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“Hello the camp,” the voice repeated.
Michael unclasped the radio from his belt and raised it to his mouth and spoke. “I guess you mean us,” he said more calmly than he felt.
“I do,” the voice answered. “We’ve been traveling. Saw your fires from about five kilometers back. I guess the question is are you okay? If you’ve been living in the same world that we’ve been living in, I guess you’ll understand that question.”
Michael keyed the button and let the smooth static play out for a few seconds before he spoke. “You must have stopped quite a way back. We didn’t hear the sound of your transports.”
“We did. Like I said it’s a funny world. Listen… we kind of wanted to feel you out. I’m Karia… Commander Karia Simmons,” he finished.
“Michael… Captain Michael Watson of the ship Star Dancer,” Michael told him. “I understand your point. We’ve been through a few things too. Do you want to come in?”
“Well… we do, but we’re stopped now for the night. In the morning? Would the morning be okay with you?”
“That will work. I… I guess breakfast will be on us,” Michael told him. “You know where we’re at?”
“Yeah, we do,” Karia told him. “I sent a couple of scouts down. It looks like a little build up off the trail… No actual drop-town or anything. We’re a couple of kilometers back, but we can see the light of the fires from here.”
“I would’ve sent scouts too,” Michael allowed. “It’s about like you imagine a wide place in the trail. Garage… Several drops; funny, but we call them drop-towns too… It looks like it all built up around a transport garage here. There are plenty of generators and water here; plenty of supplies also,” Michael finished.
“That’s good to hear, Michael. We transported down from Armaten. We’re all from there. We’ve been avoiding the others as best we can, trying to get out West… somewhere where we don’t have to worry about others… I don’t mean you,” she said.
“I hear that. We’re in the same boat here only heading South. Or at least right now we are. I guess we’re still undecided where we’ll end up. We’re pretty heavily armed, Karia. I guess you’ll see that when you come in tomorrow. We’ve been through some stuff as well. I won’t apologize for the weapons,” Michael finished.
“Don’t need to. We’re loaded too. I don’t exactly like it, but it’s the way life is now. I… Well… I couldn’t come in unarmed, Michael. I couldn’t; I’m sure you see that.”
“I understand that,” Michael told her. “And I’m sure you know we’ll be on the defensive for the first little while ourselves. I don’t like it either, but same as you I do what I have to… we do. We’ve got some good people here, Karia, good people and we’re careful.”
“Us too. Well… there’s eight of us, Michael. I don’t like to give away numbers, but you’ll know soon enough anyway. We’ll be eight in the morning.”
“Sixteen of us here, Karia.” Michael told her.
“Wow. No wonder you got so many fires going. We wondered about that.”
“Yeah, well, some of it is the people, but we’re drying meat to take with us. There are cows and deer everywhere. We figured we might as well get some fresh meat while we can. Beats the hell out of stuff from a can or dehydrated packs.”
“You’ll have to show us how to do that. We don’t have anyone who knows how to do that. I don’t think we even have a hunter of any kind either,” Karia said. “I can shoot, but I’ve never hunted. What about the indigenous animals… Try them?”
Michael laughed. “We’re all learning to do new things,” He said. “And we’re lucky to have some people with us that do know how to do those things and no; we haven’t looked at anything that wasn’t Earth-stocked… Not taking chances until we’re settled and we can do some testing..”
The radio hissed silence for a while.
“Well, Michael it was good to talk to you, and we’ll see you in the morning,” Karia said.
“Okay, Karia same here and I meant that about breakfast so come hungry,” Michael said.
“Will do,” Karia said. “Out.”
“We’re out too,” Michael said. He clipped the radio back to his belt. He thought about making love to Petra; how she had swapped time with Ash to make it all work out so Ash and Jane would have time together too. He thought about how he was going to have to wake Tom, Jefferson and Jane… Ash as well. Well, he realized most of the camp. Hell all of the camp except the kids. The coms squawked as he was thinking. Petra calling for him.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’ll help you get them all up,” she told him.
“Thank you, Pet. Tell them it won’t be overly long. They can go back to sleep after we talk.”
“Okay, babe. Out,” Petra said and giggled.
Michael’s face broke into a grin.
“You need any more help?” Q-8’s voice came through.
“Okay,” Michael laughed. “You can go wake up a few as well. And, Q-8?”
“Yes?” she asked.
“I’ll want you there too,” Michael said.
“Okay, Michael. I’ll go help Petra,” she told him.
Michael was able to keep the meeting short. In the end, there was not a lot to say or to discuss. They asked a few questions; made plans to be up early in the morning and then everyone went back to bed.
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