[Charlie writes from Preservation]
Mom Janice doesn't usually go in for blackmail but she isn't above it either. One of her conditions to leading a second European expedition was for Andrea and I to take over the task of writing a journal of the trip. We've reread all of the journals back to Grandpop's earliest. It will be an interesting task. Andrea will help me by writing some and critiquing the rest. I will critique what she writes. I've noted how mom approached the fact that married persons have sex. We will try to maintain some decorum!
Andrea and I love our Tennessee farm and hate to leave it. We have more neighbors than before because people are heading east from the middle of Protection. I studied history in our schools and thinking of heading east toward Nashville and Knoxville with those areas being considered frontier is a funny feeling. Of course, there are now people east of Knoxville. Doctor George was elected to be Director of Protection again but says this will be his last two year term. He may be serious this time. Grandpop did quit so maybe Doctor George will, too.
The Trio have spearheaded getting a second expedition to Europe off the ground, literally. They gathered most of the people, developed a route, and recruited a lot of people. They worked on Duck and Mallard improving the loads for each plane and going over the changes with Vic and Tom. They presented the complete plan to their (and my) parents. With reluctance on mom's (Janice's) part, they talked their way past the objections. To my surprise, they made Bobbi the presenter. I would have thought SJ. Jacob explained it one evening afterward. He said, "Charlie, SJ is pretty much our acknowledged spokesperson. Using Bobbi to promote this trip emphasized to Mom Janice that we really want this trip to be made. It also made her aware that we considered her leadership important."
Mom agreed to lead the expedition the night of the presentation. The family was relieved. I know I was. She knew how to keep her head though Bobbi being hurt did throw her. She started going over the list of volunteers with the Trio. To my surprise, she insisted that Andy and I join her for that discussion. One afternoon when it was only the three of us, she told us why. "Charlie, you and Andy are the face of the family's next generation. You two need to be preparing for that role and the leadership positions that you must undertake."
Andy said, "Mom, I just follow Charles. I pledged to obey him and find joy in my obedience."
I started to say something but mom got her licks in first. "Andrea." Her head jerked at her full name from someone other than me. "You have the most confidant obedience I've ever seen." She grinned. "You're as good at hand-to-hand as I am and have the looks to be bait in any situation. You also know that Charles loves you and trusts you. Unlike my husbands, Charles is more comfortable in a speaking and leading role. However, you are a team and people see you two that way."
Andy looked at me. I grinned. "Yes, Charles. We will handle it together."
Mom made it known that we were her second in command. We would fly in Duck and Mallard again. The passenger and cargo compartments of each plane were different. Mallard had a much better first aid station with more supplies and a radio extension readily accessible. Duck had lost most of its vehicles and an armored Humvee was anchored down in the cargo area. The Trio had gone over information for the gunship configuration for C-130's and had equipped Duck with some fighting capability even though we didn't know of any particular need. Mom liked all the changes. We would carry a few more people with us this trip. We would leave in early summer.
We had been in frequent contact with the people of Reykjavik and they were looking forward to our return. The people of Talinn had been infrequent in their radio use. Those in Milan didn't have a radio set up. We had left a radio and an antenna at the airport when we left though left no instruction for its use.
Shortly after the first of the year and after talking to the Icelanders one evening, we heard a weak station. "Hello, Protection. This is Guiseppe from Milan, Italy, calling you. Do you hear me?"
Andy and I had been talking to Jon with Olaf. I looked at Andy and shrugged. I said, "This is Charlie from Protection. Go ahead, Milan."
"Thank you, Charlie. We are using the antenna and radio you left at the airport. We found some old books and read up on the amateur radios. We now have the one in the community center of our village."
"That's a good job, Guiseppe. Go ahead."
"How is the young lady who was shot?"
"We almost lost her but she has now made a full recovery."
"That is good. Many of us worried about that. It should never have happened. The young men went without our knowledge and were armed with a shotgun they should not have had on their person. The man who ran out and was shot was the father to one of them. He should not have charged you. The shotgun was his."
I responded. "Guiseppe, this is good information. Please use the radio to talk to us on a regular basis. We are planning another trip to Europe this summer. My mother will again be in charge. One of her daughters and my sister was the girl who was shot. Her name is Bobbi. She will be part of the crew on the upcoming trip."
"Charlie, I hope that your people will come to see us. We want to apologize and to demonstrate our friendliness to you."
"I'm not sure. We are trying to cover new areas but I will talk with my mother about considering a side trip to Milan."
I cleared with Guiseppe and found Andrea. "Andrea, we are going to have to talk to mom about Milan. I talked with Guiseppe and he apologized over the air. We are invited back. They managed to get a radio going from what we had left."
She responded. "Charles, I have always thought she was too tough on those people. I remember the statement that the three acted without their knowledge or authority. However, that wasn't the time to discuss matters. We needed to get Bobbi out of there to save her life. We should talk to her before we talk to your mother."
We talked with Bobbi and she agreed that we needed to put Milan on the route. I explained that talking to mom first had to happen. At this point, we shouldn't do it without her approval. She wanted Andy and I to talk to our mother. We agreed reluctantly.
It was a couple of weeks before the time and circumstances were right. Mom Janice and Dad Robby had come out to visit us for a couple of days. I talked my approach over with Andrea and she agreed though admitted she would be uncomfortable while I talked to my mother. She said, "Charles, you are going to use some of the worst and best days of my life to make a point. How can I not be uncomfortable? However and after saying that, I think it may be the only approach that will work.
"Mom Janice is a woman of strong emotions. It is rare they lead her even a little bit astray. She will have to feel your argument on an emotional level to bring her around to thinking on it."
"Andrea, are you going to be okay?"
"Charles, you will have to reassure me both before and after."
"I will, Andrea. I always love you. Even when you weren't so sure."
"I know, Charles. Thinking about that time will always scare me." I held her close.
Mom Janice and Dad Robby made their visit. After supper, we were sitting in our living room after the net when I said, "Mom, I want to talk to you about our route."
She nodded cautiously. I said, "Do you remember when Andrea and I were having our difficulties and I required a thirty day period before we talked again?" She nodded, curious about my point. "Have you ever thought about what might have happened if I hadn't gone out on the driveway?"
"But you did. You loved her and cared for her pain. That was the final piece that brought you two back together.
"I remember Poppa Jack saying that God will always receive those who come to Him."
Her eyes went dreamy for an instant. "What does all that have to do with our routing?"
"We need to add Milan as a stop." Mom gasped.
"I have been talking to them over the radio. I listened with my insight as well as my ears. They want to be forgiven. We reacted harshly. They want to apologize to us. Guiseppe says that they should have controlled those three better. They don't blame us for shooting them or for shooting the man who charged us. I think we need to show up and give them a chance to do what is right and what we would want the chance to do.
"Mom, I am authorized to state Bobbi supports this idea and the Trio have already mapped out a route to take us there if you approve. If you don't approve, we won't go and will leave the Italians hurting and shamed."
Dad Robby said, "You didn't pull any punches, son"
"Mom doesn't. I didn't want her to doubt how her oldest son, two oldest daughters and their life partners felt. I use that term because Jacob hasn't married Bobbi and SJ yet." I grinned and Andrea put her head on my shoulder smiling."
Mom said, "You win. I can't successfully argue with your logic or your smiles. Just don't patronize me."
"Don't worry, mom. That's my dads' job!" We all laughed at that.
With that, our initial routing was finalized. We would fly our "normal" route to St. John's to Reykjavik to Donegal. From there, we would go to Paris. The Trio saw no purpose in going through Great Britain again looking for people. Right or wrong, their opinion carried.
The flights were easy though Protection to St. John's was long. Arriving at Reykjavik was fun. The Icelanders met us and were happy for the missing Olaf and Michelle. They had married and she was pregnant. Doctor George had recommended she avoid this trip. She was not young at forty-one. Late in life pregnancies still carried risks. They had presents for them that we stored in Duck. To our surprise, there was a young couple who wanted to go with us and then immigrate to Protection or Preservation. After a little discussion, mom permitted them to join us. Her only requirement was that they participate in her self-defense classes and my dads' shooting classes. Freyr and Rakel agreed readily.
We spent two full days in Iceland enjoying the people and the parties they had to celebrate our visit. Poppa Jack wanted to work out a system of visiting them and for them to visit us.
We then flew to Donegal and finished the day in Paris. While on the way to Paris, we discussed that we probably wouldn't stop at Donegal anytime in the future. Other than fuel, there was nothing to offer. We fueled at Paris and set up our "camp" in a terminal. Over supper, Poppa Jack said that, one day, he would like to tour Paris rather than use it as a stopover. The Trio conferred among themselves and then SJ said, "We suggest that we take a day for such a tour. Our plan doesn't return us here on this trip. Also, the series of hops coming up is going to be wearing. Perhaps, a little tour would be worthwhile."
Her statement met with approval and mom nodded giving it final approval. Tomorrow, we would tour. In the morning, we unloaded our vehicles and found an open cart we could attach to a four-wheeler with room for people to sit on cushions. It might be unconventional but should work. It did and we saw "the sights" of Paris.
The Eiffel Tower needed maintenance as did most any building or structure. The Louvre was the most disappointing. It was dark inside and our lanterns and flashlights didn't do it justice. The Arc de Triomphe and grandiose but aging Avenue des Champs-Elysées were nice as were the many other sights though we found that, with no people, they were lonely. It was fun to ride through the city with no cars and traffic other than old cars that had been left to rust away. We never saw a person or any signs of people for many, many years the entire day of our trip.
The cap on our trip was Versailles. It wasn't far according to the map so we went. You could see the beauty that had been there though all the gardens and grounds were totally overgrown. The building was pretty but again a disappointment because these things have to be maintained. We were probably the first people there since the Day. On the way back to the airport, we all agreed that we would have to remember that over twenty years of zero maintenance would have an effect upon any sight we wanted to see.
The next morning, we left on our jumps. It took as much time to takeoff and land as the flying. We went to Dijon and then into Switzerland for Bern and Zurich. All were deserted though we saw a few signs that small groups might be in isolated areas. We spent the night in Zurich, still finding no people nor recent signs of them. In the morning, we would leave for Milan. Despite talking over the radio, no one really knew what to expect. I felt that some good people were there but really didn't know if they controlled the community. We would go in "hot" but would not start anything.