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19 April 2017 @ 07:37 am
Scrambled_ part 6  

Chapter Eleven BHG

Captain Ahco looked at his lines of horses and wondered how the hell he was going to feed them. "A hundred and seventy-two horses and not a single bloody cow."

Myyk grinned. "Mare's milk. It's the next big thing. I spotted some wild horses, so depending on their exact species, we may manage some foals. Or, of course, we could try to catch some wild cows. What did they call them? Aurochs or some such?"

"Please the One, let us not be stranded for so long." he winced. "Except we didn't have a working gate. Earth, on-the-other-hand . . . One. We'd better think about capturing calves, and maybe some colts."

"Hunting for food." Key—Ifki—put in. "The grocery will be stripped by tomorrow."

Myyk nodded. "We've kept an eye on the Red Zone people. They've teamed up with some Native miners from one of the Earth's mining worlds. They're exploring and hunting. Azho—the miner I talked to said everyone called him Nick—bagged a leopard yesterday. The Miner recommended deer as much tastier."

Nipper nodded. "We found the remains of a cow that something had killed and eaten. The foot prints around it . . . well, either they have really big birds around here, or there are smallish carnivorous dinosaurs out there. Raptors. I looked them up, there are several species, from ostrich sized to horse sized. Don't know what we've got."

Hi walked in. "The horses look pretty good. Frisky, some of them."

Dipper rolled her eyes. "The ones we dosed with Azho's potion. The worst injured. The mares are in season and acting like idiots, and the geldings are worse! Honestly, carrying on like stallions."

Ahco snorted. "We'll take them this afternoon then. They can get it out of their systems with long ride. Some scouting and some hunting. Find out who's to the west, and the northwest of us."

Jay walked in, arm in a sling, but no splint or wrappings. "We should recruit some civilian workers, get them involved instead of sitting around waiting for someone to fetch them another bucket of water. I think I've found all the sheared off water mains and sealed them. Shut off valves to all the ruined buildings. Can't be sure until we pressure up the whole system."

"But you've got enough pipes to reach the stream." Ahco waited for his nod. "So tomorrow we'll have water at ground level."

"So long as fuel for the generator holds out. We'll get some sort of large containment built, and adapt a windmill or somesuch to pump water into it. In theory, we can get enough water pressure to get water to all the apartments. If those insane people won't come down."

"Good. So water, and hopefully meat. Now what are we going to do about grains, fruit, and vegetables?"

CeeCee—Ecci— grinned. "I snagged every packet of seeds from every store I could find, and grabbed lots of beans. Sweet corn's the only grain, and it'll take years to grow enough to eat, but we ought to be able to do it."

"There are oak trees. For acorns. Probably some native nut and fruit trees."

"There were brambles down at the stream. Maybe berries, later."

Myyk jerked her thumb over her shoulder at the sacks of horse feed. "We can try sprouting some oats and barley. Mind you, that will involve combing through the feed for any grains that look undamaged. It'll be a pain in the ass. Like Jay says, we need to recruit civilians.

"I recommend we get them off their asses right now. No water or food deliveries. They have to come down and haul it up themselves."

Ahco winced. "I . . . Yes. However much I feel the urge to protect them, that's different than coddling them. Time for them to get to work."

Cow and Mike exchanged grins. "We'll drop the news on them this after noon, while you're out fetching dinner. They can collect firewood, and we'll have a grand cookout all ready for the meat I am sure you will bring home."

Ahco ribbed his nose. "Two thousand people . . . quarter pound of meat each . . . "

"A single big Aurochs would do it, but remember, there's always tomorrow and the next day. Radio us, if you get enough to need us to bring more pack horses." Mike was looking over the street. "What do you think, Cow? We can use that concrete foundation, all the bricks all over the place . . . "

Ahco left it to them, and headed for the picket lines.

Cricket laid his ears back and reached to bite Hairy.

Ahco delived a flat handed slap to the gelding's neck "Quit it! One save me, you two are driving me up the wall!"

He studied the milling mass of unruly beasts.

"Let's move out! These well-trained parade horses might settle down once they're away from any mares."

He led off at a trot, Hairy remembering enough of his training around his hormonal urges to follow without attacking Cricket.

A kilometer down the road and almost out of the sound of the mares calling after them, they did settle down . . . mostly.

They crossed the center of the pinwheel, stepping up and down from the brick of the East Plaza to plain cement, to rocky ground, detoured around a smelly drying pit of barnacles and sea weed, and further around what looked like the entrance to a mine, the tracks of a rail system diving into a hole in the sliced off hill.

Then back to the grasslands, with strips of foreign land spraying outward.

Northwest, tall trees of an unfamiliar sort mingled with palm trees, sloping down into a marshy looking area. Large things moved back in the isolated forest, but away from them, so he left them alone.

Almost due west, a barren stretch gave way to low buildings. Utilitarian, concrete . . . manned. People on the roof, with binoculars. Ahco brought up his distance vision and looked back. Soldiers in mottled pale colors.

"Earthers. Crap, that's the last thing we needed."

Ukky rode up beside him. "We're all in this together. Shall we talk to them?"

Ahco hesitated . . . shook his head. "We'll let the Minister be diplomatic. After all, he's a civilian. Maybe they won't shoot him." He turned Cricket south and led them off to the southwest vane.

It started with buildings again, badly damaged, but the one sky scraper still straight and, apart from lost window glass, apparently intact.

"Forty floors. Uninhabitable, without electricity for the elevators, Not to mention water." He turned and rode along the edge. The ruined city gave wat to a broad stretch of water, surrounded by barnicled rocks and drying kelp.

That gave way to dry rocky ground. A truck parked . . . two men with rifles walking into the grasses.

Movement out in the grasslands. Ahco stopped. The guards spread out a bit and watched the crouching hunters.

A snap of a shot. A deer he hadn't even seen leaped and dropped.

A horned head rose up . . . lowered and charged. Two snaps and the cow was down. One hunter rushed forward. Even at a distance the flare of magic was clear.

"Was that a stun spell?" Coff muttered.

One man trotted back to the truck, glanced their way. Set his rifle down and pulled out an even larger one, inserted a magazine, turned and aimed it at them.

Horses spooked, and Ahco cursed, lost track of the rifleman . . . spotted the Tyrannosaur rushing them . . . crashing to the ground . . . the boom and crack of a supersonic round being fired.

Half the horses were loose and running in panic. And being horses, running back to be with their herd.

By the time Ahco had his situation back under control, the truck was out in the grass, heaving the dead Aurouchs and the deer aboard. . . and then, more carefully, two stunned Aurouchs calves.

Ah, that flash of magic. They're catching livestock.

The truck turned and drove east. But one man remained behind, walking toward them.

Backpack, two rifles slung, one in hand, pointed casually down. As he neared, Ahco recognized him. "Azho the Priest Killer."

"Priests? I call them child abusers and mind rapists. I did what was necessary to get my family to safety." He nodded at the dinosaur. "The littler raptors are tasty. If your pack horses are any indication that you're hunting . . . Bon Appetite."

Ahco watched him circle around. One damn me! "Thank you. And . . . there are Earth soldiers, across there. Are you friendly with them?"

A quick slash of a smile. "No. In fact three days ago I was shooting at them and getting shot in turn. I think I'll just avoid them."

"Shooting . . . do you know what happened?"

"Short version? They opened a gate in East Plaza and sent troops. I was handy and recruited to help. I helped a directorate agent get through the gate with shaped charges and blew the gate from that side. The weird switching around was already happening, it kept going every few minutes, slowing." He shrugged. "If you're going to be friendly, I can drop by with the full version."

Ahco nodded. "Give me a few days to make sure no one will shoot you on sight."

"Or the rest of the family." He nodded and moved off.

"Ho. Lee. One." Ajdo—Dough—shivered. "He's not the least bit scared of us, is he?"

"No, not at all." Ahco turned and started counting horses. "Probably with cause. Damn it, where's Hairy?"

"Probably still running. Are we actually going to eat that thing?"

Chapter Twelve

:: Hey! They didn't shoot you! Yay! Gamer won't kill me! ::

Nick grinned as he trotted away from the Black Horse Guards. :: I had my shields up. Didn't even need them. Those two heifers ought to make the women happy. ::

Abbas sent a mental impression of the women all scolding him. :: I may just park the truck and run for it. Anything you need me to do? ::

:: You might check Versalle. I think they're all gone, but be careful anyway. If any of their horses escaped, they may run home . . . if they come close enough to recognize it. In any case, check the construction of that arena of theirs. Can it be repaired? If not, can we scavenge the roof panels and use them for new buildings, elsewhere? ::

:: Oh, good idea. I'll recruit some help from the other people. ::

Mental farewells, then Nick turned his attention from the guards behind him to the soldiers ahead.

Yeah. Those were the uniforms he'd been shooting at a few days ago. He decided to take the scenic route.