[Jack writes from Preservation]
Mike turned seventeen this year. It's hard to believe until I look back on my life and events and then realize how much time has passed and how many things have changed since the Day in 2011.
It's now 2030 and Jennifer, the daughter of Jim and his wives, is still enamored with Mike and he has moved from toleration to friendship and then to a deep friendship to love as they have grown in years. That love continues to deepen as they age. They are each very attractive in their looks, but even more in their minds and hearts. A few times, other young men and women have made a play for one or the other's affections. Those efforts never met with success. Shirl and I were happy for them but concerned about their plan to marry at such a young age. However, Mike has become an accomplished negotiator and has talked his mother and I into not just allowing but actively supporting their marriage.
The two of them are mature in their feelings for each other. It's only their young age that bothers Shirley and me. Jim and his wives have always supported the union and, though they have also expressed concerns regarding the ages of their daughter and our son, they have supported the union as inevitable. Jen has confided in Shirl that they don't plan to start a family for a number of years. We'll see.
Jen is two years and ten days younger than Mike. Less than one month after her fifteenth birthday will be the wedding. Mid May in Georgia is a pretty time. It is warm but usually hasn't become so hot as to be uncomfortable. It will be a big event with many from Protection flying down and from Pintlala up for the ceremony and reception. Most of Preservation will also be in attendance. Jen's maid or, rather, matron of honor will be Janice. Our "daughter" is so proud of them that you would think it's her children being married. In a sense, they are. Mike has asked me to be best man and I have accepted.
On a more practical note, Mike has been building a house on our pond up the hill from our home. I have helped him as have Jim and Robby and Bennie and many, many more. Jen has also put in her decorating touches along with those of her mothers and my wife. It's a beautiful house in a pretty setting. We had to build a road around to the back of the pond to access it. Mike and I did build a comfortable path from our home up to it. I know he and Jen have spent many evenings up there watching as they built, painted, and furnished it to their mutual satisfaction.
There will also be people coming from a new area thanks to Janice and Bennie's latest trip with their spouses and children. I will have Janice tell that story before going on to the wedding.
Janice has written her usual interesting report of her activities with her spouses.
Other than back and forth between Preservation and Protection with my spouses, there was no exploring for a few years. Late last spring, the desire to explore what's on the other side of somewhere could no longer be denied. Bennie and I had been married a number of years and had to adjust to having more spouses. Once that occurred and we were both comfortable with our new husband and wives, all five of us felt the desire to see somewhere new. Even Melissa, the one of us who is most homebodied in her thinking, wanted to explore. With the new plane, we felt more comfortable and able to search out new areas. Robby and Pam are now also accomplished pilots. Robby and Bennie have worked with the "air brothers" and learned about maintenance on our plane and as much about gasoline as could be learned.
We are parents of five children now. George had suggested that Melissa should probably stop having children to keep her health. She was the most reluctant of the five of us but we all agreed after talking it over. She admitted that she enjoyed motherhood and, since Pam and I have never gotten pregnant, she wanted for all for us to have plenty of children. Bennie suggested that we should quit before we were outnumbered! As a result, Melissa went on birth control to give us a choice if we later changed our minds. With two active, virile husbands, it appeared that neither Pam nor I would ever bear children. Ten was, after all, a big number for a family.
At any rate, Doris was two years old and we began to plan a trip for all of us. We would leave from Pintlala and head south and west looking for people along the coast of Texas but staying within a safe flying range of no more than five hundred miles per leg. After looking at maps, our legs would be much shorter giving us the ability to veer off course a fair bit yet stay within our planned range.
We spent time with Tom and Vic going over our new plane, a Beechcraft King Air. It's big enough to hold all of us. We were comfortable with its capabilities and with our ability to fly and maintain it. Our oldest son, Charles or Charlie, called it "King" and that name stuck.
We put together kits for ourselves and the children, loaded up, and flew down to Pintlala. We had warned them we were coming on the radio net so we were expected. We landed and taxied as they directed us. Robby was flying today with me as his copilot. We met with some of our friends down here and went over the plane carefully. In the morning, we would embark upon the first leg of our trip going to New Orleans and continuing on to Baton Rouge. We all had our doubts about the viability of New Orleans.
We didn't have the ability to fly as low and slow as we could in the old Cessna that served Bennie and I so well in our trip north. However, we could go slow and low enough to know what the land looked like. It was bad. We had had two hurricanes come up from the Gulf of Mexico over the years. They had passed close enough to New Orleans that the lack of maintenance over the years had sealed the city's fate. We could tell where it was but few landmarks had survived and none of those unscathed. Without a boat, you could no longer tour New Orleans. We traveled north and west to Baton Rouge and saw damage but the airport appeared useable. We landed and began to search for people and gas. We found some useable gas but not much. This was not an airport that we could use much unless we figured out how to re-supply it. We agreed that probably wouldn't happen any time soon, if ever. We had lunch and set out for our next stop, Houston.
Houston was in better shape though the coast as we flew up was in poor shape. We landed at Bush International Airport and shut down the engines in the general aviation section of the airport. Other than the slight noises of the plane's metal cooling, it was utterly quiet. Even the children were quiet because they were unused to the total silence. We found a good spot for our camp inside a building. We pulled cushions off chairs and made beds for all of us. We cooked our own food over a small fire outside. Before we stopped activity for the night, we fueled the plane and locked it. Bennie and I had learned that precautions were good things and Robby was cautious either naturally or by his training. We settled in for the night.
Early the next morning, I was sleeping in Robby's arms when a noise woke me. I opened my eyes and looked into Robby's. He whispered so quietly that it was like just seeing his lips move. We rose and armed ourselves and carefully stepped out. I guess we looked funny. I was wearing a tee shirt and sneakers with a gun belt. Robby was wearing boxers, sneakers, and a gun belt. We hadn't drawn our guns but were ready. We stayed close to the building looking for the source of the sound that woke us. I have learned that Robby, even more than Benny, is possessed of inhuman patience. I don't know that I will ever have his patience but with him standing there rock solid, it did make it easier to stand and wait motionless listening for any sound. The total silence was probably unnerving to any person but Robby or Benny. We stood there for many long minutes, much longer than it takes to read these words twice. Still neither of us moved or even seemed to breathe. I heard it again. With no sound, I pronounced the word, "plane." Robby nodded and moved his hand in a motion to stay. I shook my head. I would rather be in the lead with him to back me up rather than the opposite. In hand-to-hand fighting, I was better but Robby was deadly with a pistol or a knife. I also had a body that distracted other men and even women.
I slowly began to move toward the plane keeping to cover as much as possible. At the same time, I tried to look and hear in every direction. I was low and saw a pair of legs beyond the plane. Those legs were too far back to be touching the plane. That meant two, at least. Robby nodded when I held up two fingers. I continued to move until I saw his hand stopping me out of the corner of my eye. I stood absolutely still as he glided to my left. I could just barely hear the thud and knew he had caught a third. I saw his hand waving me on. I approached the plane until I could see both people.
I said, "That's my plane. If you hurt it, I will hurt you. Back away from it slowly." They didn't listen. The one on the ground drew a weapon and died from Robby's pistol. The other charged me from standing upon the wing. I didn't draw but waited the fraction of a second for the person to get close and then chopped him down hard. That fast, and it was over. Bennie was running toward us. I said, "It's over. Go back inside."
I heard Bennie say, "Okay."
Robby came up to me and said, "Is this one alive? I hit the first one too hard and my shot did the other one."
I shrugged, "Should be alive though very bruised."
He chuckled, "Yeah, I've seen people trip and fall when around you." The person on the ground groaned and I went to him and gently but firmly pulled him to a standing position.
I said, "You need to talk. Who are you and what were you doing on my plane?"
"My arm hurts."
"Be glad you aren't dead like your friends. They hurried us. Now, answer the question."
"We didn't mean any harm. We were just curious. Planes haven't flown since the Day. You shouldn't have killed my friends."
"You shouldn't have been sneaking around or attacked us. If we find anything wrong with the plane, I think you will die, too. We are very friendly people if approached in a friendly manner but are harsh enemies." While we were talking, I had patted him down thoroughly and removed three knives and two pistols. I felt his shoulder and it was dislocated. Pam came out, dressed and armed. She said, "Melissa has the kids safe and is armed with an AR and plenty of ammo. Be noisy when you go in to dress." She smiled looking at my legs and their naked junction.
I grinned sheepishly and said, "I was in a hurry."
Pam moved to a protected spot and said, "Robby, I'll watch stupid while you check the plane." Robby nodded and began to check out the plane as I went inside to dress.
I entered our sleeping quarters saying, "Melissa, it's me. I need to dress." We had been casual about clothing. The guys liked it and we did, too. The children were old enough to take notice but we had never made a big to do about it. They didn't see nudity as something remarkable so it wasn't tantalizing like it was when I was their age. I quickly pulled on some shorts to head outside again.
Melissa said, "What's happening? Bennie is out scouting around."
"No big deal. There were three out looking at the plane. Two hurried us and died. The other one stumbled as he ran toward me. He has a dislocated shoulder."
Melissa giggled, "Some people have trouble walking around you, Jan. Bennie went outside with another AR. Go help him. I'm fine."
I smiled. "Okay, Mel. Be careful. Hopefully, it was just the three but we'll find out." As usual when it was warm enough, I wore shorts. I had found from long experience that people didn't want to shoot a female with a good body and showing a fair amount of skin but would try to capture her alive. They would then find that I wasn't an easy victim.
I left by the front door carefully and was searching for our folk and anyone else. I saw the guy with the hurt shoulder still standing in the open. I figured that Robby and Pam had things well in hand so looked to the right and went that way quietly figuring our intruders came from that direction. I had gone a couple hundred feet and was gently pulled to one side by Bennie.
He whispered in my ear. "There's more ahead of us about two hundred feet. I think they're waiting for a report from the ones you and Robby caught. Let's move ahead slowly."
I nodded. "I'll take point." That was our usual setup. I would be in front being careful but showing a lot of skin and tight clothes where the skin was covered. The idea was to make an appealing package that drew attention and made people less wary. It always worked.
I went forward slowly and warily. I had gone a hundred feet or so when I saw them an instant before they saw me. I took a few more steps forward and one of them called out, "There's a nice package! Come over here, Girly. Let's get to know you."
I thought that that line was getting old but answered, "Who are you? What are you doing here?" I seemed to be holding my rifle carelessly and didn't look like I was ready for anything. Two of them began to walk to me as I slowly went toward them. I knew Bennie would be taking a position to flank us. They didn't reply and I stopped when we were separated by about thirty feet. Just beside me was a good spot to dodge for cover. They came closer. I said, "Stop! Don't come closer until we talk."
One of them chuckled and said, "We'll talk all right. You don't need to worry about us, Honey. We'll take good care of you." The other chuckled at what he thought was a joke.
I shifted and brought my rifle up ready to shoot and said, "The next step gets you shot." I figured that they were over-confident and was quickly proved correct when they stepped forward. I raked bullets across them and dove for cover. I saw a couple of shots hit the ground where I had been. Then, there was a lot of shooting and quiet. I looked around and saw that the two were dead. Looking further, it appeared that Bennie had ruined the rest of them for the day and, likely, eternity. I moved forward staying low and close to cover. There had been nine including the two I took out. Bennie accounted for the rest leaving two wounded, one seriously. We had no serious medical skills and I'm not sure Doc Ollie or George could have saved him if he were on the operating table right then. I was right. He breathed his last as I thought that. I went to the other who was bleeding from two shots in his left arm. He was bleeding slowly and holding his arm to slow it. I checked him for arms and relieved him of knives and pistols. Then, I checked his wounds and used one of his former comrades' shirts to quell the bleeding.
I said, "That was not necessary and cost you dearly. What were you going to do? Where are you from?"
"We've been living here for years. The big boss divided the city and this was our zone. We saw you getting out of the plane yesterday and noticed that three of you were women. We don't have women since the last one ran off."
"Instead, you ran into a buzz saw. You should have approached us peacefully. I know where there are communities that have too many women and would welcome some good men.
"I'm going to help you up and we'll meet my spouses and determine what to do with you. Try anything and you'll be dead before you hit the ground"
I helped him up and he stood shakily. Bennie came up. Our captive didn't hear him but I did. He said, "Janice, that was all of them. What are you going to do with this one?"
I said, "If he behaves, he'll live for another day. We'll see what Robby and Pam say when we reach them. One was on the plane when we got there. He tripped trying to attack me."
I had hold of our captive by his good arm easily immobilizing him and removing any thought he might have about trying to fight or escape. We returned to the area in front of our camping building and the plane. Robby was coming off the wing with some tools. Bennie said, "Rob, is the plane okay?"