THE COMPANY OF ADVENTURERS

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Chapter Seven: Timber

Rand Hudson was looking critically up at his ship, Bluebell, an Arrow C-105 transport capable of carrying 200 plus tonnes of cargo on interplanet runs, one hundred interstellar.

“Do the solar wings look right to you?′ he asked his wife, Mamie Dieudonne, who took care of the spaceship’s maintenance. Mamie looked up at the partly unfolded panels, acting for the moment as energy collectors.

“Cain’t rightly tell dirtside. Need to take her outta the gravity well and spread ’em.”

“And that mean EVA time. And fuel we ain’t got.” Rand growled.

Mamie shrugged, “You got a line on an interstellar job, hun?”

“Don’t want to take it if we end up stranded Out There. Might have to eat one of the kids before we’re found.”

Mamie slapped his arm, “Don’t even! Got anything else comin’ around?”

“Yeah. It would pay good and honest work for a change. Not as good as an interstellar run.”

“Not worth takin’ chances. And them kids is pretty skinny anyways..” said Mamie .

“Right. Dita’s off with Marco bout an interworld job that’ll need some dodging the border patrols. Less pay for more trouble.”

Mamie looked around the dusty spaceport towards a haze of green on the far off hills. “That the timber?”

“For Godforsaken, yeah. Some big fart wants a timber house. Damn moon’s not been terraformed for fifteen years yet. No trees worth harvesting for another decade or more. Don’t see why he can’t go with adobe or stone like a normal person.′

“Rich folks.”

Rand grunted his agreement.

Dita Aglukak, first mate of the Bluebell, had taken their stevedore, Marco Majumdar, along on her negotiations. Usually even on quasi-legal jobs she had no concern about working alone, but this customer gave her an uncomfortable feeling.

Frank Wyllie was pleasant enough looking, well barbered, thin, neatly dressed in a black duiponi suit. It was his manner that was offputting. And his bodyguards. The body guards, for one thing, appeared to be twins, or at least closely related, big muscular men in pants and tunics.. Marco was fairly sure they had weapons concealed in their high boots.

“Who brings bodyguards to a classy place like this?” muttered Marco.

Dita had chosen a bright clean chain restaurant that catered to families with young children. A busy spot with distracted parents who would be too busy to eavesdrop.

The man from Godforsaken was also nonplussed by the restaurant and the noisy active children. Dita guessed it was not the sort of place he would ever enter on his own. She smiled as his discomfort.

“You have the time and place for the pickup set then?: she asked.

“Mmm-hmm. At Kilometre 24. The trees are planted in kilometre wide bands, with an access path between each. The men have harvested logs throughout Band 23 and Band 24, good sized timber but not so much in either band that it will be noticed in two or three years when those bands are harvested.

“So you set down on the highway between Bands.The logs are loaded. You leave for Godforsaken.”

“Patrols?”

“Not often around there. It’s not wild fire season. In any case, the patrol will be concentrating on the Arrival Day crowds here in town.”

“We hafta leave right then? There’s gonna be fireworks,” complained Marco.

The client frowned and smoothed the wide cuffs on his silk jacket.”I don’t foresee any problems with the plan.”

“Marco means there will be fireworks as part of the Arrival Day celebrations. The children were looking forward to them,” Dita shook her head at Marco. “We should be on Godforsaken Moon by nightfall. There will be fireworks there too.”

“I regret not,” the client said stiffly. “The people of Godforsaken don’t celebrate Arrival Day... or anything really. They seem to have chosen the world for its name. A glum bunch.”


“Must be tough,” said Dita.

“We make our own entertainment Lovely ladies are always welcome to visit.”


“Mmm. The work is always appreciated. Who do we deliver to?”

“My steward, Hervé Richtofen. You set down by my compound- here are the coordinates- my men unload and Hervé pays you.”

“In coin. No credit, no scrip.”

“Credit I understand. No scrip?”

“Scrip has trackers. Captain don’t like it.”

“I will let Hervé know. The Forsaken populace prefers coin too, even bullion bars. Part of their policy of being as difficult as possible.

“We would accept bullion long as it’s hallmarked.”

Wyllie rose and shook hands with Dita. “This should be smooth.”

“Depend on it. We do the job.”

Cocking his head at his blackclad guards, the client left. His careful exit was lightly spoiled when an exited toddler threw a handful of pudding randomly and hit him on the back. The guard spun, the baby wailed. The client said, “Come.” through gritted teeth.

Dita and Marco held their laughter until the client left. “Cocky little shit,” said Marco.

As Dita had predicted her daughter, Hope Aglukak, and Rand and Mamie’s boy, Derry Hudson, were disappointed at missing the fireworks. Derry at five, was young enough to be in tears. Hope, nearing ten, was more philosophical. “Expect there will be a show on the moon, too,” she said. Her face fell when her mother said there would not be.

“How can they not celebrate Arrival Day!” she said. “Everyone in the System celebrates the generation ships and the terraforming crews.”

“Well, Godforsaken doesn’t,” her mother said.

“Good name for ’em then,” muttered Marco.

Rand laughed. “Marco , I reckon you’re as disappointed as the kids.”

“Not hardly. Not great workin’ on Arrival Day though,” Marco replied. “Do I get overtime?”

“You get paid, which is more’n would happen if we don’t take this job.”

“How long will loading take, huh?” asked Mamie. “Cause I was thinkin’, I could keep the kids and one shuttle back here for the ceremonies and carnival then join you before you leave.”

“We got enough fuel and air, you could even join us on Godforsaken the day after,′ suggested Rand. “And don’t even ask, Marco.”

The pickup went smoothly. The lumbermen had been slipping out of their camps for several weeks harvesting trees and limbing them deep in the woods, so when Bluebell set down on the highway, their foreman had several landtrucks ready to unload into the spaceship’s cargo bay.

The foreman was quite stout, an unusual build on these recently terraformed worlds where food rationing had only recently ended. Rand guessed that this was not his first black market transaction. His men were very efficient, getting the timber loaded and tied down in less than six hours.

“We could go back for the show,” suggested Marco.

′ “We stick to the plan,” replied Rand.

As planned they left September for its moon, Godforsaken, just as the main sun set, although its tiny sister was was still high. Godforsaken was gibbous and shone a patchwork of red and white.

On the bridge, the three crew watched the sky on the viewscreens.

“Allys looks funny aimin’ for a moon that skinny,” said Marco.

“You know...,” said Dita.

“Yeah, yeah. I ain’t that stupid. I said it looks funny.”

“Sorry Marco, look at Screen Four, you’ll be able to see the fireworks from above a bit.”

On the ground the children. were enthralled by the fireworks display. Having been terraformed and settled for almost a century, September was fairly prosperous and self-sufficient with an export economy based on fish and grain, with timber and gems as high value extras. ′

The town fathers had decided to showcase that success by hiring a pyrotechnics team at great expense from Third Rock , the world first terraformed and settled, and still the government and cultural centre for the System.

The Arrival Day show had included singers, dancers and acrobats. As dusk fell a son et lumiere told the story of the terraformers leaving Old Earth and of the generation ships that followed them. Early failures and disasters on Four were glossed over, but the committee had hired Priya Parsons, a celebrity singer who performed an elegiac hymn to the terraformers lost, accompanied by a light show of volcanoes and earthquake, of tsuanamis and hurricanes, as Third Rock became liveable. A triumphant chorus heralded the arrival of the generation ships with well known images of the colonists descending in their thousands to the applause of their descendants.

After the slick show, the fireworks were almost an afterthought.

Mamie carried her small son back to the shuttle. He woke only for a moment to throw up all the junk food he had been demanding all evening then settled back to sleep. Mamie washed his face and laid him on the shuttle’s Murphy bed face down.

Hope complained about sharing the bed with Derry. “He stinks of throw up,” she said.

“Just lie down till we break atmo,” said Mamie, and as she thought, Hope was asleep as soon as she lay down. Mamie was left to enjoy her memories of the singer whose style, wit and clothes were constant feature on the gossip casts she followed relentlessly.

The shuttle was not the only craft leaving after the programme. The dark sky above the town’s shipyard was filled with light from firing engines. Bluebell’s shuttle went unnoticed in the activity.

Godforsaken must have been named before terraforming. When Bluebell set down after the short flight from planet to moon, it was on a fenced meadow, as verdant as any old-stock planet. The meadow was even treed along the fence line with small poplars, no more than a decade old.

Wyllie’s foreman, Hervé Richtofen, was waiting just outside the fence with a crew and a truck. The logs were efficiently moved from bay to truck and rapidly disappeared behind an adobe palisade near a fast running stream.

Rand was paid in coin as requested. But Richtofen was not happy that Bluebell wanted to stay around until the shuttle caught up with them.

“Draws attention, a spaceship parked by Mr Wyllie’s compound.”

Rand tried reason, “He didn’t actually say no, though did he?”

But Richtofen was of the ‘anything not specifically allowed is forbidden’ school. He puffed up at Rand’s polite disagreement.

“I was hopin we’d find another job. Not too particular what it is or where it goes. But you know that,” said Rand.

Richtofen was stone-faced. He shrugged, “I don’t care where you go, but you can’t stay here.”

“Think there would be any chance of work at the village up the road?” asked Rand.

“Who knows what the Forsaken will do?”

Rand gave up. He signalled Marco and strode up the ramp. He commed Dita, who had been checking controls on the bridge to take the ship up. If could have slammed the cargo hatch he would have but contented himself with signalling all clear to Dita the second Richtofen stepped outside the safety zone.

“Where are we headed, Rand?′

“We can’t go far since Mamie thinks we’re meetin here. Let’s try the village.”


The village was only a few kilometres from Wyllie’s compound. It too was palisaded, although with grapestakes rather than adobe walls.

Outside the palisade here were green fields of beans and corn and golden fields of ready to harvest grain. Each field was edged with young trees, at first glance newly planted, but on closer inspection, coppiced to provide a constant supply of firewood and wattle.

There was no landing place, so Dita put down the ship on the gravel road that ran between the homesteads and settlements.

The arrival of the spaceship, an Arrow C-105,a full 30 metres long and twenty high, as big as a five storey building, as long as a city block, drew a crowd of children. Dita could see them on the bridge screens, the older children holding the younger safely away from the exhausts. Rand used the small door to the cargo bay to descend.

The crowd was almost all girls, in bright floral shirts or dresses. “Hello ladies,” said Rand. “I’m Captain Hudson.”

Some of the children backed away, some giggled, but one small girl perhaps five, looked up at him. Her face contorted into what she may have thought was a controlling expression. “My name is Amanda,′ she said in a surprisingly deep voice.

“Howdy Ms. Amanda,′ said Rand, smiling at the child. “That’s a pretty name.”

The girl pointed at the ship. “Is that your wife?” she asked.

Rand laughed and crouched down to Amanda’s level. “No mam. That’s my ship. Her name is Bluebell. Is there a grownup around or are you the boss lady here?′

Amanda frowned. “Teacher” She looked back at the palisade. A thin tall woman was hurrying towards them.

Rand stood and waited for Teacher. Marco and Dita joined him.

“Welcome to Secajaweya,” she said, extending her hand first to Dita, then shaking with Rand and Marco. “The girls didn’t give you any trouble did they? I’m Teacher Brasilia.′

“I’m Captain Rand Hudson. This here’s our pilot Dita Aglukak and supercargo Marco Majumdar. We took a big liberty settin down on the road.”

“I can move the ship if need be. We’re waitin for our shuttle to catch up,′ added Dita.

“It’s not a busy road, but you’d better come talk with Mayor.” Teacher spelled off two of the older girls. “Take our visitors to Mayor. She’ll be at the Office, then come right back for Woodworking class.” The girls puffed importantly as they led the crew into the palisade. Little Amanda took Rand’s hand and went with them.

The village was laid out around a square with a gazebo and play equipment. Inside the palisade were low buildings with roofs sloped towards the fence and large loading doors. “Warehouses?′ Marco murmured to Rand.

Two sides of the village were lined with attached cabins like motels, A larger two story building stood at the back of the compound, the lower storey shops and offices with large plate glass windows and an upper floor with many smaller windows.

There were no identifying signs, but a few of the show windows advertised their wares: “Highgate Cottons New Style” “Dried Plums and Apricots” “Special on Comms and Trackers”. The usual products imported by otherwise self sufficient communities. The shops were well-stocked and a few shoppers looked curiously at the visitors.

“This is my friend Captain Rand and his ship is the Bluebell,” Amanda told a grey haired woman who looked more curious than most. “I’m taking them to see Mayor.′

“Come to my house after that,” said the woman. “Have something for your momma.′

“Yes, abuela,” said Amanda, cheerfully.

The older girls has stopped a few doors away and knocked . They entered a large room, taking up most of the length and all of the width of the unit. The floors were bamboo, as was the ceiling, the walls painted a pleasant blue. There were two desks near the front, a raised platform with a metal table and folding chairs and an office that was partly screen off. ′

The clerks at the desks were enough alike to be twins, although one had bright green hair and and the other multiple shades of blue. Both smiled brightly. “How can we help you, Miz?′ the green girl asked Dita.

She shrugged at Rand. “We were told to speak with the Mayor. We parked our spaceship on the highway for a bit. I couldn’t see any traffic for a couple of hours in either direction, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t a problem. ′

A slightly older woman, with an elaborate blonde hairdo, pushed back the screen around her office. “I’m Mayor. Why did you stop here?” she asked Dita.

Dita explained how Wyllie’s foreman had insisted they leave that settlement when they had completed their delivery. “But we have two kids and our mechanic coming in from September in a bit. They were.stayin behind for theArrival Day celebrations.”

“Family reunification, then?” the mayor smiled.

“Suppose. My girl, and the captain’s boy and wife. Any place better we could park?”

“Doubtful. Later in the year we’d have harvested fields, but we’re not quite at harvest yet.”

Rand interrupted, ‘We dropped a shipment at Wyllie’.s Our cargo bay is pert well empty if you got any goods need transport off world. Or even on.”

“Bad time of year, but I can’t sepak for every manufacturer or merchant in Sacajaweya. We’re a very entrepreurial group. Ginny,” she turned to Blue Hair, “put out a message to all about our visitors. Amanda,” the small girl peeped out around from behind Rand. “you should be somewhere else, shouldn’t you?”

“I don’t think so, Mayor,” Amanda replied politely. The mayor sighed and looked at the clock.

“You have two hours playtime before your momma gets home from work. You may stay with our visitors if they are willing. But if they say go, you go.” she sighed again, “They say it takes a village and this one is the proof.”

They went to the square where the late summer sunshine was warm. Amanda persuaded Rand to push her on swings. Dita listened to music being broadcast from the gazebo for the pleasure of the women with small babies chatting together. Another dozen toddlers, in bright floral dresses, played under the supervision of two women and an elderly man, the first adult male they had seen since arriving.

Marco sat with Dita for a while, then, noticing the women noticing him, removed his gunbelt and jacket, revealing his well-muscled torso under a worn and very tight tee shirt. He started his exercise routine with stretches and pushups then jogged around the square. Dita stretched out in the warm sunshine.

The older man, still watching the toddlers, offered Marco a bottle of water. They spoke for a moment, then Marco resumed jogging. The women gave him appreciative glances but none seemed inclined to make conversation.

He rejoined Dita on the bench. “Teacher Rene there sez he was pleased to see a few peaceable men visitin. Seems they have trouble with Wyllie’s gang.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“You noticed there ain’t too many men here? Or boys This is a woman’s community. They don’t forbid men, but they lean to women. Most of the kids is female cause they don’t continue pregnancies of boy children.”

“Not common,” said Dita.

Rand joined them, tired by pushing his demanding new lady friend. “That girl is high maintenance, lemme tell ya.” he complained laughing. Amanda climbed on his lap and snuggled her little arms around his neck. “Nice kind of demand, though.” He dropped a kiss on her hair and she sighed happily.

There was a roar overhead and the disc of Bluebell’s shuttle appeared on the horizon. Dita dusted off her pants and strode rapidly to the ship.

As the shuttle settled into her berth, a dust plume appeared up the road. Dita waved to the car.

“Sorry about the parking ,we were kinda between a rock and a hard place finding somewhere to put down.” With a sinking feeling she saw the government shield on the side of the vehicle. “Ministry of Natural Resources,” she thought. “At least it ain’t the traffic cops.′

The woman who left the car wore a cheap black business suit with a lanyard filled with badges and passes. She was frowning.

“I’m the ship’s pilot,” continued Dita. “As soon as the shuttle there is docked firm-like, I can take her up. We was jist waitin for the kids...”

“Blocking the public highway is an offence”′ snapped the woman. “But I am not the police. At least, not traffic police,” She smiled thinly. “This is my stop anyway”. She locked the door to her landcar with a meaningful look at Dita and headed for the palisade gate and the usual giggling crowd of children.

“And with her car parked there, now we can’t move, thout blisterin all the paint off’n her car,” said Mamie , descending from the cargo door and followed by Derry and Hope.“Ah well, I’m like to wantin a stretch anyways.

The four followed the official into the village. “Delivery go good?”

“Fine. Haven’t found an outbound cargo yet,” replied Dita.

Dita brought them to the playground square. Rand had some difficulty dislodging little Amanda to kiss his wife, until the child spotted Derry.

“Your eyes are funny.” she told him.

Derry, nonplussed, looked at his parents for help.

“They’re like his,” Amanda continued, pointing to Rand. “Blue. That’s funny. Are you blind?”

“No!” Derry shouted. New people found the blue eyes he had inherited from his father unusual, but he didn’t know how to deal with this.

“This is Derry. He’s the captain’s son,” said Mamie . “Children often look like their parents. I’m Mamie , Derry’s mother and Rand’s wife.” She took Amanda’s hand, which looked ready to poke Derry’s eye, and shook it firmly.

“You’re his wife?′ the child asked. She turned her attention back to Derry. “I’ll be your wife then.” She took Derry’s hand and led him away to the playhouse.

“Play nicely, Derry” his mother called grinning as he was pulled into the little structure.

Marco ambled over. “Teacher there jus told me the Forsaken got an industrial base.”

Rand, Dita and Mamie waited patiently until he stopped laughng.

“I tol you they was a women’s community? Almost no men?” Marco shook his head. “They still need us though or at least,” he started giggling. “Parts of us men folk”

Dita’s brows rose. “There was a big display in the pharmacy. Are those locally made?”

Marco nodded, “Yep. The whole upstairs of the building is a dildo factory.”

“What’s a dildo, momma?′ asked Hope. Dita shrugged. “It’s a toy, grown women use sometimes. Men, too, sometimes.”

“Can I have one?”

“Are you grown?”

“No.”

“Well, then.”

“They must have contracts for their products”′ said Rand “Dita, I’m gonna go get the car moved. You find out about their customers. Where we headed next?”

“Sapphire. There’s a wholesale pharma distributor there. We were picking up some bales of Silverhold Green from them on spec. They could be buyers.”

Rand left the pilot to find a deal. They had the timber cash on hand to buy outright, which he hoped would give them a leg up on any rivals who offered consignment terms. He headed for the Office.

Blue Hair and Green Hair ignored his entry, their attention fixed by the loud voices behind the Mayor’s screen.

“Natural Resources, my Aunt Fanny’s arse!′ the Mayor’s voice. “Ain’t nuthin ‘Natural’ on this moon. We ain’t even twenty year terraformed from a black rock.”

“There are unsettled lands . The Ministry is deciding which are to be cultivated and which to be allowed to develop on their own.”

“Well, our lands is cultivated We been fencin and farmin for fifteen years.”

“It appears you have fenced more land than you were granted.”

“No. We got our surveys. Our grandmothers staked our perimeter. Them stakes is still there. Six kilometres from where we built that bandstand in every direction, all ours barring the road allowances.”

“Our paperwork shows only four kilometres were granted. This visit was to arrange a survey party to find the stakes.”

“Six! Six, not four!”

“The stakes will tell the tale,” The woman in the black suit insisted. “And this is a courtesy visit. You cannot legally prevent the Ministry from doing its duty.” she turned on her heel and strode out of the Office.

The Mayor, redfaced, slumped into Blue Hair’s chair. The clerks fluttered around her. Rand saw a water cooler an brought a cup to the rapidly calming woman. She took some deep breaths.

“Jen, I need you to search the files-- theArchives hardcopy files-- for our original land grant. Mavis, talk to the abuelas and see if any of them have a souvenir copy.”

“Yes, Mayor,” the clerks chorused. Blue Hair, Jen, looked doubtful. “Wouldn’t the grants be on the Web Mayor?”

“And couldn’t someone play with them there? We need dated hardcopies. With seals and ribbon and dates and wetsignatures if at all possible.”

“Thirty odd square kilometres is a big chunk of land to lose,” said Rand.

“Especially improved farmland,” said the Mayor. “And some of the crops are woodland orchards, just starting to be good producers. Almonds, olives, even the willows at the lake we planted.”

“Willows?”

“We process them to pharmas for rooting hormones and a source of acetylsalicylic acid for pain tablets. It’s cheaper to produce chemically, but some communities won’t accept those. Centuries old recipe and works almost as well as the synthetic.′

“And the Ministry wants to turn it into what? Parkland?”

“They say. But it’s my guess our wiley neighbours will put in a claim. That may even be how this bullshit started. Natural Resources, my arse.”

“Any thing we can do to help?”

“No. I’m betting the Ministry crew will find stakes to back up their bogus land grant. If they ain’t already moved, they will be when the crew gets here.”

Rand considered. “We got two shuttles that are pretty easy to move. If we took pictures of the stakes, time stamped, we’re neutral third parties. Nuthin to gain. Nuthin to lose.”

“Depends on who got bribed at the Ministry.”

“Where they work outta?”

“Temple is our central town. All the moons are provinces of the world government on September. There’s only bout forty million in the September planetary system, so far. Only about ten million between the three moons. Godforsaken has only one million maybe less.”

“Thin all right.” Rand said. “Look, we’re needin a cargo and we’re headin for Sapphire and the CentraPro pharma headquarters there. My pilot is talkin to your factory about maybe buying a consignment of your devices.”

“No need to be coy, captain. But the brand name is LadyLove.”

“Yeah? My Mamie has a couple of those. Anyway, we can search for the stakes and you could put in a good word for us with the makers, mebbee.”

“And if I don’t?”

“We’d do it anyways, just to be neighbourly. And to piss off Wyllie’s foreman.” Rand’s wicked grin made the mayor giggle. “No time like the present then. I’ll get a shuttle goin. Who’d be most likely to show me the where the stakes should be?”

“One of the abuelas, reckon. They were here from the start. Abuela Jasmine is pretty sharp,′ said the mayor.

Blue Hair snorted. The mayor raised an eyebrow .

“Darn right she’s sharp, ′ said the clerk. “She broke up that gang that was trying to seduce the twelves into going Out There with them.”

“Twelve year olds?” said Rand genuinely shocked.

“Level Twelve, mostly eighteen, Standard years. More schooling than sense. One of the was her own grand daughter and she put one or two remarks together,” said the Mayor. “She was pretty sure their plans included selling the girls, but we didn’t have anything to bring to the police. They said that women’s intuition wasn’t enough.”

“That’s the kind of attitude brought our grandmothers to Godforsaken in the first place,” said Green Hair , speaking for the first time.

Blue Hair and the Mayor nodded.

Jen, the blue haired clerk, had already commed Abuela Jasmine, “She″ll meet you by the gazebo. She has her survey equipment still, though she’s retired long since.”

Jasmine turned out the be the elderly woman who had spoken with little Amanda earlier and when she met Rand, the child was with her.

“Derry’s no fun,” the child complained. “She doesn’t know how to play houses and babies.”

Rand grinned. “He’s a boy. He likes other games better.”

Jasmine frowned. “We treat our boys and girls alike . They all play the same games.”

“I won’t argue, abuela,” said Rand. “but Hope has yet to break or sprain anything and Derry spend half his life in casts ,seems.”

He led them through Bluebell’s cargo bay and up to the shuttle entry. Jasmine looked around at the shabby interior with a judgemental eye, but Amanda was enthralled.

Rand remembered the first time he met his future wife, leading a gaggle of children on a tour of Bluebell for the Penguin village school. As the daughter of a mechanic, she was most interested in the engine room and had helped him find a parts dealer who actually lived up to his name, Honest Austin. Bluebell had returned a few months later and he had hired her as ship’s mechanic on Austin’s recommendation.

Amanda’s excitement was obvious. She was astonished by the size of the cargo bay and thrilled by the steep companionways. She pointed at the big wing controls with their manual override levers. “What are those?”

“They control the wings. We don’t use them in atmosphere. Only Out There.′

“Are we going Out There?” Amanda’s brown eyes gleamed.

“Nope, just a little jaunt round the borders of our village today.” Abuela Jasmine settled herself into tht co-pilot’s seat. Rand strapped Amanda into a pulldown bench with a good view out the windows. “You ever flown before?” Amanda shook her black curls.

Rand strapped in and Shuttle One lifted smoothly. He suspected Mamie had been tinkering while she flew on autopilot from September.

The tour was straightforward and confirmed the Mayor’s suspicions. On three sides, including to the south where there was another community, the stakes were at six kilometres as marked on Jasmine’s map. From the village towards Wyllie’s compound the stakes were at the four kilometre mark.

“Let’s go a little beyond,’said Rand, turning back to the southern neighbour. And once again the stakes between Wyllie’s property were two kilometres farther south than those bordering the Forsaken land.

“You may have allies in your case, abuela,” said Rand.

“We don’t mix with them much, but we’re neighbourly enough,” she agreed. “I’ll get the Mayor to call on them Real Soon.”

Rand prepared the timestamped printouts, making multiple copies. They returned to the village.

The Mayor was delighted with their discoveries. “It would have taken us much longer to find the stakes from the ground.. And just having the equipment to pickup the signals from the stakes, which we don’t, was very useful.”

“Glad to be help, and to cock a snoot at that Richtofen,” replied Rand. “You have our contact info if you need testimony.”

“We’ll wire back the money for the toys and the willow bark from Sapphire,” added Dita.

“If all this tomfoolery was on-world, this information should settle it.” said the Mayor. “If it goes back to September, then this is just the beginning of a long fight.”

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