New Eden

Scene 3

The hardest part of this was going to be the lack of coffee. Sure, wrangling fifty strangers into recreating society from the contents of their pockets seemed rough. Doing it without coffee? That was the real challenge.

Guy rolled up from the hard ground with a groan. The mossy grass did its best to spring back up, but still held a pressed shadow of his brief and fitful sleep. Rolling his shoulders, he walked over to a tree to empty his bladder, thinking that latrines would make a good priority.

Rosa caught up to him on his way to the water's edge. She looked grim as she waited for him to get a drink and wash the sleep out of his eyes. When he stood back, still dripping, he asked for her report. "Is everyone still here?"

"We have about a dozen gone missing, but some may have just wandered off for privacy." She chuckled. "There were a number of people asking me for condoms, because apparently in addition to being a nurse, I'm also a pharmacy."

Guy frowned, and did his best to squeegie his face with his hand. No condoms, no towels, no coffee; the list grew. "Anyone hurt?"

She gave a sad nod. "One death. Suicide. Although he was beaten pretty badly before he took his life." She paused for that quick little breath of sanity that all nurses knew. "We're going to have to do something with his body. Right now the crying girl is with him."

"Crying girl?" He flinched, wishing he hadn't asked.

Rosa gave a frustrated shrug. "I don't know her name. All she does is cry and snivel." She gave a snort, shook her head, and continued her report. "Other than that, it's mostly just busted-up knuckles. One broken nose."

Guy looked at her, waiting. She wouldn't have brought it up if there wasn't more to the story.

"Skateboard to the face. Someone didn't want to take the no like a gentleman." She had a grim smile on her face.

"So, we have a skateboard here? That's great! We can use it for--"

"Let's get this started, people," Ted barked out, gathering the stunned and sleepy people around him. He clapped his hands together three times; a loud, jarring sound that rippled through their idyllic setting.

Guy felt a primal growl rumble in the back of his throat. "I really hate that guy," he muttered.

"So, what we need," Ted told his audience with the twang of a preacher, "is a leader."

Guy wove his way through the crowd, aware that his entourage followed him. He wished they could look a little less official; but the opposite of that was King Ted, so he had to grin and bare it. "No, what we need are tools."

"Are you trying to say something, Doc?" Ted smirked, clasping his hands together in front of himself.

Guy frowned, but let the nickname slide. On Earth, he could get sued for claiming to be a doctor, lose his license, waste thousands of dollars in education, and ruin his life. But here, he was the closest damn thing they had to one.

"Yeah. I'm saying we have nothing. We need bowls, and spoons, and cups, and towels, and shovels, and hammers. Nails, blankets, clothes, shoes, and everything else. And we need people who know how to make things and grow things and find things. Because, unless you have all that in your pockets, we are doing without until we figure it out." Guy shrugged. "The politics can wait."

The crowd began to mumble, as their attention was focused on their lack, the thunderclap of an approaching argument.

"May I speak?" Haya stepped forward, a modest close-mouthed smile on her lips. Her sleek, modern bob a little mussed and a grass pattern still imprinted on her cheek.

The crowd settled, by no means docile, but at least willing to listen, as Guy handed the dainty woman up on a rock. She paused for a moment, and then did her best to speak up.

"My name is Haya Rin. In the before, I was a dietician, helping people learn how to eat to meet their unique nutritional requirements." Her voice had a soft cadence, a foreign taste to her words. "So I know a lot about food. And food is going to be very much on our mind for the next while."

Some in the crowd sat down, some wandered off with morning urgency. Ted had roused them early with his dramatic and charismatic preacher routine. And Haya was very meek, with little dramatic flair to hold their interest. Guy began to wonder if he should have turned over his audience.

"By my estimation, we will consume all the edible produce in this clearing within the next two days," Haya continued.

"We're going to starve?" gasped a female in the crowd; Guy didn't see who. He felt a little caught by Haya's pronouncement, as well. The trees here seemed to drip with fruit; he hadn't really considered that they would go through it all, or how quickly.

"Not at all." Haya gave a mild, reassuring smile. "Just that this will be a most crucial decision of our newly forming society. We can choose to become nomadic, moving from food source to food source. This is a difficult way of life, but one utilized by many early tribes throughout history. For instance, the Plains tribes of North America."

"Cursed to wander the Earth," muttered mullet man with a newly smashed face. What was his name? Daryll, maybe? "Ain't that in the bible, or something?"

"Ya, but we aren't on the Earth, anymore," chuckled someone in the back of the crowd.

"The point I am making," Haya continued in her soft voice, and everyone settled down to listen. "Is that if we choose to be nomadic, and follow our food, we must consider this as we make our tools and living supplies. All things must be portable, like teepees for shelter, and fabric looms that can be disassembled and reassembled quickly. We must have this in our mind as we make the things we need."

"I ain't sleeping in no teepee, like some savage," Daryll pointed his finger at Haya, striking each syllable as a point.

"At the moment, you're sleeping in a cave, so...." Lesley drawled suggestively, reaching out to pluck one of the blue plums off the tree next to her.

"Surely, there's another option?" Ted said, sidling over so that he stood with the rest of Guy's group.

"There are!" Haya said with a bright smile. "We can choose to become farmers. This will allow us to create permanent housing, and grow our food around us."

"And develop into a more feudal system?" King Ted asked, scratching his chin thoughtfully.

She gave him a smile that did not dance in her coal-black eyes. "I think more of the democratic society of Greece, really. But, as Guy has already noted, the politics can come later." She nodded to Guy. "First, we must decide, follow the food, or make the food grow around us."

"What would we need to grow our own food?" Marny asked, tucking a few red curls behind her ear in a humble gesture.

"Seeds!" Haya laughed. "And planting tools. Like shovels and hoes and rakes and the like. Eventually saws, to clear ground for planting."

"We can't go around just clear-cutting, ruining another planet!" A hippy-looking chick stood up to protest, her hand raised in the air like she waved a sign.

Haya blinked, and smiled. "We have not made our first decision yet, it is hardly time to consider which tree to remove."

"Besides, we'll need to cut down trees to make houses." A lawyerly looking guy in a swim suit said.

Guy stepped in before they all lost the focus, or King Ted tried to take over again. "So, that's what we'll do. Democratically, decide whether we want to be nomadic, or if we want to become farmers. Let's vote on it. Take the day to talk about it, and tonight at dinner, we'll vote." He smiled, clapped his hands, happy with this solution.

"And so now I have to do what everyone else decides? I've suddenly lost my rights?" Ted crossed his arms over his chest, an eyebrow raised over smiling eyes as several in the crowd began mumbling.

"No," Alison spoke up, for the first time. "Everyone else is going to do what they decide. You can choose; either to go along, or go do your own thing somewhere else." He shrugged. "We have a whole planet."

"So, let's sum up? Tonight with dinner, we'll vote show-of-hands whether we want to build a nomadic or settled community. Let's get a volunteer and some helpers to see if we can't come up with something other than fruit for dinner?" He looked around the crowd, happy murmurs of agreement. "Those folks can check with Haya. We should start scouting around, learn what's out around us. Let's have those volunteers report to Keidra. But make sure you don't go so far you can't make it back in time to vote."

People started moving toward the designated leaders. "And anyone who knows anything old-timey, like how to do pottery, or make fabric, or tool making..." For a moment, he got blank stares.

"I was an apprentice blacksmith?" one young man stood, raising a meaty hand.

The crowd blinked.

The poor young man shrank into himself a bit, his cheeks biting red. "At the Baltimore Historical Society. You know, there's a park where you go see the living history. I was the apprentice blacksmith."

Guy laughed so hard his pulse pounded in his ears. "Man, are we glad to have you!"

Ted stepped over next to the curly-haired boy, slapped him heartily on the beefy shoulder. "What's your name, son?"

"Scott," he answered, laughing a little as those closest reached out to muss his hair or pat his back or otherwise touch him.

"So, about that living history," Marny said softly, standing with Alison at Guy's left. "In the before, as Haya said, I was involved with a medieval reenactment group."

"Really?" Alison tilted his head to the side. "You know, I've always wanted to try that."

Guy blinked. "So, what can you do?"

"Well, my laurel was in fiber arts."

"Which means?" Guy rolled his hand over, encouraging haste. The crowd gathering around Ted and the blacksmith concerned him. He just knew that guy was building for another power play.

"It means I know how to make fabric. Linen, wool, we even tried silk once; although I don't think that's going to be of immediate need."

Guy and Alison just stared, open-mouthed, at her.

Marny laughed. "I mean, it's not going to be as simple as that. We'll have to find the right material, figure out how to make the tools. And it won't be fast. Anything done by hand takes longer than huge machines." "But you know how to make fabric. Towels. Bandages. Clothes."

She shrugged with a smile. "Pretty much, yeah."

"You know," Guy draped an arm around Alison's shoulder. "We might be able to pull this off, after all."

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