The Hurricane that Burned Down Texas
The story begins
The Solid Dollar/ Properties/ Bludworthies
Exchange of Properties/ going solo/ Bank discs
At the Box/ rail cartage/ electricity/ Cheneen
That morning at the Box/ Cokes/ Property Law
The Easy Mark/ The copper coupon/ Astrologers
Lung and Gold/ free monitor announcements
Autistics/ risk from Liam's trade
Bobber was raider/ methane lung/ die-offs/ genetics
Autistics and Readers/ the hive mentality
Bobber's father/ Bobber joins the raiders
Electricity and monitors/ Inside the raider group
The last raid
End of raiding for Bobber
That was the end of raiding and raiders
Liam fought in last Arkansas lithium wars
Bankers fold up a nifty plan
Lithium war ends/ Fighters violate the Oath
    Next page
Banks stop taking gold/ The Solid Dollar takes over
End of Hoarders and Astrologers
Gold threatens revenge
Walking through the door
Bobber takes the Box
Gold Town
Going east coast
Red Lake/ oil and gas/ nuclear power/ making crystals
Plants change/ Leatherleaf
Red Lake monster
Bobber finds his family/ The uncle story
Storm and fire/ Texas burns down
The GE crystal
Plan to sell the crystal
Girlfriend Cheneen
After the hurricane
Cartage men search for survivors
The Queen is announced/ She will visit Texas
Men return from across the lake
Gold Town booms
Gold Boss and Bank Boss/ The Big Gold Leaders arrive
Gold trap is laid/ Medical building is built
Bobber discovers the Queen/ Forest City/ JoRR/ Line Readers
Bobber decides to go to New Galveston
Bobber meets Windrock/ The Reader
Bank Boss moves to Red Lake/ New Leaders emerge
RobbieB gains Property rights to Cheneen
New Galveston and the Big Thriller
Finish business before New Galveston
Line dancing/ Fight in the street
Windrock and the Runaway Propery report
Problem with the crystal
Liam gets caught
Bobber shows the Property contract to Cheneen
Liam reclaims the crystal
Gold Towns gets a-con chillers
Red Lake Medical School/ MissTea/ Monitors-mini
Monitors-mini/ The big plan for women/ LeoJ is free
Windrock and Bobber
Liam makes the trade/ Gold Town raid is coming
Men go into burned out Texas
Explosive Leatherleaf
Survivors are found*
Gold Town gets raided/ Gold Leaders get the tour
No more Gold Town

Bankers take the lithium mines*

The story begins
Contents  Next chapter

10 AM and already another scorching day in Texas.
The Red Cedars looked thin and dry.

Liam arrived at the Trade box with his 3 children: OlderBoy, SmallBoy, and their sister, young Property. She was laughing at the grasshopper that escaped her reach.
Liam was an old Lithium fighter

The young ones waited outside.
Liam and the older son entered and stood near the counter.

Bobber greeted them, setting out glasses of fresh juice.
It was a good change. The old Box owner treated people like a rasp.

More members of Liam’s clan approached from Red Lake 100 yards away.
They arrived in two boats from the other side.
The crossing was easy that day. Not much wind. That was strange.
They hadn’t seen Liam or the children for months.
Bobber, the Trade Box owner, was a non-descript man.
Not overly sociable, but well liked.
In the back room was LeoJ. Security monitors showed the view outside. He cast a wary eye at the new arrivals.
The Trade Box had no windows.
Several monitors hung outside to attract customers. More monitors hung inside, and more sat on the counter.
Some monitors scrolled through trade goods, while other monitors showed announcements and news arriving from elsewhere.
Outside, a few people sat around in chairs under a tree watching free announcements.
The sun was driving everybody indoors or back to the field to check irrigation lines.
Unlike most older Trade Boxes, there was no glass barrier between customer and seller.
It was the new ‘open-way’ of business.
The Trade Box was made of thick wood walls, with reinforced mesh, covered by a screed of Indian-asphalt to keep out dust.
Inside were tall ceilings. Several light bulbs illuminated the room. The a-con chiller drafted cool air across the room. It felt good.
Concealed behind the raised wood counter was a metal plate to stop shells.
It was the last defense left over from original construction. Other protections were removed when Bobber took over.
Times were better, but the old ways still lurked among men.
Behind Bobber was a multi-layered wood wall. A low door opened into the back room where records and trade goods were stored.
LeoJ sat back there each day. He handled transactions, ensuring that each account was correctly registered on the trade disc.

Things were open in front where Bobber stood. His easy manner made people feel welcome.
Hardly disguising the new open-way, people knew they were not entering the back room without a fight. Only Bobber and LeoJ handled the goods.
People could make transactions on the monitor, or negotiate directly with Bobber.
All trades and records were now protected by the Solid Dollar.

Three years ago, LeoJ was working in the back room when local raiders crashed in the front and killed RJ and Little-J.
A few days after RJ died, Bobber walked in and started running the Box.
Didn’t cost him a thing.  He just took over.

RJ stayed alive three days and wanted his son to run the Box.
His son was fearful.
After that, if RJ’s son wanted the Trade Box, he would have to square with Bobber.
The goods were gone.
So what’s worth squaring up?
It was just an old Trade Box, not worth getting killed trying to collect from Bobber.
Bobber was a raider.
A lot of men came from raiding, and everybody knew you didn’t ask.
When the raiders struck the Box, LeoJ ran out the secret back door and just missed getting killed. Of course the secret door wasn’t secret after that.
Bobber hid the door in a new location, but it was a local game trying to figure out where he put it.
Bobber lived in the room above the Trade Box. Two stairways led up to the second floor: one on the outside. And the other a spiral stair from the back room where Bobber came and went without notice.

The raiders shot at LeoJ all the way down to Red Lake where he dove into the red-brown water and swam under the crossing boats. Lost one shoe. Somebody found it later and sold it back to him.
After Bobber took over, he let everybody know it was different.
It was the open-way.

A few days later, LeoJ came back around.
LeoJ walked in, Bobber nodded. LeoJ went back to work. That was it.
They became trusted friends.
Together they changed things.
They took down the glass barriers, sold the glass, and covered the gun ports.
That didn’t just make sense with so much violence.
Bobber knew that people didn’t like how RJ did business, running gold and making false claims.
The new open-way was different because it gave people a choice.
They could openly kill Bobber, if they got off the shot.
Of course guns weren’t allowed inside the Box.
But the open-way was more.
It meant the owner was going to deal fair.
Then Bobber added new monitors-worldwide.
The Banks had two types of monitors-worldwide, both controlled by the bank. Pay monitors for making transactions, and free monitors that carried news and announcements. The monitors-wordwide were bigger and faster than the old gold monitors that hung at the Box before.

Using the monitor-worldwide, people could see the goods and view records from everywhere without breaking in.
For a small credit, people could use the monitor to contact family members they hadn’t seen for years. It was amazing.
The old monitors showed nothing like that.
Bobber brought in the Solid Dollar.
People stood back.
They traded with gold all their lives. Suddenly gold wasn’t accepted.

The Solid Dollar was about buying and selling on credit; Different from gold where prices changed throughout the day.
The new Solid Dollar offered fair and stable pricing.
People wanted stability.
Bobber brought peace. People liked it.

Everybody wondered how Bobber did that, figuring he had hidden value from raiding, and important people behind it.
People thought Bobber scored big as a raider, but nobody knew.
Rumors flew that Bobber was favored by the Bludworthies.
Nobody asked.
Sure, Bobber scored a small bit as a raider, and hid value from his group.
But he was just another guy to the Bludworthies.
Truth was, Bobber showed up when the Box was available, and the Banks bet on him.

The Banks were determined to stop violence.

The Solid Dollar/ Properties/ Bludworthies
Contents     Previous/ The Story begins    Next 
It is important to know the value and make the trade, but every business needs something special. Bobber brought charm and experience.
He never intruded on people’s lives.
He intended to keep peace, same as the Bank.
Times were changing fast.
The Solid Dollar was in, and Gold was out.
The Solid Dollar brought eastern respect, and fear of the new Bludworthy reprisal.
Not the old reprisals when killing was done falsely under guise of the Bludworthy name, but it was just locals finishing a score and calling it justice.
The new Bludworthies were now under strict control.
The Bankers pushed up controls after they ousted gold.
Believe it..  when the Bludworthies were sent out to collect, the men would arrive from all directions.
You knew for a fact. They were in town.
They told you who they were looking for.
And people were happy to see them. Yes sir, you can lodge for free. How about a bowl of soup? When are you leaving?
Yes, very straightforward.
Nobody survived if the Bludworthies started hunting your family.
The new-improved reprisals were necessary to stop the raiding and violence.
Most Bloodworthies were former raiders anyway, with new opportunity to ply seasoned skills.
Bringing in the Solid Dollar meant the Bludworthy reprisal applied to all ownership in the Trade Box.
The Solid Dollar was guarantee that trade would be fair. And each trade was backed by reprisal.
When the big banks backed Bobber with the Solid Dollar, then that was different.
Removing the glass and gun ports made sense.
People knew it…  they had to come get it.
The Solid Dollar brought more.
People saw what Bobber did.
Families started moving into Red Lake, and suddenly the place had a name.
Red Lake had grown into a community with all make of people’s wants and needs. Mostly people wanted a family, and they needed peace. Things were better.
Properties began appearing as men brought their women and daughters into the community.
Properties felt safe to walk around during the day.
Unlike out in the countryside, where Properties were forbade to leave boundaries for fear they would be stolen or held for payment.
Women had to keep faces covered. They would rarely go out alone. They travelled in twos or threes. Many escorted by a male relative.
Kidnappings of children and women declined after the face covering laws passed centuries before.
The starvations and terror times brought forth ownership of women after they became sole trade good for most families.
Property laws stabilized families, and after age 6, each girl covered her face and was considered a trade good. A Property.
Trading Property could make families a fortune or cause misery if nobody chose that girl as breeding stock or bride.

Exchange of properties/ going solo/ and Bank discs
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When families agreed to exchange for Property, then certain obligations had to be met by both sides.
If you went solo, then the agreement was between the two parties.
It cost nothing to go solo, but nobody could verify the claim.
Going solo was risky. It caused claims and cross claims and rumors that led to violence. Especially if the Property rejected her new family or rejected the mate.
False petitions were common and demands for reprisal were made to the highest bidder.
Wealthy families used threats of false claim to force advantage against others.
Solo exchange fell into disfavor after people discovered Bobber’s Trade Box could write and enforce Property contracts for a small fee.

Bobber and the Solid Dollar made things easy.
For a price, families could now exchange Properties knowing the agreement would be handled correctly.
Bobber and LeoJ wrote Property contracts that represented the new open-way of fair dealing..

It became fashionable to include Property ‘returns.’
Returns of brides (and sometimes grooms) and returns of other female Properties had always been made, but family honor was at stake.
Adding return policies to the agreement made things right.
Nobody could falsely claim dirt against their name when the trade contract openly showed the agreement. For a small commission, anybody could look up the record, although few could read what it said.
Bobber kept a lively correspondence among people wanting to deal favorably with Property exchange.
Bobber’s Trade Box was a major trader and contract-writer for Property exchange.
All agreements for trade goods and Property exchange were registered right there, and originals sent to the big bank vaults.
The agreements were etched on metal discs that could withstand any counterfeit.
The disc was filled with one agreement, followed by another.

Trade registers and transactions and Property agreements were added in same order they arrived until the disk was full.
To counterfeit the disc meant whole accounts would have to be invented to fill the rest of the disk.

If someone chose to steal the disk, then there were duplicate disks stored at the bank.
Each disc held a revolving code that changed frequently. If a stolen disk showed a different code from the bank disk, then the theft was revealed.

In any event, the purpose of altering an account would be to make false claim.
False claims led to continual violence among aggrieved parties.

The Solid Dollar changed that, because each contract sold under the Solid Dollar was guaranteed correct.
And each transaction carried the Bludworthy reprisal.
That was the guarantee.
That’s the open-way.
For a price, people could buy a record that showed birth and death, identification prints, purchases and deed-rights.
You could cut down a tree and have it on record.
Then family members could see the record from anywhere by crediting a view on monitor-worldwide.  Larger exchanges and agreements cost more.
Each exchange made Bobber a commission.

At the Box/ rail cartage/ electricity/ eastern women/ Cheneen
Contents     Previous    Next 

LeoJ was at the Trade Box for a reason.
Protection. Reliability. Trust.
He was the eyes and ears watching the video monitors inside and out.
He was well-connected in the community and people passed information to him.

LeoJ made sure all transactions were put on information links and announcements to knowing parties who could bid on any good.
Cartage rail arrived to take out goods that were sold to buyers elsewhere, and bring in purchased goods.
Everything moved downrail on electric cartage.
Electricity was almost free since the nuclear addition was installed nearby.
Lithium batteries were still costly, but electricity to charge the battery was cheap.
Cartage men moved the original trade disks from the Box to the big bank vaults.
Etching proof of each disk remained available at the box for monitor viewing by anyone who paid the price.
Change always happens.
The monitors-worldwide were spreading the story.
Out east, women were rejecting Property law and refusing to cover their faces. And refusing to marry as sold by their fathers and brothers.
Women claimed that face covering was protecting rich people from being identified, and that Property laws should not apply to ordinary women.
Free monitor announcements carried video of women refusing to follow the Property laws.
It was outrageous. Some people shouted at the monitor. Others laughed.

The stories were very popular and always attracted a crowd. At night, chairs outside the Trade Box were filled with people clamoring to see free announcements.

Bobber sat up a juicer bar that served iced root, coke, teas, and scotch-oranges. The fruit juices were made locally. It was full food. Not strained through the sugar cane.
Men built a barbeque nearby. The small community was quite enjoyable.

That’s where Bobber met Cheneen one night. She came with her family. They locked eyes and never looked away.

Most retired early so they could work the irrigated fields before it got hot.
Cheneen and Bobber would slip away. She was six younger than him and wilder than a porcupine grabbed by the tail …  which was a position she and Bobber enjoyed heartily.
She was defiant of Property law but wore the face covering except when she and Bobber were alone. He liked her free spirit. Her womanly charms were turning Bobber into an old man, working all day and then half the night. Her family was indulgent of their daughter.
Sweet 16 Cheneen.

It’s true that young people can’t understand how important Property laws were for ending violence against women.
But the real concern was loss of benefit from Property exchange.
With so much commerce based on exchange of Properties, the east coast women were considered a threat to the entire system of trust.
Women were expected to do their part. People believed in Property laws. It is how things were done.

East coast women fought back.
They made an honest point.
Property law was intended to PROTECT Properties.
Except Property agreements were about money.
Many families pushed Properties. They used Properties to coerce importance in a community by threatening a claim against any man who would wrong-step around a woman.
This proved that Property law was not PROTECTING women as it was intended. 
So it was honest to say that Property laws were being used to benefit the rich person instead of protecting women as intended.

Rejecting Property law was difficult to refute with the new open-way of honesty. Especially as violence toward women was declining.

Adding a level of confusion; wealthy men usually wore a mask in public to disguise their identity.
It was fashionable among rich folks to emblazon a genetic crest on the mask.

That morning at the box/ cokes/ Property law
Contents     Previous    Next 

It was quiet the morning when Liam and his people arrived.
The hum of the day wasn’t right.
High wispy clouds were moving rapidly south, but no wind. Not many birds despite the fields offering plenty of water.
Nobody noticed.

Bobber had seen Liam before.
He had strong determination, but his weary life showed.
He fought in the last Arkansas Lithium War.
All lithium wars ended when gold was ousted.

Bobber hadn’t seen the whole clan before.
Something was up.
Or maybe they were passing by for important things elsewhere.
But no. These people came right to the Box.
Maybe they were planning a raid.
They didn’t stand like raiders. They were moving around. Not measuring the scene.
Sometimes raids started innocent.
Bobber’s knew the tricks. His eyes were open.
Olderboy and Liam were leaning into the counter.
They expected to control the trade.
It told Bobber they had something of high value.

Small Boy, and Young Property entered the Box and moved over next to the coke machine.
Coke: People liked the caffeined strawberry drink.
Young Property was maybe a year older than Small Boy.
The starvations and face-covering made it hard to tell.
The two young ones were standing close to each other.
Bobber saw something different.
Yes, Liam brought Young Property and Small Boy inside for a reason.
Why bring them inside? The rest of the clan was outside.
Boxes could be dangerous.
Liam’s clan was visible on the outside monitors, but the number was uncertain. They were off to the side, and coming about.
Bobber wasn’t going to stare into the monitor. He had to watch the people in front of him.
LeoJ would be watching from the back for sure.
Yes, it was best to play it whole wheat open, like the wind was blowing a chime.
So Bobber asked Liam, ‘How many boys you got?’
Liam says ‘4 boys,’ meaning 4 brothers or cousins or male relatives.
Two boys were inside, so Bobber figured two more outside. And then Bobber added two more in case Liam was lying.
Each question must have more than one purpose, or the question is not important.
Bobber would never ask a man how many Properties he had.
That would be outrage.
Maybe it would be okay out East.
But Bobber wasn’t going to act east coast unless the deal was enhanced by some recount of Property connivance against a man.

Property laws were written maybe 200-300 years before.
Most people felt it was reasonable thinking.

Property law said the first violence against women was a man looking at, speaking to, or speaking about women, or touching a woman.
If you do none of those things, then you cannot commit a crime against a woman.
Don’t climb a tree, and you can’t fall from a tree.

Serious trouble was available when a man thought he could talk about another man’s woman.  
That’s the truth.

Property law said that you could not ask directly about women unless the owner or father of that Property brought it up first.
That made today’s situation even more curious.
If young Property was the offer of trade, they would act differently.
She was too young to offer for exchange, although Bobber knew families ready to trade young brides.
Bobber figured four to six boys and two or three Properties were outside.
Normally when a Property was offered for trade, the other Properties would be at their side.
Why were the other Properties outside?
Clearly Liam was not trading Properties today.
And the mother? Where’s the mother?
No. Bobber watched the way they moved.
People stand soft when their mother is alive.
These people were standing hard, and moved about too jerky.
Bobber figured the mother was gone.
The children must have seen her die because they got the soft look on their face, but the hard movement in their bodies.
Suddenly Bobber saw it.
The two small ones were standing TOO close.
That was it.
The young ones had trade goods hidden on them. And it must be valuable by the way Liam leaned on the counter.

The Easy Mark/ The copper coupon/ Astrologers
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Liam offered to trade a candy bar.
He wanted the full Easy Mark.
No way.
Bobber measured it.
At best, the bar can be divided 14 ways, and fetch 14 Marks.
Liam was asking 100 Marks for something valued at 14 Marks. It didn’t make sense.
Why so much?

20 Marks equal a Mark Twain and 5 Mark Twains equal the Easy Mark.
So 100 Marks equal the Easy Mark.
10 Easy Marks equal a Copper Coupon.
It used to be 50.
The Copper Coupon was a reward.
It wasn’t real copper. It was percentage off next purchase.
Each Box set their own percentage for the Copper Coupon, which caused competition and encouraged folks to trade larger amounts.

People liked to hear the bell ring outside the Box when the copper coupon was delivered or exchanged.
Some Boxes rang the bell on each trade. But the clatter aggravated folks who had little to trade, so Bobber only rang for genuine coupon.
Before the Solid Dollar, each Mark was a weight of gold, payable on the spot.
The gold market fluctuated each hour. So the price of trade rose or fell continually.
Everybody tried to catch gold rising and then convince the seller that gold was falling.
When you cheated the price of gold, it was called running gold.
It was dirt.
It was a failed system.
RJ, the original Box owner, ran gold all day.
He cheated people, and everybody knew it.
It’s risky to live among the people you cheat.
The entire system of gold was dishonest.
Gold was cornered by the Hoarders.
They set the price based on how astrologers predicted future events.
Astrologers walked around in long robes and tall hats.
They looked at charts to help predict the next calamity.
Each time the astrologer told the rich Hoarder to watch out for a black cat, the guy stopped moving gold, and the price of gold went up, which made the Hoarder richer.
Of course the astrologer wanted to make the guy richer, so every day there was a new black cat predicting disaster.
It was foolish.
Nobody trusted anybody, and the lack of trust stopped trade.

Lung and gold/ free monitor announcements
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Gold came to prominence generations ago.
The history was lost during the die-offs.
After the Fierce starvations and die off from the lung, every family had more gold.
Fewer people in the population meant more gold for each family since every family had dead relatives with gold.
Gold became cheap, as everybody sold gold to buy food and medicine.
There was no medicine to combat the lung, but folks bought any false promise to save loved ones.
The lung took away everything.  Including people’s gold.

Chaos reigned.

Finally the Hoarders established order.
After they controlled gold, they figured the best way to restore value was decrease the supply of gold.
Actually there was so much gold that it was worthless. But if nobody has gold except a few people, then the price of gold goes up to whatever Hoarders demanded.
The Solid Dollar overtuned the rule of gold Hoarders.
After the Solid Dollar took over, the Banks refused to trade gold or store gold.
The Solid dollar connected the cost of goods to actual cost of production.
Instead of gold, people received credit or debit on their account.

Credits and debts were payable by force of the Bludworthy reprisal.
It was a convincing system for keeping up with your duties.
The end of gold helped stop violence and kidnapping because nobody got paid with gold, you couldn't spend gold, so nobody carried gold, so nobody was running gold, or killing the other guy for gold.
The end of gold had another effect.
Since the Bank knew your location by the transaction record, then it was harder to make false claim.

The credit system became popular for another reason: because monitors-worldwide let people watch free announcements, and pay monitors let people track long-lost relatives.
The old monitors, owned by Hoarders, never gave people that. Hoarders never cared about people.
The monitors-worldwide changed everything. Imagine discovering lost relatives and friends. Imagine watching news and stories from elsewhere that were never available before.

The record keeping system on the disc made everything better. Justice was more honest. People realized how difficult it was to demand reprisal by bearing false witness.
If the credit record showed the claim false, then you got the Bludworthy reprisal.
A basket of lies is made wet by one drop of truth.
Autistics/ risk from Liam’s trade
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Bobber was thinking, Liam’s got heat stroke, wanting the full Easy Mark.
He served more cool drinks.

A candy bar is a nice ‘find’ or theft.
But it’s Tennessee chocolate. It’s not Brazile-chocolate from New Galveston.
The ants would eat Brazile because it was real food.
Only possums, raccoons and humans ate Tennessee, and there weren’t many possums and raccoons not already eaten, so if the ants won’t eat it, then it’s not worth much. Which means it’s worth less.
Bobber was thinking clearly; the goods were hidden on Small Boy.
Folks might think value was hidden on an older boy.
Property laws made the oldest son more responsible.
Yes it fit, no need for more calculation.
Small Boy concealed the real trade.
But what’s he got?

Bobber had to get Liam to start talking.
Liam said they ran into autistics near the creek yesterday.

Humm, autistics? Not far away. Possibly coming this way.
No, that wasn’t it.
Why would Liams clan arrive? They would be home protecting their land.

Maybe Liam caught a few, and was holding them for trade. But the clan would be holding them elsewhere.

No. Bobber’s mind clearly saw that small boy had trade goods hidden.
The clan must be here to protect the value, but the opposite might be true if locals saw the clan gathered without specific purpose.
Many people who lost gold wanted to stir up trouble. Bobber had to deal right to avoid difficulties.

Yes, Liam was boasting of fearlessness among autistics, and leaning aggressively into the counter because he was afraid others would discover there was hidden value.

Others in town would soon figure it out.
Bobber had to win Liam’s trust, before the risk set in.

Bobber was a raider/ methane and the lung/ die-offs /genetics
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Bobber was a raider, just as people suspected.
A lot of people came from raiding.
It was savage business.
Starvations and hoarding ravaged whole populations. There was little opportunity except to strip savage against those who remained.
The lung took most of the people during the Fierce die offs.
When atmospheric carbon increased, it caused northern melts that released methane from the permafrost.
History told of great ice sheets, but no place was permanently frozen any more, yet everything seemed just as cold. Mountain ice was gone and summer rivers dried up.

Methane and carbon in the atmosphere brought new diseases.
The worst was the lung.
That’s the truth.
Hot summer temperatures cause people to breathe harder because oxygen molecules are farther apart.
But breathing harder lodged methane deep inside the lungs.
It was ripe fuel for mold.
Mold suddenly thrived in the moist, oxygen-depleted lung, and within days the person was dead.
You couldn’t doctor out.
They tried pesticides. They tried everything from carrots to weak root to tree bark. Mercury vapor seemed promisingly insane. Hanging upside down. Nothing helped.

One thing did work. People who had the KL-VS gene were either immune to the lung, or less likely to die.
KL-VS gene caused higher levels of klotho hormone. It somehow protected protected people against the lung.

People tried klotho hormone shots. Shots didn’t help.
People paid out their gold on worthless treatments.
If you got the lung, and didn’t have KL-VS, then you were dead.

Curiously, the lung didn’t affect autistics. Nobody knew why. Genetic tests revealed nothing.

The lung was quick. Two days maximum. Dry climates were better, except the dust held it’s own torture for lungs.
Dust lung was a slower death. Nobody lived long past 40.
When populations suddenly declined, other things changed too.
Technology changed.
Not enough people to launch spacecraft, or teach what was known before.
Nobody trusted doctors or hospitals. That’s where you caught the lung.
Doctors stopped seeing patients to avoid the lung themselves.
Medical frauds impoverished people and stole their gold. People didn’t trust medicine.
Real cures were available on a spot basis… just as apt to be counterfeit as real.

Nobody knows what else was lost. Engineering. Machinery. Large ships.
When jets stopped flying, the direct influx of carbon at the polar caps stopped.
The great electric storm happened around the same time, and burned out digital chips, even affecting chips in storage.
The whole system faltered end to end, mostly because it was burdened with monolithic habits that could not be compensated.
Population decline caused the first Fierce starvation.
Food was another technology that depended on a long chain of human activity and machinery.
Everything changed.
That’s when the lithium wars and raiding started.
Autistics and Readers and the hive mentality/ carpenter bees
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Autism became so prevalent that they gathered into groups.
Once the group was large enough, autistics morphed into something else.
Like locust. Individual locust live in relative peace. But when numbers multiply, suddenly they turn into aggressive hoards.
Some people argued that autistics were a natural evolution of humans. Except interbreeding was still possible.
Genetic tests showed no difference between autistic and regular people.

Genetics remained important scientific study, especially after they discovered KL-VS gene prevented the lung. Other genes were investigated. KL-VS1 and KL-VS2 variants were discovered.
Genetics became especially popular among rich folks, and among Property traders seeking a better value for prized breeding women.

Actually, the KL-VS2 gene had another profound effect. People with that gene not only resisted the lung, but they retained extraordinary sensory abilities despite carbon and methane inhalation.
People carrying the double KL-VS2 gene began calling themselves Readers.

Readers were like autistics. Both exhibited the Hive Mentality.
Inside the Hive, they communicated by touching. If they gathered in groups and touched one another, then members would understand and work toward the same goal.

Autistics had a different Hive Mentality than Readers.

Readers with the KL-VS2 gene were more varied and did not remain in large groups. Their effect was distributed as people traveled around, and so the effect was widespread.

Autistics groups had a single mentality that existed only within the group.
If an autistic was kidnapped, they would revert back to the person they were before. This was handy for raiders and slave traders who made a living selling autistics to the timber industry.

Autistics gathered in groups of hundreds, and remained inside the group unless forcibly removed by kidnappers, or fell behind, or got killed by farmers defending crops.

After the first Fierce die offs, many buildings were full of autistics.
Later, large groups morphed into crawling human shapes, all changing direction at same time like a flock of black birds.
What other choice did they have?

They churned across the earth foraging everything in their path. They ate every scrap and insect, same as other folks, but they were different. They swarmed over anything, sometimes 50 or 100 yards wide. They would take every shred of life and belonging that didn’t flee from their grasp. Yet, they never fought against each other, just constantly moving forward all day and never looking back. It was radical change in human behavior.

Ordinary people had to guard fields against constant invasion by some insect, raider, thief, animal, or autistic. Autistic groups were worse than raiders. At least raiders could speak and negotiate.
Autistics would tear apart a field worse than any hog. No fence could hold them out, and rarely did anyone have enough bullets to stop them. It was best to close the barn tight and stay indoors until they passed.

Autistics had no identifiable leader, other than the ones in front. They acted together without fear. It was perfect strategy for survival and defense: hundreds of human minds working together. They were formidable challenge to anything opposing them.

People were concerned what would happen if multiple groups of autistics worked together herding animals and humans into traps where other autistics waited in ambush. Nobody reported this. Autistics didn’t eat people. They would stampede over the top of you, but the rumor caused widespread support of enslavement as a solution for autistics.

Captured autistics were usually sold to the timber industry for a reason.
Autistics were gifted woodworkers. As if they were some kind of carpenter bee.

They built furniture. They were valuable for treating lumber with Indian-asphalt which was essential for cartage rail. But you dare not let them in the crops; they would eat the whole thing.

Autistics were accepting of new members.
Anyone could join. Stay away from the front. Get in behind and start mimicking the behavior.

People frequently joined autistics, except after they started getting sold as slaves. Regular people were caught up too. If they demanded a test to prove they were not autistic, it was useless. Unless you had gold to pay for the test, you were enslaved.
If you claimed not to be autistic, the selling price increased because the person could be sold into other trades besides timber.
Many regular people were sold into slavery.
Hoarders didn’t see a problem since slaves created commerce for their interests.
But slavery was dirt. No better than running gold.

Bobber’s father and family/ Bobber joins the raiders
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Record keepers guessed the changes started 300 years before Bobber was born.
He was 12 when he took up with the raiders. His mother died. He remembered that.
His father never came home.
Years later Bobber found his father back east with a new family.
His father claimed he was coming home from installing a nuclear addition when fellows started chasing him. He ran down into the woods and got lost.
Almost sounded real.
You had to stay alive. If those fellows didn’t catch him that day, they would kill him next time.

People got paid each day in gold. And you had to shoot a gauntlet coming home.
Co-workers robbed each other. Everybody carried a gun, but not everybody had a bullet.

Bobber’s father needed more elbow room, especially from the pack of needy mouths he bred, including Bobber.
Bobber was on his own after his father left. There was a younger sister and a brother that he loved dearly.
Afterwards, Bobber cried wondering what happened to them.
When Bobber joined the raiders, they beat him near dead before deciding he was tough enough. He couldn’t bring his younger brother. They would kill him.

Bobber joined thinking he could provide for his brother and sister, but it never happened.
Raiders moved daily, and nobody was allowed to disappear.
They were a paranoid roving band of robbers and kidnappers and metal salvagers and glass stealers who cleaned the earth of value and gave nothing back but misery.
They would rob, and steal autistics and sell them off to highest bidder.
Raider groups stole from each other. Nobody had anything. Food and clothing were scarce. Winters were worse. They’d kill for your clothes.
Bobber was too smart to be a leader,
Different groups raided each other, killing and kidnapping as a way of bravery and dog-gone.
It was tradition.
You are today.

Electricity and monitors/ inside the raider group
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The simple laser reactor was still manufactured after the die offs.
The Banks were building nuclear additions as fast as possible.
They wanted to push clean electricity into in every community.

The old gold monitors, owned by Hoarders, were unreliable. Many were damaged from exposure to line interference because the electric generator was too far away. Hoarders never saw advantage for improving the system. They had their wealth.

The Banks saw new opportunity using cartage rail and monitors-worldwide.
To work reliably, they needed clean electricity with a steady waveform.
When a nuclear addition was added nearby, the power line ran clean without interference. Clean power meant cartage motors running at full load without damage, and monitor towers delivering reliable transmission for trade and announcements.

Clean electricity was key.

The banks also discovered that a clean line could be used to track raiders.

Monitor towers were going up everywhere so communities could be linked together via the monitor.
Towers were never stripped and sold for scrap. Mostly the metal was worthless except for the purpose it served. Raiders would have to sell their gain back to the banks. Nobody was going to fool a raider.

Raiders needed monitors for correspondence, like everybody else.
Announcements and video came over the tower.
That’s how Bobber found his father years later. Looking at announcement disks and threads on the monitor-worldwide.
Four and a half years of raiding turned Bobbers stomach.
Things were changing fast. Bobber saw it.
Actions you take as a kid look foolish when you get older.
Reports of the lung seemed less.
There was more rain. People were farming and demanding that raiders stop.
Everywhere things were better.

Bobber scored twice while raiding. Once when they attacked another camp he found a bracelet. Another time he found bright stones under a wheel.
He secretly hid the value from his group.
The bright stones became an an important story later.

Bobber’s group would kill him for holding back.
Everything had to be shared. But that was gust. The leader took everything.
Weak leaders impoverish others to preserve their power.

Bobber was the trader for his raiding group.
He was on the monitor each night making deals for autistics, metal, or hostages… in exchange for food and other items.
His group depended on him, but he had limited influence among the squabbling half-naked bunch of people living on the run each day.
Unknown to him, he held great influence. His word tipped decisions. Quietly promising grace and profit vrs destruction and violence. Most admired him.

Bobber was watchman that night.
He saw something on the monitor.

Each night they camped along an overhead power line, near a monitor tower.
They needed electricity to connect the trade monitor.
Traditionally, trades were made after dark because darkness meant safety from other raiders.

They had electric cookers. No fires, and no light bulbs; nothing to reveal location.
To get electricity, they drove a copper rod into the soil, connected a kunda line to the transformer, then threw the hook over the outermost hot wire on the power line above. The kunda line ran down to the transformer, converting high voltage into usable electricity.
If you didn’t throw the kunda just right, or it looped over two hot lines instead of one, you might get killed.
The spark and explosion would alert anyone in the area.
Hook throwers were highly prized as members and hostages.
The ones that survived became electric workers and monitor-worldwide installers after raiding ended.

Good traders like Bobber ranked higher than kunda throwers since traders made deals for food.

Over time, the best traders forced weak traders out.
This was disadvantage since good traders could find less dangerous work elsewhere.
Smart recruits were hard to find as times got better.
In the old days, raiders were skilled craftsmen and hunters. But new recruits were just stupid, violent people.

Bobber knew most traders on the monitor. He recognized their style.
There was something different about the way trade was offered that night.
Too eager.
It was a trap.

The leader quickly agreed to the trade before Bobber could caution against it.
Too late.
The group was short of food. The leader was challenged for position by two brothers from a younger more violent faction. He had to provide food or get killed, and his women and children sold off as stray Property.

Everything was pushing the raiders: hunger, younger more violent recruits, better opportunity elsewhere, separation from family.
Bludworthies were killing them.

Things were getting worse for raiders.
The leader saw it too. Stop talking about your jackslapper and pay attention to the monitor, maybe you’d catch a glimpse. But he missed the glimpse that night.

After the leader agreed to the trade, Bobber could no longer speak about difficulties without making himself a target.

Bobber had to play neutral.
His pregnant girlfriend was sister to the two brothers challenging for leadership.
Nobody wanted them, but nobody said anything.
The brothers threatened to split the camp into open warfare. People would be killed… and survivors still without food. What are you going to do, let them eat Ryan’s arm?

Bobber didn’t have enough trade value to buy the girlfriend outright. She was still available to others. Bobber was added kin with no value. He hated the brothers.
They didn’t understand that Bobber’s word at the correct moment, would give them peaceful ascension to leadership.
But Bobber had no intention of counseling those causeywits.

Bobber loved the unborn baby, but the baby belonged to the brothers because of the weak parrot laws.
He wasn’t even sure the baby was his offspring. The communal nature of things at camp enjoyed open sharing of all things, especially those lustful creatures that might otherwise harden a man.
Bobber loved the baby anyway. It was his hope.
There must be better choices of women but Bobber didn’t see it.
The most difficult thing to do sometimes is live true to your heart.
The bunch of them were crazy anyway.

Cancelling the trade would cause the brothers to take immediate leadership.
Weaker members might be killed so the group could run harder.
That’s the raider’s choice: Run harder for nothing. Or die of hunger.
There used to be honor. But no more.
Either way, Bobber was in the middle of a fight.

The last raid

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That night they were staying along a string of collaspsed hard-brick houses, next to a dry creek.
Bobber wanted the night off so he pulled guard duty.
The trade was set for the next day.
He walked across the creek in the dark.

A shutter came through the air; a noise or a rattling, followed by a sweet smell that hurried passed. Bobber turned his head, straining to look west. Something was coming.

Unknown to everyone, the Bludworthies were tracking monitors using sound-pulse on the electric wires.
The Banks knew raiders traded at night. They secretly shut down all monitor traffic. Fake reels were run so monitors looked normal.
Bludworthies could see the remaining monitors because the kunda line caused interference on the wire each time a transmission was sent.
Distance to the kunda was calculated.

The raiders were watching reruns while Bludworthies stalked closer. Nobody caught the glimpse. It was always too late for someone.

Suddenly Bobber did like his father. He walked away from all those needy mouths.
He started running, and then running faster like wild animals were behind him.
He could not stop. He kept thinking about his father.
Bobber knew his group would kill him if they caught up.

That was it. His own group would kill him. That’s no way to live.
16 years old.  

End of raiding for Bobber

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Just as morning turned flannel gray, the Bludworthies struck.
Every one of those dirty unclothed raiders were wiped clean of their scale.
Trackers ran down the few who escaped. Each got the heel.
It was butchery.
The brothers showed absolute dog-gone, and fought fearlessly to the end.
Two hostages, kidnapped from the Monk raiders, were freed and later hung in front of crowds. People were demanding an end to raiding.
The trackers took up Bobber’s scent. The revenge was coming fast.
They got him, and they beat him.
They didn’t kill him right away. He was a trader. He might be useful later.
Everybody got over to a barn at nightfall and they threw Bobber inside next to a pole.
He was tied up like a potato, and beat like an egg.
Eyes swollen and maybe a rib broken, but he was alive.
Bobber knew not to whimper or call for water.
Why waste water? He figured they were saving him for something special.
Maybe they would kill him for breakfast.

Exhaustion and thirst didn’t matter. Every thought was racing through Bobber’s mind.
He didn’t ask about his unborn baby. The Bludworthies bragged about their deed to his face. He knew the baby and the girlfriend were gone. Bobber’s heart broke, but suddenly he was filled with strength he never knew before. He was no longer a boy.
A gigantic man walked into the barn.
All talking stopped.
His frame was huge, with a big head and thick neck.
Another guy behind him.
Both wore masks showing importance.
The barn was lit.
Electricity was everywhere.
Every barn had lights, and every cow had a heated blanket for winter.
Things were better.
Bobber knew the man.
He had seen his videos on the announcements.
Bobber asked him, ‘Tell me what the Solid Dollar is.’
He didn’t recognize his own voice.
It sounded strong and calm like they were sitting at the Indianapolis Race House, with fine furniture and colored carpet from Canada.
This was the head of the Bludworthies. He was the new guy.
He was the revenge.
The bankers brought him up to get rid of corruption, which only meant new guys were ripe for a fresh run at the same.
Bobber couldn’t remember the man’s name, but remembered the guy speaking about replacing gold with the new standard called the Solid Dollar.
Big bankers were behind it.
The whole east coast and important people all the way out to Kansas Wheat were talking about the scourge of gold.
The man acted startled, but didn’t say anything.
A woman was standing at the door. She heard Bobber’s question and entered the room.
Bobber nodded toward her.
She seemed so familiar.
Her family owned GE nuclear out east. She traveled to Texas on the cartage rail from St Louis.
She was important and it showed. She asked Bobber his name.
He answered.
The people turned and left.
So that was it.
They were going to kill him in front of somebody important.
What an honor.
His mind went still. He thought of the woman’s  beautiful face. But her face was covered… how could he see her face?
Her eyes spoke of a daring, powerful Reader; both absorbing and giving without word.

The man’s name popped into Bobber mind: Mellon. Carneghie Mellon.
Bobber smiled. Mellon. A head like a watermelon.
He was laughing to himself, but could not jolt away from what the woman told him. Bobber scoffed. She said nothing. Bobber tried to push her thoughts away, except they were compelling and true. His mind exploded with visions of mellow blue ribbons and bright yellow boats. The room filled with the same sweet scent that caused him to run the night before. He fell asleep.
The next day more men came into the barn. He knew two of them. Good men for killing.
They grabbed Bobber and stood him up, put a big knife to his neck, and then angrily cut off the bindings.
It was over. Mellon said turn him loose.
The men at the barn thought Mellon recognized Bobber. Nobody knew it was the woman.
She told Mellon that people didn’t need to see another killing that day. And reminded Mellon that Bobber asked about the Solid Dollar.
She represented the Banks and wealth behind the Bludworthies and behind the Solid Dollar.
Mellon violated his own impulse for murder and let Bobber live.
Bobber almost blacked out from being stood up, but he was going to stand like a man no matter what.
They walked out into the sunlight in front of hundreds of people.
Everybody was looking at Bobber. They were angry, but nobody moved. Who dared question the Bludworthies?
Just barn flies, Bobber thought.
It was probably a bad moment to be unrepentant, but nobody noticed.

The people suddenly turned away.
The woman was walking in the background with a single attendant.
The crowd was stunned.
She turned toward the cartage, and quickly stepped into the carriage that sat in front of flatbeds filled with Bludworthies.
The air was filled with joy. She won their grace without a word. Everybody talked about her wonderful manner and effect. People were empowered.

Nobody knew the woman was the eye and whisper behind everything.
This was the Queen.
Bobber walked away. He no longer had to run. Maybe his father felt the same way four and a half years earlier.

The era of trust begins

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Raiding was coming to an end. People were finally done with that chapter.
Starvations were ending. Cows in heated blankets were proof enough, I’d say.

Banks were providing electric hay balers on credit. More nuclear additions were installed. Cheap electric power, rail and monitors-worldwide brought trade opportunity and news to people that had no hope before.
The Solid Dollar was changing everything.

Bankers built electric rail cartage as fast as steel rail and asphalt timer could be delivered. For the first time in more than 200 years a new bridge spanned the Mississippi-broad at St Louis.
Next two years Bobber saw announcements about the Solid Dollar.
Before that, everybody wanted gold.

But gold was worthless.
People knew it down deep.

Gold is a shiny metal mined for thousands of years and nobody ever threw it away.
When was the last time you threw away your gold? Or spent your gold?
No, you won’t spend gold hoping the price will go up, and when it goes up, you hold it tighter hoping it will go up again. Exactly like Hoarders.

Gold never oxidizes away like steel, and all those tons of gold taken out of the ground over thousands of years were still there, filling up giant vaults and causing wars and famine.

If all the gold was distributed into the people’s hands, and everybody was spending it, then the price of gold would fall.
A few wealthy families controlled the price of gold.
They had always been called Hoarders, because they owned everything and gave nothing away.
Hoarders kept vast amounts of gold locked up to keep the price high. It only meant there was no money for trade as long as gold was in charge.

The only thing Hoarders did with their gold was enslave others to their whim.
When hoarders built rail, they used slave labor. And they only built rail to benefit their narrow interest and not for wider commerce and well-being.

Bobber saw that the Solid Dollar worked without gold.
The Solid Dollar was about market trust. That was key.
Maybe that’s why Bobber was freed.
He asked about the new era of trust.
Liam fought in the last Arkansas Lithium War

Everything was electric.
Cookers, Electric cartage, heaters, a-con chillers, fresh water distiller, monitors, lights, Cow blankets.
People said cow blankets made milk sweeter.
One thing for sure. When the cow got cold in winter, it festered up quick.
Some people said it was the lung. Except it caused cow legs to swell.
Overnight cows would die if they got cold.
Even special breed stock couldn’t stop the die off.
But the heated blanket stopped it.

Cows needed blankets in winter. Just like people need coats.
Men would wash the blankets and clean the cow.
Those cows were spoiled like a Thursday turkey.
At some point, blankets started getting designs.
Blankets used to be plain brown to hide cows from raiders.
Later they added spots and stripes and trade announcements.
Sometimes the whole herd would have black and white polka-dot blankets.
It made people laugh.
Monitor announcers made cow jokes.
‘Honey, don’t wear the striped one tonight’
It was funny.
It was violation to talk straight about Properties, so they made jokes about the cow and bull instead.
If electricity was top, then the lithium battery was second. Portable electric devices required batteries, which required lithium.
Of course, there were wars over lithium, which is a naturally-occurring element found at volcanic springs.
Hoarders owned the lithium and they sponsored the Lithium Wars.
Originally, the Lithium Wars were about control of lithium at the hot springs.

Eventually the war disrupted mining, so they passed rules.  You could no longer kill a miner, or raid the electric cartage, or burn a rail bridge.
The war was a game: Can’t kill a miner, or rob a train, but you have to kill the other fighter for their share of gold.

Hoarders kept the war going for brag and gamble.
They paid fighters in gold, and men and boys came from all over to play the game.
Wars and dancing are mostly for young folks who dream big and think of riches.
Hoarders wouldn’t live in Arkansas.
Nobody wanted to live in Arkansas. It wasn’t safe.
There was no food. You can’t grow food on rocky hills covered with trees with people shooting at you.

So Arkansas was cheap battleground.
Fat money came from wagers and the remote landscape made good geography for prolonged fighting.
The war just wouldn’t stop.

Lithium had been fighting for hundreds of years.
Ordinary people were no longer interested in hearing about the great ‘Lithium Oath.’
They were sickened by ‘war heroes’ bragging and causing trouble when they arrived home or traveled around.
But how can you stop a war when it is part of the people?
People needed gold, so they fought.

The big gamble for stopping the war was gold vrs the Solid Dollar.
Hoarders controlled lithium for batteries, so it was assumed Hoarders and lithium fighters were stronger than Bankers and Bludworthies.
Turned out that was incorrect.
Arkansas-living was for miners and fighters.
Rich people wanted to spend time in Indianapolis or Kansas City or Coneau. Or sport-up in Manitoba and visit Forest City.
Rich people knew each other.
Deals had to be made so power brokers could live harmoniously in the same fine areas.

Events forced change.
Ownership and control of steel was key. And the big Banks owned the entire Alabama-steel works.
It took steel to build a fresh water distiller, a nuclear addition, and a rail line.
And none of those things needed a battery.
So steel was more important than the battery.
Bankers were building cartage rail faster and cheaper than gold hoarders. Bankers issued credit to workers, while hoarders used slaves.
Hoarders faced hard times buying steel because Alabama-steel didn’t use gold.
They paid workers with credit. No need for gold.

Hoarders were facing a difficult spot. They fell behind the times, and threatened to stop shipments of lithium until they could buy steel rail.

Bankers and Hoarders met to solve problems.

It was recognized that the war spread loss.
So Bankers convinced the Hoarders that stopping the Arkansas Lithium War would be like the knife and fork agreeing to eat the pig.

A deal was made: Hoarders were promised easy access to steel if they helped end the war.

Hoarders naively assumed that rail-building business would shift to them.
Behind the scenes they planned to dirt-deal the Bankers and re-enlist lithium fighters to enforce additional slave labor needed to build more rail.

Bankers, however, were holding bigger cards. They controlled announcements that broadcast over the monitors-worldwide. Hoarders missed the opportunity, and never developed a channel to communicate with people.
The bankers fold up a nifty plan

To end the war, they first had to shoo away the fighters.
Fighters were rooted in Arkansas like a badger under the house.

Nice and secret, everything was worked out.
The Bankers were getting ready to push up the Solid Dollar.
… except Hoarders didn’t know the whole plan.
It was secret-dealing.
Top to bottom, the Bankers shaved the head.
Bankers needed to end fighting and raiding everywhere, not just Arkansas.
They needed a big example, and the Lithium War was perfect water.
So here’s the plan:
First they sent out word of congratulation to all fighters.
The war was won.
But that wouldn’t stop the fighting because those fellows were down to sacred Oath.
They were killing for the deep-help principle of the Lithium Oath.
Everybody knew the great Lithium War Oath.
Fighters bragged over the Oath. The father bragged, and then his son entered the war and the son bragged.
Each fighter took the Oath that they would honor their friend’s loss.
When their friend got killed, they had to shoot or kill the guys that shot their friend.
But it was air in the head.
The fighters were on contract.
One week fighters were hired by one guy and next week hired by another guy.
So they were always sitting next to the guy they were going to kill the week before.
The only loyalty was to whoever fed them.
Otherwise they had no food.
The secret plan considered the whole mess/ The lithium war ends/ Fighters violate the oath in front of everybody

Fighters were congratulated for winning the war.
Honors were given out. Heirloom-quality medals were handed out.
More food was brought in.

It was glorious times. The men were stunned and happy.
Of course many were thinking the food would keep coming and they could take root right there, like the badger under the house.
Next step, the Bankers started charging gold for food.
Made sense. The war was over. So food is no longer free.
Okay, so now the fighters needed gold to pay for food.
Here’s the twist.
Everybody wanted the fighters gone.
But they also wanted fighting and raiding to end everywhere.
Bankers knew the fighters would keep fighting no matter where they went.
And the fighters had the armament and war-making materials to keep fighting, but they were short on gold.

To get armament away from the fighters, the Bankers told the fighters they would get a chunk of gold for all the armament they turned in.
Now, this was where Hoarders were needed. To supply gold to buy the armament away from the fighters.

Hoarders would supply the gold, and in exchange, they received guaranteed shipments of Alabama-steel. Then the Hoarders could move their interests into rail-building.

Hoarders incorrectly assumed they would control the armament at the end of the transaction, overlooking that Bankers supplied the executive structure.

Bankers suggested that Hoarders appear on the announcements to brag about ending the war.
Hoarders agreed. They stood up on the announcements in front of everybody and laid out their plan to enslave more people for gold.
As a result, Hoarders were clearly identified by the public. For the first time, the face of gold and misery was seen on the monitors.
It was raining when Bobber saw it.

Lithium fighters were willing to turn in armament and get a chunk of gold.
They were feeling good because they just got honors and food.
People fight for honor, and will carry the flag forever if you give them food.
Fighters saw their benefactors offering riches of gold, on top of honors.
They were getting rich because they won the war.
What else could it be?
With all that gold, they could pay for food and have enough for shoes and a house.
What greater glory could be bestowed upon a loyal fighter?
It was straight-up dealing. Bring in armament and get gold.
Word went out over the announcements..
Everywhere people heard that the fighters won the war and were getting honors, and getting food and gold.
The gold was actually paid.
Right there.
You got to keep knives and a few guns. The necessities.
But everything else was stripped out of the fighter’s hands on the promise of gold.
Gold can intoxicate a snake, and better proof was laid bare that day.
The Banker’s plan was that the fighters would kill off a percentage of each other during and after receiving gold for armament.
This would naturally reduce the number of potential troublemakers.
That worked out, since each man got paid gold for the amount of armament that was turned in.
The fighters gladly continued killing one another to get each others armament up to the deadline, and afterwards, they killed each other for the other man’s gold.
In any case, the main point was the Bankers got the armament, and the remaining fighters got the gold.
And then, the Bankers stopped selling food.
Only miners got food.
No food for fighters.
It all happened real quick. The screw was turned.
Get out.
Fighters no longer had enough armament to rob food stores, and electric cartage en route to their next opportunity.
So the badger had to move out from under the house, and go somewhere else.
Two months and the whole thing was finished. Hear the gong, Thompson. It’s over
On the exit, the fighters continued killing each other. And who better to kill for gold than your friend, the guy who trusted you.
Each man killed the other man for all that gold, so the numbers of fighters grew smaller each day.
The announcements pointed out that the men killed harder for that gold than they killed for the Oath.
Forget friendship or Oath or honor or decency … they killed for gold.
That is exactly why gold had to end.
People kill for gold.
But more than that.
Everybody started hearing about fighters killing their friend for gold.

Announcements proclaimed the story:

The fighters violated the Lithium Oath !!!
The great Lithium Oath was discredited in front of everybody for the first time.
The plan was excellent.
Here’s wrapping up the funny part/ Bank stops taking gold/ The Solid Dollar takes over
The fighters left with the gold. Okay.
When they arrived back home or wherever they went, they discovered the Banks no longer accepted gold.
So now the fighter, who violated oath, is standing in front of the bank, in plain view of everybody, without much firepower, while holding a bunch of gold. And the bank won’t protect him. What’s up Joe?
Tell me, which fighter is going to show off his medal and brag about the Oath now?

Just that quick, Gold was out and the Solid Dollar was in.

Announcements carried the story everywhere.
It was a triple-play.
Hoarders were fooled into paying out gold. Fighters were tricked into giving up their arms, and fooled into killing each other in violation of Oath for nothing. The fighters and Hoarders got absolutely nothing but a kick in the ass.
For many months leading up to that time, announcements were talking about the Solid Dollar.

People were clamoring for the opportunity promised by the monitor-worldwide.
They wanted news stories. They liked hearing jokes.
They wanted cartage rail that carried travelers to far away places.
The Solid Dollar made it possible. It let people trade on fair pricing in exchange for their work. It let them buy on credit as needed.
The promise of better times overwhelmed the past.

People despised Hoarders, but Hoarders couldn’t understand it.
It was perfect water.
Tricking the fearsome lithium fighters in front of everybody demonstrated the foolishness of gold, and it showed that gold caused violence.
With the sudden change on gold, you’d think lithium war would be chill lettuce.
But no. The triple play was front story everywhere.
It made people laugh at the heroes who had terrorized everybody.
It proved how smart the Solid Dollar was.
Absolutely nobody wanted lithium fighters to have value.

End of Hoarders and Astrologers/ shooting astrologer hats

Bankers proved they were the toughest.
Hoarders were tricked into thinking the Solid Dollar was going to come slowly and that it would be unpopular with people.

The Solid Dollar raced to the front.
Announcements showed the Bankers arresting Hoarders.

They hauled them out in front of everyone, and videos saw the whole cracked scene.
They pulled one out from under his bed, still in his underwear, while his wife and sisters shrieked from a second-floor window without face covering.
It was a total head shave.
Videos followed into the gold vaults and showed mountains of gold hidden from eye.
Room after room filled with gold.
It was proven.
Ok, maybe the same room was shown over and over with different lights.
The beauty of a folded plan can never be underestimated.
But who cares? People don’t run after falling water.
Announcers said there was so much gold that each person could have 5 weights.
Imagine that.
Gold was proven worthless.
One hundred people stood there and watched the monitor. Bobber was among them.
Somebody in the back called out, ‘Well, I’ll take my 5 weights now.’
People turned and looked.
A shiver went up Bobber’s back. Down deep uneasy.
He lost his father to gold.
You could feel anger from families savaged over gold. The man mumbled an apology.
Gold was out. Bobber was 18.
Next thing you know, Bankers ran a double-play on astrologers.
Astrologers were hated as much as Hoarders.  And they wore those tall hats and long robes.
Most people thought astrologers were responsible for every malady. Astrologers were constantly throwing the fear-scandal to keep gold prices high.
People started laughing when announcers asked why astrologers didn’t predict THIS malady.
To clear off the land for fresh foundation, the Bankers revealed that astrologers lied to Hoarders to run the price of gold.
Astrologers were given graceful exit as liars.  Double play.
People started to laugh at the hats and robes.
It was funny watching clowns wear the hat backwards, and then make a tent out of the robe showing how to collect rain water.
Two announcers dressed as clowns shot a bunch of hats out of a gun, and people laughed so hard they fell off the chair.
Announcements showed it all.
Not a single person wore the robe and hat after that video.
Gold and astrologers and Hoarders were over.
Gold was nothing but silly metal that tricked people, just like Bankers tricked the whole lot of them.
Banks no longer accepted gold.
Period. Can’t store gold here.
You can keep gold.
You can trade gold. You can run gold.
But what are you going to do?
You going to hide it? Die for it? Pay the kidnappers with it?
Where you going to store gold if the Bank won’t store it for you?
Of course nobody gave gold away, so what are you going to do?
Yep. Bury it underground until fear reign again.
More gold was buried back into the ground right then than had been mined out for a thousand years.

Opposition: Gold threatens revenge

When the Solid Dollar replaced gold, it became acceptable to trade on credit without direct exchange of gold.
The Easy Mark was no longer a value of gold, instead it was re-issued as credit that you owed or earned.
Generations of rich families lost everything overnight.

Especially hard hit was New Space City in south Texas.
Hoarders were building a space rocket to travel to the asteroid Eros which contained more gold than Earth.
The plan was to drop the heavy metal back into the atmosphere and hope it didn’t melt away during the fall.
People joked that astrologers should pick which people were going to killed by falling gold. The joke was popular, since falling gold prices caused murders. It was a big chuckle.

And now the gold rocket was cancelled.
Many gold families promised revenge.
Their time would come.

Walking through the door

When Liam returned from the war he had a piece of copper in his leg.
Nothing serious. Made him worth more money.
Everybody heard him brag about the Oath and being a Lithium fighter.
Those guys would take a break and return home to nurse wounds and scare people, until they died or longer got sponsorship. Liam was a fearsome fellow in his younger years.
The triple-play stopped all that.
Yep. What man going to brag about being a fool?
Bankers stopped the war and heeled the raiders, but the lucky ones like Bobber and Liam walked through the door.
That’s what they called it.
The door of trust. You walked through the door and gave up everything that came before.
Walk through the door and start over. Don’t ask about the past.
That’s the open-way.
Liam went back to his family.
They got to farming and collecting, and moved into an old prospector's claim.
The claim was four adobe rooms carved into a hillside, with a caved-in mine below.

Next year Bobber took the Trade Box at 19.
He hadn’t seen his family for 7 years. His brother and sister weren’t there when he went back. Nobody knew where they went. There was no record on the monitor.
Bobber quit looking because it hurt too much to walk in the past.
The trade continues/ credit-men

Three years after the triple play, Liam and Bobber were involved in contentious negotiation over a candy bar.
How hard can it be?
Bobber was 22. Liam was slower, about 32.
The trade was sour.
Liam wouldn’t show the hidden value.
Bobber wanted to act fast to preserve safety.
Local peace was paramount for good trade. Bobber would lose esteem if he failed to hold the peace. The Banks might shut him out.

Trouble was always available.
Other people would figure out that Liam’s clan was holding real value.

Small Boy and his sister hadn’t moved.
Nor had Bobber taken his eye off them, trying to figure what trade value was hidden.

As long as Liam and Olderboy were touching the counter, a deal was possible.
OlderBoy could walk away, but if Liam backed off, then the deal could be lost.
Bobber knew the risk but couldn’t say it outright, not yet.
If Bobber explained the danger, Liam might think Bobber was threatening.
Liam was getting hot.
Bobber figured Liam’s price for the unseen item was the Easy Mark … but Bobber can’t pay the Easy without seeing the item. That would be unbusinesslike.

Instead, Bobber offered credit for candy bar. He would credit the full Easy Mark with 14 Marks down payment. Bobber would take the chocolate, and Liam would receive 86 Marks credit owed to the Bank.
It was a small amount.
But Liam didn’t want to credit-out the difference since he might fall short, and end up under bondage to pay the debt, or lose the adobe or some other value..
Bankers had developed a new plan for areas that exhibited peace.
They put indebted people into bondage instead of killing them.
Since Liam walked through the door, he was eligible for bondage instead of being killed over a mere debt.

The new bank rules were a relief.
People had gotten uneasy about Bludworthies killing everybody over money because it was the same as killing for gold.
When the wolves catch one of the cows, the other cows don’t run back to help. They know the wolves have to eat. And the wolves are going to eat a cow.
It’s deeply emotional to feel horror and relief at the same time, knowing that your friend got eaten but you’re safe for now.
No matter the reason, murder upsets people.
Bankers wisely started hauling people into bondage if the person was generally reputable and gave up war and raiding.
Debtors worked common labor or learned new trades until the debt was paid.
Debtors were better than slaves. Cheaper, faster, more aware of business enterprise.

Banks were clever with the plan.
They knew bondage would offset the need for slaves, and that action would shift a useful workforce over to the Banks, and away from the slave trader.

Credit-men. That was the name given to debtors enlisted into the Bank workforce. You could become a credit-man, even if you had no debt. You just needed a good reputation free of violence.

After that, Banks no longer offered credit for slave traders. Although autistic trade was still supported by public certainty that crops must be defended.
Few thought there was much choice about autistics, for the sake of humanity, and because they were highly talented in the timber industries.
Asphalted timber was critical for every railway and building, and autistics made it possible.

Otherwise, just like gold. The Bank refused slave deals.
This further outraged rich families that lost gold wealth, and then lost their slave trade.
Of course there would always be men willing to work for the gold families in exchange for food. But the most talented people were now pointed toward larger enterprise.
Liam was too proud, and maybe too old to become a credit-man.
It made sense for him to refuse credit.

Credit-men got food and many stayed on as sharecroppers, or business associates after the debt was paid. People learned new trades.
It was good to earn credit for your family, but generally Banks preferred men move into new prosperity that was sweeping the land.

At least there were honest records.
People liked the era of trust. False claims were disappearing.
Anyway, what are you going to do?
You are slave to gold or slave to debt.
Either you own nothing, or you own something that is worth nothing.
History is written on the scales of debt vrs gold.
When gold is worse, then history stumbles down the road to credit-and-debt.
Every rock in the dirt has a story back to the beginning of time.
Bobber figured it out.
The Easy Mark cannot be handed out unless the trade is full value, and Liam would not respect Bobber for being unbusinesslike. Yet Liam is pretending to bait Bobber into unbusinesslike transaction. The intent is to measure Bobber trustworthiness. And pretending to be mad over a false trade is how Liam intends to find the truth.
When somebody got mad, the Box owner had to ‘hose the horse’ to cool them off. To exhibit charm in a tough situation. It was part of bargaining, and possible sign that Liam was close to decision.
Bobber takes the Trade Box

Liam came to Bobber for a reason.
Everybody thought Bobber was top connected with Carneghie Mellon.  Even the men that cut him loose thought Mellon recognized Bobber. And then Bobber somehow got the Solid Dollar brought into the Trade Box real quick, with new monitors-worldwide.
The Trade Box was exceptional local story.
Being top connected is a two sided knife. People expect too much, but ordinary thieves stay away.

After getting cut loose from raiding, Bobber recovered the hidden value.
The bracelet was traded for food.
The bright stones were sewn into a new cowhide belt.

Next two years, Bobber worked the cow barns, and then started trading cows for ranchers.

Suddenly the Solid Dollar came in
The local Trade Box near Bobber’s work had Bank men installing new monitors-worldwide.

Bobber asked the Bank men how much new monitors cost. Nothing.
Monitors were credited out. All you needed was a Trade Box, and then the bank would remove old monitors and install new monitors-worldwide. Simple as that.

Two days later RJ was killed in the violent raid at Red Lake Trade Box. Next day, Bobber traveled straight there and took over the Box.
He immediately credited out for new monitors-worldwide. That put him into the Bank links which forced the Solid Dollar.
That was it. Gold was no longer accepted at Red Lake.
Of course the Bank owned Bobber’s credit, same as they owned everybody else who must assume reasonable trade options.

As soon as monitors-worldwide were put in, Bobber was Bank-protected as long as local peace was not disrupted.
The Solid Dollar was central figure for peace.
If peace was not held locally, then the Trade Box could be removed and the owner thrown out. The result would be higher credit prices for the people.

Any area exhibiting violence had to pay more for trades… which ran hardship on violent people and encouraged peaceable offer.
The high cost of trade in violent areas caused a secondary market for gold as people saw opportunity to collect gold at bargain rates, expecting the price of gold would go up again. People were free to trade in that manner. You were free to go solo. But more prosperous areas turned to the Solid Dollar.

If an area demonstrated peace for a length of time, then the bank lowered rates, and trade was available at more advantage rate. Of course this meant that gold traders depended on a level of violence to avoid the lower-priced Bank.
Sooner or later, Bludworthies would find such men and put swift end to the variance.

It was becoming scarce to find areas that relied exclusively on gold trade.

Overall, it was important for Bobber to maintain peace by making favorable trades that attracted peaceful people to live in Red Lake.
The Bank bet on Bobber. They set low credit rates for Red Lake. Bobber held the peace, but it took everybody working together.

People knew they could lose the local Box, and lose credit value.
That’s why people started moving into Red Lake; they thought Bobber was top connected and he offered safer trade.

Bobber never corrected the misunderstanding about top connection, because it brought stability and peace, but it also opened the specter of false dealing.
Some things just get away from you. Like when he couldn’t warn the leader that the last raider trade was a trap.

The families that lost gold value were keen to find a flashpoint that would ignite war.
A top-connected guy like Bobber would be a likely target.
But a top-connected guy who was not really top-connected would be a gold mine with fever.

Bobber was cautious, shying away from intermingling himself with people, figuring they were eyeballing him for advantage.

If Liam left the Box without making the trade, and someone tried to coerce value, even if the violence occurred en route to another Trade Box, Bobber was responsible. The Banks would ask why was Bobber was unable to make the proper trade?

If the Banks started questioning Bobber, local people would expect him to show his top connection. Except Bobber had no top connection.
This could be the flashpoint. The Banks would have to make a big example to correct the loss of esteem.

Gold Town

West of Red Lake 1 mile was a small gathering of homes and a small trade box.
It was called Gold Town. It was established long before the Solid Dollar.
The Solid Dollar basically dried up the town.

The place still dealt gold.
Hoarders still maintained the old rail line arriving from the north that stopped at the platform. Rarely did cartage arrive from Hoarder rail.

The Bank brought in a new rail line that traveled from east to west, it also ran past Gold Town. So the Bank built a platform for Gold Town same as they built a platform at Red Lake.
As a result, little Gold Town, with just a few buildings had two rail platforms, with probably more rail service per-person than anywhere else.

Mostly the men wandering in and out of Gold Town were loners, hunters and prospectors and loose end sort of fellows; men running from one thing or another, with an occasional woman.
It was very quiet.

They kept a small fresh water distiller drawing water from Red Lake, and the Bank ran in a good electric line when the local nuclear addition was installed.
A new monitor tower was build a few yards from the gold trade box
The Bank didn’t charge Gold Town for electric.
They let folks know, as long there was no violence, the free electric was incentive to inform potential troublemakers not to settle there for long.

Bludworthies were ready to tear the place apart if any violation of Property or kidnapping occurred in the area.

Bank men even installed new monitors-worldwide at the gold trade box.
Gold men were insulted and wanted to break them apart … but all agreed they enjoyed watching free announcements.

It was standard practice that the Gold Town dealt with gold, so people living there would sneak over to Red Lake Trade Box and make credit trades and buy information links to see where their families were.

Red Lake residents were untrusting of the rabble of men that moved in and out of Gold Town.
However, the population of stray men had gotten the word. The worse of the lot was unsteady, not knowing when a Bludworthy might pop up with a ticket calling their name.

All over Texas and elsewhere there were small towns that dealt with gold. They were disappearing or changing into new ways.

Serious farmers and cattlemen shifted business to Red Lake because it offered wider trade options. Properties lived in Red Lake because it was safe.

Bobber had runners pass through Gold Town to bring back news.
Any change at Gold Town would signal bigger problems.

Going east coast

Just as things were about to boil to a conclusion with Liam, the Trade Box door opened.
Two men and New Boy2 walked in. New Boy2 was young, about same age as Young Property.
The two men paid credit to see an agreement on the monitor and LeoJ handled the transaction from the back.
The arrival of more people cooled Liam. Bobber measured the new arrivals, unsure if they were nosed to discover what Liam was trading. But it didn’t appear so by the way they conducted conversation.
Liam and Older Boy moved away from the counter and were talking in the corner. But they didn’t leave.
Young Property and Small Boy were still standing next to the coke machine.
Bobber priced cokes cheap to attract folks.
You could have coke with ice or have it chill-cooled inside the a-con blower.
Bobber was passing a few moments watching the three young ones.
He saw Young Property and the New Boy2 looking at each other.
Then, Young Property uncovered her face.
Just like that. The girl’s face was open for all to see.

She uncovered her face !!!!!!!!!!!!
That dang little girl just went east coast.
She might as well shat on her family.

Liam started screaming red-faced, Bobber was laughing, and New Boy2 was wide-mouth smiling.  You could see he liked her. Small Boy was laughing at his sister. Olderboy was shocked and running around.
Bobber started yelling , ‘Sign em up with a contract,’ pounding his hand on the counter.
People running in circles and yelling. Men wide eyed with disbelief.
The whole Box was alive with commotion and yelling.
One of the older boys came running in from outside.
LeoJ bust out of the back room, ducked low with a gun.
And here was this little angel with a warm smile, going east coast with her face uncovered in front of everybody.
Who could imagine this would happen in the middle of serious negotiation.
But it did.
It changed everything.
Bobber howling, Liam yelling, the brothers running around, LeoJ staring…
And not one person in that room moved to stop the little girl from showing her affection toward New Boy2.

At that moment, until she covered her face again, it seemed perfectly normal as if the future was standing directly in front of them.
Her face was covered now.
Liam gestured the boy out, and things settled back right quick.
The 3 youngest ones were still giggling and then Liam and everybody started laughing.

For five minutes the whole Box rocked with laughter like they were all family.
Everybody everywhere was ready to laugh about cow blankets, and the triple-play, and shooting astrologer hats out of a gun, and the end of so many hardships.
Red Lake/ oil and gas/ nuclear power/ making crystals

Unknown to everyone right then, Red Lake just belched up another sludge of brown goo.
Plumes of gas and oil would rise to the surface and evaporate off over a few days.
Red lake was an old landfill.
It was mined real deep for metal scrap and plastic value, and then filled with water as the local aquifer rose.

Hydrocarbons vented up through the lake regularly.
Hydrocarbons vented up all across Texas.

Fractured rock from old extraction techniques let gas escape all across the region.
People thought the gas would be extracted and then the rock go dormant.
But that’s not how the earth works.
Oil and gas never stop rising from layers deep beneath the surface.
Barely a hundred years passed since they stopped breaking the rock, before locals finally ran out of water.
When nuclear additions were installed, people began favoring electricity and stopped using hydrocarbon fuel.

GE-Nuke discovered crystals could be spun in a magnetic field using lasers, and the simple technology generated huge amounts of electricity.

Crystals were made by super-heating carbon rings suspended in electromagnetic field, then bombarding the carbon with helium and argon lasers. The crystal formed while cooling gradually over many months.
Toward the end of the process, a shadow-mark was used to print identification code on each one.

Some crystals were clear, others were reddish, but the most prized were blue.
The GE blues were larger, about 4” long and 1” across, and could generate more power.

Crystals had round points on each end that formed a near frictionless surface when fit into a pocket of steel with silicone lubricant. They used white bicycle grease mostly.
Three lasers spun crystals at specific speeds. If lasers malfunction and rotation slowed, then electric output dropped. If lubricant dried out, the result was a damaged crystal that produced less power after function was restored. The process was very safe.

At some point after crystals were invented, the lung struck, and populations quickly dwindled.
As people gradually stopped burning hydrocarbons, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere dropped, but methane still affected people.

The remaining people turned to electricity since power lines ran everywhere.

It was simple to build nuclear additions and maintain electric transmission. Wire and purified glass insulators were not hard to make or install.
Men could see how it worked.
Two men planted asphalted poles in the ground and strung wire. That was it.
Transformer windings were simple: Wrap insulated wire around a metal core, and put two next to each other. More winds on one and fewer winds on the other caused voltage to change. Install both coils inside a can filled with oil to keep it cool, and it worked. Switchgear was made from various metals.

Most electric technology was saved.
Nobody stole transformers. Everybody had one. Can’t sell an old bag if nobody wants it.

Hydrocarbon fuels, like oil shale and gas, were complicated technology.
Electricity was done by local people where they lived.

Hydrocarbons required discovery, extraction, long pipelines, coordinated pressures, with chemical refineries and massive numbers of people. Plus hydrocarbons require different refining for each type of hydrocarbon.
Oils were still made to lubricate process-bearings and transformer coolant. But widespread electricity easily survived the die-offs and starvations while hydrocarbons did not.
Plants change/ Leatherleaf

Even with declining carbon in the atmosphere, it rained less, so fewer plants were alive to turn carbon into oxygen. 
New plants succeed where old ones failed.
Most plants looked the same as before.
Trees were dwarfed, acorns smaller, and wood grain more twisted so it stored water with less energy cost to the plant.

Some plants that were small before, suddenly got larger.
Example was the Texas Leatherleaf.
This wasn't the dampland texture fern, this was a new arrival.

Centuries before, somebody brought a bunch of plants from overseas. They came from African savannahs, surviving drought and heat and changed atmosphere.
Nothing killed them, they even survived fire.
Nothing ate them. They just sat there and lived quietly and smelled bad.

Original Leatherleaf was half size of a tomato plant. Once a year, in the fall, they had seed pods.
Experiments tried to make fuel from the seeds.
Seeds almost exploded if exposed to sustained energy. Except seeds were so small, and it took more energy to get the seed to explode than the explosion produced.
They just couldn’t get Leatherleaf to burn.

Naturally the Leatherleaf experiment was abandoned and the plants turned loose to do as they please, such as migrate to Texas and evolve into a large bush.

Nobody knows exactly how it happened.
But the entire mid-to-southern part of Texas, south of Red Lake down to the coastline, was covered with 6 foot high Leatherleaf that crowded over the dry soil with a living blanket of tough impenetrable scrub brush.

At least they were fireproof.
Except they weren’t.

Gas and oil continued/ The Red Lake monster

Gas and oil kept rising throughout Texas and there was no way to stop it.
Sometimes gas would fill up valley floors, and kill off plants and animals.
The combustible percolated up through old oil wells and water wells that weren’t filled with concrete.
When hydrocarbons ignite, the hydrogen burns away, causing massive amounts of heat and energy. The resulting byproduct is carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and acidic water etc. The gas byproduct and acidic water ruined many fresh water wells over large areas.
The aquifers had risen in some places so that water could be pumped to the surface again, but frequently the tap water released bubbles of gas in the water. Hydrocarbonated firewater.
Red Lake was more open to wind, and breezes quickly carried away the gas and petroleum vapor that belched up.
Vegetation and crops grew steady around Red Lake when it rained.
Red Lake lay north of the Leatherleaf about 15 miles.  Red Lake still had forests of 6’-12’ tall cedar trees. Some protected valleys had short oak, maple and sycamore wedged into the rocky soil.
During drought months, the vegetation turned brown until the rain returned. You never knew when it was going rain.
Of course the water in Red Lake was poison to drink because of the petroleum, but also from arsenic used to extract value from the old landfill.
The water was distilled with electric distillers. Which was good because it removed minerals so irrigated land remained more viable after evaporation.

You could swim in the lake to cool off.
There were no fish.
The lake was beautiful when it rained.
The surrounding hills turned green, and the lake turned red at sunset. Red Lake.

At night the sludge evaporated off and sometimes there were green and blue and orange colors like an electric show.
The nighttime lights were spectacular.

People travelled long distance to see the lake.
It was quite famous.

Occasionally the lake would hiss, and people called it Serpent Lake too.
The hissing made people nervous, and they would claim a sea monster rose out of the water. Maybe it was a gas plume.
Or beet beer and imagination.

Tourists arrived more frequently after the Bank rail was installed. They were usually disappointed when they didn’t see a monster.
But how could a creature live in that water with no fish to eat?

It didn’t matter to people who lived there. Red Lake was a place to distill water that never ran dry.
With the nuclear addition nearby, enough water was distilled to carry crops and livestock year round.
Bobber finds his family/ the uncle story

The year before, a fellow showed up at the Trade Box.
He looked at Bobber, and said ‘you’re my uncle.’
Hold on a minute.
‘You’re my uncle had two meanings.
Meaning 1: you were actually that person’s uncle.
Meaning 2: you ‘eat monkey.’
People said it to be funny or start a fight.
It was bold speaking to a stranger.
Monkeys of some breed flourished in the limestone hills of mid-Texas.
They could outwit a river bottom lion, and they ate everything.
Worse than autistics some said.
The monkeys were running around eating crops and general nuisance.
They were equally hard to hunt.
Shooting monkeys was like drinking water from a straw hat. When you went down the hill after them, they climbed back around and disappeared.
A couple years before, just as raiding ended, the monkeys attacked and ate some guy.
So the clan went after the monkeys that ate their uncle.
Lots of people joined in. They got real serious.
They shot as many monkeys as they could.
At one point, a group of guys cooked up one of the monkeys to eat.
So they were eating the monkey.
Another guy walks by and says, Oh, you’re eating my uncle.
He meant that the monkey ate somebody’s uncle, so now, they were eating that uncle themselves.
Story goes that one of the guys coughed up a piece of meat through his nose, which puked everybody and nobody ate the monkey.

Naturally, word got around.

So now, when you wanted dinner conversation with people you hadn’t seen for a while, especially your relatives, you say, ‘oh, you’re my uncle,’ just as they’re taking a bite of meat.
People thought it was hilarious.

But if you said it to a stranger it was an insult.
So here was a young fellow standing at the counter calling Bobber an uncle.
Bobber muttered for clarification, not wanting to wade into a fight.
The fellow says, no.
My friend is your brother JohnE.

My brother is alive???? Which brother? Bobber asked.

There was an older brother that left for the Lithium War and was killed.
His name was JonnE.
Bobber’s father’s name was Jonney. That’s why they named the first child JonnE.
The young fellow says, JonnE.
JonnE is alive?
Bobber’s heart was pounding.
The young fellow said that JonnE deserted the war just before a blast killed his group. Blew everybody to pieces.
The war bosses sent notice to Bobber’s father that JonnE was killed.  No tags, no thanks, no body, just gone.
Bobber’s father held the notice for days. The loss was so strong that he couldn’t walk.
Short time later, his father disappeared.
JohnE had escaped the war, but he violated Oath by deserting,
Deserters were killed, so he couldn’t go home to Texas.
JonnE had no idea he was considered dead, or he would have gone home.
Instead he travelled eastward to steel country and married into a clan of welders and fabricators who built electric cartage.
After two children, his Property rejected him and took a new man.
JonnE had no rights because he was weak parrot, so one night he snuck away with his baby boy and traveled back to Texas.
JonnE arrived in Texas with his boy two years after Bobber joined the raiders.
He found Bobber’s younger brother and sister in an empty house near the birthplace.
They were down to final chickens, but they were healthy.
Together they moved to South Texas to hide from reprisal since the eastern clan made claim for the stolen child.
Since they were hiding, Bobber could never find his family on the monitor.
Luckily, JonnE’s property contract was made solo.
With the new Solid Dollar, the Bludworthies were no longer honoring solo claims.
JonnE had gotten clear and started looking for Bobber and the missing father. But he avoided the monitor since the eastern clan could track him using paid transactions.

A great weight lifted off Bobber. He found his family.
Bobber was able to visit JonnE and his sister and brother afterwards.
They were children when they parted. Bobber didn’t recognize them immediately.
It was wonderful to have a family again.
Only afterward was Bobber reminded that he had feelings again. It felt calming and burdensome at once.

JonnE and the rest moved 20 miles south of Red Lake to a tiny dry farm community.
Bobber wanted them closer, but that was it.
That’s when Bobber began searching the monitor for his father.
Most people were on the monitor now.
After JohnE was called dead, Bobber felt his father’s broken heart.

There was hope.
If his father knew JonnE was alive, maybe he would come home. They would be a family again.
Bobber found his father through an agreement.
His father held a contract family back east that showed 2 children; a boy and a girl.
He reached his father through the monitor saying that JonnE was alive.
They made plans to get together soon.
It was terrible when his father never came, but each knew the other was alive.
You can live old pain forever, or you can forgive and live in peace.

Bobber feared going east to see his father.
What if his father loved his new children and rejected Bobber again? That pain would be too great.
It was better to believe that his father still cared than to discover a different man who found happiness without his own.
A man shouldn’t think about those things, but inside was a boy who was deeply hurt.
Storm and fire/ Texas burns down

LeoJ recovered from the laughing spell over the little girl’s uncovered face.
He returned to the back room.
He saw the warning: Strong storm coming.

A dry hurricane hit the coast day before.
Contact was lost with many areas, but people generally ignored reports since there was no rain except east of New Galveston.
People wanted rain.
It was dry season and hadn’t rained for 5 months.

The hurricane’s eye spun westward overnight, and the winds were coming in from the north as it approached Red Lake.

The copper coupon bell started ringing for some reason.
Other bells and noise started up.

Bobber immediately called out to bar the door closed.
Anything could be happening. Raiders, autistics, Bludworthies.
He saw the monitor.  People outside were looking south toward the lake while others were looking north.
Nobody was running, so the place wasn’t amuck with meat cleaver lunatics. Which was good.
Then the ceiling lights burned brighter. Everybody looked up. A bulb that was turned off started to glow.
You could feel electricity in the air, which started a humming noise, and then a wheezy growl. Nobody heard such a thing before.
Moments later there was a huge explosion.
People ran outside to see what happened.
Red Lake was on fire with flames surging skyward.

It was unbelievable. There was a huge fire on the lake and the heat was almost searing.

Suddenly a tidal wave of washed ashore.
Shocked people stood motionless while a wave of burning water pushed balls of dirt and trade boats up the street.

Liam’s people were knocked down by the concussion blast, but they were up and seemed ok except holding their ears.
Flaming water ran up the arroyo behind the Trade Box.
The brush and grass caught fire and ignited pine needles which set fire to the trees.
People closer to the lake were yelling.
The retreating water pulled people into the lake.
Men were running to get ropes.
Boats were on fire in the street.
People swinging bedcovers and jackets and throwing dirt trying to put out fires. Fire was everywhere.
Just as suddenly, a hard gust of wind blew in from behind. The north wind arrived with a blast.
Clouds of dust faded the sun, and bullets of cold rain fell for one minute before the sun shown again before being obscured completely by the onrushing storm.
The sky was achurn with fast-moving clouds, followed by cigar clouds that started rolling past like fingers in your hair.
People were yelling again. The tidal wave was coming back.
Then a cheer went up as the people swept away moments before were heading back to shore. Survivors grabbed ropes as the new surge flooded in.
The second wave was smaller and not burning.
Bobber watched the slough of black water wash in with branches and a white shirt floated by.
The wind was strong enough to blow small people down.
The fires were not spreading.
So it seemed the situation would resolve quickly as soon at more rain fell.  
But the clouds gave nothing.
Just a howling dry air that blew dust and sticks and burning embers into the lake.

The dry side of the hurricane had arrived. It was sucking down air from the north with no rain to fall.
A group of people nearby were screaming and pointing.
That’s when people noticed the far shoreline was on fire.
Across the entire breadth of the lake, there was fire.
Flames were bouncing up hundreds of feet high, going over the hills. Pine trees exploded when the wind hit.
The wind ripped past like the devil was coming out of your pocket. There was no stopping the fire that raced southward with the hurricane.
Liam’s family was yelling. Their voices barely heard over the wind.
Their homes and families were on the other side.
They had come across on the boats that were burning in the street.

Properties fell to their knees in the dirt and mud, clasping hands in front of mouths, then reaching out as if to touch lost hearts on the other side.
Stunned people watched the land consumed with wind-driven fires that reached every hill as wide as you could see.
Bobber suddenly remembered his own family. They lived south just 20 miles. Same direction the fire was going.
His lifelong dream that his family would be whole again was slammed into a wall. He fell against the doorway.
Nobody deserved this.
Bobber slumped to his knees and cried.
It was Liam who saved Bobber at that moment.
Stand up my friend. We are strong for the others. He helped Bobber up.
Yes Liam trusted Bobber.
Maybe it was Bobber who was most in doubt, and not Liam.
They shared a bond, both living through equal hardship.

Silently now, everybody looked across the lake, with deep tears that swallowed everything that came before.
We will take it.
People busied themselves saving the boats, and covering windows.

When work was done, visitor and resident found new friends and sheltered together.  Each planning later to travel across the lake, hoping for a miracle.
If only it would rain. But it never did.

After the hurricane died away hours later, the fire created its own windstorm, urged onward by a late summer jet stream that pushed into Texas the next day.

The fire raged across Texas for 36 hours before reaching the Gulf shoreline. Traveling almost 14 miles per hour, wiping out New Freeport, Space City and Cristi Point and everything between. Only those who could outrun the wind, or took to the sea, or took cartage going west or east escaped out of danger.
Anyone breathing ash and smoke soon developed lung problems, some to pass quickly while others dwindled in diminished capacity to the end.
What bad luck. Red Lake belching up explosive gas the very moment the charged atmosphere of a storm arrived with high winds. Maybe it was lightning. Or short circuit in one of the buildings. Maybe it was the glowing aura of static from the lake itself. Nobody cared much for science after it wrecked the planet.

Nobody forgot the stories about the planet covered with chemical poison. How
phenols and other chemicals killed people many times over, causing damage to human bodies and plants and animals and oceans.

Science was rejected, yet everyone depended on electricity invented by science. Something useful from the past always manages to creep into the future, perpetuating the cycle of mischief and wonder.

Liams’ clan crowded into the Box for shelter. Wind bounced broken limbs against the building, mocking their loss. Leo J passed out blankets to hang against the wall to stop dust from blowing through the cracks.

The GE crystal

Nobody was allowed in the back room.
A few lights were dimly lit using the centrifuge generator, but otherwise it was dark and desperate.
Electricity was off. Bank links were down.
Monitors might be off for weeks and a missing disc would throw blame on Bobber. Banking interests would demand reprisal. No excuses.

Bobber saw the risk, but also saw chance to close a deal.
He invited Liam to meet privately in the back room.

Bobber spoke plain and fast; saying he knew about the hidden value. He understood Liam’s expectation of receiving the Easy Mark, and about the risk for Liam’s clan.
Before Liam could answer, Bobber said that Liam could also buy a protection claim for his value instead of selling the value outright. The item would be stored at the Trade Box, fully protected by the Solid Dollar, with price to be negotiated later. This would protect Liams clan since they would leave holding papers so folks could see the value was no longer available for theft.
Except, as Bobber pointed out, the monitors could not communicate with the banks until electricity was restored. There would be no guarantee except Bobber’s word.
If something happened, then no proof would exist until bank links were restored.

Liam said they found a crystal.
What kind of crystal?
Liam didn’t know.

Bobber said he needed to see it. Small Boy was called in. He pulled the crystal from his pocket. They gave him drinks to carry back out front.

LeoJ was startled.
That’s a GE Nuke.
Yes. A full blue. The best. Very large.
Slightly more than 1 inch wide and 5 inches long with pointed ends that spun in the reactor. The number was etched. You couldn’t counterfeit the etching.
This was extraordinary.
It had markings. It was genuine.
This was big.

Nobody had GE crystals.
There were a few pictures with registered identification on the monitor, but Bobber never heard about people having one in their pocket to carry around.

LeoJ added.
It might be illegal. Or stolen.
Liam said, we found it. The rest of the clan doesn’t know. My children know the risk of telling anyone. They won’t talk.
Keep it that way Bobber said.

Everyone was quiet.
Liam said they would accept the protection claim if Bobber could find a buyer.
Bobber said it was worth more than an Easy Mark.
Liam agreed.

Liam said he wanted to stay close and not leave the area until a buyer was found.
It will take time, Bobber said.

Clear thinking was needed.
They had to forget the fire and death raging across Texas.

LeoJ and Bobber looked at each other. It was dangerous to get folks excited about something as big as a GE Nuke crystal.
They couldn’t credit it.
The only choice was protection claim.
They were vulnerable if Liam did them dirt.

Bobber calculated the protection claim was worth the risk. LeoJ agreed.
Protection claim meant Liam was free to reclaim the crystal any time.

The fire spared Red Lake.
Bobber anticipated many people would arrive to fix electric lines, and look for help and loved ones.

Ok Bobber laid out the plan; Liam could stay, but he would need to stay in view.
Frequent contact with Bobber would catch suspicion.
It would appear best if he and Liam worked together.
The clan would have to hunker down without word. And they couldn’t stay with Bobber. Wherever they stayed meant words that could doubt the deal.

Act fast or act slow? Bobber didn’t know.
It would be handy having a seasoned Lithium fighter around like Liam.
But if Liam got get killed by old enemies, it would sully the Box.

Liam stopped talking. He didn’t want trouble. He preferred to remain unknown. What choice was there?
Liam demanded that his older boy be included on the contract. Smart idea.

The deal was struck. Liam would cross the lake to check the disaster, and then return. He would quietly work for Bobber, but not carry arms. Instead he would negotiate the value of peace against losing the Trade Box.
It would be good having a former lithium fighter show real change.

Bobber had other worries. Everybody did.
The fire and his family. He had to know.

You can’t lead people with a spaghetti noodle.

Plan to sell the crystal

Who could buy and sell GE Nuke crystals?
A top connection was needed.
Liam sought trade with Bobber because he thought Bobber was top connected.

But top people traded face to face. If you could find them.

Bobber remembered the night he lay tied up in the dirt with Mellon standing over him.
One of the men who cut Bobber loose next morning might be around.

Yes… what was that man’s name? The short, tough one with red hair. JoeR or JoeB. He might know where to find Mellon.
There was a problem. Those men, and everybody else, thought Bobber was already top-connected.
If Bobber asked about Mellon directly, it would cast Bobber as a liar.

Bobber wasn’t going to disappoint.

What about the woman at the barn with the beautiful face? Bobber had no idea she was the Queen.
To Bobber, she was just another princess. But there was something compelling about her. The wind stopped howling for a moment just as Bobber pictured her in his mind.
Shake free fool.
Yes. It was okay to ask about the woman, feigning offer to sell fine jewelry, instead of asking about Mellon.
Bobber still had the bright stones he found under a wheel.
You could inquire about important women by speaking indirectly.
Of course you might be cautious asking a top-connected man about a top woman; they might be husband or brother. Damn, what a fool.

Girlfriend Cheneen

Bobber had a girlfriend the year before the hurricane. He was 21 she 16.

Cheneen was tall and willowy. Golden blond. Striking blue eyes.
The family was pressuring Bobber for contract, but the girl was modern.
She was quick to undress and was quite of wicked mind, with that sassy mouth and agile willingness to absorb all manner of provocation. Bobber loved her long inner thighs and firm grasp on the situation. Together they were all over the back room and up to the rafters.

Around her family however, he felt like a square ball bearing.
It was worrisome that they offered such a large contract, then backed down on the price.
Seemed they were measuring Bobber’s Trade Box as a family heirloom, with certain disposable ownership.
Oh sure, they were nice enough in a down home grab-ass way that Bobber got to wondering how many men were buried under the barn.

Bobber caught the glimpse one night at a family meal.
The girl strutted out dressed like a three-finger cheesecake.
She wore a transparent veil over her face. Her short skirt was made from thin white fabric that clung to her hips, with a three-lap whip-leather belt, and loose shirt that obviously displayed no undercovering.
Her uncles and another man were sitting there that night. They didn’t bring wives.

She acted like a 3-year old, hiking up her skirt to sit down, and then standing up to bend over deeply to pick up a dropped fork.
Massive heat was coming off that table, and wasn’t just the mustard beans.

The whole gob of them staring at the surprise darling as she performed the need to stretch arms overhead. Leaning side to side so both breasts swayed against the shirt.
He figured she was pulling all the straws at that table. Including the father’s too.

Bobber sat there and watched the whole torrid lot of incestors slather their potatoes with butter.
She was so hot it would make you cry.
The mother pretended not to notice.
At least there was enough Texas proper at the table that nobody was stroking-the-genius through their pant leg.
Bobber thought this would look dandy on the announcements.

He was sitting with his back to the door. Clearly a bad practice, but other chairs were taken when he sat down.
Somebody was outside looking in.
It was dark. No sense turning around. If evil was about, the deed would have been done by now.
It was angry with envy or jealousy. Bobber instinctively scootched his chair away from the girl.
The table saw it. The family knew there was no contract. The girl crushed the deal. It was about somebody else.
Cheneen told Bobber the same way young girls always handle such things.

Bobber left into darkness real quick. No sense stalling around and making the men wait.

Make a choice. Slip away from the usual path? Or take the back way home?
The direct route would be greatest danger, but reveal the truth.

Bobber walked straight to it. RobbieB came out from the side.
Hi Bobber.
Bobber replied, Hey, you’re Cheneen’s friend. Well I was just over there, and her father said he wasn’t going to sell the scrap copper. We sure needed the deal, but it fell through.

RobbieB was disarmed by Bobber’s relaxed candor. Ok he said. Ok.

That’s when Bobber saw the other two boys. So that was it.
RobbieB was Cheneen’s new straw and the guys were going to force it over Bobber.

I think the girl would have preferred a fight. Except Bobber knew what was happening before it happened.
No sense sharing with RobbeB that his new hen was an avid proponent of the open-way, and probably taking the Solid Dollar right then as they spoke.

There was a level of dirt put to the honor of Cheneen’s family.
In their minds, Bobber cheated them out of the Trade Box.
He wondered how he managed to walk into that situation so blind. But maybe it was coming anyway.

Bobber always felt the pull to get out quickly.
The situation with Cheneen confirmed the clarity.

After the hurricane

Bobber sunk back into the world.
He and Liam moved to the front room, shaking hands like old friends.

The wind howled for hours. It was dark, around 9, when the dust died down and people opened the door.
The glowing orange was still visible from the south.
People looked toward the fire, silently talking to friends they hoped survived.
Other people readied boats for crossing at first light.
The night was sad.

Next day, the water was still too rough.
Some people feared the lake would explode again.

Fresh water was first.
Men found the fresh water distiller damaged but repairable. They used hand pumps, and everybody pulled duty. The hot day helped.

Once water was available, the hunting men set off to walk around the lake, a considerable feat following steep paths over the mounds old mine tailings covered by dense low brush. The electric cartage wasn’t running.
Other men set out to track fallen electric wires between Red Lake and the Nuclear Addition. Communication depended on electricity.

Good news came back. The Nuclear Addition was still on line and wires were only down in a few places. Power would be restored soon.
Maybe it wasn’t as bad as people feared.
But it was. Texas was burning down.

As travelers arrived in town, they told of fires elsewhere, not just Red Lake.
There were explosions in many places.
The jet stream had pulled the hurricane over next to a trough that caused higher clouds and lower pressure, just as the earth was pushing up a wide band of hydrocarbons across the region.
The low pressure sucked plumes of explosive gas out of the ground and electricity must have sparked up against the charged storm clouds. Something happened.

Still no sign from across the lake or word from down south.

The boatmen set out around the edge of the lake, promising to signal back when they arrived on the other side.
Everybody wanted to go. Just a few men were picked.
Liam was selected.
It would take days to float around the perimeter, even if they caught the sail.

Wait and see.
More people arrived in town. Many were burned.
They arrived from the east and west, but none from the south
People told stories having to leave the old and injured behind in dusty smoke to wither and die.
People accept hardships, but few can bear their lives afterwards, except hoping the youngest never remember.

Electricity was restored. They made ice for the wounded.

Bank links were restored. People crowded around the outdoor monitors straining for news about the fire and loves ones.
For the first time, monitors-worldwide carried death rolls of people lost in the fire.
It was horrible and important to let families know what happened.

Let's leave this behind for now.
We are here for the remaining people.

The cartage men search for survivors

The Banks began assessing the rail lines for damage.
The Bank rail coming from the east was open. The gold rail from the north was open. The rail south to New Freeport was open several miles and then stopped.
Spot repairs were being thrown up to get rail cartage down through Texas and find survivors.

Cartage men left water and food next to the rail every mile to signal that people were looking for them.
Day and night, the electric whistle sounded on every rail.
If you can make it to the rail, we will get you out. That’s the best for now.

Texas didn’t have a lot of rail, and most those lines were destroyed by the fire.
Vast stretches of rail would have to be laid again.

The Bank began long-term plans to double rail Texas from east to west and south to north, but for now, it would take time for men to work their way to the deepest part of the burned areas.

People hoped their relatives survived by hiding in the root cellar. But root cellars were just a hole under the house that would never protect from fire.
If the root cellar burned, then food stores would be gone.
If the rail, mule and food are gone, and rivers dry, how would anyone escape hundreds of miles across Texas in the heat?

News arrived. Houston and New Galveston were spared, but everything east of Brazos and San Bernard and Colorado rivers was gone.

People at the Trade Box wouldn’t leave the monitor.

Bobber sent out free cold drinks. Indoor monitors were moved outside, and he closed the Box.
More monitors were ordered, along with mosquito repel. He hoped the Bank sent more monitors soon. More people came every day.

Families cooked stew pots. Supplies were short and food was administered with water sugar that was beat out the cane growing along edges of valley floors.
Men brought in logs so people could sit. They watched the monitors. It was quiet despite the agitation that sugar threw down on a person’s sanity and well being.

The first supply rail arrived. People heard it coming and rushed to the platform
Two men got up on the platform.
A large bale, perched on the top of the car, was finally toppled off.
It was cut open open. People intently watched.
The man held up the prize.
Everybody laughed.
Genuine western 4-ply. Fold it over 4 times, and you got 4 plys.

Food, mosquito nets, repel, canopies, lumber, nails were offloaded.
Two big fresh water distillers, steel pipe, hege-welders, a dredge screen, and a boat.
Bandages, blankets, bed rolls, bamboo mattress springs, skid rock hammocks, kid trinkets, hats, gloves, socks … the Bank thought of everything.
But just two monitors. Bobber was puzzled.

A new man presented himself on the platform.
He was the Bank Boss.
He was crazy as a scotch dog. He loudly entertained the crowd and they believed him.
He guaranteed the Bank would support Red Lake.

Our men are going to start here and work south to find your families. We need men to help.
People cheered. Everybody volunteered.
We need water. Set up the distillers. The crowd surged into action.
Then the cartage left.
The Bank Boss would be back.

Canopies were strung from tree to tree, sheltering people from the blazing sun.
Outdoor areas were carefully enclosed against swarming mosquitoes.

Bobber was giving away everything, and offering free communications and exchange.
Same as the Banks.
He cautioned against violence and re-selling at higher price.
Anything could set off demand for gold if the Banks failed to deliver.

A signal came from across the lake. It was a cruel joke to signal by fire.
The following night there were several fires visible on the other side for 15 minutes before the glow disappeared. Nobody knew for sure what it meant. But at least they made it.

Maybe they were bringing back survivors.
Heat from the fire must have been immense. Surely some people jumped in the lake, except the lake was burning and the waves would drown them or set the boats on fire.
If there were survivors, why no signal before now?

A tiny fray of hope will bleed the heart dry of any other thought.
The community pulled together.

The Queen is announced/ She plans to visit Texas

For the past year stories arrived about a Queen living in Forest City.
Once the Queen was announced, then it was fact.

She was creating the New Kingdom and calling for representatives from each area.

Queen? What was that? A Kingdom run by a Queen?
It was new. Something to talk about.

Properties were excited beyond belief. They were making up stories how the Queen would transform the world into a romantic kingdom that replaced daily drudgery of raising children and tolerating a dumb man.
Well, they should have married a smart one?

Announcements showed a group of modern women discussing the end of boorish men. Offering ways to bring romance between men and women. Flowers, gentle discussion about her feelings.
What the world we need that for?
One man jumped up and changed the announcement. Women laughed. The man looked like a goat; why wasn’t he out working in the fields? The women changed it back.

The Queen was scheduled to appear on the Monitor soon.
But then the fire.

Her appearance was postponed, and the Queen would travel to Texas instead.
Hope filled the air.
A wondrous being was coming to help. People cried.

Bobber was trying to sort out his own plan.
The Box was re-opened.
He was careful.

The men return from across the lake

Boats started arriving from across the lake. They brought a group of people who got lost on the wrong side of Red Lake.
It was terrible.
Only two survivors, and they were burned after getting dragged into the flaming water and hanging on to a broken boat.
Bodies were floating. There were quiet sobs. People took it. What choice was there?

Liam made it back. He was weaker.
Bobber helped prop him up.
The smouldering Cedar tree stumps put off smoke, making breathing hard. It was too risky to travel south.
Any survivors would know to walk toward Red Lake, but there were no landmarks.
Boatmen agreed to patrol the other side for survivors.

Monitors carried video showing the best seekers moving up the Brazos and San Bernard and Colorado rivers. It was slow without local food and clean water.

Word came from New Freeport: nothing left inland.
Many coastal people survived by taking to the sea.
People with monitors knew in advance the fire was coming, but it happened so fast. There was nowhere to run.

South Texas was covered with Leatherleaf. Each branch covered with thorns and strung together by vines covering the whole mass.
Only night-cats, hogs and tiny deer were able to navigate their way through the maze.
From this massive field of scrub, the men and women of Texas carved out small dry farm communities depending on rainfall to grow crops.
The Brazos and Colorado rivers were uncertain most years.

The carpet of Leatherleaf burned Texas.
Leatherleaf was supposed to be unburnable. Something caused it to burn.

People were getting mad. Why didn’t more people escape?

The gold hoarders were partly responsible for the loss of life.
There was not enough rail to pull people out before the fire.
Hoarders never saw opportunity in Texas. Gold could never build enough rail to support the people.

Of course, even if there were rails, most people would not leave behind their homes to flee from uncertain danger into certain ruin.

Most people probably tried to shelter, hoping it would pass.
When the smoke arrived, it choked lungs already hollowed by years of methane and carbon.
Then the blizzard of sparks came, followed by tornadoes of fire.
The place was blown apart and then burned to the ground.

The dry season rivers were choked with ash, even the alligators were dead. Electric power was out, the fresh-water distillers gone. Miles and miles to walk just to find nothing else.

People in Red Lake iron-willed themselves that it might take a long time to discover the fate of loved ones on the roll.

Whole populations from north, east and west began moving to Red Lake.
Red Rake stood at the crossroads between the burned and unburned parts of Texas, with two rail lines that still worked.

But mostly, Red Lake had water. That’s why it was important.

Gold Town Booms

Gold men were arriving in great numbers.
They gathered in sleepy little Gold Town a mile west of Red Lake.

The Big Gold Leaders chose Red Lake as the weak point where they could rally their position against the Bank.
They saw their chance for a rematch over gold losses.

It was a poor time to hazard more confrontation over petty loses, when each man complaining was alive, while good people lay dead in the fire.
As usual, gold men were interested in themselves. They had no knowledge how to mount a rescue, or intention to do so.

Gold men brought slaves and boisterous bragging about ownership of everything. Forget the Solid Dollar. They began distributing gold to all acceptors.

They spread brazen talk how they were going to take over and provide what what was needed.
The gold rail from the north sprang back to life. Gold men pulled their own resources from holdings west and north that divergently crisscrossed expanding Bank interests.
They brought huge loads of timber for constructing more buildings.
Men were all over managing slaves into constructing houses for the gold men.
But gold men didn’t bring families and Properties.

People in Red Lake expected Bludworthies to show up in force.
But they didn’t come.
People noticed that gold men didn’t disrupt Bank cartage or shipments.
Obviously, the rule was: no violence, then you’re free to trade with gold.

No violence meant that credit rates held stable, and the Banks still provided free food and supplies to cover the disaster.
Bank cartage even delivered green potatoes, and two fresh water distillers and steel pipe to Gold Town. A Big John decayer was installed for waste matter. No charge. Set it up and get it going so you have clean water and sanitary conditions.

The Gold Leaders sent in a boss.
The Gold Boss arrived to make sure everything was getting done correctly.

Gold Boss / Bank Boss / The Big Gold Leaders arrive in Gold Town

Now each town had a Boss.
The Bank Boss was busy managing the rescue effort, and the Gold Boss busy doing whatever the Big Gold Leaders wanted him to do.

The Bank was smart
The Bank Boss and Gold Boss met and worked out a deal.

Gold men didn’t have enough electricity from the single electric line in Gold Town, so they threw kunda lines over wires running to Red Lake.
The Bank dropped the kunda lines, and in exchange, they ran new wires  straight from the nuclear addition,
Gold Town received free power, as long as no violence occurred. Free, no charge. Plenty of electricity.
Another nuclear addition was planned to supply Gold Town with free electricity until Texas recovered.
Pleasant dealing.
It was confusing.

The big gold interests from Space City were outraged.
Space City was located near the coast and was burned completely out. Gold interests were decimated by the end of gold and loss of the gold rocket to Euros, and now they lost Texas slaves and sugarcane and cotton.

The Big Gold Leaders arrived in Gold City from Kansas City. They wanted face-to-face dispute.
Gold leaders were provoking their men into bolder action. The gold men themselves feared Bludworthy reprisal against families back home so they measured actions cautiously.

The Gold Boss followed orders from the Gold Leaders, and ordered men to pirate the monitor tower sitting in the middle of Gold Town. Gold Leaders began showing announcements of their own.

Agitation was rising in Red Lake that maybe the Banks didn’t care if gold returned.

Most people thought Bankers were weak from both the fire and gold disasters at same time.

People didn’t see progress. They heard the rail was being repaired to New Freeport, but they saw a few men moving southward. The new distillers were built and ready, and volunteers were arriving to help, but nothing was happening.
People were impatient. Anything was better than nothing.

With the gold menace next door, the people of Red Lake felt abandoned. They feared Texas would fall into gold madness again.

The apparent success at intimidating the Bank emboldened more gold men to arrive in defiance of the Solid Dollar.
The great Gold Leader from Salt State arrived to cheers of gold men who were managing the architecture of asphalt screed buildings rising up under the power of enslaved people.
Montana Prince arrived with his sons.
No Properties anywhere. Gold town was barren.

The cheers that greeted the arrival of Big Gold Leaders could be heard from Red Lake

That’s when the switch was turned.
Somehow Bank announcement started interrupting announcements coming from the pirated monitor.

The same announcers that shot clown hats out of the gun were spoofing Gold Town.
Acting like drunkards, they wore pants backwards and babbled about Downtown Gold Town where all the men wear the zipper in the back.
Why else would so many men gather in the hard Texas sun day and night without any Properties?
They just did it twice. East to west, everybody saw it.

People in Red Lake saw the message.  They knew the Bank was pushing the Hoarders again.

Truth was, the gold men were desperate as any other. They wanted to know about their missing families. They watched the monitors-worldwide hoping against hope.

The Big Gold Leaders didn’t watch the death rolls, pretending to be busied with more important things.
That disregard angered gold men. Even the most loyal among them saw the difference that credit offered.

The gold trap is laid/ credit-men build faster than gold men/ Medical build is built

The Banks had a plan. They knew gold men had to leave or start bringing Properties and families to live in the town they built.

Gold or credit, no matter which you choose, your family needed the a-con chiller, electric heater, electric cooker, electric power, and mosquito repel.
Banks didn’t take gold, they only took credit. And Banks owned the sheet steel needed to make a-cons and heaters and cookers and distillers, they owned the businesses that made deeter-skeeter mosquito repel, and they owned the crystals that produced electric power.

Credit was going to win. Why not let gold men do the work setting it up, and let Gold Leaders supply the timber?

Red lake was undergoing its own construction boom.
New credit men arrived to build buildings.

The Bank Boss had them build a Medical building located on same side of town as Gold City. All were welcome. Few trusted it would help.

Credit men built 10 times faster with half the men. They used compressed chisels to carve out root cellars in one hour, while gold men hammered against limestone with pick iron and explosives for a full day.

The credit men cycled in and out of town, each applied a different craft. They specialized at setting up partially fabricated buildings assembled elsewhere.
Many credit men were on bondage for unpaid debt, while others sent credit back to families. All were proud of new skills.

Within weeks, people in Red Lake were indoors under the a-con chiller. They had new cookers. Free rent until things recovered. You had to help out and keep things going.

The Bank Boss started picking men to head south on the New Freeport rail reconstruction.
Other men were sent east to start a new double rail down through central Texas.

Liam stayed in Red lake with his clan, but wandered around both towns. Unsure what he should do or when the crystal might be sold.
Bobber sadly saw Liam lose his way.

The Bank did not deliver a-cons or heaters or cookers to Gold Town. Gold men were still sleeping outdoors at night to keep cool. And then the buildings were hot in the daytime. All that asphalted lumber absorbed a mighty lot of solar.
Some nights were chilly as the season began to turn toward fall. A good heater would be nice.

Here’s the trap.
Once the Big Gold Leaders arrived in Gold Town, they couldn’t leave.
They’d rabbled-up their men so much, their position was exposed.
They wanted immediate fighting, but the Bank wouldn’t fight. Still too hot to fight.

Gold Leaders couldn’t slip away now.
They just built a town for the Bank.
Imagine how would look if old Gold Rocket and Salt Dome and Montana Prince made graceful exit as loser again??

The Bankers had all the big rats in the same carton.
They planned a big example, and wanted to make sure the carton was brim full before inserting the cork.
Announcers started joking about the Montana Goof.

The crystal was destiny that Bobber didn’t know.

Bobber discovers the Queen/ Forest City/ JoRR / Line Readers
A former Bludworthy appeared in town.
Bobber was looking for him.
Liam called him across the street. A runner brought the news.
Bobber dispatched invitation for him to talk.

When he arrived, he looked older.
Bobber asked about his family. They shared a discussion between trades at the counter.

His name was JoRR Beeler.
He brought a daughter with him to Red Lake.
They escaped the fire. His daughter told him they must leave before the fire struck.
She told him that she was a Reader and she Read the fire before it happened.

JoRR said he hadn’t eaten all day. Stew was brought out. Eat slow Bobber said. We have more.
Bobber asked about the woman at the barn the day they cut him loose. Adding that he had trade value for an important woman, and offered commission for information.
JoRR looked strange at Bobber, and laughed.
Had Bobber made a mistake asking? No.

JoRR said that’s the Queen.
The Queen?
 How do you know?

Then the story started.
JoRR was one of four Bludworthies protecting the lady at the barn that day. They traveled back to Forest City with her.
When they arrived, he heard people calling her the Queen, but this was before the monitors carried the story.
He was sworn never to say what he heard or saw.
But now he was old and wanted to tell the story. Bobber figured JoRR must be about 38.

JoRR was relieved to tell the story.
It carried genuine truth.

The Queen was more powerful than people knew.
She was GE Nuke, she was the Bank, and she owned the Bludworthies.
She caused the Solid Dollar to come forth.
But there was more. She also started the Line Readers when she was a child.
All Line Readers carried the KL-VS2 gene. More resistance to illness, more intelligence, less susceptible to carbon and methane. Exceptional people.

Bobber thought the lady was a Reader when he saw her in the barn.
Readers have always been around; people able to pull information out of your eyes.

Line Reading was about groups of Readers meeting together and touching each other.
The Hive Mentality was communicated by these groups.
Groups of Readers would move around each other in dance-like motions while reaching out and touching the other person’s hand.

JoRR described it and Bobber remembered seeing young people outside the Box doing the Line Reader dance several times, but he thought it was loose squirrel.

JoRR said, the Line Readers in Forest City wore masks and robes and circled each other in opposite lines.
The lines went around the room. When groups were large, they formed several lines. The lines passed each other.
Each person touched hands while looking at the eyes of the person opposite them.
When there were multiple lines, the lines crossed each other and people all changed direction at same time so the pattern would change.
The larger the group, the better the communication.
He said, in a Line Read, you could speak to the person, or just speak in general, but it had to be in low harmonious tone to resonate with the group.
Since people wore masks and robes, nobody was sure which person was the Queen, or just an ordinary person with something to say. It could be anybody.

The rule was that you cleared your mind and didn’t focus on who was there, but instead Read information from their touch, word and eyes.

JoRR said that masks and robes hung in the hall available when people arrived. Some people already wore a mask, but less important people picked out a mask and robe before entering.
Then they would go inside the room through a door. and join the people who were already moving in Line.
Rumor was that Forest City was entirely Line Readers, and that the Queen received all information in this manner, and dispensed information the same way.
It was the Hive Mentality.
Line Readers were the power behind the New Kingdom.

After a while, JoRR was assigned elsewhere, and no longer guarded the Queen.
He got homesick and returned to his family and daughter in Texas.

Bobber thought to himself, he should try the Line Reader. Maybe it would help sell the crystal.
Nothing to lose.
Bobber knew information could be gleaned from shaking a person’s hand.
General labor men had calluses over the entire surface. While a boatman, had calluses in specific places. A woman’s hand might have fragrance. A hard working person would have a warm hand, and a frail person might offer a cold hand.

Yes there was truth behind it.

Bobber offered JoRR payment for the information, but JoRR asked for a favor instead.
JoRR wanted to go to New Galveston when the Queen arrived. He didn’t have Cartage passes for both his daughter and him.
JoRR said his daughter Windrock wanted to Line Read with the Queen.
Winrock had the gift. She saved their lives.
She was willing to share the Queen’s gift with Texas.

Bobber was stunned at the opportunity. The story was amazing. He paused a long time.

Bobber decides to go to New Galveston/ needs sponsors

JoRR asked another favor. Bobber would have to Read with the daughter to clear passageway to New Galveston.
Huh? Bobber was quizzed by the second favor. Clear passageway? Why not get on the cartage and change coaches until you were going the right direction?
Laughing politely to display his uncertainty, Bobber agreed. He had to find out.

After thinking for a moment, Bobber added his own requirement.
Bobber would travel with JoRR and Windrock to New Galveston. In exchange, Bobber would incur half of JoRR’s debt for cartage.
Agreement was reached. JoRR would return with his daughter.

Sale of the crystal could bring real advantage. But it was a bad time to leave the Trade Box.

Passage was going to be scarce.
Everybody wanted to go to New Galveston to gain information about missing family and see the Queen.

Bobber pulled favors from everybody.
He needed local sponsors for two reasons: to reassure people about his plans, and pay for cartage. He gave away most his worth after the fire struck.
Bobber spread word that he would seek trade contacts for each person willing to sponsor his trip to New Galveston.
People knew Bobber was true to his word. But rumor passed that Bobber was necessary to keep peace, and someone else should go instead.

Things were undecided.
First Bobber had to meet with Windrock. And then learn about Line Reading.
Windrock was a beautiful girl about 18 years old.

Bobber meets Windrock, the Reader

Unknown was that everything would be done at once.

JoRR brought Windrock to the Box and waited outside.
Trade was done for the day. It was nighttime.
Bobber saw her face. But her face was covered. Just like when he saw the Queen.
She had the gift. Bobber could feel it.

Windrock sat opposite Bobber and uncovered her face. Bobber could see her eyes were different. Not vacant, but quiet. She seemed huge, yet physically smaller than Bobber.

Bobber asked if they were going to Line Read. She said they would. But she wanted to sit with him.
Her manner of speaking was plain. Her words carried command and certainly, without demand. It was calm and the air was cool.
Bobber asked about her mother, the same as he started each conversation with strangers. Asking about family was revealing. Windrock said, you already know.
Of course Bobber didn’t know, but he nodded. Whatever it took.

Windrock reached out and touched hands. They looked at one another.
Immediately Bobber saw the mother, and great peace surrounded him. She was alive but left for another man. Bobber blinked not wanted to know more.
Finish it he thought.
Windrock pushed against his hands and said RobbieB and Cheneen will take the Trade Box.
She said sponsors will be ready soon, and they will provide full passageway.

She said Bobber would to go to New Galveston, but her father JoRR would stay behind because he was weak.
Then Windrock said, the Queen sent you a gift, but it doesn’t belong to you. It was a humming sound. Did Bobber hear that? And then it happened again.
The Queen sent you a gift, but it doesn’t belong to you.
Bobbers mind backed away and he released hands. The GE crystal. She knows?

It was finished. Windrock covered her face. JoRR came inside to get his daughter.
He said we’ll be back in a few days, and then left.
Bobber was stunned.

Did Windrock discover the crystal?
Bobber felt terror.
Forget it all. The agreement was quilled. He would not travel to New Galveston.
Throw away the Line Readers. The daughter was guessing…. It was just astrologers playing games. They pretend to see everything but know nothing.

His temporary insanity soon vanished. Thoughts of Windrock made him smile.

Bank Boss moves to town/ work on the rail starts/ the dynamic changes/ New leaders emerge/ sponsorship is found

The Bank Boss moved to Red Lake, and brought his family.
Red Lake sprang back to life.

Repair work on the rail to New Freeport was running day and night.
The rail line through Red Lake was busy carrying steel and asphalted timber headed south.

Even gold men abandoned Gold Town to help rebuild Texas.
Men need work and adventure.

The dynamic in Red Lake changed for Bobber
The Bank Boss in town meant Bobber was no longer central for peace.
He was free to travel to New Galveston

At the same time, New Leaders were emerging in Red Lake.
The new men wanted to forge their own relation with the Bank, and cut out Bobber’s Trade Box
They immediately saw opportunity if they could get Bobber to leave.

Bobber saw it too.
It was perfect water to protect himself, and offer something the New Leaders wanted.

After taking the Trade Box, Bobber studied contracts written at banks in New Galveston. He fashioned his own style to become a savvy contract writer.
He banked out of New Galveston because it offered the sharpest contracts if you knew how to avoid the hang. If you got caught in the middle, it would cost more. Bobber never had much capital from little ‘ol Red Lake, but he knew how to spot the trap doors.

Men everywhere were learning new trades.
New trades needed new types of contracts. It was no longer smart to agree to contracts written for some other job. Each contract had to be specific.

Bobber’s constant work preserving peace let him understand that men don’t like getting cheated by Hoarders, or the Bank, or by other men … and standing between honesty and cheating was a correctly worded contract.
Bobber knew how to do that.

He renewed the search for sponsorship.
His offer changed to meet the mood among the New Leaders.

Bobber would help them set up a contract covering their Bank dealings in New Galveston.
Out of respect, Bobber would step aside and not hold his position in Red Lake. And upon return, he would consider all offers without fault for their stance against-or-for his previous position in the community.

Bobber displayed wisdom toward the New Leaders.
They immediately accepted his offer. Sponsorship to New Galveston was secured.

This would soon take several twists because of Cheneen.

RobbieB gains Property rights to Cheneen

After Bobber was dropped by Cheneen the year before the fire, RobbieB took over as main straw.

RobbieB was not a simple man. He was a planner.
He was forceful and intent on his wants.
He wanted Cheneen.

Just before Cheneen was Propertied off to RobbieB, she sent word to Bobber to meet her.
LeoJ cautioned against it.
They both knew she was trouble.
Her family was using her to gain advantage.

Bobber had to go.
He said, She’s not claimed. Nobody can call dirt against a Property contract.

They met at the stand of small Sycamores trees that grew in a pocket valley about mile from Red Lake.
Bobber slipped out the secret back door before dawn. And then traveled farther out so he could come from the back way.

Using every sense honed from raiding days, he traveled cautiously to a cluster of cedars overlooking the Sycamores. He waited two hours. The sun was coming strong. It was going to be screaming hot.
A man can see through dense brush using eyes, nose and ears, just like a coyote.
If the instinct tells you to run, just run and don’t wait to see why.
Using senses can be tricky: if senses are more strong than keen, especially your eyes, then others can see you and you not see them. The trick is to empty the mind of who you are, grow small, and become the land. Watch what your eyes want to know.

He heard them before he saw them.
Girls were coming up the dry creekbed. One of them must have fallen and the others helped her up.
They were too noisy for any purpose.

Two other girls were with her. Bobber was glad of that. A girl standing alone would be a trap.

Bobber felt the land around him. A person following the girls would travel on the slope that lay below Bobber’s position.
The most likely spot for a person to sit was just above the Sycamores.
He felt all over the area with his mind and watched the girls react to their own senses to see if someone was there.

He felt RobbieB very strongly.
If he was there, the girls didn’t know.
If they sensed somebody, they would be glancing toward a certain spot.
Watch where your eyes go, you can know things you can’t see.

Bobber waited. RobbieB would not come alone. He needed others to confirm his stature.
If more than one man was there, they wouldn’t be more clever than farm boys walking with big shoes.
RobbieB was big-armed and walked heavy. He was not a prowler. He would be locked inside at night because he couldn’t tell when somebody was behind him. And that’s why he needed others around him.
Bobber thought who he might bring with him. Some of the boys about town were quite good trappers and hunters, but none of RobbieB’s friends. They were just pushers.

After a while the image of RobbieB faded. He wasn’t there.
Bobber crossed over and slowly came down the slope where somebody might be hiding.

He was very close before the girls saw him.
His presence startled them, but his smile disarmed the group immediately.
He sat down on a rock ledge and laughed, what a beautiful day, implying of course that he was talking about the girls. The girls knew he was a charmer. They all knew him.

The girls wanted Cheneen to pick Bobber. But it was not to be. Cheneen’s family controlled the contract. Bobber was too busy for a girl with Cheneen’s disability.
Coming from incest, the world is hard-thrown backwards.

The other two girls walked away so they could talk.
He walked close but stopped short of touching.
She wanted him to hold her.
She started to cry, trying to draw his heart out from behind a man’s normal weakness.

What a girl.
Hey Cheneen, what is going on?

She said her family agreed Property contract with RobbieB.
Bobber said, he’s a strong man.

She looked down.
So that was it. They couldn’t have children.
Her face told it.
RobbieB must be unable in some way, or Cheneen was infertile. Can’t imagine that girl being infertile, more likely RobbieB.

Bobber had to find a way to say what he knew without getting knee deep into personal lives.
He looked away, and felt the air around him.
The other girls knew. She told them. They weren’t far away. When he looked at them, their faces said the same thing.
The fact they remained in sight told him they were true friends.

Bobber asked, Why would your family agree to contract if the two of you are not right for each other?
It was the most delicate way to talk about it without knowing too much.

She was unable to say.
Bobber was deeply puzzled. Why wouldn’t Cheneen know?
Why would her family contract their daughter to a man who was unable to have children? Especially a family of incest where the prize is introducing young children to relationships above their ability to resist.

They were merciless with Cheneen. He hated her family and what they did to that special girl.
Snap out of it. He slapped himself in his mind.

Then it struck him like a bolt.
They were going to use Cheneen to bait Bobber, and probably other men too.
Maybe he already swallowed the bait?

Hold on.
He could still back away quick.
But wait. Those girls with Cheneen were really her friends.
They came with her so she could ask for help.
This was real and all the girls know what’s going on.

Cheneen was trying to escape the family.
Bobber realized that she was telling all she knew.

Bobber asked, when is the contract going to happen?
Cheneen said, this week.

Are they going solo, or coming to the Box.
NOW this was the most telling question. Solo means no Bludworthy reprisal, which means Bobber would be subject to continual side assault by her family.
On the other hand, Bank contract meant direct confrontational assault,,, which would be easier to see coming, but would carry legal risk.
Either way, Bobber was in danger. Or else he was about to change the world. Or both.

She said the Box.
So it would be a Bank contract.
Bobber said he would gladly write the contract.
She turned and looked at him. ‘Gladly write the contract?’

Bobber said, think about it Cheneen.
He looked her square in eyes.
She didn’t know whether Bobber refused to help, or offered to help in a way she didn’t understand.
One answer was true, and he wasn’t sure which.

They never touched. They never kissed. She left crying and her friends gathered her into their arms and turned away. Bobber stood his ground before moving carefully up another slope to return home after dark.
Nobody saw them together that day except her true friends who never told.

The following week Bobber wrote the Property contract for Cheneen and RobbieB.
Bobber was very good at contracts that protected his client. His client was Cheneen.
His standard Property contract was used, the same one he wrote for all her friends.

Cheneen’s family and RobbieB signed it. Cheneen was not permitted to see it.
LeoJ said, wait until they find out.
Bobber said, maybe.

Six months later a fire burned down Texas, and Windrock told Bobber that RobbieB and Cheneen would take the Box.
The stage was set.

New Galveston and the Big Thriller

New Galveston was port deep and premier atop other ports for receiving foods like Chocolate and fish and tomatoes.
Boats were swarming the 40 miles out to Old Galveston where the wide reef of purple coral had grown over the crumble of sunken buildings.
The underwater plateau was prime oyster, redline, and crayboy harvest.

New rail lines were rolling into New Galveston as fast as they could be built.
Forget that Texas just burned out.
Fine rich people from the east and north arrived by the carriage-full to set claim on new goods.

Local banks were building the great fresh water distiller, alongside a giant a-con chiller.
Daily reports followed progress.
Announcers called it the Big Thriller.
The Big Thriller meant plenty of ice, which meant sea food and import cartage moving inland at great velocity.

Mardi Gras ran for a month every year and music never stopped.
Every building was ablaze with neon lights.
Rail men, builders, tradesmen, traders, con men, asphalters, debtors, liberated Properties, gamblers and clowns all wanted a piece of New Galveston.

Sponsorship was made.
Bobber was going. Windrock would be at his side. He had calmed himself about cancelling the deal with her.
Within a month the Queen would be in New Galveston.
Much left to do.

Finish business before traveling to New Galveston

Before anything could happen, Bobber had to clear off certain details.
Bobber would leave the Trade Box to LeoJ until he returned.
Monitor trade only. Nothing big. Just ordinary contracts.
Bobber said, no crystals. They both laughed.
Both understood that future business was uncertain.
But they still held obligations and discs.

Nobody could just walk away and leave discs laying out on the counter.

Bobber tried to find out.
The Bank Boss refused to meet.
There was no clear route.

Don’t worry, we have plenty of trade. It was true.
Bobber planned to be gone one month.

LeoJ said he could true-drop the discs with the Bank Boss if things got impossible.
Bank Boss would have to accept a true-drop. That was a Bank rule.

Everything else was on the monitor, so it was all clear.
Okay it was agreed.

Bobber would take the crystal with him.
Liam would be informed of the plan.

Line dancing

Winrock and other young people gathered each night to line dance.
That night it happened in front of Bobber’s.

He decided to join.
He jumped in and out of the hot can shower, threw on a pair of Levess Packrights with a clean white shirt. His shoes were always trim and clean. Then stepped into the street, suddenly feeling embarrassingly old.
He was still a fairly young man at 23, but older than the dancers that night.

He was trapped by his own vanity.
Others didn’t see him that way.

Here was Bobber, an important man among them.
Quite a lot of attention paid to him as Properties met his hand along the line

The young men and women were stirred into graceful movements of great intensity and feeling.
Bobber didn't notice anything unusual or different or strange happenings.

Until he realized gold men gathered nearby
The big one shouted insults.
Gold men started pushing some of the young men.

Three of them separated Bobber from the others, knocking him down.
It was a bad way until RobbieB and two other boys joined in on Bobber’s side.
Things changed quick as more men came running in.

Men were all over the street with groups jostling and challenging.
Bobber and RobbieB were arm to arm pushing against the gold men, with men falling then re-entering the fracas.
Both sides separated.
Each waiting to see what would happen next. Nobody dared pull a weapon.

The girls gathered on the west side of the street.
In revolt, they removed their face coverings
That's when the men started getting distracted

Sweet Bessie Bou, sing that song !!
Here was a whole bunch of half naked girls standing there in front of them.
Of course, they weren’t really naked, only their faces were uncovered, but out in public in front of all those strange men from Gold Town, and their neighbors, those girls might has well pulled off their bare shirts.

Right then, a horse rodeo started coming into town, riding down the middle of the street.
What? A horse rodeo?
Naturally, the big tough men, who moments before were gnashing teeth, backed away on same side of the street as each other, opposite side of street from the girls. After all you wouldn’t want to get too close to a naked girl.

Their eyes were as big as moon saucers.
Nobody seemed eager to look at the horses instead of looking at the naked girls, that weren’t really naked.
The girls seemed to enjoy it.

The lead horse paused, allowing the men to scramble to the correct side of the street.
And then the horse rodeo passed down the middle of the street between the men and the women.

One of the horse boys yodeled out, Hey I like this place. Which just about started the fight again except the men were a tad bit more distracted by what was occurring over on the other side.

Bobber saw Cheneen
She looked beautiful as he remembered
He was proud of her
She was married now.
For some change in the way that man's spirit works, all the men standing there were so proud of their women.

Bobber suddenly realized that RobbieB and Cheneen had showed up.
Windrock was gone. She must have left.

Windrock and the Runaway Property report

Bobber walked home on high alert.
Maybe the gold men targeted him for the fight.
No previous rumor warned of such.

Upstairs and safe in the room above the Box, he went to sleep.

Footsteps were coming up the outside stair.
Bobber woke and jumped straight into his pants and grabbed the gun.
The gold men had come back

It was just one set of feet.
They were climbing the stairs strong and certain. And lightweight.
It had to be a woman.

Windrock was at the door.
She came in and took a shower in the hot can in plain view of Bobber.
Her naked body graced by what the dim light reflecting off the wood wall would reveal.
She lay next to Bobber on the brown-strap bed.

As he reached his arms around her she became someone else.
He looked again. It was somebody else, but it was Windrock.
Who are you?
She kissed him. It was so familiar. Someone he had known forever.
He felt the weight of another soul enter his mind. It was a woman standing by a long wood table. She was reading names.
On the table was a scroll of names reaching back into history and beyond. The most recent names written in red as each appeared on the bottom. The scroll and the names came closer so he could read them, yet the names made no sense.

Windrock said, I am taking you to the Queen.

Bobber mumbled half asleep, Okay tomorrow.
Inside, he was trying to imagine what benefit the Queen might bring.

Open your mind, she is with you.

The room filled with the same fragrance he smelled the night he lay tied up in the barn.
He fell asleep.

The most beautiful creature in the world laying next to him without a thread of covering and this fella falls asleep?
Windrock was gone when he woke.
It was already half into morning.

Clumping down the spiral steps into the back room, he greeted LeoJ who had been working several hours.
Never seen you start this late.
Heard you saw Cheneen last night.

That’s all done Bobber said. She’s long married now.

Humm. Heard footsteps leaving early.
Bobber mumbled, Aw, just a guest wanting a place to stay.

I’m checking the Runaway Property report right now, LeoJ said, pretending to look busy on the monitor.
How was the tussle? It’s all over town you were fighting in the street.
Fine example of peace-keeping.

Don’t worry, I wore my good shirt.
They laughed. Big smile across Bobber’s face.
Bobber escaped the conversation, unlocking the front door.
There was no such thing as a Runaway Property report.
Bobber chuckled, happier than he’d been in a long time.

Problems with the crystal

The New Leaders in Red Lake were expecting Bobber to represent them exclusively.

Bobber told the men plain that he had important business of his own in New Galveston.
The sponsors scoffed at his old fashioned loyalty and demanded more attention, demanding to know who else he represented.

Bobber told them a satisfaction had to be met to Liam’s family, and to JoRR.
They are not important people. Let LeoJ handle it.
Bobber reminded them that his word must be true to all, or he was not worthy of their sponsorship.
Good point. They accepted Bobber could handle it.
Bobber wasn’t sure his choice was free.

LeoJ came up and said there’s a problem.
Bobber excused himself from the counter, and entered the back.
LoeJ’s voice was tight.
His face was white.
What happened?
The crystal shows on the monitor, LeoJ said.
It’s a protection claim. The item should not show, it’s just a protection claim.

Bobber checked. Yes the crystal was at the Box. Yes LeoJ posted the record on the disk, and yes the Bank link showed the undeclared account under Liam’s name.
So far so good.
The undeclared account meant that Liam still owned the crystal, and could call for it after securing waiver and paying the commission.
That was correct.

But there it was. The GE crystal was clearly visible worldwide. Except the undeclared account never declared the image. The image was so clear, you could read the markings just as they appeared on the real crystal.
Nobody local could post an image that clear.
LeoJ said, we didn’t post that.

Had Liam done them dirt somehow? Did someone alter the Bank disk?

Yes. The bank disk was definitely different, because it showed the trace mark, but also showed the image they never posted.
LeoJ entered the trace mark with undeclared value. There was no image. Bobber saw LeoJ make the entry.
But the image showed on the monitor. The Bank disc and the Box disc were different. How did that happen?

Somehow GE and the Bank changed the record.
Bobber remembered JoRR telling him that the Queen was both GE and the Bank.
Did the Queen do something to alter the record?
But why?
How was that possible?

This was disastrous.
The undeclared agreement with Liam was violated.
Now that the photo of the crystal showed, the protection claim was useless because anybody could see the item and know who owns it. That person lost advantage of the protection claim.

If the Bludworthies arrived to sort out the issue, who would they represent?

Wait…. maybe that’s why the Bank Boss wouldn’t meet with them. Maybe it was Cheneen and RobbieB.
Wait, Windrock was here. She was upstairs. Did she find a way downstairs while Bobber was sleeping?

Bobber wanted to bang his head and wake up, this was serious breach.
I’m never going dancing again.

Then LeoJ and Bobber both laughed at same moment.

There was no breach.
LeoJ correctly entered the number on the crystal.
The shadow mark number was entered as required for any item with identifiable mark so the exact item is known to both parties.
In the old days, if you wanted protection claim on a gold bar, the man would scratch his number on the bar, and then the protection claim would register the number so there was no argument later.

If the object was recorded elsewhere, then the accounts would merge on the Bank disc, and show as a series of transactions.
This let people track prior ownership and trade record for identifiable objects.

Except the owner of the crystal was GE Nuke.
When the shadow mark showed up on the Bank monitor, somehow the number was traced to another account and both accounts merged, with the other account having a photograph of the crystal. Very rarely would another account have a photograph, and Bobber overlooked the possibility, except there was no choice… they had to enter the number.

The bank disc showed the crystal clean without theft or loss, but something was wrong since ownership was never transferred from GE Nuke.
It was still registered as new and unused in the St Louis plantworks.
So how did the crystal end up in Texas and arrive at the Trade Box?
Maybe the missing crystal was not reported missing yet.

Both men sat down.
We have to figure it out.

It’s not our problem, Bobber said.
It’s on Liam.
The disc showed the Trade Box entered the number correctly. The item is not reported stolen.
Bobber realized it was lucky he didn’t buy the crystal from Liam.

We have to play it like the chime. LeoJ agreed. They were clear.
It was muddy, but they were clear.

Bobber said we can’t tell Liam until we know more.

LeoJ suggested that they hold him in the back room for two months.
They both laughed again. Kidnap Liam? Both hoped there was a better idea.

They certainly couldn’t true-drop a protection claim with the Bank Boss… not if it’s stolen.

Bobber knew the wiles of rich folks.
If the monitor showed the crystal, then they would know Liam held contract at Red Lake.
Somebody would take a run at Liam. There was no escaping that.

Naturally the rich people would find Liam. They would send someone Liam knew, and then that friend would accidentally introduce Liam to someone, and then they would spend time together sharing stories.
Liam was all over Gold City.

For real, the rich folks would want the crystal without trace, which meant Liam could disappear too.
Liam’s clan could make claims.
It would put suspicion on Bobber.

A lot was riding on the same donkey.
Liam was in danger.
Bobber was in danger.
Travel to New Galveston with the crystal was too dangerous
Bobber would be wide open on the cartage.

Liam gets caught/ part 1

The solution to the crystal showed up.

Liam got word to Bobber that some of the old lithium fighters were gathering at Gold Town.
Why at Gold Town?
Why stay over there without the a-con?

Didn’t make sense.
Why would Liam need to report that?
He must be nervous.

Liam offered to join the fighters and pass information forward.
Nonsense. Everybody knew what was going on in Gold Town by listening to gossip.

That tipped the wheel.
Liam was caught and unaware.
Down to his bones, Bobber saw the crystal laying in the hands of the gold men.
He couldn’t stop it.
A cool wind touched his neck.

Bobber shows the Property contract to Cheneen

Cheneen showed up outside the Box.
She watched the monitor with another married girl from her side of the clan.

Bobber asked LeoJ to notify him whenever she came around. Both men understood.

When the last person left the Box, she entered.
She was looking down pretending to be busy straightening her long skirt.
She looked like a great warrior who was beaten. She fought so hard. Bobber saw the side of her tender face.

Bobber said, Hi Cheneen, as if surprised to see her.
She wouldn’t look at him.

It’s okay, everything will work out.
No. She said.
It was a warning.

Cheneen knew how to read.
Bobber knew it because when they were together, she would read the contracts Bobber wrote.
She was intelligent.

She was so strong standing across the street the night the men were fighting and the girls removed their face covering. She was the leader and the other girls stood strong because of her. That was the real Cheneen.
She loved talking and visiting with friends. But she became such prime Property within that incestuous family, and her mother never protected her.

Her clan and RobbieB didn’t read the Property contract that Bobber wrote.
Bobber called up the contract on the monitor, and asked if she wanted to read it.

Cheneen started reading. It was awful.

Bobber said no, look at this part down here.
A few moments passed.
Cheneen suddenly alerted and looked hard at the monitor.

See what I mean? Bobber asked.
That’s impossible, she said.
Oh yes, it’s my standard contract. All your girlfriends have the same one. It’s my standard Property contract.

Cheneen looked at Bobber, and then looked back at the monitor, and then looked at Bobber again.

Bobber told her she had to let it play out.
She couldn’t tell anybody yet.

Cheneen was shaking, and then collapsed against the counter sobbing.
Oh thank you.

Remember, not a word to anybody.
You have to be strong a while longer.
Do you know when they are going to make a move?

Cheneen said they didn’t tell her anything, but they knew Bobber was leaving for New Galveston.

Cheneen said they were causing problems for a lot of people. Bobber said I know, people told me.

Bobber told Cheneen that it would be perfect water soon.
Cheneen looked down. The dread covered her face again.
Then she left.

LeoJ came up front. He said, that seemed to go well.
Were you listening?
It’s my job.

LeoJ said, you are one brave man, or the biggest fool of any of us.
Bobber was sad. His friend Cheneen had suffered so much torn heart.

Liam reclaims the crystal

Liam arrived next morning. He wandered in as if nothing was up.
Except he rarely came to the Box. So something was definitely up.
Nobody wanted to draw it out.
Bobber said, you can pick up the claim whenever you want.
Liam asked, how did you know?

Obviously Liam lost a step or two since they first met.
Liam was tired. These old lithium fighters weren’t exactly social types, and Liam was stuck in town dragging around like an old dog. He needed to be out in the countryside with his family where a man could be free.
Bobber understood that. He felt the same way since Red Lake got overrun with human beings.

Bobber said, we MUST protect you under the claim.
That’s our responsibility.
Bobber assumed the buyer was a gold man who wouldn’t know the system very well. Because the claim holder can do whatever they want.

Bobber continued explaining it simply so Liam would understand that he was at great risk.

We do not want you walking out of the Box with the crystal.
Instead we want you to take a piece of paper to the buyer.
You take the claim transfer to the buyer, and then they purchase the claim from you.

That way you pay no commission. The buyer pays the commission.
The new claim owner can send someone to pick up the claim themselves.

Liam caught the glimpse.
He stood upright.
Bobber saw the fighter come alive again. Welcome home Liam. The bell is working now!!

You leave with the paper clearly visible, because you know they followed you over here.
Liam said, you think? These are my friends.
You mean the old lithium fighters who killed each other?
Somebody needs to ring the bell again.

Actually, there were a whole bunch of men following Liam. The gold men who were following Liam, and the Bank men were following the gold men who were following Liam. The Bank knew the whole deal, and was watching every angle including Bobber and LeoJ.

Bobber told Liam, on the way back to Gold Town, there will be men waiting for you along the road.
Your son and another boy must accompany you back. Do not go alone. Hold the paper visible with the Trade Box name showing.

Once everybody knows you are selling a claim transfer, and not carrying the crystal, then you will be safe anywhere. As long as nobody shoots you for that hat.
Liam smiled about his old sawback hat. I’ve had this hat for 10 years.
Yes I can see.
I’m going to New Galveston soon. I’ll going to send you a new one made from Gentina leather. Ok. They agreed.
With a matching belt.
Liam slumped his elbows deep into the counter. It was a relief. He felt on the right path now.

Bobber wrote up the claim transfer and sent a runner to bring Liam’s boy and another boy.
The boys had been itching to see Gold Town up close, and today was their lucky day.

There was a reason for everything.

Gold Town gets a-con chillers

Red Lake was supplying ice and cold drinks to the poor fellows stuck over there in Gold Town

The Bank finally agreed to send a-con chillers
The Gold Boss had confirmation in his hand. He held it up high and yelled the news to his men.
Hurrah. The men cheered.
No more begging ice from Red Lake.

The banks needed to keep the Gold Leaders in town a bit longer.
String out another thread of hope.

So they agreed to deliver a-cons.
No paper was signed, it was all showmanship.
The chillers were definitely en route. The Bank knew they were going to get the buildings, and the buildings were worth nothing without a-con, so why not have gold men install the chillers.

Gold Town had two shipping platforms. One for each rail line.
The a-cons would arrive at the Bank platform.

The gold cartage rail fell short on delivering everything.
Not enough food, no ice, fewer and fewer loads of timber.
Fewer men arriving.
The new gold men arriving were actually Bank men making sure the Big John waste decomposer and other construction was worthy of Bank take-over.

Gold Rocket and Salt Dome and Montana Prince and the the other leaders were exhausted.
They knew it was over.
They couldn’t compete against the Bank.

Nobody wanted to play the gold game because it couldn’t build, couldn’t deliver, couldn’t do anything useful for modern men and women.

The only thing left to do for Gold Leaders was find a way to leave town.

The Gold Leaders were planning to a parting shot at the Banks by taking the GE crystal.
They secretly planned to leave the morning after the a-con chillers arrived because the men would be distracted while installing the equipment.
No worries, the Bank already had seats reserved for their departure.

They were going to drag those surly Gold Leaders through the heart of burned out Texas on newly repaired rails and let them feel the devastation that ordinary people suffer.

The Red Lake Medical School/ Monitors-mini

Bobber was out at the rail platform in the blazing sun waiting for a cartage delivery.
The carriage pulled up and a woman stepped out.

Bobber said, hello.
And she joyously said, well hello there, how are you?

Quite a greeting, Bobber thought.

Where is the medical building, she asked.
Bobber pointed, the shortest route, you duck under the branch on that tree to catch the path and walk up the hill.
You’re not going to walk there alone are you? Bobber asked.

The lady held her head high, and said why not?
Bobber understood right then. Nobody was going to mess with this lady.

The cartage men drug her bags out, as the lady walked away.
Hey, you forgot your bags.
She turned and said, well bring them along.
We don’t do that.

Bobber laughed, and said, well, today you do.
The men knew Bobber.
They stepped down and picked up the heavy bags.
What’s in here? One of the men leaned over to have a peek.
She snapped, don’t go snooping in there you peckerwood. The men giggled like their mom scolding them for grabbing a cookie before it cooled.

The Bank Boss came running up with a young girl at this side.
Hello MissTea, sorry I am late.

The cartage men said, MissTea? That’s your name?
Yes indeed she said. It’s printed right on the bags. The men were grinning.

So the whole bunch of them marched off to the medical building.
The cartage was left unattended on the rail.

Bobber led the way.
MissTea was followed by the Bank Boss who was followed by the girl who was followed by the two cartage men carrying bags.
When they passed along the edge of town, everybody within sight joined the procession.
Kids were jumping up and down yelling.

When they arrived. Bobber stepped aside and motioned for the crowd to be quiet.
In front of everybody, MissTea walked proudly up to the Medical building and open the door.

People thought Bobber caused the commotion.
If a good man is standing there and something good happens, everybody says he did it.

The Red Lake Medical School opened that day.

The girl was the first student of many to come.
The Bank Boss and Gold Boss started sending men over to the school so medical students had someone to practice on.
The men grumbled, but always had a good time getting fussed over by MissTea and the students.
Everybody loved MissTea. She was the best person in the world.

It was hoped that more survivors would arrive.

Monitors-mini/ the big plan for women/ LeoJ is free

When Bobber and the cartage men returned to the rail, they showed him something new.
Small monitors.
Small enough to hold.
The men said they were delivering these everywhere.
They’re called monitors-mini. People have them inside the home.

Lightning struck. Of course. That’s why the Bank was not sending more monitors-worldwide.
They are crediting out monitors-mini for direct credit purchase without needing the Box.
It made sense.

The Cartage men let Bobber have one.

Bobber scanned the future with one brush.
What an opportunity.
As soon as he got back, he ordered 1000 monitors-mini.

LeoJ said, you’re going to New Galveston.
Why did you order 1000 monitors?
We need them.
He showed LeoJ how it worked.
A person can purchase the mini directly on the mini screen. You enter your information, and the Bank puts the amount in the debit column on your account.

Bobber started gesturing wildly like the Bank Boss always did.

Now imagine this.
A Property can enter her husband’s name since she cannot have an account.
Then she can have the mini, and buy whatever she wants on his account.
She can watch announcements and watch the lady shows and whatever she wants.
All on her husband’s account.

WOW WEE. You are going to get us killed.
LeoJ and Bobber laughed so hard that people came into the Box to see what was going on.

LeoJ said, we are going to need more than a 1000.
That started them laughing again.

Then Bobber added.
Remember, you can write contracts anywhere.
LeoJ got it.
He wasn’t locked into the Trade Box any more.
Using a monitor-mini, he could open his own contract office using his Bank credentials and experience.

Just remember to use our standard Property contract, Bobber said,
That doubled them over laughing again.

The man who just arrived at the counter didn’t get it.
Can I buy something here?

Windrock and Bobber

Windrock spent nights at Bobber’s
She would climb the stair after the coolness of the evening set in.
They talked about everything.

Bobber fell straight in love. He was prone to love all women. Not that he was a lover or pursuer of women, or that he denied that effort, but down deep he wanted the truest love.

Maybe Windrock was the woman.
She seemed that way when things of the night were still and he held her close.
They loved with abandoned passion, but she never let him finish.

He would enjoy her all ways of his choice.
She gave whatever he wanted.
But near the end, she would say wait.
No fireworks? A wanton mind-breaking lust without finish? Is this lady crazy?
Bobber’s mind was going out the window. Why the slows?

Windrock was steady, and each night Bobber would fall asleep in the wrap of love, with her warm breasts under his hand.

But it was not her love. It was the Queen’s love.
Windrock was sharing the Queen’s gift with Bobber until they could meet.

She kept telling Bobber the same thing.

All this Reader stuff was about to crack the old man. What are you talking about?
I’m here and you’re here… the queen isn’t.
On that point they seemed to disagree.

He wanted her to stay with him all day and night, but she had work and left each day to return at night.
And then they would talk about their hopes and plans.
Somehow Bobber saw that he wasn’t in her plans. He could only see as far as New Galveston, and then Windrock was not there.

Same thing each time he time he looked. She was no longer with him in New Galveston.
He asked why.

Each time she said the Queen.

If the crystal was no longer part of the reason for going to New Galveston, it made no sense.
Why would the Queen want to meet him. What were they going to talk about… the good old times when Bobber was beat up in the barn?

If the crystal was the Queen’s gift, then Bobber was in trouble, depending on interpretation of several variables.
He began thinking that women rendered him stupid.

He had to focus.
Of course the Queen might help him make good Bank connections for the sponsors.
But the Windrock thing here was causing a cloud over his thinking.

Liam makes the trade/ the crystal changes on the monitor/ raid on Gold Town is coming.

Liam made the trade. He sold the credit transfer.
The gold men embarrassed him. They paid gold.

He got cheated. After all the time he spent dogging around town for nothing.
What choice was there. He had to get away.

As expected, a runner arrived from Gold Town with the claim transfer.

Bobber and LeoJ knew the real buyer would never show up.
A phony name was written on the bottom. Gold men didn’t want their name on a bank document fearing it was a trick. Of course it was.

The gold men paid a pretty good amount of gold to get the crystal, plus they had to credit out the commission with a phony name, which was violation.
Bobber knew his commission was lost before it happened. He didn’t want Liam tied onto the debt over a few Marks.

LeoJ entered the transfer into the transaction record.
Glad that’s done.

Minutes later.
Hey look at this!

The monitor showed the crystal stolen.
Whoever had the crystal was now in possession of a stolen item that must be returned.
They must return it.

Each transaction on the monitor showed the exact time the traction was made. The crystal was reported stolen shortly after the claim transfer was redeemed.
The loss was on the new owner.
Nothing was reported stolen prior to the claim transfer redemption, so all prior transactions were clear. The Box was clear, Laim was clear, but the new owner was not.

Then LeoJ shouted out.
The crystal is only worth 14 marks. The same amount they were going to pay Liam for the chocolate bar that he found.

They’re for sale now.
You can buy a GE-nuke crystal. New or used. Choice of colors. For 14 Marks.
14/1000 of a copper coupon, the crystals were almost free.
Electric transformer cost more than that.
Toilet paper 15 marks. Box of corn 50 marks.

Bobber and LeoJ caught the glimpse then.

There’s a raid coming on Gold Town.
We can’t tell anybody. I hope it doesn’t spill over here. Get the guns ready.

The rest of the day was quiet.
Nightfall seemed normal.

The Bank men followed the crystal directly to the Gold Leaders.
Secretly the bank shut off monitors going to Gold Town. Nobody in Gold town could see the new entry showing a stolen crystal.

The Gold Leaders thought they had something big, but they swallowed the hook.

Men go into burned-out Texas

Adventures were pushing into Texas
The going was slow.
Long distances. No fresh water. No landmarks. Risk of soot in the lungs. Dust. Flies. Smell. Fear.

Men moved forward, going upriver.

Other men repaired rail lines from north to south and east to west.

It was dumbfounding. The asphalted rail timer was torn out, scattered and still smouldering.

The fury of combustible Leatherleaf was unbelievable.
Leatherleaf wasn’t suppose to burn… but it was all gone.

There must have been mile-wide tornados of fire to tear apart rail bridges like that.
Giant timbers were broken off below the ground line.
The men could see it. The bridge didn’t burn and then fall over. It exploded into pieces.

It was the same everywhere. Entire swaths of land where bushes and trees were torn out of the ground in a hail of splinters before they burned with immense heat.

Stone buildings thrown apart with foundation wiped clean to ground.
Announcers had no words. There was no way to describe what happened.
It was too vast.
Only the men who saw it could try to grasp the ravage that shown from bare horizon to bare horizon. On the face of God they stood in awe, wishing the night would arrive soon to hide them from the awful sight.

Many men kept their faces turned downward, focusing on work to avoid seeing how open they were. Mile after mile after mile of scrape marks showing where living things made their last stand before being consumed in certain death.
You could not help but see the agony twisted against every scab of ground.

Explosive Leatherleaf

The leatherleaf plant thrived in the harsh environment of Texas after large trees withered away into grass plains. Then the grasses withered into flatbaked terra.

Finally a new plant took hold.
Wherever there was a dry crack in the soil, the Leatherleaf would grow.
The original plants from overseas were half the size of a tomato plant, but in Texas they grew about 6 feet tall, with each branch covered with thorns, and usually wrapped by a thicket of vines.
Leatherleaf were basically useless for anything but making a roof. You could weave the wide arrow-head leaves into a thatch to ward off the sun and channel rain water when it fell.
The seed pods were about a foot long and hung in clusters off the bottom of leaves.

Otherwise the wood was twist grain useless. You couldn’t use it to build furniture because it was difficult to shape, and it smelled. You couldn’t use it as firewood unless you had enough heat to start it burning.
It took a very hot fire to ignite Leatherleaf. You couldn’t just throw a piece on a regular fire and expect it to burn. Mostly it would just smoulder and give off unpleasant odors.

Farmers and ranchers that carved their lives in small communities across central to south Texas preferred having Leatherleaf because it was immune to any fire they knew. It was a good neighbor because it didn’t rob the creeks of water.

Now, if you could get Leatherleaf to burn, it would suddenly spark into a huge surge of fire and heat and then die away. Especially the seeds.

People thought it was fun to ‘blow up a few leatherleaf’ by arcing high voltage across seed pods.
But generally most people agreed, Leatherleaf wouldn’t burn.

Transformer explosions, electric shorts and lightning strikes could ignite a few bushes, and they would burn with fury for a moment, and then die away because there was so much space between the fat leaves.
Leatherleaf was better than grassland.
If you lived on a grass plain and a fire started, it was hard to outrun the blaze. So Leatherleaf protected people with shade and shelter while protecting them from fire, and preserving their water, while holding the soil.

Somehow the initial fire at Red Lake got a conflagration heading south across the Red Cedar trees that ignited other pockets of gas that were pulled from the earth by low pressure, and the combination of wind and events was enough to ignite the Leatherleaf into explosive tornadoes. And for some reason, the front was so broad that it burned down Texas.

Nobody survived the fire if it passed nearby. It was just too hot.

Survivors are found

Clearing land for crops was hard work in Texas.
It was just part of what people had to do.

Gold Town gets raided/ Big Gold Leaders get the tour

One day after the crystal left the Trade Box, a big meeting was called by the Gold Boss.
All the gold men gathered, expecting good news about the chillers.

The Gold Boss was actually the Bank’s eyes and ears in Gold Town. After a while, there were almost as many Bank spies as actual gold men. All of them working to keep the Big Gold Leaders in town until the the cork was stuck in the right place.

The chillers were arriving by rail that evening because it was easier to offload heavy chillers after dark.
Everybody was told they were going to work all night installing a-cons. No excuses.
The men gathered electric tools and needed supplies.

The Gold Leaders were told to expect their installation first.  And they would be plenty cool by midnight.
The leaders were already packed and ready to disappear the following morning going north with the crystal.
Some were saying they should leave now, don’t wait.

But the gold men started gathering outside where the Gold Leaders stayed.
The men were rallying their leaders to join them at the platform when the chillers arrived.

The Gold Boss agreed with the men, and told the Gold Leaders they should join their men at the platform.
Don’t worry. There’s so many of us, we will be safe, he guaranteed.

The scene was manipulated by the Bank to get the Leaders over to the Bank rail where they could be taken away in front of their men.

It worked perfectly. A sudden change happened at the platform.
The Bank spies suddenly drew their guns, and the gold men were outgunned.

At the same moment, Bludworthies sprung from every crack pointing down at the Gold Leaders.
The Leaders were walked up the platform and filed into a carriage where they sat fully lit in front of their men.
All the rats in one carton, and one of them had the stolen crystal in his pocket. How bout dancing now haw boy?

Gold Rocket and Salt Dome and Montana Prince and the the other leaders, along with their sons and other functionaries were taken on a horrendous tour, traveling south toward the Texas coast on newly repaired rails.
No glass in the windows, just an open car with hard seats.
No change of clothes, no shower, no spare rations of green potato, sitting in a hot rail car, cold at night, and the smell of loss and burn and flies and dust pouring through every window.

The longest ten days of their lives before being set afoot at New Freeport among the mobs and boats filled with people looking for lost loves ones, and scrambling for new chances.

The Leaders begged to be taken back onto the rail car that disappeared north carrying those who could afford credit passageway out.
Sorry we don’t take gold.

Yelling back, the one of the Bank men said, get a job building the new distiller, pointing eastward where a big boat was offloading metal sheet.

No more Gold town

Following day, The Bank Boss and Gold Boss merged both towns into one.
It was Red Lake.
No more Gold Town. Only the story remained.

By then almost every building had new a-con.
The remaining gold men were free to leave or stay
Slavery was banned.
The little trade box was closed.

It was over.
By morning everybody watched the announcements with the gold leaders disappearing on the ride south.
Good riddance.
Nothing more was said of them on the announcements. People were too busy.

The small scramble of gold men who remained in town lived two nights under the cool air instead of laying on the hard ground.
And then the Gold Boss started coming around with contracts.
Do you want to keep that chilller?
Then sign here.
No the Bank doesn’t accept gold.
Well, the Bank can accept ownership of the building until the debt is paid?
Or we can remove the chiller.
Or you can go home to the Property.

No, I think I’ll keep the chiller.

A lot of men already left.
Most of the Bank spies were leaving for home or for work elsewhere.
All the men, gold or Bank, had built up good credit for the work they did installing chillers and the decomposer and building structures.
The banks tracked each of the gold men who contributed their effort and let them know they had a credit balance available at the Bank
Most were freed to do whatever they wanted. Many joined the armies of credit men that were gathering to build new rail and communities across Texas.

The men had learned good trades working Gold Town. The Gold Boss made sure things were done right. The Bank had no interest in shoddy work.

New homesteaders moved into the buildings. Properties starting arriving.

Liam’s crystal was put into the new nuclear addition. The big GE blue fired up a huge amount of electricity.

A Bank man followed out to Liam’s adobe and found him making repairs. He was showed a proper credit balance for the work he did keeping peace in Red Lake during the crisis.
Plus reward for returning a stolen crystal.
That particular credit appeared on a contract for protection redemption written at Red Lake Trade Box.

The bankers take the Lithium mines
In the last days of gold, the hoarders promised the miners they owned a share of the mines.
This was done to stop any bank interference with the the lithium if hoarders decided to stop shipments.

The hoarders held onto lithium after the Solid Dollar came it.
The Bankers and hoarders kept an uneasy truce, waiting for the scales to tip, as eventually they did.

The fire in Texas caused a change

Cheneen arrives at Bobber’s room

Cheneen’s family was pushing Property contracts for profit.
They were tricking people into Property violations to blackmail them into unfavorable negotiations.

Bobber knew what that meant. They were sending Cheneen and other Properties over to seduce men and then the RobbieB would ‘discover the transgression’ and threaten a claim against her contract. The people would pay up and keep quiet.
They were doing it with all the Properties they owned.

It was legal.
Men should know better than fall into the arms of another’s Property.

EXCEPT Property law was intended to PROTECT Properties.
Bobber’s contract reflected that fact.
All the contracts that Bobber wrote for Cheneen, and for all Properties traded through the Box, specifically prohibited using Property to discredit others, or discredit the Property herself publically.
Bobber laid the biggest mousetrap in the world, and her whole family and RobbieB already stepped into it.
One of RobbieB’s friends was secretly working for the Bank.

One week before Bobber was to leave for New Galveston, RobbieB planned to take over the Box. He would use the last week to rub the violation into Bobber’s face so his family would become the new central leaders in the community. It was intimidation tactics, and people were afraid of RobbieB and his boys.
Can’t fault RobbieB for having big ambitions.

RobbieB told Cheneen she would have to visit Bobber, and stay all night so he could catch them in the morning and make public claim.
The result would be Cheneen and RobbieB would get the Trade Box when Bobber settled the claim.

Protect his friends, Avoid disgrace on exit
The new leaders confronted Bobber over the soiled contract.
RobbieB and Cheneen said they would keep it quiet, but somehow the leaders knew.

RobbieB was so busy telling everybody how he beat Bobber, and how important he was, that he stepped on Cheneen’s heart in front of everyone. He threw dirt on Cheneen for the coercion he caused her to do.
It was a trap, but not for Bobber.

Bobber jumped up. Windrock stood at his side.
The leaders stepped back. Bobber transformed from the non-descript man he’d always seemed, into a lion in front of their eyes.
He sharply said that nobody will speak bad against Cheneen’s name.
RobbieB violated the Property contract, not Cheneen. His words and deeds prove it because you yourselves have heard rumor you think to be true, but is false. And only RobbieB could be responsible.

Secretly, Bobber knew the  Property contract between RobbieB and Cheneen better than anyone because he wrote it for Cheneen’s family. He purposely making it long and arduous so nobody could read it.
RobbieB violated the Property contract. Absolutely.
The leaders were told to look it up. Look for the provision on line 14, page 14 on the disc.
It was clear as day on the monitor and LeoJ knows exactly where it is because he helped write it.
Cheneen violated nothing because the Property contract gave her the Box, with no mention of RobbieB owning anything if he ever soiled Cheneen’s name with false reputation.
Was RobbieB going to admit he was sending Cheneen into other men’s arms to extort them. Were Cheneen’s father and uncles going to admit they had done the same with as many Properties they could obtain?
The very basis of Property law was to protect women and children wasn’t it?.
Was the bank going to dishonor a valid contract that protected Properties from dishonor in favor of people who misused Property law to extort value from other people?
RobbieB had done that exact thing. He soiled Cheneen’s name, and he did it in front of the whole of Red Lake while committing false petition.

Bobber told the leaders to take care of it in front of everyone to restore Cheneen’s dignity.
Moreover, the provision says RobbieB will pay Cheneen’s family in event that he soil her in any manner.
The leaders were told to tell everyone that Cheneen was freed by the very Property laws designed to keep her in bondage, and that the bondage to her husband was the problem. Nothing more to be said.

RobbieB though he struck it rich. But one day later he was not only in debt, but was seriously at risk for forcing a false petition against somebody at the same moment he publically soiled his wife.
RobbieB was going off the debtor’s camp to repay Cheneen’s family, lucky he didn’t get the heel.

Bobber voice was sharp. Never heard before.
Not the voice a man cornered by misdeed, but a man determined to make things true that were true. Without false or mud or dirt against any name that would speak his.
The leaders saw instantly that Bobber was certain of his course.
One of them laughed at how careful Bobber was at protecting his friends. They grew alarmed at what he might have on them.

Bobber saw the fear flash over them.
He returned to the kind and honest man they knew him to be.
Cheneen was a matter of my heart. I protected her, that’s all.
He said, My contracts are short, everything simple and clear. You’ve read them.

Bobber added, I would never accept your sponsorship without knowing that you are the truest men of the region. We shall always be friends, and I shall represent you fairly.

That was it. Cheneen got the Box. Not her family. Not her former husband.
It happened before the time Bobber had hoped.
Some thought Bobber would return and marry her.

Later, with her new husband they shared 4 children, who grew into decent people same as their mother.

END so far

Unknown to raider groups, over the past years, Bludworthies had made liaison with autistic groups.
Instead of killing autistics, the Bludworthies returned kidnapped autistics in exchange for information.
Autistics knew where raiders were located, and they began to seek out Bludworthies to point out raider camps.
Many ordinary people who had joined autistic groups knew how to speak in languages besides grunting, and they more easily communicated with Bludworthies.
Some became noted scouts for the Bludworthies, especially the famous RedWorm who joined autistics at 7, was captured and sold into slavery, then escaped to join another autistic group.

Genuine autistics could not speak, except in grunts. This was partly because the lung fungus grew on the vocal cords instead of dropping deep into the lung. Some people wondered if autistics were less stressed by events and didn’t breathe methane as deep as other people.
Fakers sold cures based on shallow breathing. They didn’t work. Nobody knew why autistics were different.

This happened before the Solid Dollar, when slave trading was accepted trade with gold.

After the Solid Dollar, you could still trade for slaves, but banks would not credit out for slaves. The deal was solo. And areas with big slave trade had higher bank credit.
Banks wanted to put people back to work, instead of gambling and misuse of resources. Work is necessary to bring peace to the land.
The plan fitted nicely when banks started bondage for debt.
When bank debt could not be paid, then people were put into bondage until the debt was paid.
This eliminated need for many autistic slaves.

As it turned out, autistics were  highly organized woodworkers.
Bobber noticed when he stopped raiding and worked selling cattle for ranchers.

As long as autistics were fed and not kept apart from their whole group, then they built better fences than anyone.
Cattle ranchers laid a stone pile where they wanted the fence to start and stop. Autistics cut the wood, then treated the red cedar posts using the electrosap machines, and laid a straight fence across any type soil.
They cut logs better, they carved wood better than anyone.

The rail cartage trade discovered that slave wood was always inferior to wood made by the free autistic groups.
Many of the gold traders owned saw cutting businesses, and chained autistic slaves to harvest and process the wood. But separated from their group, the slave autistics were not very good.
The gold traders were cheating the rail trade.
Money was the reason why banks negotiated alliance between Bludworthies.
Banks controlled the rails and controlled the Bludworthies. Banks wanted autistic wood, and not slave wood. So Banks had to get rid of slavery, since the primary use for autistic slaves was for woodworking.

The banks sent out notice over the announcements, and soon everybody wanted autistic wood instead of slave wood.
This angered gold hoarders who held deep interests in slave trade and slave wood.

Bobber saw opportunity to represent autistics selling wood to the rail trade for laying track and bridges. But his position as former raider and slave trader doubted the trail.

The arrival of autistics, and former gold hoarders, with monks and spacemen, and Vasquez riders at Red Lake meant complications for everyone, including Bobber.

 He can do it in his mind
Readers could do it in their mind without speaking. Most people were skeptical.
Plain speaking
What next people going to grow antenna like a bug?

 [G1]running gold
 [G2]Electric cartage nuclear additiojns
 [G3]Rejecting property
 [G6]the lithium wars
 [G7]Four and a half years of raiding
 [G8]Lithium War
 [G9]Guess you hear the gong, Thompson
 [G10]front story
 [G11]Bobber was 18.
 [G12]going east coast
 [G14]Every rock in the dirt
 [G15]were still giggling
 [G16], Red Lake
 [G18]It was quite a famous place.
Page 31 end.

The queen walked into the autistic swarm. Not from the back of the groups, as expected from someone wanting to survive..
The queen walked directly into the clutching mob that crawled forward out the grasses
Thea-T screamed. Her nerve broke as the queen and autistics neared each other.
No belief in the world would expect the queen to survive this event.
Then the most astonishing thing happened.
The queen walked through the mob with astounding effect… her presence pulled nearby autistics into a standing position, where they stood until she passed, and then they resumed crawling. It looked like a magnet pulling on shards of graphite. For several minutes she walked among the autistics as the group crawled out of the grass. And over and over, the queen had the same effect. The autistics would stand up for the queen, and then resume crawling after she passed.

extending from the front
Next day, autistics at the QueGeorge ranch stopped working. One after the other, the Criticizers were stunned to find their businesses stalled when autistics simply stopped working. The valuable slaves could not be starved into submission, or the owners would lose everything.
The Criticizers were stunned when rumor arrived that the Queen manipulated the autistics by exerting Readership. The radical youth were….

Diabetes disappeared, even though some people still sold the sugar cardboard

People no longer drank the water sugar or ate the sugared cardboard.

They weren’t really bosses, they were more like civil servants sorting out people’s problems over a hog. Their son and daughter married, so who knows how that turned out.
Bad leaders always manipulate truth… it’s called advertising.

Shut up, how about that?

I saw you when I was a little girl. And asked you to bring my mothers stones. You found them under a wagon wheel.
I had known you for years when we met in the barn.

So that’s the gift you gave me that didn’t belong to me?
The Queen said no. The gift was the crystal that you protected.

Bobber muttered apology that the crystal was gone, figuring that he’d disappointed another customer.
He unstrapped his belt, laid it on the table and cut open the leather.
One by one, the bright stones appeared.

The Queen reached down and gathered them in her hand. She cried. Then set them in a small vase.

Ok, well I hope we’re square here. Sorry about the crystal.
But those were not the words and feelings that raced through his heart.
He loved this woman with his deepest soul.
He knew her better than anyone. They had been together forever. She belonged to him.

The Queen touched Bobbers hand. He stood up and they kissed. The world exploded into the stars.

And behind him the great hand delivered a king
His soul left us forever our tiny's mud and nickel ball
Gone forever maybe to the stars
On earth a king was born