Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Subjects this month: A Wife To Behold, My Autobiography, Response to Nerva from Dec. Bainstorming, Funny definition, Kids working, Betty’s Solution for Politicians, A Political Quote, Book Reviews, State of America Series: Immigration (legal and illegal), Political Cowardice and Stupid Laws, Excerpt from the final Apertures Novel A World Lost, A world Gained.
A wife to behold
Betty and I have been married 34 wonderful years as of New year’s Eve. That is also the anniversary of our first date 35 years ago. We spent New Year’s eve together and it seemed appropriate to marry on the same date a year later. I have certainly never regretted it and have come to love her more and more as the years pass. I can’t imagine a more perfect woman, or a more perfect one for me. Of course she has flaws like we all do but she has less of them than just about anyone I know.
Better still, she has always overlooked or forgiven my blunders, mistakes and occasions when I know I must have embarrassed or hurt her. She is loyal to me almost to a fault. I once said that if I robbed a bank she would blame the bank for being there when I got the notion! What is truly amazing is that she knew of some of my bad habits before marrying me and did it anyway.
I remember seeing her when she was nursing in ICU and tricking her into coming to my lab at the hospital where we both worked and maneuvering her into standing under some mistletoe I had prepared in advance as a way of meeting her, and the memory is just as clear today as it was then. Best move I ever made!
After we began dating I was still seeing other women besides her but somehow I kept coming back to her. I simply always felt comfortable in her presence like I never had with any other woman. That feeling gradually segued into love and when I finally realized it had happened I asked her to marry me.
All through the years she has stood by me, helped me, loved me and taken care of me. I wouldn’t be near the person I am today had it not been for her. She smoothed out most of my rough spots and made herself indispensable to me. She became my friend, my lover and the most special person I could ever imagine.
Living with Betty made me finally realize what true love actually is and today I can truthfully say I have never really loved a woman until Betty came along, despite a couple of marriages before then, and I’ve never strayed even when opportunity presented itself. Love is something that lasts and grows just as it has with her. I still find her just as attractive and just as appealing and just as sexy as in the beginning and those feelings have grown and grown as we’ve aged together.
I feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t experienced a lasting love like I have for Betty. It is the greatest thing in the world and I shall be eternally grateful for whoever or whatever orders a universe where we have been able to share the second half of our lives together. And if it was only blind chance and luck that threw us together, then I consider myself the luckiest man in the world!
My autobiography is out in print now under the title “It’s Never Too Late”. In retrospect, it wasn’t a very good title for the book because after publication I found that there are about a hundred other titles just like it. In order to find it quickly at www.amazon.com or wwws.barnesandnoble.com it is better to type in the search “It’s never Too Late by Darrell Bain”. That way it will take you right to it.
I wrote this autobiography at first as just a series of short segments in Bainstorming in answer to fans wanting to know more about me. Eventually my publisher thought it might make an interesting book and asked me to expand those segments and produce a full biography, so I did. It’s Never Too Late is the result.
I believe many readers, especially my younger ones, will find a lot of it fascinating, dealing as it does with growing up in the old segregated South that they have only read about in history books. I lived it from the time I was born until it died while in my twenties and early thirties. I also grew up in a dysfunctional, very poor family for a number of years, shuffled around among relatives and kindly teachers. There was also the long road that finally led to the realization of my live-long dream of finally becoming a published author at age fifty. Many parts of my life weren’t easy, for either me or my siblings. We all had to deal with an addictive syndrome that appears to run through my Dad’s side of the family. My writing career was delayed by many years due to my impulsive nature and if it hadn’t been for Betty’s support I probably would have given up several times. How successful I ultimately have become I leave to my readers, but two Dream Real Awards, Three Eppies, Fictionwise Author of the Year and a number of other achievements tell me I must have done something right, at least in a small way.
It’s Never Too Late has been published now, warts and all, so I can’t take it back. I only hope readers enjoy it and even, perhaps, learn a few things in the process.
Response to “Bring Back The Nerva”
Below is a letter written to me in response to my short article in the last Bainstorming on the subject of nuclear rockets. I wanted to pass it on to all my readers.
Orion is for when we have a base on the moon and a thorium to uranium breeder reactor running there ;-)
Look up MSR (molten salt reactor). The LFTR version (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) could run on fuel dissolved in the core coolent (a mixture of floride salts) and could convert thorium into uranium at a rate above their fuel consumption. A thermal neutron ( not a fast neutron) breeder reactor. Very cheap fuel with NO fuel packaging needed. Continuous removal of fission products is easily achieved so they don't build up in the fuel in high mass amounts. Can be made "walk away" safe.
The technology was proven in the 1960-70s but lost the political battle to the "fast breeder reactor", which made plutonium. You know the problem folks have had with the FBR technology.
Sigh. We could be foreign fuel free by now if the politics had been different. You can make liquid fuels from CO2 and water using the high temperature of the MSR.
The link above gives much more information. If you read it and agree with Craig and I, pass it on!
A group of baboons are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates. And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons? “Congress” of course. How fitting.
Gingrich was castigated by many pundits for suggesting that poor kids be allowed to work at school. Horrors! The little darlings might get their hands dirty, is that it? Frankly, I see nothing at all wrong with the suggestion. We were poor as church mice when I was in elementary school and I was damn glad to be able to work in the cafeteria in the 4th, 5th and 6th grade in return for free lunches. It was that or take a cold biscuit to school for lunch. If I was lucky, there might be a piece of salt pork in the biscuit. One day I had a biscuit with raccoon meat in it. Know what? I can’t remember resenting that work in the kitchen at all. I don’t think scraping off trays and cleaning the tables while other kids had finished and were out enjoying the rest of the lunch hour hurt me a bit. In fact, it helped me realize that work brings rewards. So how about all you wimpy idiots that said Gingrich was nuts for daring to want to give poor kids a job at school just shut the hell up. It’s you who are nuts, not him! And you may quote me!
Betty’s solution for politicians
My wife Betty thinks politicians should be hooked up to a lie detector every time they give a speech. Damn fine idea, I think. The politicians probably wouldn’t agree with it, though. Yikes! They’d have to tell the truth!
And a Political Quote
Politicians spend their time telling people what they think the people want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
Someone else may have said this first, but if so, it needs repeating, again and again!
Betty and I had a great Christmas. We had almost all the family here for dinner on the day after Christmas and enjoyed their company tremendously. We had our own quiet Christmas early on Christmas Day morning when we opened our gifts to each other. Early in our marriage we got into the habit of giving each other a lot of smaller gifts rather than one large one. That makes it more exciting to see so many or our thoughts expressed in gifts. And guess what? Santa still comes down our chimney and fills our stockings each year. That’s another good time, seeing what Santa has stuffed into each of our giant stockings besides the regular gifts. And of course the two doggies have their own stockings and they get filled as well.
We sincerely hope all of you enjoyed the season as much as we did and we wish each and every one of you a happy, rewarding and prosperous New Year!
High Rock Canyon by Tom Graves is a science fiction/fantasy novel of the old west, drawn from historical diaries and documents. I’ve never read anything quite like it and I read a lot. When Daniel Strong is thrown from the twentieth century back to the old west settler days of the 1840s, he copes the best he can while wondering if he will ever return to his previous life and to his wife. The area of the west where the novel is set is well researched by the author and is authentic in just about every detail. From the first few pages you become involved with Daniel’s new life and the people he meets, including a woman and her son who have been separated from the wagon train they were traveling with. The odd thing is that Daniel does not age while in the past, even as he is building a new life, made a little easier by his knowledge of events to come but by no means without risks. It is a harsh life, living close to the earth, and tangling with some characters who cross his path who are mean and stone cold killers.
I’m not usually a western fan and haven’t read many western novels since Louis L’Amour’s Sackett series but this one was great. It has a touch of fantasy and science fiction but is mostly pure western grit and a true to life portrait of how the west was settled.
I won’t spoil the ending of this fine book for you. Just take my word for it that it is well worth your time regardless of the genre you usually read.
Good work, Tom. Let’s see some more stories like this one!
Everyone has heard of The Godfather by Mario Puzo. If you haven’t read it used copies are still available in plenitude. Get a copy and read it, even if you’ve seen the movie. It’s that good.
Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky are again the central characters in The Hearing, a very good and interesting mystery/trial book. Lt. Glitsky makes a mistake in booking a suspected murderer when he has a personal interest in the case. His mistake causes a heroin addict to be accused of murder and afterward, Abe tries to see if he has the right guy while Hardy defends him in court. What else could you want?
I re-read my own book, The Frontier Rebellion. Rather than writing about it myself, I’ll simply post a review for you:
Another Bain story where the view is from the bottom of a corporate system. Law breakers are shipped to where labor is needed and usually not a nice place. He has other books in this vein but does not repeat or rehash his books.
Another book of his was in a similar corp system and like this one they are both a bit dark but they are not cynical or depressing. They have an optimisim that is a bit refreshing too.
Solid scifi writing I really enjoy.
I’ve been on an alternate history reading kick lately, perhaps because I‘ve spent this year writing the Apertures trilogy which is now complete and in print. Here are a couple of good ones:
Dixie Victorious by Peter G. Tsouras (editor) presents a dozen or so scenarios from 1862 through 1864 where the South could easily have won the civil war had just one or two things gone differently. It made very interesting reading and shows us how the tides of history may turn on very inconsequential events. Lucky for us it didn’t turn out where the South won the war, but they came perilously close on a number of occasions.
Robert Conroy’s 1945 presents a very good novel depicting the war with Japan where they refused to surrender after the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I didn’t know until several months ago just how much Japan had in reserve to fight off an invasion of its home islands. They had between 5,000 and 10,000 Kamikazi planes ready, hundreds of suicide midget submarines, a great number of human guided suicide torpedoes and they were arming the entire civilian population with whatever they could, bamboo spears in some cases. Had a military coup succeeded instead of failing as in our history, that’s what an invasion would have faced. Conroy tells how it might have gone and gives us characters we sympathize with and care for. He even makes the bad guys human, if badly misguided by their code of Bushido.
Another good Conroy alternate history is Himmler’s War, where Hitler is killed in a bombing raid shortly after the Normandy invasion. Himmler inherits Hitler’s role as the Fuehrer and allows the generals to conduct the war as they see fit. It goes quite differently than the history that we’re used to reading, naturally. Conroy is a good writer and creates interesting characters, both historical figures and those he makes up himself to help carry the story. Well worth reading.
I finished up the last of the Apertures trilogy and I am pleased to report that all three are now in print and also available as ebooks at all the regular stores. They are, in order: Apertures, Apertures Two, Allies and Enemies and Apertures Three, A world Lost, A world Gained. So far there has been eight reviews of these books on Amazon and seven of the eight are five star! I’m glad my readers are apparently enjoying reading these books as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Anyone who has laughed at Toppers and More Toppers by myself and my co-author, Will Stafford, can now purchase Complete Toppers in both ebook and Print editions. Will is a really humorous guy. His stories of boyhood and the Vietnam war in which he was a real hero are told in such offhand fashion that you’d never suspect what a warrior lurks beneath the comedian you see in Complete Toppers. Treat yourself to a load of belly-busting humor by getting this book (under my name) and watch whoever is nearby think you’re on the way to the nuthouse you’ll be laughing so loud!
State of America: Immigration (legal and illegal), Political Cowardice and Stupid Laws
Let me state right to begin with that I know our country is founded and has been sustained and strengthened through immigration. At least it was up until a few generations ago. Today we don’t have an immigration policy unless you count as policy the behavior of our federal enforcers of immigration allowing 15 million illegal immigrants into the country and refusing to do anything about it and having laws that keep out the people we need most, the well educated scientists and engineers. Isn’t that ridiculous? (Note: Congress recently did pass legislature that partially ameliorated the problem of not allowing enough tech-oriented immigrants into the country but the problem is far from solved. We still need many more than we are allowing to emigrate in order to maintain our technical edge and innovations). Our industry is moving overseas because we can’t hire the engineers and scientists for our technical companies here so the companies move to the nations where we’ve educated those critical people and sent them back home immediately! Not only that, our cowardly congress has actually passed laws encouraging this state of affairs. So have some of our state legislatures. The situation has become so bad that the government might as well dissolve the bureau of immigration, throw open our borders and tell the world that anyone who wants to move to the United States to come on, everyone is welcome! Really, it is damn near that bad.
What should we do about it? First, don’t listen to any of the idiots who tell you we ought to round up every illegal immigrant in the United States and ship them home. That might be nice in theory but it can’t be done, not unless we want to create a police state here and I doubt anyone wants that. Hell, even a police state couldn’t round up and deport that many people, not without draconian measures that would make us as bad as Nazis. Crap, even the Nazis failed to grab all the Jews in Europe and there were only seven or eight million of them.
Let’s look at the situation. Millions of people, mostly from Mexico and points south, cross our borders almost at will. And once here it’s hell to get them to go home. Know why? The most compelling reason they want to stay here is that they can make a bunch more money than in Mexico or wherever the hell they come from. And it is much safer here because we are a nation of laws, albeit that a lot of the laws are rather stupid. Crap, a lot of states have passed laws requiring illegal immigrants to be issued driver’s licenses! What could be sillier? Well, I’ll tell you. The federal law requiring that emergency care cannot be refused to illegal immigrants. Fine. I don’t think emergency care should be refused, either. But the law goes further. After fixing them up, even if we know they’re here illegally, we can’t even identify them as such! We can’t turn them over to the immigration authorities. Why? Hell, the law won’t let us! What’s the result? Along our borders anyone with an illness simply comes across and goes to a hospital. They have to be treated. In the meantime some of our citizens are refused long term service because they can’t afford it. And it goes further. About one if four babies born in the United States now has at least one parent that is here illegally! That’s 25% of new citizens by birth who have at least one illegal parent! There is no other country in the world that would have laws this ridiculous. It is totally fantastic!
What else? How did all those 15 million illegals get here. Oh and by the way, the politically correct crowd doesn’t allow us to call them illegal aliens even though that’s what they are. No, they are “undocumented immigrants”. These illegals get here across a border so porous it may as well not even exist. And besides, there aren’t near enough officials to patrol the border to stop the crossings. It isn’t going to stop until we do two or three things.
First, before anything else, we need to secure the border. If we don’t do that all the immigration reform laws in the world won’t be worth spit in the wind. It wouldn’t take all that much money compared to what congress wastes each year on their little boondoggles they slip into bills in congress creating projects for their home districts or home states. You could take the money spent for that alone in one year and hire enough patrol persons to completely seal off the border. Only when that’s done can you even consider anything else. Or hell, just think of the expense of taking a half million or so illegal aliens back home each year? We do that, you know. Every year, we send a half million illegal aliens back to their country of origin and many of them are back across the border the next day. What could we do with all that money? We could secure our borders, that‘s what.
Okay, let’s say for the sake of argument we do manage to secure our borders. What then? We still can’t ship back 15 million illegal aliens. We don’t have enough people in the police or army to track them down and put them on the road for home. Nope, we’ve been stupid enough to let them in so the only thing to do is let them stay and become citizens. And frankly, they’d probably make pretty good ones even if they did get here illegally. They came to work, which is more than we can say for some of our own citizens. After the border is sealed let them apply to become citizens by learning English and learning our laws. Any who don’t want to do that will be caught eventually and we would have enough personnel to ship those home.
In the meantime, we could hire enough clerks and so forth to process the applications. That would put a lot of unemployed to work. It would also eliminate a lot of the black market in illegal social security numbers and identification and gain us a lot more income from taxes they would then pay.
Face it, we can always use immigrants wanting to work. Our laws are so stupid they don’t allow enough of the ones we really need to stay here, like engineers and scientists and doctors. Not lawyers, though. We already have way too many of them.
But, I can hear critics say, those illegal aliens are doing work that no one else wants to do! Uh huh. That’s because wages for doing those jobs are low. When no more illegal aliens show up after the border is sealed, wages for those jobs would go way up until they were high enough to attract people who are unemployed, even if it’s only temporary work like seasonal crops. And don’t say people won’t do them regardless of how high the wages are. It used to be that high school and college students did much of the farm labor to help their families and/or to help them pay for college. I believe it’s a lie that Americans won’t do the farm work. Hell, I’ve done that kind of labor myself, picking tomatoes, apricots, harvesting hay and doing any number of other hard jobs because I needed the money. Just because a person doesn’t particularly like certain kinds of jobs doesn’t mean they won’t do them when the unemployment checks run out and they have families to feed. That’s if the government doesn’t extend unemployment benefits indefinitely as it appears they will if it will get votes for our politicians.
There are also people who will say there is no transportation to the hard jobs. Another lie. How do you think the illegal aliens get to jobs? They don’t all own cars but they manage, don’t they? In every little town and city in the United States there are day labor sites where persons needing work done go to hire people to do it. Usually those people are here illegally and they tend to discourage others not of their ilk from going to these day labor sites. But a policeman dropping by every now and then would fix their wagons pretty quick and the ones here legally would get the jobs. And get transportation to the jobs. I know. I’ve hired enough of them myself when my wife and I ran a choose and cut Christmas tree farm. I have also hired them for a day at a time to work around the house when things need doing that I’m now unable to perform for myself. I never see a single damn Caucasian or Black at those day labor sites. Nothing but illegal alien Hispanics. They don’t pay income tax and they send their money back to Mexico. What could be crazier? But that’s what failure of the United States Government to run a sane immigration policy and a sane defense of our borders have led us to. Every single person who’s ever voted for laws leading to the present day situation ought to be kicked out of office. Maybe then they’d go find some honest work.
Anyway, once the border is secured we can allow immigration of people who will do any work and be glad to get it. And by damn, then they won’t be on the black market and will pay taxes like the rest of us!
A big change that’s really needed is to allow many more highly educated immigrants into the United States. Right now we have loads and loads of skipped openings for engineers, scientists, biological researchers, computer programmers and computer science and on and on--but the positions remain open because we have no one to fill them. What happens? A lot of high tech industry moves overseas where they can find the high quality techs and scientists needed. It’s not that we don’t have good ones here because we have the best in the world. We just don’t have enough of them any more. Folks, our society and culture is becoming more sophisticated and technically demanding all the time but we actually discourage immigrants to fill those slots or don’t allow visas for them to work here. So guess what? They go to China, India, the industrialized European countries and everywhere they’re needed but here. It is a crying shame to let our lead in so many fields perish for want of bodies to work in them. Yet congress won’t let these people in or let them stay because they say they are “protecting American jobs”. Really? When we don’t have nearly enough Americans to fill them? Get real!
Do you know that Congress can’t even manage to pass what’s called the “Dream Act”. This is a prospective law allowing children who were brought into the country too young to do anything about it and have grown up here and know no other life to apply for citizenship. Hell, it isn’t their fault. If the politicians can’t do at least that much, they are the most hardhearted bigots in America!
All this isn’t rocket science. It’s so simple a grade school kid can figure it out. All it takes is the courage and political will to get the job done. I’ve about given up on the people in congress, though. And I’ll say some more about the members of congress in a little section all their own later in this book. It won’t be very nice, either.
In the meantime we’re seeing individual states having to pass laws controlling illegal immigrants that is the responsibility of the federal government because the feds have completely abrogated their responsibilities in the area. And judges keep striking them down, probably because most of them are properly federal areas of jurisdiction. But doesn’t it say a great deal about the weakness of our politicians when the state houses have to pass laws like having to show documentation to receive a driver’s license and be able to pass the tests and speak English? Nough said.
Excerpt from A World Lost, A World Gained, the final book of the Apertures trilogy:
Author’s note: I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these three books of alternate worlds, and of twins Jan and Jani growing from know it all teenagers to combat veterans with families and heavy responsibilities while continually working to establish a New America in another alternity.
“Send the next one in, James,” Cantor Endicott said. He knew he was working past his efficient limits, but this was too important to wait. The viability of the whole project might depend on what he found. A teenage girl was escorted into his office and the door closed behind her. He glanced at the top chart of the pile stacked on his desk. “Elaine Morris?” “Yes, sir.” “I’m Doctor Cantor Endicott, chief scientist of the Aperture Research Department. Have a seat.” He motioned to the chair beside his desk, positioned as non-threateningly as possible. Still … he made a quick note to have a small table and another chair moved in to provide a more intimate atmosphere. “Yes, sir,” she said. She had a thin face and a not fully developed figure yet. She wore glasses, and tapped nervously with fingers on her thighs. “Please relax, Elaine. You haven’t done anything wrong.” “But I can’t make an aperture anymore!” She appeared almost ready to cry. “It’s not important yet, and just to relieve your feelings a bit, you’re not the first Ape this has happened to. Okay?” “But … but why, Doctor Endicott? I made three apertures without much trouble, but then when I tried to return from the alternity my mentor took me to the last time, I c ... c … couldn’t!” She did cry then, tears trickling pathetically down her face. He could picture the young girl’s disappointment. She wasn’t very good looking and had probably had few friends in school. Teenagers can be very cruel, he knew. She had probably been taunted and called geek names because of her extreme intelligence. He handed her a tissue, and waited patiently for the tears to stop. “Now, Elaine, why don’t we try to get to the bottom of this, shall we?” “Oh, yes! I felt so good when I was picked for testing, and then, when I was able to make an aperture, it felt wonderful! But now….” “It will be alright. I would like to run a few tests, though. Would that be okay, Elaine?” “Oh, yes, sir. Whatever you want to do.” He led her back to an exam room and hooked her up to an ECG monitor. After seeing that the baseline now was about the same as her initial one, he began asking questions that ultimately led t o requesting that she try to create an aperture to Europa, one of the “closest” alternities. When she failed again, he asked permission, then injected a solution intravenously, a mild amphetamine-like substance to speed up the firing of cerebral neurons. He asked her to try again. She failed, but Endicott was nodding to himself. “Alright Elaine, I think that will be all for today. But with your permission we’d like you to stay here a few more days for more testing.” “That would be fine, sir. Do you think you can help me, so I can make apertures again?” “You’ve been a great help in the studies, Elaine. There’s a possibility that I’ll learn enough to restore your ability.” He shrugged. “Then again, it may just come back naturally. We’ll just have to see.” “Thank you, Doctor Endicott. That makes me feel better.” He nodded at her smile, thinking she should try it more often. It made her look a hundred percent better. He escorted her out, and called for the next person. While waiting, he thought of Elaine’s plight. If she could no longer make apertures to Europa, he doubted she’d ever regain the facility to create them “naturally,” so to speak, although the injection had shown promise. She had been only a marginal Ape at best. He had told her the truth, though. She had been a help. He thought now he was beginning to figure out a pattern—not that he had any idea of what to do about it yet. The next day he finished his testing and ran some computer correlations. The picture wasn’t clear yet, but he was getting there.
We had several more slower days, while Jani was making sure that her twins would be cared for properly and at the same time busy with holding an aperture open to their “old” alternity. Nursing two babies must have been tiring, he thought, but that was one task a husband couldn’t help with.
“Some days I wish you could,” Colleen said, impishly, making me realize I had spoken out loud. She had just finished feeding Jason and given him to me. I had burped him, and was getting more instructions on changing diapers. That particular job had caused me to come down decisively in favor of a tech civilization, one that produced disposables. Some day, some day.
“I did help while you were nursing Jason, so you wouldn’t carry around any leftovers,” I said virtuously.
She stuck her tongue out at me but laughed. “How much longer? I feel so isolated without any news from home that I have no idea where we stand.”
“I can sympathize, sweetheart. All I know is what’s passed along to me in conversation. I think I’m going to make a recommendation that some of the better programs be recorded and brought in for just the purpose of helping us keep up with events.”
“How about our education? Are we going to have colleges here so we can finish up our degrees or specialize in something?”
“There will have to be. Right now everything is so chaotic that no one’s gotten to that yet. We will, though. Have to have education, or we’d be living in caves pretty soon.”
“When do you go on duty again?”
I glanced at my watch. “In two hours. Just time enough to make some coffee and take a thermos with me. It helps me keep going while I’m holding an aperture open.”
I rocked Jason while Colleen began making more coffee, something that we’d be doing without shortly. Right now it was rationed. Only VIPs who needed to stay alert and were working long hours got it. Which included me, but of course I shared with her. It wasn’t that short yet, but it would be.
“You know, if I don’t get a chance to practice soon, I’ll forget how to make an aperture,” she said while looking over her shoulder. “Which reminds me—I’ve been meaning to ask. Has anyone explored the alternities near the five Faraways?”
They weren’t really “near,” of course. It’s just that we still didn’t have a suitable vocabulary in speaking about alternities. I knew what she meant, though. “No, not after that one guy didn’t come back. Candy sent word that he’d rather no one else try, for now. Not until we’ve got everyone and all the equipment and supplies we want or need here.”
“I wonder why?”
I shrugged. “He hasn’t said, so far as I know. Just as well. We’ve all got enough business to tend to without finding out we might be living next door to three-headed octopus people.”
I really did wonder why Candy sent that directive down, though. And wondered even more, when I reported for duty to relieve Jani, a little early in case she was more tired than usual. It was dustier than ever and trucks were still rolling through the aperture Jani was holding open for about forty five minutes at a time, slower than before. I was straining hard to keep one open, for four hours now. Neither of us had any idea why our ability seemed to be slipping. And Dad was waiting there with Jani. He was carrying a bag.
“Hi, Dad,” I said. “Going somewhere?”
“If I were, I couldn’t find my way in all this dust.”
“Yeah. I know the settlers will be glad when we get everything through. Hell, I’ll be glad!”
“Well, there’s going to be a change, anyway. You and Colleen come on over to my place after you finish here and close down for the day, and have something to eat. I’ll tell you about it. For now, though, Candy sent some apparatus he wants you to test.”
“I shrugged. “What kind?”
“More ECG studies. He wants you and Jani to hold the aperture open together while he records your brainwaves.”
“Dammit, he should know them by heart after all this time,” Jani said.
“I haven’t any idea what he’s after, but that’s what he wants.”
There were instructions on how to hook up the leads and so forth, but we were so familiar with them by now that we didn’t bother reading. I helped her, then she helped me while we got hooked up. Dad attached leads from both to a little battery power pack, then read the instructions to us.
“Jani by herself.”
“Now Jan by himself.”
“Both of you together. Again. Again.”
“Okay, now a repeat, this time Jan goes first.”
It went on like that for about ten minutes, and that was it. “Okay, let Jan have it now, and you’re finished, Jani,” he said.
As soon as she was certain I had hold of the aperture, she let loose with an audible sigh of relief. “Tending to twins is a breeze compared to this,” she said.
I wouldn’t go that far, but it was tiring. She had been taking only ten or fifteen minute breaks between each stint of holding the aperture open. I stood duty until nightfall, then called a halt and let the aperture close. Until morning workmen would be busy directing the trucks into spaces where they would be either unloaded, or left parked and used as temporary storage units. Floodlights lit the area as far as I could see, as I walked back towards our place, the gravel crunching underfoot. If there’s one thing Arkansas wasn’t short of it was rocks, in both alternities. I wanted us to move farther toward the outskirts after the last convoy came through, but right now it was too convenient to the aperture point to think about.
Jason had been a bit cranky from teething and we settled for MREs for our evening meal. Colleen cleaned up while I gathered all the things needed to take a baby with us, a surprisingly large load. I had never dreamed of all the work a child entailed.
“Hi, kids. Come on in. The coffee’s ready,” Dad greeted us. I wondered if he would ever stop calling us kids, but it no longer bothered me, or Colleen either. Dad said we’d probably do the same thing once Jason and the twins were grown.
Friedman and Mariene joined us shortly. For the first time since the apertures first appeared, he was looking tired. Up until now I had been thinking of him as the proverbial iron man, but apparently even he had his limits. He seated himself and let Jeanine bring him coffee. Dad brought out a bottle of brandy, something reserved for special occasions. Once we broke contact with Earth, it would be our own brand or nothing. I had developed a liking for it in my coffee at the end of a rough day. Just the rich aroma was enough to perk me up. It seemed to have the same effect on Friedman, too.
“Since everyone is here, we may as well get started,” Dad said. He brought out a flash drive and inserted it into the player. It would be a good long while before we’d be able to manufacture televisions and set up broadcasting. We had imported some flat screens but very few. Most of us made do with laptops and dedicated players or simple desktops, all Apples.
“What this drive has on it is a summary of the news over the last few weeks. I guess you’ve all heard by now that control of the Senate passed to the new President’s party, and he is only a few seats short of a majority in the House. With enough pressure and money he’ll be able to round up the votes for most of his programs. Of course the new Congress hasn’t been seated yet, but that’s only a few weeks from now.”
“What does that have to do with us, Dad?” I asked, rather curtly. Before long we’d be free of anything the politicians could do to us. As usual it had been a long, tiring, dusty day. We needed some rain even if it would mean colder weather. I didn’t remember using this much energy when I first began opening apertures to Faraway.
“Patience, son. You’ll see in a moment.”
Just the summary was enough to cause a sense of apprehension in all of us. All the extraneous news that didn’t affect us had been dispensed with, as well as the commercials, of course. What was left mostly concerned the Apertures for the Masses movement and its influence on affairs in America.
The AM populist movement was still growing and making itself felt. It was led by a charismatic former economist by the name of Raul Morales, who’d left Berkeley because his viewpoints didn’t jibe with his fellows. He was too much of an outlier even for that group. He was good looking in a casually rumpled kind of way, that I’d bet took him two hours every morning to get right for appearances. I had my doubts whether he truly believed in what he kept saying: that the era of apertures and Apes presented a unique opportunity to bring new life and hope to the disadvantaged. Perhaps he did, but his mouthings didn’t compute.
Well, hell, everyone likes something free and he was promising everyone who wanted it a tract of forty acres and the tools, equipment, seeds and provisions for the first two years. Any idea of what that might cost? Mind you he was talking about tractors rather than horses or oxen, along with the fuel to run them, and instruction manuals written by the very best minds in the Department of Agriculture, most of whom the only type of farm they knew anything about was the giant corporate agribusinesses, if they even knew much about them. He said nothing about where the people would sell their crops, but presumably they would be shipped back to the home alternity through apertures held open by Apes who either volunteered for the task or were drafted for it. But in order for that to happen the infrastructure would also have to be created, just as we were planning on doing. And as I’ve mentioned, farming is hot, dirty, physically exhausting work as anyone would know if they bothered to talk to a family farmer. In order to support a family, a farmer had to be a business manager, veterinarian, stock handler, blacksmith, mechanic, land manager, and God knows what all. It can’t be a one-crop deal like agribusinesses were.
Then came the news of the discovery of the convoys out of Texarkana belonging to a corporation by the name of Universal Suppliers, Inc. That was the cover name of the project contractor, of course, but it was just Forrest that set it up, under a succession of cutout companies. The AM was currently picketing the Texarkana warehouses, the ones they’d discovered, and claiming it was in competition with the “legitimate” goals of the AM. At any time now, they’d find where the trucks were going. It wouldn’t be hard at all to follow them. Once that happened, and if either Jani or I were recognized, we’d be out of business in that area.
The government had already spent massive amounts of money to finance the war with Panka. More had been spent for defensive armaments to deter the nations in our alternity which the Congressional committees thought were under the influence of other alternities or rogue Apes. And of course no new taxes had been imposed to pay for either. It had been borrowed. Now they were looking for more to finance the promises AM was making to the “disadvantaged,” or those living in “poverty,” which meant they already had a better and more comfortable life than three-quarters of the population of earth.
Forrest Industries was being picketed as the suspected financing behind another discovery investigative reporters had made—Burton Kellogg’s underground solicitation of prospective immigrants to Faraway. A specific alternity hadn’t been mentioned, only that it would be far removed from others. The AM had jumped all over the criteria listed for prospective inclusion: high IQ, well-educated, physically healthy, competent in one of the needed specialties, and emphatically not beholden to any fundamentalist evangelistic religion, Christianity or otherwise, or to Islam. Religious wars have caused more misery to the human race than droughts, famine, plagues, earthquakes, floods, and every other natural disaster you can name. We weren’t objecting to belief in God. We simply didn’t want to see any religious controversy or schism in Faraway. It was that factor in the criteria that aroused the most animosity, of course.
The AM movement had already found a nearby alternity for their disadvantaged citizens, the one Jani and I had first discovered, I thought, and the government had begun limited financing. Almost ten thousand immigrants had already moved there, through apertures provided by government-paid Apes. No one seemed to notice that once a person went through the aperture they were not allowed to return. Already there had been rumblings of violence and gang warfare in their “Paradise Planet,” but that was nothing compared to the outcry when several of the government Apes, one after the other, began claiming they could no longer create apertures to it. In two cases the former Apes were saying they could no longer create apertures at all. Riots had broken out at the sites where those Apes had been providing transit, with the upset rioters yelling that they had been swindled, or that the Apes were simply holding out for more money.
“Okay,” Dad said, after the news summary had ended. “You see now what we’re up against. And you’ve already heard us mention alternate sites for funneling our people and material to here. Now we might have to do it through them, so I think we have to prepare. Herb?”
Friedman didn’t look happy. “Jan and Jani, and you too, Colleen, this isn’t going to be easy on any of you, but if we want to get this project off to a good start … well, here it is. Forrest has already been stockpiling materials at Arkadelphia and Nashville—that’s Nashville and Arkadelphia in Arkansas, by the way. We’re arranging for convoys to be ready to go from both sites, but we’re going to get the first one ready now, to stage from Arkadelphia. A convoy will be ready to go from there to Highway 67 and from there to exits not too far from Prescott, the location in our alternity that corresponds to where we are here in Faraway. From there the convoy will leave 67, near a little burg not too far from the highway and not too far from Prescott.
“Jani, you and Jacques will go with a guard force to Arkadelphia and contact our people there. I’ll give you the address. You and your guards will go with that convoy. It will consist of heavy equipment. Forrest has bought a right of way into an area where we think the terrains will match. Our people will cut roads from here in Faraway to those sites. The people in the little burgs nearby will think you’re the advance of corporate development projects, Jani. Your heavy equipment operators will cut roads to the same area in the Earth alternity and be ready to begin using that site to bring more people and equipment through.
“Jan will stay here and keep an aperture open just as long as possible each day and even part of each night, so we can run convoys from the warehouses in Texarkana to here for as long as we’re left alone. When and if the AM or the army or FBI or Homeland Security or whoever in hell the present administration uses blocks convoys from Texarkana, we’ll immediately move to the first alternate site. In the meantime the second will be made ready, too, in case we need it. I know that isn’t all clear to you, but the people with you have all the details and you can go over them on the way.”
“What will I be doing?” Colleen asked rather plaintively. She wanted desperately to help, to do anything she could to hurry the project along. She wanted a permanent, unthreatened home for us.
“You’re going to be flown to Maryland, and from there I’d like you to go on to the Wantan Dynasty and contact Chin Zhou and ask him if he would be willing to lead a contingent of their scientists, a limited number of Yang Jong warriors, some construction specialists, and farmers with seeds of the crops we think would grow in this area, along with any other people he wants to bring out who meet our specifications and who want to leave the WD. I’ve heard from him in a roundabout way and know he wants to get himself and some of his friends away from the WD. We can use them and we owe them big time for helping us in the Pankan war. We’ll send some of our former ASF troops that they know and trust with you, for protection in case the situation is going to hell there like it is here.
“Once out of the WD, with or without Chin, we’ll have some of Forrest’s jets waiting to fly you back to one of our alternate sites or, more accurately, to the nearest airfield his planes can land at near them. However, once you’re back in our Earth, try calling Jan, Jani, or Texarkana, and last resort, our two alternate sites. If you don’t get any further instructions, we’ll have them land at Little Rock to scope out the situation. We’ll have someone there to meet you. If there isn’t, then on to the nearest field they can land at near our primary site, or if it’s closed, near our first alternate site. We’ll try to have someone meet you at all those places if possible and give you further instructions there. I’ll go over all this with you before you leave and give you the phone numbers.”
“But … I have to watch Jason!” Colleen said. “And who’s going to be taking care of June and Julia?”
Dad answered her. “If the initial trip to the WD is successful you can remain here afterward, tending to your and Jani’s kids, with some help of course. They’re all three at the age now that we don’t want them separated from both mothers for very long.” He smiled softly as he mentioned his grandchild, but immediately rubbed at tired eyes.
“You’ve been helping each other and the babies have gotten used to both of you, so hopefully it won’t bother them too much. Also, hopefully, they won’t miss their mothers while your new nannies are tending to them. Jeanine and Mariene and Herb and I will all help care for them, too. I think we can wind this whole thing up in a few more weeks, if we don’t get blindsided by the politicians or the AM. We have barely enough people now, but we really need more, and more goods, especially. And we still haven’t brought in most of our stock animals and dogs and cats. In any case, I want you to get back here as quickly as you can. I wouldn’t even send you, but we owe Chin and his Apes and warriors, and, unfortunately, you’re the only Ape we’ve got who’s been to the WD and is included in the project. Forrest has some good lobbyists running interference, so maybe all our fears won’t even happen. Forrest, smart man that he is, has managed to duplicate the supplies and materials in all three spots so that if one is closed down we won’t lose anything critical, and if they aren’t closed we’ll have a surplus.” He yawned tiredly.
“We may not get all of our own people that we want, but unless there are mass arrests, I believe they can just be told to head to one of the alternate sites and still get here.” He yawned again and shook his head. “Damn, I must be getting old.”
Maybe, but I doubted it. He was just short on sleep. It was too bad we hadn’t planned on more than one settlement to begin with; the situation wouldn’t have been so difficult. But that’s in the category of woulda-shoulda-coulda, which doesn’t fix anything.
“But, Pop … can’t we … no, I guess not.” Colleen leaned down and kissed Jason’s forehead. I didn’t like the idea of leaving them without their mothers, either, even if it was for a short time. It wouldn’t be so bad in one way, though. Even if I was going to be busy as hell and mentally strained keeping an aperture to our home alternity open, at least the kids could see their dad and granddads.
Forrest must be spending money like Congress on its worst days, but he was leaving most of his fortune behind, and at least his wasn’t borrowing from his children like Congress had been doing from Dad and Pop’s generation for decades. Now they were working on stealing money from their grandchildren and probably their great grandchildren—that is, if they were staying on our Earth. That was one of the big reasons Jani and I had dreamed up the project to begin with, to get away from profligate and irresponsible and unethical politicians.
I kissed Colleen goodbye the next day and watched her stride purposefully through the aperture I was holding open. I don’t think anyone but I noticed Colleen’s tears, unless they happened to see her brush a hand across her eyes after she was on the other side of the aperture. This would be the first time she had been separated from Jason since he was born. I think Dad and Friedman must have seen at least part of this coming because our nannies, two sisters by the name of Leigh Ann and Mary Ann, had appeared yesterday evening to begin caring for the babies. I had helped them move Jason’s things and a few of mine over to Dad and Jeanine’s home. It wasn’t a double-wide, but might as well have been since two of the big singles had been butted together and doorways matched where possible and new ones cut where they didn’t line up. I’d be working from there until Colleen and Jani were back.
I got acquainted with our nannies while they helped me move my and Jason’s things. Both the sisters had red hair and very fair skin with lots of freckles. Mary Ann was the oldest at eighteen and Leigh Ann was seventeen. They had lost their parents in an accident, a truck rollover a few weeks ago. They were glad to have a job and a place to stay other than a tiny travel trailer, until we had an educational system ready. I liked them immediately and Jason and the twins appeared to like them, too. They claimed to have had a lot of experience with small children from babysitting. Leigh Ann laughed when she told me that, and added that their parents insisted they earn a little money, since school was so easy for them. Their parents had both been zoology professors.
I wasn’t feeling at all comfortable about the situation, but it wasn’t from the logic of their planning. I just hated to see Jani and Colleen back in the Earth alternity where all kinds of old dangers still lurked and a new one had been added: the operational wing of Raul Morales’ AM movement. We had learned that a lot of them were real fanatics, the kind that resembled the Islamic crazies who thought their cause was being furthered by killing innocent civilians. Women, kids, men—they didn’t give a damn. Hopefully, the extra guards being sent with them would help.
“I guess it’s time,” Jani said to me. “Take care while I’m gone.”
“You do the same, sis.” I hugged her, thinking of all the contretemps, mishaps, and Pankan attempts to kill or kidnap both of us over the last three years. We kissed briefly before separating, our lips meeting as if we were lovers.
“And take care of our babies, you hear?”
I smiled at her, a movement of my face that had no humor behind it. “I will. Now go, before I start bawling.” I turned her toward the aperture I was holding open and gave her a slap on the rear, the kind we’d been exchanging since we were kids. I saw tears in her eyes before she left, too. Jacques followed close behind. He had insisted on accompanying her, once the nannies had arrived.
I turned in right after that in order to get a good night’s sleep before beginning my extended periods of holding open an aperture back to Earth. I didn’t sleep well, even though we had sent Wana Mehata and her guards with Colleen and were sending Burk Castleberry and his guards with Jani.
Early the next morning I was holding an aperture open at the break of daylight. It went on all day long and into the evening, with breaks just long enough for some mental rest while getting a bite to eat and coffee, then back to it again. Friedman had sent word back with Colleen to tell the convoys to be ready and to plan on rolling all day long and into the night before she left for Maryland. The big difference in what had come through previously was the sound of upset cattle, horses, goats, sheep, and various other animals. Then, there was the barking of the German shepherds and Border collies. Any meows from the cats was lost amid the other noises. For the next two days it would be nothing but stock and animal tenders and veterinarians, now that the corrals, kennels, pens, and housing for their caretakers was prepared for them. Once those were through, we would begin bringing in more people and supplies. We were past the minimum goals that had been set, but Forrest wanted as much surplus as possible.
I called a halt at 2000 hours, knowing I’d need to rest and sleep. It wasn’t easy because I kept thinking about my sister and my wife, and wondering what they were doing at any given moment.
This went on for three days, until the convoys began to finally thin out. The trucks, personnel, and equipment and supplies still came through, but not nearly bumper to bumper like they had been. I was beginning to think we might not have any of the problems we’d been preparing for, but then Candy Endicott was waiting on me back at Dad’s place. He must have come through on one of the trucks but I hadn’t seen him. Jeanine was there, and Friedman, too. From their expressions, I knew immediately that something must be wrong. Colleen! I thought immediately.
I didn’t even wait for the inevitable coffee before asking, “What is it?”
“Relax, Jan. The girls aren’t in trouble,” Jeanine said. It didn’t reassure me all that much. Her pretty face was troubled.
“I came to run some more tests on all three of you and a few other Apes we have here,” Candy said. “I didn’t want you worried while you were working the apertures, so I sent someone out on a returning truck this morning to tell Jani to come back here for a day or so. We’re having aperture trouble all over.” Uh-oh. I wondered if it had anything to do with me and Jani having a harder time creating apertures back to earth. I didn’t say anything, so he continued.
“I’ve been testing a lot of Apes lately, the same as I did by having your dad getting those ECG readings for me. It’s not a catastrophe yet, but more and more Apes are having problems making apertures to alternities where they’ve been before, and they’re not getting better the more they practice. I noticed some differences on your ECGs and wanted to check them again.”
“Oh. Is this why Jani and I have had a harder time keeping our apertures open?”
He had a worried expression on his face. “Yes, that’s part of it.”
“So what’s the rest of it?” I asked, while finally thinking of the coffee. I poured a cup for myself while Candy appeared to be gathering his thoughts.
He sighed and shook his head. His gaze took in all of us before he answered. “I believe we’re seeing a general phenomena. You’ve all heard about quantum entanglement, I’m sure?”
I nodded, along with everyone else. “Well, since the first event more than three years ago, there has been a tremendous amount of travel back and forth between the sheaf of alternities near us and our Earth. Of course there was some traffic between the other alternities in that sheaf….” He shrugged and gave a mirthless smile. “That’s what I’m calling them although it really doesn’t describe what I mean—that sheath of worlds. All of the travel back and forth has resulted in more and more quantum entanglement, which I believe is drawing all those alternities closer….” Again he shrugged. “Closer together. If the equations the alternity mathematicians are beginning to formulate are describing what’s happening correctly, then we can anticipate that sometime in the near future travel between that sheaf of alternities, either to or from them, will become impossible.”
I know my expression must have resembled the stricken ones I was seeing on Dad and Friedman’s face. Jeanine was looking from one to another of us, not quite getting it yet. Her field was security, not science.
Friedman said it first. “We by-God better get the girls back here as soon as possible while we still can!”
Candy nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so, too. The equations have an indeterminate time factor in them, but I think that’s just the result of not being able to comprehend all the factors relating to the alternity picture as we know it to date. I don’t think we should take chances, though. That sheaf of worlds might close up to tomorrow, or next week, or next month. We just don’t know, but consensus is that they will close off.” He wrinkled his brow. “It’s peculiar, too. Entanglement shouldn’t be responsible for the phenomena but apparently it is.”
“How about here, though?” I asked him. “After we get settled, I mean.”
“I suspect we’ll still be able to form apertures to the alternities near Faraway for a long time to come yet, so long as we don’t overdo it.”
“But … hell, Candy, we’ve moved more than fifty-thousand people and God knows how many tons of equipment and supplies here from Earth. Doesn’t that count?”
“I … don’t think so. I believe it’s the number of apertures that have been opened or closed, not what’s passed back and forth between them. Having said that, I still don’t think we should take chances, because indications are that the closure rate might be accelerating. You should get Colleen and Jani back here now, then all of you stay on this side of any aperture you create.”
“I’ll go,” I said, then backed off. “Just as soon as we know where they are.”
“Colleen isn’t back from the Wantan Dynasty yet, but Jani should be at our first alternate site,” Friedman said.
“She hasn’t checked in if she is,” I said. It had been worrying me. “And Colleen and the Yang Jong warriors are supposed to be picked up by Jani and brought back. I’m going to get my traveling pack and rifle ready,” I said.
Friedman looked torn. He had a tremendous job just keeping the project organized. He really shouldn’t leave. Colleen was my wife, but she was also his daughter. Besides, the project was going to come to a halt until they were both back here. He made up his mind. “Don’t leave before I get ready. I’ll have to put someone in charge here or the whole project might fall to pieces. It’s grown so much faster than we planned that it’s a goddamn balancing act keeping everything in line.”
“Can Judy handle it?” Dad asked him. I didn’t hear Friedman’s answer because I was already out the door and trotting toward our home. I was just assuming Dad would go back to the home alternity with me. I was feeling sick. This whole project was my idea originally, even though Jani and Colleen had jumped in immediately and fully backed me. I knew if either of them came to harm or wound up isolated in another alternity, I’d never forgive myself. There was another factor involved, too. While Jani and I were the most powerful Apes known, Colleen was just a normal Ape. It was possible that she had gone to the Wantan Dynasty and not been able to come back. Hopefully, Chin could make an aperture from there to Earth even if she couldn’t. He was the most capable Ape of the WD.
As I gathered up what I wanted to carry and began stuffing it into my pack, I had another thought. From how worried Candy had looked and the way he’d talked, I might wind up stranded in another alternity myself and be unable to get back to Faraway. And if that happened to me, it damn sure would to Jani, because she hadn’t created nearly as many apertures to Faraway as I had. I was tempted to simply take off on my own as soon as I had my rifle and my backpack on and stocked with ammunition and other necessities. And of course I always carried my sidearm. Colleen teased that I would forget one time and wear it to bed, but she was just having fun. She kept hers handy, too. I waited, though. Dad and Friedman and some guards would be welcome company. We had to round up some more guards since most of the immediate contingent had gone with either Colleen and Jani, so I had to wait some more before we finally got going. Brandon Fernandez had sent his two top guard commanders and most of his men with Jani and Colleen. We were still short of bodies by the time he found some others, so he decided to come with us.
There had been a dramatic change overnight at the transport site back on Earth. We had no way of knowing it, of course, since only Jani and I could form apertures back and forth from Faraway, and Jani had already headed to Alternate One.
As usual, half of the guards went through my aperture first, but immediately began backing out. There was some gunfire.
“Back! Get back!” I heard Fernandez yell.
I saw two of the point men fall, with fatal wounds, before the others could retreat back through the aperture. Fernandez was the last of our men to come through, and I waited on him before I closed the aperture. He was bleeding from a slight wound to his upper arm, near the shoulder, and cursing like a sailor.
Whoever it was on the other side, three of them tried to come on through, probably assuming the others would be able to follow. I guess they didn’t really understand how apertures work, or that I could close it from the other side almost immediately. The closing aperture cut the third one in half, but the other two made it. The head and half the torso of the unfortunate fellow gasped once and died. The other two were met and surrounded by our armed guards. Even though they carried weapons in their hands, they weren’t entirely fools. When they saw how many weapons were trained on them by grim-faced men and women, they both dropped their weapons and threw up their hands. One of them put his down quickly and spewed up his last meal, when he saw his pal with only half a body lying in the blood-soaked dirt near him. The other’s face faded to pale white. He gagged, but kept his gorge down with a visible effort.
“Who the hell are you people?” Friedman asked. He had the barrel of his .45 Army M1A pistol touching the nose of the nearest intruder, a big hulk who was completely subdued now. He looked cross-eyed at the barrel of the pistol.
“The AM. We’re with the AM,” he whimpered, trying to back away. He bumped into his companion, whose stomach was still trying to empty itself even though there was nothing left. He was gagging each time a spasm racked his body.
“How many are with you over there?” Friedman pointed behind him where the aperture had been.
“Uh … uh,” he said.
“Speak up, goddamnit, before you’re trying to talk with a hole in your head.” Friedman was mad clean through, and so was I, but I was trying to contain it until we found out whether or not they had captured Jani, or worse.
“There are, uh, thousands of us. We … we took over your warehouses in Texarkana and followed your trucks here. Or there. On the real Earth.”
“Uh ... we….”
Friedman pushed and twisted the barrel of his pistol so hard that the guy’s nose began bleeding. He licked at the blood trickling down to his lips. “We found this place, like I told you. The place on Earth, I mean. We followed the trucks and took it over, too.”
“How the hell did you manage that with so many armed men standing in your way?”
“We were in some of the trucks and we surprised them. We had a lot more men, too. Raul gave everyone plenty of weapons.”
“Yeah, Raul Morales.”
“Shit,” Friedman said. He twisted the barrel again, making the guy wince with pain. “Where’s the girl, the one who can make apertures to here? Jani Lemeiux.”
“If it’s that Twin bitch—ow!” He got a hard slash across the face with the pistol for calling Jani a bitch. “I dunno nothing about her, honest! We had to wait on one of you to open up a, uh, a doorway from here to there.”
I made a sound of relief. It sounded as if Jani had already been gone by the time the AM mob took over. It was still a fucked up situation, and we still had to get back to the Earth alternity and find Jani and Colleen. We sure couldn’t do it from where we were at the moment, though.
A few more minutes of questioning got nothing from the two AM dudes. All we knew for certain was that Morales had plenty of help and that we wouldn’t be using an aperture from our settlement anymore. Apparently Morales had the site covered like a glove, but that was all. Just a little ways farther up the highway towards our alternate sites, there was no one. We weren’t there, though. We were in Faraway and needed to get going. “What are we going to do with these fucks?” I asked.
“I’ve got a suggestion,” Dad said. “I don’t like executing anyone in cold blood, even though I think these two deserve it. We don’t have a formal judicial system yet, so why not just deposit them on Panka, like we’ve done with our own criminals, and let them fend for themselves?”
That’s what we did. We’d had very few occasions so far of behavior warranting anything worse than posting the miscreant’s name in the public square along with his or her misdeed. I had never tried to find out what happened to them afterward, but I’d bet that their neighbors made damned sure they didn’t do it again. For the ones who were guilty of serious crimes the punishment was exile to Panka, where they’d have to brave a hostile population and a good deal of radioactivity in unpredictable spots. Unpredictable except for the areas surrounding where we’d dropped nukes, that is. It was relatively non-radioactive where I sent them, but from there they were on their own.
“Let’s get on our way,” Friedman said.
“Where to?” Dad asked. I wanted to know, too. My wife and sister were both missing.
“If Jan can’t detect either one of them after we put some distance between here and toward Alternate One and then go back to earth, I think we should split up. But let’s leave it until then. We’ve got some miles to travel in unknown territory.”
“I could take us to….” Shit. I wasn’t about to have us travel in Panka, and I’d never been to the two formerly controlled Pankan alternities because I’d been too busy putting out fires elsewhere. Neither of the WD and Europan alternities had settled this far in their alternities. It came down to traveling in unsettled territory regardless of what alternity we were in, so we decided to just stay in Faraway and do some exploring as we headed north toward where the first alternate site would be. Hopefully, Jani was already working there, and after learning of how the regular site had been closed down by the AM, had been sending supplies and people through. We hadn’t seen any yet, so we didn’t know what was going on there.
Our scouting activity had been pretty thin to the north of the settlement so far. It had concentrated more to the south, east, and north. It shouldn’t be that different, though. Just wild animals and forest interspersed with open meadows. It had looked like pretty country from the drone viewpoint, but that had been high up. We were on the ground and needed to hurry, yet we had to stay close together, because we were in a virgin forest. A lone person was vulnerable to the pack animals which seemed to be common on Faraway. We decided to get at least ten miles from the settlement, then I’d make an aperture back to earth and we’d try to go from there to the alternate site, even if we had to hijack a car on Highway 67.