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A Vagabond's Tale

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posted on Mar, 15 2005 @ 02:59 AM
OK, here's a new story, based partly on proposed "future maps" in which existing continents are partly submerged and new ones have risen, and also partly inspired by the computer game Fallout (which in turn may have borrowed a little from Mad Max.)
The gist, as you will see, is that a series of very rapid earth changes have made significant changes to the face of the earth, weather, etc, decimated much of human technology, and created a very sharp devide between a land and technology owning elite caste and relatively small population of displaced survivors who take on the daunting task of settling new islands and even minor continents that have been created by the earth shift.

Nikki groaned in displeasure as she awoke and sat her car-seat back up. She was still exhausted, but the heat had awakened her. She was drenched in sweat, as was the badly weathered seat of her Camaro. She opened the door and let herself out, wondering which extreme the weather would shift to today. The answer was a shockingly cold breeze from the North. It must have just started again- she'd been sweltering in the car. The frigid polar air had been finding its way into Texas regularly for a little over two weeks now, mixing with warm moist air from the Arizona coast to give Texas a roller coaster ride of extremely humid weather punctuated by sleet and snow storms every two or three days.
Nikki's skin quickly began to numb as the nearly freezing air blew through her sweat-drenched clothes.
"Eeew", she said to herself in dismay, "This was my last fresh set of clothes." She looked up, either to God or to the constantly shifting hot and cold winds "Just make up your F'ing mind!"

There wasn't anymore time left to agonize over her decision. Nine days in the Walmart parking lot on the outskirts of El Paso, crying for her family and begging God for options had yielded nothing. News was slow, but as far as everyone had been told so far the government barely even knew what condition the country was in, let alone the world, and couldn't help anyone. The good jobs just weren't going to happen- that was obvious now. Unless there was any news today about the plans for construct a harbor in Tucson she would have to take the one job she'd been offered. She couldn't stand the thought of stripping though. It seemed as if she was doomed to lonliness already. If she wasn't an unapproachable goddess she was mere eye-candy. Making the later her job couldn't improve things much, and she was already more lonely than she'd even known.
She looked through the back of the car, through her dirty clothes, a few remaining cans of food, and a handfull of possessions she had salvaged. There wasn't much left to pawn, but if she wanted a job she would need the money up front to shower and stay indoors, and lodging was at a premium now. She shook her head, fighting back tears as she laid a hand on her great grandfather's cavalry sword. She'd rescued it for her brother, but she'd given in to the fact that she'd never see him again. Her grandfather gave it to her in case he was OK- they were still rescuing people from Los Angeles before the Third Big One marked the beginning of the coast's near daily march eastward. He said he couldn't leave until the last minute- in case any of the family could make it to him. She withdrew it from the sheath far enough to unfold the letter from around the blade; her grandfather's last words, explaining the history of his father's sword and the last great cavalry battle which had saved Poland from the Russians in 1920.
Nikki choked back the urge to cry and told herself there was nothing else she could sell. The car was her only way to reach a better place, her only shelter, her only really useful possession- selling it wasn't really an option. She started the car and examined the gas gauge, pretending to be confident that she had enough to get where she was going, and headed into town to check the news then find a pawn shop.

Flaherty's Pub was a small, easy to miss place that didn't want and didn't get too many new faces. The store-front entrance and mirrored windows with no lights or signs left a great deal of question as to the presence of any business at all inside. Nikki almost hadn't bothered to try the door when she'd first seen it, but she'd needed badly to beg a glass of water after her first day of wandering the city in search of work. She'd been there every day since and after only a few days had become well liked by the bartender. He was a rascally-looking but kind man with a red face and curly dirty blonde hair. It could have been dirty blonde or it could have been fading slowly towards gray- it was hard to tell in the dim light of the place. Nikki suspected he was adopting her in the place of a lost daughter.
She didn't open the door very far as she entered, as if trying to hide the place from the people outside, and helped herself to a stool just a few paces from the door at the near end of the bar. She looked around the tiny place with a pleasant smile as she waited for he only friend to emerge from the side room, which she assumed must house some sort of modest kitchen.
"Hey kiddo, I missed you yesterday! I was afraid you'd found a place that doesn't water down all the drinks."
"Water is all I ever order, Jimmy.", she replied with a faint grin.
Her new companion caught sight of her grin and pushed his antics,
"So 'tis, so 'tis. I tell ya what lassie. Ya gives old Jimmy a promise not to be runnin' me through with that wee cutlass there, and maybe gives me but a brief look on it, and you might have yourself a coke or three this time."
His Irish impression was only funny because it was so much worse than one would expect from a pub owner named Jimmy Flaherty. It got her every time.
Holding the weapon by the sheath she offered it over to him. He gently withdrew it, looking over the beautifully maintained steel, which managed to shine somewhat even in the low light of that humble dive of a bar.
"I couldn't leave it in the car- I dont know how I let myself do it before, but it just came to mind this morning. It belonged to my great grandfather. It's just about the only thing of real value I have."
"I don't like the sound of that none too much. You wouldn't be thinking on selling this would you?"
"I'm afraid I might have to Jimmy. I've got to land a job soon or I'll be in big trouble."
"And would that be the job old Jimmy said he dinnay want a girl of your class considering one bit more?"
The sweetness threatened to drop out of her voice as she began to blush in shame. "That would be the only job a girl of my class has been offered Jimmy. My whole life got drowned two weeks ago. For all I know the rest of us will all be gone in another week. You know how things are." By the time she finished she was staring straight down at the counter.
Jimmy shook his head with a hopeful smile concealing his desperation as he began to explain the venture he'd been thinking up for the past three days.
"I'll tell you a little secret, if you'll promise not to think different of me. You know everyone carrying on the past few days about how everyone who doesn't own their land is doomed and how these newly rich SOBs are being such evil pricks?"
Nikki shifted uncomfortably as she tried with little success to anticipate where this was leading.
"My cousin is one of them evil pricks. He owns a good piece of Texas, and for what he lost under the Gulf of Mexico he's got new island property to make up for it. He's already talking about how stinking rich he means to be with it all. I'm pushing him for a wee venture of my own."
The compact Irishman grinned mischeviously as he produced a map of California to which he had added a taped a near-perfectly gridded map of the Pacific which he'd drawn by hand. The map included a series of islands- most noteably a large thin one, shaped like a fragmented crecent moon, with its back to what remained of North America.
"This is coming out real slow like. With the satellites going off their orbits, the compasses dancing, tsunamis taking ships and what-not, there just aren't too many people bringing back news to too many places. There's new land out there though, and there's a great big rush to claim it from just those so high and mighty as to know its there, and of course poor old me who just happens to have an old buddy or two that made it back ashore on the USS Reagan."
Nikki could only stare in amazement. On top of the incredible nature of the story, she still didn't know what was being proposed to her.
"How do you know its really there. It's just a hand-drawn map somebody gave you right?"
"Aye, you're sharp. That's why I want you to go with me. I need somebody I can count on to learn what I teach them and do a good job, and watch my back without stabbin' me in it to boot, and if I don't take the right person the first time, i can't just fire 'em and send back ashore for a new one. I'll 5 times the going rate- 25% of the land we settle and a suitable allowance to develop it."
He produced a newspaper from behind the counter which had several want-ads, mostly specifying military veterans or displaced construction workers.
"I called em all. 90% of em are from the same few corporations, and they all make the same offer- 5% of the settlement and a couple thousand dollars."
Nikki looked over the map in wonder. Could this be a new chance at home, and at a decent life?
"When would we leave?", she asked cautiously.
"Aye, a fine choice you've made wee lass. We leave day after tommorrah. Sell yer car, keep yer sword, and you can stay here for the nights till then."
She didn't see any sense in objecting.

[edit on 15-3-2005 by The Vagabond]

posted on Mar, 15 2005 @ 03:09 AM
Excellent plot development!
Has all the makings of high adventure. I like the setting, I like the protagonist, and the supporting character has a funny gimick. You also left it hanging at a good moment, and it leaves the reader salivating for more.

I take it this isn't really a short story right, it's a continuing project? If not it should be. There's plenty of potential, even for a work of novel, or screenplay length. Hell, you could do a trilogy if you felt so inlcined, the world is expansive, and you've got an interesting character to move around in it.

I'm already anticipating the conflicts to come, it will be interesting if I guessed right...

Good on ya', I hope you'll write some more in this setting.

I enjoyed it, hope you'll post more.

posted on Mar, 15 2005 @ 03:15 AM

Originally posted by WyrdeOne
Excellent plot development!
Has all the makings of high adventure. I like the setting, I like the protagonist, and the supporting character has a funny gimick. You also left it hanging at a good moment, and it leaves the reader salivating for more.

Wow, I don't ever think I've gotten such a great reaction before. I hope I don't freeze up under the pressure
There will definately be additional chapters. The Vagabond's ATS Story will probably continue as well, but I feel that one running out of steam and needed something else to play with.

posted on Mar, 15 2005 @ 10:22 PM
This chapter is really just a bridge to what comes next. I want to carry this one to full length if I can, so I'm not jumping over details so much. Anyway I've got the next 3 or 4 chapters more or less mapped out and they should be coming in more or less rapid succession.

It felt good to wakeup indoors for a change. Nikki stretched her legs lazily as she sat up from her the only decent sleep she'd had since leaving home. The clock on the wall said it was already 8:30- the gloom of the pub almost made her wonder if that was AM or PM.
"Good to see ya awake young partner. It's time we get about finding our equipment. We have to price it all up before you sell that car, or you'll not have enough and poor Jimmy's piggy bank will get broken."
"Oh, OK.", she was still wiping the sleep from here eyes and wondering at her new plans. As it turned out, she'd become morbidly comfortable with the bleak outlook she'd lamented yesterday. This faint hope seemed almost scary.
She wandered down the short hall to the bathroom and locked the door behind her. Using the sink and hand soap she cleaned herself up as best she could, splashing water from the sink to rinse off and making a terrible mess. Probably my last chance to bathe for a while. Not like I've gotten to do it much lately anyhow.. She dressed herself, quickly mopped up the floor with a wad of paper towels, and went back out, feeling refreshed in a rugged, imperfect way.
"Are we going right now?"
"Aye, we're missing prime real estate minute by minute darlin'. My cousin has agreed to lend me his lawyer and tax number to dispense with the red tape. We have but to gather our things and away to yon land of milk and honey!"

Jimmy locked up the bar behind them and proceeded to lead the way down the street several blocks, apparently quite sure of where he was going. The wind was from the East today and the weather was pleasantly warm if perhaps still slightly more humid than Nikki was accustomed to. For all she knew it might have been normal for Texas. It was a more beautiful day than any she'd seen recently. It both filled her with hope for the future and with doubt about running away to another place.
Traffic on the streets was exceptionally light, owing to some running out of gasoline and others having the good sense to conserve it, but there were plenty of people about. The pair turned down a modest side street between two shops and made their way to the next street over. Here between a handful of low-rent store spaces across from a small neighborhood of run-down homes was a bustling street bazaar, apparently tolerated by the police for being kept out of the way. Nikki hadn't even known it was there in her now ten days of exploring the city. Nikki looked over a table shaded by a pair of umbrellas, offering mostly children's toys and a handful of electric appliances. She noted the vendors disheveled hair and dirty face- he must have been a DP like her, but he looked very comfortable for his situation. She hadn't recognized anybody else like her until just then. She smiled at him and he looked back as if deciding what to say to her, but Jimmy called her back to business.
"Mind the tables Nikki. We'll need sturdy baggage and easy to carry, Blankets, canvas for shelter, water vessels, and all manner of tools. You've got to think hard on all your needs. And buy durable clothes lass. I can't have you going to tatters and making be blush."
Nikki was amused and how her partner was falling more and more into this character- if in fact he hadn't always been like this. She couldn't imagine that he talked like that back when everything was normal. She let the curiosity pass and began to take a keener interest in the tables. Jimmy was right that she'd have to be careful what she took.
She caught sight of a grizzled looking man watching over a vast collection of military uniforms and a few odd tools and knives. She beckoned to Jimmy and they began selecting their gear. Thus began a long day of careful selecting and second-guessing.

They arrived back at the bar a little after Two O'clock. Each of them had about as much clothing and equipment as they could possibly carry packed awkwardly into several bags hanging from their back and arms in complete disarray.
"We'll not be carrying it around the islands in this fashion, I'll swear that right now. Let's get this all sorted out and try to organize our packing as best we know how.".
Nikki was a little disappointed to hear Jimmy sounding just a bit tired. She hadn't thought of him like a real mortal since the day before. She had accepted his seeming attempts to adopt her, and fathers were supposed to be super-human.
She began to open the bags and spread her things across a narrow strip of the floor. Her six sets of clothes were far bulkier than she had imagined, and yet they seemed horribly insufficient. She felt silly having picked fatigues for all of her pants, but Jimmy assured her they were loose enough to layer and didn't wear out easily. He had looked over and approved every stitch of it as being serviceable. She was agonizing over how to do something fashionable with it all. She compared the thermal shirt to the cammies and rolled her eyes. Great- now if I just had a skate board... Oh well. How will I manage all of this stuff.
Organizing came easily to the young girl. She'd always kept an impeccable room, and her pack began to take shape accordingly. Soon her clothes were stowed away and wrapped in a trash bag to stay dry, her eating utinsels were in a seperate bag, along with a few cans of food, a water purifying straw, and a modest kit of lines, hooks, bait, and a small manual which claimed to explain fishing and assorted means of trapping. Jimmy hadn't given her many tools to carry. He said he had five more people coming to handle the mule's work. She rolled her sleeping bag up on top of her backpack, secured her food bag to the back of the main pack, and proceeded to help her friend organize his equipment.
Soon it was nearly four.
"Well, I'd say we're about set. We just need to take that car down to the lot and get it off our hands, we'll go into a proper store to find your boots, a weapon, and one of them lights what's got a hand-generator on it- we're as good as underway my dear."

Almost as easily as it was said, it was done. They loaded their things into Jimmy's truck and headed for Tucson. Nikki fell asleep quickly as they darted down the interstate towards a future beyond imagination- or so they were convinced.

[edit on 15-3-2005 by The Vagabond]

[edit on 15-3-2005 by The Vagabond]

posted on Mar, 17 2005 @ 02:28 PM
i like it that is pretty cool

posted on Mar, 20 2005 @ 05:49 AM
The slamming of the driver's side door announced that they had reached Tucson. Nikki yawned and started to get out of the truck, irritated with the glare of the street light illuminating the convenience store parking lot where they had stopped. She'd be able to go back to sleep soon though. Maybe she'd even have a bed if Jimmy had planned a motel stay till morning.
"Are you Jimmy?", a smooth confident voice came from behind a nearby car as the drivers and passenger's side doors opened.
"Aye. I might wager that you're Ryan then?"
"That would be me, and the gang's all here too boss."
Ryan made his way around the car and extended a hand to Jimmy. He was a tall heroic looking figure with striking steeley eyes and blond hair in what looked like a badly over-grown crew cut. He looked to be about 20- almost 4 years older than Nikki.
Nikki almost tripped over her foot as she quickly glanced down to check her clothes- she was disappointed to remember that she had changed into a set of her loose-fitting work clothes before they left. She couldn't help blushing a little as she zipped up her leather jacket to hide the shirt.
"Don't I only count four of ya? I thought it'd be five.", Jimmy seemed slightly exasperated.
"Well our friend got cold feet. He's out."
"Aye, butchya says to me the gang's all here. Ya been wrong once already in just two sentences said to me! I'd've said fine, but now you'll be makin' it so- we don't depart till the gang's all here."

Jimmy turned to go back to his truck to wait. As he did, Ryan rolled his eyes and turned back to his friends, curling his right hand into a loose fist and cracking this knuckles one by one.
"Hey chewie, we need somebody extra, who do you know thats still in town?"
"Pfft, no one man. I was the only one on my crew that didn't get moved to the LA job."
The smallest of the men chimed in, his unsteady voice betraying his young age- Nikki guessed it at about Fifteen, "My older brother's done some construction. He hasn't been around as much as you guys though."
Rick rolled his eyes again, "You're big brother's a punk Kenny. He worked with us on that freeway bridge. They fired him for asking stupid questions every ten minutes."
"At least he won't puss out, unlike your little queer-mate, or whoever he was.", the kid fired back. The whole group chuckled as the runt of their group stung the leader.
"Fine, but you better tell him to stop and get laid or get high on the way here or something. If he gets uptight with me I'm gonna whoop on him again."

While Kenny and Chewie went to retrieve their fifth man, Ryan persuaded the boss that matters were resolved and that it was time to start preparing the boat.
It was a small dirty looking boat, more fit for a harbor tour than an expedition to unknown lands. The extensive plywood and 2x4 patching about the top of the cabin served to shed light on the ship's name; Lawn Dart.
Nikki slung her bag onto her back, finding that she had to tighten the straps just to manage its weight for even a short distance.
I'm supposed to carry this thing everywhere we go?
She ascended the latter carefully and made her way into the main cabin, inspecting the walls and reassuring herself that the patches were adequate. They seemed very well done, even water tight- mostly.
The cabin was home to a modest galley- there were several padded benches and tables and a counter behind which hung a small menu. The only separate room was the kitchen.
so much for getting to sleep in a bed tonight

Nikki tossed down her bag and flopped down on one of the benches, ignoring the pervasive smell of soaked and rotting lumber as she leaned back and tried to get comfortable. She had scarcely closed her eyes when someone else came clattering into the cabin. Nikki followed him around the room by the din of his heavy step, not even bothering to look up at him. Then there was a peculiar pause in the noise. Nikki cracked an eyelid and subtly shifted her head- as she suspected she was being stared at, but he looked away soon, setting down several bags under a table and clamoring back up the steps and out of the cabin. She hadn't seen him before; presumably he was Kenny's brother. Big, stout, and noisy; he was everything she would expect to find among a crew of construction workers. She had a feeling that company like this could only make the journey longer. Perhaps Ryan would be the exception, she mused.

Jimmy paced about the helm of the boat, rubbing his chin anxiously. Just as well that they were taking so long to load up- couldn't afford to leave anything behind. He still couldn't wait to get underway. A New World! Such opportunities only come every few hundred years, and for the last few hundred years it had been assumed that no such thing could exist any longer. A man could really make something of himself in such a place, if he were resourceful enough.
He peered out onto the deck below at his crew readying the ship. They were what they said, at least that. They'd done an expert job of patching up the good ship Lawn Dart for this venture, as far as Jimmy's untrained eye could tell. They'd be building in ways that they weren't accustomed to soon of course- but if they were carpenters of the caliber they claimed, Jimmy was confident they'd do well.
Their leader was an able looking fellow, and seemed sure to be an asset. His air of independence was of some concern, but surely he could be managed, and Jimmy felt up to the task.
The new one seemed much less certain in all respects. He didn't walk like the others, and seemed almost to be constantly looking for something, or maybe just avoiding eye contact with those around him. Jimmy had watched him go by three times now, looking down whenever he passed somebody, moving twice as fast as most of the men, but seeming to be in far worse spirits. Taking him to the New World might be a gamble of considerable stakes; he was a giant- either a sleeping one or dead one. Jimmy wanted badly to know which.
"Hey there lad, take a second.", Jimmy called down to him as he passed.
The young man set down the large gym bag he'd been carrying and came up the steps to join Jimmy.
"What's up?", the response sounded lively enough.
Jimmy stared him right in the eye, and as Jimmy had expected the young crewman cast his eyes down quickly, then awkwardly glanced back up.
"I learn a thing or two behind me bar, son. One thing I learned is that a man who won't look up wishes he were alone. There's a great big city just over there, and if you stay in it I think ya might do better at being alone."
He looked up, forcing himself to stare Jimmy in the eye briefly, still shifting his gaze away every few moments.
"I'm not very good with people. I'm just here to work, sir."
"Call me Jimmy. What's your name, boy?"
"I'm John."
Jimmy looked him over for a minute. He was soft all right. Soft-spoken, soft around the mid-section, and soft in the eyes.
"What do ya bring to the table John?"
"Excuse me?"
The smaller, meaner bartender knotted his brow and hardened his voice.
"I says why do I need ya on me fuggin boat boy!"
Hurt flashed in John's eyes and he hesitated before pulling a small notebook out of his pocket.
"I got this, and you're done calling me boy.", he was quiet and solemn, but the trained eyes of an old bartender could see that he was nearly shaking- entertaining the idea of an outburst.
"What exactly is this?" Jimmy flipped it open, examining the almost indecipherable chicken-scratch and diagrams consisting mainly of lines and letters.
"That's a boyscout manual- times fifty. It's got gunpowder, alcohol, electric generators, shelter-construction..." To Jimmy's amazement the young man seemed to brighten up almost instantly. "This right here is the big one- I've been planning how to replace technology ever since the solar flare last month. We can generate methane just about for free and use it to create steam power for almost anything, plus distill water and heat our homes..."
"Easy lad, I follow ya far enough- ya thinks you're MacGuyver...
"Now see here Johnny. You've got the look of a man easily trampled on, and look at ya, you might as well be twice my size. Learn to impose on people. Ya gimme extra leverage dealing with folks if ya scare them instead o' being scared yourself."
John gave half a chuckle and there was a hint of a smile through the bothered, unhappy expression he had been wearing since he had arrived.
"Glad to have you aboard then Johnny. Just try not to look so damned mean all the time now. Oh, and you and Ryan need to get that mast assembled right away so we can set out."

posted on Mar, 23 2005 @ 03:05 AM
The first days of their voyage passed with remarkable swiftness, especially for Nikki. It seemed that each of the guys felt the urge to be her teacher in some craft which they swore to be absolutely vital to life in the new frontier. The one everyone called Chewie was an expert card player and an amazing judge of people's intentions, Kenny attempted to teach her a few moves he'd picked up in judo lessons, the fourth crewman, Aaron, had just the previous morning succeeded in convincing her to work out with him in the mornings. He'd also jokingly offered other physical activities. The last item excluded, she humored them all from time to time, initially because she didn't trust them enough to be an outsider among them. The comfort of making new friends crept up on her so gradually that the change never really occurred to her. What had occurred to her was the conspicuous distance Ryan had kept from her. All he had taught her so far was how to want.

They had been at sea for six days now, and she was falling into a pleasant routine. As usual, John chose to assist with her work after he'd caught and cleaned his share of fish for the day, and as usual he was explaining some brilliant idea for circumventing the need for technological conveniences. He'd kept a stopwatch running since they left, and had calculated the distance of their travels by timing the sunrise, he explained. Depending on the accuracy of Jimmy's map, and of course on how far South they had deviated, they should be within 200 miles of land. He even had worked out a calculation for estimating their deviation he said, but he was almost sure that it was at least somewhat flawed. It was all very impressive, but except for his size he reminded her of that one strange little PhD that every town in a western movie always seemed to have.
"Why are you on this trip, John? You went to school right, shouldn't you have been able to do fine back home?"
"No, I never actually got a degree. I was nobody in school- it doesn't matter how smart you are if you don't fit their little model of 'scholarship'. So I went to work- and I was nobody there too, because I'm really a lot better with ideas than my hands.", he wore his rejection like a badge of honor really- it seemed like he had made it a part of his demeanor. Nikki didn't feel inclined to show much sympathy, mainly because he seemed to want it.
"So you're just running away, for the second time? What if something goes wrong again?"
"No, it's a different world over there; My skills will be what matter. I understand a little bit of everything- chemistry, maths, engineering. I can make all kinds of things. There'll be plenty of ways to make a profit over there."
"Ah, so this is like revenge of the nerds?", she shot him a sly grin to cover the seriousness of the barb.
"Well I suppose that's not what I'd choose to call it... who wouldn't want to find a place where their skills would be important. An athlete goes out of his way to go to a school with a good team- is that revenge of the dumbasses? I'm just going where I don't have to be a nobody."
"Well, I hope it works I guess. I don't know why you had to be a nobody anywhere though. Maybe it's just that you didn't try to be anybody. If you don't try here..."
John gave a hasty nod, as if eager to get past the subject. Without saying anything else he pulled the bucket from under the water still, replacing it with an empty one, and poured it into the cooler.
"The cooler's almost full- were not drinking as much as we ought to. Just finish purifying what we've got here- it can't hold much more."
Nikki nodded back. She was glad John had known when to leave for a change. She'd found that he could be intensely interesting in bursts of about 30 minutes- separated by long demonstrations of his considerable personal issues.
John approached the steps up the cabin, and jumped clear just as Chewie bounded down into the cabin. "Rifles, quick! Something's up!"
Ryan, Kenny, and Aaron burst into the cabin in a flurry, tearing up their packs to access their weapons and ammunition. To Nikki's amazement, everyone but John was armed to the teeth. As she nervously retrieved the .22 carbine Jimmy had given her, John laid a hand on her shoulder, "It's gotta be nothing, just stay down here."
He racked his shotgun and was the first headed up to the deck, as Ryan began to insist that Nikki go above as well.
"No, we need you up there. Stick with me... Hey, I'm gonna borrow your sword, OK?"
"No! You can't fight with that."
"It's a weapon, now hurry up."
John stepped back into the cabin, his soft and normally quiet voice barking as it could manage, "It's not pirates of the friggin Caribbean Ryan. Now get out there."
Ryan's face went deadly serious as he stared at John, who was visibly shaking and clutching his shotgun with white knuckles.
"Did you just give me an order limp dick?"
Ryan glared back, letting out a heavy, unsteady breath and not finding his nerves calm enough to speak. John was thinking about leveling the weapon on his rival- it was almost audible in his silence.
The tension was interrupted by a burst of machine gun fire, and the Lawn Dart's engine was cut and the ship slowed with a gentle lurch. John turned to the steps behind him and rushed to the deck, he quickly leveled his shotgun on the orange clad sailor manning a bulky machine gun at the bow of the approaching vessel. He kept his aim on the man as the patrol craft only slightly smaller than Lawn Dart pulled along side. Two men began to board, John glanced quickly out of the corner of his eye to the Helm- Jimmy had a pistol trained on one of the boarding party they stood to and leveled their weapons each at Jimmy- who dropped his weapon. John stood firm with his shotgun trained at the machine gunners head. The enormous barrel of the .50 caliber turned to John.
"NO!", the voice from below deck was Kenny's. It was cut short by two sharp cracks, and the two men on deck fell instantly. As the blast of the machine gun responded John came sailing back into the cabin, landing on his back at the base of the stairs grunting in pain. He wasn't hit. Everyone in the cabin hit the deck as the machine gun strafed the windows. Again John rushed to the deck. A single blast interrupted the steady report of the .50cal, and it did not resume. Kenny stood quickly and took aim from the window, dispatching the another another of the enemy as he rushed forward to the machinegun. The last of the attackers raised his hands in surrender.
"Get up faggots, the fight's over.", the teenager looked over his friends as they stood, and couldn't suppress a proud smile as he met eyes with Nikki. Ryan lead the group topside. He immediately spied the surrendered enemy in the boat alongside and without hesitation shouldered his SKS and fired. There was a shared gasp of horror, but nothing was said.
"Some work lads- who of ya down there saved my hide from that first pair?", Jimmy didn't seem shaken by the encounter.
"That was me- both of em." Ryan patted the pair of handguns protruding from the pockets of his jeans.
Kenny glared right through him.
"Yeah, and left my brother with a freakin cannon pointed at him."
There was an awkward silence in among the crew. The truth seemed rather glaring- Ryan had tried to get John shot.
Nikki shook her head and excused herself back to the cabin in hopes of being alone. She was only a few hours away from setting foot on a desert island with a gang of killers. She felt she'd learned a lesson to take with her for the duration of the journey.

posted on Mar, 29 2005 @ 11:40 PM
I'm having some trouble getting the story to do what I want it to. It seems to be writing itself away from what I had planned on doing, so now I've got an idea of what will happen instead but I can't be sure. Ryan and John began taking a different course than I expected last chapter and I'm hoping I'll be able to do something better with them than what I had originally planned.

Nikki was surprised to find herself landing not on a remote, barren island but at a makeshift docks in a fairly large and apparently thriving community. She was anxious to see it all, and Jimmy had agreed to accompany her while the men unloaded the ship and prepared to move out to find a place to stake their claim. They set off down a large smooth dirt avenue which followed the coast for several kilometers. The path was smooth and well compacted- clearly the product of heavy equipment. Nikki felt that she and her friends would be hard pressed to prosper with such a meager start compared to whoever had built this settlement.
Jimmy was grinning vigorously, his sense of impending fortune clearly peaking now that he had actually set foot in his "land of milk and honey". All that Nikki could see was a land of sand and sea weed, but she too was excited and tried to match Jimmy's enthusiasm. She had made up her mind to fall into the part as Jimmy had and really make an adventure of it. Wearing a loose fitting black utility pants from her new military surplus wardrobe with a loose denim shirt she was confident that she looked very much like a pirate. She wore her sword to finish the effect. She found a certain delight in it, especially noticing that her appearance seemed to match the style of the population around her- only cleaner.

Their exploration found them to be in a city of well constructed tents, mostly of plastic tarp and steel cables, and the occasional attempt at a mud-brick structure- some successful, others obviously not. Some distance inland a single large structure could be seen towering above the makeshift town. They had agreed to take the long way there, walking the sea-front, then meandering through the town to the building, to get a good look at all there was to see.
The seafront was dominated by employment offices for various trades. "No commitment! Work for cash! Protection guaranteed!" Some assortment of these things seemed to be the major selling points for each of several dozen job opportunities covering broad descriptions from "labor" to "entertainment". The last structure was mud brick, and was integrated into a large wall which extended as far as Nikki could see. The door was guarded by muscular men in black uniforms, each armed with a strange looking rifle Nikki had never seen before. A small improvised dock in front of the building hosted a pair of small fast-looking boats, each guarded by a man in by men in orange jumpsuits. A chill went down Nikki's spine and she tried not to stare.
One of the guards had already noticed Nikki inspecting his rifle and piped up, "You two looking for work?"
"Not really. We hope to stake a little claim somewheres out there.", Jimmy replied proudly.
"Well good luck to you friend. There's a whole bunch of land out there- 50 kilometers from here in any direction is Raytheon's claim, but beyond that there's a pretty fair amount of unclaimed land. It's not safe though- you'll have to go by the organizer's guild and join a party- nobody who's ever left here without the NPM escort has ever been heard from again, and it takes a big party to hire us.
"New Providence Marines. We're protect Raytheon settlements and enforce tariffs on any outside commerce bound for these parts. If you don't know about us, somebody wasn't doing their job when you were on your way in here."
"Well, 'less there's a tax on ugly, I'd say my boat didn't have much to worry about. Thanks to ya for the information, good man." Jimmy excused himself and Nikki as quickly as he could manage without being conspicuous.

"Ay, looks like we done wrong earlier lass."
Nikki didn't answer. She could have told him that before her friends had killed five men.
The rest of the city seemed to be dominated by housing, usually large tents, some guarded by unthreatening looking characters, presumably tenants earning their keep. A few of the mud brick structures had NPM sentries. As they wandered up further towards the city center and the large building they finally came to what was apparently a commercial district; the city was apparently well zoned and somewhat planned, complete with streets and blocks of uniform size.
The commercial district was dominated by several well guarded brick buildings, two proclaiming familiar corporate names. Albertson's Grocery seemed by far the most attractive, even though the crew of the Lawn Dart had proven to be self-sufficient so far thanks to skilled fishing.
As they approached the building a tired and dirty looking young man appeared as if from nowhere, begging frantically for money. He glanced over his shoulder nervously as he extended a hand, just in time to see one of the New Providence Marines approaching. As swiftly as he appeared, he attempted to vanish, but he was too late. There was a sharp crackle as the grim looking Marine rammed his cattle prod into the small of the beggar's back.
"I said stop you bum, not do it a few yards further away!"
Nikki could only stare in awe and horror.
As the Marine returned to the entrance of the store a passer by stopped to shove the young man as he staggered to his feet.
"Get a job before they pass the slavery act, freak!"
Jimmy seemed oblivious though and Nikki pulled her eyes from the poor man and hurried to catch up with him as he entered the store.

The building was massive compared to any other in the city; easily as large as any grocery store back home, and cluttered with huge shelves and carts of non-perishable goods, tightly compacted and organized to allow as much as possible to be displayed.
Nikki spied the produce in the back and set off at furious pace, nearly breaking into a run. Jimmy kept up as best he could. There wasn't much, but it looked exceptionally fresh. Nikki tried the lid to the basket before realizing that it was locked. A heavyset elderly woman approached with a kind smile.
"Welcome to Albertson's, what can I help you with today?"
"What have you got that doesn't taste like fish?", Nikki responded gleefully.
"Well not only does pineapple not taste like fish- it makes fish taste considerably better- everybody buys the cans but you won't be anybody's cook very long if you try to cook with that stuff."
"Um, I'm not really anybody's cook. I don't think.", Nikki glanced back at Jimmy, suddenly wondering what she was on the expedition for- she was a horrible cook.
"Nay, I'd be the cook, and if me lads aren't happy with it they can go not be happy in somebody else's employ." Jimmy replied, laying a hand on Nikki's shoulder to answer reassure her.

The woman seemed quite charmed, either by Jimmy's accent or the fact that Nikki wasn't a cook. "Ooh", she started in a doting voice, "well you don't know how well off you are to do your own cooking- every chef who comes here is thinking cheap cheap cheap. If you really want to have it good though, we've got semi-fresh beef that would make great barbecue with that pineapple. I can make you a great deal on the meat if you're buying produce too."
"Semi-fresh ya says?", Jimmy questioned. Nikki thought it might be a more pleasant way of saying "green".
"Oh, well it's just not profitable to fly in fresh meat, so the stores on the mainland cook it before it goes bad, vacuum seal it, and send it here."
Something about the description seemed highly suspicious.
"I think we'd like a pineapple.", Nikki said.
"OK, do you have your card?"
The question turned out not to mean what Nikki expected. The woman was more than happy to explain the economic system of New Providence for them. Cash was a rare and somewhat useless commodity. The New Providence Trade Guild would accept it in exchange for barter commodities, which could be deposited, withdrawn, or transfered through their establishment. Most trade was conducted in ore, refined metals, desalinized soil, and kelp or other vegetation- the rare and precious precursors to agriculture and construction. There was no shopping at Albertsons if you didn't have a Trade Guild card, although other merchants would accept cash at a somewhat unfavorable rate.
A Marine patrolling the back aisle walked close by and Nikki carefully inched aside, but the woman gestured that everything was OK.
"You two will have to leave I'm afraid- please do come back when you've got your card. I'll arrange a first time deal for you. Oh, and don't buy produce from the smaller shops- most of them haven't even got any but they've been trying to grow crops feces since fresh soil is at such a premium!"
On that disturbing note Jimmy and Nikki took leave of the store and continued through the commercial district towards the large building at the center of down, now only a few very small blocks away. They passed a single large tent which had its flaps drawn. From inside came the unmistakable music and catcalls of a strip bar. A crude sign above the entrance bore a name which confirmed Jimmy's suspicion. Unfortunately the small opening in the tent flaps as a customer exited did not afford him any view of the action inside "Delilah's". Nikki caught him trying to look, but it only reinforced her appreciation of the one man aboard Lawn Dart who had yet to try to catch a glimpse of her undressing.

In another few blocks they came to a large open square, dominated by the the towering building they had seen from the shore. four massive stories, each a little smaller and shorter than the next, looking like a set of children's building blocks stacked up on one another. To the sides of the main towering building projected two single story wings which together spanned nearly a hundred meters. Each wing and the main buidling had an enterance with two NPM guards. On the roof of the first story of the main building were four more. Although there were no barriers, nobody in the square walked near the building. A large and beautiful sign across the top of the first story announced that this was "New Providence City Hall and Territorial Capital".
As they approached the building Nikki looked up nervously at the NPMs on the second floor. They looked very alert and held their weapons ready. Behind them several scorches in the wall and one small hole seemed to offer a cryptic explaination as to why.
"Halt. State your company and business."
"Flaherty Enterprises. We just have a few questions."
"Wait there..." The marine strolled inside and came out quickly with his weapon slung and a clipboard in hand. "Not on the list. We'll need to see your company's recognition papers."
"I don' know what your talking about Mister. We haven't got any kind of papers."
"Then get the hell out of here! We don't want anymore "questioning" from black flaggers or anybody else!"
"Black Flaggers lad?"
"LEAVE NOW!" The Marine racked his weapon, chambering a round, making himself perfectly clear.

Nikki lead the way out of the square urgently, pulling Jimmy behind her.
"We have to get out of here Jimmy. There is something wrong with this place."
"Just local problems I'm sure- nothing to worry about. But I plan to set out in the morning anyhow."
"Good- their local problems look a lot like a bunch of armed thugs keeping everybody under control for the corporations. I even heard mention of slavery."
"Alright alright lass. We leave at first light. Go back to the boat and put the lads on watches, 4 hours a piece. Tell them their free for the night except that they'd better get some sleep and better all stand their watch, and make sure they know when we leave. I'm going to put me ear to the ground for a bit."
"You're going to Delilah's."
"Nobody talks more than drunks lass. I'll see ya tomorrah."

posted on Apr, 2 2005 @ 04:02 PM
A look at the world of the story. It's hard to see some parts so there's some explanation to go with it, starting in the North West and moving South East.
There's extra land on the Korean peninsula, an island in the Sea of Japan, and Japan has been extended south. Indochina has grown significantly and nearly reaches the expanded Australia/New Guinnea land mass. Note the greatly expanded New Zealand and additional islands around NZ and Aus.
Then you'll notice the great big Hawaiian continent with an achaepalego extending West towards Asia and a series of outer islands. The story currently is taking place on that small projection of the Hawaiian continent just south of the islands to the East.
Now against South America you have the Gallapagos and Easter continents- 2 large land masses with several very large islands around them.
Finally, American West Coast is roughly patterned dictated by the mountains East of California- Southern California, Baja, parts of Arizona and New Mexico are underwater. The great lakes have grown significantly, merged, and let out through a HUGE mississippi river, then the East Coast is underwater. Also note that South America is basically just the Andes now- it's hard to see that coast against the edge of the paper.

I'm planning to write several volumes which cover the various islands and various stages in the recovery of our civilization.

posted on May, 22 2005 @ 10:34 PM
"Nikki! Nikki! Wake up!"
Kenny's young voice urged her in a pannicked whisper.
It was freezing cold, and Nikki had no intention of moving from her blanket.
"What is it?" She asked in a responded in a tired and unhappy voice.
"I don't know yet. Something is going on- it's Ryan and the guys. I think they're up to something."
"Don't worry about it- just go to sleep."
"No! They've brought a couple of strangers onboard and they've been whispering about something for over an hour. One of the new guys is standing guard, keeping us away. Something bad is going to happen!"
Kenny persisted in an urgent whisper, desperation showing deeply on his face.

Nikki shook her head in frustration as she sat up.
"Ok, Ok, what do you want me to do about it?"
"Go with me to get Jimmy. You've got to stay close to him. Ryan doesn't like you guys. If something happens...

Jimmy's voice roared above deck. "Get out of my way sonny, this is my boat!"
John's voice came right behind it, "Kenny, get Nikki out of here!"

Nikki grabbed her sword and rushed above. Kenny tugged at her arm to lead her off the boat but she rushed to Jimmy's side.
John had his shotgun trained on Ryan. A filthy sunburnt ruffian stood toe to toe in front of Jimmy with his hand ready at his holstered weapon as Ryan and his faction stood looking on with anger in their eyes. Ryan's crewmen were unarmed, but his new friends all wore sidearms.

"Go ahead John, make your move. They'll kill you and sell the tramp." Ryan was beaming with wicked confidence. "Take your little girlfriend and get out of here. The old man can go as soon as he signs over his charter."

"Aye, get out of here lass. You go to the Marines and stay safe till I've struck a deal with these boys. I'll see ya."
Nikki was too scared to weigh her options. Kenny tugged at her arm again and she followed reluctantly.
"Kenny", John called back as they left, "I love you little bro. Look out for Nikki if we don't meet up again."
There was a snicker from the mutineers as Nikki and her young friend hurried away with nothing but the clothes on their back. She tried to reassure herself that the Marines would help, if the price was right.

posted on Jul, 23 2005 @ 05:27 AM
It took nearly half an hour to reach the NPM barracks. Nikki hated herself for not being able to run far enough in the soft sand of the beach. She didn't have much to barter with, only her sword. She paused and opened the first two buttons of her shirt. She almost resented her looks for the shallowness they invited in her relationships, but she had learned that a little cleavage and a toss of her long blonde hair could work wonders with authority figures.
She slowed as they approached the barracks and motioned for Kenny to hang back a few feet. She tucked her shirt in a bit, pulling close against her chest as she stode up to the sentry outside the barracks.
"Officer, I've got a big problem. Can you come with me?", she tried to balance her sense of urgency with the need to appeal to the mercinary's sense of profit.
"Hold on, I'm not a cop. What's going on."
"My bosses' crew are trying to blackmail him. They are going to make him sign over everything. You've got to come with me- they're holding him at gunpoint!" She jumped a bit in exasperation and stared right into the Marines cold brown eyes with her soft blue ones. "Please, I'm sure my boss could find a way to pay you for your trouble". She wasn't sure she had it in her to give any real inuendo.
"What company do you work for?" The marine remained steady and seemed fairly unconcerned.
"Well.. it's Jimmy's company..."
"Flaherty Enterprises" Kenny chimed in, stepping forward a bit.
"One second, let me talk to my sergeant."
The sentry stepped into the barracks for a moment and Nikki strained to hear, the conversation inside, but to no avail.
The sentry returned with a bothered look on his face.
"You better come over here for a moment miss." The sentry led the way down the block a few meters, just out of earshot from the enterance to the barracks.
"What is it?", Nikki was afraid it was about the shooting when they came in- she couldn't help staring at the sentry's sidearm in fear.
"The takeover on your ship is sanctioned. There's nothing I can do. If you've got an employment contract you need to run away, and get out of New Providence, or you'll still be under bond to whoever holds that charter."
Nikki stared in disbelief and desparation.
"No, please- come with me- you can take me out if you do," she was careful not to promise anything, "Just do it yourself, please. My boss is a good man!"
"We sent three Marines to arrest Mr Flaherty over an hour ago miss. I can't interfere. If you need somewhere to hide you can stay with me, but my hands are tied." That explained the strangers on the boat. Nikki felt helpless.
"What about my friend- can he hide with me, just for a day or two?"
The Marine glanced over at Kenny.
"The short kid over there?"
"Yeah- he's not a trouble maker, my boss sent him to look out for me."
"I don't really have room- but OK, he can stay for a day or two also. Go down this street, it's the fourth earthen building you come to. Tell the guard you're with Lance Corporal Young, my password is Kafji. I get off in a few hours, and I'll be in. Make yourselves at home but if you need something to eat, stick to the crackers until I come back."
The Marine tugged down on his shirt, exposing a nasty looking round scar just below and off center from his neck.
"Yeah, that's where I got this. Courtesy of the Republican Guard."
Nikki ignored his bragging and thanked the Marine. She didn't like it, but she hoped she could convince her benefactor to help her get Jimmy out of trouble. She only hoped that it wouldn't take more than flirting to do it.

posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 01:06 AM
"I'm starving. There is no way he's really eating crackers two meals a day. He must get food at the barracks." Kenny had done little but grumble since they had arrived. He didn't trust Young and he'd made it clear at great length at each meager breakfast and lunch he and Nikki had shared.
The spartan little room that the Marine called home somehow seemed to make things worse. The dirt floors, the utter lack of furnitures, and above all the absence of a kitchen to so much as look to longingly somehow made him hungrier.
"Then here, I already told you to eat your whole share. I don't need them."
Nikki handed him the six crackers he'd given to her today. He'd been giving her 3 at each meal- a quarter of his ration.
"What's the difference? We can't live like this. We were supposed to leave in a few days, and it has been a few days."
"We can't go anywhere till we know what's going to happen to Jimmy and your brother. You want to get them out don't you?"
There was no point in answering. They couldn't make a move until the laws on slavery were hashed out and passed. Once their companions were sold, the two would follow them and find a way to recover them. Nikki could only hope that they would be sold together. Things looked grim enough as they were. The possibility of having to split up, or else lose one of their friends forever, weighed heavy on her mind.

Nikki paced over to a hole in the ceiling and examined the small beam of light which shone on the floor. It hadn't quite reached the scratch in the dirt floor she'd made the previous evening when Young got home.
"We've still got a few hours till dinner. I'm gonna go out and see if I can learn anything useful."
"Great, maybe we'll have some more of Young's 'fish soup surprise'. It's mostly seaweed- SURPRISE!"
Nikki humored him with a smile.
"I'll try to get us something decent to eat too."

As Nikki had hoped, she found Young standing watch outside the barracks again. He glared at her a bit when he spotted her.
"I thought I told you it wasn't safe to go outside."
"I thought you were going to take me out and buy me a drink last night. I need to talk to my friends. Tell your boss I'm just here to see if I want to bid on them when they come up."
"It's not safe."
"I don't see any wanted posters- do you? Nobody will notice me."
He glanced down at her chest with an ammused look on his face.
"Yeah, and I'm the star attraction at Deliliah's. Fine- wait here a second, and if anyone recognizes you, I don't know you."

Nikki waited, glancing around uncomfortably for any sign of Ryan and his crew. Everything else that could go wrong had so far. She half expected her gamble to fail. It didn't. After a moment a tall, burly NPM emerged. His uncommonly clean shave and sharply creased uniform marked him as an officer.
"You're here about slaves?"
"Yes, I've saved up a bit and I could use somebody to help around the house."
"Well come on in. There's going to be an auction on this batch tomorrow. My name's Quaid, but they call me Captain Morgan."
"Nice to meet you Captain, why don't you show me in."
The officer lead the way through the main barracks and into a hall in the back where an armed NPM stood guard over a row of open rooms which served as cells.
"I'm not actually a Captain... or a Morgan. It's just a nickname. Call me whatever you like... Lt. Quaid, Captain Morgan, makes no difference to me.", the marine laughed at his own joke- Nikki didn't care to join him in it.
"What do you want exactly, young lady? I've got an old guy who says he can cook, a few stronger men- mostly dumb as doorknobs though, then there's this fat kid who thinks he's real smart, but honestly he's not good for anything worth doing. My guess is he'll end up dressing in drag and dancing for whatever crew he ends up with, if nobody has the common sense to shoot him."
"Let me talk to the smart guy- I've got some stuff that needs fixing."
The Lt. rolled his eyes as he lead the way to the last cell.
John's eyes lit up when he saw her, but he caught himself just short of exclaiming her name.
"Mr. Quaid says your worthless. Tell me something useful and maybe I'll buy you anyway."
John shot a mocking glance at the Lt, then quickly looked down.
"He only says that because I won't bang him. Bring me a hammer and let me see your sword- I'll show you something useful."
"Good for you smartass, you just lost another meal.", Quaid interrupted.
"Let's go ma'am, he's no use."
"Just a second Lieutentant. What do you mean about a hammer?", Nikki pressed.
"Simple... well, as long as the compasses have stopped spinning." John hesitated as he realized it might not work.
"They have." The Lt. offered matter of factly. "They point South though."
"Well then, simple. Line your sword up perfectly North and South, and have somebody strong hammer the hell out of it."
Nikki stared blankly. Lt. Quaid hid his confusion a little better.
"Jesus people, you went to school didn't you? If you do it hard enough it will magnetize, at least slightly, and you can pick up metal right out the sand- assuming there's any iron in there. Works a little better if you heat it- but unless you're a blacksmith you'll probably ruin your sword then."
Nikki shot him a stern glance and turned around.
"You're right Lieutenant, he's an idiot. I'll see you at the auction about the cook." She wanted to see him immediately, but she didn't trust herself to keep up the act with Jimmy. Nikki took her leave of the barracks and headed into the city, towards Albertsons. She felt she'd had her fair share of seaweed for the week already.

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