"Perhaps I will drive to the Pines and mention this business opportunity, then return quickly."
The Pine Elders were delighted. The company that had contracted to build the fence, disgusted that they didn't get to do any of the lumbering, quit.
"Makes me wonder what they were doing on the side. Exporting rare hardwoods, perhaps?" Ice shrugged. "So . . . what other companies bid on the job . . . none?"
Rumakova shook her head. "Not one. So . . . Ice. How would you like to start a fencing company?"
"Of which I have zero experience?"
"Neither does anyone else. I was already thinking the fence was going to be a disastrous waste of money. Look at these plans! Barbed wire doesn't stop buffalo, and the antelope can easily jump it." She threw up her hands. "I talked to them about the fences the Grass Tribes built around their villages and they laughed."
Ice growled, and started a new company.
And made reservations at a good hotel for a dozen people (unspecified) then found a small bankrupt apartment complex with a good sized rec center that might be just what the One needed to get started here.
He felt the One, when they arrived.
The whole World probably felt them.
That deep . . . sense of belonging. Stronger than the local Oners' combined effect by an order of magnitude.
Rumakova bolted downstairs to greet them. Blinked a bit at Jeb's dark complexion.
Surely everyone knows the Prophets married women of all races, all colors . . . but perhaps here the invading Oners looked mostly "white" to the Trees. Who were quite a bit lighter than their Bantu ancestors, but still dark compared to Earth's European population, or a lot of Oners.
Ice stepped in. "One Jeb ibn Oliver ibn Joseph ibn Byram, I greet you.
"One . . ." Rumakova bowed. "Welcome to Tall Trees."
Jeb eyed her. "Governor Rumakova. The One has come to help you untangle this mess . . . which is mostly of the Empire's making."
"I certainly hope that you can help us." She stiffened. "I have office space here, if that is what you need. And Ice has arranged for a hotel, and has been researching other sites . . . We really have no idea of your needs."
Jeb nodded. "We've come prepared to be independent. And hopefully flexible enough to fit into a society that is not used to . . . having the One's authority actually available.
"Ice? Why don't you take everyone around and show them what you've got? I will talk with Rumakova, get a briefing on the situation."
Ice bowed and retreated. The old Priest and four ecclesiastical guards in their white with green piping followed Rumakova inside.
Ice turned back to the others. Seven older priests, four younger, plus a dozen guards. "Right. Let me call the hotel and expand the number of rooms needed, then perhaps we could detour past what I had envisioned as the sort of place you might need . . ."
By nightfall they were all settled into the hotel, a contract to purchase the apartment complex was signed, and Ice drove across town to a campground to sleep away the effect of too much time in close contact with a concentrated group of priests.
Is it because of my priest gene that I feel the group identity so strongly? I think I'll head out and check on this fence, real soon.
I'll find some local workers . . . some people who know what they're doing . . . and make them the owners of the fence company once we've got it going.