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Chapter 6 - Regulators

Mike was exhausted by the time he turned the battered wagon back onto Route 34. It had been the longest 24 hours of his young life and he was ready for it to be over. Unfortunately, he knew that there was still a long day ahead of him before he could get some sleep. Despite the incredibly bumpy ride through the forest path, Tad and Jimmy had already fallen into a deep sleep and were slumped over in uncomfortable looking positions, snoring in the back of the wagon. Mike didn’t blame them. When the adrenaline of the previous night had finally worn off, his own body had been left spent and weak. The only reason he hadn’t fallen asleep himself was the man riding on the bench beside him, the Captain.

Captain Carlo Olvera was a sixty-one-year-old Hispanic American originally from Galveston, Texas. At the time of the Capture, Carlo was a thirty-one-year-old career U.S. Army officer, an actual captain of a mechanized infantry company. He had acquired quite a bit of combat experience overseas and his career had been on the rise before it had been cut short by the Capture. He was a man to whom leadership came naturally. He had an innate sense of when a situation required him to personally take control and it had served him well throughout his life. But the disorienting scene he had found after the Awakening had challenged even his impressive self-confidence.

Carlo swiveled his head around and instinctively took a quick count of all his troops. Once satisfied that all twenty-eight were still following the wagon, he turned his attention back to the burly man driving the team of horses and wondered if he had made the right decision to lead his small platoon back to meet with these “Reclaimers”. At first, he had been against the idea just because there were too many unknowns about the situation, but Mike Hagen had answers to questions they had been asking since they woke up. He didn’t have all the answers, but he provided more information in fifteen minutes than his platoon had managed to discover over the past month. He decided it was worth the risk for the potential to learn more, and besides, the two groups were heading in roughly the same direction. Olvera’s goal had been to return to his last posting, Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Virginia. He had come to doubt that he would find anyone there, but without a reason to change direction, inertia alone was carrying them forward to that destination.

His people had come so far over the past month. They had grown from a confused group of strangers to a proficient military unit that he would have been proud to command in his previous life. But now, as they approached a potential new beginning, he couldn’t help but think about the origin of his little platoon.

Captain Carlo Olvera walked into the squat, green building that had been serving as his Company HQ since his unit had rotated to this base for training. His clerk stood at attention and saluted as he walked through the door.

“Good morning, sir. I have your mail here, Captain. The preliminary company performance reports are sitting on your desk awaiting your review,” he reported as he handed his captain a large stack of official looking letters.

Carlo casually returned the salute as he started sorting through the pile of mail. “Thank you, James,” he said, never looking up from the mail as he entered his small office. He came to a dead stop as he reached the letter with a return address of 231st District Court, Fort Worth, TX. He knew immediately what the letter contained and he suppressed the very real urge to drop the envelope to the floor as if it were toxic.

“Sergeant, contact Lieutenant Paris and push our briefing back to 0830,” Carlo said.

He didn’t wait for the response as he quickly closed his office door and sat down behind the impeccably organized desk. He removed the toxic letter from the pile and carefully placed it down on the desktop while quickly forgetting all about the rest of the important correspondence. He stared down at the envelope as if he could simply will it to no longer exist.

No one had ever accused Carlo Olvera of being a coward, but here he was, scared of a simple piece of folded paper. It wasn’t the unknown that sparked his fear, for he knew exactly what the letter contained. He was afraid of the reality that this letter was about to force upon him. It was a reality that he had always somehow thought that he could avoid, but time and the courts had finally caught up with him. Finally, he slowly, almost gently, opened the envelope and removed the several sheets of official 231st District Court letterhead.

He read every word of the overly complicated “legalize” in the document and once he reached the end, he released a deep exhale and slumped over slightly in his chair. He hadn’t even realized he had been holding his breath.

His marriage of eight years was officially over. The great state of Texas had legally declared it dead. Carlo stared down at the gold band on his left ring finger and felt a rush of conflicting emotions. He deeply loved his now ex-wife Connie, but at the same time, he had never been more betrayed by anyone in his life.

Connie and Carlo had been married shortly after he had graduated from college on an ROTC scholarship. The reality of army life had not appealed to the finicky, impatient new bride, who had envisioned a much more romanticized, drama-filled life of an officer’s wife. The constant moves, the rundown on-base housing, and the years of overseas deployments, quickly took their toll on the disillusioned, lonely, young, and beautiful woman.

When Carlo had returned from his last year long deployment overseas, he discovered his wife was five months pregnant. She had begged forgiveness, declaring that it had been a onetime encounter born from her extreme unhappiness and depression. However, the betrayal was a bridge too far for the proud military officer. He understood Connie’s loneliness, but he had been lonely as well and he had resisted many temptations throughout his career. Why couldn’t she have done the same? And then there was the unborn child to consider. How could he ever raise a kid that would remind him of his mother’s betrayal every time he looked at him? Carlo was sure the anger would leak through and that wouldn’t be fair to an innocent child.

He had never asked who the father was, he didn’t want to know. But it was obvious that Connie had never informed the father either. Carlo had suspected that the father had probably been another soldier who had since been transferred on to another post. Perhaps Connie had withheld the information from the father in the desperate hope that Carlo would forgive her and they could raise the child together as one big, happy, messed up, family.

Within a week, Connie had moved out to live with her parents in Fort Worth, Texas. A month after that, the first set of divorce papers had arrived and Carlo had signed them. Now, the required separation time had elapsed and the divorce had been declared official. Carlo realized that he hadn’t spoken to Connie since she had left for Fort Worth and that she was certainly a mother by now. The thought caught in his throat.

“It should have been my child. We should have started a family right away. It might have given her the anchor she needed,” he thought.

He reached for the phone as he felt an uncontrollable urge to speak with her. He persuaded himself that he just needed to hear her voice one last time, to make sure she was all right in her new life. He checked the time and realized that it would only be 6:30am in Fort Worth. He slowly replaced the phone receiver and mentally chided himself for his weakness.

At that moment, there was a loud commotion outside his office door. He then heard his clerk, James, scream in agony.

Carlo jumped out of his seat, now on full alert. Was it an attack on the base by another homegrown terrorist? He immediately removed his sidearm from its holster and flipped off the safety. As he ran around his desk to investigate, a piercing whistle erupted in his mind. The sound grew exponentially, until Carlo dropped to his knees with both hands gripping his head. His last emotion before blacking out was the shame that he had so easily been immobilized without so much as getting off a single shot.

He was in the dark. No, it wasn’t completely dark. There were lights at the end of the hall. No, hall wasn’t right. It was a tunnel. He was in a tunnel. A tunnel made of rock.

“What the fuck is going on?” he thought. “Am I dead?”

Carlo then noticed the heavy weight in his hands for the first time. He looked down and saw that he was carrying an open metal toolbox, which appeared to be filled with large strange drill bits. The confusion was overwhelming and he dropped the heavy box to the rock floor of the tunnel. The collision created a deafening noise that echoed along the tunnel before finally fading away.

Still in a state of shock, the army officer slowly shuffled his way toward the light at the end of the tunnel. For some reason, his entire body seemed to ache, especially his back. The fog of disorientation was beginning to lift but, in its absence, his mind was filling with questions. Had he been injured in the attack on the base? Had there actually been an attack on the base? Where was everyone? Where was he? The sound of human voices outside caught his attention and he quickened his pace toward the noise.

He stumbled out of the tunnel on his creaking knees and was momentarily blinded as he was forced to wait for his eyes to adjust to the sunlight. The first thing he noticed beyond the fading sunspots, was a large group of people standing around looking just as confused as he felt. Some were shouting nonsense, but most were dumbly staring around at each other, wearing bewildered expressions.

Many were wearing plain green jumpsuits like himself, but some were wearing blue. The people in the blue jumpsuits appeared to be carrying firearms and this instantly caught Carlo’s attention as he forced himself to sharpen his focus. Were these the terrorist? His instincts told him they weren’t, as they appeared quite old. In fact, everyone seemed pretty old. He would guess that the average age was sixty.

A woman in blue dropped her submachine gun in disgust as if she had been holding a snake and stared at Carlo.

“Where am I?” she asked him directly in a panicked, croaky voice. “How did I get here? Where’s my boy? Why does it hurt to talk?”

Carlo heard similar frightened questions being asked throughout the crowd but could not make out any answers. It seemed everyone was in the same boat.

“Well?” insisted the older woman in blue, drawing Carlo’s attention back to her. She was thin, with closely cropped greying hair. She appeared to be around 5’6” in height, and her baggy blue coveralls concealed any hint of a womanly figure. If Carlo had not heard her very feminine voice, he might have mistaken her for a man, at least at first.

“Ma’am, I have no information about this situation,” he answered with practiced military formality. He rubbed his throat as the simple act of speaking had caused an annoying pain.

Carlo quickly realized that no one was in charge and panic was beginning to spread through the frightened crowd. He needed to take control of the situation immediately. He reached down and picked up the dropped submachine gun and checked its condition. It was a strange configuration, but he quickly figured it out and confirmed it was loaded and ready to fire. The woman who had discarded the weapon seemed scared at the sight of him with her gun and took a few steps back.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” started Carlo, using his most intimidating command voice. “My name is Captain Carlo Olvera, United Stated Army, and it appears that we have all found ourselves in a very…,” he paused, searching for the proper word. “…peculiar situation.”

People were drawn to Carlo’s commanding tone like moths to the flame. It was obvious that they were all craving some sort of guidance and they didn’t particularly care where it was coming from at the moment. They all shuffled forward and surrounded him until he found himself in the middle of a tight circle of perplexed, elderly people.

He continued “I know you have many questions. I’m asking those same questions myself; however, there doesn’t appear to be anyone around to answer them. Therefore, we need to get organized and figure out what’s going on.”

As if everyone had totally ignored his every word, the crowd erupted with questions.

“Where are we?” screamed several people, almost in unity.

“Where’s my family?” called out several others.

“Why am I so old?”

The last question caught Carlo by surprise and judging by the crowd’s reaction, he wasn’t the only one.

“Wait, what did you say?” Carlo asked pointing to the man who had asked about his age.

“Look at me,” pleaded the old man, who appeared to be well into his sixties. “I’m only thirty-four! But look at me!”

Carlo’s first thought was that the old man was clearly senile. There was no way he was only thirty-four years old. But then Carlo noticed that the man was holding what appeared to be a jagged piece of scrap aluminum. Part of the sheet’s surface was still smooth and very reflective. It made a crude, but workable mirror. Carlo gently took the piece of metal and held it up to his own face. To say he was shocked would have been an extreme understatement. Where he had expected to see his strong, young, angular facial features and jet-black hair, he saw an almost exact image of his aging father. But this wasn’t his father. It was him. His face was gaunt with dark sunspots scattered across his forehead. His once sharp chin line had begun to sag into jowls while his hair was thinner and streaked with patches of silver. It was impossible, yet clearly not.

He felt the mirror yanked away from his hands by the restless crowd. It was quickly passed around to gasps and cries of shock and outrage. The almost palpable feeling of riotous rage bubbling from the people snapped Carlo back to reality. It was clear that the crowd was about to descend into a mob. He could certainly understand it, but he couldn’t allow it.


Carlo fired off several rounds from the submachine gun into the air. Fortunately, it had the desired effect. The crowd instantly fell silent and calm.

“You know that’s really dangerous, right? Those bullets have to come down somewhere,” meekly lectured a blond-haired man with a thick California surfer accent, breaking the silence.
“Shut the fuck up!” Carlo shouted back at the surfer, who appeared to crumble back into the crowd from the nasty rebuke. “Now listen up. Those of you wearing blue stand over there,” he ordered. “Everyone else go stand over next to that hill. I will be with you in a minute.”

The crowd seemed unsure what to do and remained still.

“Now people! Get your ass in gear. Move it, move it!” Carlo shouted, breaking out his best drill sergeant impression. The yelling worked. The crowd rushed to follow his orders and broke up into two groups. Carlo quickly realized that the people in the blue coveralls were all armed and the ones in the green coveralls were not, except for himself. It was an interesting observation, but without context it meant very little.

With the crowd dispersing in a disorganized fashion, Carlo took the moment to survey his surroundings for the first time. It appeared that they were all gathered at the opening of an immense mine whose entrance was cut into the side of a large hill. An enormous square shaped concrete pad with sides over 100 meters long dominated the area. Two large, green, metal, open containers sat on either side of the mine opening. To Carlo, they reminded him of giant trash dumpsters, but these appeared to be filled with rock and gravel. Perhaps it was ore extracted from the mine waiting to be processed. He didn’t see any obvious road leading from the mine. Maybe the concrete pad was some sort of heavy-duty helipad for transporting the ore. There were just too many questions without answers.

He approached the group of blue-clad, armed people waiting nervously for him. He took a quick tally and ended up with 42. It was roughly the size of a modern day infantry platoon. He should be able to handle this, he thought.

“All right,” he started. “How many of you know how to actually use those weapons you are carrying?”

Heads swiveled back and forth in the crowd looking expectantly, but no one answered. Finally, a hand slowly raised in the back. It was the woman who had first spoken to Carlo, the one who had dropped her weapon.

“My name is Amy Hammersmith,” she began timidly. “I’m a mother and substitute teacher. I’ve never fired a gun in my life.”

“I could tell by the way you threw your weapon away,” answered Carlo displaying her gun in his firm hands.

“But that’s the strange thing,” she responded testily. “I didn’t throw it away because it was unfamiliar. I freaked out because it was familiar. I mean that gun felt like it was supposed to be in my hands, like it had always been in my hands. I don’t know how it’s possible, but that’s the way it is. Even now, I feel the urge to hold it again.”

Nods of understanding and agreement spread throughout the gathering as people clenched their weapons just a bit tighter, like young children and their security blankets.

A loud commotion began coming from the green group behind them and Carlo was forced to investigate. He left the blue group with their new realization and hurried over to the other large crowd.

“What’s happening here?” Carlo questioned them in general.

“We got a whole bunch of people freaking out. They aren’t making any sense. I think they might be retarded or something, dude,” responded the surfer, pointing to one man curled up in a fetal position on ground. The man was certainly one of the younger looking ones in the crowd, probably in his mid-thirties by Carlo’s estimation. He approached the man and knelt down beside him.

“Friend, I know this is scary, but I need you to remain calm until we can get this sorted out.”

The man instantly started sobbing. “I…want… mommy,” he kept repeating over and over.

“He’s not the only one,” said another elderly lady from the group. “There are at least four more acting just like him. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were acting like toddlers.”

“Maybe they are,” responded Amy Hammersmith, who had followed Carlo over to inspect the situation. “I mean, if we’ve all aged decades, then it stands to reason they have too. Look at them. They are the youngest here by far. If we apply the same logic, then they must have been children when...whatever the hell happened, happened.”

Carlo was quickly becoming fascinated with Amy. Despite his first impression of a hysterical woman, she had quickly proven herself as one of the more cogent people in this group and Carlo was definitely going to need people like her. He looked down at the quivering man and instantly felt sympathy. He gently stroked his thinning hair before standing back up and pulling Amy aside to speak with her privately.

“OK, we have to get a hold on this situation. Go back and pick out three other people from the blue group that appear to be holding it together and start interviewing all these folks. Let’s see if we can start putting together some pieces, plus I think it will help keep people calm if they are doing something. I’m going to put together a small squad and scout the area. Our first priorities are water, food and finding out our location, in that order. Understood?”

Amy nodded slowly, “I understand. I’ll do my best.”

Carlo turned to leave then stopped. He unslung the submachine gun and handed it back to Amy. “You might feel better holding this,” he said.

She took the gun and, despite being repulsed to the core of her being, she did feel much better holding the strangely familiar weapon.

The jarring bump of the wagon hitting a large pothole brought Carlo’s mind back to the present. He was silently thankful that the memory had ended before replaying the horror of that final day at the mine. The disruption was also well timed in reality, because, when he looked up, he noticed a figure on horseback approaching them quickly from some distance down the road. He instantly jumped to an alert status and addressed his troops behind him.

“Take defensive cover along the road bank. We’ve got an unknown coming in,” ordered Carlo.

Without question or hesitation, the Regulator troops dispersed equally to each side of the road and soon disappeared into the thick brush.

“Stop the wagon, Mike. Please,” Carlo said, adding the nicety as an afterthought. He then casually retrieved his assault rifle from the floor of the wagon and checked the safety.

“You thinking trouble?” asked Mike Hagen nervously while pulling on the reins to stop the horses.

“What’s going on, bro?” asked Tad, the shouting having woken him and Jimmy up from their nap.

“Rider heading this way and, yes, I always think it’s trouble until proven otherwise,” responded the Captain, answering both questions.

The group waited anxiously as the rider seemed to pick up speed as he drew nearer. Once he got close enough, the figure started waving his hand over his head and shouting excitedly.

“Mike! WOOO!” yelled the horseman in what could only be described as glee.

Mike relaxed immediately. “It’s ok. We know this guy,” he said, smiling at Carlo.

Ray Parker galloped his horse right up to the last second before wildly stopping the beast. For a second, Carlo was certain he was going to ram them.

“Ain’t you a sight for sore eyes, boy,” exclaimed Ray, grinning ear to ear. “We got people looking all over for ya. Everyone’s damn worried, especially Jason.” He then seemed to notice Carlo for the first time. “Who’s your friend here?”

“This is the man that saved our lives. Ray Parker, meet Captain Carlo Olvera,” said Mike, introducing the two.

“Any friend of Big Mike’s,” said Ray, bowing his head slightly to Carlo. “I’m sure we can make some room for ya at the camp.”

Carlo whistled loudly and his troopers materialized out of the brush on either side of the road.

Mike smiled at the shocked Ray, “We’re gonna need a bit more than a reservation for one.”

Ray made a showy effort at counting all the troops. “Shit boy, what the hell did you get yourself into?”

“And you thought it would be a good idea to bring an armed group of total strangers right back to us?” shouted Anthony Simons. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that they saved our lives, got our wagon back for us, and eliminated an entire gang of murderous bandits,” responded Mike defensively.

Shortly after Mike’s return to the Reclaimer camp, a council meeting had been called. Carlo and his troopers were supplied with food and places to rest as the senior members of the Reclaimers had inconspicuously gathered to discuss the situation. Right from the start, it was clear that the Council, which had just recently been formalized, was split between those who welcomed Carlo’s Regulators and those who feared them. Anthony Simons and Gerald Farmer were leading the charge for the Anti-Regulator camp, while Mike Hagen and Tammy Jenkins seemed to be the most vocal for the soldier’s integration into the Reclaimers. Jason, once again, found himself right in the middle.

“OK OK,” said Jason, waving his hands in a calming gesture. “We’ve already been over this. What’s done is done. The fact is that they are here now and we have to deal with it one way or another.”

“Regulators are murderous bastards and can’t be trusted,” grunted Gerald.

“You know damn well that these people are not the drones that hunted you any longer,” reasoned Tammy. “You have to get over your bigotry.”

“Bigotry?” shouted Farmer, obviously offended. “Lady, you have no idea what the hell you are talking about. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hell, the Capture might start right back up where it left off. You don’t know. And then you’ve got a gang of murders right in our midst. You all look like grownups, but you’re really just a bunch of snot-nosed kids … all of the wrinkles with none of the wisdom.”

“If we all get recaptured tomorrow, then really you are the only one that has to worry about Regulators,” retorted Tammy.

“And? What’s your point? My life doesn’t mean anything?” snarled Farmer, holding his ground.

Tammy clucked her tongue in disgust, while crossing her arms and rolling her eyes, unwilling to take the bait.

“If I may,” said George Willard, intentionally interrupting the heated argument. “It seems obvious to me that the world is becoming a more dangerous place with each passing day and we’ve been collecting refugees since we left Fairfield. What are we up to now, Tammy?”

Tammy checked her well-worn notebook and frowned, “If we include Olvera’s group that brings our total up to 342, give or take a few.”

“342,” repeated George for emphasis. “342 old people slowly marching through unknown territory. I mean, we can’t feed all these people, much less protect them as it is right now. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we have grown from a small group of strangers to a flourishing mobile society that’s going to have to continue to change. We have our own government, our own laws, we have our own supply distribution, we have our own healthcare and we’ve even created our group identity via the damn nickname, the Reclaimers. Hell, any sociologist would have given their left arm to study this sort of thing back in the day.” George paused and rubbed his templates. “What I’m getting at here is that our little growing community has the start of everything else, why not a military or at least a police force? From the reports we’re getting, we’re going to need to be able to defend ourselves.”

Jason nodded as George finished. “I tend to agree with George. I think the negative sides of human nature are finally catching up with us. From what we’ve heard from some of the recent refugees, the rest of the world is tearing itself apart, while we are the only ones pulling something together. Unfortunately, that’s going to make us an increasingly tempting target as time goes on.” Jason shook his head, “I never intended to build some sort of new society, as George puts it. I’m just a man clinging to the hope that he can find his wife at the end of a long cross country journey. To be honest, I haven’t really thought much beyond that.”

“Maybe it’s time we start thinking about what happens after we get to Fort Meade,” said Rich Turner, speaking up for the first time.

“Let’s stay focused on the topic at hand for now,” advised George. “I move that we allow Olvera’s group to stay with us as a unit, provided they agree to the civilian oversight of this council.”

“Seconded,” agreed Mike, a bit too loudly.

As the council Chairman, Jason called the vote. “Very well, all those in favor?”

Seven of the eleven council members called out in unison, “Aye”.

“All those opposed?” Jason asked as a formality.

“Nay,” grunted Farmer, while the other three decenters declined to even answer.

“The Ayes have it. We’ll ask them to join us then,” confirmed Jason. “I’ll speak with Olvera. Mike, as a familiar face, I’d like you to join me.”

Mike nodded, “Sure, Jason.”

“And Gerald, I’d like you to join me as well. I think it’ll be good for you to get to know them as people and not mindless drones bent on killing you. Besides, they are going to have lots of questions and you’re the best man for that job.”

“Fine,” Farmer growled. “But don’t expect that we’re going to be friends.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” said Jason, smiling.

“Frankly, Mr. Rawlings, you are either full of bullshit or crazy. And neither one of those options bodes well for us working together,” stated Carlo flatly. “Forgive me, sir, but the entire concept of some magical, all powerful detection machine just sounds like its straight out of some hack science fiction comic book.”

“It’s not magical,” Jason protested. “But I completely understand your skepticism, Captain. Fortunately, you don’t have to believe me for this partnership to work.”

Carlo shook his head, “I beg to differ, Mr. Rawlings. I don’t work with people that I don’t trust. They have a nasty habit of getting people killed.”

“Let’s hear him out, Captain,” pleaded Amy Hammersmith. The notion that there might be a way to find her lost son had instantly enthralled her as it had so many others and her motherly instinct was beginning to overwhelm her loyalty to her Captain. “If there is any chance, then I think it’s worth it. Besides, look around, sir. These people are exactly what we have been looking for since the day we left the mines. They could be our redemption,” she said almost reverently. “What difference does it make where they are going?”

Carlo’s expression instantly hardened toward his Lieutenant, warning her to tread lightly with her words. “It’s not the people that concern me, Lieutenant. It’s con artists selling false hope for power. It almost smacks of a cult the way these people talk about him.” The Captain turned his attention back to Jason. “What makes you qualified to command these people anyway?”

“I didn’t take command of these people, Captain,” replied Jason with a tinge of anger creeping into his voice. “These people are following me because I actually have a plan beyond mere survival. Am I selling them hope? Nope, I’m giving it away because it’s the same hope that I’m carrying around myself, and like most things, it’s easier to carry the load when it’s shared. I have no proof to give you and it’s entirely possible that when we arrive, there’s nothing left. But unless I missed my guess about you, you are a man who judges others by their deeds. If that’s true, then join us and see for yourself. If you don’t like what you find, then you can always leave.”

Carlo considered Jason’s statement. “Those were some pretty eloquent words for a computer nerd,” he said, actually cracking a thin smile. “OK, we’ll give it a shot, but I want a place on this council of yours. I need to have some input into how my people are used.”

Jason nodded. “That’s fair,” he agreed. “However, we will insist that the council have oversight on the Regulators activities. We can’t have an armed group running around above the law. That is non-negotiable.”

“That’s acceptable, but I must remain in operational control of my unit. The last thing I need is some armchair video game junky trying to second guess my deployments,” countered the Captain.

“There will have to be a vote, but I don’t see that as a problem.”

“And Regulators? Is that what you are set on calling us?” asked Carlo a bit sheepishly.

“That’s what you are!” snipped Gerald with noticeable hostility.

Carlo eyed Farmer, “Yeah, Mike told us all about them, and he told us about you too. I guess I can understand your hatred, but I will not tolerate any crap from you toward my people. They are not your enemy. Besides, apparently, I spent the Capture as a miner. You got a problem with the folks in the green jumpsuits too?” he asked sarcastically.

The Freeman merely grunted, refusing to answer.

Jason smiled, “OK. It sounds like we have an agreement. We’ll formalize everything tomorrow at the council meeting before we get back on the road, but until then, welcome to the Reclaimers.”

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