Natalie fit right in; she helped as we dug the cellar, helped as I made the kiln and fired the mud bricks made from the dirt. She helped as I stacked those bricks into the greenhouse. She helped me set the windows and ceiling in. She always fell into bed right after, but she got right back up and worked herself right into the ground
Now she stood next to me, wearily peeling off her gloves as we stared at the new greenhouse. The bricks would trap heat, and the wooden fittings would hold the recut plexiglass and keep the sharp edges from cutting us if we put a hand wrong. The raised dirt troughs would prevent the freezes from killing the plants that way, and the pvc pipes strung up would make watering easy.
Everything seemed to hold. The roof just slanted as opposed to falling off, and the supports should hold everything together if a branch came down on it. There were a few sheets of replacement plexiglass and glass we could use to fix things if that happened; if a full tree came down, we were just screwed.
“It could use some paint,” Natalie commented.
“We don’t want it to stand out,” I replied. But to myself at least I could admit it was ugly. Well made and very functional, but very ugly.
“Right, I’ll go get the seeds.”
I snagged her hand. “No need, it can wait a day. It’s Miller time.”
Her mouth twisted in a wry grin as she shook my hand off. “But it’s just past lunch.”
“Still Miller time. If it has to be done today, let Sal or Les do it.”
Natalie proved that she caught on quick. “I don’t trust either of those two to know which end of the beer is up, let alone anything else.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Sal has his uses.”
“Oh, he does. But he’s liking going to town a little too much lately to be trustworthy.”
“Someone has to man the store, and Sal doesn’t know how to build a greenhouse.”
Natalie went inside first. “True, I suppose. I’m actually rather surprised you know how to build one, honestly.”
“Built one by myself for an old couple who wanted a place to put their ferns. The worst part here was improvising; no nails, only slot tech with a mix of brick and wood. If not for all that, we’d have been done in a day.”
“Yeah maybe, but it would have been even more ugly; I mean, old warped plywood? Ick. Say, we played in the mud, do you mind if I take a shower?”
I spared her a glance; yep, just as covered in filth and sweat as I was. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll tip the barrel for you.”
“Thanks, I was hoping you’d say that.”
Tipping the barrel wasn’t actually tipping a barrel, it was using a bucket to transfer water to the reservoir above the shower; When the reservoir ran out, you were done. It was a good way to time it, and a good use for the sterile rain water we gathered outside. Some wild herbs in the brew kept the insects out of the liquid and helped us smell more woodsy and less like people.
That would come in handy later.
Fifteen minutes later and we were both chilling with our feet up, sipping stolen beers from Les’s stash (because they tasted better that way) and firing up my ancient laptop. It wasn’t much, but it could be a window to the outside world as long as I had means to charge it and the ability to point a dish of some kind towards some unsecured wifi signal. It also worked wonders for cell reception.
The web page caught up, and we got another look at a world slowly going up in flames. There were protests everywhere, with the unwashed shave the whales crowd coming out in force to wave signs to save… us. To save us by putting anyone who tested positive into a ‘preserve’. or supporting the new status quo.
Any of the several counter protests that sprang up had people that ran the risk of being harassed or even attacked for coming out against the law. There were cars being burned and blood in the streets.
“I had no idea it was that bad. I mean, I suspected some of this but nothing on this scale.”
Natalie shuddered. “It was just starting up when I got taken in; the main objections were the proposed sweeps.”
Yeah, I could imagine that sweeping in with SWAT or even national guard and testing everyone, block by block, city by city, would be wildly unpopular in a supposedly free society. Comparatively, the bill to test cons and the families of cons passed without a whimper. The actual approach used, that of offering money in order to get tested voluntarily still seemed to catch enough people. That’s how Natalie got nabbed after all.
I checked to make sure my little mini-generator was recharging the laptop battery. It was working like a charm, and so was the foam noise canceling box I placed over it.
Well, fifteen minutes of the news of the day, and we were both up to date. One of the more important things I learned was that there were mechanized troops parked both north and south of us, but not east. West was covered by the navy; there were patrol boats crossing the sea at all times of day and night, just in case one of us tried to build a raft or swim or something.
What I’d seen of the ocean convinced me that it would be the worst route to try and escape; the water around here was rough not even a mile out, and very rocky closer to shore. I wouldn’t lay good odds on troops further up the beaches, watching for swimmers; I already knew the walls went right to the beach; the engineers had even dug out the sand and laid a foundation first.
I closed down the computer and shut off the generator; I had little doubt that the Wardens already knew what I was up to, but it wouldn’t do to rub it in their faces. It could just be my paranoia too, but a real concern was this wifi account named “John.” His internet was unsecured, and the best one I could find within the range of the dish; if he figured out I was pirating and made a password, it would be more than a little annoying.
I tapped Natalie’s beer, and she raised it from the table. I raised my own and lifted the tabletop, sliding the laptop into it’s hidden nook. It was as safe there as I could make it, from wind and weather and casual discovery.
I sat back down and put my feet up and Natalie mimicked me. “You know, you should take your own shower; that mud is drying on you.”
She had a point. “Are you going to tip the barrel for me then?”
“Hell no, do it yourself before you get in,” she laughed. “Just do it before you start looking like swamp thing.”
“Fine, fine.” I snagged some clean clothes on my way out.
Natalie’s true motives were revealed; she hadn’t cleaned the tub. Whatever, I wasn’t going to fight over it.
I would probably need to improve the drainage behind the cabin if we kept bathing and cleaning clothes in here. It was a point of potential attack; someone could really hurt us by simply stuffing up the pipe.
I needed another beer. I wouldn’t be relaxing with weed like Les wanted, and neither would Les for that matter, but maybe taking the edge off my paranoia would be a good thing. The cabin was going to have weak points, and I’d done the best I could. If anyone did hit us, they would bleed badly for it, and that would have to be good enough.
I got out of the shower just as the water ran out, dressed, and ran a comb through my hair.
Just as the door opened, and speak of the devil and he appears. “What’s up, Les?”
“Nothing Roy, just taking my break,” Les replied loftily as he cracked open a beer.
He was supposed to inform one of us and let us take over. “Fine, Guess I’ll take watch then. Behave you two.”
I took my beer and went to the hide; it was still in shout range by necessity, so I wasn’t too worried.
It only took me about five minutes to get the feeling I was being watched. I spent some time looking for who could be watching me until Sal came back. He was early.
“What’s up?” I asked when he was close enough.
His reply chilled my blood. “I closed the shop for the day. There was an incident in town, and the wolves and cats are at war.”