The next morning everyone withdrew a colored marble from a canvas bag. The color determined which group they would work with. Red was for the wood, white for the clay, and blue for the food gathering.
Cierra wasn't lucky enough to get blue and join her lover for the day. She pouted and asked for a kiss to tide her over until they saw each other at lunchtime. JP received some good- natured teasing from the women. Jenny squealed, happy that she got to join Cyd on her crew collecting clay.
Tracy pouted as well when she didn't get to join Robbie in collecting wood.
"Okay, lets get moving. Be careful and alert out there. We don't want anyone eaten by a bear or smelling like a skunk," she warned.
Everyone returned at high noon with their collections. Sharon was pleased and promised everyone an interesting dinner that night. She already had several wild ducks slow baking in a pit behind the kitchen. JP and her group had brought in wild lettuce, carrots, asparagus, onions, wild mustard plants, mint plants, fiddleheads from new ferns, as well an assortment of roots and tubers Sharon was unfamiliar with. It was still too early to harvest berries and they estimated that would be better to cut the wild barley in a few days. They did however cut down a small field of buckwheat. It wasn't the high yield species planted like on the Old World but it would be okay. It would at least make a decent hot breakfast cereal.
JP slid in next to Cierra and found her mouth, sharing a long kiss with her in greeting.
"Yum," Cierra smiled once it ended. "Another one of those and you won't get any sleep tonight," she threatened quietly.
"You call that a threat?" JP teased, placing a peck on her cheek. Regardless of her boast JP knew they would fall into bed and pass out. Hard work tended to kill off the sex drive.
They ate leisurely, something the group learned over the last few months. When they gathered as a group to eat they tended to linger and chat. People no longer rushed through a meal in order to go back to what they were doing. They didn't want to recreate the stress of the modern world here. Meals now weren't just for feeding the body, but the spirit as well.
· * * *
On the late afternoon of the 23rd, the women stood back and examined their handy work. Ten wigwams were set up in two rows. Each hut faced the same way, with the openings facing away from the breeze. They would gather sweet grasses tomorrow and fill the shallow trenches in each to form the cushioning they would sleep on. June had performed a miracle and had managed to weave 50 rag rugs that would be used to place on the grass. It had been too optimistic to expect her to make blankets as well.
Cierra, Robbie, and JP jumped to the Old World with huge misgivings and in disguise. They had walked the six blocks to the army surplus store and bought every blanket they had. It hadn't been enough and they couldn't afford to purchase sleeping bags. They had the store place their order on a pallet behind the building with a promise to pick it up shortly. The trio counted what they had left and walked into the dollar store a few doors down.
The store had an assortment of blankets, all hideous colors of course, but they were cheap and they bought all they could with the money they had left. The store manager also promised to place the blankets into boxes and put outside their receiving door. Once behind the building it was a simple matter of making sure no one was around and jumping the merchandise to Mother Earth.
Once back they let out their breath and relaxed. Any jump to the Old World now was nerve wracking. They loaded the wagon, glad to be heading home.
· * * *
When they returned they divvied the blankets and placed them into the wigwams. Cierra mentioned that she'd like a bath if a tub were available and headed for the small tent to look. She noticed Pam Johnson standing in the middle of the stream, hammer in hand and pounding a series of poles into the silt. The woman was a professor from Great Britain. With her sultry good looks inherited from her African mother and that cultured English accent she had quite a following of single women. Several of them stood on the banks and watched her work. It didn't hurt that she stood in the stream in nothing but tiny shorts and a tank top that showed off her physique. The pale cream color of her clothing only accented her rich coloring.
"What are you doing?" Cierra asked in curiosity.
Pam didn't even pause. "Building a fish fence. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier. No more waiting with a bloody fishing pole for me!" she exclaimed, giving the pole a solid whack. She picked up another pole and began hammering it in. She missed slightly and struck her thumb. "Oh bugger!" she hissed. Cierra forced herself not to laugh. Pam's curses always made her giggle. Sometimes she didn't have a clue what they meant but loved hearing them anyway.
"A fish fence?"
"Precisely. Fish swim down stream. The sticks are placed in such a way that the little ones may escape but the ones of good eating proportions are trapped within the V. If it gets too full then merely lift out one of the sticks and allow them to swim out. It's quite simple really."
"I see. And the fish stay fresh. Now if you could only find a way to collect French fries to go with them." she grinned.
"Chips? Sharon promised to make them once the potatoes are harvested. I love chips and vinegar," Pam said, making Cierra shiver in revulsion. The British sometimes liked the oddest food combinations.
"Well, I'm going to see if the tubs are free to use. Have fun," the Jumper said, leaving Pam to her admirers.
* * * * *
Later that night Cierra climbed into bed and settled on JP. She sighed heavily and whined. "My libido wants to ravish you but my body says forget it."
JP chuckled and rubbed Cierra's smooth back. "S'okay," she mumbled, "I'm wiped too. One day we'll catch up and have energy again." Within seconds both women were sound asleep.
On the morning of the 25th the trio once more made the jump to the shed. They had disguised themselves once again, differently than last time, and peeked through the slats of the shed. The shed was chilly and Cierra pulled her jacket tighter. "See anyone?" JP asked.
"Clear," Robbie said, echoed by Cierra.
They slowly opened the door and prayed it didn't squeak loudly. The garage owner might already be at work and they didn't want him noticing them.
· * * * *
"Three subjects are leaving the surveillance location," the sergeant whispered into his microphone.
"Is one of them the Shaman?" a voice on the other end asked.
"Uncertain. Prime Target could have returned or changed her appearance. What are your instructions?"
"Follow them. I'll leave one person behind to continue surveillance of the shed. Do not allow yourself to be seen, understood?"
The Special Ops soldier followed the trio at a distance, keeping places to duck behind handy in case they looked behind them. Once they reached the street he relaxed since other people were also walking in the area and he could blend into the crowd. He wasn't in uniform and the headset wouldn't even be noticed in this age of hands-free telephones.
He followed them for a few blocks and paused when they sat down at the bus stop. Curious, he found a spot nearby and waited. He knew they had no transportation and wondered where they were heading. The fact that they had been seen in the neighborhood several days ago had encouraged them to keep an eye on the goings on in the area. They posed as police detectives and talked with local shop owners and discovered that the garage owner had thought he had bums sleeping in his shed since fresh footprints had been seen. More questions led them to the Army surplus store where three people had bought every available blanket in stock.
Convinced the Shaman was making trips to the area they had set up surveillance for a ten-block radius.
The sergeant reported his position and what the suspects were doing. His superior told him to get close enough to also get on the bus if they boarded it. He wanted to know where they were going.
He stepped closer and stood in a doorway of a nearby shop that was not yet open, pretending to look at the shop hours and was waiting for them to open for business. The trio never moved, remaining on the bench.
The soldier heard the sound of a bus and looked up the street but it was only a school rather than a city transit bus.
He glanced at his watch and wondered what time the bus stopped at this street. It took several seconds before he noticed that the three people had gotten up as the school bus stopped at the red light. Once he noticed he stepped out of the doorway and rushed towards them, his instincts now screaming that he had screwed up. The shortest of the three placed her hand on the yellow vehicle while the taller two touched her wrist. He blinked and they were gone, bus and all.
"Oh shit, I am so fucking dead," he muttered.
He reported his failure to stop the subjects but his superior didn't sound angry. The sergeant didn't hear the major say that the package had been delivered to his own superior.
· * * *
The people on the bus cheered as they saw everything around them change. "Oh my God, we made it!" one woman screamed. Cierra and her companions laughed as the people on the bus celebrated. The old door opened and Carey and Kelly stepped out. Everyone hugged one another, pleased that they had pulled it off.
"Am I happy to see you!" Kelly said with a huge smile.
"I bet. But you're home now and everyone is fine. Shall we get this show on the road?" Robbie asked, pulling out a whistle from her pocket and blowing it.
A few minutes later the waiting women arrived with the horses in tow for the ride home. They had been waiting near the jump site in case they had to return right away.
"How many on board?" one of the women asked. Casey answered.
"Twenty-five women and eighteen kids. Not to mention a few dogs, cats, and a very loud parrot. We also brought along some supplies and Judy will be happy about this-- eight ewes and a ram. We built a corral in the back of the bus and crammed the suitcases against it and the people up front. We built in a false bottom beneath it and bought some more supplies with the cash we had left. Canned goods mostly."
"Great! We could use them. Let's get this bus back to the village. Nice and easy—we don't want to get it stuck or have it break down before it gets there," she cautioned.
Kelly and Carey got back on board and started up the engine. It smoked and sputtered but turned over. It began rolling and the riders followed at a safe distance so they wouldn't breathe in all the smoke.
The trip was slow but no one seemed to mind. The worst of their worries was over with and they could slow down just a bit. They finally arrived at the colony and came to a stop. The women and children had been told to not wander away from the village because of the wild life and Carey reminded them once more before opening the door and letting them get off the bus.
Sharon came out of the communal kitchen and told everyone to come on in for a late breakfast. She had mixed leftover duck into breakfast rice, using the last of the instant rice, scrambled eggs, onions, chopped duck, peas, and some of the fiddleheads that JP had collected. It was fried in some butter and soy sauce and looked like fried rice. She also had bread and fresh churned butter.
"Go ahead and help yourselves. She gave everyone a set of eating utensils, bowls, and plates and told them the rules about cleaning their own stuff. It was better that the children learned now rather than later.
The colonialist who fetched the new arrivals went to their own quarters to get their eating gear and returned a few minutes later.
"Could I have some Fruity O's instead?" one little boy asked.
"I'm afraid not sweetheart. We grow our own food mostly and there isn't any cereals here," Sharon told him. The child pouted and tried a bite of the rice. Sharon hoped none of the children were fussy eaters or they'd go hungry a lot. She wouldn't fix separate meals for the children. They had to eat what everyone else did.
Cierra sat down and introduced herself. She wanted to explain the circumstances at the moment and hoped no one wanted to go back. It was just too dangerous right now.
She had seen the reflection of the man rushing up behind them at the bus stop and knew they had been watched.
"As you know, we hadn't expected to rush into this. We built temporary sleeping huts for you but they are primitive. The kids might enjoy them though. We're working as fast as we can but limited in the number of people. We don't expect any of you to help out today since you need a little time to adjust. The women with kids get their own huts and the single women will need to divide up and share the remaining wigwams. There are outhouses at the north end of colony but we prefer to use ones that are built above the stream. Please supervise the children. I can't stress this enough. We don't want anyone mauled and it is a very real danger. I was treed by a bear a few months back and was lucky not to get killed. This isn't like camping in a state park. This is a wilderness. Are there any questions?"
"Are you in charge?" one woman asked.
"Um, not officially. Right now we have a counsel of the women with the most experience who have been involved from the beginning. Once everyone is settled we plan on having an elected counselor added for every 25 adults. We want the ones elected to be known by their friends and will be a benefit to the group. We won't be passing one law after another. Our group is for talking over long term plans."
"And supervising?" another asked.
Cierra held up her hands, showing her calluses. "No cushy jobs here. Everyone works. Any other questions?" No one had any so she suggested giving everyone the nickel tour after they cleaned their dishes. They would unload the bus later and put their personal belongings inside the wigwams.
One child of about eight years old had a minor tantrum over having to perform the chore of washing his dishes. The colonists resisted rolling their eyes. Having kids in the village was going to be a major adjustment.
To Be Continued
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