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09 May 2017 @ 06:45 am
_Scrambled_ part 16  

Chapter 24 BHG

Day 9

"Oatmeal?" Ahco blinked at the bowl . . . "Ah. We need it more than the horses do, right?"

"Right. I mean, we're going to run out, so we might as well start the horses grazing now as later." Myyk sat down across from him, with her bowl. "Ahco, what the hell are we going to do, if no one comes to rescue us? Because no one's going to come and rescue us."

He nodded. "I suspect that was the preamble to telling me what we need to do?"

"For starters, we need to talk to the Ministry people. We need to persuade them to not initiate hostilities with the Earthers. Again.

"We're never more than a day ahead of going hungry. We really need to hunt every day, and find some salt to preserve meat. We especially need to hunt down the carnivorous dinosaurs and kill them before they start reproducing. And native predators as well, so we can extend our pastures. This is Yusef. The middle of summer. We ought to be cutting hay. We need to store food for people and hay for horses. Just in case this place has nasty winters. We need gardens. One only knows what we can grow. I wish I'd thought of that days ago."

Dipper joined them halfway through Myyk's list, listening quietly. Nodding.

Ahco sat back and pondered the list. "Yes to all of it. But all the talking to the Ministry won't help if the Earthers attack again. Dipper, are you feeling better?"

"No, dammit. I'm back to normal."

Ahco surprised himself with a laugh.

"However, I do have a few things to report. I encountered Nick—he killed three raptors with slices. Ten meters to thirty meters away. We really don't want to get on his bad side. In fact, we might want to ask him about magic lessons. He says he drank a whole bunch of that potion of his, then a couple more doses, and regrew his balls. He says the hormones are hell, and from his squeaky voice, I believe him. I suspect the geldings that got dosed probably didn't get enough for anything but a hopefully brief hormone flash. But when we're ready to get into horse breeding, I think we can skip the hybridization with the native wild horses step."

"That's handy. I wonder if it'll work on that Priest? Son-of-bitch needs a rude shock." Ahco ignored their startled looks. "I need to talk with Ijje about roving patrols. I'll see if there's any desire for peace, or at least a ceasefire, on our side. And hunting. And I'll ask if anyone there has any farming experience."

Myyk nodded. "I'll start asking around the apartments. Surely with more than four thousand people we've got people with agricultural experience."

Dipper bit her lip. "Do we need to talk with all the Red Zone people? Start consolidating, blending our areas together? Most of them are our people, and even the Natives who are there are probably glad to be away from the Earther's. And . . . he said those four women in his gang are the widows of warriors who died at Rangpur. That's eleven centuries ago!"

Ahco thought back to his conversation with Nick, before . . . before he went full on Warrior and saved our asses. "I . . . had no sense whatsoever that he was lying. One Damn me. Actual Warriors of the One appear, and the Priests instantly turn them into enemies."

Dipper blinked at him. "You believe him."

"I questioned a priest who was in the clinic, and he confirmed it."

Myyk bit her lip. "He still killed multiple priests, and abetted the assassination of the Prophet Emre."

"Self-defense, perhaps." Ahco shrugged irritably. "Nick mentioned a need for a monetary system. Ask for . . . Oh One Hell. Anyone with micro manufacturing ability? If we can find something . . . Metal washers? Are there any hardware stores here? Or the Red Zone? Then the Magifacturers could work them over, create coins that are counterfeit proof?"

Myyk nodded. "Farmers, gardeners, magicfacturing. I'll also run a census, and locate vacant apartments so we can move the people at Fatma Place."

"And spread out a bit, ourselves." Ahco nodded. Scraped the bowl. "Damn I'm going to miss things like this."

Then he straightened his uniform and headed for the ministry.

The Ministry building itself was rubble. But the smaller office buildings beyond it had survived. They were now Army headquarters. Beyond them, a patch of weathered gray rocks, a patch of desert set down in the lush high grass. Filled with makeshift shacks built from rubble and brick scavenged from the fallen buildings. If it hadn't been for the straight rows and the lack of trash, Ahco would have taken it for slums in one of the desperate hellholes that still lingered in remote pockets of the world.

"How the mighty have fallen." But he kept his voice down and walked down to an actual guard post. Returned the salute of the Ministry guard there. "Emil, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir. Sir? Is it true that Azho the Priest Killer is a Warrior of the One?"

"Apparently so. All those stupid movies with the Bags of the Prophets . . . I'd never realized that it was known to have happened. Where might I find Captain Ijje?'

"First building, there. Top floor." The guard's face went expressionless. "He's temporarily using the Minister's office."

Ooo. Jumped himself up a bit from number three guard officer to subbing for the boss.

"Thanks. You guys doing all right?"

Emil glanced over at the rubble shacks and grinned. "Ask me after the first rainstorm. Rumor has it you guys are all cushy in upscale apartments."

"Seventeen of us in two apartments. We're running a survey of empty apartments, but I doubt we can fit you all in."

"And no elevators, electricity or water?"

"Water, on the lower floors. We need to get more pressure. Do you guys have water?"

"Toted in from the stream. Half the guys got the trots."

"We nabbed a sump pump and scavenged pipes. Highly recommended." Ahco headed for the office building. That explains a lot. half of them sick, the rest are toting water. No wonder there's so few on duty at any given time. Not to mention a friggin' guard outside the patch, and another at the door of the office building.

This one wasn't known, and Ahco had to give him a frosty glare until the man saluted and stepped out of the way.

Three flights of stairs. He stifled the thought that the Minister had chosen this building because he could be on top without too much personal effort . . . No, he'd chosen this one for the setup and décor. Bright beautiful rugs, gleaming mahogany and leather furniture, expensive art on the walls. A sweeping view of grasslands, punctuated by ruins and exotic trees . . . "I hope that's not a huge long patch of dinosaur habitat over there."

A grunt behind him. "It is. Once we get rid of the Earthers, we can do something about them." Ijje was glowering at him. "What do you want, Captain?"

"A monetary system would be nice. More men on outer perimeter guard duty would be even better."

"I don't have enough who are healthy."

Ahco paused. "Major Atzw fielded something around four hundred troops. I know we lost forty, but surely there weren't that many more wounded!"

"Oh, you smarmy Black Horse Guards with your shields and your magic . . . "

Ahco choked. "Is that why the Minister wasn't shielded? Not one of his guards could put up a physical shield?"

Ijje glowered. "Our best men died to get him out of the ministry building." He pointed over at another building. "By-and-large they are dying in a makeshift hospital."

"I . . . did not realize that. I will send some healing potions immediately."

"Potions? Have we descended to Granny Magic, now?" Ijje sneered. "Come into my office."

Don't you mean the Minister's office? :: Myyk can you hear me? ::

Something fuzzy but unreadable in return. :: Get that healing wine and send it over to the second building from their outpost. ::

No idea if she'd heard him, they were probably close to two kilometers apart. I can send it over later.

Ijje led him, not to the big corner office, but the one next to it. A tiny sign of sanity. Good. Ijje circled the desk and sat down. "A monetary system? Are you kidding?"

"No sir. We have almost ten times as many civilians as military. We need to get them working, producing stuff, and we need a medium of trade."

"Just, just draft them. If they expect to be fed, they work."

"Sir? You have what? Ten percent civilian Ministry employees here? Were there civilians in these office buildings?"

Shrug. "A few, most of them got out before the . . . switch."

"I've got seventeen guards and princesses. Over four thousand civilians."

Ijje blinked. "I see . . . I can send over a few men to help you keep them in line."

Ahco sat back in disbelief. "I am not keeping them in line. I am attempting to keep them safe and rebuild a semblance of normalcy. And for that I need more troops on the wall, roving patrols, and hunters bringing in game daily. I need coinage, so the people who are helping can earn money, and the people would aren't working will have no excuse to get free food."

"Captain . . . I will consider your suggestion."

Ahco gritted his teeth, stood and saluted.

Marched out. Some how I think I'm going to be . . . coining my own coins.

Myyk had recruited a pair of youngsters from the apartments to tote water bottles for her. She carried two bottles of wine.

"I didn't realize they had wounded."

Ahco nodded and led the way. "I never asked, they never said anything, beyond sending the minister and the two worst injured to us for the docboxes. And some of them may just be sick from drinking dirty water. Let's see if this stuff will help them like it did the burn victims."

The boys grinned at that. Ahco forbear to mention that most of the patients would probably be men.

Myyk sighed. "Dough and Ukky are organizing the burial of the five people who died yesterday. He's got people out digging graves—only two One bedamned shovels in the whole street apparently—and he said to tell you that you get to officiate and speachify."

Chapter Macy coins

Day 9

"Use these ole washers fer coins?" Macy frowned at the three sizes the princess had chosen and back at the princess. "But . . . "

Princess Deip "call me Dipper" nodded.

"With magufacturing marks one 'em." Macy shifted uncomfortably. With the drug and alcohol haze lifted . . . "I got about halfway through the training, before ah got messed up with drugs. I dunno if I can at all anymore. You got any magifactors over there?"

"I don't know, we're going to have to have a census or something, and find out what people can do."

Pretty little girl. Don't act all snotty like a Princess.

"What are you gonna put on 'em?"

"Well . . . a One maybe. Except we'd want the big ones to be one hundred, the mediums ten and the little one, ones." Dipper snickered. "That's as bad as these stupid names."

"Yeah, we mostly lost them, here in the Red Zone. It's been a long time since anyone called me Mayc Servaone. Huh. Maybe I'll make my own money."

Deip grinned. "Move the rust around into a big red 'R' for Red Zone and Redstone?"

"Oh yeah, that would be fine . . ." She looked around and walked over to the wiring section. "But copper inlay would be easier than rust. Ah wonder if Ah kin still do it?"

Some bare wire, wire cutters, a warm spot in front of the store.

She remembered the chant for the semi-trance. Funny, it transmuted into a singing "red zone, red stone give me you answer, do I'm so crazy all for the love of you. Silly words dancing across the front of her brain while she fingered the washers . . . A spike of pain lanced through her head, dropped her back to the real world.

"Oww! Well, mabe I kin do some, with a bit o'practice."

Dipper giggled. "Some? Macy, look around? I've been at a dead run, fetching stuff for you."

Macy looked down. Washers of all sizes, everywhere. She picked one up.

Lettering followed the curve of the washer. Red Zone on top RED STONE on the bottom. She looked at the piles around her.

"I did that?"


"There's four sizes."

"Ran out of the big ones. Holy One, Macy! You were incredible! And you're just a Servaone?"

"The tester said I had a bunch of functional genes, instead of cosmetic. So I ran around trin' to prove to myself that Ah was beautiful. When Ah ought'a stuck to the magifacture. Stupid, ain't it?"

Dipper looked around and nodded. "Start thinking about what else you could make. That was just amazing." She walked inside and came back with two big buckets and a small shovel.

Macy helped, and made sure a bunch of the money just happened to fall into her pockets.

And after the Princess had staggered off with her buckets, Macy went back inside . . . and found the shelves stripped bare of washers in all four sizes. She loaded up on the other sizes. And copper wire.

Because Ah think Ah just found a way to make a livin' when Nick and the guys stop just feedin' us all.