up,” Cierra commented.
“Then take them out and we’ll haul them to the communal area,” Brenda suggested. “I’ll build some simple bookcases tomorrow and some chairs. We can have a reading area close to the fireplace. It’ll be cozy.”
“Excellent idea. It’s the only building with windows anyway, so it makes sense,” Carey agreed. Every small luxury added to the well being of the community.
After everything was stored away the counsel group headed for Sharon’s house where the doctors were treating Laura. They wanted to find out if Laura was awake and well enough to talk. Jenny rapped lightly on the door jam and waited. Dr. Sanchez opened the door and told them to come in.
Inside the dimly lit building they saw Laura on the bed. She was sitting up against several large pillows and being fed by their only nurse, Carla Brown.
“Hey,” Cierra said softly, glad to see Laura looking much better than she had earlier that morning. “How are you feeling?” she asked kindly.
“Like bloody hell, but thanks for asking,” the teacher replied with a grimace. “I hear I owe you a big one Cierra. Is it true you jumped back for me and thumped that little twerp who was holding me captive?”
Cierra blushed. She had no idea that her actions had been so quickly recounted among the women. She should have known better. The grapevine was faster and often more reliable than anything else on Earth. “Yeah, well, you know how it is. The adrenaline kicks in and before you know it, you leap without looking.”
“You have a knack of doing amazing things in a crisis,” Laura reminded her. “And for that I thank you. Those bastards grabbed me before I even knew they were there. Although I didn’t go out without a fight.” Laura took a painful breath. “But maybe I shouldn’t have kicked that young man in the nuts. He didn’t appreciate it one bit and shot me,” the older woman told them.
JP chuckled but her amusement didn’t last long. “Laura? What about Kelly? Did they grab her too?”
“I honestly don’t know. I never saw her this morning. Maybe she spotted them and went into hiding.” Laura looked to Cierra. “You are going to try and bring her back tomorrow, right?”
Cierra saw the worry in the teacher’s eyes. She and the lawyer’s assistant had spent a great deal of time together and had become close.
“You know it. We’ll head for site 3 in the morning. Don’t you worry, okay?”
Laura relaxed. Her faith in Cierra’s abilities was absolute. The young woman would do everything within her power to bring Kelly back.
· * * * * *
The next morning they were at the field for site 3. After yesterday’s terrifying events the three women were very nervous—along with the other half dozen women who insisted on joining them. Maggie insisted that the women carry shields with them this time, mere wooden boards with handles. They wouldn’t stop a bullet but they’d prevent a dart from striking them. JP and Robbie stood in front of Cierra and two more stood behind her. The five of them stood close together and the large shields formed a box around them.
The four surrounding women placed their hands on Cierra’s shoulders and arms. They were ready. They jumped.
In the Old World they arrived inside an old wooden shed located down town. The shed belonged to a mechanic who never used the crumbling building. They had noticed it once during one of their trips to town and had secretly entered it. Since it was neither rented nor owned by the group, no one knew of it—they hoped.
The five of them looked around quickly and spotted Kelly, who was alone. The thirty-year old put down her laptop and rushed towards them in relief. “I am so glad to see you! I got to the storage unit just as they nabbed Laura. I hid behind a Dumpster,” the woman sobbed. “I couldn’t do a thing to help her. Is she alright?” she asked fearfully.
“She’s fine Kelly, except that she had been shot in the shoulder. The docs fixed her up. She’s been more concerned if you were safe,” Jenny told her. “Let’s get back to Mother Earth. I don’t want to stay here any longer than we have to be.” They jumped and Kelly continued.
“I’m fine. I was pretty frightened until the military all left. I overheard snatches of their conversations. If they get their hands on us we’re in a world of hurt. They want to know how you do it Cierra, and discover how to do it themselves. I think Mother Earth would be stripped of every resource if they could. Another thing I heard scared the shit out of me.” Kelly’s brown eyes were filled with misery.
“I guess the men I heard talking were officers. They were talking about if they could get to our New World they could always pass a law reinstating chain gangs. They would use them for all the manual labor.” Kelly shivered and continued on, her voice softer. “Slavery, they would use criminals as slaves. My imagination went wild all night while I waited for you. I could just see it. Bring in men who had no families. No one would miss them, and so what if the men were never set free when their sentence was up? It would be so easy to change records. They could even nab the homeless. They could have a large workforce at their disposal.”
The five women shivered too. Would the government do such a thing? None of them knew. It was possible. If they did as Kelly imagined the people would only notice that the streets had fewer bums. Then with the influx of raw materials from Mother Earth they would no doubt see prices go down. The people would cheer the politicians. Earth would have a new prosperity, but at a high price. Mother Earth would be stripped bare until it nothing more than an empty shell.
They couldn’t let that happen and JP said so.
Kelly spoke up once more. “JP, we have to go back. There are a lot of women out there waiting to join us. We can’t just leave them hanging.”
“No, I won’t let her,” JP growled. She was in full protective mode and wasn’t about to listen to any plan that endangered her spouse.
Cierra took her hand and looked up at her tall lover. “JP, please. She’s right. We have to go back.” The shaman saw JP’s eyes get teary. “Those women have already sold all they own and are waiting for Kelly to contact them.”
JP sniffled and pleaded her case. “Hon, the more often you go back the more likely we are of getting caught. Don’t you see that?”
“Then we only go back once,” Carey piped in. “Kelly and me can go back. Maybe buy an old school bus and pack everyone into it. All we have to do is drive a very specific route and Cierra just pops over and touches the bus. That’s all it takes. Even if they are watching the bus I doubt they would get close. They want to hang back far enough so we wouldn’t notice them. It only takes a few seconds for Cierra to jump.”
“Let’s do it!” Kelly said, wanting to go back before JP tried to talk her out of it. “Does anyone have any cash so we can rent a motel room? I’ll contact everyone and make arrangements.” The group of women reached for their pockets and scraped up some money. Even though money was useless on Mother Earth habits died hard. JP held out her gold bracelet.
“Here, pawn this and get some cash for it.”
Kelly nodded and thanked her. The tall woman might have argued because of her worry for Cierra but she would do what was right. Several others also handed over what valuables they had. Another woman handed over her debit card. “The pin number is 0801. It’s in my cousin’s name so I doubt the account is being watched. You are allowed to withdraw $250 a day and there’s a few thousand in it. Might as well drain it dry.”
“Okay, here’s what we do,” Carey said. “On the 25th, come back to the shed at 6 AM. It’s a school day and maybe people won’t look at us closely. Make sure you disguise yourselves. Five blocks west of us is a bus stop on the corner of Wiltshire Avenue and 21st street. Go there. It should take you about 15 minutes to walk there at most unless you spot anyone following you. At twenty after 6 we’ll drive up to that bus stop and come to a stop. Anyone seeing you on the bench will assume the two of you are waiting for city transport. Just stand up and touch the bus. It’s that easy. Sound like a plan?”
“And what if we think we’re being followed? What then?” JP asked. “I assume this batch of women you’re bringing on that bus are the ones with kids.”
“Still isn’t much of a problem. As long as they don’t recognize Cierra they will hang back. They don’t want to spook anyone, remember? If we don’t see you at that bus stop all we can do is assume you’ve been captured and keep going.”
“I don’t like that at all. What if we were just delayed? How about this: You don’t see us at that bus stop so you drive through that intersection and drive to that hardware store up on 22nd street. It opens at 5 in the morning because it’s construction season. There’s going to be people around and I don’t think anyone will try and nab you publicly. Give us 30 minutes. If we don’t show up then head out of town as fast as you can,” Cierra suggested.
“You could always leave a message on the website too, just in case,” JP mentioned. “Just use the code word ‘pickle’ to let us know it is you and not the Feds planting a false message.”
“How do we tell you where we are on the website? You know they will be monitoring it,” Kelly reminded JP.
Robbie made a suggestion. “Tell us where you are by saying you are in a town that is 150 miles east of where you really are. If Cierra isn’t in custody then we’ll place an ad in the local paper of where we believe you are in the lost and found. That we had lost a dog named Elu and a phone number. We’ll buy a prepaid phone so it can’t be traced.”
“Okay. I think that’ll work,” Carey said. She and Kelly rested their palms on Cierra’s shoulders. “Let’s go,” Kelly said.
· * * *
They gathered everyone in the kitchen so Cierra could go over the plan the counsel had come up with. The group murmured quietly until Jenny raised her hands to get everyone’s attention. Cierra cleared her throat.
“As most of you already heard, Kelly and Casey went back to the Old World to get the last of those who want to join us. I spoke with Laura and she mentioned that it could be as many 28 women…” she paused as everyone one gasped. They had no room for that many people yet. “…And 23 children,” she finished. The women were flabbergasted. Cierra held up her hands and tried to settle them down.
“Look, I know that is a huge number to try and absorb this quickly but we have little choice. We may not get half that many people but we have to plan for at least fifty people to be on the safe side. “It’s imperative that we have a place for everyone to sleep and enough food to feed everyone. What Laura and Kelly sent back was plenty for just our small group but it won’t last until we begin harvesting what we have and will be planting next month. So,” Cierra did her best to look confident and hoped no one argued.
“This is what we’re gonna do. As a temporary housing we’re going to build a bunch of wigwam houses. They aren’t much more than huts made of saplings, bark, and thatched roofs. We can cover them with mud and clay if we have to. We just don’t have enough time or money to prepare better. One party will be sent out to find flexible saplings and large pieces of bark. I want to cut down as few trees as possible but probably will for the support poles.”
“Another party will be sent out with sickles and cut down some of that wild grain. We can kill two birds with one stone. Harvest the grain heads then use the straw for building. Another group will go out and collect clay and mud and cover the frames. We don’t have the materials to make beds, so we’ll use grass and blankets for them to sleep on. June, I want you to make as many blankets as possible on your loom. They’ll have to keep fires burning at night to keep the insects down.”
“You mentioned food,” one woman said. “Will we be going out and gathering wild stuff to feed everyone?” she asked.
“Yes. JP and Carey will lead that party. They are both experts at recognizing wild flora. Sharon and her girls will preserve a lot of it in jars.” Cierra looked over the crowd.
“This means long hard hours for everyone but I know we can do this. We’ve made amazing progress since we’ve arrived here. We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. Not one of us came here thinking it would be a cakewalk. Building a new culture won’t be an easy thing to do. We’ve set in motion something that will effect future generations to come. The willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good.
“Children will arrive here soon. Raising those kids isn’t the responsibility of just the mothers but the community’s. Everything they see here will influence their attitudes in the future and those of their children so we had better be damned good role models for those kids. I’m sure all of you agree.
“We had all better get some sleep. Tomorrow we’ll draw lots to see who goes on which work party. Goodnight everyone.”
·* * *