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    Thread: Rescue Incorporated

    1. #1
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Cool Rescue Incorporated

      Rescue Inc....3350

      In a world where life hangs in the balance, who does their best to help others, as well as themselves? On a world where everything is dying, and few Humans survive, who will do their best for Family and friends, both Human and Artificial Life Forms?

      When sentient Artifical Life forms start taking the place of Humans in dangerous situations, then Humans start getting lazy and frightened.And when they are Human looking enough to make it nearly impossible to tell the difference, they start sliding into other areas where only Humans had worked before.But in the Wastelands its their strength that is needed, and their fabulous stamina for hunting and exploring.

      If androids run out of power, they just sit down and wait, and time means nothing to them. But real people, thats different, under water in colonies, or in orbit in stations, their time is very limited, once their power, and with it oxygen runs out, then they die, and thats the real tragedy here. In the Great War of 3110 billions died, and the World itself was mortally wounded, now the World Government is being very,very careful with the few that are left.

      But Human Nature never changes, and now, even with less than 20% of the old population alive, they still bicker among themselves and wage wars, even with small nuclear devices capable of wasting 10,000 square feet of land and soldiers..with repercussions left behind for decades to come. So people were needed, to search, explore and hunt where others feared to go, and help save the last few, so that they might someday save the World itself.

      Chapter 1: Rescue Incorporated

      James Hudson woke up to another fine day. The sun was shining and the sky was a bluish gray, another perfect day for business.

      He rang the bell by his bed and three identical female androids came running in, carrying his cloths and his morning coffee. They dressed him in a flash and handed him his cup, and he thanked them as they ran back out, giggling to themselves as they went.

      “I see you’re finally up Father,” He heard as he looked up to see the screen appear in midair in front of him and he smiled at his son John, who was always too serious in the mornings. “No real disasters anywhere today, we’re monitoring things as usual.” he added as his Father nodded back.

      “Good, keep up the good work, and get my shuttle ready, I need to be in Cairo by noon.” He said as John nodded and his personal shuttle was fueled and ready to go. James went down for breakfast and his order was replicated fresh in an instant. Scrambled eggs, toast and sausage, black coffee and a fruit cup, and he was ready for his work day an hour later, and even with the travel time, he knew he’d be in Cairo well before lunch.

      He got to his seat and the shuttle dropped away from thee station, and headed down to the planet once more. The color of the sky showed no plasma or lightning storms today so far, just like the camera view he had in his room, and that was good news for all those that stayed behind and lived there. They were a man made disaster, those storms,caused by melding giant thunderstorms with plasma and radiation, and together they were a deadly thing to be around.

      One good hard soaking and the radiation could kill a Human, and so no one that had a choice went out anymore, but stayed locked in their Mega Cities, under the huge domes, and even those took damage when severe lightning storms struck them, causing plasma that could burn through the outer walls, sometimes a dozen times in a day.

      Cairo was the World Capitol now, and everything of any importance was done there. They negotiated deals world wide, and sent food and medical care out to those Cities less fortunate, that still tried to survive in the Wastelands around the planet.

      It was a hard way to live, but some didn’t make the cut to get into the cities, as more and more of the old working class died from starvation and medical issues caused by being exposed to the elements too often. But they did important work too, and so they stayed, as if the Elites that built the cities and stations would have them anyways. But through their help new minerals were found and mapped, and old metals were salvaged and brought in for resale and reuse. The world was a graveyard, and the only way anyone survived it was with a cool head, and their android helpers beside them.

      James had his meeting, while his people gathered the materials that came in for him. He sold some of the scrap that was there, and sent out supplies for his Teams, working out in the Wastelands themselves. Stanley was out there, his brothers son, and he did great work, bringing in scrap metals and electronics parts that were hard to find, and his Team consisted of him, and his three android team members.

      Jim...the male android... was muscular looking and tall and strong as a bull. He was like a big brother to Stan, who was just 20 years old. Then there was Sheri, the groups technician and cook, small looking compared to Jim, and with long black hair... she looked small and petite... but her strength was nothing to laugh at either. And lastly Jesse, another tall android but a female this time, and her medium length red hair floated on the wind, when she hunted with and protected Stanley right along side of Jim as they searched their way out into the Wastelands.

      This was Stan’s Team and together they had worked more hours outside the City than some had their whole lives, and they seemed happy doing it...and that shocked many who were afraid to even leave the walls.

      Stan had been out there for a month this time, and would soon be coming in for some rest. James appreciated him more than he would admit. He knew his craft, and knew where to find the materials they all needed. He was a real survivor, and they wouldn’t be in this good a shape without him.

      He followed the old roads and maps and when he found anything of use he tagged it, and then an automatic recovery vehicle went out and brought it in. Like a flying tow truck, only gathering the waste from 20 years of war, and a hundred years of death since, many things like mining for iron ore, and coal was only a memory now, since the raw materials were long since used up. So now it was a salvager’s society out there, and Stanley did it well.

      Every time a load of scrap made it to the city, it went to the Materials Warehouse, and was tagged as owned by whoever brought it in, even scrap metal today goes for thousands of credits a ton, and so the Family Station was safe in orbit today because of people like Stanley that hunted the Old World for materials they all needed, or their precious Cities and Stations would fall apart.

      Stanley was up and around early today and when he asked about breakfast it was a fruit bar, again.

      “Damn,” he said as he ripped the paper off it, “another 2 days until we get picked up again.” he added as Sheri, his technician and cook, mentioned that a little hunting might not hurt either, as he just smiled.

      Hunting was fine and dandy but in this area there was only one animal, a large and fast lizard, sometimes over 7 feet long with teeth that made you think twice before going outside again. And they ran in packs, and that made anything you might think go right onto the back burner. The fact that he and his android team were still here was in no small part to eating these things.

      The meat was a little tough and had a strong flavor, but it was nutritious, and with little else to go on they looked pretty good once in a while, roasted or baked over a campfire.

      The androids could go for weeks without food or they could ingest almost anything for energy, but he couldn’t... and so they watched over him... instead of the other way around.

      “The lighting and recharge station isn’t working again.” Sheri mentioned as he ate and nodded saying he’d check it out in a minute, and he finished eating his breakfast and got his work belt on and his protective eye glasses and dust filter, ready for another day in the American Wastelands.

      “ OK, lets go...” he said as he and his partners, Jim and Jesse went out the door into the bright sunlight.”First we see about this power problem,” he said and as they walked around the back of the old structure they were using, they saw the power leads from the solar collectors were all chewed up again.

      “What do animals get out of chewing on wires?” he asked no one in particular as his friends just smiled and watched as he went about repairing them again. “Even if we get something, Sheri wont be able to cook it without power.” he added as they both agreed, just as a rustling sound was heard behind him and he slowly turned to see a medium sized lizard there, growling and looking his way.

      “Jesse...” Stan said softly as she turned and smiled too, it was the easiest hunting she had ever done. The animal started running towards them and she made a flat hand attack, and her fingers went right through its head and pinned it to the ground, right where she was standing.

      “Lunch...” She said holding it up by one hand, as Stanley laughed and agreed, and she took it inside while Jim watched over their Master until his work was done.

      Chapter 2: Hard Work and Appreciation

      But as she carried it inside Sheri called that a coms message was coming in, and Stan finished his work and came back inside to answer it.He opened the coms and there stood Gary, his supply manger and he smiled and said it looked like he was still alive, as Stan just laughed along and waited.

      “The Family says you’re doing really well and wants to know if you need relocated somewhere else by now?” he asked as Stan said a weeks rest might be nice, as Gary just smiled and nodded.

      “The food replicators are running low on raw materials on the station again,” He hinted as Stanley just shook his head, saying that there wasn’t much here to hunt for either, and Gary agreed.

      Replicators do a huge thing, they supply processed food for large numbers of people. But they dont work for free, even in a ‘closed system’ like the stations, they are not perfectly efficient, and after putting in ( for example) a hundred pounds of raw material, usually fibers, sugars and meat or other proteins, they slowly lose a bit every time things are made and eaten, less than 1% at a time, but with 20 humans and 10 androids, on the station at any one time that adds up.

      “The Boss says get what you can before we come for you, anything beats nothing. You know the drill.” he added as Stanley agreed and the link went down again. Now Stan had 2 days to get anything and everything he could, to keep his Family in food for a while again.

      “Looks like we’re going hunting,” he said as the androids agreed and he got a small bottle from his supplies, chugged down a good drink, and stuck the rest of the bottle into the holder on his belt, and the three of them went out again looking for anything that the station could use.

      He got on a small electric trail bike and started out towards the river nearby. It was badly polluted, but animals have little choice and even some edible plants grew there and fiber was fiber, and he’d take anything he could get.

      Jim and Jesse had no problem keeping up, hell they could outrun him easily even on this, and do it for hours on end. But they didn’t, they watched over him like he was a child, even though technically he was their Master.

      “Clouds in the distance,” Jesse mentioned as Stan agreed and said they’d have to hurry. They got to the old bridge over the river and saw a pack of lizards eating something below them by the river bank and as they saw the Team they all ran that way, growling and Jim and Jesse attacked, and after a little scuffle 4 large lizards were laying dead, and only Jim had suffered any damage, with a few teeth marks on his left arm.

      “You OK?” Stan asked as Jim just laughed saying he was fine and Stan nodded looking at the meat laying there. “What do you think...200-250 pounds?” He asked as Jesse laughed at him saying he was terrible when it came to guessing weights, and he laughed and agreed.

      “Two were pretty fat, probably closer to 400 pounds this time.” Jim said as Stanley looked happy with that.

      “We better get those back then,” Stan said as Jesse just waved him away, and picked them all up and started back the way they came. “Stay back there with Sheri, we’ll be back shortly.” Stan said as she agreed and started running and was soon out of sight.

      “We still have some time yet, and I’ve never been on the other side. Lets see if there’s enough bridge left to get across.” Stan said and ran up the old road onto the bridge and it had some large holes in it from the war, but there were spots where you could walk, or ride a scooter, and they made it across in a few minutes, as Jim kept one eye on the black clouds off in the distance.

      They ran back the old road for maybe a mile when Stan saw something he never thought he’d see. There.. in a grown up field... was row after row of small bushes all neatly lined up and almost buried by the high weeds now.

      “Someone’s old farm,” he said as Jim looked just as shocked.” what are those anyways?” He said and got off the bike and went to see, with Jim right by his side watching everywhere at once.
      The bushes weren’t very tall or wide but many had small blue globes hanging on them , only a few each, but they were there, as Stan pulled out a scanner and checked them and smiled.

      “Blue berries...” he said as even Jim smiled at that,” and the radiation level is acceptable too, we struck gold here!” he said and grabbed a few and ate them on the spot.

      “Here, Jim..., show me what you’ve got...” he said handing him a plastic bag and Jim nodded and ran down the rows gathering every berry he could find while Stan watched the clouds getting closer. “ Stop! Thats enough! We need to get back to camp.” Stan called and Jim ran back to join him as he picked his way across the bridge and ran flat out back to camp, where the girls were busy watching for them, and when Stan got off the bike Jesse grabbed it and ran inside and everyone else did too, and in less than 10 minutes the first lightning hit nearby and they closed the door for the duration, and Sheri left them know they had a good meal for a change, and she laid out a large roast made from one of the beasts, and Jim added a quart of blueberries too, and for the first time this week, they feasted.

    2. #2
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 3: Wheeling and Dealing

      The storm lasted for hours and it was pretty loud even inside the old building. But they all had a good meal and got some rest, so that when the sun came out the next day they were ready to go again.

      “OK, lets get whatever we can again, the shuttle will be here in 16 hours to get us and we’ll sleep in warm luxury tonight.” Stan said as everyone cheered. They still had over three hundred pounds of meat in storage, and they had time to possibly double that. In the replicators that would last a month easy, even with the full crew using it.

      “We should go back to the old farm too,” Jim added as Stan agreed.” adding something with that sugar content to the replicator will go a long way to adding new meals for everyone.” he mentioned as Stan laughed out loud at that. Sugar was something that was hard to find nowadays and adding even a quart of anything with sugar content to the machines would bring back foods that hadn’t been eaten in ages.

      “That should get you a nice bonus for this month too,” Jesse added as Stan agreed that it would help.”If I might ask Master, we’ve been working together for 2 years now and you’ve never really spent any of the money you earn from your Family...is there something big you’re saving for?” She asked as Stan got a huge grin and said there was...an erotic android...and her face went red and she looked away suddenly, as Jim got a huge grin hearing it. Stanley wasn’t that bad, both the girls he had now were capable of such things and would not mind at all he was sure, but he never asked or ordered anyone, so he was pretty sure that he was lying just to tease her.

      “You’re such a perverted Master...” Jesse added softly, still looking embarrassed, as they stopped by the old farm, and she and Jim went to work gathering anything they could. Stan knew places like this were rare too, and told them to gather only the good fruit and leave the rest for the birds and animals that might still come here. In two hours they covered the field pretty well, and had several quarts of fruit in the bag, and Stan made sure that they knew they’d get credit for all their help, and they both laughed, since he owned them, what else would they be doing? But he treated them like equals and real people, and they appreciated it more than they could ever say.

      Then back to hunting, and while they were looking for animals something odd caught Stan’s eye off the edge of the road, and he went to look, and stuck in a large sand dune that followed the road he saw something red shining in the sun and he checked and it was a light, an old taillight, and he brushed the dust and dirt off and there was an entire car buried here, probably lost years ago during a storm or something. So he had Jim and Jesse come over and drag it out into the open, and it was intact, and he smiled as he put his tracking beacon on it and away they went again, knowing that the city would have someone get it soon enough.

      “We’re having a good week.” Jim hinted as Stanley totally agreed, but after a few other weeks they’d had, he was glad they got one like this from time to time.

      They got two more of the large reptiles and then went back to camp and got everything ready to go... as if Sheri left them much to do. The shuttle landed a hundred yards away and armed guards jumped out to watch for them as they ran over, carrying their prizes, and they all greeted them with big smiles and handshakes, and the Team went home for a well deserved rest.

      The shuttle landed on the station and James and the rest of his Family were right there to welcome him back. They were happy to see that none of them were badly hurt and that there would be enough food for a long time again.

      “What is this?” James asked as Stan handed him the bag and he looked inside with wonder on his face. “Are they safe?” he asked as Stan said they were and then told the story. James was astounded, finding so much was a rare thing indeed and he got the location of the old farm and decided it was worth sending a work detail to check it out. If they did even a little work to it then even more food could be forthcoming in the future, and many people there agreed.

      “BIG bonus for this...” James added as he ate one berry right there. “we’ll get them into the machine right away, before Clare sees them.” he said chuckling, as everyone laughed.

      Clare was the Families technician on the station, and she had a sweet tooth that was never satisfied. But putting these through the replicator would stretch them out x10 and everyone would get a treat for a change, and Stan’s reputation would go up again, like he needed that.

      But Stan was waiting to talk to James alone and when he did, and gave his report, and asked for a favor, as James smiled and asked if he was sure... and he agreed.

      “There’s lots to recover, but its spread out over thousands of miles, so we need a more permanent home on the surface, nothing big, but something we can take with us as we search and provide cover from the animals and the storms.” he said as James agreed, they had talked about this before, and Clare was in on it now, and Stanley was getting what he had saved up for, and his mobile home was waiting when he went back to the surface later in the week.

      It wasn’t a mobile home exactly, under these extreme conditions some old camper style thing wouldn’t last under attacks. This was something else, something a little harder, and a little more military than that. It was an old armored personnel carrier, multi-fuel with solar arrays and its own distillery added to the roof. Out there any water would be usable for this, and many types of grass and plants were going to be used as fuel. It could run on anything, oil, gasoline,alcohol, diesel even, but it had more than enough room for the four of them, and all the amenities of a camper, with armor plating.

      Stan really had planned ahead, and now the city finally got paid what they wanted for it, and Clare sent the distillery down she made to help keep it going. If handled right and planned ahead, it could go on almost indefinitely, and that would help not only the Team, but everyone they helped satisfy in the station and the city.

      And it gave Stanley what he liked most of all, independence, from not just the station but all the crowds and noise of the city too. Out there he could do what he wanted within reason, and his friends went along, so he was never really alone. But he had a purpose, and he was good at it, and when he became too old to continue, then he’d sit back and relax, if he lived that long, but he wasnt worried, life has many ups and downs and he went with that ebb and flow and was happy that way. But for a few days he got to sleep in a warm bed, and eat hot meals and then he’d be ready to go back, and go to work again.

      Chapter 4: Mobile Base

      Clare was doing her checkups on the Team now and she loved to harass the girls about their possible attention from their Master, as Jesse growled at her for her constant teasing.

      “My Master isn’t like that...” She said with her nose up but Clare just laughed, saying he was a man like any other, and that made Jesse think a little more about it. “We aren’t really women, he needs a wife, not some android with emotions.” She hinted, looking very sad, as Clare saw maybe she was being too cold when it came to the way Sheri and Jesse thought about Stan.

      “He long ago chose you over real people, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.” Clare added, checking some more specs as the scans continued.

      “He likes being out there where he has almost unlimited freedom, even the storms and animals don’t faze him anymore.” Sheri added from the table next door as Jesse agreed.

      “And this gives him a purpose, and we work to support him.” Jesse added as Clare just shook her head, saying they were still in fine shape, as both girls got dressed again.

      “I’m making sure your systems are fully charged before you leave, so just lay back and wait. I know that down there you run at half power many times to conserve energy, but do a little more to keep your systems charged will you? Letting your power run low isn’t good for you.” Clare scolded as they both smiled wider, she had never seen the Wastelands so she didn’t understand, and they long ago gave up trying to teach her.

      “Yes doctor...” they both said and laid back as power ran into them and went up and up. even their emergency power system was fully charged soon and they knew they were ready any time Stanley was, but they didn’t know what his plans were yet, and Clare didn’t tell them because she wanted it to be a surprise.

      Two more days of rest and they found themselves standing by the scrap yard, just within the city limits back on the planet. The old man that ran the place came out and was very happy to see them and took them down a long line of rusty old vehicles that he had repaired.

      “You’re sure about this? I know you work the badlands... but this is certainly bigger than must want.” he went on as the Team looked seriously at Stan who nodded as they walked along.

      “It’ll do fine...” he said as they stopped by a monster, 24 feet long, 6 huge tires and boxes and mounts all over that it wasn’t even using. The top had a large box on it too, and Clare’s distillery was mounted up there, just waiting to be started, as well as solar panels and generator systems that ran when the engine was running, and the old man was right, this was a major thing to buy, even now that no one used them anymore. Android patrols didn’t need these old things... only people did... and they were never made for fuel economy, but then it was nearly impregnable too, from anything you might encounter.

      “OK then...” The old man said and cleared his throat to begin the ‘lesson’, “Technically its a 6x6, so getting around in the wastelands wont be a problem, however the engine is large and it needs a lot of fuel, so expect to be working hard just to keep it going.” he added as Stan nodded agreement.

      “It can run 60 through the desert, cross rivers with ease and run up mountains, there’s enough living space for 6 so you wont be crowded at all, and once its parked it becomes as solid as a rock, or more so, so animals aren’t even worth mentioning.” He said as Stan agreed and the old man threw him the keys.

      “No returns, no warrantees, have a nice life...” he said with a wink, as Stanley laughed and they got inside and he saw that bunks were on either side, and a few chairs too, and they even threw in a folding table for meals, and Stan fired it up and checked the fuel tank, it was half full, and the engine was a full military multi-fuel type, so God knows what was in that tank right now.

      “Lets get loaded then,” he said as they moved out of the scrap yard and filled their water tanks with drinking water and made sure they had plastic buckets and jugs for gathering materials they’d need once they were gone from the city.

      They gathered the emergency food supplies they brought along and did a checklist seeing what else they needed, and by the end of the first day they were ready, and the big vehicle moved out of the city and into the Wastelands once more.

      “We can only expect about 5-7 miles to a gallon,” Stan was saying as they bumped along and everyone agreed.” so we need to keep the distillery running almost full time. Out here bushes and old logs and trees are the most prominent things we see, so wood alcohol is probably the best fuel for our purposes.” he said as Jim agreed saying that getting wood or leaves and branches from bushes wasn’t even a problem, and Stan reminded him that they’d stop when they reached the river, about 20 miles out, and start the distillery there.

      “If we find a spot with lots of brush and weeds, we’ll gather up buckets full and store it,” he said as they agreed once more.” Clare says a 5 gallon bucket of material will make several gallons of fuel, so we’ll make sure to keep extra when we get the chance.” he said and they road for a few more minutes, at barely 25 miles and hour, as Stan started learning more about the machine and experimented with the best fuel economy that he could get.

      “There...” Jesse said, pointing, as they approached the river’s edge and there was a strip of land covered in half dead bushes right along the river, and they pulled as close as they could get, and dropped the big back door and everyone walked out.

      “OK, I need a bucket of water for the distillery first, then the bushes need to be broken into small pieces, chop them up with a knife if possible, and hand me a bucket full of that.” he said as he climbed the ladder onto the roof and Jim handed him a 5 gallon bucket of water a minute later, and he added that to the tank.

      Jesse was gathering brush, and Sheri was chopping it up into fine pieces with a machete they carried for defense, and together they were getting a lot done in a short time, and an hour later, Stanley flipped the switch to start the heater on the distillery and they decided to finish loading all the buckets they were carrying with material while they had the chance

      “Lets have lunch while we’re sitting still.” Sheri mentioned as they all agreed and she opened some caned goods and started a pot of stew while the others gathered more materials for later.

      An hour passed and everything was working well for them. They got a decent meal, several buckets full of wood chips and leaves and twigs and the distillery was starting to drip fuel alcohol down a tube into the fuel tank.

      They checked it once and the fluid burned a nice blue color, just as Clare had said, and now they were away again. Hunting for things they had never seen before.The old bridge was the furthest they had traveled until now but with the new vehicle they could make better time and always have a safe place to stay no matter what happened outside.

      They traveled for a little while and came around a hill to see some buildings in the distance, and Stan grabbed the glasses and took a look but saw nothing or no on moving.

      “My map says its the town of Bristol,” Jesse said as Stan nodded agreement,” are we going in to see?” She asked and after a minute to think Stan agreed and they went down and right down the middle of town, now not more than a dozen small buildings, but even with something this big and loud rolling into town, not a soul appeared.

      “Looks deserted,” Stan said and before he could get out, Jim stopped him and he looked sad, but Jim reminded him that they don’t get sick, or hurt easily, and he’d let him know as soon as he checked the place out, and Stanley finally agreed.

      Jim grabbed the equipment belt and went out the back, checking everywhere and scanning for germs or anything that might cause a threat, but he found nothing, and after a few minutes he nodded it was OK and Stan and the rest of the Team came out to look around.

      “OK then ladies if you please, you take that side of the street, Jim and I will take this side.” Stan said as everyone agreed and they started out to search the old houses.

      There was one building that looked like an old store, and Stan went there first, while Jim checked the building next to it. They were open to the elements for a long time, it was easy to see, and as Stan went room to room he found old things that he hadn’t seen in ages, if at all. Plates made from some glass or something, many chipped but still usable, some canned things on a shelf, no labels no identification of any kind, but they weren’t rotted through, so he gathered them all and took them back to the vehicle and went for more, and was checking out some bags of..mostly mold now...when Jesse called and he walked over to see what was going on.

      When he walked into the room he found three dead people, all huddled together, and right where they laid down is where they died, and a quick scan showed why, radiation poisoning, probably out hunting and got caught in a storm, Jesse mentioned as Stan just looked sad for them but agreed.

      “Check the rest of the buildings and gather anything we can use or take home, they wont be needing them anymore.” Stan said as she agreed and he went back to searching and didn’t find much else worth worrying about.

      “What about those little bags hanging there?” Jim asked when he walked in and Stan said that they were so old they couldn’t be any good, as Jim laughed and reminded him the stations replicators turned everything into atoms and it didn’t matter what it looked like going in, and they both laughed about it and took everything back and just tossed them into a sack and set them off to the side, as Jesse walked in with Sheri, who found a decent pot, and a few of the dishes Stan had seen and decided they were worth saving.

      “Here take this...” Jesse said as she handed Stan an old rusty gun, with a pump action, and an old rotted belt with a dozen shells on it.” They don’t need it anymore, and you never know when you might need it here.” She added as Stan laughed saying he had them and they were better than any old gun, as she smiled wider at that thought, but Jim said he agreed, even with them around you never know what might happen, and so Stan agreed and they put it into a rack along one wall that was very likely made just for such a reason.

      By now Sheri found all the assorted cans and got a huge grin from them all, and started making a game out of guessing what they were without opening them, as everyone laughed.

      “Peaches...” she said once, then,” beets or potatoes maybe...” as everyone smiled at her antics.

      “And last but not least...mystery meat...” She said holding up a large can while Stan laughed and reminded her they had rations of their own so these mysterious cans could wait and go to the station, where it didn’t matter what they were, and she agreed sadly and it looked like she really did want to open them to see.

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      Chapter 5: Old and Improved

      They had been about everywhere and seen everything there was here, Stan mentioned, as the girls said they had a few more places they wanted to look, and they went back out again. Jim mentioned that before Stan needed that gun he better clean it and make sure it worked and he agreed he would, and just as he wiped some of the dirt off, Sheri called for him to come see, and he found them on the second floor of one old house and in someone’s bedroom, and there on a night stand was a radio with a telescopic antenna on it.

      “Old coms station,” She announced while Stanley looked impressed it was still here.”These old units were made to talk all over the world, compared to our mobile coms units that beam one single signal, they had many channels, and 3x the transmitting power.” She went on as Stan saw she really was happy to find this.

      “Think it works?” He asked and she said there was no power to try it but it certainly was worth taking, as Stan agreed. “Then lets take it, maybe you can wire it up inside the mobile unit and see if it still works or not, hows that?” He said as her face lit up and he saw he said just the right thing.

      It was kind of his fault she was like this...she was the Teams technician and engineer... but he made her into a Domestic instead, saying she was a great cook, and she seldom got to do any really interesting things. He’d make sure he did less of that now, seeing how something as small as this made her so happy, and he smiled and took the old wires off it and carried it back to the vehicle where she immediately went about testing it.

      By the end of the day she was happily talking away, and Clare was thrilled she found something so unique.

      “I will not!” Sheri said loudly, as everyone looked away chuckling to themselves. Clare had declared she wanted the old set for parts, while Sheri reminded them they were risking their lives out here, and she wouldn’t give it up, and everyone else saw that Sheri was really happy being a technician again, and Jim mentioned it, as Stan sighed and agreed he had been acting silly.

      “I found it..it’s mine!” Sheri said and closed the link and turned around to see Stan looking away, all smiles.” I can have it.... cant I?” She asked softly as he laughed out loud and said she could, and her face lit up brightly.

      “Anything you can find that makes our home better, we will keep.” Stan announced and she was really happy with that.

      “No more ‘hit and miss’ calls when there’s a storm.” She announced, and then went back to getting ready for the evening meal.

      “You did a good thing today,” Jesse whispered as Stan got a huge grin and nodded, and still had to stop Sheri from opening one of the old cans ‘just to see’ as Jim and Jesse got the biggest grin from it.

      But before night fell they decided to stay here for the night, instead of running out somewhere and then looking for a better campsite. They parked right there in the street and closed up for the night, after reloading the distillery with water and wood chips. So far they had used around 5 gallons of fuel and made about 3 gallons. But they hadn’t stayed anywhere yet, only moved from place to place, and Stan mentioned if they camped in one spot for a while and ran the distillery then they’d be doing fine, and everyone agreed. And Stan decided that he owed Clare for this new machine, and he was going to watch for anything he could get to help her out after this.

      They stripped everything of value out of the old buildings and soon they were on their way again. By now they were 20 miles further and they stopped to check an old vehicle and put a tracker on it. It was an old truck, a small pickup, but it had all the wiring still in it and a lot of metal, so it was a good save. It would help with parts and equipment samples back home, and even Stanley was surprised when Clare had told him how they scavenged every single wire and hose from these things for her machines, and maintenence on the station.

      By noon they found an old garage still standing, along an old road. They parked and checked it out and Jim saw a medium sized animal scurry away and down a rather large hole beside the building. That was new, since the area behind them that had almost no grass or trees had nothing but large reptiles, so they were entering a different area, it seemed.

      Behind the old building was another wreck, a small car, and it got tagged too. And Stan said they had traveled far enough for a while, and they’d stay here and explore, since it was clear no one had claimed all the old vehicles sitting around yet, and the Team agreed, and they set about checking every little thing on the old building, and Jim found the underground tanks, and even though they were full of rusty fluids, they had the smell of oil about them, and so Stan set up a filtering system made from plastic buckets and rags and they tried pumping out any fuel that might still be down there, and filtering out the rust and water from it.

      They were being careful...out here making too many mistakes is fatal...but by the end of the day they had filtered 5 gallons of fuel out of the old tanks, and added that to theirs.

      “Even though its ages old and low on octane, we’re adding it to a tank containing over 3 gallons of pure alcohol.” Sheri informed them as Stan agreed.” that should more than make up for it, besides, even a multi-fuel engine like this needs a tiny bit of lubrication from time to time, and alcohol is a very ‘dry’ fuel, so I suggest getting all the old oil based fuel we can when we get these chances.” She said and even Stanley agreed that as old as this vehicle was they needed to take good care of it, and so they set it up right there with their solar panels and distillery running and Jim and Stanley worked all day to save even the tiniest bit more fuel from the old garage.

      By nightfall they had another 2 gallons they considered safe to use, and they stored it in a gas can along the side of the vehicle. That way at some future time they could add fuel oil to the tank and save wear and tear from running pure alcohol, as Sheri had said. Now they had time to look around, and Stan got his little electric bike out and he and Jim went exploring, and found some high grasses and small animals nearby, but no more cars yet.

      They turned to the south then and crossed a big grassy field and out the other side to find an old road...lined with steel guard rails... and they stopped and Stan looked surprised.

      “Well, well ,well...” he said getting off and checking it out.” Looks like a lot of these, all the way down the road for as far as the eye can see.” He stated as Jim agreed with a big smile.

      “We can work here for a week at least, taking these off and stacking them up for transport, thats tons upon tons of steel there, the refinery back at Atlas City will be thrilled to see this.” Stan added as they went back to the garage and he told them all what they had found.

      “In the past, there were millions of those all along the roads between cities.” Sheri added as everyone agreed. “ The areas like that closest to the city were gathered up long ago, so Stanley was right that further out more things that no on has touched will be found.”She said with a big grin and Jim agreed, saying they hadn’t touched even the 100 mile mark outside the city yet, but they were still finding great things.

      “Its getting late, so tomorrow we start the gathering of the guard rails, we’ll see what they weigh and decide how many to stack together for pickup.” Stan said and they got a good meal and rested until dark, and Jim went out looking around trying to see what kind of animal that was he saw before, but it was too fast for him and always got back down its hole before he could catch it, as the others got a good laugh at him getting upset that he just wasn’t fast enough, and Sheri said that it might make a decent meal, as Stan laughed, knowing Jim wouldn’t give up until he caught it.

      Chapter 6: A Hard days Night

      They got some sleep, and when Stan woke up the next morning, Jim was gone and he sat up and looked around to see the other two getting breakfast ready.

      “You’re kidding...” Stan mentioned as Jesse laughed as silently as she could and Sheri was just looking angry by now, but tried not to say anything.

      “I told him it was either a gopher of some kind, or a woodchuck, but he wont stop until he gets it.” Sheri said as Stan walked out of the vehicle and looked around the corner, to see Jim all bent over by the hole with one hand poised for action.

      He looked towards Stan and made a ‘shush’ motion and Stanley just sighed and went back inside. He didn’t even want to know how long he had been poised like that, but he knew that stubbornness was one of Jim’s traits and he was using it today for sure.

      The coffee was ready and Stanley got a cup and was just eating a cereal bar when he heard a loud ‘ah ha!’ and they all started laughing as Jim walked up, looking as happy as Stan had ever seen him and holding the animal by the scruff of the neck.

      Sheri walked over and checked it out and agreed it was safe to eat, and with a quick, unceremonious twist of its neck, she took it from him and went back to her makeshift kitchen.

      “You’re going to be working all day, better eat something.” She said as Jim looked sad that his big moment was so rudely interrupted, but Jesse was chuckling to herself, and Stan gave him a big thumbs up...while laughing as hard as he could.

      “It really was fast...” Jim whispered and sat down to eat as everyone tried not to laugh anymore for a while.

      An hour later the whole Team was back at the old road and it was clear that they had a lot to do.

      Since he had an android team they just took their time and unscrewed the bolts holding them together, and those that were too rusted or welded together from excessive heat, Stan had a laser torch for those.

      Even though it was called a torch, it looked very much like an old hacksaw, but instead of a blade of metal it had 2 laser diodes one on either end, and when turned on it formed the laser blade that could cut these off in seconds. So by noon they had a big pile stacked up there, and Stan made the call and showed the City Manager what they were up to, and he nodded happily.

      “I’ll send out a unit to get them, good work, thats a lot of good steel there.” he said as Stan agreed. “How many more are out there?” he said as Stan turned the camera to show the side of the road and guard rails going out of sight, as the manager gasped.

      “Hundreds I’d say...” Stan added as the man agreed.

      “Big bucks for you then, you’ll see a vehicle out there by the end of the day.” he said seriously as the link went closed.

      Stan walked over and slid the laser torch across the post that they just unbolted and 3 feet of ‘I’ beam fell over on the ground and he went to the next one. But Sheri mentioned that it was lunch time, and while they weren’t tired yet, even they needed to charge when working this hard, and Stanley agreed, and they went back to get something while Stan was moving a little slower today, especially getting up and down.

      “Did you hurt yourself Master?” Jesse asked as Stan just waved it away, saying it had been a while since he worked this hard and his back was stiff.

      “Then you sit there for a few minutes and take this...” Sheri said as she handed him a pain pill from the medical kit, and Stan thanked her saying he didn’t need it, but one little growl and that look in her eyes said he wasn’t given a choice, so he popped it into his mouth and took a drink and she smiled saying he’d feel better soon, and went back to making sure everyone else was getting something to eat, or a quick recharge.

      Sheri always was the Mother of the group. She watched over everyone, and Stan felt good about that. Being an android, her programming was his choice, and when he saw her in the display that day, he knew just what he wanted done.

      Her skills in technology was second only to her first aid and maintenence protocols, and while Jim and Jesse were hard nosed warriors and heavy lifters, Sheri was the control unit of the entire group, and no one refused her when she got serious either.

      It was her job to not only work right along with everyone else, but to oversee operations, and over the last few years, Stanley saw his choice was well founded.

      “The City is sending out a vehicle to gather all that...” Sheri called as everyone agreed.” They should be here shortly, so Jim see to it they find out right where we are working, they will probably use the base as a GPS lock, so they’ll show up here first.” She said as he agreed and finished eating and went outside to watch for them.

      “Jesse, might as well go back and start gathering some more. I’ll stay here and make sure Master doesn’t do anything silly until his back quits hurting.” She said as Jesse agreed, taking the heavy cutter with her, and the extra battery pack. They had taken down a lot of rails but there were dozens of posts sticking up and this would fix those quickly, and possibly have them ready when the truck arrived.

      She ducked around the side of the vehicle and was gone a minute later, and Jim looked in and smiled and said that they could take care of things for a while, and Stan needed to rest, as he grumbled that they were treating him like an old man, and Sheri got a laugh in there too.

      “You’re not an old man yet, just a silly kid.” Sheri added, all smiles as Stanley tried to look hurt, that a 20 year old was just a kid to her, but he just couldn’t pull it off. “In half an hour that pill will take effect, thats soon enough for you to get back out there.” She hinted as Stan finally agreed, and just laid back in his bunk and waited.

      “Want to join me?” he whispered as Sheri’s face burst into redness and she gave him a dirty look, as he chuckled away.

      “Sometime you tease too much,” She hinted softly, as he nodded agreement but her face wasn’t looking like she was angry about it at all.

      Meanwhile Jesse ran back to the job site and started cutting off the posts that were standing there. She cut them off and threw them onto the pile of metal, or as close as she could get from where she was working. But as she did that she heard a growl, and looked over her shoulder to see first one, then several other large canine animals walk out of the brush below, and she slowly turned to see she wasn’t alone after all, and pulled a large screw driver from the belt she was wearing, and watched them carefully, and the standoff seemed to continue for a few minutes as everyone jostled for position.

      But about that time a loud noise was heard and looking behind her she saw a large commercial hovercraft coming up the road and Jim was riding on top of it and waving, until he saw the animals turn and run.

      It stopped right beside the pile and the android crew got out and started loading everything up, as Jim asked where those came from, and Jesse just shrugged.

      “I could see at least 5, there may be more.” She hinted, as Jim turned and called back to the base and told Stan what they had seen, and he agreed to go on Yellow Alert then, and they closed the big back door and started using a small one along the side, while keeping the base closed.

      “We were just getting comfortable here too,” Stan mentioned as he sat up and looked sad, but Sheri just laughed and said where there are small animals there are also predators, and he nodded it was true.

      “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” She added as Stanley agreed that they had been through worse than this, but it also made him remember that things are not always as peaceful as you first think.

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      Chapter 7: Work Week

      It took more than a week to get all the metal that was there and when they were finally done, they had to worry about other things. Like hunting to help stretch out their food supply, and getting fresh drinking water. There was a lot of water around, but much was not fit to drink, even after chemical treatments.

      So they had to do some searching, and finally on the second day they found a small spring running out of the side of a hill, and it read as nearly pure water, a nice change from the junk they were forced to use sometimes.

      They dug out a spot and left it clear up for a few minutes, and then they had a place to gather fresh water again. Jim sat there with all their water bottles and filled them and handed them to Jesse who added one drop of chemical sterilizer to each, for safety sake, and after worrying for a few days, now they had another 2 weeks supply of fresh water again.

      “Jesse...mark your maps showing this place, its hard to find good quality water right now.” Stan said as she agreed, and it was done.”Now then , our food supply is holding out pretty well, but we have almost 2 weeks to go before we get picked up again, so we better keep an eye out just in case.” he added and everyone agreed.

      And now they were back on the road, looking for more metal and any old farms or towns that might be nearby. They found one more deserted place, and when they called it in they got a sad look, saying that 2 years ago there was a family living there, but now they were no where to be seen. So like it or not, the city declared them dead, and another 6 people were dropped from the worlds dwindling population.

      “The Wastelands are a dangerous place...” Stanley was told...by a man who had never seen the Wastelands himself...but he did know, because he took all the death notices and there were a lot of them, every single week, as travelers and scavengers searched far and wide, and Stan knew many were looking for great riches or wealth, like some legends said was out here. But they weren’t into heavy lifting, so people like Stan would always find work, where others had walked right by.

      “Where to now Boss?” Jim asked as they checked the latest maps, and there was a small lake about twenty miles to the West and a stream that fed it.

      “We’ll try there, it used to be a water supply area for a small town nearby, maybe we’ll find good hunting there.” he said as they agreed and he turned that way and they were sitting on the shore of the little lake by 4 PM that afternoon.

      It was a surprisingly decent place. The fresh water from a spring fed stream kept the foliage nice and green and bushes and grass and trees were doing pretty well nearby, so the place looked really good compared to some of the places they had been.

      They parked right there and went for a walk, and soon saw that the reservoir was full of fish of all sizes, and Stanley looked pretty happy about that. Just walking up the edge you could see small fish swimming around, and once in a while a bigger one went running by chasing something for his dinner too. It was great to see that a few places like this still existed, and when they got to the stream that was running in, there was a school of fish laying there, looking upstream for food to come rolling in.

      “Time for some fishing,” Stan said as everyone laughed. He went and cut a thin stick and cleaned it all up. Then got his emergency kit, and the fishing hooks and string he had put in there months ago. There was always a chance, is what he told the people that asked, and now he was going to prove them right.

      He put together a makeshift pole with maybe 10 feet of line on it and used a tiny bit of grass as a bait, and as he tossed it out and dragged it slowly across the top of the water, a larger pan fish struck it, and Stan had something to test for dangerous substances and radiation.

      It seemed they were alright, not perfect of course but at least safe to eat, and so he spent a little while there and got a few more, and they had a nice meal of fresh fish after a week of living on cereal bars and soup.

      The next day they were searching the area for more refuse when they stumbled upon a house and barn, both in pretty good shape, to their immediate surprise. And as they approached, a young blond haired woman came out and started hanging up cloths, and Stan stopped the vehicle and stepped out with his big smile going, and asked who she was, and when she smiled back and started talking, Jim whispered to Jesse that she too was an android, and she agreed.

      “I am Carey...” She said and went right on hanging out cloths.

      “Is your Master around? I’d like to meet him.” Stan added as she shook her head no that he wasn’t and Stan started to wonder.

      “The Family left here months ago...” Carey started as even Stan looked surprised they left her behind.” But Mr. Carter says they will return if I just wait here.” She said as Stan asked who that was, exactly.

      “Mr. Carter runs the Families business now, and they left him in charge of it... and me... while they are gone.” She said as Stan started getting a bad feeling about this.

      “Is Mr. Carter here now?” He asked as she chuckled saying that he was probably in the quarry, mining quartz crystals, and Stan saw something bad might have happened to her Master, since quartz was hard to come by now and had a million uses if ground up properly. It was clear the Family was doing pretty well mining here, they could afford a android after all and had a business and even a vehicle that was parked nearby, and as Stan asked more questions, it appeared Mr. Carter arrived just about the same time that the original family left, but their vehicle was here now and they weren’t.

      “Did your original family tell you all this personally?” Stan asked as even Jim started coming out from inside the base, and she smiled sadly and said no, that Mr. Carter had a note written by them saying he owned the place while they were away and that she had to listen to him, and do as he said, and she had ever since.

      Stan walked back to the big van and told her story, while everyone there doubted anything this new man said. But there was no proof, at least not yet, and Stan asked them to have a good look around, and they agreed and silently ran out to search the surrounding area for clues to what happened.

      While they were gone, Stan kept an eye on the place and he knew this man might come back any minute, and while he watched, Carey asked if Jesse or Sheri was ‘his woman’ and he smiled and said they weren’t as she looked surprised.

      “I wasn’t... before...” She said as she kept on working, and Stan saw this new man was taking full advantage of someone else’s android, and that made him angry just thinking it.

      ”You can refuse if you didn’t want to, you know that right?” Stanley asked as she nodded sadly but said that the note said... anything... and so she was committed until her Family came back to refute it, and Stan just shook his head and knew more and more that her Family was never coming back.

      Jesse came back first saying she found nothing and Stan nodded and they waited some more, and then Jim came running in and his face said that he wished he had found nothing, but he couldn’t say it honestly,as Stan stepped up and Jim held out a human skull, with a knife mark right through the forehead and Stan looked sick thinking it but he now knew what had happened and why this man stayed and worked the claim, because he was selling the crystals that her Family had found, and even had companionship, until he got tired of her too.

      Stan ordered Jesse to keep an eye out for him returning, and he went inside and called it in, as the city manager looked sad and a little sick too.

      “The man isnt here right now, but he might return any minute.” Stan said as the man nodded agreement.

      “You have good protection, hold him there, we’ll send someone for him shortly.” He said as the link went closed, and Stan and his Team went down into the quarry, and the big man screamed that they had no evidence of any kind, until Jim showed him the skull, and he tried running for it but that was a stupid mistake, as Jesse dragged him back to the van and they forced him to wait there until the city sent out a law man to get him.

      “What did you do!?” Casey asked as the big man laughed in her face,” they were good, hard working people, how could you?” She screamed and she almost got to him too, if Jim didn’t step in and stop her.

      “He’ll pay for his crimes, but not this way, you’d be surprised how barbaric Humans can be.” he added softly and within the hour a helicopter landed near the house and a Marshal took him away, screaming the whole time for his rights, but the skull would have the DNA of the person it belonged to, and the knife mark that matched the one he carried said it all.

      The Marshal asked Casey a dozen questions, and soon saw she wasn’t quite ‘right’ anymore. She was in shock that her Family was killed and she couldn’t save them, and that their killer had lied and abused her this whole time.

      She needed some serious repairs and possibly memory replacement, he said, and Stan asked if he was taking her back with him, and he decided that it wasn’t worth his time, since she knew nothing about the crime herself.

      “You found her, and her owners dead, so either just leave her here to take care of the house forever, or take her with you, thats my opinion.” he said as Stan nodded and the man took off and returned to the city with his prisoner.

      “We cant just leave her here...” Sheri said as Jesse agreed.” I think she needs help, maybe even maintenence. I can do a lot of that for her, but I need a good scan and examination first, and she needs to allow it.” She said as Stan asked Casey what she thought and her face was nearly blank now and she said she didn’t care what happened anymore, and that gave Sheri the chance to check her out and she was surprised how terrible a condition she was really in.

      “Her systems are barely functioning,” Sheri reported as Stan looked sad for her.” It looks like no one has done maintenance on her in ages. Her power circuits are soo low that she’s barely functioning at all, so thats probably why her memories are all mixed up. With a good recharge and some routine maintenence, I think she’ll be alright, but what will we do with her then?” She asked as Stan said to do what she could, and they put her on emergency power and even ran the engine for a few minutes throwing a heavy charge into the recharger, and after all that Casey looked stronger and more upbeat and Stanley asked her what she would do now.

      “I served my Master with Honor and Dignity for several years...” She said sadly, as they all smiled and agreed. “But now I am alone. I have no Master or Family now, and if I return to the City they will take me back and reprogram me for someone else.” She said sadly, as even the Team here looked sad, but it was true.

      “I want...” She started, then stopped to think about it,” I want to remember them forever, they treated me like Family, and thats the greatest wish of any Artifical Life Form.” She admitted, as Sheri looked like she’d cry any minute and Jim nodded seriously too.

      “I can stay here alone, but now that I know the truth... I don’t want to be here anymore... so, can I go with you? Even just for a while?” She asked as everyone looked over at Stanley and he just smiled and agreed, and she thanked him as the others there smiled wider than normal, and they suddenly had a new Teammate.

      Chapter 8: One Week to Go

      As they traveled along, Stanley left Casey know that they went up to the station once a month and everyone got a full checkup and any repairs they needed.

      “You’ll like Clare, she’s nice.” Sheri said as Casey thought that was a great deal.

      “So, we work for another week then get a few days off, thats the plan.” Stanley said, and Casey nodded agreement and they went on looking for and tagging anything of any size they found.

      But the third day they got a call, and Stanley saw the City Manager on the line once more.

      “We need some help, but don’t worry you’ll be well compensated for it.” he said as Stan asked what it was. “A few days ago a large truck came rolling into the city from the Wastelands, they had scrap metal and animals they trapped and other things, and we welcomed them with open arms.” he went on as Stan agreed.

      “They sold all their wares and made a good profit, and then did all the usual things, eating, drinking, you know...for someone who hasn’t been in a city for a while.” he added as Stan just smiled and nodded.”But while security was watching them doing that, one or two snuck away and stole enough fuel to completely refill their truck... and that was a lot...then they broke into a warehouse, stole arms and ammo and some emergency tents and food, and ran back out before we could stop them. The ammo boxes have a tracker on them and we sent out a Marshal to bring them in, but he never returned, so we’re asking you to investigate. The signal is just 20 miles to the North of you now and we know 2 of your androids are military grade, so you have more power than one more Marshal.” he said as Stanley looked a little upset that they were going to sit back and watch now that they lost someone.

      “And our pay will be?” Stan asked as the man smiled and nodded.

      “A full tank of fuel for your vehicle, and a months supply of free food.” he said as Stan thought about that for a moment. They knew exactly what he was driving, but a full tank was a lot of fuel, and a months worth of food would save them a lot too.

      “And one more thing...” Stan asked as the manger waited to hear..” I recovered an abandoned android this week,her Family was killed by a murderer that we captured and sent back.” Stan added as he said he heard all about it.”She has decided to stay with us and so...a full set of transfer papers for Casey, to me. “ he added as the man agreed, and the deal was done, as everyone cheered.

      “You don’t need to do combat with them unless you want to.” The Manager said,” If you do capture them, call and hold them until we get a Marshal there and you’ll get a bonus for that. But we need to know if they really are there, what happened to our Marshal and how many there are.” he said as Stan agreed to everything.

      “We’ll be in touch,” Stan said and closed the link and they all returned to the vehicle and turned North to go see what was really going on.

      “We’ll need to keep an eye on our fuel too..” Jim hinted as Stan agreed that they just stopped and reloaded the distillery and the tank was getting pretty low.

      “But...they just stole a full tank themselves, so if we capture them we get free fuel.” Stanley added as Jim laughed and the deal was done.

      They stopped a few hundred yards from the signal, behind a small hill and Stan and his Team snuck up and peeked over the top, to see a small camp set up there, and men walking everywhere.

      “Looks like...10...” Jim said as Stan heaved a big sigh, this was a real professional job, these men looked like they were probably ex-military who went rogue and started attacking people all over the Wastelands.

      “Damn...professional bandits.” Stan mentioned as Jim nodded seriously and they snuck back down to the APC and had a meeting.

      “There’s too many of them to run in first hand and jump them, and they look to have some decent firepower there too.” Stan mentioned as everyone agreed.”So heres the plan, we need to split them up, even getting 1-2 others away from the crowd, and we’ll have a better chance. So everyone get ready, and Casey and Sheri, you come with me.” He said as he grabbed his shotgun and ammo and they went back around the little hill to a large rock that was laying near the road they were using, and Stan hid behind it and Casey slid up on top and laid there sunning herself and it took no time at all for two men to come running.

      “I got two...” Stan whispered as Jim agreed watching from the top of the hill, and as the men tried to get Casey to go along with them, Stan stepped out,gun in hand and captured them and as one man turned to run, Sheri knocked him senseless.

      “I keep forgetting you’re this strong,” Stan said as he dragged one man back behind the rock, and Sheri dragged the other there, all smiles. “Lets see if we can do that again.” Stan said as Casey agreed and did her best to look lost, standing out on the road and looking every which way, until she got spotted.

      But this time the man reported it, and the Boss came out with glasses and checked to see her looking very upset and lost, and he looked a little suspicious about the whole thing, as well he should.

      “Maybe shes from the city,” One man asked saying it would be a shame to just let her walk away if they could ‘help her,’ and many chuckled.

      “Something isn’t right here, you three get your guns and watch from here, you two come with me,” he said and they started walking out to see her, and she smiled and waved and waited right there. But Jim saw it happening and he and Jesse made a dash around the back and into the camp and even before the Boss got to Stan and his rock, the other men were out cold and Jim and Jesse were well armed.

      “Who are you and how did you get out here?” The Boss called as they walked up and Casey gave them a big smile and said..she came with them...and he looked around to see Stan holding a gun on them and as one man tried to get a shot off, Sheri rushed him and threw him to the ground and took his gun away. “This was a mistake,” The big man said as Stan just smiled and the Boss screamed to kill them, but the shot that rang out hit the dirt at his feet, and he looked around to see a man that he had never seen before holding that rifle, and Stanley told him that he had a Team too, and the Boss looked completely lost by now.

      They took them all back into their camp and tied them up there and they found not only the Marshal, badly beaten but alive, but his helicopter too and that saved the city a ton... as Stan called it in and an hour later two marshals arrived and took them into custody and then flew both choppers back the way they came. The truck belonging to the criminals would be gotten later, they said and they left them there, as Jim drained more than half that tank right into theirs, and they were never as safe and secure as they were now.

      “I’m glad we got rid of those guys.” Stan said as he checked through all the stuff they had stolen and accumulated here as Jim agreed saying the only reason the Marshal was alive was to lure others out here, or maybe for ransome later. But that ended here, and Stan found a box of ammo he could use and Jim mentioned that having another gun around wasn’t a bad idea, and Stan agreed and their gun rack started looking a little more impressive with the rifle that Jim kept from this stash.

      Chapter 9: Rest for a New Friend

      The time came for their monthly pickup, and Stan mentioned that they hadn’t seen many people, so the thought that someone might get their base while they were gone was very slim.

      “The base has its own security system, which was not active before. I added to that a little something of my own as well.” Sheri added as Stanley just smiled.” It would take military grade hardware to get in now, and I’ve never seen any out here. Not even the bandits have that technology.” She mentioned as Stanley agreed.

      “Well we’ll see about a decent place to store it while we’re gone, maybe a nice grove of trees or something to hide it in.” Stan offered as everyone agreed.They went looking and what they did find was even better, a half collapsed bridge over the river, the top fell in and made a sort of A frame shape that the base fit right into, and well out of sight from most angles.

      “Excellent...” Stan said checking it out after they parked it. “Lets load up the distillery and see about doing a little hunting before they get here.” he said, and they got everything ready for a short leave, and the shuttle landed a few hours later and they loaded what they had gotten, and the old canned goods that Sheri had volunteered to add to the replicator when they got back.

      “I’m pretty sure I’m right...” She said waving a can around as everyone laughed,” any bets?” And Stan saw she was having more fun with this junk than she had for a long time.

      Well, when they got back it turned out 2 cans were indeed peaches in heavy syrup, lots of sugar there, and 3 cans were vegetables and the big can she swore was ‘mystery meat’ was instead, some kind of tomato sauce or something. But it added a lot to the machine, and the different materials made new things available, at least for a little while.

      “Hmm...” James said softly... looking at the menu now.” Always something new with him around.” he whispered as a few others chuckled and Clare pushed in saying he better grab something before she got to it, and he laughed and got his lunch while Stan and his Team sat back drinking coffee and laughing at them all.

      “Thanks again...” James said sitting down with a plate of spaghetti in his hands.” haven’t had any good tomato sauce in the machine for quite a while.” he admitted as Stan just smiled and nodded.

      “We’d be in real trouble if we had to eat right out of the cans you bring in, the replicator can blend things and make a lot more of something that way. It saves us from running out or eating bad food, and saves lives too.” James said as he got a good big bite and smiled to himself.

      “I’m sure there are warehouses full of the stuff out there somewhere,” Stan mentioned as James looked surprised.” we just haven’t made it that far yet. I’m sure it’s the same at some of the other cities as well.” he mentioned as James nodded it might be true.

      “We on the City Council try negotiating with other cities, with some little success.” James added as Stan agreed,” but those that have a lot don’t want to share, and those that will don’t usually have what we need. Its just the way of things.” He added as everyone looked sad about it, but it was completely true.

      “Anyone check out that old farm yet?” Stan asked as James got a big grin from it.

      “Yes...I sent a Team down and they cultivated between the rows and killed a lot of the grass that was choking the plants out. My people say that if its taken care of properly that those plants will live for many years, and produce fruit too.” he said as Stan nodded happily.”The original farmers are gone of course, but now that spot of land belongs to us, since Stan found it we claimed it, and I’ll see it’s properly taken care of from now on.”

      “That’ll add food for the station,” Jim mentioned as James agreed. “If you could find some seeds, maybe start a new field next door with something else.” he hinted as James looked seriously thoughtful about that.

      “But seeds are a big problem, there really aren’t many now, or so very few that even the city has a hard time keeping their gardens going.” James said as Stanley saw that things weren’t as good there as he thought. “Even though the vegetables are safe to eat, something about the radiation from the past making seeds sterile... I heard that only one out of a hundred seeds will grow.” James added as Stan just nodded and said nothing.

      “By the way, wheres that new Team mate of yours? I wanted to meet her.” James added as Clare yelled from the table next door that Casey was in repair and recharge, and she was in worse shape than they first thought.

      “Even when her original Master was alive, they knew nothing about the proper care of an android.” Clare added looking upset,” some people don’t deserve nice things...” And even Jim and Jesse got a chuckle at that. Left all alone, they would live for decades, maybe centuries, but Clare was a perfectionist in her own right, and that was a good thing for them now though.

      “Not everyone has your skills with machines...” Stan added as she looked away, but smiled.

      “Well later then...” James added as he finished up his meal and went back to his office. As Clare watched him go out of the corners of her eyes, and suddenly came over to sit down.

      “Since we’re both here...” Clare said as she moved over next to Stanley, who looked mildly surprised.” I want you to watch for some things for me down there. The little farm will help us later on, but there are other ways that can help too. There is an area here on the station where we tried growing things before. I want to get some plants and keep them going up here. The last time we did that they lasted for more than a year, but father thinks we can find or negotiate for everything we need, and we don’t always agree.” She said as Stan agreed that anything helped, and she nodded.

      “I’ll get some pictures and information for you, and give it to you before you go back down.” She said and that seemed to end the conversation, as she went on eating silently, and Stan got up and left while everyone else took some badly needed time off.

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      Chapter 10: Old Job...New Things

      The day they went back, Stan got a message from James to go see the Commander of the Marshal’s Service, saying they wanted to thank him for his help.

      They went of course and as they were shown in, many officers there cheered and shook Stan’s hand as his Team smiled widely for him. Then a big man walked out of his office, all dressed in uniform and wearing metals, and he too shook Stan’s hand saying that he had saved one of their own, and because of that they owed him a great debt.

      “Your work out in the Wastelands has been exemplary...” he said as Stan thanked him,” You not only helped one of our men, very probably saving his life, but reported on 2 towns that used to have people that are now empty, something we are also tasked with watching.” he said sadly as Stan nodded agreement.

      “If you will continue to act this way, and follow my orders from time to time, like you just did, then its within my job to help you as well.” he said and handed Stan a card and he looked at it oddly and it had his name, an ID number and said he was a part time Marshal, as his mouth dropped open in surprise.

      “I never expected this...” Stan gasped as the men and women there laughed.

      “It gives you a few rights many don’t get. Inside the City you can use that for food and shelter if you want. I know you seldom come into the city, but this also gives you a minimum amount of fuel for your vehicle, and even some free maintenence for its use.” The Commander added as Stan thanked him graciously.” I hope we can continue to call on you when we need help?” he asked as Stan agreed and his Team applauded for him too.

      “Oh, and here,” he added as he handed Stan a message and in it it said his account had been given a sizable deposit, as he asked why.”Bounties on all those bandits you helped bring in. We got some for the transport, you get some for taking them down, and for 10% of all those supplies they had stored out there. It helped the city a great deal, and your name is getting around, so well done!” he said as many there applauded, and Stan started looking uncomfortable.

      “Thank you all...” he said as many just smiled,” well we better get back out there, my station is depending on me too.” he said and they walked back out and the Commander was looking pretty happy because for a little supply run from time to time he just hired 5 new people to help with the rif raf out there, and he felt it was a great deal..for him.

      Now that Stan had an expense account, he bought a new 5 gallon gas can and got it filled. That would help later, and his shuttle took him back out to his unit and cheered for him when he said what had happened.

      “Wow, a Marshal... thats great...short of full on military, they are a pretty serious group.” The pilot said as they flew along, and Stan said they were just part time help, and the man just smiled back.

      “But it gets us some free fuel from time to time, and with Clare’s distillery we shouldn’t have any problems for a long time.”Stan said as everyone agreed. They dropped back down and landed and as Stan and his Team got out the shuttle disappeared for another month.

      “OK back to work then,” Stan said as they got his base up and running again and loaded the distillery with more materials and water, and went looking for more to do.

      They checked the maps and started North from here. There was another town up there some 50 miles away, but with the new fuel they got and what they had from before they were better off that ever before.

      They stopped once and tagged an old wreck and then went on and as they traveled past some old fields, Jim tapped him on the shoulder and pointed and Stan slowed down to see an old tractor trailer sitting out there just 20 feet off the road, and he smiled and pulled in along side.

      It was a small one, nothing but a cab and a flat bed, but it seemed in decent shape, except for a few flat tires. Stan called it in and asked if it was worth anything, and one man nearly screamed that if it ran they needed it badly, and Stan said he hadn’t even tried that yet.

      “I got your GPS now, stay there and I’ll send out a Team to check on it.” he said as Stan agreed, and while they waited they tried to get it running, but the batteries were dead and the fuel was so old that it barely even had any octane in it now.

      It had 4 batteries tied together, and Stan moved the base in and jumped it, and left it run for a few minutes. The alternator really howled doing that, but the gauge on the dash said they were taking charge, and after a little while the engine turned over and popped once, but that was all.

      “I know what it needs...” Stan said as he got under the van and drained out a gallon of their fuel, and dumped it into the old tank, that had maybe 4 gallons of old junk in it, and he got a stick and stirred it around a bit as Jim asked what he was doing.

      “It has some old fuel in it, and its a diesel, so adding some of our alcohol fuel to that will up the power a lot, and we might get it started.” he said as Jim agreed and soon they tried again, and after a few pops and bangs the old engine started and sat there, spewing black smoke as Jim cheered.

      “Let it idle for a little while, they might not be here for a couple hours, but they were pretty happy we found this, so they are definitely coming.” Stanley added as everyone agreed. They left it run for a little while and its own generator was charging the old batteries too. So they just sat back and waited and after a while a roaring sound was heard, as a big 4x4 came running up and stopped along side.

      “Good news...” Stan said as he walked over and shook the old mans hand.” It runs.” he added as eyes popped out all around and the old man’s Team looked pretty happy with that.

      “You got it started?” He asked as Stan said he did, the old fuel was pretty bad, but he added a gallon of alcohol to it and that was just enough to get it started.

      “Outstanding!” The old man said as he ordered them to put the fuel in they brought too, and then get it started and ran an air line to get the tires pumped up, and his Team ran around getting it all done as he told Stan that getting something this big was a big deal because it could haul enormous amounts of stuff instead of a little at a time.”Believe it or not, in some cases these are pretty efficient.” he mentioned as the other men said that the tires were up..for now... and one man sat there roaring the engine until he got yelled at for it.

      “Get out of there and let me do it.” he screamed and after rocking it back and forth a few times, he gunned the motor and the old rig bounced its way back out onto the little road, as everyone cheered for him and he smiled about it.”OK then, thank you Marshal for the call, we can get it back from here.” he said and motioned his people to follow him and they got into their truck and up the old road they went,as Stan smiled wide that they had helped someone again, and they too went back to looking for more things to do.

      Chapter 11: Botany..on the Run

      They traveled another few miles and Stan saw a small pond off the side out in an old grown up field. He stopped and they went looking and they found a junk tractor sitting there with the tires sunk into the ground. He tagged it and then he stopped to sniff and Jesse asked what he smelled and she sniffed the breeze too.

      “Whats that smell?” She asked as Stab got a big smile.

      “Garlic...” he said as she looked surprised.” there’s wild garlic here somewhere.” he said as they all started looking and they found a few small plants nearby, and Jesse had stepped on one, and that made the smell stronger. They dug them out, roots and all and even a little dirt with them and Stan put them into a plastic bag and handed them to Jesse to carry around.

      He was serious now, and he and Jim nearly crawled all the way around the pond looking and sniffing and he did find one or two other plants and that made it look a lot better.

      “That looks like it for here.” he said as everyone agreed and they took those plants back to the van and then started back up the old road again.

      “Clare will be happy I think.” Sheri said sniffing the bag as Stan just laughed. They really hadn’t tried too hard to find anything, it was an accident, but if they could find something so easily, then maybe a little more work was needed to that end.

      They bumped along until they found that little town, and to everyone’s surprise there were still some people there. They didn’t look too friendly, until they saw the ID number laying on the dash and one man asked if they were with the Marshals and Stanley agreed, showing them his card,and that made all the difference in the world, as he soon saw.

      “Sorry for the harsh greeting,” The leader said, as a few people there lowered their weapons,” but gangs and bandits come this way once in a while, and we’ve had to chase them off a few times.” he admitted as Stan nodded he understood.

      “As a part time Marshal its my job to check up on you when I’m close by.” he added as they felt pretty good then, since no one else had checked on them in well over a year. They asked them in, and after a good talk were thrilled to hear that one gang was arrested and taken away.

      “One down and hundred to go,” One man said as they all laughed.They told their stories about people they saw, and people that were found dead, as eyes looked sad a few times but it wasn’t that unusual,they admitted, and Stan said he was glad they were doing alright here, and they thanked him for his comments.

      “We got lucky, the soil is good and our garden did well this year.” The man said as Stan asked what all they were growing, and he showed them a small patch of plants and they had a good assortment too.

      “These are peppers right?” Stan asked pointing to some yellow things hanging on a plant as the man agreed saying they did especially well.”Can I have one...just one pepper for the seeds? Its getting harder to find seeds that grow back in the city now.” He said as they seemed hesitant, then one man walked to their trash pile and dung around and came back with a large half rotted pepper saying for what they wanted this would work too, and Stanley thanked him and put it into a plastic bag too and they said they’d let the city know they were still here and maybe someone else would stop by next time, as they thanked him for coming and they turned and went back the way they came.

      He made the call and the Commander was really happy to know they were doing so well.

      “They got a garden growing? Good for them..and now there’s 12? There were only 10 last time we went out that way.” he said as Stan said one man just walked in after getting lost and stayed, and they had a baby last fall too, and slowly their numbers were increasing.

      “Thats some good work Stan, well done. Now they can be added to the register showing that they are still out there and doing well. I wish we could say that about a lot of other places.” he said as Stanley agreed. “Oh and I just heard about that old truck. I gotta say you have a knack for falling into things. Thats good for us I suppose,but just be careful.” he added as the link went down and Stan said it looked like things were working out again, and Casey gave him a dirty look, saying not to jinx them... and everyone laughed.

      They checked the map and went towards a stream that was nearby. Once there they all got out and started searching and really didn’t find much of any use.Then back down the road to the nearest river, or bigger stream at least,looking for plants for Clare and here they did find something new, as Stan sniffed the one leave he pulled off and smiled as Jesse asked what it was.

      “ Mint..” he said and handed her the crushed leaf to smell and it smelled pretty nice.”some type of spearmint I’d say.” he hinted as she agreed. The plant was 2 feet tall and a little bushy, so they dug it up roots and all and put it in a bucket they got out of the van.

      “We’re doing better than I thought, Clare should be happy.” Jim added as everyone agreed.

      “Maybe we should check and see when someone from the station will be down here again. No use in waiting for another 3 weeks carrying these around.” Stan said as everyone nodded that it might be better. He made the call and found out James was coming down for a meeting the next day, and since they were only 75 miles from the city, it seemed like a good idea.

      They back ran in, and after dropping off the plants at the shuttle landing field they took the vehicle in for some routine maintenence, and the Commander mentioned that they had their own people and that some maintenence was free, so Stan took it there, and the men ran out to see the big thing for the first time.

      “Wow...” said the head maintenence man as he looked it over,” old model Armored Personnel Carrier...I bet the bandits in the Wastelands give you a wide berth.” he said as his men ran to check everything.

      “We do OK...” Stan mentioned and the Team agreed.” The Commander said some maintenence was free for Marshals so we decided to stop by before going out again.” Stan hinted as the man just laughed and nodded it was true.

      “We cant have our Marshals on foot in the desert,” he hinted as Stan just smiled. The desert wasn’t even a large part of where they had been, but then many of these people never left the city either, so they didn’t know.

      “Got this off of old man Cramer didn’t you?” The man asked as Stan agreed.” I can tell, he has some bad habits, like using nothing but water in the radiator instead of adding chemicals to help it to stay cooler. Anything to save a buck...” he hinted and looked disgusted.

      “We don’t baby it and its held together so far.” Stan mentioned as the man nodded saying that it was a heavy piece of machinery and they held out pretty well, if taken care of.

      Stan gave Sheri his card and said to see about some more supplies while they were in, and her and Casey took off into town. Now , an hour later they came back with two large bags full of food and supplies, as Stanley looked surprised.

      “Everywhere we went we said...’we’re here for Marshal Hudson’ and people asked ,how much do you need? And so we stocked up.” Sheri said as Casey nodded agreement, happily.

      “Good...we wont be in very often, so the Commander shouldn’t say much.” Stan added as the maintenence man laughed and handed him his report.

      “Don’t worry, the Commander leans over backwards to keep people out there... because lets face it...no one wants to go.” He said as everything was paid for, and Stan and his Team started back out and the vehicle never ran so good before.

      Chapter 12: Finishing the Circle

      Stan checked his maps and decided that after all this time they had covered a pretty wide area. Now over 2/3 the distance around the city, and out to 75 miles most places.

      “We’ve never been directly South though,” he added as everyone nodded that it was true.” Might as well connect the dots...” he said as they all agreed and they turned that way.

      “According to the maps there isn’t much down there either.” Jesse added as Stan agreed. There weren’t any towns within a hundred miles in that direction, and they hadn’t been out that far anywhere just yet.

      “Thats OK, we haven’t gathered scrap or done any exploring that way either, might as well finish the circle around the city.” Stan said as they bumped along going out across a large grown up field.

      They road for an hour and as they did, Stan saw an old car sitting along a small road that was nearly closed from blowing sand and rock slides, and he tagged it and they went on. Now over two hours traveling this way, and they found a small stream and they checked it and found it was surprisingly clean and free of contaminants.

      They reported it to the city, and it got added to their maps as a spot to gather water, and away they went again, doing the job of gatherer, explorer, and Marshal all at once.

      “That will help someone,” Stan added as they saw the little stream ran North and South as they followed it for a ways.

      Now they turned to the West again and soon saw an old black truck sitting, just a pickup, but Stan smiled that they had found another one in one day. He jumped out and walked over to tag it when something odd happened. He screamed and ran back towards the van as Jim jumped out and ran to meet him. His one shoulder was covered in bees and he was waving his hands and arms around, trying to get them off him.

      They got him back inside and killed the bees that refused to leave him alone, but his arm and the side of his neck were covered in bee stings and his eyes were swelling shut rapidly.

      They reported what happened and they ran full out back the way they came, back into the city and Stan got taken to a hospital where they put him on an I.V. for all those stings, and his breathing got better, and after a few hours his eyes were working well again, as the swelling went back down.

      The first thing he saw when he woke up from his drug induced sleep was his Team, patiently waiting for him to recover, and Jim reminded him on the spot that this is why he has androids, and Stan waved it away like this was nothing, as his Commander walked in, laughing the whole time.

      “If I left them do everything I’d ever get any exercise.” Stanley said as everyone smiled and nodded it might be true.

      “The good news is we sent a Team out from the city to check that wreck. Those were Honey Bees and they have been living under that old truck hood for years it seems.” The Commander said as Stan just shrugged it off.” The resource Team brought them back... gave them a nice big box to live in... and now the city has another swarm of bees to gather honey from.” he mentioned as Stan smiled and nodded, now he understood why they thought bees were soo important.

      “Glad we could help...” Stan said as his boss just shook his head and smiled.

      “I admit you find some of the strangest things, but then you’ve traveled more around the Wastelands than any Marshal in recent history.” He said as Stan just smiled.”You’re becoming quite well known, so keep up the good work, because you’re rewriting the maps of the area around us every day, and that makes it possible for others to get out there too.” he added as he walked out and Jesse said that they really were explorers then, and Stanley laughed, saying that there was thousands of miles left to see, and they all nodded and smiled that their work had barely begun.

      By now word came that the station needed help again, as Stan growled and asked why someone else didn’t go hunting once in a while and they just shrugged it off.He gave them a good argument saying he was just out of the hospital, but they insisted, and he decided that they were taking advantage of him and his Team and so he would go hunting when he got the chance, since his Southern trip he didn’t see any animals at all.

      “Hunting huh?” The Commander asked as Stan agreed, now bouncing along in his vehicle heading back to the direct West from the city. The only real groups or herds of animals they had seen lately were the big lizards out there, and the good news is they weren’t shy about being seen either. “We send out hunters too but they haven’t been much help lately.” he admitted as Stan said that animals were getting harder to find this close and they both agreed that over hunting by the city and station was probably why.

      “I need to find a new hunting area then,” Stan admitted and he remembered the wolves they had seen, and the woodchucks that fascinated Jim so badly.

      “I know you’re working to support your Families station..” The Commander said as Stan looked sadder still,” but if you find a large number of animals either grab a few extra or call us and we’ll send out another Team, we need all the help we can get here too.” he admitted, as Stan just nodded agreement and Jesse growled, saying they were all the same, sitting back there and giving orders.

      “People need to eat...” Jim admitted as Stanley agreed, and they slowed down and started watching for animal signs, and soon saw their first lizard as Jim jumped out and dragged it in, and they went on.

      “Wait...” Stan said pulling over and off the side of the old road. “I have an idea, this is way too slow.” he said as Jim agreed and he dropped the big back ramp down and dragged the one lizard out into the open next to the van. he then made a cut on it with his knife as blood seeped out onto the ground, and Stan ordered Jim to get his gun and get on the roof, and Jim saw where this was going, and he agreed.

      Stan joined him up there too and they sat there and waited but in half an hour, two more lizards came running in and attacked the dead one and started chewing on it as shots rang out and they too went down.

      “Get those two inside, leave the original one.” he said as the door went down and Jesse grabbed the new animals and closed the door again.

      Another hour, two more young reptiles and Jim didn’t even shoot them but jumped down and smashed their skulls with one good hard punch as Stan laughed saying he just liked to punch things as Jesse laughed at them both.

      Finally as the sun was setting a huge lizard walked slowly up out of the brush and looked every way at once and it saw the dead animal and rushed in and tried to drag it way, but a good shot to the head and Jim was cheering, saying that was the biggest one they had ever found yet, and Stan agreed.

      They opened the back door and the rest stepped out to see and after a minute Sheri mentioned something no one else had seen.

      “They aren’t the same...” She said as Stan asked why she thought that. “look here, the little ones are made with heavy claws and it looks like they can climb trees. The big one has nearly no claws but big flat feet and large teeth. They are made for walking and running along the ground. I think these two feed on each other.” She hinted as Stan admitted they had never thought of what the smaller reptiles ate out here, but maybe now they knew.

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      Chapter 13: New Discoveries

      “I think the bigger one needs more water. Its feet look like they are made for swimming and the map shows that there’s a lake not more than 5 miles South of here, might be worth a look.” Sheri added as Stanley agreed and they turned that way and soon they were scoping the lake from the top of the van and there were a dozen or more of the animals swimming around here, and some smaller reptiles sneaking around the edges too.

      “Jack pot!” Stan said as everyone smiled. The water in the lake was pretty clean too and there seemed to be fish in it, so this was one of those rare spots where Mother Nature was doing her job...and animals of all types were coming here to drink and hunt.

      “Maybe we should keep this spot to ourselves.” Jesse said as Stan asked why.” Can you imagine if the city knew this place was out here?” She asked as Stan made a sour look and she agreed.

      “There wouldn’t be an animal alive in a month.” he whispered as she agreed.”They certainly aren’t known for planning too far ahead.” he admitted as everyone looked sad, but agreed.

      “OK then, we keep this as our hunting spot for now. We cull the animals slowly and let them have young ones here, that way its an automatic replenishing of food and animals, so its like our own reptile farm.” he said, as that brought a smile to everyones face.

      “Then lets get a few more for today, then get out of here. Jesse, mark this spot on your maps, and Jim grab your rifle, another one or two like that last one and we’re done for now.” Stan added as they dropped the rear door and everyone got out. Sheri and Casey took care of the distillery by getting new water and some grass for it, and Jim shot one large reptile that swam over to see who these new people were.

      It was even bigger than the last one, and he told Stan that all together they probably had more than 800 pounds of meat, and that surprised Stan badly. But he agreed that was more than enough, and they dragged it into the van and started out, towards a new area, looking for scrap, and he decided that he’d call and have the shuttle pick up the most of these but save a little for the city too, after all they paid him for doing this... and his account was going up nicely lately.

      “We’ll give the shuttle these four.” Stan said pointing as everyone agreed, “ Then these two can go to the city, so we do well for everyone today.” Stan hinted as Jim laughed, saying they would burn through that in a day in the city, and Stan mentioned that if they were that greedy they could send someone else out here hunting, which they did daily of course, and his Team smiled at that and saw Stan was getting tired being everyones whipping boy.

      “There will never be enough food for the city...” he hinted as many looked away. He wasn’t sure how they had survived for so long. But he knew without better management that food and water would run out, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be around a million panicked people when that happened.

      “We do our best, they know that.” Jim mentioned as Stan agreed and they called a few minutes later and a shuttle was on its way, and they stopped by an old field and it landed and took away the animals they had gathered saying that that one was really big...and Stan said they were just lucky today, as the pilot took off and returned home with enough food for another month or more.

      A day later Stan got a message and it surprised him. James was on the link and doing his best politicians smile, as Stan gave it right back at him.

      “That one large lizard is completely different from the smaller ones.” he said as Stan said he thought so too.” The Biologist says they are more likely to be found near water, is there any bodies of water near you now?” he asked, as Stan said no, but they had moved since then and James agreed.

      “Thought you might want to know thats all, something that size is great, our replicators are charged for the next 65 days, it says, so well done, best yet!” he said smiling as Stanley thanked him and turned to go.”Still playing Marshal?” he asked suddenly as Stan said that he did the job, checking on towns and get shot at by bandits, so he might as well get paid for it, as James looked very serious for a minute... and demanded that Stan not forget who his real Family was... and his stare showed he was totally serious.

      “Why Uncle...are you threatening me?” Stan asked as people behind him growled to themselves as James’s big smile came back a second later and he chuckled.

      “Of course not...just teasing a bit... you know, work and all that.. got to break the stress somehow.” he added as Stan wasn’t at all sure that was the truth, since he had 3 androids to ‘break his stress.’

      “Some of us have to live down here permanently...” Stan added seriously, as James’s smile fell a bit.” so we do what it takes to get along.” he said as the link went down, and James saw that his choice of words might have been better.

      “I cant believe he threatened you!” Sheri screamed as Stan just nodded and said he didn’t get it. They had supplied them with food for more than a month and still James felt it was worth calling to harass them for it.

      “He’s not a stupid man, he knows we’re supplying the city too, like letting them know about that fresh water supply and now getting them food.” Jim added as Stan asked why that mattered.”Politics...he likes to rule over people, and having things to negotiate for and wheeling and dealing, gives him something to do. If he had a large amount of food or water for sale then that would make the Family an enormous amount of cash or trade value.” he said as Sheri agreed.

      “Then maybe its time we do a little negotiating on our own.” Stan added seriously as everyone agreed. They did all the work... got none of the pay... and only a couple days a month off for rest and relaxation. If James was making big bucks off of everything Stan had been doing, then it was about time he started planning for his own future.

      “You finally did it didn’t you?” James heard as he looked up to see Clare standing there looking angry.” You’ve finally pushed Stanley away, after all he’s done for us.” She said seriously as James started to explain, but she turned and walked away in a huff, “Don’t expect me to hunt for you from now on, its not my job." She said as the door went shut, and he saw that this was certainly not his best day.

      Chapter 14: Starting A New Life

      Stanley had half an idea...it was just rattling around in his head for now. But he knew he didn’t want to be in here when this reptile started to stink, so they started back and even got another small one that was walking across the road.

      Now he made a call and the Commander came on the line and asked what he could do for him, as Stanley gave him his big politicians smile, just like his Uncle, and asked what meat was selling for in the city.

      “Pardon me for saying so... but... you’re already getting paid as a Marshal.” he mentioned but Stan left him know right away that he lived there now and not in space, and before he could get a place for himself he’d need every credit he could get... as the Commander looked shocked... but after a second he asked how much meat they were discussing, and Stanley said ‘hundreds of pounds’ and the man looked surprised.

      “I’ll give you the link to Food Management, they pay the hunters for their work.” he said as Stan thanked him and the man asked if he was still going to be a Marshal too, and Stan told him not to worry, it was all in a days work, and even after the link went shut the Commander couldn’t believe that Stanley did so much all by himself, or that his Uncle had stopped supporting him, and he was going to stay a Marshal even after negotiating another contract.

      Food Management was happy he called, and the prices they gave him for fresh food was better than he thought they would be. Now he knew why the Commander asked if he was going to stay a Marshal. Working as a hunter, and knowing what he did now, he could make 5x what his Uncle was giving him just hunting, and he could then own his own place, and not need to work for anyone else if he didn’t want to.

      Add to that his wages as a Marshal and Stan saw that they wouldn’t be living in the old van much longer, and he started having Sheri check for prefab houses or buildings capable of surviving the Wastelands for a while.

      The list was short, and finally he decided on a small place that was made mostly of plastic, really heavy and thick plastic. But it was heat proof and weather proof and fairly well insulated. It was more like a single family home, made especially for farmers or other Wasteland dwellers, but it was a dome about 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall, and it had more then twice the room inside as the entire van they were living in now.

      Add to that showers and lights and a pump for water, all solar powered of course, and Stan saw that they could be pretty happy there ...and everyone agreed with him.He was a little bit short of cash right now, but that gave him one thing to plan for, and they stopped at the Food Processing plant when they came in and the men there were shocked to see the huge lizard he brought in, and getting paid by the pound, his account made a really serous jump again.

      “Food Processing doesn’t even run full time.” Stan mentioned as they got some free gas and went back out again. “They don’t get enough food in to keep it running. The shop owners are charging what they can get, but prices are really high and the gardens they have inside the city limits have armed guards to stop looting.” Stan added as Jesse looked sad for them.

      “I was told I could bring one like that in every day, and they still wouldn’t keep up with demand even with replicators running at maximum efficiency.” he hinted and everyone knew that was impossible. “But I want us in our new place before the rainy season starts. Then we’ll be safe from the storms and have lots of fresh water and food for ourselves. After that we’ll worry about everyone else.” Stan added and they all agreed it was about time he made something of himself, and not just did what everyone else demanded for next to nothing.

      Stan found another old car, tagged it with his personal tag that he had gotten while in the city last time, and sent it back. That would help a little too. Now they were hunting for a while and found a family of the smaller lizards just walking along the old river, and they gathered them quickly.

      Then on to check on some people that hadn’t been heard from in a long time, and when they got there, there was no one in sight. The old farm was empty the plants were dieing from lack of water and care, and even the families dog had died being chained up with no one to care for it.

      “I wonder what happened?” Jesse said as they walked through the old house and there didn’t seem to be any mention of why they were leaving or what might of happened to them anywhere.

      “Take a good look around,” Stan said as everyone agreed and all his Team members went out for a jog, looking for info or bodies, if nothing else.

      He just checked out the house himself, and there were pictures on the walls and the kitchen had utensils in drawers and hanging by the stove on nails, everything that said that they were just stepping out for a minute...but they never returned.

      He went upstairs and looked in all the rooms and as he checked the main bedroom he found things there was different. The room was a shambles and drawers had been taken out and thrown everywhere. Then in the one corner he found a small tin box that had been pried open and whatever was in it was now gone.

      “Bandits again...” he whispered and called the Team back, as he watched and waited to see if these people were still watching from nearby. It was a common practice to use a place like this as a trap, waiting for someone to come along and check it out, then run in on them, but for now no one seemed to bother, as his Team ran back in and he showed them what had happened.

      “Damn it...” Casey said sadly and she had that look that said that she missed out on helping someone again, as Stan just put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a smile, and that seemed to help.

      “This is the only room thats messed up...so this is where they hid their cash... in that little box.” Stan said pointing,” They probable came in all nice and friendly then attacked when they left their guard down.” he added as everyone agreed. “There’s a lesson there for everyone, I guess.” he hinted as they all smiled and he said to call it in, and Sheri went to the van and made the call and the Commander looked sad for them saying that family had been on their records for over a decade, and now they too were gone.

      “Might as well check out anything thats left behind. I know you’re looking for your own place so whatever is out there you can use...” he hinted as the link went down and Sheri told Stanley and he agreed, and she nearly got her entire kitchen right there as he smiled that she was so happy to have real pots and pans for a change and not cooking in one old pot she gathered from before.

      Chapter 15: Some Tricky Planning

      Stanley had some ideas of his own and had been keeping them to himself for a while now. The smaller reptiles were abundant, so he hunted them regularly. The bigger ones were less so, and so he kept them safe, for now by just thinning out their numbers slightly, giving more food and territory for the rest to prosper.

      But he knew that some Hunter could stumble onto his new spot any day now, and so after a good hunting trip he took 600 pounds of meat back to the city, and went to the Records Department to ask some questions.

      “Buying land? Where?” the old man behind the counter asked as Stan explained, and his eyes popped out.” You actually WANT land in the Wastelands??” he demanded as Stan nodded he did.

      “No one has claimed land out there for years that I know of...its all just deserts and empty fields. If you’re serious then I can do that now, just for the records fee...there’s no one to buy from since its all been abandoned.” he said as Stan got the biggest smile. He asked how much he was allowed and the man laughed. “I don’t think that matters, but whatever you think you’d like.” he said smiling as Stan had him bring up the map and he looked and slowly pulled out until: he saw the lake and he pointed saying everything from here...the little stream they discovered before..and here, the lake with his animal farm around it and the man nodded and made the new map showing that Stanley Hudson owned 10 square miles of Wasteland, and Stan paid the fees and it was registered in his name that day, all nice and legal.

      “Congratulations Team,” Stan said as they went back to the van.” we now own a piece of land as big as the city itself, all legal and very private. Now we can do whatever we like out there, and no one can say a word about it.” he said as everyone looked pretty happy with that. “And it didn’t cost us jack...” he whispered as they all laughed and he checked once again on the houses they made, and they had a 12 volt system ran by solar panels and batteries, and he ordered one and a second 12 volt pump, and he put a good down payment on it, and the men said they’d have it ready in a month and Stan agreed.

      They went to talk to the old man who owned the scrap yard, and Stan asked him if he had any water tanks that didn’t leak and he laughed saying that he had tanks, but they might not have been used for water, as Stan laughed along.

      They checked a few and he found one that was just about the size of the interior of his van and he asked what it had in it before and the old man pointed to a sticker along one side and it said fertilizer, and Stan said he’d take it. It was milky white and had a valve on the bottom to drain it and a cap on top that was a foot wide and they loaded it into the van and closed the door and went home, as everyone started to wonder what Stan was thinking now.

      They slid it out next to the lake and added a few buckets of water to it and had Jesse and Jim shake it around and dump it out, and with it what little chemicals were still there. Two more times like that and Stan was pretty happy with the scans, and even Jim and Jesse looked a little tired by now.

      “Thats good, its clean enough to be safe to drink from.” Stan said as Jim waved towards the lake saying they had plenty of fresh water, and he nodded agreement. “But the City doesn’t.” Stan said as Jim saw a light at the end of the tunnel and Jesse got a quick chuckle in there as she too saw what was going on.

      They returned the big tank to the van and filled it with fresh water, and then went back to the city. Stan called and finally got the head of Water Management to speak to him, and he agreed they bought water from anyone who could prove it was safe to drink, and Stan had them meet them by the city park, the official lake for their drinking water, and get his water checked and the man looked pretty happy with it too.

      “For water of this quality...1 credit a gallon...” he said all smiles as Stan looked a little worried about it as the man looked all around... but refused to say anything else.

      “For this load...OK...” Stan said as the man looked pretty happy,” but I’m also a Marshal here so doing runs like this will be few and far between at this rate.” he said as they backed the van in close and the back tailgate actually touched the concrete liner of the lake, as thousands of gallons of fresh water poured in and people walking by looked surprised.

      While this was going on the little man was on the links talking to his bosses and after a few minutes a better offer came out of it all. 1.5 credits a gallon for water of that same quality, and they’d take every gallon he wanted to haul, and Stanley agreed and they paid him for the first load, and he smiled going home that they just paid for his new house, as Jesse and the rest laughed that when he wanted to, Stanley could be pretty devious.

      The new house kit was ready soon enough, and Stan got a small 6x6 plastic building for storage too and a second set of solar panels for on top of it. Then they took it all home, all bundled up as a prefab house. It barely fit inside the big van and some bundles were strapped to the roof too. But they made it, and after a drive carefully back there, they picked out a spot for it about a hundred yards from the lake and the construction began.

      Sheri was of course, the engineer in charge, as she pointed and called numbers and letters from the plans and soon the floor was done and bolted securely and the inner walls went up pretty fast after that. Having 4 androids who are actually having a good time working for you gets things done, and they had the building put together and setting there by late that evening, and they all looked ready for some rest, as Stan smiled, looking at the white and red dome and all the solar panels on the one side. The little building was fastened to it too, on one side, and it held another set of panels, guaranteeing them lots of power, and the second water pump went in there too and got wired up to run from them when it needed to, and everyone saw that Stan was serious about selling water, and they all smiled and ate a great meal that evening, by a big roaring campfire right out in front of their new home.

      Their first night was a little rocky though. The beds, built right into the bedroom walls were nicely done if not very comfortable without the proper mattresses... as was mentioned at breakfast the next day.

      “Ya...that was uncomfortable...” Stan agreed as he twisted back and forth at the table trying to get the kinks out of his back.”today we take a load in, food and water, and you girls get us some better bedding, alright?” he asked as they gladly agreed and they went hunting after breakfast, and took 500 pounds of lizard and 5000 gallons of fresh water in for another nice payday, and came home with pillows, blankets, foam mattresses and all the trimmings for their new house.

      “BIG improvement...” Stan said laying back on his bed as everyone laughed, and he shook his finger at them saying that they had complained too, and they all walked away like they didn’t hear him.

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      Chapter 16: Getting Checked On

      They spent some time there, by their own lake, and with the distillery running too their fuel tanks were in pretty good shape. Now they went out traveling when they felt like it, called it in when they found anything and tagged some scrap from time to time, so people knew they were still doing their jobs. But by now the station was getting low on food again, but James refused to call and ask, saying Stanley had turned his back on his Family... as some, including Clare... laughed in his face saying he had done it all himself by not paying Stan nearly what he was worth and that some of them would have left long ago, as he walked away, ignoring them.

      Finally Clare herself called, and Stan smiled and asked how she was doing, and she admitted it wasn’t too bad...yet.

      “I got those plants growing now, and one garlic plant turned to seeds so now I started ten more.” She went on as Stan said he was sure she would, and she looked sad.”Father is being stubborn, he says you turned your back on us, but we all know the truth. If he treated you better we wouldn’t be having these troubles now.” She went on as Stan just gave her a big smile and mentioned he was never really wanted up there, not after his father and mother died working for James. He would never forget what he had done to his own brother, sending them down to the Wastelands to work while he sat up there in safety, and so Stan wasn’t wanted there to remind him of it every time they spoke.

      “I never said I wouldn’t help supply you with food, just not for free any more.I have my own place now and I need cash to support myself.” He said as she felt she gained something at least, and she agreed that they’d pay him for his services from now on, as he laughed saying he wasn’t sure she had the authority to say that, but he admitted he would get them something soon, and she thanked him as the link went down.

      “So he made Clare do it...” Sheri said sadly from behind him, as Stan just smiled. His Uncle wasn’t doing this, his ego was greater than this short time allowed, but he knew she would step in as soon as she saw others starting to hurt, so they did a days hunting away from the lake and brought in 600 pounds of meat and had the shuttle land and get it...far away from their real property... just in case.

      Stan handed the bill to the shuttle pilot who nodded saying he’d deliver it when he got back, and Stan reminded him that as an independent contractor if James didn’t pay it there would be no more food from him, and the man nodded sadly seeing he was smack dab in the middle of a Family feud.

      The load was delivered and when James saw the bill he went spastic.

      “Like Hell I’ll pay this..it’s outrageous!” He demanded as the man just walked out and Clare walked right in, spun the computer around and clicked ‘accept’ as his face went white that she’d do such a thing.

      “Your people are being fed, and you didn’t have to lift a finger to do it. So pay up and let it go, because we know that there’s no one else to do it, and if you hire someone from the city to hunt for us then it’ll still cost the same.” She went on, as he growled saying that running the station was his job not hers, and she got even more angry, and asked if he wanted her to go too, and his face fell as he looked away.

      “I do this all for you...you and John...to give you a safe place to live, away from the storms and radiation the planet has. If it weren’t for me then our Family would have been gone long ago.” he mentioned sourly, as she pointed out the window towards the planet below.

      “We have Family down there, and he’s working in those conditions just like his mother and father did all those years ago. How many more Family members need to die to support you and your dreams of the perfect Family!?” She demanded and his mouth opened but nothing came out and she walked away to let herself cool off... and decided she’d go see Stan for herself... and let him know that not everyone was as stubborn or arrogant as her father.

      She had the station check for Stan’s GPS signal and it said it was stationary, about 35 miles from the city. She made the call and after a short talk he decided that it would be OK, and Clare dropped down and landed a few yards from the house, and as she got out Jim was there, saying it wasn’t safe alone here and she thanked him.

      They went inside and sat to talk and she admitted she saw that Stan got paid, and that they would be good for another few weeks yet, and everyone nodded and smiled.

      “I told father that I wont let more Family die here.” She said seriously as Stanley just laughed, saying that things like that were up to Nature down here and not her.”Yes but you know what I mean. Besides you made something of yourself, and have a decent place here. I take it you guys are happy here too?” She asked as one by one the others agreed that they had work to do and more than enough time for rest and relaxation here, so yes, they were happy.

      “The station is doing well, food and water are our only imports as you well know. Father does all the negotiating, and I swear he gets more aggravating every single day.” Clare said as Sheri got a good laugh at that one.”Oh...anyone want me to check them over while I’m here? Free of charge too?” She chipped in as they all agreed and after a couple months alone they got their first checkup, and she wasn’t surprised to see no one really needed anything.

      “Stanley watches over us carefully.” Casey mentioned when asked as Clare nodded, all smiles. “He’s a good man.” She added softly as Clare asked if ‘anything was going on’ yet and they all laughed at that.

      “You should ask yourself, isn’t that why you keep asking us?” Sheri asked as Clare swore it really wasn’t.”Master is Master...we haven’t offered, and he hasn’t ordered us to do anything, as if he would.” She said as they all got a good laugh again. It wasn’t Stan’s way to order anyone to do anything, he treated them like friends and fellow workers, and they treated him like Royalty for it.

      “I’m sure he’s fine,” Jim added as everyone looked his way and asked why he thought that.”because if he wasn’t he’d say so, and you all know it.” He added as they had to think about that. Stanley was a member of their family and stubborn or not, he had feelings and someday they were going to show and someone would need to be there for him, and silently they all agreed they would be, and the comments stopped there.

      Chapter 17: Next Assignment

      In a few days Stanley got a call from the Commander and he asked what he could do for him.

      “We usually don’t travel out this far, but you have an exceptional vehicle and crew.” he started as Stan just smiled and waited.

      “The town of New Rome is about 80 miles further South than you are now. The last radio transmission from there was 6 months ago and they claimed they were doing fine. The small stream they are right beside has cleared up and is now safe to drink, and they were doing some gardening, but since then... nothing... and we tried several times to get in touch with them.” he said as Stan looked a little worried.”Check it out and let us know. If there’s a problem try and find out what it is, this is the furthest away from the city we’ve sent anyone in ages... but its needed I think.”

      “We’ll go first thing in the morning.” Stan offered as the Commander agreed and the link went down. Either the town was having troubles, or they were busy in the fields working when the calls came in. But it seemed odd that they hadn’t found anyone to answer the call, so they would run down there and see, and let the Commander and the Marshals know why they were so hard to contact.

      They gathered some extra food and water and left at dawn. They traveled south down an old road for maybe 40 miles and then cut across the land since that was quicker. They were close to the town by 11 AM and they stopped and Stan and Jim snuck up on a small, nearby hill to see if they could tell what was going on.

      From there it was very clear what was happening, as a large number of men and women were being beaten and whipped into doing whatever the gang that took over the place wanted them to do.

      “Looks bad...” Stan said, handing the glasses to Jim who checked it out again.

      “Maybe a dozen or more, a fairly large force, but I don’t see any large caliber weapons at all, some pistols and rifles, so we shouldn’t have any troubles settling this quickly.” he said as Stan wasn’t so sure, but these people needed help that was certain, and he saw men and women out on patrol but they hadn’t come nearly this far out yet.

      “What’s that flag they are flying? I’ve never seen one like it before.” Jim asked as Stan took another look and agreed it wasn’t anything he had seen either.

      “Call it in, lets see what the Boss says.” he said as Jim ran back and they did call... and the Commander wasn’t too happy with it either.

      “A red flag?” He asked as Jim agreed, “hmm odd... most gangs don’t bother making up a flag to work under. This is strange.” he agreed as they all waited for his decision.

      “See if you can... liberate the town... I’ll send in a helicopter for support, wait until it arrives. Then get those people into custody or dead if they refuse. Those people need our help and we wont let them down.” he said as Jim went back to let Stan know help was coming, and he and Jesse took out a patrol and tied them up in the van and waited for their back up which was there an hour later.

      The small chopper called and said she was ready and that they had permission to use force in cases like this. Stan left her know they took 3 prisoners already and she was happy with that, saying that they would be able to tell them a lot more when they were questioned later.

      “OK then, Jim and Jesse, you know the drill go around back and take out as many as you can. Me and the others will attract their attention from this side and the chopper will provide support. OK then lets go.” Stan said as people ran everywhere, and he got his gun and ammo belt and he and Casey and Sheri made themselves known by standing up on top of the hill and firing a shot into the air, and half a dozen men ran out from the little town, and when they got into weapons range, the little chopper popped up over the hill and laid waste to them, as several died and several others were down with bullet wounds.

      “Hows it coming?” Stan called as Jim said there were more than they thought, and even the chopper pilot seemed surprised. “No one gets shot up... remember that... we’re coming in the front and there’s 6 down out here now. If they keep coming up with reinforcements then we’ll fall back and regroup.” Stan ordered as they agreed, and as they got to some trees for cover, shots started ringing out and one hit the tree right next to Stan and he saw a man on top of a building, and Sheri hit him with a gun she picked up on her way there, and the man fell off and out of sight.

      They ran in further and soon Stan got a few rounds off too. His shotgun was deadly at close range and with Jesse and Jim firing from the other side of town, and Stan and his team firing from this side, the remaining men went down like flies and they had the survivors rounded up and tied together in the center of the town, as the residents came out cheering for them and the chopper pilot landed and walked in to see what was really going on.

      “The stream is clean now and good water for drinking. Its right behind those buildings there.” One big man said as they all agreed.” One morning we came out to check our fields there were half a dozen men out there filling their canteens, so we walked over to say hi and ask who they were.They attacked us instantly... and beat the **** out of anyone who refused them anything. They said clean water was worth its weight in Gold and they were taking over our town. We told them we were miles and miles from anyone who would buy it, but they persisted and soon they brought in a force big enough to subjugate everyone, and they’ve been here ever since. That was about 3 weeks ago now.” One man said as everyone else just agreed.

      “They call themselves the Red Hand Gang, and were very organized, they even have their own flag.” A lady mentioned as Stan nodded he understood.”They did terrible things to everyone, and they brought in a tanker truck and started hauling the water away. I have no idea what they think they are going to do with it though, there are no other towns or cities for a hundred miles or more.” She added as Stan said there had to be another town or towns that had none and they would steal it here and sell it there, and they just shrugged saying they had never been to any other towns in the area, and Stan just left it go.

      “Either way they caught you by surprise last time.” The lady Marshal said as everyone agreed to that,” so from now on watch yourselves. Take all these weapons and get ready to defend against them next time. And make sure to call for the Marshals if you need them. We can be here in an hour by air.” She added as everyone thanked them for coming and saving their town. The Air Marshal took all she could carry in her chopper and Stan and his Team took 4 more and they left the town to protect themselves for a while, until they found out what was the real reason these men were so far out here. But with lots of ammo and several automatic rifles now the little town wasn’t nearly as helpless as it had been, as any gangs coming in now would learn that the hard way.

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      Chapter 18: Red Hands

      Stanley rolled into the city well after his aerial counterpart made it back... and they were waiting for him. They unloaded his prisoners and gave him a big thumbs up for his help and the Commander had him brought in for questioning, and he wasn’t too pleased.

      “The Red Hand...this far North?” He asked to no one in particular, as Stan asked who they were.”Depends on who you ask.” he said looking tired.”They started out as a gang in the Southern Region near the city of New Orleans. Then they branched out into other areas attacking towns and stealing anything they could get their hands on. Last reports said they changed their name to the Red Hand Army, and had over a hundred members scattered out all over the Southern areas.” he said as Stan just nodded and waited.

      “If they are this far North then they must be trying to gather support up here too, well thats something we wont allow on our watch.” he said as Stanley agreed.” Make sure you’re ready for trouble. These fools move in large groups when they can, and they are well armed. I know you use your androids for defense, but make sure you get a couple of guns too, these people are nothing to mess with.” he said as Stan said he already had a few guns and the Commander smiled and nodded that he approved.

      “You and your Team are our Ground Units in this area, and we have the Air Units here, so if they mess with us we’ll show them we wont take their meddling lightly.” He growled as he saluted and Stan was left go for the day again. He went and got more fuel and then went home and for the rest of the day they just sat back and rested and Stanley left them know that they would keep some guns and ammo if they found any, and everyone would get training in their use, as even the girls laughed, saying that defense training was standard, and they all had already had it, and Stan just smiled wider still and thanked them for staying with him all this time, and they thanked him for being their Master, saying they would always stand by him.

      It was getting towards evening now and the Commander made a call and waited. In a minute it went through and he saw a man he knew well and he was wearing a uniform that he had never seen before, and he smiled and asked what he could do for him, as they both struck their politicians poses and the talk began.

      “Hello Carl its been a long time.” The Commander said as the other man laughed and agreed.

      “Hello Frank, so its been a few years, why call now?” he asked as Carl gave him a dirty look.

      “One of your patrols tried taking over one of my towns and we had to drive them back today. I thought we had a deal, you stay South and I stay North, this wasn’t supposed to be happening.” he said as the other man nodded and smiled wider still.

      “Must be one of my young officers, they never do what they are told.” Carl said as Frank just sat back twiddling his fingers and smiling.

      “Out of drinking water?” He asked as Carl’s face fell and they both tried to keep the big smiles going.

      “You cant live without it...” he admitted as they both agreed.

      “Buying it from us or one of my dealers here would sure as hell beat sending forces to fight over it wouldn’t it?” he asked as his old friend looked less than sure.

      “The City’s population is expanding like breeding rats...” he whispered as Frank nodded... also one of his many troubles. “The main river is still polluted and not worth using for anything. The reservoir we made to catch rain water isn’t half big enough, but the City Council wont pay up for a bigger one. We are out of water all together nearly a third of the year now.” he admitted as even Frank looked sad for him.

      “I forced them into making three large tanker trucks, and we search for water everywhere we can find any. You might be surprised how many streams, lakes and rivers are still worthless down here. But you seem to be getting better at a much faster rate.” he hinted as Frank reminded him that dead people are much more expensive than just buying the stuff to begin with, as even he agreed.

      “So, anyone survive that little battle then?” he asked as his friend admitted they had 6 here now in various stages of healing as he nodded and thanked him for that.”Will you send them back when they can travel then? I’ll see what happened on my end and make sure they don’t bother you again.” he hinted as Frank left him know he had Marshals out exploring and claiming land within 100 miles of the city and they wouldn’t let an armed force just run in and start their own little war, and he nodded he understood and closed the link.

      “You always were a terrible liar...” Frank said softly and he knew now that while New Orleans was out of drinking water, they were out fighting with others for it instead of just setting up trade and getting whatever they could haul that way. It was possible that the City Council was refusing to spend money on water, but that meant that they had a tight grip on every drop and he knew that the rich and powerful on the Council weren’t doing without by any stretch. So their workers and the poor in the inner city were forced to fend for themselves, and he saw many dieing because of it.

      A lack of food and water had forced people to do terrible things in the past, and it looked like those days were returning again.

      His city wasn’t a lot better, its just they had more people working around the clock to try and help. The water situation was under control for the moment and as the little stream they damned up tried to keep up, the population went up steadily, and he demanded something be done about it, but his superiors wouldn’t listen to him either.

      When the new cities were first built they housed from 250,000 to 500,000 each and things weren’t too bad. Now with a million and growing, the people looked to them all and demanded to know why some things were getting harder to get or more expensive, and try as they might, no one would listen when it was explained to them.

      Right now the prices were high for food out of the vending machines all over the city, the replicators that stocked them ran full time and stretched every plant and bit of meat to the limits, but it still wasn’t enough, and prices kept going up and up as supplies started running lower and lower.

      So Frank knew what Carl was talking about. Yes, there seemed to be better water up here maybe due to the heavy rains they get from time to time, but people were just plain afraid and because of that not one in ten thousand would go out looking for food, and the Hunters they did have could run 24/7 and never keep up, and sooner or later something had to give, and he hoped it was well past his time when it happened.

      Chapter 19: The Wastelands: Death or Salvation?

      In a few days the first rains came. The City and surrounding areas got some rain off and on, but it got a 1 month rainy season, and that was due.

      Just as they opened the big doors in the ceiling to retrieve a helicopter... water flew in... and a man in a chemical suit ran out and scanned the chopper to see if it was safe or not. The verdict was good, the water was safe, and as the doors started shut one technician asked the obvious question as the floor manager looked shocked.

      “If the water’s safe, why not let it in? It has to help with our water problems, right?” He asked as the question rapidly made it up the chain of command, and everyone who heard it couldn’t think of a single reason why not.

      The Resource Management Chairman decided it was worth a shot, it had never been done before, but then the rain had never been this pure either. The announcement went out on all channels, the rain was safe and the city needed more water, and so, one by one the big doors opened and after the first shock of seeing water falling... sometimes for the first time... the city rejoiced, and children could be seen jumping in puddles that were gathering in the grass and on the streets.

      Researchers that were bored and had little to do suddenly felt encouraged, and soon calculations came in saying how much water was coming in, per minute, hour, whatever, and the numbers were good.

      Drains that were barely ever used were now getting a little cleaning, as the downpour ran in and the wind blew it from side to side coming in the doors. The poor and abandoned gathered every drop, in buckets and jugs and for a few minutes just drank freely for the first time in ages.

      Nature was giving them a hand, and for the first time in a while, they were taking it... and it became a sort of holiday, and teachers took classes outside to see it, some for the first time in their lives.

      The News covered it extensively, and even the City Council saw that for an hour at least the city was happy. And even the grumps among them couldn’t say a word, because the population was ecstatic, and they’d be in big trouble for it.

      That one day helped the moral of the city immensely, and after checking to see if there were any negative effects on the water system it was decided that when they got the chance, they’d do it again.

      Over all changes...12,000 gallons of fresh water into the lake and water recovery system, and no negatives since the water was clean and fresh. It wasn’t a huge thing, but emotionally at least it seemed to be worth its weight in Gold.

      The weather station on top of the dome was repaired and a new scanner was added after all these years. And a one hundred year old ‘sealed system’ adjusted for the first time in a generation.

      Stanley and his crew were coming back from a trip out hunting when they stopped dead in the middle of the old dirt road. There...just 20 meters away was a man, just walking along and looking lost. Stan was in shock to see some one this far from the city, and he had no gun for protection, and that was stranger still.

      He stopped and got out as Jim growled at him for taking too many risks... but he followed him watching carefully as they went. They called to the man who turned and waved and Jim mentioned that he was an android, and Stan agreed.

      “Hi, who are you?” Stan asked from a few feet away while Jim got ready just in case. But the new man wasn’t a threat, Hell he could barely stand now.

      “ Jack...my name is Jack...” he said and looked even more lost than before.

      “OK then Jack, why are you out here so far from the city?” Jim asked as Jack looked sad and said he was sent out hunting, and Stanley looked oddly at him and ask where his weapon was, and he pulled a hunting knife out from behind him, as Jim looked like he’d laugh any second.

      “Who sent you out hunting then?” Stan asked, getting upset, as Jack told him his Master wanted fresh meat and the replicators didn’t have anything he liked, so he got sent out to get some and he had been looking for 2 days now without success. “Put that away, Jack.” Stan said as Jack put the knife back and he got invited inside where Sheri nearly screamed to hear his tale.

      “2 days and nights with nothing but a hunting knife?” She asked as he agreed, and they put him on one of their rechargers as Sheri demanded they report these fools, and for a change Stanley agreed.

      “Another android you say?” The Commander asked as Stan gave him the story too and he looked sick hearing it.

      “His Master wants FRESH meat not replicated, so he sent him out hunting with nothing but a knife. He said he attacked a lizard with it but it got away.” Stan added as his boss nodded looking upset.” I know androids have less rights then we do...but still...this is next to murder, its a real wonder he’s still alive.” He said as the Commander agreed.

      “His Master might think he saved some money sending him out to hunt. But with a knife against reptiles? He’s obviously an idiot.” he said as Stan agreed.” Bring him back in with you and we’ll handle it from here.” he said as Stan agreed, and someone trying to save a buck was going to spend a lot more in fines, for sure.

      Now they entered the city and Jack was doing a lot better. His recharge was giving him new life and he thanked them repeatedly for the help, and Sheri reminded him that he had a right to refuse jobs that were too difficult and he nodded but said nothing, as he was taken away, and Stan just stood by shaking his head sadly.

      Jack was led inside and the Captain smiled and waved as Jack returned it.

      “Hi Jack, at it again?” He asked as Jack nodded without saying a word.” Hows the Family doing?” He asked as Jack looked sad and said that they could barely afford water much less food and he tried to help...as he had done in the past.

      In the past his Family had been much, much better off. But now things were bad and even the Marshals knew that he went out hunting from time to time and had actually brought in food to help keep them alive. But doing hard work day after day and never getting either proper rest or repairs was having an effect, and he got reminded that if he died out there his Master wouldn’t last long without him, and he nodded he understood but said that if he didn’t get food soon they wouldn’t survive that way either.

      The Captain looked very sad and one by one the officers there walked up and slipped a few dollars into Jack’s hands and he thanked them and the Captain did too, and said to make sure he got them something nutritious for a change, and he nodded and walked out as even some of his officers looked like they might cry.

      “There but for the grace of God...” The chaplain whispered and they all turned away and tried to get back to work.

      Chapter 20: Pushing the Boundaries

      That was weird, Stan mentioned as they went for fuel, and when they got their supplies and were ready to leave, they saw Jack walking towards the shacks where the poor and disabled lived. Many times nothing more than tents or shacks made from some old building material by hand. They were an area where the lowest people in the city lived. The laborers and disabled that couldn’t work any longer and their standard of living was one step up from animals, but the City Council did nothing...or damned little..to help them, and their little area along the outer wall became a sort of tent city within a city, as anyone and everyone that were shut out of the regular job cycles was left to fend for themselves.

      “They live there?” Jim whispered, as Stanley nodded sadly saying that was probably why he was out hunting, and had no real weapon, they were just too poor to buy what they needed.

      “They must have had a good job once, and then lost everything.” Sheri added as they left the city.” Then when it all failed them Jack was the only thing they kept, for protection more than likely.” She hinted as Stan agreed.

      “Another reason I hate city life...” Stanley added softly as everyone with him agreed.”well enough of that. We made our weekly trip in and helped the city with enough food for...an hour or so...” he added chuckling as many looked away smiling.”Lets go home. I want to check my garden.” he said as they turned onto a small road that they had made themselves just running back and forth, and soon they were back at their camp, as Casey and Jesse waved as they drove up.

      “OK work is done for today.” Stan mentioned as Sheri gave him a dirty look and he asked why.

      “You took a load of food in for the city but wheres ours?” She asked as he pointed towards the bags that Jim was carrying. “I want fresh meat for dinner, so someone better go get some.” She added taking the bags and starting towards the house, as Stan heaved a big sigh and said ‘yes mam’ as everyone laughed and he and Jesse went on a hunting trip and brought back enough to fill the refrigerator for a while.

      For over two hundred years the Wastelands had been empty, with few if any people traveling or hunting there. That gave the animals a huge advantage and even now there was no trouble finding a dozen a day and Stan said that with proper hunting and culling this resource could last indefinitely.

      “If the city would control its numbers better then they wouldn’t have a food problem at all.” he hinted but they knew that with the loss of so many not long ago, no one was thinking about birth control now. “they also need to consider raising their own animals. I have been thinking about that too. Here at the lake we raise and watch over reptiles, but out there, there are dozens of different animals I’m sure, we just haven’t tried to find many yet. Also the smaller ones like the woodchuck Jim caught, could be raised in pens and then harvested like crops.” he went on as they all sat around the fire that night eating.

      “So, are you really thinking about starting a farm then? And gathering and raising animals here by the lake?” Jim asked as Stan just shrugged, saying that depended on what they found, and everyone agreed that if they could domesticate animals again then food problems would slowly go away.

      “Instead of bringing in a dozen animals a week, raising your own would make getting them easy, and numbers could be controlled by breeding and even small animals have many young ones, and if they are protected from getting eaten by other animals then they all grow up to be breeders too.

      “What if they wont breed in captivity though?” Jesse asked as Stan said that EVERYTHING breeds after a while, as some looked away smiling, and Sheri gave him a quick PFFT and he looked her way as she got up to go inside.

      “Not everything,” She hinted as Stans mouth fell open and he looked around oddly as Jim tried not to laugh.

      “What was that about, anyone know?” He asked as everyone nodded they knew but no one said anything for a minute. “Come on this isn’t fair, say something.” he added as Jim cleared his throat and Jesse started to laugh.

      “A few weeks ago you asked Sheri to get into bed with you, and she was shocked that you had finally chosen someone. But you never asked again, and now she thinks she isn’t attractive enough for you.” he added softly as Stans face looked too shocked to speak.

      “I did?” He finally asked as everyone looked shocked now for him.

      “You don’t remember? Its the day you hurt your back working and we all went back to work, but you and Sheri stayed behind in the van.” Jesse added and obviously Sheri was upset enough to talk about it to others.

      “In my defense, I was on drugs at the time.” Stan hinted as Jesse and Casey rolled their eyes and looked away as Jim gave him a dirty look too.

      “Now you’re making me want to swat you.” Jim hinted, as Stanley looked surprised and after a second he smiled and nodded saying ‘that would hurt’ as everyone smiled and looked away.”Go fix it...she’s really upset you know... and it was your fault, this time.” he hinted as Stan agreed and went inside to see Sheri trying to ignore him as he walked over behind the little kitchen counter and turned her towards him and smiled as she tried not to look him in the eye.

      “I’m mad at you...go away.” She said as he chuckled and she tried not to smile.

      “Am I in trouble for asking the first time...or for not asking again?” He whispered as her face grew red.

      “Am I that ugly?” She hinted as he smiled even wider and gave her a nice hug as she tried to stay mad.

      “I was teasing that day, really.” he said as she looked sad to hear it,” but if it were to be anyone...it would be you. Thats why I bought you first and why you’re programmed to be my cook and housekeeper and all the things a good wife might be.” he said as she gave him a big hug, and threw him down on the floor right there and started taking off his cloths.

      “Umm, we have rooms for this...” Stan hinted as Sheri said ‘shut up’ and he did, and half an hour later she seemed a lot happier and he had to admit, he really didn’t know why he had waited either.

      Chapter 21: A Family...and a Community Too

      It was no surprise to anyone something had happened, and they all just let it go because they too understood. The androids of this generation are not far from Human themselves. Their basic programming is the same as a basic education for Humans. Their bodies were modeled after Human bodies in every detail, and their skills can be adjusted to do anything short of having children that a Human could do.

      Seeing Sheri get upset over something Stanley had said was no surprise. Hell, Jim and Jesse had spent some time together too, and they were a bit afraid what would happen if Stan found out. But he was a good man, and Jim decided to air out the laundry one day as they drove into town with a load of fresh water.

      “I need to ask you something Master...” Jim started as Stan looked up into the mirror as he drove along. Jim and Stan worked together every day and they talked like old friends, but today it was ‘Master’ and Stan was starting to wonder what was next.

      “ OOOKKK...” Stan said softly and waited as Jim looked more than a little worried.

      “We never ask but...what’s your policy on your androids having relations?” he asked softly as Stan had to think about that one. Was he talking about him and Sheri or Jim and one of the other girls? But after a second he just smiled and said it was up to them, if they were happy he was happy, and Jim finally smiled wide and thanked him.

      “So...who are you bopping?” he asked all smiles as Jim looked shocked he could ask, and refused to say.”You know I’ll find out and I don’t really care myself, after all you all know about me and Sheri now, so its only fair.” he hinted as Jim ground his teeth and looked embarrassed.

      “Jesse...” Jim whispered as Stan gave him a big thumbs up and a smile, as they both laughed.

      “Big girl... but nice girl... we are lucky guys, every girl out here is exceptional in some way I think.” he added as Jim agreed wholeheartedly. And that was the big day, when Stan gave his permission to everyone to act any way they chose, within reason of course, and he felt it was a good day because they weren’t just his friends, they were Family.

      But slowly things started getting noticed. Sheri first mentioned that Stanley slept in more lately, and almost always seemed tired.

      Jim agreed as well, and Jesse said his stamina on hunts seemed to be slowly dropping too. Sheri decided to make him get a checkup and while they waited for him to come, out they all had some idea what was going on.

      Androids don’t get sick or have to worry about diseases. Their bodies are replicas of Human bodies in every detail, but they don’t need immune system, since these things don’t effect them.But Stanley was different, as a Human he did get sick in all the many ways that they do. And he had lived half his life either in the city or outside, in the Wastelands, many years with them as a Team.

      “You think...the radiation?” Sheri asked almost in tears, as everyone nodded it was probably true.

      Even though it had been getting less and less lately, all that old rain didn’t just disappear. It sank into the ground and in some places was quite dangerous. The unwary or the just plain dumb people that hunted there brought in animals that were then too, irradiated in some small way.

      Even what is considered ‘safe’ was not really normal but what was on the high side, and they were forced to use those things daily. It wasn’t a secret that things like this were common place, even in the city people got sick lot and they named it Wasteland Sickness, and no one asked what that really was. But it claimed lives every week, somewhere.

      Stan came out a little while later looking very happy and upbeat and everyone there smiled as well.

      “No biggy...” he said waving a bottle around.” got some meds and I’ll be back to normal in a few days.” he went on as everyone cheered. “Now lets get back to work, time is money.” he said as he laughed and everyone went along with it, and Sheri checked the bottle of meds and smiled. It was the Sickness after all, and she forced herself to keep on smiling.

      For weeks things went on as normal and taking the pills Stan seemed much better, but they weren’t fooling anyone. Radiation has a half-life of thousands of years, and even low level radiation can have long term effects. So they all agreed to watch over him even more than normal, and they saw that he truly was slowly getting worse, even though he forced himself to keep going.

      Finally Sheri made a call and the doctor gave her a sad look as he agreed that the Sickness was within him.

      “The pills give him more energy, thats all I can do for him. I knew sooner or later you’d call, your people don’t have this problem, in many ways your far superior to us that way. Even I have a small touch of it...the food you see...” he mentioned looking sad as Sheri just nodded and waited.” Half the city has it...but we aren’t allowed to say. The Council has been looking for ways to combat it...to no avail though. The few meds we have that help are running out and we cant get replacements. The cities that make them know too you see, and they are hoarding them, but in the end it wont matter. Humanity might well fail here altogether.” He whispered as she finally knew that ‘here’ didn’t mean just their city.

      “Take good care of yourself,” he went on as she looked surprised.” in the end you might be the only evidence that Humans ever existed.” he said and closed the link.

      Sheri was shocked beyond belief. She called for information about Stanley and found out the real truth. Thousands were dieing daily and weekly and the idea of population control was a farce, because their numbers would most likely never be this high again.

      Chapter 22: World Wide Understanding

      The President of the World Order sat there, looking at the latest figures, and they weren’t good. Many continents were saying the same thing, sickness was slowly killing off their people, and he knew why.

      Radiation in the rain, food and even soil was like a land mine...waiting to claim a life. Only this was a silent killer and numbers world wide were slowly dropping, and children that were born were tested, and many were sterile. So the next generation wasn’t going to be their saviors, and that made him sad.

      Many communities sent out hunters to gather food, what little they could find. Then they too became sick and died and on and on and on. Now after years of research he saw it clearly, Mankind was on the brink of destruction, all because of their own greed and stupidity in the past.

      What good is money with no where to spend it? What good is power when you’re all alone? Humans were a pitiful species after all, and he sat there, head in hands and saw that another decade, maybe two, and even he wouldn’t be here any longer.

      50,000 last month, world wide, and the numbers kept going up, and he saw that only the androids kept some cities going strong, and he ordered automated maintenence bays for them, to help keep them going. If they alone survived this, then Humanity would not be forgotten, and he had old research dug up and made public, as many laughed and ignored it but some didn’t, but he put a tag on the info and the criminals of the world could never get it, but the good people who worked hard could..free... and he saw that this was maybe his greatest and last big decision, and he was happy with it.

      Stanley got called into the Marshals office a few days later and they saw that he too was slowing down a bit. But they couldn’t say much since half the people there looked just as bad.

      “Since the Red Hand has withdrawn we’re cutting back on patrols, so do whatever you feel like and just take it easy.” The Commander said as Stan smiled and agreed.” oh and here, this is for anyone with a Technician in their Team, so see that Sheri gets this.” he said handing Stan a tiny disk and he put it into his pocket and saluted on his way out.

      That was a little odd, he could have called that info in but at least Sheri was getting some new software or something and he went home and handed her the disk and went out to check the garden and she ran it to see what it was, as an older man looking sad, said that Humans were not doing well, and he wanted every person or android to know it and he gave them new info from their research department, and her eyes opened wide and she made the call, and new equipment was sent... like many others... and she decided that this was the way to go, and she set up a small workbench in the shed, and kept it locked at all times.

      Weeks past, and dozens of trips to town selling food and water. They took trips checking on the small towns they saw before, and one by one, no one was there when they returned.The Commander was looking very sad to hear it but wasn’t surprised and soon there wasn’t much reason to check any more since no one called in and no one was found. It was all written off as Bandits, but the people in charge knew better.

      During all this Sheri worked, and Stan knew it of course but never asked. She seemed happy with what she was doing and that was all he cared, and as he felt he was living a happy life, his looks started to deteriorate and he had black bags under his eyes all the time now, and only the drugs kept his spirits and energy up.

      Finally she was ready and the entire Team walked Stan to the shed and they opened the door. There laying on the bench was...Stan...in perfect form, perfectly healthy and well made, by anyones standards.

      “So thats what you’ve been doing...” he said as she agreed looking a little sad.

      “You don’t approve?” She asked as he seemed almost lost, but he said if it made her happy then fine, and she smiled.”Just to be clear watch this.” She said and a video ran and it was the President and he said that Humans were on their way out and he wanted their android teams to keep their memories alive as long as possible. He then detailed how they could ‘save a few good men and women’ and even Stan looked surprised. there were experiments done years ago, ages ago really and he approved their use now and Sheri had the machine sitting there and waiting.

      “Information transfer...” The way to save all the personal traits of someone that is a Human into an android body. It had been done many times in the past..secretly of course...and some great teachers and leaders that never seemed to get older were around even now. So he approved its use, and Stanley looked even more tired hearing that he wasn’t the only one that was like this and when it got done running he sadly agreed, and they laid him down beside his new body, and the machine transfered all his memories, his personality, everything into the new body, and when it was over he closed his eyes and in a second he was gone, as per his last request, and they had a little ceremony for his old body and laid it to rest under a stone behind the house, and then the new Stanley was started for the first time, and life went on like nothing had ever happened.

      But it didn’t take long for people to notice not only Stanley but others as well. The Captain of the Marshals was bright and chipper after being sick for a month and he and Stanley smiled and waved like old friends and went on. Many others were the same and the new android automated maintenence garages were built, as per the presidents orders saying that they did much of the work so they deserved it and no one thought a thing about it.

      The Sickness was on all the news and as people got sick and died the numbers in the city started down and the number of androids went up, trying to keep things going. But eating radiated food every day for years was sure death and after a few more years, the Captain, now the Mayor, had a ceremony for the last Human resident to pass, as dozens of New Humans gathered around to pay tribute to her.

      She had stayed in orbit for as long as she could. But her health would no longer allow it, and after a few weeks she too fell to the Sickness and was laid to rest. Stanley and his crew were there too, and when the ceremony was over, they walked to the maintenence garage and a large tube opened as the garage owner said it was ready and as her eyes opened, Stan smiled and said:

      “Are you ready Clare?” and she agreed with a big grin, and they went home to the lake... and a new world... founded on Human ingenuity and android strength that would last for centuries more, until Humans were just a legend or story told on Holidays when Families gather.

    9. #9
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Haven't been getting any good ideas for long stories for a while. Just little things. Had a half an idea today...well maybe a fourth of an idea really...lol about a world where old military ships were used as floating colleges. Imagine a small to medium sized carrier, with a campus on the top and a small park, all sitting in port, waiting to go on a field trip somewhere. They would teach Maritime Engineering, Electronics, Hydraulics, all the Engineering studies...and live in a floating school, only one of dozens in the world with maybe competitions between them over some things, just like today.Famous and rich Alumni would donate to keep it going, and the students would do most of the upkeep on it, so seeing a college coming into port for supplies might not be too big a stretch there, and the ships names would become famous for the studies they provide.

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      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      new story is up, please add it, ty....oh and a new idea is running, a water world story where 80% of all the planet surface is water...

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