Chapter 7

Copyright© 2000 by Al Steiner

Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story: Chapter 7 - When Comet Fenwell crashes into the Pacific Ocean one October day, it spells the end for most of humanity. Those that survive find themselves in a greatly changed world filled with different morals and the same old urges.

Caution: This Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Ma/ft   Fa/ft   Consensual   Reluctant   BiSexual   Science Fiction   Post Apocalypse   Group Sex   Sex Toys   Violent   comet crashes into earth story, end of civilization story

Just across the road from the main gate of the Garden Hill subdivision was the hilly, wooded area where the community gathered most of its firewood. Many of the trees here had been knocked down by the high winds that had occurred the first few days after the impact. Every day a work crew of five or six people, mostly women but always with an armed man to guard them, spent a few hours hacking away at these trees with chainsaws and axes. Though the women had protested vehemently at first that such a thing was "man's work", they quickly warmed to the idea when it was realized that the average shift of a wood gatherer was only about three hours in length.

About an hour after the meeting in the community center broke up, while Brett was marching from guard post to guard post to check on the state of his people, this day's crew was in full operation. A Dodge Ram pickup that had once belonged to Brenda's husband was parked with it's nose facing back towards the gate and chunks of pine were being loaded into the back of it, piece by piece after they were cut. There were five women today pulling the duty, all of them town women, and one man, who sat behind the truck and kept an eye on things. Jessica was also out there, a rare appearance since she made it a point to never venture outside the walls.

She was talking to the three women who were carrying the chunks of wood from the pile to the truck, following them from one place to the other but not offering to don a pair of work gloves and lend a hand. "I'm telling you," she told them, "that hussy actually admitted she was having sex with that poor boy. She confessed it to us right there in the meeting. Can you believe that?"

They could believe it. "I told you," one of the women said knowingly to a companion. "That little bitch is shameless. Absolutely shameless."

The companion shook her head sadly (although secretly wondering just what it would be like to have sex with a fourteen-year-old). "I knew she was a slut," she said as if in disgust. "But I didn't think anyone was that slutty. Shocking."

There were some more comments tossed back and forth between the four of them, all of them disapproving at what Stacy had done. The word "bitch", "slut", "hussy", and even that most hated word among those of the female species: "cunt" were used with increasing frequency. Finally Candice, or Candy as she was known, broached the subject that Jessica had really wanted addressed.

"So what are we going to do with her?" she asked. "Is she going to be exiled?"

"I would certainly hope so," one of the others put in. The rest then echoed this sentiment.

"She will not be banished, or even punished for that matter," Jessica said sadly, shaking her head as if a great travesty of justice was taking place.

"She won't?" they cried. "What do you mean?"

"Paul won't vote to exile her," she said. "I tried and I tried to get him to see reason but he just won't do it. I tried to explain to him that this was a crime. That it was rape. He just kept saying he didn't see anything wrong with it and he wasn't going to do anything about it."

"Unbelievable," Candy said. The rest of the group agreed with her.

"He's been influenced by Brett too much," Jessica told them. "I'm telling you, Paul does whatever Brett tells him to do and votes however Brett wants him to vote. Brett may as well be the one who is on the committee, that's how much influence he has over him. So anyway, Paul kept us from being able to exile that bimbo like we all know she should be, and now she's going to walk away scott free and be allowed to just keep molesting him all she wants."

This declaration caused a fresh outburst of anger. "Do you mean that nothing is going to be done about it?" someone asked. "Nothing at all?"

"Nothing," Jessica confirmed. "There's nothing that we can do. We can't very well put her on kitchen duty, can we? Of course I moved that we at least order her to stay away from him."

"I would hope so," Candy said righteously.

"And of course Dale and I both voted yes, which means that she has a committee order telling her to stay away from that young man. But she told us herself that she won't do it and there's nothing we can do to stop her. Paul said he won't vote to exile her no matter what and there isn't anything else we can do to her for punishment. Not that anything less than exile would be acceptable anyway."

"So you can't do anything about it?" the woman next to Candy asked as she dropped a log into the truck. "We just have to put up with her doing... doing that to him?"

"It looks that way," Jessica agreed sadly. "Unless..."

"Unless what?" they all wanted to know.

"Well this is just an idea," she said mysteriously, as if it wasn't something really worth mentioning.

"What?" they all demanded of her.

"Well," she said, speaking slowly as if this was just occurring to her that moment. "It seems to me that the will of the community should take precedence over a committee meeting, shouldn't it? I mean, that's how Brett and his friends got to stay here in the first place. The committee voted that we wouldn't let him stay, but we put it to a community vote and the ruling was changed. Why shouldn't that same thing apply to banishing that slut? If the community agrees that she should go, then she should go, right?"

This darkened the expressions of three of the women present. These were three that had been either caught at or suspected of fornicating with an attached man - an offense that Jessica wished people expelled for. But before the thought that what she was suggesting could one day be turned against them was even fully formed, Jessica covered that particular loophole.

"Now you'd have to understand," she said, "that it should take more than a simple majority vote to overturn a committee decision. Particularly for something as drastic as exiling someone. I would think that nothing less than a two-thirds majority would do for something like that."

"Two thirds?"

"Two-thirds," she said. "Like when they tried to impeach Clinton, remember? If two out of every three people of voting age in this town say that that pregnant hussy should be exiled for what she's doing, then that should be what happens."

There was a momentary pause as everyone went over this thought in their head, their minds doing some quick addition. Though there were probably enough people against what Stacy had done to get her thrown out of town using that rule, the same ratio would not hold up when it came to simple fornication. The people most against the act of sleeping with another woman's partner were the women who had the partners, or roughly, twenty-one of them. Twenty-one was not even a simple majority, let alone two-thirds. There did not seem to be any danger involved in supporting this plan.

"That sounds like a pretty good idea, Jess," Candy said carefully, still trying to find the hidden loopholes that Jessica was so famous for.

"Yes," one of the others put in. "I think the town would go for something like that."

"It gives us a little more power," said another.

Jessica smiled, knowing that she had them. "I think it's a good idea too," she said. "I'm going to propose this amendment at the next committee meeting tomorrow morning. Now I don't know how Dale or Paul are going to vote, but I'm certainly going to say aye to a rule allowing the community to overturn a decision."

"And what if it passes?" Candy asked, already knowing, as did everyone else present, that it was as good as passed as long as it was only a majority committee vote and not a unanimous one. "Are you going to use it to throw her out?"

"You bet your butt," she said. "We'll have a community meeting at dinner tomorrow night and have a vote on it. If two-thirds of the people want her out, then she'll be walking across the bridge the next morning."

They all grinned as they thought of this, as they envisioned Stacy waddling across the canyon out into the forest beyond the bridge. They all thought that would be a sweet sight to see, that hussy being ejected from their town, although none of them could have told you just why that would be a sweet sight.

Jessica left them to their work a few minutes later, knowing that those five women would vote the way she wanted them to. With a smile she reentered the subdivision and found her way back to the community center. Outside was a work-crew of four, also staffed exclusively with town women, that was tending the fires that heated bath and cooking water.

"Hi, Jess," they greeted with mixed levels of enthusiasm. Though she was valued as a gossip source and a leader, they did not like her personally.

"Hi, girls," she said, putting back on her solemn expression. She gathered them around her and then began to speak, her topics neutral at first. Within two minutes however, the subject of Jason and Stacy was brought up, giving her an opening. "It's interesting that you should mention that hussy," she said, putting her angry expression on. "We had a meeting about that just this morning."

"You did?" she was asked.

"Of course," she said. "After I found out that that young man had been in the hussy's house half the night, I certainly wasn't going to let the issue drop."

"So what happened?" they inquired.

"Well," she said, settling down into storytelling mode, "we brought the two of them in for questioning about just what happened in there. And guess what they said?"


And so the story was told again, to the shock of the latest bunch. Just like with the wood-gathering crew before, they fumed and cursed about the outrage of Stacy's actions and then asked what was being done about it. When told that nothing was being done about it, they demanded to know why. When told why, they ranted for a few more minutes about the injustice of it all and then Jessica slyly slipped in the suggestion about the two-thirds majority rule. As before, after a few uneasy worries were soothed, the idea was embraced with enthusiasm.

From the fire-tending crew, she moved on to the childcare crew. From there, she moved on somewhere else. She figured that she would be able to talk to every woman in town by 2:30, which would give her more than enough time to catch her afternoon nap.

Guard position 4 was located in the top story of one of the abandoned houses in the southeast corner of the subdivision. Except for the bridge lookout, it was the most isolated of all the posts, far away from any of the occupied houses. It watched over the rough hills between the eastern wall and the sheer impassible cliffs beyond them. It was a post that would have been obsolete had Brett been allowed to station guards on Hill 1557, but for now, it was manned and on this day Michelle and Maria Sanchez had the duty.

At 3:30 Brett made his visit to the post after making the twenty-five minute walk to it from the community center. He found Maria and Michelle seated before the window in card table chairs, a pair of binoculars, their walkie-talkie, and a game of gin rummy laid out on the end table between them. Leaning against the table was the high-powered rifle that every guard position had and one of the AK-47s.

"Good afternoon," Brett greeted them as he entered the room and sat down on the bed.

"Hi, Brett," Michelle greeted, offering him a friendly smile.

Maria too gave him a semi-cordial greeting. Unlike many of the town women, Maria, who was Hector's official woman, was used to hard work and didn't complain much about being assigned to the detail. As such she did not seem to have as many hard feelings for Brett as others did.

He made small talk with them for a few moments, asking them how their shift was going. They reported that they had not seen a single person all day, making it nearly two straight weeks since a straggler was last spotted from this particular position. Soon Maria, who had heard the rumors about Brett and Michelle, sensed that her presence was not exactly wanted at the moment. She announced that she was going to go out on the front porch for a cigarette and got up, disappearing down the stairway.

"So how are you feeling today?" Michelle asked once she was gone.

"Like shit," he said honestly. "My first post-comet hangover. A historical moment indeed."

"Me too," she said. "I forgot how miserable I felt after drinking until this morning. Now I remember. But what I meant was how do you feel about what happened last night? And what we talked about last night?"

"Oh," he said with a sigh. "That how do I feel."

"That's the one."

"I don't really know," he told her after a moment. "My mind is having a hard time convincing me that you were serious about what you suggested."

"I was serious," she said. "I suppose I could now tell you that it was the alcohol talking, but it wasn't. The alcohol just gave me the courage to bring it up. The idea itself was conceived and perfected while I was cold sober. And I still think that it's the only way."

"It just seems so... strange. I could understand if you were trying to steal me away from Chrissie, but to share." He shook his head a little. "That's the bizarre part."

"But you mentioned it to Chrissie?" she asked.

"How did you know that?" he asked.

"She gave me a look at breakfast this morning that spoke volumes about how she felt about me. It was more than just the look that she would have given had she merely heard the rumors about you and I. I was pretty sure that you told her my suggestion. Did you do it while you were still drunk?"

"Yes," he said. "She was waiting up for me when I got home. The subject was kind of forced upon me. As you guessed, she didn't react very favorably towards the suggestion."

"I told you that she wouldn't at first," she reminded him. "It is quite a shocking suggestion to have to deal with. I think she'll come around though. There's not really anything else for her to do."

"She slapped me across the face," he said. "And it hurt. I don't think a woman who reacts with physical violence to a suggestion is going to work her way around to accepting it."

Michelle shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not," she said. "Time will tell. But you never answered my question. How do you feel about it? Besides thinking it's bizarre and strange that is?"

"I'm a man," he said. "If two beautiful women want to share me with each other, I'm certainly not going to say no. Does that answer your question?"

"It does," she said with a smile. "And don't worry too much about Chrissie. I'll talk to her at dinner tonight after shift."

"I don't think that's a real good idea," he said, thinking instantly of the gun that Chrissie carried on her hip. He had a frightfully clear vision of Michelle lying dead on the gym floor beneath the table, a large bullet hole in her forehead, and Chrissie being marched across the bridge the next day, exiled for murder.

Michelle could tell what he was thinking. "Don't worry," she said. "She won't hurt me and I won't hurt her. If she reacts too strongly to my talking to her, I'll just leave and try again tomorrow. I have patience."

He gave a very doubtful look but offered no further protests. "Have you heard about Jason and Stacy?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Maria filled me in on the latest when she came on shift at twelve. Quite a powder keg brewing, isn't it?"

"To say the least," he said. "Did she tell you what Jessica is up to now?"

"About the two-thirds community vote?"


"Yes, she told me about it. Jessica caught her before she came out here and gave her the spiel. It sounds like she is being very persuasive. Maria is not even a town woman and she hates Jessica with a passion but she came in here spouting about that hussy and that bitch and using phrases that I know she could have only been fed by Jess. If she can rile up Maria like that, I can only imagine how riled up the town women are getting."

"They're pretty riled all right," he said. "You should've heard some of the things they were saying to us while we were moving his things over there this afternoon."

"He still moved in with her huh?"

"He did," he confirmed. "He wasn't going to be talked out of it. He told me that if they throw Stacy out of town then he'll be going across the bridge with her."

"You have to admire his devotion," she said. "It's too bad that this hen party we call a citizenry doesn't see that. He's much more dedicated to his woman than any other man in town, isn't he? Do you think Dale would walk across the bridge with Jessica if we threw her out?"

"I'd sure like to make the experiment," he said, making both of them laugh.

"Will what she's trying to do really work?" she asked him.

"Yes," he said. "I don't see any way to stop it. At tomorrow's committee meeting Jessica will propose that a two-thirds vote of the entire community can override any committee decision. She'll vote for it and so will Dale and that means it will pass. At the community meeting that night, she'll move that we vote on overturning the committee's decision not to exile Stacy for statutory rape. I've sampled the mood of those women out there. She won't have any problem getting a two-thirds majority, even if all of the men vote no."

"Great," Michelle said, slumping a little in her chair. "I'll try talking to some of them after dinner tonight and at dinner tomorrow. Maybe I can swing some of them over to my bandwagon. It can't hurt."

"Why don't I just give you the day off tomorrow and you can spend all day doing it?" he suggested.

She shook her head. "Not a good idea," she said. "It would be counter-productive if you had to assign someone to my position so I could go politic for you. It would look rather shady, especially in light of the rumors that are already floating around about the two of us."

He sighed. "I guess you're right," he said. "Now I know why Paul told me the first night that living in a town full of women was a pain in the ass."

At 5:30, just as the unseen sun was nearing the horizon, John Kramer and Bill Blades had one last conference. They, as well as all of their men, were sequestered behind the last group of hills before the open ground along the northern wall, almost exactly halfway between guard positions two and three. The recon they had done had convinced them that these were the only two posts on this side of the subdivision. The time had come to stop watching and to start attacking.

"We ready to get into position?" John whispered to Bill.

"I think so," he replied.

"Is everyone's watch synchronized exactly?"

"I've checked my guys three times," he said. "They're all tuned exactly to my watch and my watch is tuned exactly to yours."

"Good enough," John told him. "Remember, we move into position at two in the morning and hide ourselves. You can fudge a little on that time, but not on the attack time. At eight o'clock sharp we strike. No more, no less. It's vital that we take out those guards before they have a chance to call in. Don't shoot unless you absolutely have to. Make those Raid-bombs do the job. I don't think they'd be able to hear gunfire all the way over at the community center with this rain, but you never know."

"We'll do it," Bill assured him confidently. "Two o'clock we penetrate, eight o'clock and the Raid bombs go in. Once the guards are down, we meet in the middle and move on the community center."

"If we do this right," John told him, "We'll be sinking into some nice juicy pussy in about fifteen hours. Tell your men that. It'll pep 'em up."

"Already did it."

"Okay. It's time. Get your people into position and I'll see you tomorrow morning."

The two men each joined their group. Bill's group, which was tasked with taking down guard position 3 (although they did not know that was the name of it) consisted of Bill and seven of the hunters, all of them armed with their rifles and plenty of ammunition, two of them armed with the special "Raid-bombs" that they had devised and found so effective in quickly taking out people in enclosed places. John's group was tasked with taking down guard position 2 at exactly the same instant. His group also consisted of seven hunters in addition to the leader, two of whom also had the Raid-bombs.

While they still had some daylight left, the two groups moved in opposite directions, staying behind the concealment of the hills but paralleling the wall. Each leader would periodically check position by peering carefully around a tree or over the top of a rise to see how close to their targets they were. When they found themselves to be almost exactly across from the guard positions, they stopped and hid themselves carefully in the foliage. They had just enough time before it got completely dark to make one last check of their supplies and ammo. Everything was as it should be.

The sun deserted them and so did the light. They settled in and waited, knowing it was going to be a long night but anxious for the rewards that awaited them on the other side of it.

Chrissie was mostly picking at her dinner instead of eating it. She pushed it around with her fork and occasionally took a small nibble, but her stomach, which was tied up in knots due to all the worries on her mind, did not embrace the offerings she gave it. As if the problems with Brett and Michelle were not enough, now she had her brother to worry about as well. He had relieved her at her post less than an hour ago and had told her his plan to walk across the bridge with Stacy if it came to that. She had argued and pleaded with him for nearly ten minutes, trying to get him to change his mind. Although she liked and respected Stacy much more than she did any other female in town, she did not want to lose her only brother when she was kicked out. And she had no doubt in her mind that kicked out was exactly what was going to happen. Jessica had visited the guard post that day while she had been on duty and in the space of less than five minutes had been able to whip Brenda, her partner, into a seething fury at Stacy's "crime".

"Do you realize that if you vote to kick her out, you'll be sentencing her to death?" Chrissie had asked Brenda after Jessica's departure.

"No," Brenda answered indignantly (the way she always talked whenever she addressed Chrissie) "We'll be exiling her, not executing her."

"Don't kid yourself," Chrissie responded. "If you send a pregnant women across that bridge, she's as good as dead. You just won't have to have to watch it."

The conversation had deteriorated from there, eventually ending with Brenda storming out of the room and going downstairs for the rest of her shift. Chrissie was glad to be rid of her.

Now, as she forced herself to swallow a small portion of canned peas, she wondered if she should just go with Jason and Stacy when they left. Why not? If they could talk Paul into giving them a couple of guns and few days worth of food, maybe they could live for a while. Maybe they could make their way to Auburn eventually and see what life held for them down there.

A figure approaching her in the nearly empty gym distracted her from these thoughts. She looked up and at first couldn't credit what she was seeing. Was it really Michelle, the woman who had aspirations of sharing Brett, coming over to her? She wouldn't be that crass, would she?

It seemed that she would. As she got to within ten feet it became obvious that she was heading for Chrissie. Chrissie shot her the glare that had cowered her so well that morning, warning her to stay away. This time however, the glare did not work its magic. Michelle stopped directly across from her, holding her own plate of food, and looked down.

"Can I sit with you?" she asked.

Chrissie looked up at her in disbelief. "I don't think so," she said, venom dripping from her words. "You are the last person that I want to eat with."

Michelle didn't move. "Even worse than Jessica?" she asked.

Chrissie didn't smile. "Go away," she said.

"We need to talk, Chrissie," she said.

"I have nothing to talk to you about."

"But you do," she said. "You have a lot to talk to me about and I have a lot to talk to you about. So why don't you behave like the adult I know you are and give it a shot, huh? That's what adults do when they have a conflict with each other."

It was her tone that did the trick. It was not the least bit condescending, not even when she said "adult". It was so rare that someone talked to her that way that she found herself responding to the words. "All right," she said, waving to the seat across from her impatiently. "Sit down. Talk."

"Thank you," Michelle said, setting her plate down. She eased herself into the seat and looked across the table, making no move to pick up her silverware. "I talked to Brett today," she said.

Chrissie shrugged. "So you talked to him. So what?"

"He told me that he brought up the uh... suggestion that I had about you, him, and I."

"You mean sharing him?" she said, hissing a little but keeping her voice down. "Yes, he brought it up. Did he tell you what I did?"

"He said you slapped him," she said tonelessly.

"Damn right. And I oughtta do the same thing to you too."

Now it was Michelle who shrugged. "And what would that accomplish? It would hurt my face, it would probably hurt your hand, and nothing will have changed. We would still be sitting here with the same problems that we had before."

Chrissie did not know how to respond to that. She simply continued to stare.

"Tell me something," Michelle said. "Why is it that you are so opposed to what I have suggested?"

"Why? Are you serious? Because it's sick!"

"Why is it sick?" Michelle wanted to know next.


"I believe you heard me," she said. "Why do you think that two women sharing a man is sick? I will admit that it is somewhat unconventional to our upbringing, and that it is something that I never considered before the comet fell. I will even admit that it is far from ideal from our perspective. If it were up to me I would much prefer having one man to myself. But that is not the reality we live in anymore. You think it is sick because it goes against the values that you were raised with, right?"

"Of course it goes against them," she said. "Doesn't it go against yours? Or did your father have two wives?"

"My parents divorced when I was young," Michelle said. "But that is neither here nor there. I too was raised to believe that monogamous relationships were the way things were supposed to be. Everybody was raised to think that, whether they did it in practice or not. But then everybody was also raised in a world where there was an equal amount of men and women, weren't they?"

"That doesn't matter."

"It does matter Chrissie. That's what I'm trying to tell you. We have five women for every man in this town. Five to one. Would you agree that that ratio is creating problems in this town?"

It seemed like a trick question and she hesitated for a moment. Finally she reluctantly said, "Yes. It is creating a big problem."

"We don't live in normal times anymore," Michelle told her. "The civilization we grew up with is dead and most of the values we were raised with cannot apply anymore. Do you agree that you should be allowed to sleep with Brett in the first place?"


"Should this town allow you and Brett to sleep together? Should it allow your brother and Stacy to sleep together?"

"Well... yes," she answered. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Because it's a value that has been changed to suit the situation. Would you have slept with Brett if you had met him before the comet?"

"No," she said slowly, seeing where this was heading. "I would've told my dad and had him call the police if he would've tried."

"And how about Stacy and Jason? If you would've found out that a twenty year old pregnant woman had seduced your fourteen year old brother before the comet, what would you have done?"

"Told my dad and had him call the police," she said.

"Exactly. Yet now, after the comet, you accept Brett as a lover without question, don't you? You accept Stacy as your brother's lover, don't you? I saw you hugging her this morning. So that must mean that you have changed your value system a little bit to accept these new realities."

Chrissie shook her head. "You're talking about apples and oranges," she said. "My brother and I are adults now because of the comet and what happened. All that has changed is that we're trying to be treated like adults and given the rights that we deserve. That is not the same thing as changing my values to accept another woman into my relationship. I won't have any part of that."

"But you're already a part of it, whether you like it or not," Michelle said. "You are one of the women in this town where men are an endangered species. We are the glut here, Chrissie, and the men are the demand. It's going to come down to either sharing what's available or going without."

"I'll go without then," she said defiantly.

"For how long? Forever? That's real easy to say right now. But what about later, when you need him."

"I don't need him."

"And what about Brett himself?" she asked. "What about when the town finds out about the two of you and Jessica riles them all up to exile him for having sex with a minor. I don't even have to convince you that she can do that, she's already doing it with Stacy."

"How will they find out about the two of us if we're not together anymore?" Chrissie asked.

"I think you maybe know the answer to that," she said softly, leaning forward a little.

Chrissie became very uncomfortable all of a sudden. "What... what do you mean?"

"How late is your period, Chrissie?" she asked her.

Chrissie paled as she heard this. How had Michelle known? How could she possible have known? She had not even told Brett about that! She had hardly even told herself about it, not wanting to face what it meant.

"How late?" she repeated.

"How did you know?" she whispered, trembling a little.

"Elementary," she said. "I mentioned this possibility to Brett last night and it got me to thinking. This morning, before I went out to my position, I took a look at the supply room log. In the entire time you've been here, you have not signed out a single box of tampons or pads. You should have had at least one period in the time you've been here; maybe even two if the timing was right. And you don't seem the type that would've gone in and taken them without signing for them. So how long?"

She continued to look at the woman across from her, feeling a reluctant respect for her deduction skills. "Almost three weeks," she finally admitted.

Michelle nodded. "A little too long to blame on stress, wouldn't you say?"

Chrissie felt herself starting to cry as the very excuse that she had been giving herself all of this time was thrown back at her. In her mind it had seemed a reasonable explanation. Spoken aloud by another person, it sounded ridiculous.

"You're pregnant, Chrissie," Michelle said gently. "You're carrying Brett's baby in you. Even if you don't want to keep it, which I doubt, there is no way available here to put a stop to what's going on inside of you. We don't have any doctors or medical equipment here. The best we can offer is Paul, who was an EMT on a fire engine and who is equipped with the basic first aid kits that came with it. He's real good at putting ice on sprains and bandaging up cuts, but I don't think he knows how to abort a pregnancy."

"Oh God," Chrissie said, fighting not to face the facts and losing miserably. More tears began to fall, dripping from her face into her food.

"It's okay," Michelle said gently, reaching across the table and taking one of her hands. Chrissie did not protest. "It isn't anybody's fault, it's just the way that things work. You didn't think that you'd live long enough to have to worry about this. But, thanks to Brett bringing you here, you have lived that long. Why not be grateful that you're still around to cry about it?"

"How can I bring a baby into this world?" Chrissie asked. "What kind of life is it going to have?"

"The kind of life that we provide for it," Michelle answered. "And in a way, that's what I'm trying to improve by having this talk with you right now."

"What?" she asked, sniffing a little.

"Let's take things one step at a time, shall we?" Michelle told her. "In the first place, there's the pregnancy itself. What's going to happen when you start to show, when it becomes obvious that you're expecting? Who is the first person they're going to look at?"

"Brett," she said, seeing the point immediately.

"And what do you think they're going to do to him?"

"You know what they'll do with him," she said. "They'll exile him."

"Right," Michelle said. "They'll exile him for statutory rape, just like they're planning to do with Stacy. So what we have to agree upon here is the fact that there is no way that your relationship with Brett can be hidden from the town forever. They are going to find out about it. All we can hope to do is control the manner in which they find out about it."

"And how does sharing him with you help with that?" she asked, some of her previous bitterness coming back.

"Because I am a respected member of this town and I am somewhat of a trendsetter. Now I don't know for sure if my involvement in the relationship will be able to counter Jessica's opposition to you and Brett, but I know for damn sure that without it, all hope is lost."

"Why do we have to share him?" she wanted to know. "Why can't you just give us your support from the sidelines? Or are you trying to blackmail us?"

"I want to share him," Michelle said. "I need a man to hold and to have sex with just as much as everyone else in this town and, to me, Brett is the most desirable we have. Those are my main reasons for suggesting this arrangement. If it doesn't work out that way for whatever reason, then I will still give my support to you and be a voice against Jessica. I will do that, Chrissie, no matter what. However, I think my words will carry much more power with the other women if I am actually a part of a relationship with you. My arguments will seem more legitimate to them and there will also be the side-issue of the polygamy to take a little of the heat off of the under eighteen issue."

Chrissie shook her head, not understanding.

"Look at it this way," Michelle explained. "Most of the women in town do not have an official man and they desperately want one. They will embrace the polygamy issue the same way that I do; by concluding that it is better than what they have, which is nothing. They will side with me on sharing men. I have no doubt about that. So if they side with me on that against Jessica and the other women who have official partners, they will be hard pressed to side with Jessica against you being with Brett in the first place. They will not be able to jump on both bandwagons at the same time. By tackling both of these issues in one single battle, we will be able to prevail with both of them."

"This is just too much," Chrissie said, realizing almost belatedly that she had been giving serious consideration to what Michelle was saying. "Too much has happened today. I can't think."

"But you have to," Michelle said. "Time is running out. You don't need to make any decisions right now, but you will have to make one soon. And as you're mulling all of this over, try to think about that baby in you. You mentioned what kind of world you would be bringing it into. It won't be the world that you were brought into, that is a given. But it would be nice if it were a world with some sort of order to it. Sharing men is not perfect, but if we start the ball rolling, it will catch on and it will bring order to this chaos that we have here. And maybe someday that baby's children or grandchildren will be able to go back to the values we used to have."

"That would be nice," Chrissie said. "It would be, but... I don't think that I could share a man with someone. I just can't see myself doing that. How could we live with the jealousy?"

"It will take some time," Michelle said. "I suspect that we would probably fight with each other quite a lot at first and we would have to change and rearrange how we would go about certain... things. It won't be a cakewalk. The only way it would work would be if we were friends with each other. And, Chrissie, despite what has happened, I do consider you to be my friend. I like you a lot and I care about you. And most of all, I would be honored to share a man with you."

Chrissie left a few minutes later, without a decision made one way or the other but with a lot on her mind. She walked slowly home and entered the house, seeing that Brett was lying on the couch, reading a paperback novel from the supply room. He looked up at her anxiously, not saying anything.

"Hi," she said softly.

"Hi," he replied back.

Instead of retreating to her bedroom as she usually did, she stayed at the end of the couch. They continued to look at each other and then they began to talk. They mentioned nothing about Michelle or polygamy. She said nothing about the near-certainty that she was pregnant. Instead they talked about Jason and Stacy and the possibility of her being voted from town the next night. He vowed that he would do everything in his power to prevent that, both before and after the vote. He told her that Paul was going to try to enlist the aid of the other men in town in support of Jason; a prospect which might be promising if they pressured their official women to vote nay and try to convince others to do so. He did not mention that Michelle would try to talk to some of the other women, not wanting to bring up her name. She told him that she was keeping her hopes up, that things had a way of working out. And then she said goodnight and went to her room. It was not exactly a mending of the relationship, but it was the most that they had said to each other with civil tongues since the day he had told her about Mitsy.

At precisely 2:00 AM, Bill gave the order to his men. It was time to move in. They stood shoulder to shoulder, moving slowly so their equipment would not clank or make any other sort of noise. They linked arms so that no one would stray off in the wrong direction in the darkness. They then began to move forward, towards the wall.

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