From my current viewpoint I will be born several hundred thousand years in the future, in the year 2266. My germ plasm and those others that posses it were about to be hunted down. We were told that it was for our own protection but those responsible for 'protecting' us were also the ones that whipped public opion to a frenzy, preaching public safety. We were four prolific families strong when we decided to pack our tents and sneak off into the night, so to speak. I suppose that we were a security risk to them. But they didn't have to put us down like coyotes on a sheep ranch, did they? A government sniper killed my mother from over a mile away. I was with her when it happened. I extracted swift and certain vengance. You see, we're teleports. I spotted a flash off his optics and jumped to his side. I took him by the wrist and jumped straight up fourteen miles. I released him and returned to my last position. I gathered up all his kit and jumped for home. I dropped everything, returned to mom's side, picked her up and jumped once again for home. By the time I had her laid out on the table the sniper had just about hit the ground, dashed into meat paste.
We're jumpers. Teleports. We can't move more than we can carry but we can move anywhere on Earth and deep into history. Or rather, a history. We'd expermented, changing things like land features in the past then moving back to the present No changes ever carried forward. However, wherever and whenever we went it so closely resembled our Earth in an earlier time that we couldn't tell the difference. We couldn't do it without the help of a telepath. One of us figured out how to back jump. Our telepathic friend, Henry, taught the rest of us. He never wanted for anything again.
We're long-lived too. Whatever genetic switch made us jumpers also roughly doubled our lifespans. We could each rationally hope to see two hundred years.
I called the rest of the clan for an emergency meeting through our encrypted phones. People quickly started popping in. Several seemed ready to strip my hide as I was only twenty and didn't have the right to call a full clan meeting. When they spotted mom's bleeding body on the table they shut the hell up. Soon it seemed as if everyone was there that was going to make it. I held up the rifle, careful not to touch the grip as it was coded for its assigned user. I didn't want to explosively lose a hand. "They're hunting us now. I suggest we all step back as we'd planned and finalize the details. They have the home court advantage in the here/now. It's time to change that."
We all popped back to Christmas eve ten years before. We'd all made plans, partly in jest. Well, it just got real. We'd spotted a well-positioned coastal cave some two hundred and fifty thousand years in the past, a bit north-east of what would be CapeTown, South Africa. Up-time it was named the Blombos cave. It was far enough back from the shore and elevated enough to be safe from storm wrack and flooding, unless the sea levels did something unprecedented. It needed a lot of improvement before we could or would want to occupy it.
We had to adjust our bodies to a stone-age disease profile before we went anywhere. We performed serological adaptations to all of us so that we'd not infect others and we'd not become infected in exchange. We maintained our immunities for both time periods otherwise our scavenging operations back-time would kill us.
My dad handed out scavenging lists indexed by load weight and our personal carrying capacities. (We were limited as to what we could 'port by weight--what we could pick up free of the ground.) We fanned out to collect what we needed. First, a portable generator, fuel, a sonic cutter and a tracked RPV carrier for it, along with its control console. (Humans couldn't be anywhere near the thing when it was working. The air would conduct enough energy to pulverize your eyes, teeth, flesh and bones. It was mounted on a specialized tracked carrier and controlled from several hundred yards away.
Next we needed a computer controlled sonic/radar geological mapping system. We needed to find out where to drill for water, waste flues and chimneys. All of this equipment was specifically chosen so that it could be broken down into one hundred kilo units that we could carry with the aid of canvas slings. Our greatest benefit was that we could 'take our time' working in back-time. We got the place mapped then a geologist and a professional architect among us marked it up. Afterwards the construction teams went back with the digger and went to work.
The cave was greatly extended for our use, both horizontally and back into the cliffs. The entrance got levelled, a clear path was made up the hill to where we would till our fields, the doorway was squared, the floor was leveled, the ceiling was reformed into load bearing arches and domes while the walls and floors were trued. Various shelves were dug out of the rock walls, an elevated water reservoir like a small swimming pool was dug into the floor and an exit trench for the overflow water was dug leading out the doorway. A four-inch rock waterpipe was drilled into an aquifer deep in the cliffside and several chimney holes were drilled through the wall above and near the cave's door.
The drill was securely shut down then men went in with wheelbarrows to clear the rock that had been cut free. A team brought back heavy nickel-bronze forgings ready to bolt together to make a sluice out of the new waterfall emptying into the water reservoir. After the sections were bolted together and secured a modular generator and blade assembly was slid into place.
A thick epoxy binder was sprayed over the inside of the cave and an accellerant applied after that. We didn't want anything coming down on us unexpectedly.
Another team used dabs of epoxy to fasten low-voltage wires around the cave and fasten long-life LED light pucks to the ends. Everything terminated in switch boxes. We had been working under a one-ten volt quartz work light. Now we had permanent distributed light for the entire cavern.
A team then showed up with recycled plastic timbers that were bolted to the rock walls at the entrance after beads of construction adhesive were laid. The great doors were constructed and hung on titanium hinges. Once the reinforcing was finished a cave bear couldn't push its way in. A 'landing bullseye' was painted on the floor and people started coming in waves, bringing furniture, bedding, Franklin stoves, stove pipe, cooking gear and camp kitchens. Some of our biggest men appeared, bent over by the weight of the sleeping benches that they carried. They were set up against the walls but could be dragged to circle the stoves in the winter. Much lumber was brought in along with tools, chests, mattresses, tables and chairs. There were over one hundred and ten of us but there was plenty of room. The season was late winter/early spring.
We were told to evacuate for a bit so we went outside while two toilet shafts were dug and the rock powdered so that it would fall through into the water below. Upon returning we found a few things broken by the sound pressure but nothing irreplaceable. The digging team took their equipment outside where they proceeded to dig another cavern next to ours for bulk supplies, stock and fodder. We wanted to bring back horses, cattle, goats, sheep and chickens that we'd recognize. Reportedly the cattle of the day were huge and looked somewhat like overgrown Bramah bulls with a natural broad white stripe across their backs.
Both men and women brought hundreds of twenty-five-kilo bags of coal for heating and cooking. It seemed that every time a person found themselves with nothing to do they went up-time to pick up another load of coal. We stripped four forgotten hopper cars of coal found on a disused spur line in a South Dakota switching yard. They'd been there long enough to fuse the wheels with the rails by oxidation. My friends and I went up-time to disassemble a big log splitter with a ten horse engine and brougt it back. We left it disassembled on a pallet until we could figure out where to start harvesting firewood. I went looking for spare engine assemblies and stole a couple. Likewise we grabbed chainsaws, files, cutting chains and five gallon jerry-cans of fuel and oil, both for the chainsaws and the splitter. Then we tackled our next scavenging list. Someone had researched what mini-tractors could be broken down into one hundred kilo loads. We tore down a John Deer small tractor and hauled it back-time, then re-assembled it. We high-fived when it started and ran. Then we popped back for the plow, harrow, cultivator, sickle mower, front-end loader and carts that it could pull. by the end of the week we were damned tired of humping jerry cans of fuel, let me tell you.
We positioned the Franklin stoves so that we wouldn't interfere with each other while cooking or when positioning the sleeping benches around the stoves. Then we set up the stove pipes to guide the smoke through the chimneys and outdoors. Ten Franklin stoves got the place up to near-nekkid conditions quickly. We were sent back up-time for forgotten pots, pans, dishes, tools and whatnot. Once the kitchen tables and chairs were in place the "mommas" were happy. We were off the hook until the next emergency. I got together with my crew. I had an idea--a 'make momma happy' idea. We went up-time for overstuffed chairs, couches and rugs. I saw my dad look around and relax. He realized that he'd missed the bullet on that one. I had built up a few credits with him.
I liked my bread, my sweet-rolls and my pizza. They all usually required a mixer at some point. I wandered over to the generator to see what sort of output connectors it had. One of the older guys saw where I was heading and followed along to see what I was up to. I asked if the thing had a 110 Volt A.C. output connector. He nodded and opened a panel. There, under a breaker set, was a four-plex of twenty amp sockets next to two 220 volt sockets. I grinned and thanked him.
I headed up-time for a little research. I absconded with a Hobart 20-quart 115-Volt floor standing mixer. The damned thing almost gave me a hernia. When I popped in with the thing I got a lot of "ooh"s and "ahh"s. Dad nodded. He got the idea. I said to him, "Maple bakery table. Sheet pans. Sheet pan rack. Oven. Steam kettle. Wanna get lucky?" He looked sad for a moment. I hugged him, remembering mom. Then he straightened up and got HIS crew together. Soon we had industrial tubs of all sorts of crap, industrial stainless-steel kitchen prep tables, two big maple baker's tables and a little-bitty fridge full of one pound blocks of yeast. We sure weren't going to go hungry, not if the moms had anything to say about it!
As for protection, all the hyper-velocity weapons of our home time were personalized at the factory which made them unusable by us. It was no great shakes to back-time seventy years to just before 9/11 and the paranoia set in. We decided to stay with 7.62 Nato for everything but the pistols, where we went 10mm. Sure, we brought back a few specialized things, like the .50 caliber sniper's rifles that I fell in love with. We also brought back several cases of bolt-action .22 WMR (magnum) rifles and several hundred pounds of ammunition to deter garden-foraging critters. The larger weapons were mounted with good low-light scopes. The predators of the era were a bit larger than your every day tiger. I didn't even want to guess how many 7.62 rounds it would take to kill a wooly mammoth. In the 1960's anyone could buy dynamite and detonators at farm supply stores for blowing stumps and cutting big boulders. We didn't go cheap when we stocked up...
We hoarded seed grain, cattle and chicken feed, wheat flour, salt, spices, medicine and all the necessities we felt that we could reasonably need. It doesn't seem sane to do this when you can bop back and forth in time at will, does it? Our worry was that no physicist we could talk to would commit to our back-time not breaking free and attaching to another reality, leaving us stranded. That's why we liberated a complete blacksmith shop from 1903, including several tons of clean stock.
Someone got the bright idea of retrieving horse-powered equipment. The digging team bitched under their breath, but started in on another cave. We made damn sure to check the geological survey map to make sure we wouldn't interfere with a weakness in the mountain or an aquifer. Some of that stuff was damned heavy, so we brought back a gasoline-powered air compressor and some air-operated power tools to assemble and disassemble them. We stole a four-bottom plow, a spring rake, a seeder, two buckboards and all the tack we thought we'd need. We took pictures of the tack while in use to show us which end fit on the mule...
As a university project someone had invented a cloth jenny for deployment in South American jungles and throughout Africa. You fed it dried fibrous plant matter and it churned out yard after yard of finished cloth. We bought three of them. We also bought a set of patterns for military BDUs and six industrial sewing machines. Rather than spend our time cuttting and sewing clothes for all of us by hand we bought three sets of tan BDUs for everyone, and what appeared to be way, way too many pairs of boots.
A seamless sock-knitting machine had been invented near the time of the American Civil War and had gone through several generations of improvements since. We invested in four smaller models along with several thousand pounds of thread, both for the sock knitters and for the sewing machines. We stocked up on commercially made T-shirts, undershorts, socks, overcoats, hats, gloves and winter-weight long underwear. I thought it odd that we bought so many wool blankets stored in fifty-gallon drums, but I was told that they were dry nitrogen packed and should last hundreds of years in storage if left unopened. We also packaged our cached BDUs, underclothes and socks in plastic fifty-gallon drums with a dry-nitrogen purge to retard oxidation. My team received the list for gardening tools. I figured out how to carry four wheelbarrows at a time. Our plan was to locate hardware stores that were going to permanently close and raided them for every hand tool that they had and all the boxed fasteners as well. Once we got a MIG welder and plenty of supplies brought back we retrieved a railroad rail that had been cut into 100 kilo sections, cut on an angle. We welded the sections back together, supported the rail on extremely sturdy mounts near the cave's ceiling then mounted a travelling carriage modelled after a rail car truck with a chain block-and-tackle hanging under it, designed for moving the heavy stuff. We wanted a full-scale metal forming facility but some of the equipment just wouldn't break down into man-portable sections. (I'd seen photographs of military ship-board fabrication facilities with just such an overhead crane. That's what gave us the idea.)
Some of our more scientifically inclined members got together and evaluated our chances as a stand-alone colony. The odds didn't look too good. We didn't have the distributed skill set we'd need to survive, much less prosper. We also were in trouble genetically. a hundred people won't give a colony a decent gene pool, and since we were all related already that problem was exaggerated. We needed more people.
Another cave was planned out, designed to be just as big as the original if not larger. We also planned to connect all the caves via passages deep within the mountain, reaching the rear of each cavern. Our stock and farming equipment caves were dug to the north of the original cave. The new residence cave was built to the south, maintaining a minimum of thirty feet of solid rock between each cave to hopefully minimize the chance of cave-ins due to the inevitable earthquakes. We dug several hallways off of both residence caves that led to bedrooms. It gave us a sense of privacy while we centralized our kitchens and bathing facilities. The second residence cave was outfitted similarly to the first, including the water supply with its attendant generator and light system, chimneys, doors, epoxy liner and shelves in the walls. We decided to split ourselves among the caves to keep any sociological isolation from occuring. Then we started recruiting.
We needed small-scale or subsistence farmers that knew what the hell they were doing. We needed teachers for the kids to keep from losing our society. We had to get away from electronic data storage so we needed printers, book-binders and at least one printing press. We needed nurses and doctors.
One team brought up the idea of natural refrigeration for our food. What was the physics behind an ice cave? Could we make one or two of our own? Hell, we could fake it with our technology, and initiating a thick frozen pond in a new cave with foamed rock for insulation would certainly kick start one, but if we added the natural mechanisms to maintain a freezing temperature within it without any intervention, now that would be something to be prized.
Farming would only take us so far, as would hunting before we exhausted the local resources. The seas were virgin territory so fishing craft could provide protein when other sources of food became dormant or exhausted. A protected cove would help us greatly. Our sonic diggers wouldn't work under water, but the docks, harbor and cove could be dug out, then the final rock wall separating the cove from the sea could be destroyed with explosives. We needed shipbuilders, sailmakers, ropemakers, sailors and fishermen.
We'd not really designed a kitchen capable of feeding over a hundred people. Now we had to do it twice. It would be nice to find a professional or two that knew what they were doing to design and help us build out some of our long term facilities. The same went for medical facilities and a school.
A cove and harbor were laid out, then the quarrymen began their work. Using the sonic rock drill and electric powered hoists the rubble was carefully dumped from rafts to create a breakwater, leaving enough open water to allow a one hundred and fifty foot vessel room to moor, turn about, enter and exit the harbor. The South Atlantic ocean and the Indian ocean were not known for calm seas near the cape so a large ship would be required to fish their waters. We wanted to build big and simple. Our first planned vessel was a thirty meter, two-masted trimaran with a pair of two-meter dip nets. We planned carefully, with an enclosed bridge, a generator and an electric winch for the Gin pole hoist. The fishing end of things was built into the bow while the navigation and cabin were to the stern. Amid-ships were the baskets for the fish. We had no restrictions on using a spotlight to draw the fish or a marine radio to talk to our brethren on shore. If the fishermen became lost that little marine radio could be used as a D/F unit to find the port. We launched that thing our second year, in the spring.
Our new doctors rather insisted on quickly building out a surgery and critical care facility. We humped totes full of drugs, equipment, books and what-have-you for weeks before they were happy. They had several resources that were computerized and indexed which they claimed to be quite important to speedy analysis and treatment, so we found the most bullet-proof computers that would run the search programs and bought several. I had to admit, once the clinic/hospital was dug out and sealed with white epoxy it looked pretty good. Our five doctors got together and asked for a couple of teaching pharmacologists and experienced chemists. Long term nearly any drug or preparation will lose is effectiveness, at vastly differing rates. Their solution was to home brew certain preparations. They also wanted a new cave dug--a pharmacological garden with restricted access. Preparing dosages of various drugs from biological preparations was vastly easier than synthesizing the chemicals in reaction vessels. Some things were easy to prepare from feedstocks, such as chloramphenicol, an early antibiotic. On the other hand, belladonna, from deadly nightshade, was much easier to refine in an organic lab environment than to purify from a witches' brew of feedstock chemicals.
We soon became cross-trained as combat field medics if we planned to be an explorer, guard or a hunter.
The quarrymen didn't get much of a break. Their next task was to provide several smokehouses sunk back into the rock. They were connected via a wide corridor to the common back-passage. A small heavy door was provided to bring in dried wood and meat for the smoking. Opposite the smoking rooms several salting rooms were also carved out of the rock. Meat had to be salted and drawn before being wrapped and smoked. Then the final product had to be hung in a dry environment to keep it from molding.
We got to work on that ice cave. Foamed rock made one hell of an insulator. The cave itself was formed deep, deep in the cliff, lower than sea level so the cold winter air would pool and remain still year-round. We made that sucker almost a city block long and twenty feet wide. It was a gallery, not a cave. First we installed 10x10 pillars every four feet in a grid. They were six feet tall. Then we filled the room four feet deep in sweet water and used industrial chillers to take the temperature within down to minus twelve degrees Celsius. Once the water turned to ice we built a false floor on top of the pillars, then racks and shelves for what we wanted to keep cold. It was finished by the middle of summer.
Our farmers were dismayed at what they were expected to work with. We cheered them up when we appeared with cases of dynamite and detonators. We planned out several fields, water retention ponds, sluice gates and their overflows. We needed irrigation facilities but didn't want to drown our fledgling fields if a serious storm dumped water on us. The runoff was directed to an area of broken rock where the water was absorbed, hopefully to feed the aquifer deep in the mountain that serviced our drinking water tap. The wheat fields were huge but the truck gardens demanded more hand labor. We had one hell of a time clearing the land by cutting down the trees and blasting out the roots, then picking the rocks. Once we planted we set up the teenagers with rifles and big stone block redoubts to harvest whatever critters that came along looking for a free lunch. We had no idea what the local ecology and growing season would support so we took an optimistic approach. We planted groves of stone fruit, apples, pears, nut and citrus trees. We weren't stupid enough to plant from seeds--we planted six-foot saplings we brought down-time. I smiled at the rows of peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, pears, oranges, lemons, olives and apples. I tried to get our animal excrement dedicated to the orchards as the return on investment looked like our best bet. The grain fields were too large to help with what we had. Granted, the potato hills could benefit from a little fertilizer, too.
I got a field of flax started. I knew that the preparation of the stalks to get the fibers was labor intensive but the result was hard to beat. The jennies were adjustable as to the weight of the cloth delivered. Linen makes great bedding and clothing. Besides, all the jennies needed was plant material with long fibers in it. That cut down on the manual preparation tremendously.
It seemed silly to travel back and forth in time scavenging straw-laden animal shit for our garden. We used such a marvellous talent in such a pedestrian fashion! Hopefully within two years we'd begin to see a harvestable crop. It was a little cool for olive trees to be happy but we planted a grove anyway. I made sure to get plenty of hemp planted, and three times as many grape vines that the others thought we'd want. I was thinking about trade goods. Wine always made good trade goods. Pomace brandy made from the leftovers from grape squeezings made even better trade goods! Our twentieth and twenty-first century corn genomes were quite hard on the soil fertility, and needed much care. We had the secret of clover and its innoculate bacteria that drove nitrogen fixation. Still, the fields required a lot of organic matter to regenerate between yields.
We had a communal split in our mind-sets. One group did their best to become autonomous in the here-and-now of the early stone age. That was the group which claimed my loyalty. The other group harvested what they could, both culturally and materially, from the ages upstream from us. We both realized that our existence could be pinned on our farming skills, while ignoring the bounty available to us from up-time could be regarded as criminally insane. We stockpiled hundreds of tons of coal. We learned to hunt, butcher and preserve our catches. The sea-going experiments brought in enormous nets of seafood. We had to re-tune our smoke-houses for the new loads. We bought back large dished wire mesh trays that would hold the cleaned fish and allow a maximum surface area to be smoked. The offal went right to the orchards and gardens.
Our chemists turned out chloramphenicol by the deci-kilo. We made small runs and refrigerated the product once it was broken down into dosages. We had penicillin, ether, bleach, hydrogen peroxide and ibuprofen coming out of the labs in useable quantities. We didn't retrieve or manufacture any real quantity of birth control drugs because we needed a population explosion. If it was needed for a medical reason though, fine. We brought back hundreds of cases of dishwashing detergent. It worked wonderfully on hair, skin and greasy surfaces. Screw advertising. The one product was perfectly acceptable.
The calves grew into bulls and cows. The sheep seemed happy and the goats were ecstatic. We'd brought back dogs as four-footed alarms and companions.
We kept some futuristic equipment running to aid in our day-to-day lifestyles. We each had an encrypted transciever medically glued to our ulnas just behind the wrist joint. A repeater in each cave and a coordinating repeater mounted on the light-house tower kept us all in contact. As long as you could scream 'mayday' someone would hear you, get a D/F bearing and come running with firepower and a medic. We saved a lot of lives that way. Sometimes the calls went out for something relatively frivolous, such as 'help me get this half ton of auroch back to the processing cave, dammit!' or 'where the fuck am I?'
A tribe of incredibly underfed people came upon our truck garden and tried to feed from what was (marginally) available. We stopped them from pillaging our crops, then brought them into a new residence cave. Several of us volunteered for a socialization experiment. We made potato and fish stew with a little salt. When we served them the stew in wood bowls it made their jaws drop. The wooden spoons made us sorcerers. We all huddled together on top of bear skins and under wool blankets for the night. They must have thought that they'd all died and gone to heaven.
In the morning I helped make pancakes with preserves while my crew got them cleaned up in the water pool. It would clear within the hour. We hadn't turned the lights on yet. The Frankiln stoves were miracles enough. The two women of my crew got the attention of the six women of the tribe. The eight men followed me outside to hunt. I demonstrated the atl-atl, then talked through the building of the thrower and of the shaft. Why and how did they understand me? Hell if I know. All I know is they understood me and wandered the line between accepting magic and understanding fact. I gave each of them a sheathed Nessmuk-style knife and a dozen steel atl-atl heads. One of them sat clutching his new wealth to his chest, crying and rocking. I knelt beside him and held him in my arms. He smiled at me through his tears. It shook me to the bone. It made me realize how much these few things meant to their survival. I pledged myself to do whatever I could to educate these people in ways that would help them prosper.
At about the same time the women were gifted with similar sheathed knives, one gallon brass buckets and lidded two-quart iron pots, with three legs and a bail to be hung over a fire or placed over coals. Several of them sat shaking, clutching their gifts. It took several hours to get them working as a team again.
Next came flint and steel, then atl-atl throwers. Then we showed them candles and how charred cloth made firestarting almost a done deal. We showed them how to harvest salt from broad pans chipped into the rock just above the shoreline, where the sea-water would collect and evaporate time and time again, eventually yielding wonderful fluffy white crystalline salt. I showed a bunch of guys how to use a scraper to make a spoon out of a piece of straight-grained wood, shaving it down a little at a time until the bowl was formed. I dug down and found a new level of patience.
They learned the benefits of a smoke-house rather than using a drying rack. It worked in one quarter of the time or less, used a lot less wood, took less care and it kept foraging animals out of their kill. We rendered animal fat for lamps and waterproofing. We smoked out a bee tree for the honey and the wax. Wax candles took on a whole new importance, as did wax waterproofing. Sometimes a good skill is worth more than a technological gift. I taught myself to pressure flake axe-heads, scrapers, arrow heads and spear heads. Before long they were cultivating their own garden and tending their own flock of chickens. Considering where they came from it was a remarkable achievement. Eventually some of our boys went bride-hunting among them. I and the rest of the 'elders' had no problem with it. They weren't stupid by any stretch of the imagination. Ignorance is cureable!
They didn't feel comfortable in the caves. We gifted them several kilometers of cordage, heavy leather sandals, good steel axes, waxed waterproof canvas ponchos, woolen blankets and as much canvas as they could carry. I demonstrated how to make a two-pole drag to carry their goods on the march while leaving their hunters free to protect the tribe.
That experience, even though it came to a pleasant conclusion, demonstrated that we needed intelligence. Aerial intelligence. Several teams were dispatched to (1) distract the military that purportedly owned the property we were interested in, (2) identify and package up several RPV surveillance craft along with their guidance and data recovery console, and© transport the mess home hopefully without leaving any team members or body parts behind. Some of the Afghanistan war RPVs were designed for field deployment and were damned near silent. That's what we went after.
With the aid of our quarrymen several large stone blocks were removed from the cliff and transported up the path to the top of the cliff, where a sturdy two-floor observation point was built. A power line was run through the rock down to one of the generators. Once we were familiar with the things we ran weekly reconissance flights out to twenty miles in all directions, other than out to sea. It also was a great place for a radio transciever to contact ships at sea. Within a few months we had a navigation light up there that as a side benefit illuminated the area between the caverns and the sea. I supposed that the light pollution was setting a bad precedent but it made early morning and late evening tasks outdoors much safer. However, it occasionaly drew unwanted attention to our village.
During that time period any useable resource could mean the difference between life and death. As tribes grew larger they either had to migrate or hunt further afield to keep everyone fed. Hunting parties were by default also war parties. They had to kill or force the migration away from their lands if they hoped to scavenge enough to live out each winter.
During our third year our circus stabilized to a degree. After a decent rest the quarrymen dug us granaries for our corn and wheat. We had become fat, lazy and blind--a dangerous combination.
A party of sixteen hunters came at us from the forest. They were in a skirmish line to scare up game. They were like locusts, taking everything edible in their path.
We got our first mayday from the observation tower on top of the cliff. A woman and a man were down, presumably dead, with flint-tipped spears sticking out of their chests. I grabbed a .50 caliber rifle and an eighty pound box of ammo, 'ported to the top of the observation post. I got down on my belly, loaded that big fucker and started punching big tearing holes in cave men. It was just after dawn. Every time I shot a foot and a half of burning powder followed the bullet out of the barrel. It also made enough noise to damned near spall chips out of the rock under the muzzle. There were no survivors.
I sat there cradling the rifle in my arms when dad came up a ladder. I saw a head come up over the side and spun around, rifle to my shoulder. I was about a half pound of trigger pull away from blowing him off the roof when I recognized his face. I took a shuddering breath. "Next time yell first, dammit!" His mouth moved but I didn't hear a thing. I touched the skin under my right ear and drew it back to see. Blood. Shit. I'd blown out my eardrums. I shrugged. It was fixable and it had been necessary. I lay back on the stone, stunned at what I'd done and how easy it had been. After a while I sat up. Dad was sitting there beside me looking sad. I took a deep breath and let it out. Then I hugged him.
I needed to get down off that roof and felt too shaky to 'port. That meant using the ladder. I pulled out my ever-present pocket notebook and a pen. I wrote "ROPE" on it to show him. He nodded, crawled over to the edge and I guess yelled something out. A few minutes later someone came up the ladder with a length of half-inch. I safed the rifle, tied the ammo can and rifle to it, then lowered them over the side. Several people were down below who received it. I took my time climbing down.
The bodies were gone from the room beneath me. I wondered how long I'd zoned out after combat. I slowly made my way down to the clinic. People got out of my way when they saw the blood. I lay down on a treatment bench. I was numb. I let it all go and fell asleep.
When I woke up I had bandages on both sides of my head and my ears hurt like hell. I got up. My clothes were in the closet. My hunger drove me to the cafeteria where I looked for pot-luck. I noticed the looks I was getting as I slowly ate a cheese danish. I felt like a pariah. I didn't need that shit. I went back to my apartment, locked the door and went to bed.
Three weeks later the bandages came off. Nobody wanted to talk to me. Nobody wanted to know me. I felt cheap--cast off. I decided to leave.
I gathered up my harvesting slings and a large backpack then made sure I had a credit card on me worth a few hundred thousand.
I had an idea of where to go. It had been known as a garden island since antiquity. Lesbos, or Lesvos. First though, I had to get rid of my tracker. I headed up-time to 1996 and checked into a German clinic where, for the money, they'd do damned near anything. I had that tracker scraped off my left ulna and had the hole patched up. They did good work. A month later I could barely tell where the incision had been. I exercised and got my core strength up so that with a kidney belt I could lift just over 330 pounds and still breathe.
I bought tools, seeds, barrels of foodstuffs, some horse-drawn farming equipment, a cloth jenny, a generator and a pair of young mules. I left the mules with the breeder for a bit, then arranged for four tons of dark limestone slabs to be moved to the island by ship, with me on board. I 'ported all of it to the spring of 660--years before the others started their colony.
I seemed to have all the time in the world so I simply kept up a steady pace, digging and building an outhouse, blasting and digging a well, digging out a hillside, laying a foundation and floor, building the walls and fitting the ceiling. I cheated and used "modern" construction adhesive to join the blocks and sprayed on a high-end commercial waterproofing agent to keep the limestone from wicking moisture. Once it all cured I back-filled dirt over the top and bedded a few bushes and clumps of grass over that. I built a shed for my tools and a corral for the mules, then fetched everything else I'd stored. I spent my nights and ate supper in a motel vintage 1955 in Alpena Michigan.
I got my fields laid out and planted in clover, then put in some potato hills. When the clover came in the young mules had better fodder. In the mean time I visited a granary near Terra Haute, Indiana for fifty pound sacks of cracked grain in 1961. I picked up a couple tons worth over a week's real time, about two months my time.
Before long I got the idea to put in a couple orchards, mostly of citrus. The weather never got really bad during the winters so I kept steadily plodding along. I built another stone shelter into the hillside, but bigger to hold my granary, vegetable storage and a forge. Thoughts about what the area traditionally grew I put in a couple acres of grape vines higher up the hill, where it was dryer. I knew that it would be several years before it was needed so I took my time digging deep into the hill and rocking it in to make my wine pressing and fermentation cave. I didn't waterproof those stones but used thicker, heavier pieces of limestone and built it all along arches and barrels, like the masons did during the Renaissance. Speaking of barrels, I played merry hell buying wine tuns, breaking them down, transporting them and rebuilding them. I had to watch a guy make a barrel to find out the process and bought a chain ratchet to bring it all together. They leaked like sieves at first until I filled them with sweet water and let them rest for a season. Then it was just a matter of keeping them topped up.
I learned to cast a net for fish. For a couple thousand bucks I bought a twenty foot lug-sailed dory kit. The hull was less than two hundred pounds without the sail. I was glad that I wasn't in any big hurry as rocking in that pier was a tedious pain in the ass.
I knew that I'd forgotten something. Bees. Did you know that teleporting bees makes them sea-sick? I bought a couple hives of bees that were certified clean of mites or fungus and put 'em in day-lit spots near little streams. Maybe my orchards would finally set fruit.
I sometimes went for months without speaking.
In 2030 the WWII bombing logs were released into the public domain. I figured out what should have been a traceless method of picking up some very nice antiques--family treasures, really, that would have otherwise been blown to hell. I didn't go after much--some nice, heavy tables and chairs, a beautiful olivewood dresser, a fancy corner gun cabinet, things like that.
I was hoeing the garden, taking care around the celery, when he popped in at the end of the row. Dad. I stopped working and leaned on the hoe, watching him. He turned around, taking in the artificial caves, the fields, the pier and boat. "Nice place you've made."