Brock McLoud slipped closer to the food warehouse at Fort Lawrence, aka Camp Rucker. If he couldn't break in and steal some food, he and his parents would probably starve. The hunting and general scavenging around Dothan had just run out.
Since Generalissimo Lawrence had moved in with his troops, most of the available food had disappeared. His men had scraped the region clean of anything edible and nobody had gotten organized quickly enough to stop his armed convoys. As a result, the only way to eat was to raise food as a serf on "his" land or to work as a slave in one of "his" factories.
Lawrence had become the tyrant of myth and fairy tales, literally nothing was permitted that he didn't sanction; you couldn't even fuck your wife without his permission! His soldiers did anything they wanted to; there was no such thing as a virgin, male or female, over 10 years old in his territory.
Brock and his father, Donald, had tried to fight, but had been overwhelmed and had been lucky to escape with their lives. Brock had ridden his bicycle the grueling miles to Fort Lawrence in hopes of stealing enough food to hold his family until they could figure out some way to survive without surrendering to Lawrence. Even if he could steal food and escape, Brock might not make it back home without having his stuff stolen and him being killed. But he had to try!
He had nearly reached the warehouse when he heard an order to halt. From inexperience, he turned to look in the direction of his discoverer, instead of diving for cover. As he turned, a shot rang out and Brock expected to die. He was astounded to see a flattened bullet drop at his feet; the next thing he knew, he was sitting in a comfortable chair in a living room and being offered a snack and coffee.
A man and a woman were also sitting in the room and seemed totally relaxed. There was no effort to hide the food, which seemed to be available in plenty, and no effort to hid the lighted room from the dark outside. Brock was very nervous at this, but he was also very hungry. He gratefully accepted the food and drink and ate until he was too embarrassed to ask for more.
The man looked very familiar and there was considerable resemblance between the man and woman, but Brock couldn't put his finger on the reason for this apparent familiarity. Once Brock's immediate hunger had been sated, the man said, "Let me introduce us. My name is Bruce McLoud and this is my wife, Brenda. Yes, Brock, you heard the name correctly. We are not directly related, but there is a connection which we will explain. You are perfectly safe here; Generalissimo Lawrence's men cannot reach us, here, and you can stay as long as you like. Wait just a moment and Brenda will fetch your parents."
Brock's parents walked in from an adjacent room and greeted Brock with hugs and kisses.
Bruce continued, "Your parents have already heard the background on us and this place, but, perhaps, you would like to bathe and rest before we give you all the details."
"No, I am dying of curiosity. Please tell me now."
"OK, Brenda and I are from what we call a parallel universe. I'll explain all of that later. We are now in a place we call EU, or empty universe, where all of the physical attributes of the Earth you are familiar with exist, except that there is no animal life. The people you see before you are the only animals anywhere in this universe. Only Brenda and I can travel between universes, so you are safe from Lawrence. We'll teach you three how to travel like we do in a few minutes.
"Some time ago in my own universe, I had a strange accident which gave me enormous mental powers which I am able to share with others. Some of the things I can do are telekinesis (TK), teleportation (TP), and a souped up version of clairvoyance which we call POV. I know you don't believe me, so I will demonstrate with this medium sized rock."
Bruce then went through his standard demonstration of TK and TP, much to the astonishment of the others. The glowing rock was a particular hit. "I cannot demonstrate POV so easily; that will have to wait. Now, you must understand this: I can give you all these powers, and more, but I do have to make slight adjustments to your brain in the process. The change is not painful and takes only a few seconds. I can put you back to your current condition if you decide that you don't want the power. Do all three of you want this ability?"
All three nodded, so Bruce and Brenda made the changes, including the health maintenance program. Brenda said, "Welcome to the future. You are now functionally immortal. Nothing can kill you if your health maintenance program has time to react. In a moment, we will show you how to fashion impenetrable armor which can make you invisible. We have many other wonders to show you, so just be patient.
"The first thing you need to learn is a teaching procedure which will let you learn a life's worth of knowledge in a few minutes. We'll also teach you POV and how to travel in time and across universes. Furthermore, you will learn to speak directly to another person's mind and to read minds if you are not blocked. There are many things to learn, so let's get started."
With Brenda and Bruce both working, all of the knowledge was transferred in less than 30 minutes.
Then Bruce said, "You now know everything that Brenda and I know to do with ESP. You realize how dangerous this knowledge would be in the wrong hands, Generalissimo Lawrence's, for example. So don't tell anyone else about your abilities without very good reason and without putting a compulsion of secrecy onto them. We know that you are trustworthy, since we checked you out before we ever contacted you. It is now up to you to help your world to return to happiness. You can contact either or both of us if you ever need our help. Good luck and get some rest before you return to your universe."
With that, Bruce and Brenda TPed back to their preferred universe.
The next morning, after the best night's rest any of them had ever had, the three met in the kitchen for breakfast. There was more food in greater variety than any of them had seen in years, so they tried to sample as many different thing as they could.
Brock's father, Donald, and mother, Mary, sat around the breakfast over coffee and discussed their next move. Donald felt that they needed to practice their skills before they tried to use them against Lawrence's troops and the others agreed.
The first thing they did was don the invisible armor, and they all laughed when they disappeared from sight. For convenience right now, they removed the invisibility aspect and tried testing the armor. They found that TK armor was as good as advertised. They tried putting the armor on and off as fast as they could and practiced until they were fully armored in less than a second.
Becoming comfortable with POV took a couple of hours, but they finally felt that they had mastered that ability. The mind-speak was so easy that they didn't have to practice that, so they TPed outside to try weapon practice with TK.
They found that they could knock down or pick up anything that they could see, and POV could provide them all the sight they needed. They decided that they didn't need guns or knives; they could do anything with TK that those weapons could do. They found that they could pass urine, etc. just by TPing it, so that was another problem solved.
They returned to the kitchen to discuss their strategy to rescue their world. The first thing they needed was a headquarters. Rebuilding and TK armoring their house in Dothan seemed like a good place to start, so they TPed there to begin.
They wanted to attract attention, so they repaired the house to its original condition and sheathed it in TK armor. While Donald and Mary were working on the house, Brock manicured the lawn. They turned the house and lot into a real showplace for any day and time.
Their POV and TP were used to loot Lawrence's food warehouse of month's of supplies. They had used their TP to create that rarity in south Alabama: a cellar where they stored the food they had "confiscated."
Mary suggested that they visit any of their neighbors who were still in the neighborhood to see what help they needed. Brock thought that was a good idea, but they should use the POV to locate the people they wanted to visit; that would save a lot of otherwise wasted time. Donald pointed out that they should carry guns simply because that would discourage the casual mugging. He jumped to Lawrence's armory and grabbed three pistols and holsters, etc.
The first place they chose to visit was a house occupied by a woman with two young children. Her husband had simply disappeared; she had no idea where he was, or if he was even alive. She had no way to gather food, so she expected that she and her children would starve unless she joined Lawrence as a slave.
They TPed to a safe location near her house and went up to her front door. They rang the doorbell and waited for a response. Nobody came to the door, so Mary POVed the house to find out what was wrong. She found the woman and her children cowering in the kitchen, so she jumped to the back of the house and called her by name, "Nancy Jones, this is Mary McLoud with my family. We've come to help you."
Nancy Jones went to the kitchen window and looked out to see Mary on the porch. She opened the door and Mary walked in. Mary asked if her husband and son could also come in and Nancy said OK. Mary went to open the front door and brought the two men to the kitchen. The two were introduced to Nancy and the kids.
Nancy and the kids relaxed after a few minutes and the conversation became specific to her needs. All she really needed was food, and Mary promised to help with that. Brock got a list from Nancy of what she would like to have and said he would start on it right now. He went to a secluded section of the back yard and TPed to the food warehouse. Brock collected what Nancy wanted and TPed to his cellar where he temporarily stored the food. He wanted to delay a couple of hours before returning to Nancy's house. He used mind-speak to tell Mary that he had everything and was home.
While Brock was waiting, he POVed around the neighborhood just out of idle curiosity. Suddenly, his attention was grabbed by a commotion at a house a few blocks away. Four men in military uniform had broken into a house. The man of the house, presumably the husband, was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. The men had the woman, naked, pushed against the kitchen counter, face down. One of the men was standing behind her as if he was about to rape her while the other men held her in place.
Brock quickly flashed by mind-speak to his father what was going on and what he was about to do. He locked everyone in place by clamping down on their voluntary nerve impulses, switched his armor to invisibility mode, and jumped to the kitchen. He found that the man had not penetrated the woman yet, but was just on the verge of doing it.
Brock unlocked all four of the attackers and TPed them across the room where he locked them again. Brock canceled the invisibility aspect of his armor so that the woman could see him and, hopefully, would not be frightened. He released the woman and helped her to sit in a chair. Her husband was not dead, just stunned by a blow to the head which had cut his scalp and released all the blood. Brock made him as comfortable as he could and stopped the excessive flow of blood.
The woman looked in control of herself, now, so Brock located a robe by scanning her mind, TPed it to within his reach, and handed it to her. She put on the robe with Brock's help and turned to her husband. "They nearly killed him!" she cried, just as Donald came through the door.
Brock said, "My dad is here, now. He will help me take care of the situation. He and I will move your husband to a bed where you can look after him while Dad and I take care of this human trash. Please show us the way."
Donald and Brock pretended to lift the man as Brock actually used TK to hold him, more or less, comfortably as they walked behind the woman to a bedroom. She put down a towel to catch any more blood and they gently lowered the man to the bed. The woman tended to her husband while they went back into the kitchen.
A mind search revealed that the four men fully intended to kill both of their victims after the rape, so Brock and Donald had no sympathy for them. The four men were part of a sweep of this neighborhood looking for more potential slaves, but they didn't have a quota, so they had no qualms about killing this couple.
A suitable punishment immediately occurred to Donald, and it would make a terrible example for the rest of Lawrence's men. He positioned four sharpened stakes in the middle of the parade ground. Each stake had about 6 feet sticking out of the ground. He stripped the four men and dropped each on a stake so that the sharpened end entered a man's ass hole. Brock released the nerve lock so that the men could thrash about and scream; they wanted to attract attention. A sign was placed on each man's chest, "This is what happens to rapists and murderers."
Generalissimo Lawrence was called to the scene and he took one look, pulled out his service .45, and shot each of the men in the head. He had no way to treat the men medically, so they were going to die, anyway. He ordered the men cut down and the stakes removed from the parade ground. He ordered everybody to forget the incident, so, of course, they couldn't forget it!
Enough time had passed, so Brock delivered the groceries to Nancy Jones. She was very grateful for the help, so she gave Brock something more than just a "thank you" kiss that rocked him back on his heels. She smiled as he staggered out the door.
That evening, after Donald had told Mary what he had done to the four men, they discussed how they would cope with the many people and the scarcity of food. Mary suggested that they should all get together for mutual protection, but she didn't know where.
Brock offered the idea of using one of the two hotels in downtown Dothan. There weren't many people left in town, so the larger one might hold everybody. There would be everything they needed there and both the hotels had been empty for years. They could TK the necessary repairs and armor the building the same way they had done their house. They could clear fire lanes around the hotel and they could put up secondary TK barricades for more protection. Mary and Donald thought that was an excellent idea and they could look into it tomorrow.
The next morning, the three TPed to the larger hotel and looked in. The lobby wasn't in too bad of a shape, so they looked further. As it turned out, except for peeling paint and a little falling plaster, there was not much wrong with the building and they could easily TK the necessary repairs. Water and heat would be no problem, only food.
They set about cleaning up the lobby and dining room and had that ready for "business" before dark. The manager's rooms were cleaned for their own use and they moved in that day.
That evening, Mary contacted Nancy Jones about moving in and she was all for the idea. The family that Brock had rescued was also ready to join the group. Arrangements were made for them to come by at 8:00 AM to pick rooms and move in. They were also told to bring along anybody else who was interested.
The word sure spread fast! Twenty-one people showed up between 8:00 and 9:00 AM to join the group. Mary organized the women to began cleaning the bed linens, and Donald had the men scour the stores looking for more bed linens and bath towels, etc. The men were back at noon for lunch and the women served sandwiches and water; there was no coffee. By supper time, enough rooms had been prepared for everybody to settle in and all of the residents got a good rest that night.
Dothan, like every other southern town, was segregated by race, so nobody knew what the conditions were in the colored parts of town. As bad as the conditions were in the White neighborhoods, they must be many times worse in the colored neighborhoods. At breakfast, Donald stood and announced that the hotel was not going to be segregated; anybody who wanted or needed shelter was welcome. Any of the current residents who couldn't live with that could leave at any time; they would not be missed. He was startled when there was actually some applause when he finished speaking.
Donald, Mary, and Brock put everybody else to work cleaning up the hotel while they went to their rooms and POVed the town, trying to identify the location of every person who might be a potential resident of the hotel. Dothan had once had a population of about 25,000, so they were expecting to find hundreds of people they could help. Instead, they found that there were only about 240 people left in town, counting the children.
They decided to become a contact committee of three to visit every family group to try to convince them to join the families at the hotel. There was plenty of room, so that was not a problem. Once the families were settled in, they would try to bring in the few individuals left about.
They had marked a city map with the locations of the people as they found them, so going to the families would be easy. Convincing them to come to the hotel might not be so easy. There weren't many colored families left in town, so they thought that they would go to them, first.
There was no better time than the present to start, so they jumped to near the first house and went up to the front door. When they knocked, an elderly man came to the door carrying a makeshift club. "What duh y'all want?" he growled.
Mary, who was to act as the spokesman for the group, said, "We're here to offer you whatever help we can. We have food and shelter where we live and you are welcome to join us. We are not segregated, so you are welcome on an equal footing with everybody else."
The man looked at her with a squint in his eye and said, "Ya gots to be lyin'. There ain't no such place in Dothan."
"There is now, and everybody is welcome to join us. There are so few people left about that everybody will be needed to rebuild our society. And remember, we have food which we will share equally."
"Y'all takin everybody? Even ol' colored folks like my wife an' me?"
"Yes, we are! How many are there in your family?"
"Just us two. But Martha can't get out of bed without help."
"Don't worry, we'll take you now if you are ready to go. You don't need to take furniture, there is plenty at the hotel. Just take the clothes you want to keep. We'll furnish everything else."
"We'll be ready ta leave in 10 minutes, if you got someway to move Martha."
"You get ready. We'll be back in a few minutes with a wagon for Martha and your stuff."
Up until Generalissimo Lawrence's arrival, mule drawn wagons had been the major means of transportation, once the gasoline had run out. Lawrence's people had taken all the mules, but there were still plenty of wagons about. Brock would have no trouble pulling a wagon with TK to help.
They quickly found a wagon with a double-tree so that one person could pull it the same way one mule had in the old days. They returned to the old man's house and Mary knocked on the door.
"We're back with a wagon. Are you ready to go? By the way, I'm Mary McLoud, Donald is my husband, and Brock is my son. What's your name?"
"I'm Jim Smith, Miz. McLoud, and my wife is Martha. We're ready to go."
"Please, Jim, call me Mary. Everybody is on a first-name basis, now. If you don't mind, Donald and Brock will come in to move Martha to the wagon."
"Come on in, but mind your step. The place is kinda mussed since I've been doin' all the cleanin'"
The two men went in and moved Martha to the wagon and went back for a couple of paper boxes of clothes. Assured that there was nothing else to be taken, they started for the hotel.
No sooner had they reached the street, than five colored men carrying clubs showed up and demanded to know what was going on.
Mary turned to Jim and said, "They'll more likely believe you than me. Please tell them what we are doing."
"OK, Mary. These White folks is takin' us to the hotel downtown where we can get food easier. We is goin' 'cause we want to. Thank ya kin'ly for checkin' up on us, but we is OK."
Mary said, "You are welcome to join us, if you wish. Bring your families to the Huston Hotel and you will be welcomed. There is no segregation and everybody will be treated equally. We hope you will come join us, we need everybody we can get to rebuild our lives. If you don't like it, you will be free to leave. There will be enough food and rooms for everybody."
"Y'all takin' in colored folks? That's hard to believe."
"I know, but things have changed, some for the better. Remember, you'll be welcomed and we'll help you move if you need us. Please come, we need everybody!"
With that, the colored men stepped aside and they left for the hotel.