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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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."