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Tansy Shrugged (an abortive short story)

I’m always getting these ideas for the openings of stories. Then I either don’t know where to go with them or (more likely) don’t have enough ambition to figure it out.

So here’s one I’m tossing at you.


Tansy yawned and dropped the big book to the floor beside her chair. It landed with a window-rattling thump.

Finally, she thought. I made it. She imagined this is what Medieval penitents had felt like after the last stop on a “go ’round the countryside whipping themselves from village to village” tour. Not pleasant, but done.

She had finally managed to fulfill Aunt Cheetah’s dying request: that she read Atlas Shrugged from cover-to-cover, not even skipping a word of The Speech. When Cheetah (whose real name was Charlene, but who was a capital-C Character) had gasped out those words — The Speech — from her cancer-ridden lungs and desert-dry throat, Tansy had had no idea what The Speech was or just how hard it would be to get through not only its 70 pages of opaque philosophizing, but the other 1000+ pages around it. It had taken months — years! But she had kept her promise to her favorite aunt at last.

Tansy flung herself back in the recliner and mildly wondered if The Tome would get all moldy if it spent the rest of its days as a doorstop.

Still, she had to admit that, awful though it was (as somebody said, Ayn Rand should have gotten a writer to write it for her), it had some wonderfulness, too. What girl wouldn’t want to be Dagny Taggart, all good-looking and buff and smart and running around in capes off-the-shoulder gowns all the time? And having the world’s hottest and richest guys after her (though, she reflected, early-reject Francisco was the only real keeper of the lot).

And the strike … now that was An Idea. Yes, it was. A brilliant idea. If plumbers and teachers and electricians and airline pilots could go on strike when they didn’t think they were being treated fairly, why not geniuses? (Genii?)

And if geniuses could go on strike …

Wait a minute …

Tansy, who had closed her eyes while fantasizing standing atop a railroad car in a floor-length velvet cape, opened them and peered at the ceiling as if the secrets of the universe might be hidden amid its bland orange-peel texture.

If geniuses can go on strike, why not ordinary, everyday people? Why not me and my friends?

Yeah. Why not?

Of course, there were problems. Like exactly who would they strike against? And — to be blunt — who would notice? I mean, Tansy mused as she gazed ceilingward, it’s one thing when big executives walk off the job. And you sure as heck notice that plumbers are gone when your toilet starts spewing murky water onto your ceiling and nobody shows up to fix it. But who — really now, who? — would notice if a bunch of nobody-in-particulars declared a strike?

She tried to picture her friends and wondered a) if they’d think the idea was crazy and b) who’d care if they suddenly … well, did whatever it was they’d do if they went on strike (a thing she was not yet clear on but would probably have to figure out eventually).

Yeah. It was a crazy idea. But still … An Idea. Here they were, the hapless Millennials, loaded with debt and grasping for opportunity that always stayed out of reach. Expected to pay for wars and welfare states and bankers’ bonuses when they couldn’t even keep up with their own student loans.

Something was wrong in the world. Something the Occupy people didn’t really get and the Anonymous people maybe got but didn’t know what to do with. But maybe that old butch Russian had some idea how to fix.

A strike.

Foolish as it seemed, Tansy just couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She had to talk to somebody about this. Somebody who might get it.

Who would she ask? There was Bernadine, an arty type who probably really did think the would couldn’t live without her multi-media conceptual performances set to the music of John Cage. Hm. Probably not Bernadine. But what about Reynard? He was just strange enough to go for the idea yet sensible enough to know how to get things done. He had already hinted darkly about “making plans” against “them.” He might be worth plying with a few beers and running the idea by.

It wasn’t yet clear to Tansy what she and her friends should strike against, let alone what they should strike for. But in her mind, she keep hearing an insistent rhythm, a chant, a drumbeat: Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike!


  1. Pat
    Pat March 21, 2013 4:10 am

    “Butch Russian?!” πŸ™‚

    Too much to do today; let me think about this.

  2. Water Lily
    Water Lily March 21, 2013 5:11 am

    Interesting. I have many story ideas but the number of ideas I have don’t match my energy level. I often thought about doing something like this:

    There is a book, I forget the name, written by five or six writers. This is how they did it: the first writer started the story off in a hotel, and then passed it to the next writer, who wrote the second chapter, adding characters and plotlines, then the third writer did a chapter, etc.

    Maybe you could do something like that with a bunch of your writerly friends.

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 21, 2013 5:38 am

    I’ll have to give that one some thought too. πŸ™‚

  4. Karen
    Karen March 21, 2013 5:38 am

    Tansy should check in with the folks in Hardyville. They always have a lot of good sound reasonable ideas. Maybe a visit is in order.

  5. Sam
    Sam March 21, 2013 5:38 am

    A thump at the door brought her out of her dreamy haze. Chants of “Strike, strike, strike” fading from her mind as she moved to the door.
    Thud. Thud. Thud.
    The knocking was growing louder.

    “Tansy! Tansy! Open the DOOR!

    Tansy knew the voice to be that of her neighbor Leon Detrich-something or other. Leon lived two doors down and was handsome enough. In his late 20’s with an athletes body and a large patch of unkept hair. He always reminded Tansy of a typical surfer dude type. If he didn’t always keep such odd hours she would have loved to get to know him better. As it was, other then waving hello and goodbye, Tansy wasn’t even sure they had ever spoken for longer then 30 seconds. What could be so urgent?

    Tansy open the door. Leon flew past her closing the door, locking it. He turned grabbing Tansy around the shoulders. His fingers holding on much to tightly.

    “They are coming!” He said his eyes wild, panic etched his face.

    “Who is coming Leon? What is going on?”

    “They are coming. They heard your thoughts. I heard them too. Your in danger! THEY ARE COMING!”

  6. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 21, 2013 6:11 am

    Tansy looked over Leon’s shoulder and saw the trucks coming down the road, one by one they stopped at each house and painted a marker on the ground. They didn’t look to be in a hurry, “what was the rush?” she said out loud.

    She suddenly felt like she was in a game or in a movie.

    Leon’s wild eyes were causing her to feel more alarmed, but she didn’t know why. Was this a game of some kind? A new kind of sport of some sort?

    Then she heard it…

  7. JWG
    JWG March 21, 2013 7:46 am

    An interesting and well written beginning. I lack the skill or style to make a middle and end of it.

  8. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 21, 2013 8:07 am

    Tansy’s other neighbor, Jan Gary, was working in the garden when all the commotion started. Jan Gary made no attempt to understand what was going on or interfere, just kept focusing on hoeing while hoping it would all make sense the next time the neighbors met at the end of a days work.

    [Just messing with ya:)]

    A Monarch butterfly caught Jan Gary’s attention while it made it’s way from one lot to the next. It was a particularly beautiful butterfly, more-so than others so commonly found this time of year.

    Then he heard it…

  9. Claire
    Claire March 21, 2013 9:23 am

    Jan heard one of the trucks stop behind him. Its door opened with a screech as a worker with a can of spray paint emerged. Jan was going to continue to ignore the whole situation, until the worker did a polite little throat-clearing to get attention.

    Jan turned, hoe still in hand. The worker proffered a pamphlet, which Jan wordlessly took in his gnarled, dirt-ground hand. The pamphlet said that the neighborhood was scheduled for a utility upgrade and the various markings were to indicate which homes were to receive new digital meters and which — the homes of heavy users — were to have their power throttled for part of the day under Regional Power Directive 9-278D.

    Jan nodded in his complacent, cow-like way and seemed not to notice when the crews moved down the street.

    Jan Gary was such a nondescript person that it often took new acquaintances some time to figure out whether he was a he-Jan or a she-Jan. And after figuring it out, they often discovered they didn’t really care. Dullness pervaded him.

    But he was not as stupid or as unobservant as most assumed. On the contrary, Jan Gary was a savant. He had a hard time relating to humans. But numbers, signs, and symbols he understood with uncanny precision. Once the trucks had turned the corner, he raised his eyes from his hoe and a single glance at the figures painted along the street screamed TROUBLE.

    One trouble spot stood out from all the rest. Jan had just seen that Leon person go rushing into the ground-floor apartment in the old Victorian where that nice Tansy Danner lived. It was there that the danger was focused.

    Every encounter with the mysterious species of People was fraught with stress for Jan. But Tansy had always smiled and waved when she saw him and even tried to make conversation. So even though it was going to be terribly, terribly difficult to make the long trek up the walk to her porch and even more difficult to explain what he knew, Jan knew he had to go — right now — and warn her.

  10. denny
    denny March 21, 2013 10:07 am

    great idea and wonderful addition in the comments

    i read atlas shugged many years ago and it was a turning point for me … then y2k happen and i had water food and weapons.. then nothing .. i kept preparring and everyone in my family said i was crazy and being stewpid with my money not watching tv cable .. instead learning new skills and trying to live by working on my own getting paid cash to starve the monkeys just like the book……i cant say i was smarter or anything but i saw the light shine on something i didnt like and changed my life style…
    i have been reading your stuff claire for so long i dont remeber when i didnt
    keep up the good work you are a true blessing to the ones who have learned of the things to come ……we need your guidence and your leadership .. you have been blessed with a gift dont let it go away

  11. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 21, 2013 11:27 am

    Ok, now that’s just plain cruel…

    How am I supposed to get any work done here when I’m clinging to the edge of this story cliff with my fingernails????


  12. Claire
    Claire March 21, 2013 11:34 am

    MamaLiberty — The best way to rid yourself of temptation is to GIVE IN to it (so said Oscar Wilde). C’mon. We know you write. JOIN THE FUN!

    denny — Thank you. Sounds as if you are stewpid in a very smart way.

  13. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 21, 2013 3:28 pm

    Heh, funny.

    But then…

    In the distance the sound of laughter was heard by all the neighbors. The follow-up work crew was having difficulty with some young children who were throwing very rotten eggs from a vantage point with a quick retreat. Some of the eggs had landed in the cab of the lead truck, the supervisors truck.

    The Monarch butterfly momentarily landed on the remains of one of the eggs on the windshield of the supervisor’s truck then continued on its way between the two factions towards an unknown destination.

  14. jed
    jed March 21, 2013 4:08 pm

    The butterfly was, of course, not a real butterfly, but the latest Schmetterling-Mk.XIV Monarch micro-drone, equipped with the latest micro-miniature cameras and microphones. It also had some modest chemical detection capability, which it had used when it inserted it’s Borg-like proboscis into the running egg yolk. REAL EGG … NO CONTAMINANTS FOUND, it transmitted.

    Jan had always been a concern to the Leadership Council, precisely because he was so impenetrable. That was a sure sign of something, and they wanted to know what. The new smart meters would help them with that, as the drones could dump data more frequently, and thus empty their limited memory for additional collection before returning to base.

    The departure of this particular one allowed Jan’s halting progress towards the old Victorian to go undetected.

  15. jed
    jed March 21, 2013 4:12 pm

    Ooops, got a little consistency problem there. There’s a term of art for that, in the plot business … can’t think of it.

    Edit: s/it transmitted/it recorded, along with the GPS coordinates and timestamp/

  16. Claire
    Claire March 21, 2013 4:48 pm

    Meantime, Tansy was trying to wrench herself free of Leon-Whatsisname’s death grip. Leon had always seemed normal enough before. But now …

    “Read my …? Wait. What. Nobody can read my thoughts! Let me go! Are you crazy?”

    Leon looked at his hands grasping her shoulders. Only then did he seem to realize how forcefully he’d grabbed her and how lunatic he must seem. But there was no time … no time to explain.

    “No. I’m not crazy,” was all he could think to say. “But you are in danger! You’ve got to get out of here. Right now!” He tried to turn her around, as if to herd her out the back door.

    Yeah. In danger, she thought. From you, maybe. She struggled in his clutches.

    “They’re coming. Seriously.” Leon panted. “I’m not going hurt you. I’m trying to help …”

    At that instant, the doorbell chimed. Startled, Leon let go of her shoulders. But at the same time he cried, “Don’t answer! Don’t …!”

    Heading for the door (and, she hoped, for salvation and sanity), Tansy called over her shoulder, “Look, guy. ‘They’ would stand there and politely ring, you think?”

    She flung the door open. There stood strange old Mr. Gary, clutching a garden implement in two grubby paws. For a moment, his mouth worked as though he were trying to articulate words that couldn’t make their way out. Then he took a breath and tried again.

    “Miss,” he croaked. “Tansy, I mean. I … I … I … I know this is going to seem very abrupt and not sensible. But … well, you’re in danger. Grave, immediate danger. You must flee.”

    Oh right, Tansy groaned inwardly. Maniacs on all sides of me.

    And then she heard …

  17. jed
    jed March 21, 2013 5:16 pm

    … the plaintive wailing of a far-off blog reader, attempting to keep the storyboard updated.

  18. jed
    jed March 21, 2013 5:41 pm

    One of the best party games I ever played was serial collaborative story writing. Participants sit in a circle, each with a writing pad and a hand-operated writing stick. I don’t recall what time allotment we used, but it’s fairly short, and increases each turn, to accomodate having to read more. At the 1st turn, each person begins a story. At the expiration of the time interval, writing pads get passed to the next person around, who then reads the story, and continues it. The last turn commences when each player gets their own start back, and must bring it to conclusion.

  19. Claire
    Claire March 21, 2013 7:46 pm

    Yeah, that sounds like a great, fun game. But oh man, that last turn would really bring some pressure!

  20. Sam
    Sam March 22, 2013 4:57 am

    That was fun

  21. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 22, 2013 8:13 am

    Tansy heard the screech of sirens in the distance and an icy chill ran down her spine. Not that sirens were unusual these days, of course, but this one seemed to have a particularly malovent sound.
    Looking first at Leon, then at Jan, she allowed herself to feel their anxiety for the first time, and shivered again.
    “OK, what do we do?” she asked them. “We can talk about it later, but what is it you want to do now?”
    Leon just nodded, gently taking her arm again. Jan reached out for the other, but drew back before he touched her. Then, one on each side, they urged her toward the back door and out into the deeply shaded yard.
    Jan went toward the back gate in the long block wall that separated the homes from a large storm drain ditch. A narrow path ran along the outside of the fence, and he could see his own back gate clearly. Looking carefully up and down the ditch, he was not happy that it was so open and exposed, but they had little choice at this point. They had to get to his back yard, and without being seen – soon.
    The sirens were getting very close.

  22. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 22, 2013 8:14 am

    ARGGG, can’t spell.

    malovent = malevolent

  23. Laird
    Laird March 22, 2013 11:07 am

    Claire, this is getting fun. I think you’re going to have to “sticky” it.

  24. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 22, 2013 11:29 am

    Mark lay in bed and thought: “Not those Dang sirens again!?”

    Only this time he realized they weren’t the usual first Tuesday of the month testing of the emergency broadcast system which regularly woke him up from his third shift slumber.

    He violently yanked off the bedsheets and got out of bed to take a peek out the window and give the sky the stink eye as if to shout out: “Turn those Things OFF!”

    As his eyes adjusted to the daylight he noticed his neighbors doing something together. He muttered aloud, “What the heck are they doing?”

  25. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 12:53 pm

    As they crept along the ditch, Leon took quick, paranoid glances at the backs of the houses they passed. He saw a curtain twitch in one.

    “Oh sh*t!” he cried to the others. “Some damn busybody’s seen us. I don’t think my house is likely to be safe any more, even if we can make it there.

    Tansy, Jan, and Leon stood gaping at each other. Tansy still had no idea what her two helpers were driving her away from, but the wail of sirens made her take them seriously.

    “Give me your cellphone,” she snapped at Leon. “I can’t use mine. In fact …” She hauled her phone out of her pocket and quickly stripped the battery out of it. “Now, give me your phone.”

    From memory — thank heaven for memory — she punched the buttons for Reynard, the friend she had been thinking of as a fellow striker before she was so rudely interrupted. He was just crazy enough to know what to do in a situation like this.

    “Reynard! Thank God. Listen. Don’t ask anything. Don’t say anything. Just meet me at … the tadpole place. You know what I mean? The place where we got the tadpoles when were were kids. Quick! There will be three of us. Hurry. Hurry. No, really … shut up and hurry! We’ll be there in five. Ten at the latest. You be there, too!

    Then she pointed between two houses that fronted on the other side of the block from hers. “Run for it!” she ordered the two men. “Follow me!” With that, she ripped the battery and SIM card out of Leon’s phone and flung them as far into the watery ditch and the surrounding yards as she could fling them.

    They ran — Jan Gary waddling behind his younger companions, still clutching his garden hoe. And none of them ever saw their neighborhood or their baffled neighbors again.

  26. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 1:55 pm

    “Look, I’m sorry we didn’t give you more notice. There just wasn’t time to fill out a FEMA J-G 1032 on each person.”

    The Assistant Deputy Director of the Managerial Division of The Human Resources Redirection Bureau South West Sector Region VI held the phone away from his ear as the field agent’s excuses droned on. What the hell was wrong with these people? Couldn’t they run a simple field operation? The ADDMDHRRBSWS- Region VI composed his answer before returning to the phone and saying in his calmest, and most commanding voice:

    “I want those people under our control and that neighborhood sanitized before end of business today. I am not going upstairs for the 4 o’clock meeting to tell the AD that we couldn’t run a simple field op. If you need more assets activate a joint FEMA/Civilian Authority Code 8 under my authority.” The ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI thought of one more thing. “Use your own discretion when it comes to threat mitigation, according, of course, to UN Pub 45/78 sec. 9. Are we clear?” But the ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI (man, but he loved his title!) slammed the handset down on the phone before the weak “yes sir” could offend his ear. He’d have to get busy if he was going to CYA on this cluster love in.

  27. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 2:08 pm

    The ADDMDHRRBSWS- Region VI laced his fingers behind his head and studied the ceiling of his office. Maybe it was time to roll out the choppers, but that would leave a paper trail… Perhaps he should concentrate on the primary, cut the head off of the snake… What was her name? Mandy? Pansy? No, Tansy! The chair squeaked as he leaned forward and began to tap on the keyboard. He would save this thing yet! Who knows, he might even get the fifth floor if he did; a corner office…

  28. jed
    jed March 22, 2013 3:28 pm

    It was only a couple of miles to the old mill pond, but seemed to take forever to get there, and the three of them were exhausted. They almost lost Jan along the way, but once the general direction became clear, he seemed to know right where they were headed.

    Tansy initially dropped to her knees and breathed heavily for a few moments, then looked around for Reynard. Not seeing him, she said, “Okay, we need to hide out. God knows what we’ll find in the old mill, but it’s what we’ve got. C’mon!”

    The three splashed around the perimeter of the pond to what remained of the old mill, and cautiously peered around, looking for either danger, or a good point of entry. The doors and windows were gone, so they finally determined that the only good cover was underneath the rotting floor.

  29. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 3:48 pm

    Once the three of them were huddled under the half-collapsed floor of the old mill, Tansy pierced Leon and Jan respectively with her most steely Ayn Rand look and demanded, “Now, will you two please tell me what the hell’s going on here???

  30. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 3:59 pm

    Jan focused his thoughts, marshaled his courage, and managed to get out:

    “Have you ever heard the name, John Galt?”

    The others looked at each other and silently mouthed the question “who?”

    It was difficult for Jan, but he knew that he needed to focus, to organize his thoughts, to overcome what he had been subjected to. So many times he had practiced this speech in his head where it always came out right, clear, forceful, true… Now, when it was the most important thing left for him to do he felt powerless, weak, foolish, just what he was meant to feel. It was Tansy who saved him.

    “Is it some one we should know, Jan?”

  31. jed
    jed March 22, 2013 3:59 pm

    Crap! Can we backup and insert? I was noodling about various scenarios regarding initial ingress. Then I had an inspiration!

    Tansy was somewhat reluctant to crawl underneath the decrepit building, particularly after Leon’s remark about the rodents of unusual size. Jan surprised them both by nonchalantly taking the lead, hoe held at the ready — at least as well as he could, on his hands and knees. After a brief spell of both time and calamitous noise, his head re-appeared. “All clear”, he said.

  32. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 4:02 pm

    puptent, I’m liking your additions a lot. And it was definitely a dirty trick on my part throwing Tansy’s question out for other people to answer — especially since it involves both Leon’s mindreading and Jan’s reading of sidewalk symbols.

    But she does already know who John Galt is, since the story started with her finishing reading AS and thinking about starting a strike among her nobody friends. Sorry.

  33. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:07 pm

    “Wait,” Tansy said, “The book! I just read the book!” She looked into Jan’s tortured face. “Is that it Jan? Is it the book?”

    Jan nodded.

    “What are you talking about,” Leon demanded. “Are you saying someone from a book is a real person?

    Jan nodded again.

    “Well, that’s just CRAZY” Leon shouted. The stress was getting to him. He’d heard stories about the Bureau of Human Resources Redirection. He should have run when he had the chance instead of hooking up with… Tansy. But here he was, and there she was, and he wasn’t going to leave her now. He counted to ten, took a calming breath, and said, “Tell us Jan, Tell us everything. You’re safe here with us. You can talk.”

  34. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:12 pm

    The ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI smiled with satisfaction. I’ve got him now, he thought, I’ve got him now. He clicked off the computer and headed upstairs for the four O’clock meeting, a little lighter in his step than he thought he would be only a few hours ago.

  35. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:14 pm

    Leon suddenly put his fists to the side of his bowed head.

    “What’s wrong, Leon?” Tansy asked.

    “I’m getting a very bad feeling,” whispered Leon.

    Jan nodded.

  36. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 4:18 pm

    Verrrrrry, verrrrrry nice save there, puptent!

    And a nice plunge into the mystery!

  37. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 4:20 pm

    jed — Good one on the rodents and Jan! I got to thinking about creepy-crawlies after I wrote my little bit.

    And as to going back and refining — why the heck not? We don’t gotta follow no steeenkin’ rules …

  38. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:24 pm

    Claire, we were typing at the same time, you beat me to the ENTER key. I’ve hijacked enough of the story. It’s time for Tansy, Leon and Jan to form their plan, for Jan to get his full memory back, and to put the ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI (he REALLY, REALLY likes his title.) in his place. I’ll keep up with the rest of the posts and maybe come back tomorrow—pup

  39. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:34 pm

    OK I haven’t gone anywhere. Flashbacks anyone? A little history at this point would be nice. Leon is the true mystery character, is he an agent? Is he the key to a new movement? Does he share a past with Jan? The ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI? (OK, I REALLY like his title, got a problem?). Is Tansy the long lost daughter of… well, I’ve said enough. I can’t wait to find out what’s next!!! This is more fun than I’ve had in a while. NO RULES Thanks!

    ps Who knows, we split the movie rights; we can all be SFL! puptent

  40. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 4:54 pm

    Reynard slipped his cell phone back into his pocket. “Now,” he said to no one but himself, “What the hell was that all about?” He knew the tadpole place, he and Tansy had been there hundreds of times as kids. He would head over shortly, but first there were a few things he thought he should get together because he didn’t like the way Tansy had sounded. He was afraid that there was trouble.

    Reynard hadn’t had much contact with Tansy lately. As he went from cache to cache he realized that he missed her company. He hoped that what he was afraid might be happening was not. He hoped he’d be in time.

  41. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 5:04 pm

    puptent — you have not hijacked! Waaaay to the contrary. Wonderful contributions — despite (or more likely because of going off in weird directions I’d never have imagined). I don’t have anything to add right now. But I’ll see if I can work on the mysteries of Jan’s symbol reading and Leon’s knowledge that Tansy’s mind is being read tonight. If somebody else hasn’t come up with something by then, I’ll take a shot at some ideas in the a.m.

    I’m thinking Leon may indeed be an agent who likes Tansy better than he likes his security-monitoring job. But I don’t know. And yeah, Mr. ADDetc. is hysterical.

    I’m lovin’ this! Great going, Commentariat …

  42. jed
    jed March 22, 2013 5:06 pm

    Reynard hung up the phone.

    And he just stood there, staring at the wall, not sure whether to be annoyed, disturbed, worried, afraid, or all of the above. The urgency in Tansy’s voice drove a growing feeling of unease in his stomach. It seemed like longer, but after only a few seconds he decided he’d better see what was up. Those sirens he was hearing were, he hoped, not connected, but he couldn’t help thinking they were.

    And the old mill pond? Well, nobody would know that’s what she was talking about, but it wasn’t the best spot in the world for a clandestine rendezvous. Sure, there was some cover and concealment, and if you the land, you could sneak out more or less without being seen … if it was dark out. The only reason he’d head that way in an emergency was it was a close-by spot where he’d stashed an SKS and bandolier of 7.62.

    Well, he’d find out soon enough. Deciding that haste was called for, he kicked over the old Combat Wombat trail bike, and headed out through the lightly wooded area between his place and the old mill.

  43. jed
    jed March 22, 2013 5:08 pm

    Gah! Dueling plotlines!

  44. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2013 5:13 pm

    “Gah! Dueling plotlines!”

    No, no! It’s complicated, but I’m seeing a GOOD complication. Yeah, with all these different POVs we may be working on a never-to-be-finished novel, not a short story. But I can see the Tansy/Leon/Jan axis, the Reynard/strike axis, and the Mr. ADDetc. axis converging in some interesting ways.

    I think I’d get dizzy if anybody introduced any more POV characters. But so far …

  45. puptent
    puptent March 22, 2013 7:00 pm

    Hah! The Hodaka Combat Wombat RRRRrriiinnngg ding ding. cough cough A little too rich with the castor oil, but I do love the smell. (google it, kids)

    From now on all the world’s heroes will ride Hodakas!!! Wait, what about Maico? Husky? Zundap???

    I’ve played around here so much I’ve neglected my duties, the fire went out, and the dogs have probably frozen solid by now… But then, who’s barking? spooky

    I put Jan Gary (JG) as John Galt. Tansy as Dagny’s long lost daughter. Leon related to the steel mill owner (can’t remember names). The ADD is Dagny’s stupid brother. I’m going to be up all night reading…

    oh, and I see conflict, narrow escapes, love, loss, defeat, then victory, and finally the world is saved. or not

  46. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 23, 2013 12:26 am

    puptent, heh, did you get into the bad wine?

    Anyway, our story continues…

    Mark watched through the window as the group made its way to what he’d been told was called, the old tadpole pond. He’d been there before but he didn’t know anything about it. He wished he knew the history of it. He was fascinated for a bit how they made their way, as if there was some ultra-urgency to their progress. He wondered about their reasoning. It seemed to him that nothing made sense anymore these days and he laughed as it appeared to him they were playing a paint-ball game of some kind, or something. Then his smile disappeared as he thought about other things and closed the curtain.
    He shook his head and turned away while again thinking they were simply playing a game of some kind,… or chasing butterflies.

    His thoughts returned to the argument he’d just had with his wife, then he yanked his zipper open on his sweatshirt the same way he closed the curtain. He looked around for the thermostat as if he didn’t know where it was and thought about that time ten years ago when she asked him, “If my job gets in the way of our relationship, you’ll tell me, right?”

    [Then IndividualAudienceMember pasted the text onto wordpad in order to see what he was typing]

    It had been three years since he’d told his wife that, “Yes, your job IS getting in the way!” He rubbed his temples as he thought about it. His brow furrowed as he thought about how nothing had happened after that. He punched his fist into an open hand as he thought about how it had been twenty years since the very beginning,… his thoughts shifted to how he’d done nothing to get in between the monsters laying siege at Waco as if they were one and the same with the monsters that plagued him. He half regretted taking her side rather than packing up and going the distance to stand between the goons and their prey at Waco all those twenty long years ago,… that seemed like only yesterday to him. He gritted his teeth at the thought about how “they” had ruined the memory of the month of his wedding.

    He shook his head and thought, “Then again, WHY THE HECK SHOULD I CARE!?! ABout anything!”

    Mark walked over to the bathroom to take a leak. He looked down at the the pink toilet and tried to forget about the afternoon and the arguments, but it wouldn’t subside. He forced himself to focus on other things and looked at the plant in the brightly colored orange pot set on top of the toilet tank. His eyes followed the outstretched branches as it tumbled down into the pink colored tub next to him. He let out a laugh thinking how crazy his friends would think it to be knowing he had a plant growing sprouts in his bathtub… and that it was pink! of all things. And the plant, it wasn’t like it was intentional, the plant grew that way on its own as if to say, “no one used the tub so I will”.

    His thoughts lingered about how his old friends might react and how it fit into an old John Melloncamp tune.

    … His old friends… His old friends had abandoned him. They couldn’t accept his viewpoints, his choices, they never could. They were always so closed minded and focused on obeying. Even the crazy ones! Then he thought about how he’d punched his ex-best friend in the stomach for turning on him and how it was one of the worst things he’d ever experienced. Back then was the first time he’d felt the Dark Side, as if it didn’t exist before. Oh, sure, he’d felt it before, but that time, it was personal in a way he hadn’t experienced. It was worlds away from losing a girlfriend, this was much more than that.

    Mark shook it All off, and at the same time, he was tired of shaking things off. The memory and the [not cussing here] and flushed it all away. Suddenly he felt like he was in high school or something, like he was being tested or something and it made him feel incredibly uncomfortable. He thought to himself he needed a breath of so-called “fresh air”.

    Mark walked into the kitchen and yanked the curtain open. He thought briefly about how he should stop yanking things open les they break, but then he shook that notion away.He looked out the window and decided to open the window and stick his head out to take in a deep breath of the cold crisp almost Spring time air. As he was exhaling a stream of condensation he looked down at the bundles of rosemary standing tall in the flower pots below. It was there he saw the Monarch butterfly and thought how he would like like to splat that thing.

    Mark was fond of butterflies so he was surprised by his own thinking. He thought to himself, it was a strange day…. It was then he noticed the young children in the distance throwing eggs and then he looked back at the neighbors and thought, “What the heck are they doing?” ….

    He let out a last gasp of air and watched the condensation drift outward as he pulled his head back in and closed the window. …

  47. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 23, 2013 4:26 am

    Tansy sat in the damp mud beneath the old mill floor and worried. First she worried about her mother and older sister, wondering where they were now and what they would think when they heard what happened… whatever wound up happening. She hadn’t talked to them in ages, since they didn’t see eye to eye on anything, but she still loved them and she still cared. And she worried because she still didn’t know what in the world was actually happening, or why it had been so important for her to run out here to play in the mud with these guys. But she couldn’t shake the inner knowledge that she, and they, were truly in danger from the insanity that had overcome their world – simply because they did not accept that insanity as real and good.
    Jan and Leon were still getting better acquainted when Reynard arrived. She was shocked to see him come on the bike, and even more shocked when she saw the rifle. What in the world was he thinking? How was any of that going to do anything except attract attention from the very people they wished to avoid? Maybe she’d made a big mistake calling him…

  48. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 8:27 am

    Bad wine? Maybe, but even bad wine can make good vinegar. Just takes time, and a starter…

  49. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 8:47 am

    The Onsite Commander pressed the bud a little tighter into his ear. The wind had picked up, there was a chill, the OC had a vague feeling that this entire day could end up to be another cluster… The Mk. XIV micro drone was still operational, and he had requested a fly by and recon on a particular location. In his ear bud he heard the report that his target was in motion. Things were coalescing; with a little luck he might yet be home in time for supper. He was hoping that the coming confrontation would be manageable. Maybe he should call for additional support, he had the approval after all. That decision could wait, there was time to kill while the targets were in motion. The OC picked up the ragged old paperback he’d confiscated from a citizen that was on her way to a FEMA facility. “Atlas Shrugged” was the title. It was hard to read, it seemed as if a non english speaker was straining a little too hard to make a point. But it was about a rail road run by a woman, and he’d always liked trains so he stuck with it. It was a little preachy, too, he thought, but then, he was used to that. He adjusted his body armor for a little more comfort and settled down with the book.

  50. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 23, 2013 11:01 am

    Evening was falling just as the “RAT-TAT-TAT” of gunfire woke Tansy. Jan was standing at the edge of the mill doorway, and Leon was helping Reynard stow the bike in the darkest corner of the building.
    They quickly agreed that something big was happening in their old neighborhood, and that it might just be a good time for them to bug out. Tansy wished she’d managed to bring her purse, and it would have been nice to have something to eat, but Reynard had passed around some bottles of water a little earlier, and that would just have to do for the present.
    “I don’t know who they are shooting at,” Leon said, watching the helicopters hover over the houses, the spotlights sweeping back and forth. “In any case, it’s probably best if we move out now while they’re distracted. Just hope like hell they have no clue we’re here.
    Moving out, they walked briskly toward some trees, almost directly north of the storm drain ditch. Reynard said it was a park, and Leon argued that it might not really be a safe haven, but Jan trudged along without speaking. Tansy tried to take his arm, hearing him begin to wheeze and pant, but he avoided her touch as before. She knew he was just uncomfortable about the intimacy, and didn’t push it, but she worried about him more when he suddenly stopped and spoke. “This is all wrong. We should have gone into my yard so we could use the tunnel.”
    Reaching the trees just then, they all stopped and Tansy said gently, “a tunnel? Do you know where it goes? We can’t go back, obviously, but maybe we can find another entrance.”
    “A tunnel?” asked Leon. “I’m not sure that would be a good idea. They are full of sensors and it would be a terrible place to be trapped.”
    “Maybe not,” said Reynard. “I’ve been in the tunnels under the storm drain myself. There are water mains and other utilities, and plenty of space to walk or rest. Be out of the weather too,” he said, pointing at the growing banks of black clouds in the west, backlit by the last of the sunset.
    “I don’t know another entrance nearby,” Jan said glumly. “I only know where it comes out near the mountains.”
    “Let me think,” said Reynard. “There must be entrances all along the ditch. If you want to wait here, I’ll go see if I can find one.”
    Then, since nobody could think of anything better to do, they watched Reynard head southwest and fade into the growing gloom.
    “Now what,” thought Tansy. “This is nuts…”

  51. Claire
    Claire March 23, 2013 11:52 am

    NOTE: I’m getting kind of lost in plot points right now and am not sure where the following bit would go in the narrative. But it needs sayin’ so I’m sayin’ it.


    “Look,” Tansy protested, “I can’t follow all this stuff about John Galt. That’s just something in a book. If you want me to believe he’s real or it’s real or anything like that, you’re going to have to prove it after my brain’s ready. But there’s one thing — two things — I need to know now.

    “Leon, you first: You come bursting into my place screaming that somebody’s read my mind. Besides that, it seems like you had to have read somebody’s mind to come crashing in like that just before … whatever. But that’s impossible. You know it. I know it. So explain: what really happened? It wasn’t mind-reading.”

    Leon raised a hand to sweep a lock of that beautiful (now muddy and matted) surfer hair away from his eyes. He hesitated then plunged in.

    “You’re right. It wasn’t mind reading. Although in a way, it was … is mind reading. Did you … um … did you have a window open this morning? Did you notice any bugs in your house? I mean flying bugs? Mosquitos. Flies. Butterflies?”

    Jan gave a start on that last word but kept his mouth shut.

    Tansy growled impatiently, “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “It has to do with the Schmetterling-Mk.XIV Monarch micro-drone. That’s a butterfly. Which can watch and record you — and probably did, since you’d already been indentified as a probable Disruptor. It has to do with the Napolitano 6.7F. That’s a housefly. Which is equipped to do chemical analysis and read tension, anger, and other moods. It has to do with the TSA-Mk.IV, which might also look like a plain household bug.”

    “Jesus! And you’re going to tell me these things are flying around my head reading my thoughts?”

    “No. They can’t do that. What they can do is recognize when a person who’s already ID’d as a Disruptor is giving off the chemical and behavioral signals of somebody about to spring into action. It might be something as small as an eye-twitch or a miniscule rise in your cortisol levels. It could be half a dozen things. But once these micro-drones download their data to the Homefront Security computers …”

    “I’m screwed. Okay. I get that. But how did you know???

    The muddy surfer’s lock fell forward again as Leon hung his head.

    “I’m … or I was … the Homefront Security agent in charge of monitoring you.”

    Tansy grabbed for Jan’s hoe as if to defend herself with it or chop Leon with its blade.

    “But …” Leon protested, flinging his arms up, “I’m on your side! I swear. Would I have warned you if I wasn’t?”

    Tansy paused. Her hands gripped the hoe, but so did Jan’s, as if he were prepared to fight her for possession of the only potential weapon between the three of them.

    “I swear,” Leon repeated weakly. “Tansy … I like you. A lot.”

    The murderous look slowly faded from Tansy’s face, to be replaced by confusion and questions. But for the moment, she simply could not deal with Leon. If he was an enemy, then she and Jan and Reynard were probably already dead. For the moment, she could do nothing about that.

    “So what about you?” she demanded, facing Jan over the hoe they both clutched.

    He stammered. “M … me? Miss Danner. I’m … I’m simply somebody who understands patterns. When the ‘utility company’ came down the street painting symbols in front of our houses, I recognized some of their meanings.”


    “Oh. Of course. You didn’t have time to see. But shortly before the sirens came, that’s what they did. People who looked as if they were from the utility company but weren’t painted symbols on the street.”

    “What kind of symbols?”

    “Oh … squares and waves and circles. Mostly the symbols themselves meant little, but the pattern of the symbols was very telling.”

    “So what are you saying? Like, they painted the John Galt dollar sign on my doorstep or something?”

    Jan felt frustrated. He knew from experience that what was obvious to him would remain opaque to normal people no matter how carefully he tried to explain it. So he just shrugged: “No, nothing so plain, Miss Danner. But you could say your house was surrounded by a large, graphical hangman’s noose.”

  52. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 23, 2013 12:25 pm

    Oh cool! That’s great Claire… I couldn’t figure out how to put in the “explanation” among the frantic action. πŸ™‚ They could say that while standing in the woods waiting for Reynard to come back.

  53. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 23, 2013 12:34 pm

    Oh, I went back and read some of the earlier stuff. Guess your part here, Claire, belongs just after they all got to the mill.

    Yes indeedy, it’s going to get very tricky to keep track of the plots. LOL

  54. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 12:36 pm

    Is it time to monkey wrench? All the characters are just about in the same spot. Can the drones be turned? Can the troops approaching be turned? Can the strike begin? Looks like we might have a little love action going, is it time for some happily ever after?

  55. Pat
    Pat March 23, 2013 1:42 pm

    No, Mark has to clarify his position first, and get himself in a place where he can help – or hinder? – them.

    This is great, guys. I can’t think or write fast enough to keep up (have already tried twice and got left behind), but this would make a fantastic story climaxing in success on several freedomista levels. Keep going, please.

  56. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 2:08 pm

    I’ll throw out a tragic ending here. I’m sure people can come up with something else a little, err, lighter.

    Mark saw the whole thing unfold from his hiding place under the bushes that grew up on the hill above the pond. Other than throwing up his breakfast in raw retching heaves, and sobbing from time to time, he was quiet as a mouse. He could feel the heat from the fire way up here, and when the wind shifted; the smell. He retched again, but there was nothing to come up.

    His elderly neighbor had been marched off in handcuffs, and strapped into something like a dentist’s chair that was bolted to the floor of the waiting van. Mark saw men in white coats converge on Jan, and the old man struggled against his bonds before the door was swung shut. Mark heard a muffled scream, and then there was quiet from the van, just the softly idling engine. Another man lay face down in the grass, hands cuffed and stretched behind his back where they were hog tied to his shackled ankles. A trickle of blood leaked out behind his ear.

    Two men separated from the group that was watching the fire. One had arrived in the helicopter just moments before, the other had been shouting orders throughout the operation. The two men climbed up on the hill to escape the heat of the fire, coming to with in fifteen meters of Mark’s hiding place. Mark heard every word.

    “Well done, Commander.” Helicopter Man slapped the younger man on the back. He gestured at the van where Jan had been taken with his chin. “You secured the objective!” He then turned his attention to the bound man on the grass. “And you’ve given me a very fine bonus, as well”

    “He has no ID, sir, and his chip’s been removed- there’s scarring. He says his name is Reynard…”

    Helicopter man cut him off. “I’m not surprised. His kind thinks that shedding the chip will set them free.”

    “Yes sir, I’ve seen the graffiti.”

    “And his name is not Reynard. That’s an alias he’s used once too often. He’ll ride back in the helicopter with me, I’ve been looking forward to a chat with that one.”

    “Yes sir.” The younger man motioned to two of the idle soldiers who trotted up the hill. “Take that one to the chopper.” The two burly men hoisted the unconscious man between them and dragged him away.

    “Any Intel recovered?”


    “Any papers? Any flash drives? Books, tapes, anything like that?”

    Mark saw the younger man slyly move his left hand, the hand away from the Helicopter Man into his rear pocket and slip an object out and let it fall to the ground. It looked like a paper back book.

    “Ah, no sir. There wasn’t time to search them.”

    “Resistance? Threat Mitigation?”

    “We followed the U.N. Protocols, sir.”

    “Good, very good. You didn’t call for reinforcements.” It was a statement, not a question. “I like that, shows gumption, initiative, and an awareness that too many cooks can spoil the broth.”


    “Simple reports, right Commander? Not too many witnesses to muck things up.”

    “Just my men sir. The locals didn’t come out.” The younger man glanced around as if he still couldn’t believe the lack of on-lookers. “Thankfully,” he added.

    “They never do, Commander. They never do. We’re all thankful for that, believe me!” Both men watched as a main beam fell into the glowing coals. “Let your Number One take over here, you can ride back in the chopper with me. You might learn a thing or two about interrogation.”

    Mark watched them walk down the hill together. Helicopter man talking to the younger man on the way. He couldn’t hear what was said then because the helicopter had begun to spool up. They hopped in and the door slid shut. Instantly the craft jumped into the air, did a three hundred and sixty degree turn, and then flew directly over Mark’s hiding place in a howling rush. The prop wash fluttered the pages of a book laying in the grass. Mark noted the location for later. After everyone had gone. When it would be safe to come out again.

  57. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 2:15 pm

    and an epilogue:

    A single Monarch butterfly flew through the darkness, circling the glowing remains as if it were a moth, instead. Soon its energy cell would need recharge, but until then it was still on mission. It had recorded a single human finger walk down the hill. The human had stopped and picked up an object. It was all recorded and saved. It was in the files.

  58. puptent
    puptent March 23, 2013 4:19 pm

    uh, I mean figure, not finger. Have to edit better…

  59. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 24, 2013 6:54 am

    Well, that’s no fun. Why end the story there? πŸ™

  60. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember March 24, 2013 8:56 am

    … Mark reached down and picked up the book as he thought about how this all started five days ago when he walked outside to go for a walk around tadpole pond. He remembered how he was blinded by the sunshine, he had trouble adjusting to the brightness, that’s why he didn’t notice the row of trucks to his right as he put his head down and put a hand over his eyes shielding him from the Sun as he walked to the left and around his house towards the path to the pond.

    Looking back on it, he was very glad he grabbed the old .357 magnum revolver. He’d only recently been trying to carry it everywhere he went. He let out a breath while rubbing his eyes and thinking about how close he’d come to leaving it behind that morning.

  61. jed
    jed March 24, 2013 10:48 am

    ML: That’s just one alternate universe. I’ve been chasing around some ideas which involve channeling Terry Gilliam, which would be fun, but not very Randian, or Claireian either. But it’ll end after a week, when comments close, for sure. Terry Gilliam was responsible for, among other things, Brazil.

  62. Claire
    Claire March 24, 2013 11:30 am

    jed — Hey, who cares if it’s Randian or Claireian? As long as it keeps moving in a provocative/entertaining direction.

    I forgot about comments automatically closing! I recently extended that from a week to 10 days. I wish I could set it for the individual posts, but it’s a one-size-fits-all feature. What I can do, if the story keeps moving, is write a new post in a week or so for the express purpose of being an extended comment/story thread.

  63. puptent
    puptent March 24, 2013 11:40 am

    This is the ending that I thought of first:

    The fugitives huddled together in the mud, chilled by more than the cold spring wind whistling through the cracks of the old mill. Reynard stood guard, armed and ready.

    “Someone’s coming,” he said. Jan groaned and closed his eyes. “He’s alone.”

    Reynard shifted his position and covered the small opening all of them had entered through with his rifle. A small hissing sound entered the hiding place, and then:

    “I’m a friend”

    “Come on in ‘friend’, hands over your head, feet first.” Reynard moved again so that he could grab the newcomer as soon as he entered the dark space. He handed the rifle to Leon with a nod that Leon quickly returned. A moment later Mark knelt in the mud, fingers laced behind his head.

    “I know you,” said Tansy. “You’re the neighbor that spies on people from his window.”

    Mark flushed beet red. “Ah, I surveil. That’s Latin for ‘watch over’.”

    “YOUR POSITION IS SURROUNDED! THROW OUT ANY WEAPONS THAT YOU HAVE AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR” The amplified voice seemed to vibrate the very air, dust motes swam in the random spears of light.

    “For them?” Reynard waved in the general direction of outside.

    “No,” said Leon, “He’s been watching me. Isn’t that right, Mark?”

    “You’ve been on our radar, sure, and so has she.” Mark nodded at Tansy. “Reynard and I have mutual friends, but Reynard and I have never met.” Reynard’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Jan is the one I’ve been specifically tasked with watching over.”

    “Who are you?” Tansy demanded.

    “For now it will just have to be, ‘friend’. There’s not time enough to explain the whole thing. But it will be… Explained, that is.”

    “WE HAVE AUTHORITY UNDER U.N. PROTOCOLS TO USE FORCE AS NECESSARY!” The amplified voice paused for a breath, “YOU ARE WANTED FOR QUESTIONING UNDER DIRECTIVE OF THE ASSISTANT DEPUTY DIRECTOR…. REGION VI.” There seemed to be a little confusion of the other side of the microphone. Unintelligible and mumbled voices could be heard conferring through the loudspeaker. Suddenly, when it was realized the mic was still open, there was silence.

    “Who?” Demanded Reynard. “Who do we have as ‘friends’ in common?”

    “Let me tell you where, and then who.?”


    “Rye, Colorado, and I think now you should know the who: Cheetah.”

    Tansy gasped. Reynard visibly relaxed. Leon looked around the room in the darkened space studying each face in turn. Mark waited on his knees in the mud, fingers still laced behind his head. Jan closed his eyes and seemed to be in a trance, he started in a whisper: “The cheetah, which is the fastest, will catch the snake, which is slowest. Dawn follows dark. Might does not make right.”

    “Jan, are you alright?” Tansy asked gently.

    “It takes three rights to make a left,” Jan answered. And then silently moved his lips as if in prayer.

    “OK,” said Reynard, “at ease.”

    Mark slowly lowered his hands. “It is vitally important two of the people here get back to Rye,” said Mark. “That was my mission, or rather, part of my mission. There was to be an extraction team to make the actual move, but all of this excitement,” Mark waved his arm in an arc indicating the forces arrayed against them outside, “Has caused a change in plans.”

    “Tansy and Jan,” stated Reynard, the answer to the unasked question.

    “Yes,” said Mark, “Tansy and Jan.”

    “When you said, Cheetah,” began Tansy, “were you talking about my…”

    “Time for those explanations later, Tansy,” Mark said as he got to his feet and crouched/ duck walked to one of the wider cracks that gave a view of the outside. “First, there’s the question of that damned little drone out there; looks like a butterfly.”

    The racking of a pump shotgun and the sudden loud explosion of a shot jolted everyone. Out side, a shower of tiny metallic bits hovered in the air where just a moment before a butterfly had hovered. The pieces fell to the ground like shiny snow. At a small opening where a coal chute might have once been stood a grinning Jan. “Ashes to ashes,” he said, as he lowered the smoking Remington.

    As the ringing in their ears began to subside another sound from outside began to permeate their brains. It was a chanting sound, something like a thousand voices, maybe more, joined together simultaneously chanting. After a while their damaged ears were able to discern: “Set them free! Let them GOOOooo!” over and over. The sound grew louder as if the chanting army was marching towards them.

    “OK, It’s time to go,” insisted Mark. “We’ve got a coal train to catch that will take us all the way to Pueblo.”

    “My aunt lived in Pueblo…” Tansy wondered aloud.

    “Leon and I will stay and cover…” Reynard began but Mark cut him off.

    “NO! We all go together.” Marked pointed to the approaching mob, who’ s chanting had only grown louder. “I think that’s a diversion provided by the extraction team. We are not going to waste their sacrifice.” As if to punctuate Mark’s words, the first sounds of gunfire could be heard in the distance. “Let’s get going!” he shouted. “Reynard, you bring up the rear, but don’t dawdle!” Reynard nodded “Tansy and Leon you help Jan, And everybody stay close to me. It isn’t an easy trial to the tracks, and we definitely don’t want to miss this train!”

    The group snaked through the small opening and belly crawled through the tall grass and down into a brush covered draw that zig-zagged back up the hill. Tansy thought about what she was leaving behind. And she thought about where she was going; Pueblo, Colorado and Rye… There was a steel mill in Pueblo, she remembered it from her childhood visits to her Aunt Charlene’s big Victorian house. The men from the mill called her, Charley, or Cheetah, and seemed quite at ease with her. Behind her was the sounds of a chaotic confrontation of mob and police. Off in the distance she could hear the blasts of an air horn signalling the approach of a big train. Soon, she knew, she would begin a new and big adventure, and so many of her questions would be answered, it would be a long train ride. She glanced at Leon and caught him looking at her. He blushed, she smiled. and Jan said, “Follow the yellow brick road!”

  64. puptent
    puptent March 24, 2013 12:06 pm

    Sorry, I’m always thinking about the ending. The last scene informs the first… Too bad I couldn’t get the ADDMDHRRBSWS-Region VI in the, wait… another epilogue……

    The Hot New Mexico sun beat down on the chain gang. This FEMA camp specialized in the production of gravel for rail bed construction pounded by hand from the hard Basalt. It was back breaking work. Brutal work. Most sent here by the Human Resources Redirection Bureau didn’t survive eighteen months. The eight pound hammers arced up and then came down, ringing against the nearly invincible stone. Chips flew. Flies buzzed.

    “Hey!” shouted the screw, swinging the stun baton up to threaten, “Get to work! I don’t care who you think you were, but here you’re nothing! NOTHING!” The screw split his face in that grin that often signaled something bad coming, his bad teeth and sickly gums exposed to the world. A dribble of tobacco juice ran down his chin from the corner of his mouth. Hit spit a big brown glob at the nearest of the prisoners. “Unless you’d like to go back to the Corner Office?”

    The prisoner in question, who had once been something but was now nothing, picked up his pace. His wrecked hands leaving crimson blood trails on the hickory handle of the eight pound hammer. With every blow against the rock it seemed another chip flew up and into his eye. His lungs ached with accumulated rock dust. But still, that wasn’t as bad as a couple of days in the tiny galvanized tin box that had come to be known as the, ‘Corner Office’ since his arrival. Funny, he thought, as he swung away under the New Mexico sun, he’d once thought his title important, and impressive. Hmmm, maybe he was on the road to being cured…

  65. puptent
    puptent March 24, 2013 12:35 pm

    There’s no reason to accept my endings, or to stop with the story. They were just there. I used to print out what I’m was working on (a lot of that is on tractor paper and dot matrix printed. Wow! I’m old!) and use a paper cutter to slice the whole thing into paragraphs. A friend, knowing this is something that I did, gave me a gift of little magnetic words and letters for the refrigerator. The first day that I participated in this story, I spelled out:

    Surrender Dorothy

    After you work your way through Ayn Rand, Frank Baum gives us a different allegory of the same subject (‘though maybe not so clear). Oh, and BTW, can someone help me identify a book that I read ages ago? In the Pacific North West is a community that has built a wall around their holding. They live with only a few simple rules, as I remember, concerning the point of adulthood and contracts. I know that I have this somewhere in a box, but I don’t know what I’m looking for. (I moved here with a loaded semi-trailer seven years ago {sometimes it’s good to have a truck} but have not finished the unpacking process. That might also prove to be a “fun” discussion…) There’s other books I’ve read and can’t find again, but maybe I’ll start a thread on that subject.

    I’ve had so much fun with this, I can’t begin to express my thanks. I actually feel renewed. Who knows, I might even be inspired to finish one of my own projects (lol). Now it’s time for re-write and editing, yechh

  66. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 24, 2013 3:46 pm

    At The Mental Militia:
    There is a whole section called “Writer’s Block” where anyone can post their stories, in part or in whole. It would be possible to convey this story there to be continued as we wish, no time limit. Anyone can start any other story line they wish and invite others to contribute as well.

    Look here:

    Several of my stories are there too.

  67. puptent
    puptent March 25, 2013 4:48 am

    We’re not done here, people!

    It was the lack of motion that woke her. She pulled Reynard’s blanket away from her face. It was dark. The air was warmer, but not yet comfortable. She lifted her head from Leon’s shoulder, and rubbing her eyes asked, “Where are we?”

    “Mark says Iowa. Jan who’s been counting telephone poles, or something, says we’ve traveled about three hundred miles.” Leon subtly worked at the kink in his shoulder, the shoulder he had dared not move a millimeter for the last three hundred miles.

    “What’s going on?”

    “We’re on a siding waiting for an Eastbound to pass, it’s still an hour or so away, according to Mark. He and Jan are on guard duty while Reynard gets cleaned up and fed in a farmhouse not far from here.” Leon answered her raised eyebrows with, “They’re ‘Friends” of Mark’s. We’re taking turns getting cleaned up and they’re feeding us. I think it’s fried chicken and potato salad, or that’s what we’re leaving with, can’t remember.”

    Tansy looked down at her wrecked clothes, the mud had dried, cracked, and broken off leaving behind ugly stains and objectionable smells. “A bath and clean clothes would be nice.”

    “Here comes Reynard now.” Leon pointed into the darkness with his mobile arm. He’d wait until she was gone to work out all of the kinks in her pillow. “He’ll take you to the farmhouse, then relieve Mark, or Jan. One of them will be here when I get back.”

    “You’re last?”

    “Well, you were still sleeping, and I volunteered.”

    She liked what she was learning about Leon. Reynard held out his hand to help her down from the small platform under the sloped end of the coal car.

    “Here,” Reynard held out a woven elastic sleeve. “Put this on your chip arm any time you’re out from under cover. Satellites.”

    She nodded and pulled the sleeve over her left forearm. Reynard, she noticed, had his sleeve on his right forearm. Not for the first time, she wondered why the installation of the chip wasn’t more uniform. With a glance back at Leon, and a little smile, she stepped down to the ground and slipped into the darkness on Reynard’s arm.

    “She’s quite a girl.” Jan’s voice from the other side of the tracks surprised Leon, but he recovered quickly. Of course they’d be watching him, especially with Tansy, he wasn’t completely trusted. And Jan seemed to be more relaxed, more observant and ‘normal’ the farther away they got from the city.

    “Yes.” Leon smiled softly, “Yes, she is.”

    “One more stop in Grand Island. They’ll make up a new train there, Mark says, so we’ll have to be careful. But, there are friends waiting for us there, too.”

    “Jan, how are you feeling? You seem so, I don’t know, different?”

    “I can’t explain it, but I feel so much better since we left. Mark thinks some kind of RF…” Jan shrugged. The two men reflected in silence until Reynard came back from taking Tansy to the farm house. “But my thoughts seem to be locked into symbolism still. You say something and I see a scene from a movie, or a geometric shape. Only later do words come. It’s odd.”

    Reynard climbed onto the little platform, handed Leon a sleeve. “You know the way?” Leon nodded. “You can walk her back.” Leon hopped down, adjusted the sleeve, and strode into the darkness, rolling his right shoulder as he walked. Reynard smiled at Jan. After a brief moment, Jan smiled back.

  68. Claire
    Claire March 25, 2013 7:50 am

    puptent — Man, you are prolific! And taking the story in ways I certainly would never have imagined.

    Me, I’ve totally lost track of the plot now and will probably just bystand.

    If anybody wants to take it over to the Mental Militia’s Writer’s Block (thanks, MamaLiberty), just say the word. Or heck, just do it. I can’t imagine any of the contributors objecting as long as they’re credited by nym.

  69. puptent
    puptent March 25, 2013 6:19 pm

    Claire, this used to happen to me all the time. Lately, not so much… I’ve tried to include everyone that’s been mentioned so far. I’m hoping our little band can rescue Tansy’s mother and sister from the FEMA camp (I’ve even sent a gov’t agent ahead…” My security software doesn’t seem to like mentalmilitia, I’ll investigate more. I’ll le3ave you tonight with two little plot twist chapters that might keep people hanging…

    I want to get this to the finish line, so I hope there’s time before comments close… if not I WILL KNOW what happens (lol)

  70. puptent
    puptent March 25, 2013 6:42 pm

    A respectful knock at the door answered by a gruff, “Enter.”

    The Assistant Executive Secretary, a Northwestern man, stuck his well groomed head through the slightly open door. “Sir, you asked to be kept informed on the activities of a particular agent.”

    “Yes I did, Tom.” It was Scott, but he could be Tom for awhile, or Bill. “Do you have something?”

    “Yes, sir. He was picked up on a GPS Sat last night.”

    “Come in, Tom. Close the door.” The Assistant Director seemed calm enough. “What do you have for me?”

    “Well,” Tom/Scott checked his tablet. “He pinged a GPS Sat between oh oh fifteen and oh oh fifty.”


    “Somewhere within a seven hundred fifty kilometer circle, sir. It was what they call a ‘handshake’. It’s something in the software that tries to re-establish after a break.”

    “So no down load, either?”

    “No sir.”

    “Hmmm. So where in the world do they think he is?”

    “Best guess is Iowa, sir.” the Secretary moved his fingers across the screen of the tablet. “Analysis suggests that he was in the open approximately the length of time it would take a healthy man walking on level ground to cover about a kilometer, maybe a little less.”

    “Very good, Tom. I want you to put a Go Team on alert. and then I want you to send all pertinent files here to my desk, and also the corner conference room. And then assemble a Locate and Interdict team to assemble in that same conference room in, oh, let’s say half an hour.”

    “Yes, sir. Is there anything else?”

    “As a matter of fact, there is.” The Assistant Director drummed his fingers on the polished surface of his desk. “The On-site Commander from yesterday…”

    “He’s on a three day leave, sir. Do you want him recalled?”

    “Hell, no.” The drumming stopped. “I want you to send him to the backside of nowhere. Pick out some place that you’ve never heard of, Tom, and have him posted there. Box his desk and ship it ahead.” The fingers that had been drumming now made a flicking motion. “That is all.”

    The door snicked closed just like a well built door should. Either Leon was going into deep cover and this was his first chance to expose a location. Or, it’s possible the idiot didn’t know he carried multiple chips and a data recorder.

  71. puptent
    puptent March 25, 2013 6:50 pm

    If you looked up the word, farmwife in the dictionary, this woman’s picture would be next to the definition. She eyed Leon.

    “So, you the last one?’


    “You were the agent?”

    What the hell? “I was, yes. But not now.”

    “Resigned, huh?”

    “Well, yes, sort of, I guess.”

    “Well then, darlin’, strip to the middle from both ends.”


    “And now, too.” She picked up an electronics detector wand. “We’re going to go chip hunting, honey. And I’ll even bet you’ve got a data recorder hidden away somewhere.”

    “What? That’s just craz…” The wand started to beep as she passed it over his right arm. The arm that didn’t have a chip. They both listened, he with amazement, she with smug knowledge.

    “Ain’t my first rodeo, ya know. Been to the dentist in the last five years?”

    “Root canal couple of years ago, why?”

    “Uh-huh,” she nodded at his shirt buttons. “Drop that linen, sweetcakes, NOW!”

  72. Laird
    Laird March 27, 2013 8:54 am

    What, have you all run out of ideas? I’m waiting for the next installment!

  73. puptent
    puptent March 30, 2013 6:52 pm

    15 hour work days give a guy time to think…

    The satellite photo didn’t show much detail. Shapes that were trees, creeks, pond, roads, could be picked out, but the rest could only be guessed at.

    “Let’s zoom this in, can we? And, damn it, get it focused.” Wasn’t hard to figure out who was in charge. “Who’s the Cartographer here?”

    “Jenkins, sir,” a mild voice came out of the darkness.

    “OK, Jenkins, what are we looking at, here.”

    “Ah, well sir, I can’t give you a location to the nearest meter from simple observation, but it appears to be rural country side in the North East corner of Iowa. The river that you see here,” a red laser pointer jumped up to wiggle along a sinuous dark line, “Is a Mississippi tributary, could be one of two or three.” The laser pointer moved to pick a a North/South line. “This is a county road, paved, but still very much a secondary route. And this East and West line is a rail ro…”

    “Rail?” The Man In Charge nearly shouted. “These people are crazy for trains. Where does it go?”

    “Can we zoom out again?” The photo fell away as if viewed from a rocket ship. “That’s good.” The laser pointer followed the rail line from Iowa across Nebraska. “We’ll cross the Platte a couple of times here, and then this is Grand Island, and here is North Platte. North Platte is a major rail point for staging trains, and for maintenance.”

    “I’ll wager everything I own that they’re headed there. I want intercept teams in the air in ten. And get the damned rail road operations on the line, I want the CEO. Wait, is it a private rail road?”

    “Nationalized a decade or so ago,” offered Jenkins, the Cartographer.

    “Even better. Get a hold of DOT and stop that train!”

    “Jefferson here, sir. National Department of Transportation Liaison to Region VI Law Enforcement.”

    “I don’t want bad news, Jefferson.” The voice of command spoke.

    “Yes, sir. While we can’t stop the train because of schedules and signaling issues, it’s not traveling very fast now. That section of rail will run along the river and we’ve had some maintenance issues there.” There was a little throat clearing and fidgeting, “But we could probably stop it in the yard at North Platte, which would be the best location for a tactical take down.”


    “Well,” The liaison seemed to be searching for the right words. “The facility is private, sir. We own the train and the track, but the facility is a contract situation.”

    “I don’t care who owns it, we roll our teams in there! Now!”

    The liaison wisely chose not to answer. The problem wasn’t that the North Platte facility was privately owned. The problem was with who owned it.

  74. puptent
    puptent March 30, 2013 7:43 pm

    “I don’t know how I could have been so stupid!” Leon massaged his aching jaw where not long ago a data recorder and transmitter had been disguised as quality dental work.

    “I should have suspected a back up,” said Reynard, “But I didn’t know either. And I didn’t think about the data recorder.” Both men were glum with failure.

    “How many chips, Leon?” Tansy massaged his shoulders in a vain attempt to render some relaxation.

    “One in each arm, left foot, and, uh, the groinal area.” No matter how many times the men heard the report, they winced at the mention of the ‘groinal area’, even Jan.

    “The important thing, is we have a plan.” Mark spoke as if thinking out loud. “If they had a good fix on Leon, they would have choppered in an assault team, or just popped us with a drone. We can assume that they have an idea about where we’re headed, and will set something up for us down the line. But where?” The dark landscape seemed to be sliding by slower, and the rhythm of the rails had gone down tempo.

    “We’re slowing down.” Tansy gave voice to their thoughts.

    “Not yet,” said Jan, calm, confident. “This isn’t them coming, this is something else. Scheduled, maybe.”

    Leon had his head out in the wind stream, checking sky, checking the track side. There were no lights. No sounds. “I think he’s right. This is something else. Maybe they’re switching track again.”

    “Well, then,” Reynard said to Jan, “If we stop are you ready to go?”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” answered Jan.

    “And the rest of you,” Reynard asked, “You know the plan? You know your roles?”

    The answers came back one by one, ” sure” “Yes” “I think so”

    “Let’s go through it one more time, anyway. We have a little time,” Reynard suggested. The others groaned, but complied.

    Leon began, “My captives over came me where we stopped. I was assaulted and my electronics were removed against my will.”

    “But because of his training,” Tansy continued, “He was able to regain the upper hand on Mark and myself after Reynard and Jan escaped at the farm house.”

    “OK, OK,” Reynard said. “I was hoping for more detail.”

    “We’re just tired.” Tansy yawned to emphasize her point.

    “What about you?” Leon demanded of Reynard.

    Jan answered for him, “Don’t worry about The Fox, young man. He’ll be in the hen house soon enough!”

    The train bumped to a stop. Jan slid off the little platform into the darkness, Reynard slid down behind him. “Don’t lose my shotgun,” he said, and then they were gone.

    “The shotgun will be the first thing they take,” Leon whispered. “What’s he talking about?”

    “The plan,” said Tansy. “Just follow the plan.

  75. puptent
    puptent March 30, 2013 7:56 pm

    “Luke,” The dispatcher clattered down the wooden stairs of the control tower and stood next to the General Manager. “There’s a group of helicopters coming in, claim to be FEMA Region VI. They want permission to land.”

    “They give a reason?” Luke was studying the wiring layout under the hood of a late model pick-up truck. The technology was a mystery, and the troublesome truck was keeping him from a late supper or early breakfast.

    “Nope. Just kinda informed me they was coming in.”

    “OK,” Luke gave up on any thoughts of the cafe, slammed the hood down. “Get Tommy on this piece of crap first thing.” Luke waved at the recalcitrant pick up. “And tell the Feds that without a real good reason they’re not landing on Taggart property!” Luke started walking to his little office trailer, slapping his hands together, dusting them off. “And let me know when the roach coach gets here for the midnight crew,” he said over his shoulder. “I’ve got reports to finish.”

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