-Harms Way-

Colonel Cage is fluffing the bedding he's been given, a cloth bag filled with straw. He's laid his clothing out across the end of the bed, neatly as a military man would do, and is down to his underwear, a grimly T-shirt and pair of boxer shorts. He adjusts the back of his T-shirt collar, and then leans back into the straw tick bedding, with a sigh. A puzzled look comes over his face, and he fusses with the back of the T-shirt collar again, this time getting an alarmed look, pulling the T-shirt over his face and staring at the collar now in front of his face.

Oh, my God ..

Colonel Cage and Ian are in the council room. The light is dim, only a single oil lamp burning, placed on the table. Colonel Cage has gotten Ian out of bed. He's holding his T-shirt in front of him, under Ian's nose, shaking with rage.

Damn them to hell, they've bugged me, they know where we are, and they'll be coming after us!

Ian looks puzzled and glances up into Colonel CageS's eyes, staring steadily by way of asking for an explanation. Colonel Cage sighs and seeing he has to fill in the pieces, struggles to calm down.

It's a wire. I didn't know I was carrying it. If it's live and I've got no reason to think it's not, they can trace me, trace this thing, and it'll lead them right to where we're at.

A thought crosses his mind and he suddenly drops the T-shirt to the floor and grinds the shirt collar under his heel until he hears a crunch.

But you don't know how long it's been there, or even if it works.

Colonel Cage's face goes blank, as he realizes that he can't give Ian and the others all the insight that he has, an impossible education in too short a time. He finally explains, after struggling with himself over the issue.

Expect the worst.

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The fog horn blowing softly again, a signal that some visitors have arrived at the river bank across the river. Colonel Cage, uneasy from the night before, jerks and twitches in his sleep, his eyes suddenly opening with a start. The men's hut is a bunk for over a dozen men, all with similar primitive bedding arrangements, all out in the open. Colonel Cage slips into his pants and takes off toward the door, even before his pants are buttoned. Ian is standing under a tree where he is barely visible in the shadows. Colonel Cage walks up to him, his white T-shirt visible as a waving flag as he moves between the trees. Ian says,

You've been seen.

A sleepy Colonel Cage quickly flattens himself behind a tree.

Too late, they've sighted you.

A group of men is on the shoreline across the river, dressed in dirty casual clothes. Colonel Cage, his jaw tight and slightly twitching with the tension, speaks in a soft voice, almost to himself.

I'll bet that's them. They've been killing and eating families.

Ian glances at Colonel Cage, not shocked as he's suspected as much.

I'll post a watch to make sure they don't cross.

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Frank is vigorously chopping at a pile of green chunks, the original vegetables no longer recognizable, both hands on the chopper and heaving his shoulders into it. He is chatting away non-stop with Madge, the stocky cook, who is reaching into her herb jars.

The Death Card came up, and we all knew this was coming ..

Madge has a grim look on her face, her perpetual expression, and says nothing, but Frank is not put off. She hands him another handful of roots to chop. The soft sound of a chopper's blades are barely heard at first, but increase in volume. Frank stops, mid-chop, to listen intently. A silent black whisper chopper is coming along the river, in the center of the river, but veers toward the bluff.

_______________________________

Ian touches each camp member as they hurry past him, their personal belongings clutched in their arms. All are rushing, single file, into the woods and into a ravine, out of sight of anyone on the river or in the air. No one is hysterical or challenging Ian's decision. In the woman's hut, Danny is pleading with Daisy to come along. She seems unaware of any danger, is brushing it all off, and is treating him like a hysteric.

.. You don't understand, people have been killed, women raped, we just haven't told you!

Daisy says,

Danny, don't you see how good things are here? I've gotten my nails to grow out again, and we can bathe anytime we want to!

Danny looks dismayed, is speechless, a consternated look on his face. He realizes for the first time how deep her self obsession runs. A tall couple walks in, picking through the belongings left behind, and Danny stares at them with comprehension. She won't be alone!

Well, I'm not staying here to die with you, suit yourself.

Danny turns away, heading out the door to catch up with the rest.

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In a clearing in the woods, Ian is taking a head count as the group silently passes by him in single file. Ian admonishes.

Stay together now, stay close together!

The stragglers at the end are coming with larger breaks between them. Ian turns to his assistant, a tall thin woman with her gray hair in a severe bun.

I didn't see the little boy and his granddad, or the last of that bunch.

The assistant has a clipboard in her hands and has been checking things off as the group passed.

That young woman and the newspaper man, they're missing too.

Netty comes trudging into the clearing, trying to keep the end of the group ahead of her in sight. She sees Ian and his assistant standing there and smiles broadly, reassured that she hasn't lost them. She looks over her shoulder as she walks on to the right, keeping track of those behind her.

Billy is some distance behind her on the trail, pausing to pick something up off the ground, bending over, his boyish curiosity at play. As he does this there is rustling in the bushes at the side of the path. Billy jerks upright, his mouth open and eyes wide. The alpha dog in a wild pack, a large boxer so lean he looks almost skeletal, his ribs showing, snarls. Netty doesn't hesitate. She turns and returns along the path, breaking into a strong running stride, covering ground silently with strong legs and broad hips that have been strengthened through riding English style for many years. Netty covers the clearing silently, racing toward the frozen Billy standing like a statue. The dogs are a mix of former pets - shepherds, boxers, and hounds - all kinds. The smaller ones hang back and yip from the woods, excited at the possibility of a meal ahead but not yet willing to attack humans, still recalling their former owners. Netty reaches Billy and lifts him off the ground into her arms. Red and Danny come running up, Red whacking at the retreating alpha dog with his jacket. Red says,

They're starving!

Netty says,

Come on, we'd better keep up with the others. Common Billy, no more dawdling.

Netty takes Billy by the hand and strides off, practically dragging Billy along. Red and Danny do their best fast walk too, Red's elbows sticking out and jerking up and down, Danny breaking into a trot now and then. The laggards catch up with the rest of Ian's group, who are standing around on a river bluff, staring out at the river. Netty and Billy, still being towed along behind Netty, arrive first, but instead of a welcome from the group, they are ignored. No one turns to pay attention to them other than a quick glance, then return to stare at the river. Danny and Red bring up the rear, huffing and puffing and sweating slightly.

The group hears what sounds like music, various tones, the sound plastic bottles make when filled with air and forced in close proximity to each other in a net, or tied together. These tones are various, like some kind of drum set composed of small plastic drums, almost tinkling rather than booming. A series of houseboats are moored to the trees of a small island in the middle of the slow-moving river. These are strung out in a line, a couple rafts moored to the strong trees on the island, then other rafts moored to these, so the lot stretches out along the center of the river. Plastic bottles have been filled with air and either tied together or stuffed into a net. These form a floatation device for plywood or rafts made of boards crudely nailed together from the wreckage caused by the earthquakes and hurricane force winds. The rafts are raised at least a foot out of the water, more than enough floatation, the obvious consideration being that some of the plastic bottles might fail, so more is better than less in this regard.

Some of the rafts have tents on them, some have one room structures made from scrap lumber and tarps, and one is a two story rickety structure that looks like it might fall over in a strong wind. Laundry is hung out to dry here and there, on lines tied between boards nailed to the edges of the rafts and whatever serves as the sleeping quarters in the center of the raft. Most of the rafts have container gardens of some sort, plastic pots of various size and colors, growing tomatoes or lettuce or chard. Fishing lines are hung from the rafts, trailing off into the river as they draw downstream. The fishing lines reflects light, and so many of them are strung out that it looks almost like a spider web with the rafts caught in the center. A boy comes up to one line and starts drawing it in, pulling up a good sized fish as he does so, and turns to take it to a wooden box nearby where he knocks it on the head with a wooden mallet, killing it instantly.

Toddlers can be seen on the decks of some rafts, their watchful mothers keeping them no more than an arm's length away. Some are tied in a harness so they can't fall into the river. A woman is on her hands and knees at the edge of one raft, washing her hair. Her hair is full of soap suds as she vigorously scrubs, then dips a cup into the river to rinse. Someone on the raft city notices the group on the bluff and points, calling a notice out to the others, and waves at the group on the bluff. Some calls are exchanged between the two groups, but the distance precludes anything more than a vigorous wave and hello. Ian says,

They raided the recycling facility up at Middleton.

Red says,

Well . . they're safer there than in these woods. . . And no lack of fresh fish to eat!

Ian is standing beside Colonel Cage, looking directly at him with slight worry on his face, an unspoken query. Colonel Cage glances quickly at Ian, reading his mind, then returns his gaze to the raft complex, which is fascinating, transfixing everyone in the troop.

They won't be bothered, nor will those we left behind at Bridgewater. It's us they're after, those from the ranch. We know the location of his headquarters, and he's not ready for visitors yet. He means to kill us, us from the ranch . . and anyone else that gets in the way.

Colonel Cage motions with a wave of his hand toward the raft city while looking directly at Ian again.

But this is no threat to him. And no advantage. Just trash in the river, that's how he thinks.

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Fog is blowing in the very early morning along the river. Ian has just wakened his traveling group, not letting them have more than a few hours rest during the night. Ian is seen moving among the members, who are sitting up on the ground and stretching. He is touching them on the shoulder, rather than using his voice to announce that the march is to start again. Now that they can see where to put one foot in front of the other, he intends to have them on their feet and moving again.

The group looks bleary eyed, as though they've just wakened and could use a cup or more likely a full pot of coffee. No one is complaining, however, and when one stumbles and drops something, the one behind helps them pick it up and get adjusted with their belongings again. This group assists each other, in a non-competitive way, and there is never a need to ask for this assistance.

_______________________________

Ian, in the lead, stops the group behind him by raising his hand. There, hidden by fog most of the time but visible when the wisps clear momentarily, is a huge dull gray dome, several stories high. The dome doesn't reach above the trees, but covers an area as large as a football field. Placed on a ridge along the river, where there are trees on all sides and no ground above the ridge, the dome could not be seen unless a plane flew over. Several of Ian's group crowd around him, coming up behind him and staring at the dome over his shoulders. They are all silent, staring, taking this in and trying to place it in their concepts of what goes on.

Ian finally moves forward, the group straggling behind him. There is a large space in the line between Ian and those following him, his assistants, and an even larger space before the rest of the group follows. They are clearly hanging back, not so far that it would be taken to be a lack of faith in Ian, but far enough back that escape is possible. As Ian nears the entrance, the entry doors splits open and slide to the side. Several humans walk out, Jonah in the lead, extending his hand. Ian hesitates only a moment, then himself walks forward with an extended hand. The group following Ian noticeably pick up their pace, seeing a friendly welcome.

Just inside the dome city entrance, the newcomers are gawking at the raised but diffusely lit ceiling and lush vegetation growing in the center of the dome, where there is a fountain and grassy areas with children at play. The dome has housing units in a circle around the edge, several stories high, as the dome drops down into the ground as well as rising up above the ground.

Tammy breaks the silence as she has been discovered by another little girl her age. Tammy is clutching her rag doll, which by now is so dirty and tattered that it almost looks like a black rag. The little girl welcoming her has a clean cloth doll, similar in size and dress, and hands this to Tammy with a smile. Tammy blinks, a hint of tears forming in her eyes at the kindness and understanding shown her, and smiles slightly. She hands the other girl her tattered doll, and they make an exchange, laugh spontaneously afterwards at the silliness of Tammy's gift, and run off together, the dome city girl in the lead. Not a word has been spoken between the girls during this exchange.

Billy is right behind Tammy, and has watched this. He raises his face to his mother Martha, standing behind him, sharing with her an unspoken understanding that this is a good place. Ian is standing at the side, in intense conversation with Jonah, but we don't hear their conversation. They have stepped to the side as the rest of the group is crowding the entryway as they enter the dome and react. Madge, the fat cook, comes in and stands stock still, her perpetual frown refusing to be displaced on her face. Frank is just behind her, raising his arms up with an ecstatic look on his face, mouthing things we can't hear but what we are sure are comparisons to Atlantis or other mythological cities.

_______________________________

It is very early dawn in the dome city, which has lighting controlled by lights affixed along the dome wall on the upper pram level. These produce intense carbon arc light, the equivalent of sunlight, and shine it on the dome ceiling. This light does not go directly into the faces of anyone, due to a long cone over the arc light itself, pointing upward. The cone is several feet long, wider as it fans toward the ceiling. The cones are painted the same color as the dome ceiling, sky blue.

A man is walking along the upper pram, toolbox and stepladder in hand. He goes from light to light, doing maintenance. Standing on the stepladder he turns a switch alongside one of the lights and it turns off. Using a special tool he quickly turns hooks up and down the cone shaped funnel so as to remove the funnel. The tool is an odd, unique shape so that children can't accidentally remove the cones. The carbon points are exposed, and he adjusts each to move more toward the center, toward each other, then measures the gap. Satisfied, he drops his gap measure back into this pocket and reaches for the cone again, ready to reassemble.

Sheep are grazing on the dome city lawn, in one section. A portable wooden fence can be seen in the background, keeping the sheep in one section at a time. The dome city does not use lawn mowers, as sheep crop a grassland close to the ground. They can also ruin a grassland if allowed to graze too long, reducing the grass to stubble. A worker is seen folding the portable wooden fence like an accordion, and walking across some lush grass to the edge of the next section. He quickly unfolds the fence, used more as a guide for the sheep than a containment, at the edge of the next section. He strides back, turns sharply when he reaches the end of the small herd, and starts herding the sheep into the lush area, talking softly to them.

Hik . . Common . . Soosh . .

Along the edge of the wall circling the garden areas there are occasional doors to rooms where hydroponic gardens and other food production efforts are contained. The walls are colored the same as the upper residential area walls, so look at first glance like foundation walls, integral to the city itself. A door swings open. The label on the door reads "Compost Consolidation". As the door swings back shut we see that a man pushing a heavily loaded wheelbarrow has emerged. His load is rich, loamy earth swarming with earthworms. He has a pitchfork stuck into the load. He quickly pushes the barrow across the lawn toward some grape vines on an arbor toward the center of the dome city gardens.

As he crosses the lawn, a flock of banty hens and roosters come dashing toward him, some flying, some running. They know this routine. Some hop into the barrow, not waiting for their treat. The worker does not break his stride, as all morning tasks such as this are to be complete before the residents awake. He strides up to the grape vines and tips his barrow forward onto the roots of the grape plants. The eager banty hens cover the pile, cleaning up the worms, and scratching furiously for worms within the compost.