Wagon Train To The Stars
Chapter 1

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Science Fiction, Post Apocalypse, Harem,

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - an open story premised on earth people hijacked to bring civilization back to an ancient ringworld with many problems and many secrets. Everyone is invited to contribute stories and ideas

The ecologists won. There we were, minding our own business, recovering from Christmas when the cult came. They arrived in fat torpedo-shaped silvery ships that you could only see through a telescope. They seeded our orbital space with nukes and set them all off at once. Everything stopped. The jets and planes fell from the sky. Every car, truck, semi and railroad engine died. The dieback had started

I woke up to a giant flash of light that left purple after-images in my eyes. When the dazzle left me I tried to orient myself. It was totally black.

The alarm clock was dead. I reached for a flashlight I kept in my nightstand--nothing. I stumbled into the closet for an LED camping lantern I knew I had and tried it-more nothing. Then I realized that the streetlights I always had beaming into the window were gone as well.

I fished around my desktop for a box of matches and lucked out. I lit a votive candle and looked around. Everything that ran on electricity was dead and gone, whether it ran off of line power or batteries. My laptop that I'd scrimped and saved for was so much trash. Damn.

I checked the bathroom. The water was still running so I filled every canteen and jug I had, including the gallon water jugs that I had waiting to go back to the grocery store to fill.

I realized that I was panicking. I needed to sit down and re-assess what had happened and what my next step would be. I settled down at my kitchen table with that little candle and sat in the silence thinking. The traffic sounds outside my apartment building were gone. The emergency services trucks would have been out by now if they could, so no cars were working. I was 48, out of shape and couldn't carry much. I was a bachelor so I had no help. I started to hear yelling and thumping from the rest of the building. People were beginning to realize that we were screwed. The building ran on electricity--heat, light and cooking. We were helpless in the apartments.

I had to get to somewhere that I could keep warm and find food, water and a reasonable place to live. The closest place with LP gas tanks was the county fairgrounds, across the street, thank God. I dug out all my candles and candle lanterns. I dug out all the camping crap that I'd accumulated over the years and picked through it. We had grocery stores nearby that were fully stocked so I didn't worry much about food. I had a cot in the car and a winter sleeping bag handy that still fit me. I was good to go for the night. Now the scary part. I had to find people to help me. There was no way I could do this on my own.

I exited into the hallway and locked the door behind me. People were bouncing around, shouting and arguing in the dark. They were drawn to my light like dogs to food.

"Hey! Quiet, please."

It started to get calmer.

"No lights, right? Not even flashlights. The streetlights are gone. right?"

There was a general murmur of agreement.

"No cars or trucks, or the emergency sirens would be out there, right?"

"My car won't start, either!" came from the group."

"Right. Now be calm. You won't like this. Anyone else see the flash? Yeah?

Well, we probably got nuked way up high. It all fits. If it was lower the heat flare would have toasted us by now. Orbit is 40 miles or more straight up."

I kept talking thru the sudden panic. Most kept listening. Those were the ones I wanted.

"Stay calm. We can't do much in the dark, but we need to move away from here.

With no electric this place is useless. Let's get some sleep and get together come dawn. Oh, and fill any empty jugs with water--it won't last long, just until the water towers empty, I guess."

"Where we gonna go?" came from a young latino guy I knew worked at a local restaurant.

"If we take over the fairgrounds we have LP gas and places to stay. We can raid the big Meijer store next door. We'll be all right.

"Why not stay at the grocery store?"

"You want to be around all that rotting milk and meat? Not me. And what about other people that want what you've got? Are you going to fight everyone? We need to lay low with what we have until things thin out.

That could be a few months. But first, we have to move fast and hard to build a stash. We need to stay together and work together. If we don't we'll die like dogs fighting over the last bone."

People started to drift back to their apartments. Whew. I hadn't been knifed or shot. I could still hear people thumping around and yelling upstairs. I could only manage so many. Some would join later, some would not. I just hope I didn't have to shoot anyone One big black guy in a leather coat stood there, evaluating me.

"May I help you?"

He grinned a little. and got serious again.

"Maybe we can help each other."

He opened his coat. He was a police officer, stuck here while patrolling the place. I motioned him inside and cleared off my couch for a place to sit.

"Tom Harris. You're going to need some security to pull this off.

You're making sense so far."

"Jim Sexton. You want to team up with me? I'd appreciate it. Your uniform can be a focal point--if we can find any ex-military we may be able to form a squad or two to watch each other's backs.

That's for later. You eaten lately? I've got a fridge full of food that's going to go bad and a way to cook it."

He smiled and shook my hand. "Now you're talkin'."

I know, you're not supposed to use propane stoves inside. Pthbttt.

We had bacon, eggs and hashbrowns in butter. He sacked out on the couch (It was a futon bed that had seen better days.) while I went back to bed.

I woke at dawn We had hamburgers cooked over a propane stove for breakfast.

I started telling him what was worrying me. I was pacing.

"Water could kill us, either the lack of it or polluted feedstock.

We can't let anyone use a flush toilet anymore. The kids and women will be hard to teach. Everybody's got politically correct sanitation on the brain and not a one of 'em has been under field conditions.

One disease could wipe us all out. Without a doctor or access to antibiotics we're hosed. All this and we're living on consumables, too. What happens when our supplies and bulk tanks run dry?

Who did this to us? This was too big to be an accident. No jets have flown over or we'd hear 'em. Dry air carries sound. It's cold and clear out there.

What about raiding parties? If I were raiding I'd shoot officers first, then the guys with longer-range weapons."

"Jim, you're borrowing trouble. Get your head on straight."

That settled me right down.

"Thanks. First, find a place, then organize people, get'em places to stay. Once the're comfortable that they'll have a place to sleep we'll have to start raiding parties to build a larder."

"The main building has a kitchen that they feed everyone out of on weekends. The main office is there, too. There should be a map of the place and keys. I ought to know--I've patrolled it enough times."

I got dressed. I dressed warmly, in layers. It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside and would probably get to 40 during the day.

We put together small packs for the both of us with candles and lighters, canteens, wire cutters, parachute cord and a couple of light sticks.

I stopped by my car for a big hammer I had stashed there for driving tent stakes. About twenty people followed us to the gate. It was open, so we just marched on through. I'd been there before so I knew where the main building was. So did Tom. We had to punch out the lock but then we were home free. The place was pretty gloomy. We had enough places for everyone to sit at the picnic tables. The big heaters wouldn't work without electricity to run the thermostats and igniters. We needed sleeping bags, blankets and cots to start with. The kitchen was well supplied. It had bread, eggs and bacon. Everyone had breakfast, not that we needed it-- more of an emotional thing. We were one group now. We had to start thinking that way. I talked as I thought. I watched people start to smile as they saw a big problem get broken down into reasonable chunks.

"The little ones would need to be kept warmer than the adults, and probably would be best off sleeping in the kitchen. Bunkbeds would be fine.

We'd need to move any portable toilets we could find close to the building after dumping them out. We needed cots and sleeping bags. We needed lights, heaters and LP Gas tanks. Everyone should have a backpack."

It was time to make our first raid.

We hit the Meijer superstore like a horde of locusts.

"Hey everyone! Take wheelbarrows, not shopping carts. The wheels are too small for the snow!"

We had to shift over to a sporting goods store less than a mile down the road to get enough cots and sleeping bags. We found some low cots the kids would be more comfortable with, too.

We started with easy lists to scavenge for and got more involved as we went.

I started a couple of people getting fresh foods and meat, bread and butter for us to consume while it was good. We found pallets of canned goods that we wanted. It was too bad that we had nothing to move full pallets with. we had to break them into thirds to move them in wheelbarrows. Cases fit fine.

Several women and one man were professional cooks. That took a load off my mind.

We had grilled steaks and pork loins for a week. By then the meat in the store freezer was going bad. We picked through what was left to find whatever was still good. We made six thirty-gallon pots of meat stew. We kept that going for days and days. Eventually it was down to a vegetable-grain soup when we finally did 'er in.

I went thru the paid invoices and open bills in the office after lunch the first day. The bulk tank had been filled two weeks previously and seemed to be on a six-month fill cycle. I found enough propane fittings to empty 20- pound tanks into the bulk tank, one painful tank at a time. It seemed we always had two or three people carting in full tanks and carting away empties thruout the winter and into spring until we ran out of tanks to steal.

Every gas station had twenty or so. The Ace hardware store three miles away had a bulk tank with a filler setup. We gravity-fed tanks until we drained it.

We had 46 people with Tom and I. Most were in families. There were a few bachelors, including Tom, Carlos, James and I. The few single women began hooking up with the bachelors, one by one. Some came from within our camp, some not. The double-wide cots were much in demand and you were looked on with envy if you had one, at first. Eventually we scavenged full beds and dressers for everyone but that took months. We strung curtains to make rooms and hallways. It wasn't too quiet but we learned to live with it.

There were only two babes in arms, one pre-schooler and four school-age kids.

It was damned cold that first night. We salvaged patio heaters and white gas lanterns the next day, as well as fuel for 'em. You can kill yourself refilling a hot lantern, as I demonstrated for the group outside our building.

I purposefully missed the fill hole while refilling a hot lantern and it went up in a respectable fireball. I dove away from it as I bobbled the fill, dropping the supply can. The fire back-drafted into the fuel can and it exploded, scattering buring fuel across the area. Tom helped to put me out.

After that I turned to a very quiet crowd.

"That is what can go wrong. You can burn yourself and family to death in an instant. The lantern must be just warm or cool to the touch before refilling it. Always leave a finger's width of air inside the chamber when refilling it or it can explode from pressure. Liquid fuelled stoves are the same."

The big patio heaters are seven to eight feet tall and broadcast heat all around them. They take two twenty-pound propane tanks for about ten hours of use.

With the people and six heaters we kept the place about forty-five degrees at night. That's not too bad with sleeping bags and no breeze. Everyone was up off the concrete, on cots with blankets under them and sleeping bags around them.

We had six people that had been in the military and had at least qualified with small arms, including Tom and myself. We carried pistols and practiced with them.

Each carried a whistle to call the others. Tom had a shotgun in the trunk of his car. All my weapons were in storage, over twelve miles away. They may as well have been in the next state.

I spent some time in a pharmacy with a PDR- a Physican's Desk Reference. It's a massive drug guide to every pharmaceutical available in the United States. It gives uses, dosages, warnings and drug interactions. With it's help I filled a couple of big tackle boxes of disposable syringes, pill and liquid medications as well as pain killers.

We put together the best EMT responder kits we could and made sure to grab all the

"Ensure" and "Boost" we could find, to feed people sick and in bed. We took a reasonable stock of vitamins for everyone, as we didn't really have a balanced diet. Everyone got vitamins after that.

We got medical histories of everyone in our group. Very few knew their blood type and that worried me. We couldn't give cross-transfusions unless we knew blood types. If someone swung an axe and hit a bleeder, that's all she wrote.

Everybody in our militia got a medic bag and we cross-trained each other. It wasn't much but it gave us all a bit more confidence.

We dragged the portable toilets to the edge of the fairgrounds for dumping with doubled-up hand-trucks once a week. We flushed 'em out each time with bleach and water, then wiped 'em down.

We did laundry in big tubs outside the kitchen. We heated the water over the stoves and strung lines to dry everything inside to keep the humidity up in the dry winter air.

A couple of people had guitars. Everybody was quiet when they played.

We appreciated any music at all.

We played a lot of cards at night. Everyone learned dominos and Yahtzee.

Checkers and chess had their own advocates.

As an active patrol officer Tom had a key to the police station. About March We raided it for enough weapons for sixteen and all the ammunition we could scrounge.

We found a bonus in several cases of military MRE's. (Meals, Ready to Eat. Also known in the trade as Meals Rejected by Etheopians)

I asked Tom what the cage room was for.

"That's the evidence lockup."

I looked around and started getting curious.

"Do you think it matters anymore?"

He looked at me kind of funny and just grinned. "Hell, no."

We punched the lock and started exploring.

Now, St. Charles was a fairly large town, over 80,000 people. A lot of weird shit gets confiscated in a town that large.

We found some select-fire rifles in there. That means automatic weapons.

We left those behind. We didn't have enough ammunition to support them.

We did break them down and take the firing pins. There was no sense in leaving behind something like that to be used against us.

I did take the three hand grenades we found and the grand prize-- a scoped .50 caliber Barrett rifle with a case of tungsten penetrator bullets.

"What you gonna do, Jim? punch out engine blocks?"


I'd always been good with a rifle, making expert in Army basic and afterwards.

Firing a rifle is a skill--you get better with practice. I wanted to be as capable as I could.

Somebody had had a S&W 6" Chrome .357 confiscated. Poor bastard. They weren't even made any more and were like hen's teeth to find. It was easily an $800.00 to $1200.00 pistol. I adopted it and found leather for it.

We took a little pot, a little hashish and whatever methedrine they had.

Any schedule X pharmaceutical went into a little tacke box (Talwin, coedine, amphetamine, barbituates, general CNS depressants and stimulants.) I carefully left any feel-good stuff and date rape drugs like MDA and Ketamine.

I carefully stored the LSD we found in a glass jar. That had its own use.


Since the station was at the other side of town from us we took a large party with us with wheel barrows. An antique store yielded a couple of nice oil lamps and some washboards to help with the laundry.

There were lot of dead bodies in the street. Most had died in fights.

We got shot at from a grade school on the way back. We pulled back around a brick house. I looked at Tom, then the Barrett.

He said "Kind of short range, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but it'll do the job. Spot for me?"


We broke into the house shielding us. The living room had a window that looked out onto the school. I set up the rifle on top of their TV and set the scope to focus out onto the school. The bipod made it a cinch.

"Got him. Third window left of the main door. See him?"

There he was--a big, fat camo-colored target with a rifle in his hands, looking out at the house. I pulled away from the scope, loaded a cartridge and locked the breech, then pulled that mother tight to my shoulder. When I'd re-acquired my target I squeezed off a round.

I aimed for center of mass. Right in the breadbasket.

My ears were ringing and the window was gone. My shoulder hurt. I had one hell of a headache. I made a note to myself to never fire that big bastard from inside a room again.

"About four inches high, dead on." I heard him yell.

I yelled back "How can you tell?"

"Hole in the glass."

The guy had been keeping his own harem, and not willingly. He had one woman and two teens handcuffed to beds. They were damned skinny.

I didn't want to dig through the bloody mess to find the keys... Thank God Tom knew that the handcuff keys would all match. We got them all free and cleaned up. The girls latched onto my arms like limpets. I made sure that they each got an MRE to eat, and that they ate slowly so as not to vomit them back up. We found their sneakers and clothed them in doubled blankets made into ponchos, then belted around the waist. They wanted to come back with us. I shrugged. Why not?

A few more mouths wouldn't hurt. Besides, they were cute.

I fell for them hook, line and sinker. They slept with me, ate with me and walked around with me. They did all but go to the toilet with me. I got adopted as a daddy.

We had chained up all the fairgrounds entrances but one. We found a lot of stuff stored around the property, including eight house trailers, a whole fleet of riding mowers and a John Deer tractor. I kept coming back to that tractor, looking it over time after time. It had a manual crank start and a big hydraulic shovel front-end-loader.

I figured it was worth a try. It should only need a voltage regulator and a condenser to work. I kept an eye out for parts.

Well, to make a long story short, I found 'em. The holes didn't fit, but that was OK. I wired a good ground strap up, set the choke, advanced the throttle and gave it a good crank. It took a while, but it caught. The damned thing worked. People ran up from everywhere when they heard that engine run. I was proud as a new poppa. Then it died. Everyone sighed at once. Tom just laughed, the bastard.

"Your diesel went bad over the winter. You need new fuel."

Well, that news wasn't so bad as it could have been. A pump-siphon to get fuel out of ground tanks, a case of Sta-Bil, green spraypaint and some 5-gallon Jerry cans were next on the raider hit parade.

The color green is reserved for Diesel, at least in North America. I siphoned out the bad fuel from the tank and cleared the line using the petcock on the glass fuel filter designed to vent water in the fuel.

Soon we were mobile. We had farm wagons We talked it over. We were moving to where there was water at a top speed of 35 MPH. It sure beat walking.

We took over a farm just outside of town with a stream behind the house.

We made water filters out of fifty-gallon drums with baked charcoal over sand. This would probably keep us healthy.

There was a nursery down the road. I found a water pump on a skid attached to a Briggs-and-Stratton 5-horse motor. I bolted it to another small tractor's Power-Take-Off behind the driver's seat and we had a water pump.

We scavenged a tank for a diesel supply, mounted it on a berm for gravity feed and filled it the hard way--with five gallon jerrycans.

With fifty people working together, we managed to steal another pole barn from a different farm. We cut off the poles at the ground and put it up a bit shorter. It made for a lower ceiling and easier heating.

We lined it with pink construction foam and wood panelling on 2x6 joists. It was pretty comfortable--even for fifty people--once we put in partition walls.

We didn't have seed for the fields, but we did have some that had been laid by for gardening from the local farms and the ag extension office. The dried-out produce from the grocery store gave us a lot of seeds, too--even seed potatoes. We had a pretty good truck garden going by May, and we had fresh meat soon after from critters that thought our garden was just the neatest thing on earth. I learned to like raccoon if it was cooked long enough.

It's a good thing ketchup has a long shelf life.

We found fields that had been used for tomatoes and sweet corn the previous year. We harvested varieties for seeds. We found garlic and onions, dill and pumpkin, potatoes and beans. The corn meal in the stores was stale so we harvested and dried field corn, saving lots for the next year's seed. As most of our tribe was Spanish, we had tortillas morning noon and night. A good tamale is hard to beat.

We missed chickens and pigs. We did have refried beans.

We had cows that we'd captured and fed. We grew and cut a lot of clover, hay and straw. The stale corn meal went to the cows.

You use a strange set of muscles using a sickle.

We grew a lot of wheat. I knew that we couldn't live on corn. There were amino acids missing from corn. We needed wheat to survive, or corn and beans together.

That first loaf of fresh bread tasted like civilization all over again.

We had a good harvest. We were doing great until the little bastards came down out of the sky.

There they were, riding their little scooters through the sky like they were overseers or something. I was drinking an oh-so-rare cup of coffee when the yells and screams brought me outside. I saw the glints of sunlight reflected off the cowlings of their scooters. I ran for the Barrett. I shot six of the little bastards out of the sky before they froze me.

I woke up on a hospital bed somewhere in orbit. Figure it out-- everything was white. the bed beeping at me.

I was very light-almost floating. Microgravity.

I was much younger. Something quite irregular had happened.

My old body was on a bed next to me. It was dead. It was pale and the chest was not moving. Now THAT'S a scare for you.

I was juvenile-young, muscular and didn't need glasses. Some scary shit.

I had a radio in my jaw--a mastoid transciever.

They told me that they took me because I was a leader, a survivor and a belligerent son-of-a-bitch. They put me back to sleep.

I woke up dry and stiff. I was lying on the floor of a large room with lots of other people. The floor was a little springy and with the gravity was still less than I was used to it was fairly comfortable.

The ceiling was slowly getting brighter and brighter. I stood, looking around for a toilet. There was a squat trench near one wall. Some people recognized it, most didn't. This told me we had a wide cultural distribution, as a squat trench was used in mostly poorer countries, Mexico, Central and South America, Asia and India.

I learned that in the military. I started a head cound and lost out at 220 with lots more to go as they began milling around.

Everybody was young--barely teen-aged--and naked as a jaybird.

I spotted Tom and slapped his shoulder. We started to talk when I was attacked from behind.

Two young women latched onto me as if I were a life preserver in a typhoon. It was Mary and Janet, the two teenagers we'd rescued, with several years and several pounds on 'em in all the right places. I wrapped my arms around them and they both acted as if they were surgically attached to me. Tom grinned at me like a fool.

"Your fan club is back, daddy."

"Daddy, hell. They're marryin' age now." I squeezed a couple of bottom cheeks and didn't even get a squeak out of 'em.

One wall started flashing, getting our attention. I heard a voice asking me to approach the flashing wall. Three other guys joined me.

The wall became a large TV screen. It showed a scene in space with a large blue-green circle on it, half edge-on. The voice started talking over speakers.

"These four men are your designated leaders. It is up to you to break into teams to follow them. All of you are survivors, your leaders more so. You see before you where you are going. It is a ring world, very old. The star has been stripped of heavy elements and rejuvenated. Civilization has failed upon the ringworld. It cannot rebuild under the current conditions because the necessary resouces are locked up into high durability goods. There is very little available metal.

We will pre-seed large areas with crops and trees you are familiar with, as well as certain tailored biota that will aid your success. We will drop supplies of raw materials to you at certain times and places. It is up to you to travel and spread civilization as best you can. It will be a task for you and your great grandchildren."

I muttered to myself "No kidding. A ringworld must have a surface are of several billion square miles The surface of Earth would get lost on that thing."

The sneaky bastards caught my comment, amplified it and sent it out for everyone.

"Yes, you are correct. This ringworld is approximately eight hundred miles wide and has a linear dimension equivalent to the orbit of the Earth. Using an average orbital radius of ninety three million miles, that gives a surface area of 567,422,464,000 square miles to four places. Roughly half a trillion square miles, one fifth of which is covered in fresh water."

I spoke up again.

"Is there a navigable river? Is there soil deep enough to support trees? Is there water deep enough to support relatively large cetan life? Are there any intelligent races there? Does the oxygen/CO2 ratio compare well to earth? What is the gravity equivalent?

"It has been several millenia since the races maintained the ringworld. The river has many silt bars, breaking it into lake segments. The water depth is quite adequate for large cetan life and supports same. There are several intelligent life forms existent on the ring, all land-based. You shall have no physical difficulty with the environment.

Any further questions will be answered by your educations prior to being staged.

You will be supplied with wagons, seed, equipment and stock reflecting roughly an 1800 time frame in central North America."

I said to myself "Yowsah. Shotguns, no rifling. Frontstuffers. Hoo boy. Hey, boss people, can you disseminate animal species as well? Buffalo, deer, horses, bees?"

"We shall calculate the impact of these species upon the ring ecology and return an answer as we determine it."

"Sheep don't like swimming. Could they be isolated on islands or areas cut off by oxbow lakes?"

"It shall be calcualated." I got the feeling that I'd better stop while I was ahead. they were getting shorter with their answers.

I turned to the crowd. "Sound like a wagon train. Should we split up by cultures? There should be less confusion and acculturization problems that way. I'm from North America" I walked to a corner of the room. A section of the group followed me.

One of the other three took an adjacent corner. "I represent India! Have I any brothers or sisters here?" a fair-sized group headed towards him.

The next guy was midnight black. "I am Nigerian. Who shall join me upon these new plains?"

The last man identifed as a leader was oriental. He paced to the remaining corner, turned and spoke. "I am from Mainland China. I am not political or judgemental, yet all who join me shall work to help us all survive. We shall survive and prosper."

There was a group of about twenty still milling about the center of the room.

I began talking to each person that had collected about me, to try and get an idea as to their skills and how they saw themselves in our venture.

We had farmers, soldiers, dockworkers, zookeepers, carpenters, cooks and bakers.

I found two doctors, several nurses and a real prize--a blacksmith.

I ignored the ones in the middle of the room. If they couldn't make up their minds when it counted they could get others killed.

I mentioned it under my breath. The milling herd dropped in their tracks, asleep.

I hoped that I hadn't sentenced them to death.

Each group was guided into different rooms. We were fed something like sandwiches and allowed to pick a bunk. The lights started to fade and we slept.

Oohh. High speed sleep teaching leaves a hangover. We'd been at it for several weeks with intervals of rest. Over thirty years had gone by.

We were no older. I'd give a pretty penny to know that trick.

We'd been cross-trained from each other's skills and more added.

I could tan leather or a fur, make a shoe, forge a knife, plant and harvest a crop, manage a horse or team of oxen, build a cabin or a scow, sail a boat or kill, butcher and smoke a buffalo.

I noticed that there was nothing on gunpowder weapons--the skill sets were for spears and bows, yet the skills for coppersmithing, blacksmithing and glassmaking were finely detailed, presumably so that they could be transmitted to others immediately.

I knew that horses, deer, buffalo, cougar and deer were established on the ring.

Honeybees were wild, tending to the pollination of fields of flax, hemp, corn, wheat, potatoes, barley, hops and clover. Many antagonistic species had been done away with and seeded over in an amazingly short period of time.There were huge groves of cypress, oak, maple, hickory, walnut, cherry, ash, spruce, pine, fir, juniper and yew.

Vast areas of the riverbanks had mature growths of diamond willow, bush willow, cattail and sphagum moss.

We would have to watch for trees with short globular trunks that grew near the swamps.

As they dried the heartwood would separate into flat sheets. A tree with a yellow-green bark grew by rhizome like crabgrass. It burned as if it were soaked in gasoline and was dense as hell. It would grow like crazy around clover due to Nitrogen fixation. We would have to watch for Saltbush--a short red-stemmed bush that collected salt in its root nodules. It was valued like gold. Salt was rare.

Where streams from the 'mountains' came down to the river there were clay banks and sand banks. We had a ceramics industry waiting for us.

Sheep were limited to island masses to limit their predation of the greenery.

There were no rabbits. We did have sparrows, bats and hawks.

We would carry stocks of pigs, chickens, saddle-trained horses and a breed of giant oxen to haul wagons. The wagons had segmented bottoms to form reservoirs for seed stock. There was an encyclopedia built into each wagon powered by 'solar' cells.

The wagons were over twenty feet long, had six foot wheels and were about ten feet wide. They were built out of advanced metals and ceramics, and were tougher than hell. My head hurt from all the crap they packed into it. Oh, God. It took days to shake the headache. Nobody else was in any better shape, either.

Once I shook the headache I started a dialog with the ecologists. Societies implied fixed locations and fields. Wattle and daub could only carry you so far. Wood construction needed a few basic tools, such as axes, froes, broad-axes, bit-and-brace, great chisels for post and beam construction, peg plates to drive pegs out of riven hardwood, and two-man saws for beam work. Concrete was too useful to forget.

You needed high temperature rotating ovens to melt the clinkers, then crushers to give you a powder. Add gravel and voila! instant rezoning. Without blacksmithing tools and metal feedstocks we were just a momentary firecracker. Some things had to be made by a higher technology than we would have avilable, such as metal files to maintain the tools and anvils for the blacksmiths.

The planting, tending, harvesting and storage of crops were another story. It flat out required plow and harrow, hoe and sickle, rake and mattock. Making cloth of cotton, hemp or linen each had their own requirements. With no fossil fuels, no water power and no wind power there was damned little chance of an industrial revolution. How far were we to carry things? We couldn't get too fancy with steel without a bessemer, blast furnace or rolling mills. With DC powerpoints from solar power we could do a hell of a job with ceramics, but that would take research. What the hell, we had all the time we needed if we had enough seeding metal and enough clean silica, lime and heat to play with.

Trade promotes civilization. If they could somehow get the river dredged we could develop steam engines and float paddle-wheelers. With localized resources to drive trade and industry we could do a hell of a job. With a bootstrap of fuel cell technology we wouldn't be smogging up the place either--just using DC taps to reverse bias the fuel cells for a recharge, unless we could crack water to Hydrogen and feed the cells. Hydrogen handling technology had its own problems.

If fuel cells had cracking capabilities we could simply distill clean water to drive them. Some electronics were possible, even photo-lithography based chip production using ceramics, but high-speed computers were a bust. There wasn't enough ecosystem to soak up the toxins and purify 'em before everything saturated. The water mass was too small for the load, and it was too critical to mess with.

Truly, it should be orbital-based, as should any industry incorporating heavy metals or radio-isotopes.

We could foster a bio-culture, and maybe even get into some genetics, but beyond that would eventually doom the biosphere without purification. Even the oxides of the metals we would be given would need to be scavenged from the ecology, probably by tailored plants like the saltbush.

With that I gently fell asleep.

I dreamed of ages, trading partnerships and starships coming to call to stock up on biologicals. I saw in my mind's eye small wattle-and-daub villages mixed with soddies growing and prospering, changing into wooden or concrete houses with glass windows; fields spreading out to meet each other.

Little chuggers towing barges floating up and down the great river trading spices and pigments, ironware, glassware, copper goods, newspapers, mail and music.

It was a grand vision, simply grand.

The next morning I had that damned headache again. Ohh, shit. I needed aspirin. Instead I had a glop drink out of a spigot and like to died.

I peed my life away and went back to bed, covering my eyes with my arm.

When I woke up, there were the other three leaders sitting around me, waiting for me to wake up.

"Ok, What did I do wrong?"

The black fellow said "Nothing wrong, perhaps very right. You argue well."

"With whom?"

"The bug-eyed monsters behind the walls. We were each played a conversation you had with them. You convinced them of a direction to steer rather than random chance. They agreed to promote this direction and we have a much better chance at survivial. You are our shaman. You carry our vision."

"I carry a hell of a headache. Anybody got a shoe I can puke in?"

Tom squeezed my shoulder. Damn, I was glad Tom made it.

"I can't get rid of your headache, but I can sure as shit get you laid, hero.

Boys, let's leave the hero to his reward."

They left, cackling like chickens. I hated chickens, just then. Mary and Janet joined me in bed. They loved up on me, making me glad I was a man.

When I felt hands drifting south of my belt line I called a halt to things.

I don't particularly like performing for others. Some sports are for spectators, some for participants only... there's a hard line there that I'm not a-gonna cross. Nope, ain't a-gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. nope. No way in hell. It's kind of silly, I know. I purely wouldn't mind watching the two girls go at it, like instant Viagra, but that's the way I'm built. Monkey man.

They kissed me to sleep and kissed me awake. I was getting real comfortable with that. I hoped to live and die that way and told 'em so.

I'm warning you guys. Never, ever tell a woman that you want to wake up with her for the rest of your life unless you want your tongue sucked out of your mouth and other things... , well, never mind. Just be careful out there, eh?

The lights had cycled dark again.

I kept my eyes closed and ran my hands over two perfect flanks, down their backs and squeezed the sweetest, most delectable asses that God ever provided for a man to cry over. I tickled them down under until things got a little hot and squishy, slow, slow. Combined with some hot slow kisses I think we warmed up that room by a few degrees. I knew I had started something that a gentleman has to finish so I laid back and let 'em wail on me. One mounted my top and one mounted my bottom. It's a God damned good thing I didn't die then or they never would have gotten the smile off my face or the smell of heaven out of my mustache. they both rode me raw and put me away wet. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, just braggin'. Just braggin.

A fellow's got to keep a few good memories for his golden years.

When I explained that to the little Bug Eyed Monster fuckers they didn't talk to me for over a week. I think I shocked the little bastards.

I woke up happy, even though I was walkin' with a hitch. we were on the ring surface with 120 of the damnedest big wagons you ever saw, sort of like Conestogas with squared-off metal tops. We divided it up to roughly four people per wagon.We had four oxen for each wagon, six to seven feet at the shoulder apiece. Two at a time could tow it over flat, dry countryside. There were four horses hitched to each wagon's rear, and four pigs with the damnedest long legs you ever saw.

Each wagon had six chickens, every other wagon had a rooster. We had crazy-tall goats running rings around the wagons, stopping to sniff us and get a petting. The damned things were six feet at the shoulder and ran like grain thru a goose.

We had twenty new pilgrims. I was told that the indecisive ones had been regressed to children. Well, we had kids!

The wagons were square-sided, tall and flat-topped. They had bed platforms that would fold down and meet in the middle. Each had an electronic encyclopedia built in, powered by a battery and a photoelectric effect built into the roofs.

Playing with the encyclopedia, I found that it had data from Earth as well as information pertinent to the ring; its ecology, its inhabitants and many technologies that we hadn't discovered yet such as cellulose plastics.

Some sections were obviously locked, such as the whole nuclear chemistry and isotope section. These were representedby simple descriptive entries.

The biology, ceramics and optics sections were wide open and huge. We had large representations of music, literature, sculpture, painting and architecture. We even found litho masters of computer chips.

We spent days inventorying everything before we left the first campsite.

It's amazing how much stuff a homesteader needs.

I found a stash of hammer/handaxe handles made of very high density plastic.

I took one and started in with a file, digging and shaping. I didn't tell anyone what I was doing. I about drove 'em crazy. I saved the plastic bits, thinking that maybe I could mold them under heat into something later. We were being distinctly pointed away from gunpowder technology. I wanted a distance weapon we could use that wouldn't be hard to manufacture or use. Archery needs years of practice to get the right muscles. Atl-Atls are like throwing a frisbee--a little practice yields amazing results. The throwing sticks were half the equation. A slightly forward-weighted dart was the other.

Some thought that they should be the leader, not me. I bided my time. The trail would test us all. Some of our citizens tested me more than others. If I could smile all day at a bitchy Green Beret captain that thought his academy ring make him God's Uncle, I could keep my patience with anyone. Nobody died in their sleep.

I kept my eye out for some nice, stiff diamond willow wands, over 6 feet long. The thrower was long done when we ran across the shafts.

I harvested all I could. I scraped and dried all of 'em, then split each end for rawhide fins and a knife-blade point. Sinew wrapping and hide glue finished them. I had atl-atl darts and a thrower.

I buried one dart half-through a buck at sixty paces then walked up to a hunter that had been giving me the most shit.

"Go ahead, bastard. Do better. Go ahead. Piss me off again. Please, piss me off. I'll make you short on one end, just watch me, asshole."

That boy left camp for better hunting, since his mouth poisoned his home. I didn't force the issue at all. He wore out his welcome with everyone else too. I felt bad about it, but it stopped a lot of challenges from idiots that had no idea of what they were getting into.

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