Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Eurasian, 7th installment: Chapters 13 & 14

This is the last installment I'll be posting for a while. It's as far as I've got so far.

For those of you who haven't looked at it yet, it's a "dystopia" (the opposite of utopia). It probably should come with a warning label: those with nationalistic feelings about the future of certain North American and Asian countries might might be offended. Or, it could be taken as a warning. Other than that, there is a lot of action and adventure.

If you haven't begun reading from the beginning, you still can. All the chapters are posted in this blog.

Chapter 13

Annie ol' Iron

'So long, Pipsqueak, I'll really miss you!' said Albert as he gave him a hug.

'I miss you too, you Hulk!'

'Just don't give away all your clothes.'

'Don't worry la!'

The rest shook hands and hugged, as the old bus revved it's diesel engine and Philip, Mickey, Yorba Linda, Yakov and the rabbi finally boarded. They took seats near the back.

Most of the windows didn't have any glass. The door that once worked on a hydraulic pump, now just sat in open position so the ticket collector could run and jump on as the bus started moving. The seats had one time been luxurious recliners, but the buttons no longer worked. They were covered with so many patches it was hard to tell their original colour.

Soon, they were travelling through mountainous wilderness. Every time they went uphill, the diesel engine's transmission made a very loud noise, as though complaining of the hard work.

* * *

The bus stopped at every small town. In some places, it made several stops. The people's baggage consisted of baskets of produce, or chickens as often as it did backpacks or suitcases.

About one hour into their journey, they came to a bigger road, and turned left.

More up and downhill grades -- more complaints by the transmission.

* * *

After repeated warnings that it had had quite enough of this up and downhill nonsense, the engine finally made good on its threat, and stopped.

The passengers got off, stretched their legs, or stood, or sat beneath the shade of a large tree that conveniently grew by that stretch of highway while the driver, with the help of the ticket collector, tinkered with the engine.

'It happens,' said Rabbi Solomon.

About an hour later, they were back on the road again.

* * *

They made a lunch stop at a village along the highway. Most of the passengers got something from a small shop that sold fry bread and things to go with it. However, Mrs. Kanter had packed something kosher for their lunch, so they had that.

* * *

The bus broke down a second time about an hour's walk from Globe. However, it took one hour to realise that it was going to take longer to fix this time, and to realise that had they walked, they'd be there by now. So, the second hour was spent in walking.

It was mid afternoon, but too late to think of travelling onward that day, so they found lodging at a bed and breakfast.

The rabbi bought a large bag of eggs, and the landlady was kind enough to hard-boil them. They would be a good source of protein during the journey when kosher food would be hard to find.

Over a supper of boiled eggs and toast, the rabbi said, 'There are two ways to go from here. The way South leads near Tuscan, which is in the Multinational Zone. Because of the garbage recycling industry, there are two or three Mafia families vying for control, so there are risks. I suggest taking the way through Safford.'

'There are Mafia controlled areas there as well,' said Yakov.

'They are easier to avoid.'

* * *

There wasn't even standing room on the bus, not so much as to get a toe hold while clinging to the door.

That didn't matter, as there were other forms of transport, mostly consisting of converted pick-up trucks. They each had two wooden benches running down both sides of the covered bed, so that the passengers sat facing one another, with the baggage stacked in between. The drivers ranged from old men to grannies to people who would have been considered too young to drive in any civilised part of the world. Some of them sported outlandish paint jobs, often a spray painted mural, or fancy graffiti, such as used to adorn the back sides of public buildings and underpasses of the cities of yesteryear.

The first few to pass were quickly filled by those who had failed to gain a toe-hold on the bus. Finally, there was a car with room for five more. The rabbi had a few words with the driver, a girl who couldn't have been a day older than twelve. Two younger boys sat with her in the front. The spray painted lettering on the side read, 'annie ol' iron'. Underneath were the subtitles: 'scattered shower', and 'light breeze'.

Mickey thought he remembered his Grandpa Abe singing a song with a title like that. He couldn't imagine what the weather conditions had to do with it.

There was, indeed, room for five, but not by standards back at home. Philip had to sit on top of Yorba Linda, Yakov, on the tail gate, while Mickey sat on some of the luggage in the middle. The rest of the passengers found hardly enough room to put their feet on the floor.

Besides the three children up front, there was one grown up passenger occupying the window seat.

Once everyone was securely on, the truck took off.

'Damn kid driver,' muttered a man with a few days growth on his chin.

As soon as Mickey took notice of him, he went on, 'What do ya think of this place? Weird huh? Let kids like that drive for a living! And who in hell would name their kid Annie ol' Iron?'

Before Mickey could ask for clarification, he had broken out into the song:

Any ol' iron, any ol' iron

Any, any any ol' iron

You look neat, talk about a treat

You look so dapper from your napper to your feet

Dressed in style, brand new tile

And your dad's old green tie on

But I wouldn't give you tuppence for your ol' watch and chain

Ol' iron, ol' iron

Nya ny-ny-nya nya nya, nya ny-ny-nya nya nya,

Nya ny-ny-nya nya nya, ol' iron!

'Where are you from?' asked the rabbi.

'Albuquerque,' said the man.

'New Mexico Albuquerque?'

'Only one there is!'

'Okay, maybe you're from there. Where do you live now?'

'I live in Albuquerque! I'm on my way home right now!'

'How do you propose to get in?'

'Same way I came out! A little known secret. I could tell ya, but then, I'd have to kill you! Ha ha!'

The rabbi responded with uplifted eyebrows and a slight nod, but had no more questions. The other passengers kept to themselves. Some acted like they didn't understand English.

They were speeding through dry wilderness, not slowing down for the bumps.

The strange young man kept muttering, 'Damn kid driver!'

At one point, the man grabbed a bar that ran along the ceiling. His sleeve slipped down, and Mickey noticed, pushed as far up his arm as it would go, an ID bracelet.

About an hour into the journey, they passed a small town. Two people got off, including the one sitting in the front. Annie ol' Iron came around to collect the fare from the one who got out from the back and invited the rabbi to sit in the front. Mickey sat down next to Yorba Linda and Philip, where the rabbi had sat, and Yakov took the seat vacated by the other passenger.

Yorba Linda said, 'Philip, could you move over onto Mickey? My legs are getting numb.'

He moved over.

After they got going again, the strange man grabbed the ceiling bar again.

Mickey whispered just loud enough for Yorba Linda and Philip to hear, 'Take a look at the man's wrist.'

Yorba Linda whispered, 'Oh my god! He was right!'

* * *

Now that Mickey wasn't blocking his view of the passengers across from him, the man seemed to take in interest in Philip.

'Where you from, kid?'


'Where are you from?'

'Er -- Dinetah.'

Good answer, though Mickey.

'Dinetah? Where's that?'

'Across the desert.'

'Oh. Where you going?'

'A visit.' Mickey could tell Philip was trying to put him off with clipped answers.

'A visit? To who?'

'Er -- uncle.'

Philip looked outside at the passing scenery, at an angle that was as far off from the strangers face as he could.

'Can we be friends?'

Philip turned to Mickey and said in Thai, 'Kit yang ngai khon ni?' ('What do you think of this man?')

'Plaek.' ('Strange,') answered Mickey.

They kept up a conversation, alternating between Thai and Chinese until the man lost interest.

* * *

About noon, the car pulled off the road by a stream. There was enough flat ground to drive just a little bit upstream. There they parked the car, and everyone got out and sat down with whatever food they had brought.

The five chose a spot just slightly upstream from the car, away from the road, overlooking the stream. The car blocked the view from the highway. Not far from them, but closer to the bank of the stream, the driver and her two young brothers also settled down. Not far from them, again, was the man from Albuquerque.

Rabbi Solomon had the bag of eggs, another of fruit and a loaf of bread. He passed everyone an egg and let them help themselves to the bread. They ate them as sandwiches.

'Normally they go only to Silver City, but I've persuaded our young driver to take us all the way to Las Cruces.'

'She's willing to go there?' said Yakov.

'She knows how to get around. Look at that fire-arm the boy has.'

They looked. The older boy, probably about nine, had a revolver sitting next to him.

'He sits next to his sister in the cab, and holds that thing between his legs the whole way, with both hands, like he knows how to use it.'

'How did you persuade them?' asked Yakov.

'I offered them my old radio phone. Also, she'd rather be plying the road between Las Cruces and Albuquerque anyway. More lucrative. She just needed the excuse to make the break.'

'What about their home?'

'That car is their home. Their father, a man named Joe Iron, was bumped off by the Mafia. Their mother was forced to work in a whore house. These three got away in their dad's car and learned about life the hard way.'

'So her name really is, Annie ol' Iron?'

'That's right. Her two brothers are and Scattered Shower and Light Breeze.'

'Certainly had an imagination,' said Yakov.

The man from Albuquerque looked like he was taking an interest in the three siblings.

'Nice place, hun?' they could hear him say.

The three ignored him.

'And our friend here,' said Yakov. 'Do you think he's really from Albuquerque?'

'Of course he is,' said the rabbi. 'He's not from the Free Zone. He makes himself stick out like a sore thumb.'

'And, he's got an ID bracelet,' said Mickey.

'How does he get in or out?' asked Yakov.

'That's what I'd like to know,' said the rabbi.

The older boy had handed the gun to his sister, and was now getting undressed, keeping his sister and younger brother between him and the man -- who couldn't seem to keep his eyes off him. He got into the water and swam about for a while. And then got out.

He dressed himself, and then took the gun back from his sister.

She began undressing the younger boy. Then she undressed herself, and they went in. She began bathing her brother.

The Albuquerque man couldn't contain himself. He got up, and immediately the boy did as well, holding the gun in both hands, pointing it down with his legs spread apart -- not at all like a kid playing at cowboys.

'Is it okay if I join you?' asked the man.

'Don't you go near my sister!' ordered the boy.

Mickey started to get up.

'Relax,' said the rabbi. 'The boy has a gun.'

The girl in the water was standing up, and had grabbed hold of a switch-blade that hung around her neck. She had the look of a big sister facing up to a school yard bully.

'Hey! That's a big toy you have there!'

The boy was pointing the gun at him with both hands, arms stiff, one leg behind the other to brace himself.

'Wa-a-a,' whimpered Philip.

'Just sit still,' whispered the rabbi.

'C'mon, kid,' the man began moving towards the boy, 'you're not really going to ...'


The smoke cleared. The boy brought the gun back down to eye level. The man lay sprawled on the ground with a hole in his chest.

The girl quickly dressed herself and her youngest brother. The older one maintained his poise, feet spread apart, gun in both hands pointed down.

The other passengers, after a brief glance, went back to their lunch.

Philip sprinted a few yards away behind some bushes, and vomited. The rabbi put the food away, including the half eaten sandwiches, for later. No one had the stomach for it now.

The older boy picked up the Albuquerque man's backpack and lay it among their own things, while Annie and the youngest went through the man's pockets.

Mickey took note that Annie found the bracelet, and worked it until it came off the man's wrist.

* * *

On the way back to the car, Philip lingered by the body. He just stood, gazing at the frozen facial expression. That moment seemed like an eternity.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and the rabbi's gentle voice.

'It is tragic when it happens like this. Indeed, a world has come to an end. But, this is the path he chose. Come.'

He walked back to the car in the embrace of the rabbi.

* * *

Now, there was room on the bench for Philip, though the thought of what it cost took away the joy.

As they drew near to Silver City, more seats became available at far less cost. Yakov took his turn sitting in the cab with the three children, while the rabbi sat in the back.

Besides the last of the passengers getting off, and Mickey taking a turn in the front, nothing memorable happened in Silver City.

From Silver City, the rabbi had said, they'd be taking mountain roads for safety, even if the straight roads through the valleys would be quicker. The latter went through more check points.

* * *

Mickey found the three not very communicative, not even among themselves. What little talk that went on revealed that the older one -- nine years old by Mickey's judgement -- was name Scattered Shower, though they called him 'Scat', and the five year old, 'Breeze'.

They were in a mountainous area, with a few curves in the road. Annie seemed to be taking extra care, not driving as fast as before, slowing down, Mickey thought, more than was necessary at each curve. Scat continued to sit very stiffly, next to Mickey, with both hands holding the gun hidden between his knees. Breeze was softly singing some local popular tune.

Being that they were moving along slowly, instead of taking the curves at a dangerous speed, Mickey took the time to admire the view.

'Scat! Hand grenade!' Annie shouted suddenly.

Before Mickey could comprehend what was happening, the car had come to a screeching halt. Scat had thrown Annie a hand grenade from the glove compartment, and had clamoured onto Mickey's lap, thrust his upper trunk out the window, and was firing the revolver, crushing Mickey's chest with his behind with every shot. Meanwhile, Annie had thrown the gear-stick into reverse, and was likewise thrusting her upper body out her window as she virtually stood on the accelerator, propelling the car backwards.

Mickey barely caught a glimpse of a large tree branch blocking the road ahead with some men standing around it. Then, that scene was obscured by the explosion of Annie's hand grenade, which cleared out both the branch and the men. Annie and Scat pulled themselves back in again, the gear was thrust into first and Annie roared on full speed ahead. All the while the five year old was bouncing up and down on the seat, shouting something unintelligible.

When Mickey finally gathered his wits, they were racing full speed down the road beyond the danger.

'Scat! Why you only fire four shots?' Annie said.

'No more bullets.'

'How many times I tell you - load it again each time you use it! Load it right now, dammit!' She was almost screaming the words out.

Scat sullenly opened the carriage, removed the empty cartridges, threw them abruptly past Mickey's face out the open window, and took six more cartridges out of the glove compartment.

'Huh! Scattered Shower -- should'a called you Scatter Brain!' Annie muttered.

Mickey began to realise that some of the bumps were not from the road but from a very flat tire on the left front side.

'Curse it! Shrapnel in the tire!' said Annie.

But she didn't so much as slow down. Probably still too dangerous to stop, Mickey presumed.

They slowed down near a wrecked pick-up similar to theirs, that had rolled off the highway. On a second look, Mickey could see the unconscious driver still in it.

'Scat, quick, help me,' said Annie.

Scat was still pouting.

Annie looked at Mickey and said, 'You and your friends help. Come Breeze. Scat, you stand guard.' She took a tire iron and some tools from under the seat.

Mickey met the others getting out the back.

'Wow!' said Yorba Linda.

'Good moves!' said Yakov.

'I told you, they know their way around,' said the rabbi.

Philip was just wide eyed and speechless.

Both the rim and the shrapnel ridden tire looked beyond repair. But Annie was already at work cranking away at the lug nuts of one that was sticking up in the air. Breeze was going through the pockets of the unconscious driver.

As each tire was removed from the axle Mickey and Yakov took them back to the car. The rabbi checked the driver for vital signs.

While Yakov helped change the tire, and Annie and Breeze, with Philip began removing other usable parts, the rabbi, Yorba Linda and Mickey moved the unconscious driver carefully out of the cab, and to a place where he could lie more comfortably.

'He won't live long, but at least he can die with dignity,' said the rabbi. He placed a bottle of drinking water in his hand.

Before leaving, he checked for vital signs once more, but there weren't any. However, he left the water where it was.

With everything that wasn't too heavy to carry now loaded in the back with the passengers, they were off again. This time, it was Yorba Linda's turn in the front.

* * *

Philip was finally encouraged to take a turn in the front. At least he was confident of not being shot himself, having observed their survival instincts at work.

He sat in the middle, with Scat sitting by the window on his right, and Breeze on his left. Scat was still in a bad mood, ever since being scolded for not fully loading the gun, and from subsequent browbeatings by his sister.

However, Philip being more their size, Annie was surprisingly conversant. They knew nothing of the world beyond a few of the neighbouring republics, and just a little bit about the MCZ. It was like a different planet.

Philip thought it was probably okay to think of the MCZ as a different planet, as he was almost of that opinion himself. However, Annie and Breeze seemed eager to hear about China and other parts of the world, so Philip had been giving them a geography lesson. It was hard to tell whether Scat was taking any of it in or not, as he just sat sullenly at his post.

It was evening. The traffic had been becoming heaver the closer they came to Caballo Lake. Now they were almost at a stand still.

Annie had seemed to lose interest in the geography lesson, as her attention appeared to be on whatever was ahead. They were approaching a bend.

'Oh my god! Mafia check point!'

Not many cars ahead, just around the bend, were steel oil drums set up. Men with automatic weapons were standing guard, and were stopping cars, one by one, as they passed.

'Scat, look in the man's bag and see if there's anything they might take.'

Scat didn't move. Neither did the traffic.

Suddenly, Scat said, 'That's Ito! He killed Papa!'

Philip had never heard a kid's voice exude so much hate.

'He'll kill us too if you don't hide the gun!'

'I kill him first,' shouted Scat.

'No!' Screamed Annie. 'You can only shoot six times! His friends got Kalashnikovs -- they'll kill us all!'

The screaming attracted the attention of an important looking man with a pistol in his holster. He began walking slowly towards them.

'Give me the gun Scat!' Annie made a lung for Scat.

'You're not tell'n me what to do! I've got the gun now! I'll kill Ito!'

At that he lunged his body out the window and held the gun up.

'Die Ito!'


Now everything happened at once. Ito fell against a car with a hole in his chest. People with machine guns took positions behind other cars and oil drums. Annie dragged Breeze out the driver's door. Philip followed.

He saw his backpack and thought he'd better take it.

Annie and Breeze went straight across several rows of traffic to the other side. Philip went around to the back to meet the others.

His back pack was heavier than he expected.

He met the others, and they ran up the road in the direction they had come.

Mickey said, 'Don't worry, I got your back pack right here, Philip.'


They could hear Scat's revolver fire and that of the bigger guns.

Up ahead, more men with guns got off a covered lorry.

'This way!' shouted Yakov, signalling them towards the ditch at the side of the road.

The men with guns ran past them and began shooting at those at the checkpoint.

The five got down into the ditch, and began moving back towards the checkpoint.

Philip took a peep above the top.

'For goodness sake, get down!' said Yakov.

It was too late. Philip had seen it -- the limp body of Scat draped through the open window of the cab, riddled with bullets holes, a big man dragging Annie and Breeze, both kicking and screaming, and throwing them into a van.

The moment he brought his head down, the sky above filled with a bright yellow cloud, and the ground below hit him in the face. The bang was so loud he couldn't hear much else for a while.

* * *

Yakov judged it safe to emerge. They did, and sure enough, the battle seemed to be over. The blast had eliminated most of the resistance.

'Annie's in that van,' shouted Philip. There were two vans parked together.

The van seemed in tac but the big man that Philip had seen lay sprawled near the driver door.

Annie and breeze were inside, safe and sound.

The men from the lorry seemed to have taken control of the checkpoint, but were ignoring them.

Philip approached Annie. 'Really sorry about Scat,' he said.

Annie was close to tears, but she kept a stoic face. 'Yeah -- he was so stupid!' Then she broke down as Philip embraced her.

'So, what to do now?' said Yorba Linda.

'These vans seem to be vacant,' said Yakov.

'Good idea,' said the rabbi.

After some consultation, the five took one van, while Annie and Breeze took the other.

* * *

Yakov drove, the rabbi sat beside him, and the others sat in seats near the front, as the rear had no windows.

'Here's your backpack,' Mickey said to Philip.

'But I have my backpack -- wait -- this isn't mine.'

'Where did you get it?'

'From the front of Annie's pickup.'

They looked inside.

'This is that man's backpack. Here's his ID bracelet!' said Mickey.

'Oh my God!' exclaimed Philip.

'And a My Own World headset, and look, an e-tablet!'

'Oh good,' said Yorba Linda. 'We could use an extra e-tablet.'

* * *

The van was petrol powered. Before they left town, Yakov drove into a filling station and got a full tank, but only after enquiring where the local oil was refined, and sniffing a sample of it that the attendant had on hand. Likewise, the attendant weighed the coins Yakov gave him to make sure that they had the proper amount of gold embedded in the centre.

It was getting late. The rabbi knew of a park where people could safely park their motor homes for a small fee. They decided to make for that.

Even though he had checked all the fluid levels, after driving a while, Yakov began having doubts about the state of the motor.

* * *

Mickey had copied the Bible from one e-tablet to the other, so both he and Yorba Linda were reading.

Philip slipped into the seat behind the rabbi.

'Rabbi, did you see what happened to Scat?'

'Indeed, I did. Another tragedy -- two the same day.'

After a pause, Philip asked, 'Was that the path he chose?'

The rabbi thought a while.

'Some have more liberty to choose their path than others. I'd say the man this morning had more paths to choose from. Scattered Shower had only a few, if any. Each one will be rewarded in the world to come by what choices they had, and which path they chose. The Holy One, blessed be He, shines the light of His Shechinah down the path that leads to Himself. The one who glimpses that light however faintly it filters down to him, if he follows, has taken the right path -- however far that path will take him. He or she will be rewarded in the world to come. If it leads him all the way to the Shechinah in the person of His Messiah, then blessed is that person both in this life and in the world to come.'

* * *

They reached the caravan park, paid the fee for one night, and parked. The rabbi and Yorba Linda occupied the two front seats, which reclined all the way for sleeping. The others laid out their bedding on the carpeted back end of the van. They were off again at morning light.

Chapter 14

Uncle Rodrigo

A few hours into the journey, Yakov's doubts concerning the state of the motor were confirmed. It had stopped for the second time, and this time, it wouldn't start, no matter what they did.

'Even if I manage to fix it, it won't go far,' said Yakov. 'There's a fundamental problem inside the engine.'

They gathered their backpacks and were off. Mickey carried the two, one in front and one in back.

Fortunately, they weren't far from sources of water. A river ran not far from the highway.

They walked on for three hours.

* * *

On the other side of the wire fence running along the highway, was an old air strip. A small two engine transport plane sat next to a hanger.

'See if that plane is available,' suggested the rabbi. 'If he could take us all the way, it would save us untold hassle with border crossings and Mafia checkpoints.'

'Hmmm,' responded Yakov. 'Not to mention, time.'

They looked for a way in.

The gate was further down, but it was locked. The place looked deserted. Further on, they found a gully that left a gap under the fence. There were bits of barbed wire hanging down, intended for discouraging intruders, but they were easily pulled out of the way. They all crawled under and made for the hanger and control tower.

They found a man sleeping in a hammock strung between a landing gear and a hatch under the fuselage.

'Sir,' shouted Yakov. 'Are you the owner of this plane?'

'Yeah,' said the man, sleepily. 'What of it?'

'Can you take us to Texas?'

'No fuel,' he said. 'No delivery until next week.'

'Nothing at all?'

'I could get you up in the air, and maybe a ten minute joyride, if that's all you want.'

Yakov threw his hands in the air.

They turned around to leave.

'Hang on,' said Yakov. 'Could you land this on a straight stretch of road like that out there?'

'Yeah, but then we'd be stuck. It's no place to leave a plane.'

'Where you'd be stuck would be next to a van, filled to the brim with gasoline.'


'Then, we take off again and head for Republic of Mexas.'


They settled on a price and filed on to the aeroplane. The rabbi joined them, although he had originally planned to go only as far as Las Cruces.

It was a transport plane, with just enough seats near the front for the group The rest was cargo space. They taxied, took off and banked around to follow the highway in the direction they came from.

They saw the van by the side of the road far ahead, and landed. Yakov and the pilot made several trips back and forth, siphoning fuel into a tank and returning to pour it into the aeroplane's fuel reserve. Then, they took a cue from Annie ol' Iron and removed everything else from the van that could possibly be useful, including the tires and seats.

Then, they took off again. Later, they made one more refuelling stop.

* * *

They were flying at a very low altitude.

'Are we approaching Milfred already?' asked Mickey.

'No,' said the pilot. 'That fence you see over there is the boundary line between the Free Zone and the MCZ. It's not that we're in danger, or anything, but we pilots feel that it's a good idea not to show up too brilliantly on their radar screens -- in case they get any ideas. Also, it's to avoid accidentally flying over.'

'Why?' asked Yorba Linda.

'For us, they're a no-fly zone. When we navigate near places like this, we have to know when to change course, so we don't even look like we're about to fly over. Otherwise they shoot us down before we get to their border. The rule we follow is, never go in a straight line towards MCZ territory when within fifty miles.'

"Wa!' cried Philip.

Mickey looked. Philip had on the stranger's head set, and he had managed to slip his hand into the ID bracelet.

'What is it?'

'I see lots of lines, and writing over there!' he pointed towards where the fence was visible.

'That's the MCZ, isn't it?' said Yorba Linda.

'Hondo, Texas,' said Philip.

'How did you know?' asked the pilot.

'The letters on the ground. This head set turns it into a map! Over there, Surveillance Headquarters, sector five, level three, and over there -- wait! The more I look at something, more info -- people in that house, named Smith, Alan and Hellen, children's names are ...'

'You see all that in the VR head set?' asked Yakov.

'That's more than mine ever showed me,' said Yorba Linda.

'Let me see,' said Yakov.

'Fading out now,' said Philip.

They had gone on, past the fenced in area.

'But the man this ID bracelet belong to, his name, Morton Carson.'

'Carson did you say?' said Yorba Linda.

* * *

They could see the town of Milfred before them. At Yakov's request, the pilot flew around until they spotted the communications tower. Then he made preparations to land at the small airport.

'How long will you stay around?' the rabbi asked the pilot.

'Until I can get another payload.'

'I just might have something for you, so don't go anywhere in a hurry.'


They landed. The five disembarked, and went off in search of the communications tower. They could see the top of it over the roofs.

* * *

The town seemed a lot like those they had been seeing -- simple tarmac road, no footpath other than hard dirt packed down by constant foot traffic, shop fronts of family run business, but here, a lot more more green in the landscape, and the houses of wood rather than adobe.

Like Cactus Head and Whiteriver, most of the people they saw were brown skinned. But the general chatter had a more familiar sound to Yorba Linda's ears. It was Spanish.

She'd never been here in her life, but the sounds, the smells, even the way people carried themselves, were somehow a part of her. It all reminded her of home -- of the way her relatives were when they were among themselves, the way she was rebuked for being when she let her guard down in public -- but here no one was ashamed of it.

She had never really been ashamed of it. She had even helped to mentor Monterey Jack into that mould, and it thrilled her when he fit in. She had appended 'Monterey' to his name as a reward. But she had been away from it too long. The sights and sounds of Milfred told her so.

They took a wrong turn somewhere. They realised it when they again glimpsed the top of the communications too far to their left, but the road was veering right.

Yorba Linda asked for directions in Spanish. She wasn't sure how they referred to the communications tower, but when she dropped the name, Rodrigo Sanchez, that brought an immediate response.

'Go back that way, and turn right, and then left.'

They followed as far as they could with that, and asked someone for the rest. Everyone knew Rodrigo Sanchez.

Yorba Linda had arrived home.

* * *

From the outside, the compound looked no different than Hambone's tower in Cactus Head. The gate was locked, there was no bell, but a helpful neighbour yelled Rodrigo's name a few times, and hurled a small pebble at a glass pane.

The door opened, and out came Uncle Rodrigo -- much older looking than Yorba Linda remembered.

'Tio Rodrigo!' called Yorba Linda.

He stopped short, a glow of recognition transformed his face, and he ran to the gate. Suddenly irritated at the wire fencing for preventing an immediate embrace, he fumbled with the key and they were in. Then, they embraced.

'How did you come here?' he asked when they got inside.

'It's a long story, Tio,' she began.

The inside was similar to Hambone's tower, but it was in a much better state of upkeep, not unlike his earlier home in San Jose.

'And who are your friends?'

Yorba Linda introduced all of them. Explaining who each one was, of course, meant telling the long story beginning with her involvement as tour guide to a group of Chinese students, the hijacking, the stay at Francis Baguette's ranch, finding out about Monterey Jack's involvement...

'Ai! That Monterey Jack! Such a handfull isn't he! He even hacks calls into my communication system. But I knew this time he was into something away out of his depth -- not his usual cocky self -- but he wouldn't tell me what. Though he told me you might be coming.'

...then explaining Yakov's presence. It was Yakov's turn:

'Your nephew, Monterey Jack, has more than made up for his mischief. Our organisation has been tracking the same group that hijacked the hovercar. Through him, we've been able to get on an inside track in monitoring their activities inside the MCZ, just in time to uncover a major plot in the making.'

'What organisation are you with?'

'Jewish Defence Association, headquarters in Springdale, New Michigan. The group we've been watching is the American Nazi Republic, which is group consisting of all the Nazi nations. Their plan is to gain access to a MCZ missile base which would give them control over the whole Free Zone -- if not the MCZ.'


'Now, here's where we feel you might be able to help us...'

After a long discussion and some deep thought, Uncle Rodrigo was willing.

* * *

Yakov had put in a call to David and Joe. The rabbi wanted to be a part of the conversation.

'Has the community been able to purchase grain for Stanley Town?' he asked.

'Yes,' said Joe. 'They're still not sure how to get it there. Because it's expensive to store, they've had it shipped here to Whiteriver.'

'Very good. We have an aeroplane. We can airlift it to them,' said the rabbi.

'And after the airlift,' Yakov continued, 'we'll fly all of you here to Mexas.'

* * *

Joe, David, along with Albert and U Ta boarded the plane along with the sacks of grain. Albert and U Ta were joyfully reunited with Philip, Mickey and the rabbi.

On their first pass over Stanley Town, they dropped leaflets instructing them to clear the main highway. Some of the leaflets fell in the church compound, some in Mr. Stanley's and the rest, along the highway that needed clearing.

On the second and third passes, they flew low and dropped the sacks out the back, just close enough to the ground that most of them didn't burst open.

Then, one more pass to observe the happy residents

Then, they flew straight back to Mexas.

No comments: