Here is a little peek at the first draft of Resolution, Book 3 in the Displaced series. It is chapter 1 and may have spoilers in it. If you haven’t read both of the first two books in the series, then you may not know what is going on, but you’ve been warned. Also, copyrighted material.
For as long as I can remember I’ve heard people refer to my father as everything from Saint to Demon. To be sure, at any given time, he could be all that and more, but generally, he was just a man…with all the faults and failings that go with being human. Most people forget that all-important fact.
— Andrew Murdock, The Real Kevin Murdock: a Diary
Murdock was tending his fire atop the Stairs of Mount Oomah, as he referred to the series of plateaus, when something silver went streaking past far over-head. Long after it had disappeared, he heard the deafening roar split the night. Beron had just given notice to him, who, in turn, was to pass on the notice telepathically to everyone who could perceive his thoughts. The new arrivals were on their way.
Oh…joy, he thought unenthusiastically. Has it been five years already? We haven’t recovered from the last bunch of invaders.
“If anyone is interested, we are about to have more invaders,” he flashed to his tribe.
“I was wondering what that was,” Declan responded. “How long before it lands?”
“I have no idea how many orbits it’ll make before its velocity is reduced enough to effect planet-fall,” Murdock flashed back to him. “If it follows the same procedures as the last one, it’ll be two days after landing before anyone disembarks.”
“How many are on this one?” Declan asked.
Murdock did a quick mental calculation. “Another two thousand people, supposedly.”
Murdock guessed it was a couple of hours before sun-up when the approaching ship circled the area several times before it hung motionless in the sky. The maneuver had awakened him, putting him in a fouler mood than he was when he was notified. “It’ll be landing soon. Probably at sun-up,” he flashed to the others.
Irene Harris, M.D., Annie Cooper, L.P.N., and Roy White, E.M.T., were sitting out on the roof of the Medical facility when Irene and Annie received the message. They both stood, with excited expectation, and looked up at the quickly lightening pre-dawn sky at what appeared to be a dark hole; and it was getting larger.
Declan Griffen was saddling his new mount, in preparation to continuing toward home, when Murdock’s latest message reached him. He stopped handling the tack, to try to calm the skittish beast, and looked up seeing the huge hole in the sky and whistled slightly.
“Dancer, either that is one huge ship or a meteor is coming,” he said to the mount as he watched it descend.
Murdock levitated himself off the step and across the open plain to the top of the next step. As he watched, he saw the huge ship slowly descend. When it was a couple thousand feet up, he saw the one ship separate into several and form a circle before continuing their descent. Then he heard the loud separation explosion. He counted eleven ships. Why eleven? Two thousand should fit in ten pods. I’m wondering what’s in the extra pod.
Just at full sun-up, all eleven ships touched down on the bluish-green, grass-covered plain, with rolling hills all around it. They weren’t far from the empty landing pods that he had placed below the second step. From his vantage point, he could see the huge circle they formed. Each lander looked to be the same size as the previous pod that had landed five years prior and was set aside not far from the closest to the stream; the stream that ran down each of the steps. They were a number of miles from the river and the Medical facility.
“Did you want to meet the new-comers?” Murdock flashed to Mei Lee.
“Yes and so does Emily. We are hitching up Donder to the cart,” Mei Lee, his wife of many years, responded.
Why did the deer that Heather and Alvin tamed, end up with those particular names, he wondered. It had to be either Heather or Emily.
“Be careful,” he cautioned. “The landing was noisier than usual as there are eleven pods this time. It’s sure to draw attention from Elizabeth Reyes’ group, as well as others.”
“We are planning on crossing the plain off the top step a few miles from the river.”
“The new pods are off the second step close to the stream, so make a direct course towards there. I’m close to the landing site now. Bring plenty of hides. I’m thinking of making camp close to the step and the stream, for safety reasons.”
“Head to the stream under the second step,” Murdock flashed to Declan. “Our wives are on their way.”
“I know,” Declan responded. “Em let me know. I should be there in four or five hours. I’ll let Irene and Annie know where we are. I’m sure they’re gonna want to meet the newbies.”
“Well, be careful. I’m sure our enemies know that another ship is down and will be coming around to see what they can do to complicate an already complex situation.”
“Are you always so negative?”
“I’m not being negative, just realistic. With all we’ve been through, there are some that would like us to go away. If any of them show up, I’m planning to defend me and mine. Is that okay by you?”
“Hey, I’m on your side, Brother. I just don’t like to admit that you’re right more often than not. I’ll see you when I get there.”
I’ve only known Declan for a short time, three or four years, Murdock thought, but I like having him around. He makes me laugh. Murdock chuckled.
By the time Declan arrived at the campsite, it was late afternoon, Murdock had several poles stacked, and was lashing them together at the top.
“Greetings, Brother, I come bearing gifts,” Declan said jokingly, holding up four large fish that were already cleaned and ready to cook.
Murdock chuckled a little. “You know what to do with them, don’t you? They may be cooked by the time the wives and kids get here. I’m expecting them any time, now.”
Declan nodded and started cooking the fish.
“I’ve been thinking—” Murdock started.
“—Uh-oh, we’re all in trouble now!” Declan quipped.
Murdock looked serious and tried not to chuckle. “Like I was saying, I’m thinking we need to keep some sort of record of who arrived, who dies, who’s born…”
“That would work out pretty good…if we had miles of paper and gallons of ink.”
“Ever thought of clay as a medium?” Murdock asked.
Declan’s mouth opened, shut, then opened again and nothing came out.
“Wow, I managed to leave you speechless. Who would’ve thought that was possible?”
“I was thinking about that before I learned to fire clay. Since then, I haven’t given it much thought. I guess it could be done. It would take some skill to make the writing legible and to keep it that way through the firing, but, yeah, I think it would work.”
“See what you can do. Our wives are here. Time to get the tipis assembled.”
By shortly after sunset, both lodges were assembled and the two families were sitting around the campfire eating the fish.
“When do you think the newbies will be up and about?” Declan asked while finishing his fish.
“The procedure I observed, when you and Em arrived, was during the second day, after landing, there should be some signs of life. Can you hit anything with that yet?” Murdock asked indicating Declan’s bow.
Declan chuckled. “The safest place seems to be directly in front of me.”
“He does fair,” Emily corrected, “if he gets a chance to practice. He’s been practicing some, but not like he should.” Emily was untying the front of her buckskin dress and pulled out an arm. It briefly exposed her ample, milk-filled breast before she held little Gordon to her nipple.
Declan smiled. “Greedy little guy, ain’t cha?” he said with a grin at his son and gently touching the infant’s cheek.
“No different than his father,” Emily quipped which caused everyone to laugh.
“So, what’s the plan?” Mei Lee asked once the laughter quieted.
“Tomorrow, I’m planning on marking out a barrier line to keep these idiots—I mean invaders, corralled,” Murdock said.
“Why do they need to be corralled?” Emily asked.
“There are two thousand people, who have no idea what this place is like or how to defend themselves against the dangers here.
“If you remember how weak you all were when you disembarked, I’m sure they will be weak also. You think they should just be allowed to wander off on their own? Besides, a barrier works both ways. Keeping them in and safe as well as keeping anything or anyone out that might endanger them.”
“At some point, though, they will be released?” Emily asked.
“Yes, they will be loosed upon the world,” Murdock responded, “for good or ill. I just want my family safely out of their reach when they are.”
“Are we going to have a guard tonight?” Declan asked.
“Of course, why wouldn’t we? We have Liz Reyes’ group, who are belligerent to us, we have Raymond Tutt, Ted Wagner, and their bunch of pirates and thieves, and we have Keith Rogers and his group of lotus eaters. About the only group we haven’t managed to honk-off are Markus Lantz and the farmers in his group. We’re away from home and the protections that go with it.
“You can go rest. I’ll take the first watch. I need to plan things with Beron so we have some backup.”
Vernon Parker, Sebastian Heartly, Elizabeth Reyes, and three others, from their group, were laying on their bellies looking over the cliff-edge at the newly landed pods.
“Where did those women go that we were following?” Reyes whispered to Heartly.
“We lost them shortly after we saw them in the distance,” Heartly whispered back. “One of them looked familiar to me.”
Reyes frowned, trying to think. “That was Mei…something. She’s Murdock’s woman, or so I believed a couple years ago. She came around once when the Doc was attacked.”
“Ah,” Heartly said quietly and nodding, “that’s where I saw her before.”
Reyes motioned Heartly to move back as she moved back from the cliff. Heartly passed on the signal to the man next to him, he, in turn, motioned to Parker and all the way down the line.
Reyes stopped fifty yards away from the cliff edge, as did the rest of their party.
“Make camp here,” Reyes commanded. “I want a couple of you to mount a guard while the rest of us sleep. I doubt anything will happen with the pods for a while yet.
“The winters haven’t been kind to us, over the past five years. We’ve lost the majority of our people and are in dire need of an infusion of new people. It’s imperative that we make a case for our group to the new-comers.”
“We all understand that, Liz,” Heartly said quietly while one of the men got a small fire started.
Reyes smiled at Heartly. “You know, Bass,” Reyes said as she got closer to him and slipped her hands around his waist, “just because I let you grope and snuggle with me doesn’t give you permission to use familiar terms with me in front of others.” She grabbed his genitals, roughly, in her hand. “I could have these removed, you know? I don’t think you’d like that,” she said sweetly.
Heartly cleared his throat. “Sorry, Elizabeth.”
“Ma’am is better,” she said giving his genitals a squeeze.
“Um…yes… Ma’am, I understand.”
Markus Lantz, Kathy Watkins, and Heather Stevens entered slowly into the Medical facility compound just before sundown.
“Hello?” Heather yelled as soon as she entered. “Is anyone here?”
“What do you need— Heather!” Annie Cooper yelled, excitedly running over to her and hugging her. “Is there an emergency?” She began to look over Heather and the two guests.
Heather took a deep breath. “No, no emergency. This is Mark Lantz and Kathy Watkins. They are the leaders of our group, the one down from this plateau. We’ve come because of the new arrivals. Are you going to meet them?” she looked pleadingly to Annie.
“As a matter of fact, I do have to go to do quick assessments and give my personal okey-dokey. Why do you ask?”
“Our group is in dire need of wood, and metal, workers. We lost a couple of them last winter to exposure. Do you think we can go with you to meet them?”
“Well, you can go with me, but I don’t know how close you’ll be able to get for a day or two. If you remember… well, maybe you don’t. When we arrived and disembarked the pod, Murdock was only there for two full days, maybe a little more. That’s as long as I’m planning to stay there, unless things change that require me to stay longer, but you’re free to travel with me, there and back.”
“I know it’s a big intrusion, but can we rest here until you leave? We didn’t come prepared for a long trip. We really don’t have what we need for a trip in the wild. If you say no, we’ll understand.”
Irene Harris came out of the house. “What’s going on, Annie? Your dinner is getting cold. How are ya, Heather?”
“Hey, Doc, all of us are fine,” Heather said.
“They need to place to sleep until tomorrow. They’re going with me to see the new arrivals.”
“You make it sound like a trip to the zoo,” Harris chuckled.
“You mean it isn’t?” Annie flashed to Irene. “I just hope Kevin can corral the beasties.”
When no-one laughed Irene said, “Sure, bring them in. I’ll get Roy-Boy to rustle up something for them to eat.” She turned and entered the house.
“You know he hates it when you call him that,” Annie flashed, motioning that the rest should follow Irene as she brought up the rear.
Murdock was standing a few paces from the campfire, looking out into the night.
“You know what I have in mind,” he flashed to Beron. “Will you help?”
Murdock knew the huge bear was lying atop the step above the camp, keeping a watch of a different type. He also knew Bridget was lying next to him, as usual, her focus being on the human children, whom she adored.
“We will help all we able,” Beron replied, “you know all need do is ask. Bridget guard families.” Beron paused for a bit. “Why you use food for travel?”
A picture of the deer popped into Murdock’s mind. “They are what humans call draft animals. They are stronger than humans and can pull for longer time. I appreciate that you remain invisible to them as seeing you would frighten them and cause a disruption.”
If there was such a thing as shrugging while communicating telepathically, that was what Murdock’s perceived.
“We remain hidden from you kind at these events,” Beron flashed.
When Murdock woke Declan for his watch, he had gathered more wood for the fire, enough to last through the night.
“I’m going to get things set at the landing,” Murdock whispered. “I’m counting on you to see to it that camp is broken and our families are transported safely. Bridget is watching and will help, not that I’m expecting any trouble, but you never know.”
“What about you?” Declan asked.
“Beron is going with me so I’ll be fine,” Murdock said as he walked off into the darkness.
Murdock was above the landing site atop the plateau that was across the stream from the landing site, gathering poles needed to mark the barrier, when he heard a strange noise coming from the trees. Unconsciously he checked the wind and found it blowing in his face, so he froze amongst the saplings.
As he made ready with his bow, he could hear snuffling and grunting sounds headed his way. He crouched as the creature broke into the open. A wild boar…sort of, Murdock thought. It must weigh five hundred pounds and what a tusker! That head almost looks like a warthog. It may be a cross between warthog and wild boar.
As he watched, the boar looked at him, stomped the ground, and snorted at him before continuing to forage. As it turned, Murdock drew back and let an arrow fly. When it hit the beast, it dropped.
“Destroyer,” Beron flashed. “Stray. Difficult to control and confine.”
“This is a destroyer?” Murdock asked. “I should have known. They do eat anything they can find leaving little, if any, sign. It never occurred to me.”
“Why you take?” Beron flashed.
“Where humans come from, they are good to eat. Many have tamed them.”
“Strange you kind.”
A few hours later, Murdock levitated the processed porcine and two dozen one to two-inch diameter poles off of the ridge above the landing site. As he did, he saw Declan and their families heading his way.
“Where did you get the tusker?” Declan asked as he dismounted.
“Up there,” Murdock said indicating the ridge he had just descended. “Get it cooking while I place the poles and then I’ll help with re-setting camp.”
After the poles were set, marking off a three hundred square yard area with the pods inside, Murdock was helping to get the tipis set up again. There wasn’t much left for him to do, as his family, including Declan’s, had all worked together to get the tasks accomplished. It’s amazing what can happen when everyone works together, he thought with pride.
“Raise up the pig,” Murdock told Declan, “slow cook it and turn it so it’s not dry. What do you think of trying to trap a couple young ones and taming them?”
“We’d have to make an enclosure to keep them in and predators out, but I don’t see why we couldn’t try to tame them,” Declan said. “I’m sure the older kids could do quite a bit of the raising. It would secure another food source for us.”
“Hey, Murdock!” Annie Cooper yelled from a distance.
Murdock turned and saw Annie. Heather, Kathy Watkins, and Mark Lantz were standing further away.
“What’s going on, Annie?” Murdock flashed.
“They need help,” Annie responded. “Not too bright of them to venture out unprepared.”
“What kind of help?”
“They need replacement craftsmen, metal and wood mostly.”
“If they’re not armed, bring them in.” Murdock saw Annie retreat to talk to the trio and then all four proceeded into the camp.
“Not too bright venturing out unarmed and ill-prepared,” Murdock said as the four entered the camp proper. “Heather, you know better.”
Heather walked over to Murdock and gave him a friendly hug. “I know, but someone insisted we didn’t need them,” she whispered in his ear. “They refused to travel with me if I were armed.”
“Is that true, Lantz? Did you refuse to travel with Heather if she were armed?” Murdock scowled at Lantz.
“This is not that hostile of a place. Weapons are not needed, most of the time,” Lantz said dismissively.
“How would you like to walk home alone? I know the dangers and I go everywhere armed. You are a fool!”
Lantz backed up a step or two. “Are you saying you won’t help us?” he asked with a hurt expression.
“I don’t suffer fools,” Murdock snapped, “but you’re worse! You’re an imbecile and a fool. Anyone who would ever listen to you are asking to end up as dinner. I told you about the cougar. Did you take care of it? There are also wolves and pirates. What was your plan if you ran across one, push Heather out in front of you so you can run?”
Lantz took a couple more steps back.
“You can take your stupid-ass right on back to where you came from. I’ll have a powwow with Heather and then decide for myself.”
“But…but…I don’t know the way home.”
Murdock arched his back, let his head hang back, and exhaled loudly. “Maybe, sometime in the last five years, you should’ve gotten outside your house for more than five minutes.” He stomped over to Lantz and grabbed his upper arm, instinctively digging in his fingers to separate the bicep and tricep muscles, to reduce the amount of resistance Lantz could affect. He dragged the taller man to the first pole. “See pole? Follow pole, that way,” Murdock said condescendingly. “When you get to the cliff, you can do everyone a favor and jump off it, or you can turn left and go to the river. At the river, you can drown yourself or turn right and follow the path home. If you ever endanger Heather or Alvin, or anyone else, for that matter, I’ll show you, first-hand, what the wolves can do!” Murdock shoved the man causing him to stumble. “Now, get your dumb-ass home!”
“You see what I have to put up with?” Murdock said when he entered the camp area. “And people wonder why I am the way I am. And you, young lady!” Murdock scowled at Heather. “You should’ve never left the house without something, anything. I thought I taught you better than that.”
“Lantz was not going to give her the annual allowance of flour, if she didn’t guide him unarmed,” Annie interceded.
“Why you?” Murdock asked Heather.
“Because no-one else knows where the Medical facility is. I knew, because Declan told me on one of his visits.”
“So, you and Alvin don’t live with the rest?”
“No, we moved about a mile towards the stream so we could do what we needed with the deer. Built our own place and have been improving it. We’re both still expected to help with the harvest for our bag of flour.”
“As well they should,” Watkins interjected, then seeing the glare from Murdock decided that silence would be the better option.
“What happens if you need help?”
Heather shrugged. “Deal with it ourselves.”
“But if they need help, you better show up fast, right?”
“That’s about the size of it.”
“Do they use your mounts?”
“Most of the time, they just take an animal they need to plow or whatever.”
Heather just shook her head.
“And why should there be any payment? None of us get paid, in any way. Our labor is donated, for the good of the community,” Watkins said.
“You need to move your operation across from the Medical facility. Let them see the value of you being there. Think about it and discuss it with Alvin.”
“How’s that pig coming along?” Murdock asked Declan.
“You have another issue to deal with,” Annie said pointing discreetly towards the landing pods.
Murdock stood there sucking saliva through his teeth, like he had something stuck between them. “I’m really not in the mood for this,” he said finally. He slowly turned to see one of the pods opening its ramp.
Curtis Griffen held up his arm to block the sunshine from his light-sensitive eyes as he made his way down the transport pod’s ramp. The meal, inside the pod, was insufficient, for him, and his legs protested by being rubbery. I hate that feeling, he thought.
Once his eyes adjusted to the sunshine, after he reached the bottom of the ramp, he thought he could make out something, Are those Indians with a couple of wigwams? Am I hallucinating? Maybe I’m still in stasis and this is just a dream…or a nightmare. A few seconds later, as everyone moved toward a figure who was walking toward them, he could see two men and three women wearing buckskins and two women dressed much as the rest of the new-comers, just more worn, almost threadbare.
The man walking toward them seemed rather short and looked to be well-armed. From what Curtis could see, a bow, arrows, and two machetes. He walks with authority and a purpose, he thought. Danger!
“I am Murdock,” Curtis heard the man say, “and I have been here for ten years. If any of you think they know more than I do about this place, then speak up. I’ll be more than happy to not think about you when winter comes and you’re starving and freezing.
“If you look that way,” Murdock pointed at the sticks poking up from the ground, “you’ll see sticks. Stay away from them. There is a barrier there for the safety of all concerned.
“If you look toward the stream,” Murdock pointed the other way, “you’ll see a cliff-face. Don’t go up there.
“If you look behind me, you’ll see another cliff-face. You can go up there, if you want to, but not the one behind it. Off toward the poles, is the river. Once I’ve released you, you are free to go that way. There are lots of fish in the river.
“This place has varied wildlife. There are deer, wolves, and mountain lions, deer being the most plentiful. There are also bears, but don’t hunt, bother, or molest them in any way. All the wildlife is bigger than you’d expect.”
“Why should we do anything you say? Who appointed you Lord over us?”
Murdock grinned mirthlessly. “You can do whatever you want, but when you end up dead, you’ll have no-one to blame but yourselves. Going contrary to what I just said will get you killed, so you just go right ahead. It won’t bother me in the least.
“I’m not here to babysit a bunch of whiny tenderfoots. I’m here to give you all a fighting chance to survive, but you can go ahead and do what you want. I’ll not waste my time with any of you. I don’t suffer fools.”
“He sounds harsh,” a woman standing close to Curtis said. He frowned at her irritated. “What’s your problem?” she asked in a surly tone.
“Shut up, I’m tryin’ ta listen,” Curtis answered roughly.
“How rude can you get?” the woman asked rhetorically.
“I know some of you might think I’m harsh,” Murdock continued, “but I’m not as harsh as nature. This isn’t a vacationers’ campground. Survival is harsh and you might as well get used to it. You don’t have a lot of choices. You’re only going to be as safe as you want to be, but that’s going to take a lot of work, from you, to accomplish.”
“Where is our equipment? Did you steal it?” a man piped in from the middle of the crowd.
“Why would I do that?” Murdock asked. “If you listened to your briefing, it said your equipment was under the pod, unless they changed it from when I arrived. If you can’t find it, then get back in the pod, close the ramp, and never come out. You’re just too stupid to survive.
“If I took your stuff wouldn’t that make you more dependent on me? Believe me, that’s the last thing I want. I have my own children to worry about. I don’t need more little babies.
“There are some here already that would kill you for what you’re carrying, but that isn’t me.
“Now then, all those who think they’re qualified to lead this group, go over to the stream. Everyone else stay at this end.”
Murdock waited while the group separated itself into two groups. He drank from his water-skin while he waited.
“Now, I want you to be honest with yourself,” Murdock said to the rest when the initial sorting was completed. “If you absolutely, and unequivocally, don’t want to lead then come forward. That would include those who feel you’re totally unqualified, or have trouble giving orders to others.”
The waiting continued while the rest thought about it for some time. Five people came forward, finally.
“You five remain. The rest of you can go over to the stream.”
Murdock sized them up. He looked to the smallest of the five, who was still taller than he was.
“What’s your name?” he asked the smallest man.
“Charles. Charles Benteen,” the man said.
“Are you any relation to Frederick Benteen?” Murdock asked.
“Not that I’m aware of. I don’t know who that is,” Benteen answered softly with a confused look on his face.
Soft-spoken, shortest man that didn’t want to lead, he thought. “Well, Chuck, you’re it. You’re in charge of this…this herd. Come over here by me.”
Benteen walked slowly towards Murdock, hesitating at the poles that marked the barrier.
“Why did you pick me? I don’t want to lead. I’m not qualified to lead myself, let alone two hundred,” Benteen protested.
“That’s exactly why I picked you. I’ll explain it later, after the other pods are emptied and I pick the leaders. For now, you need to get all the gear in the compartments on the ground and get everyone outfitted similar to me. Get the water-skins handed out, two to a person, and get them filled, hopefully without muddying the stream. If the other pods open, separate yourselves and don’t tell them anything about this conversation.” Benteen nodded and started back beyond the barrier. “Oh and, Chuck, if I call for you, don’t make me wait and don’t make me come looking for you.” Benteen blanched.
Once Benteen was on the pod side of the barrier, Murdock went back to his campsite to wait.
“Why did you pick that guy?” Declan asked when Murdock had returned.
“Because he didn’t want it,” Murdock said as he poked the roasting porker. He took out his six-inch knife and cut off a piece. “I’m trying to prevent those with megalomania from gaining power over these tenderfoots.” He took a bite of the pork. “That’s some good stuff,” he added around the mouthful of meat.
“Thanks,” Declan smiled.
Everyone at the campsite cut their own piece of pork.
“What about Watkins?” Heather asked, hesitating to take a piece of the meat.
“Heather, what kind of a leader is she?” Murdock asked, glaring at the female.
“She mainly keeps the women in line and agrees with Lantz,” Heather answered, not looking in Watkins’ direction. “I think they have something going between them, though.”
“If you stand there holding that meat, it’s going to get cold and probably greasy.” Murdock took another bite. “I suppose she can have some, but only because I know you and you feel guilty eating in front of her. It’s not because she deserves anything from us.”